When I mentioned that I would be traveling to Amarillo, three different people on three separate occasions began singing to me. Apparently, most everyone (except me) has the lyrics to George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning” pop into their head when they hear the word “Amarillo.” Although I didn’t know the song prior to the three serenades, the portrait of a dusty bull rider on the road from San Antone that the song describes fit perfectly with my mental picture of what I expected to find there.
As I flew into Amarillo on a clear day, I noticed the landscape was unlike anything I had seen before. I was familiar with the big, green circles in the fields created by center pivot irrigation, but there were a couple of other things I observed. Windmills lined the edges of properties, connected by what looked from the air like huge orange electrical cords. In the middle of these rings of windmills were what appeared to be big ponds. This scene repeated itself many times over, and even as we got closer to the ground I couldn’t really make out what I was seeing. This was going to be a question for the folks at Bruckner NationaLease.
I arrived at Bruckner and met with Wesley Lawhorn, Bruckner’s CFO. We discussed a variety of topics, including the economic challenges in West Texas due to the downturn in the energy sector, and the current difficulties in recruiting diesel techs. Bruckner has a great team that manages their recruiting process, and I reminded Wesley of the resources available through NationaLease to assist them with recruiting, including our Careers page and our partnership with Universal Technical Institute. NationaLease is also hosting a year-long webinar series for our members on the Hiring Process.
After chatting with Wesley, I headed to my hotel for a little while before Brian Bruckner and Damien Finger came by to accompany me into downtown Amarillo for dinner. We walked into Ohms Café in an unassuming storefront building. Once inside, the place was anything but unassuming. The décor was more like what I would expect to see in downtown Chicago than in Amarillo. They had live music playing (on a Wednesday night) and the food was amazing! I had Elk Tenderloin with mushroom risotto, not quite the meal I expected to find here! We talked about a number of things, including our National Account program and the upcoming Spring Business Meeting in conjunction with TRALA in Scottsdale in April.
As our dinner and discussion wrapped up, I had to ask them about what I saw from the plane. Damien told me that the “ponds” I saw were actually called playa lakes. These dry lakes, as they are also known, are one of the most significant ecological features in the Texas High Plains. Playas are shallow indentations in the land that are primarily filled by rainfall. The largest concentration of dry lakes in the world (nearly 22,000) is in the southern High Plains of Texas and eastern New Mexico. The prevalence of windmills in the area definitely makes sense as Amarillo is recorded as the windiest city in the US. I still didn’t know what the orange thing was that connected all the windmills. Brian and Damien looked confused when I asked about it, then started laughing. It turns out that what looked like a bright orange electrical cord from the plane are actually the red dirt roads used to service the windmills. I should have known. Red dirt roads are famous around here. There are even a few songs about them, including “Red Dirt Road” by Brooks & Dunn. I really need to brush up on my country music!
The following week I headed west again, but this time I went even further west, all the way to Fresno. Disappointingly, no one sang me any songs about Fresno, but I had been there before, so I didn’t need any country songs to tell me what to expect.
I met with Charlie Davis at Kenworth of Central California NationaLease. We reviewed the NationaLease purchasing programs, discussed recruiting challenges, and talked about upcoming meetings including the Spring Business Meeting and the Maintenance Managers Meeting that will be in Chicago in May. We also discussed the opportunities and challenges of the area economy, which is driven primarily by agriculture. The Central Valley, where Fresno is located, is one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions. Over 200 different crops are grown there. It is the primary source for the US for a number of food products including tomatoes, almonds, grapes, apricots, and asparagus. In fact, about 90% of the world’s almond supply comes from the Central Valley. It takes a lot of trucks to get all those crops to the grocery stores!
I had a little time before my flight, so I decided to go for a drive outside of Fresno. For a girl from Illinois, it is so interesting to see fields of crops that aren’t corn! It was a gorgeous day without a cloud in the sky. Suddenly, I noticed some startlingly vivid colors ahead, and realized that the roadsides were completely blanketed with brilliant orange, yellow, and purple wildflowers. I drove past almond and pistachio farms with the trees just beginning to bud. Spring has definitely arrived in the Central Valley! Before leaving California, there was just one more task I had to check off my list: a Double Double Animal Style at In-N-Out Burger. With that mission accomplished, I headed home, where it is not quite yet spring, but getting closer!
Whether my travels take me to new places or familiar ones, seeing mysterious sights or those I am accustomed to, the reality is always better than my expectations. Amarillo has the tumbleweeds and cowboys I expected, along with fine dining and a surreal landscape that amazed me. Fresno doesn’t disappoint with the In-N-Out Burger I was craving, yet still manages to surprise me with breathtakingly vivid wildflowers. NationaLease members are like that, too. They are known nationwide for consistently exceeding the expectations of their customers. They consistently exceed my expectations, too. No matter how much I’m looking forward to visiting them, I always enjoy it even more than I expected. Maybe I should write a country song about it.