Lexpedition 2016: Best of the Best

Part 3: August 3 – August 4, 2016


Destination: Pagosa Springs, CO
End of Travel Odometer: 116,502km
Progress Map:
I had a sad feeling as we drove out of Kansas City, not because I wasn’t excited for the rest of the trip, but basically because I hate leaving behind great food to venture into unknown culinary territory. I should clarify and say that the intended purpose of the first section of the trip was definitely the food and as we transition into the second portion the purpose swings over to the drive instead of the food. I mean of course we’re going to try to find great food along the way, but it’s no longer the entire point of our existence in this quasi-amusement park country. We’ve been very careful to make sure we keep the gas level above ¼ tank and that we don’t go too much past 425-450’ish kilometers before filling up. After some calculations I’ve found that it’s a bit on the conservative side, but I’d rather fill up a few more times than be left in the hands of any hillbilly tow truck drivers again. I generally prefer to not need to watch out for my corn hole. 
After traveling around the USA for as many miles as I have over the years, one thing that always strikes me is that the gas stations down here always seem to be so much older and less taken care of than the pumps in Canada. You see all kinds of different types and it’s somewhat strange that every gas pump can seemingly have a different branding for the convenience store and so on. You see similar things in Canada but to a much lesser degree. Still, I do appreciate the octane choices given to me.
On our way to Amarillo, TX we stopped for breakfast/lunch at a diner that was featured in the first season of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives called Brint’s Diner in Wichita, KS. Despite having read that it may be under new ownership, it fit with our timeline and so we decided to check it out anyways. It is a classic-style diner standing behind some larger store. In operation since 1960, it looked like it, but that was kind of the point I guess. Locals like it and it doesn’t seem like anyone’s planning on changing anything about it any time soon. Joel and I had burgers while John got something more breakfasty. It took forever to get our food and the waitress didn’t really seem to know the menu that well. That made much more sense after we found out that they were really under new ownership: the couple had just bought it and opened for business 3 days before our arrival. It sounded like they jumped right in to the furnace for breakfast on that first day. I think that they can probably pull it all together, but it wasn’t really amazing food. The burger patties were way too small for the buns and the bacon on John’s plate looked like it had been left out in the sun for about 30 years.
Speaking of sun, it was hot today, like bake some cookies on the dashboard hot. Thankfully the Lexus has fully functional air conditioning (unlike the Previa and Supra that had suspect and only sometimes-working air conditioning; and of course the Tercel that had no air conditioning). In reality I would actually rank the vehicles as Lexus, Tercel, Previa and then Supra as far as air conditioning goes. At least with the Tercel you didn’t expect air conditioning and you got used to not having it. Sure you were dying, but you expected to be dying. The Previa and Supra gave you hope and then ripped it away from you like some sort of cruel capital punishment.
It got hotter, but the other pictures sucked.

 

Joel had done some top notch private investigations on restaurants at the various stops along our journey and one of them was at our destination for the night in Amarillo, TX called Tyler’s Barbeque. Despite having left Kansas City behind, the opportunity for one last meat stop was appealing, especially since Texas has their own style of ‘que. Unfortunately it was not to be as they ran out of meat before we arrived. Looking through my tears I found a nearby Mexican restaurant called Braceros Mexican Grill that had great reviews so we decided to check it out. Despite asking the waitress what she recommends, only I actually got that particular dinner, Beef Lomo with flour, yes flour tortillas. John had the Pescado Veracruz and Joel had the Flautas de Gallina. It was all quite excellent, but I think we all agreed that the beef was the best dish we ordered (even though I had too many chips before it arrived). Seriously delicious stuff.

After driving on and off and around the I-70 interstate due to confusing instructions from Siri, we ended up at our hotel and planned out our next morning: we’re going to leave later so that we can stop by Tyler’s Barbeque before we go. Man am I glad we decided to do that. We came in 15 minutes after they opened and the line was already to the door. Not only was Tyler there to shoot the breeze with us, but the ribs were unreal and the brisket tasted like you were eating a campfire. Not to mention the unlimited pickles (2 kinds) and jalapeños available from the condiment table. These ribs were not what we had been used to eating in Texas, in fact they are close to being our favourites, though still slightly edged by Joe’s in Kansas City. If I am ever in or near Amarillo, TX again I will find my way to Tyler’s again. Plus, on top of all of that, it made me pretty happy inside that even though we were in Texas they still called it Texas toast instead of just… toast. Joel and I had ribs and brisket, John stuck with the ribs alone.

As we headed towards Albuquerque, NM on our way to Pagosa Springs, CO, we stopped at a fantastic truck stop that not only had great facilities, but also a free car museum. Originally I walked right past it, thinking it was a few motorcycles and an old truck on the way to the bathroom, but was pleasantly surprised by a proper showing of cars and trucks. Quite the cool place, definitely worth the stop.

Because this trip is based around the idea of doing the best of what we’ve done in the past, it actually doesn’t leave too many things up in the air and that kind of limits the routes we take to a point. That said, we decided to head north so that we would be able to take WolfCreek Pass, way up on the Great Divide and trucked on down the other side. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as the song made it seem. We probably should have just taken the left at Albuquerque. We didn’t even see any feed stores in downtown Pagosa Springs.

What we did find in Pagosa Springs, CO however was a great local brewery and restaurant called Riff Raff Brewing Company. A lot of their menu was based or made references to a couple of movies, but the one most prominently featured (and indeed they had a photo on the wall) was none other than The Big Lebowski. Joel and John both had the Cabrito (goat) burger cooked medium and I had “The Dude” burger. We tried a few of their beers and they made a hell of a Caucasian, Jackie.

Tomorrow we will be heading out on a couple of great drives between Pagosa Springs and Colorado Springs, namely the Million Dollar Highway and Skyline Drive. For now I will take my leave to my approximately 1/3 of a queen-sized bed. I hope that a sleeping Joel does not cross the great pillow barrier.

 

Day 8 Destination: Colorado Springs, CO via Million Dollar Highway and Skyline Drive

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