Thomas McKenzie
by grace alone


Thomas McKenzie's Blog.

You'll See Amarillo

On the first day of my sabbatical, I kissed my wife and kids then hit the road.  My intention was to take I-40 all the way to somewhere near the Arkansas/Oklahoma border.  I had a reservation in an Oklahoma town called Henryetta. On day two, I intended to drive into Amarillo, Texas.  I grew up in Amarillo and had made plans to meet up with my best friend from high school, Robert.

It has been a long time since I drove a great distance by myself.  Years ago, when I was much younger, I loved to hit the highway alone.  The summer before my senior year in college I spent an entire month driving around the American West.  I saw so many amazing sites that summer, some of which I hope to see again this summer. 

Now I am 40.  My long drives are now made with my ladies in the car.  I was nervous about how I would handle those hours.  The car I'm driving, my wife's Jetta, doesn't even have cruise control!

I guess long-distance driving is like riding a bicycle.  I stopped to eat in Jackson, TN.  I stopped for gas somewhere near Little Rock.  I blew passed Henryetta in the late afternoon.  I ate dinner at a sub-standard ribs place in Oklahoma City.  950 miles and 14 hours later, I arrived in Amarillo.  I felt great right up to the end.

To most travelers on I-40, Amarillo is nothing more than a reliable place to get a meal or a shabby hotel room while on the way to some place better.  For me, it is a dream.  I moved from here more than half my life ago.  I have only been back on very rare occasions.  When I have come back, it has almost always been for a few hours, on my way to some other place.

There are places that exist in two locations at once.  There are buildings, fields, scenes that I see in my mind (my dreams and memories), but these places also exist in real life.  They must be older, some of them must have changed.  Here on the High Plains of West Texas, I will see them again.

When I come to Amarillo my brain reacts violently.  All of these old, dusty neurons start to fire.  The dreamscape and the landscape begin to merge.  I feel a bit like I'm going crazy. 

As I write this, I am in a hotel breakfast room.  The only thing I've seen of Texas so far has been this hotel and the generic highway at night.  Today I expect to see my dreams come to life, and not necessarily in good ways. 

I look forward to seeing my old friend.  I hope we have a great time reconnecting.  I look forward to spending the night at his mom's house, as we used to do practically every weekend night in high school.  I look forward to seeing the Monastery of Christ in the Desert tomorrow afternoon.  I look forward to seeing my wife and children again in Washington State.  So I look forward, but today I expect I will spending some time looking backward.