Sunday: March 22nd 2020
Corona Road Trip: Tucson To Morgantown - March 2020
The summer of 2019 we had what we called "The Vacation That Wasn't". Now, March 2020 "It's déjà vu all over again."
Let's step back a bit.
Our Tucson Estates neighbor Bob was a bush pilot in Africa for many years. During that time he developed some friendships in Mozambique. For those of you who are geographically challenged like myself here is the location of Mozambique.
Bob visits his friends in Mozambique every year and flies into Johannesburg and then travels on to Beira in Mozambique.
On several occasions Bob has spent time in South Africa on his way through to Mozambique. Over the years he became familiar enough with SA to invite some friends to join him on a tour. One of those invited was your truly. And, although for decades I wanted to explore South Africa and nearby Namibia (home to the fabled Welwitschia mirabilis) I felt it would be nigh on impossible for me to endure the 16 hour flight from the US to SA.
Bob would not accept "no" for an answer and every time we visited his lofty perch for Happy Hour he would try to get me to change my mind. Well, the more Betsy heard about the trip the more interested she became until finally one day she decided to say "yes" to the trip.
And so it was Betsy, Bob, Doris and Dave made plans to meet in Johannesburg around the 27th of March and embark on a 14 day exploration of South Africa, primarily Johannesburg, Cape Town and of course world famous Kruger National Park.
It should be noted prior to committing to the SA trip Betsy had planned to stay in Tucson Estates for 2-3 weeks after my flight home to Morgantown which was to be on March 28th.
Now that the decision was made to go to South Africa let the planning begin!
As you might expect this all took weeks of planning but finally everything came together and the only thing left to do was get on the plane.
Then Mr. Corona came knocking.
With each passing day the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) became more and more rapid. For a period of time there was not one case being reported from South Africa. And then it happened - someone in Johannesburg tested positive. This was a dominating topic at Happy Hours and emails and phone calls as things worsened. Then at one point Bob told Betsy he felt like the trip was going to have to be scrapped.
This was then discussed with Doris and Dave and the decision was made to cancel the trip.
Bummer. Weeks of planning down the drain.
Now came the weeks of un planning the trip. Betsy had made many of the arrangements for the trip and then collected money from the rest of the group for their share of the costs. Now everything had to be cancelled and the money returned. Not an easy task considering all the pieces of the puzzle.
But finally, after much time and effort Betsy got it all sorted out and then it was official - no trip to South Africa.
As most of you are aware this turned out to be a wise decision.
With Most Coronavirus Cases in Africa, South Africa Locks Down
South Africa is now the epicenter of the pandemic in Africa, with more than 1,000 confirmed cases across the country’s nine provinces.
March 27, 2020
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — When the clock struck midnight on Friday, South Africa, Africa’s most industrialized nation, ordered most of its 59 million people to stay at home for three weeks — the biggest and most restrictive action in the African continent to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Source: NY Times
Now what? Betsy had been scheduled to leave for SA on the 26th and I had a flight out to Morgantown on the 28th.
And then we started hearing about cancelled flights and the possibility of closed airports. Time to start worrying. How would we get home?
My ticket from Tucson to Morgantown included 3 planes and 4 airports. Not being too keen about the potential exposure on all those flights and in all those airports, driving back to Morgantown was starting to look like the safest thing to do.
I mentioned to Betsy I was thinking about driving rather than flying home. Now she had a decision to make; book a flight back to Morgantown for April or make the drive back with me. For someone who has decision aversion syndrome this was not easy to do. But in the end Betsy decided to drive back with me and now it would be the shift to packing for Morgantown instead of SA.
And so it was on Sunday the 22nd of March, armed with a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer, rubber gloves, a spray bottle of 90% alcohol, and all the food we could manage to pack, we departed Tucson Estates and started the 5 day, 2,274 mile trip to Morgantown.
That was not how it was supposed to be...
