‘Amarillo By Morning’ … or mid-afternoon

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, June 27, 2012

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It was time to get out. Go away.

Take a break.

We were seeking a Rocky Mountain high, and we left Wise County looking forward to essentially playing outside all week – fishing, hiking, white-water rafting and the like.

With a 14-hour drive ahead of us, much consideration was given to on-the-road entertainment, snacks and even music.

The destination for day one: Raton, N.M. There was no set schedule. It was “Amarillo by morning” or mid-afternoon depending on the day’s chain of events.


Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

Earlier in the week my husband suggested we listen to a John Denver song “on the 15s,” or every quarter hour during the drive.

He and I share common musical tastes, but we had decided several months ago that those tastes part ways at what we like to call “slow jams” and I’ve now decided, John Denver.

When he was 14, he bought the cassette of John Denver’s greatest hits. By that time, he and his family had followed his father’s Air Force career to Lubbock, California, Hawaii, Arizona, Virginia, back to Texas, North Dakota and New Mexico.

But it was his dream as a boy to live in Colorado. Hence, the connection to “Rocky Mountain High.”

“The crazy thing is, I can sing this whole album, word for word,” he said. “I’ve just spared you so far.”

We were only two songs in to his quarterly plan, but nevertheless, I expressed my gratitude.

After all, his mother was once subjected to a John Denver marathon of sorts on one of their many cross-country drives. When the tape began playing for the third time, she politely suggested they listen to something else. She’d had enough “sunshine on her shoulders.”

I will admit that I woke up from a catnap somewhere along U.S. 287 singing along to “Leaving, on a Jet Plane.”


At lunchtime we found ourselves seated in the shadow of a K-Bob’s salad wagon. We didn’t even realize the steakhouse (and I use the term loosely) still existed, but it was doing a booming business in Childress.

My crew settled in around a table, covered in a vinyl cloth, when a gentleman at the next table caught my eye.

“You have such a nice, well-behaved family,” he said.

I thanked him profusely.

His wife glanced at my T-shirt. “Are you a cancer survivor?” I was wearing a breast cancer awareness shirt that was sold by the Decatur Fire Department.

“No, ma’am.”

“I’ve had it twice,” she told me. “But my momma she was up in heaven, and she told the good Lord, ‘You don’t want Sue Ann up here; she’ll run the whole show!'”

They didn’t linger. They had already driven from Lafayette, La., and were on their way to Perryton. He was calling a square dance that night.


As we drove farther west, the temperature temporarily climbed with the elevation, and we ran through a myriad of books, movies and music.

We passed the Nursanickel Inn in Dalhart and a roadside stand that proclaimed, “We’re more than nuts.” According to their signage, they sold “road candy” and “cute Texas stuff.”

We crossed the New Mexico state line with little fanfare, but as remnants of ancient volcanoes came into view, we all stopped what we were doing to simply look out the window.

We were greeted with scenic views dotted with cattle and the occasional antelope before rolling into Raton about dinnertime.

We had one more leg to get to our final destination – Rocky Mountain National Park.

As we tucked the little Tribes in for the night, I was happy to have most of my patience and good humor still in tact.

I wasn’t singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Not yet, anyway.

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