After the overnight stop in the town of Raton, we trekked on to Amarillo. The RV park provides free laundry facilities, so we stripped everything that wasn't attached to the RV for a major wash day. We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner with old friends from our panhandle days, Mark and Mindy. Mindy prepared a great feast and their daughters exercised great hostessing skills in making us feel so at home. We visited and enjoyed the kids sharing their musical talents until well after dark and returned to the RV, ready to prepare for attending a Tea Party rally the next day. We didn't know that we were in for a big surprise in the middle of the night!
Between 1 and 2 a.m., something woke Linda and she asked if something was wrong with the furnace. A terrible rushing sound was coinciding with our furnace running. While checking out what was happening, she peaked through the RV windows and caught sight of a blaze. Now fully alert and alarmed, we grabbed jackets and headed outdoors. The blaze was of a tremendous size, but we couldn't tell how distant to the RV park. The sound was even more remarkable. A handful of RV'ers were also creeping out into the dark, some climbing on top of their rigs to get a better view. With the panhandle plains, it wasn't really necessary to go that high to see what we later found out were 700' flames from a 24" exploded gas pipeline. We prowled a bit more, visited with those neighbors that were awake, marvelled that some apparently heard nothing and slept blissfully through the whole thing, heard a report on the radio of the explosion being at a nearby town, Bushland. We knew we were about 3 miles from that town and decided to count on emergency personnel and the RV park management to evacuate us if necessary, prayed for the emergency crews and anyone in harm's way and finally went back to bed around 3 a.m. Here's a photo cropped from a news report and a blog from a local photographer whose family was miraculously spared harm from the massive explosion.
Thankfully, no one was killed or even seriously injured in the blast.
After sleeping soundly for what remained of the night, we groggily awoke to prepare our signs for the Tea Party Express Rally scheduled to arrive in Amarillo at noon.
We got our signs ready just in time and headed to the park. We were not the first to arrive by far!
Here we are, proudly displaying our messages and flags while waiting for the two busloads of rally leaders.Several individuals and organizations were selling signs, buttons and flags sporting messages to protest the current trend of spending and taxation in Washington.We were pleased to see that these are truly grassroots individuals that have simply had enough to sitting on the sidelines while Washington proceeds to build the deficit. This lady had come with her sign all the way from Ft. Worth to attend this rally and to follow for another couple of stops in Texas.Finally, the bus arrived with the speakers and entertainers for the event.We were joined by our friends just in time for the speakers.Our son climbed a nearby playscape to capture a better idea of the crowd's size. We're not good at estimating numbers of people, but we thought it was a good turnout.
We met these charming ladies on the way to our truck. The lady on the right has been bringing this same sign to protests since 1977! They are from nearby Happy, TX. You can see that her sign's background is dark compared to the sign on the left. Not exactly what you envision with the descriptor of activist? What a trooper!The rally continued until almost 2:30, so we had a late lunch and headed back to the camper to feed our dogs before meeting Linda's brother-in-law and nephew for dinner.
The nephew is attending college at nearby Plainview and we were treated to spectacular 360 degree sunset views along the way.The guys loved the Japanese steakhouse.The chef prepared a delicious menu on the huge griddle right before us.The blaze brought reminders of the eventful blaze in the night, but we were able to relax and enjoy this one after the initial startling flame. We enjoyed the visit and fine food and a wonderful full night of sleep at long last!