I've been dating my firstborn for years, but Luke and I have gone on just two dates in Amarillo so far: one to "explore," and one to the rodeo.
Date #1: First we headed to Luke's third-favorite (behind Lowe's and Home Depot) haunt, which, as many of you likely know, is Chick-fil-A. He got a grilled (i.e., unbreaded and gluten free) chicken nuggets meal, and I got a number 7. He was excited to find a cd-rom in his meal bag, so I, seizing the opportunity to force him to eat, refused to let him play with it until he ate all of his chicken and squeezable 100% fruit mush. He complied, and off we went to explore.
The purpose of exploring was to find a mountain bike trail for me while giving Luke a chance to get outside and maybe find a snake, or a cool rock, or at least some bugs. I had glanced at a map of Amarillo to find the general location of the trailhead (on a Girl Scouts camp), so I was confident that I could get there. Wrongo. Luke and I drove west on the I-40 feeder for miles looking for "Helium Road." Distracted by a Gander Mountain retailer at the corner of Helium, however, I missed our turnoff. So, heading toward New Mexico, we eventually saw the Cadillac Ranch off to the left. After a few more miles and no Helium, I decided that we would scrap our Girl Scout plan and hit the Ranch instead. So I turned around. We pulled off the road with a bunch of hippies and explored the ten classic Caddies stuck nose-down in the dirt.
The key to the Cadillac Ranch, apparently, is spray paint for the cars, which I did not bring because (1) I didn't know that the key to the Ranch is spray paint and (2) I didn't know we were going to the Ranch. In addition to the hippies, a couple was there with a little boy, and they had a whole bagful of spray paint--much more than they could have used without getting bored. They didn't share, despite our shameless hints, so Luke and I just climbed around on the cars, tested discarded cans of paint left by irresponsible graffitiers, and mooed at the cows.
On our way home, we found Helium Road (on the opposite side of the freeway, so the overpass blocked the Gander Mountain distraction) and the trail head. Luke said he needed to go potty, though, so we didn't get out.
Date #2: The Rodeeyao. Held as part of the annual Tri-State Fair, this is a qualifying event for Nationals, held in Las Vegas in December. So these guys are (supposedly) good. Although the bronc riders and the steer wrestlers were passable, the longest anybody stayed on a bull was 0.77 seconds. Luke wasn't impressed.
Getting into the rodeo was more exciting than the bull riding event. Not knowing that parking was available inside, we found a parking space in a vacant lot across the street from the fairgrounds. Paying the attendant four dollars, we crossed the five lanes of traffic without resorting to the nearest crosswalk three blocks away. Booyah. After waiting in line, I tried to pay the lady at the fairground's entrance. "Cash only," she said. I, like other rational people living in a mostly modern world, don't carry much cash (in fact, I had been carrying exactly four dollars). So I asked her if there was an ATM around. "Probably in one of the stores on Grand Street," she said. Riiiight. So we walked four blocks to Grand Street and entered a delightfully shady convenience store with bars over every bit of glass. Luke immediately gravitated to a fan they had set up next to the counter, telling me with certainty that it was on and that we couldn't touch it. I asked the lady at the counter if they gave cash back or if they had an ATM. Shaking her head, she told me to go "nex doh, nex doh." So we went nex doh, past the street preachers with the bullhorn, past the guy who insisted on giving me a flier for a car show, and found a gas station where the attendant said "I have ATM." Finally, again passing by the preachers with the bullhorn and the car show guy, I carried Luke back to the fairgrounds and paid in cash to get in. We passed through the rides and carnival games to get to the arena, where we paid again to get into the rodeo.
Luke was cold, and he didn't like how loud the arena was, so I held him on my lap for the first ten minutes. Then he got acclimated and displayed a primal joy at watching "the cowboys fall on the ground." Because the events alternate sides of the arena, we kept switching seats to stay close to the action.
As you can see, the low light in the arena, coupled with the dirty looks I got when I used a flash, did a number on my photos. The only clarity I got was when I tried to take a picture of Luke and got a pristine shot of some lady's exceedingly white leg. After an hour or so, Luke said he wanted to go. Off we went, stopping briefly outside to see a big Caterpillar truck on display, walking back through the rides and carnival games, crossing five lanes of traffic in the dark, and heading home way past Luke's bedtime. He could hardly wait to tell Mama all about the cowboys, the cows, the horses, and the preachers with the bullhorn.