Tucson, AZ to Alamogordo, NM to Hobbs, NM to Post, Texas to Throckmorton TX to Paris, TX to Texarkana, TX to El Dorado, AR to Memphis, TN to Morehead, KY to Morgantown, WV and lots of tiny little towns in between.
It is a route I have driven a number of times before in one version or another. There is lots of wide open county on this route and much to see and do. But not this time. This time we were just driving home, not sight seeing and exploring. I did take a few snaps and we did make a few stops. But not many.
Our first stop was Hobbs NM. It was busy, busy, busy in that area. They are experiencing an oil boom there and there was lots of truck traffic and 100s of walking beam oil pumps to be seen across many square miles of oil fields.
We stayed at the Days Inn by Wyndham in Hobbs. What an overpriced dump. The place filled up and when we got up the next morning at 5am there were lots of oil field workers getting ready to start their day.
After a visit to the drive through at McDonalds we headed west on US 62/180 and were treated to a nice sunrise.
Click on the photos below for a larger image.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'...
Here we are in Throckmorton TX. I have been here a few times before, Betsy just once and that visit in 2011 has now faded from her memory.
This quaint reproduction of the Eli Davis Ranch sits behind the old county jail.
At the young age of fourteen, Eli Pentecost Davis left his Missouri home to join the Confederate cause as a drummer boy. By the War's end, Mr. Davis was discharged in Galveston and began scrounging for work on farms before taking post as a tanner for 18 months.
As remuneration for his work, the young E.P. accepted tanned hides which he eventually traded for fifty steers starting his career in the cattle business. For the next several years, he became a full-fledged cowboy, driving cattle north on drives through Indian Territory to Kansas.
He eventually settled in Throckmorton County, Texas and began purchasing land and even more cattle. Upon his death in 1902, his estate was divided amongst his wife and six surviving children including Alice Elizabeth "Allie" McKnight. This land became the foundation of the McKnight Ranch.
Source: © 2020 McKnight Ranch
This is in front of the old jail house.
In "downtown" Throckmorton there is a memorial of sorts to the hearty homesteaders who made this place their home.
It is not often we see Opuntia cacti used for landscaping in this manner. Beautiful.
Here is the "new' Throckmorton jail and court house.
The Throckmorton County Courthouse and Jail, in Throckmorton, Texas, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.It is also a State Antiquities Landmark and a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. The courthouse was designed by architects Martin, Byrnes & Johnston and was built in 1890, when the county had only 124 residents. The jail was built in 1893 by Pauly Jail Building & Manufacturing of St. Louis
The day ended in Paris TX and yet another anonymous Motel 6. Previously I had stayed in a couple of places in the downtown area near the square. Nice spot to be but this time we stayed on the bypass and did not go downtown. Dinner that night was a tasty hotel meal Betsy made us which consisted of quinoa and brown rice with black beans, green chilis and chicken.
Here we are in El Dorado AR, another interesting old town with many fine buildings. Seen here is our lunch spot on the steps of the enormous First Baptist Church. When we finished lunch we took a stroll around town. Everything was closed and it was eerily quiet.
There is some nice statuary in El Dorado and these commemorate the roust abouts who helped make El Dorado a wealthy town.
At any other time we would have been perusing this little library but today every volume went untouched.
This is El Dorado's municipal building.
The two-story masonry building was designed by Eugene John Stern and built in 1927, during El Dorado's oil boom years. The front and sides are finished in dressed limestone, while the rear is finished in buff brick. The main facade has a combination of Classical Revival and Art Deco features, with a central projecting entry with a three-story tower.
On our way through "wet Texas" and into Arkansas we saw some nice azaleas in bloom and many gorgeous wisteria in full bloom. Some of the wisteria draped the trees and engulfed old abandoned houses.
And that was the last photo I took. No time for touristing on this trip. We gotta get home.
And on Thursday, March the 26th at 10:30 am we pulled onto Huntington Avenue. We were now back at "our little cabin in the woods" as Betsy calls it. Home, Sweet, Home...
See you next time...
Mike and Betsy