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A compilation of stories, telescopes, internship resources, and other things radio astronomy.

Graduate School: Applying, Living, Thesising

The Professional Student is a blog about everything grad school from the application process to my experiences living as a grad student, being a parent in grad school, and researching the role of chemistry in the evolution of our universe.

Road Trip to Grad School: Day 4

Olivia Wilkins

Total distance day 4: 641.6 miles
Total distance so far: 2152.6 miles

We are still ahead of schedule! We had originally planned to stop in Albuquerque, but we made a wrong turn and ended up in Socorro instead. (Lame joke, I know.)

We woke up with Texas barbeque on our minds, and after chatting with some people at breakfast in Oklahoma City who are from the LA area ("California is great. You'll love it, but the traffic takes some getting used to. And it is expensive." ... wow... don't oversell the place....), we were on the road—Route 44 in fact—toward Amarillo, Texas.

We drove west, occassionally breaking into bouts of song from the musical Oklahoma!, especially when passing windmills.

where the wind comes sweeping down the plain
where the waving wheat
sure smells sweet
when the wind comes right behind the rain

Needing a top-up on gas and six one-cent stamps (my postcard stamps are three years old hence one cent short), we stopped at Elk City, where we got to see (1) the red earth that suddenly appeared after leaving Oklahoma City,

and (2) the reason Route 44 was populated by billboards saying, "Meth: not in our land."

Somewhere along the way, we traded in our bad musical rendition for the Pixar film Cars, a most appropriate accompaniment to our drive which ran side-by-side along old Route 66.

About half an hour after leaving Elk City, we entered the Lone Star State, state number 10 on our road trip. As if to boast that everything is, in fact, bigger in Texas, we drove through miles and miles of wind farms lined with many rows of ten to twenty windmills. It would not be an exaggeration to say we saw a thousand windmills between the Texas-Oklahoma state line and Amarillo.

As we neared Amarillo, Alex consulted Google Maps to find the best and most convenient Texas barbeque joint along our route. We opted for Tyler's Barbeque and were not disappointed.

If there were a poster boy for Texas, it would be Tyler, the owner of this particular joint. He looked Texas i.e. friendly cowboy. Just check out the restaurant's website, and you will see what I mean.

The guy was super nice, recommending Alex and I split a three-meat plate comprised of brisket, sausage stuffed with jalepeño and cheddar bits, and ribs. The platter also came with two sides (we opted for potato salad and beans, both delicious) and Texas toast. With two sweet teas, this all came out to around $20; a comparable meal at a chain restaurant for the same amount of food and quality would have cost closer to $30, so we thought we were getting a good deal.

The food was excellent, and the ribs so tender I could eat them with one hand while holding my squirming infant as he relished in being free from the car seat. If we ever drive through Amarillo again, we are hitting up Tyler's, and we recommend you do the same.

As we continued past Amarillo, I was grateful that we were only in the panhandle. As I looked south, the unbelievably flat landscape stretched on forever. Even in just this sliver of Lone Star, the size of Texas seemed overwhelming, and I've only seen tiny stretch!

We passed into New Mexico, and plains saturated with farmland gave way to brush, mesas, and red rocky mounds dotted with small bushes. Almost immediately, we had arrived in the desert.

Oddly enough, it was in New Mexico where we first met rain on our trip. For most of the journey from the New Mexico-Texas border to Albuquerque, it poured.

We turned south at Albuquerque, racing down the highway with the mountains to the east and a long, freight train slithering to the west.

Now, we rest in Socorro.

Tomorrow, we see the Very Large Array at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory just west of Socorro. Dreams do come true.