Thursday, October 06, 2005

From Flagstaff, AZ to Albuquerque, NM, Tue. 10/4

I’m writing this from my hotel room in Albuquerque, NM, on Tuesday 10/4, but I cannot post it tonight because the internet connection is down. Figures! I pick a hotel because they have free wireless, and it’s on the fritz.

This morning we got started on time, finally! We hit the road at about 9:10. Today was a pretty drive, with lots of red plateaus to keep me snapping pictures. The vast expanses of land and the beautiful cloud formations were breathtaking. Of course a photo cannot come close to the grandeur of what everything looks like in person, but it gives you some idea of what I’ve been seeing.

The wind has been phenomenal. The radio says gusts of up to 40 mph, and it’s barely tolerable when you get out of the car to get gas or food. So I can’t begin to imagine hurricane force winds of 150 mph! Even with the wind, the semis on the road are speed demons. Usually, back in CA, I’d be the one doing the passing, but since I’m following my dad who’s towing the fifth wheel, it’s the semis that are passing us. They come up on your tail and it seems like they’re about to rear end you before they finally get over. Today there were two trucks with oversized loads and they actually passed other semis and my dad, practically forcing them off the side of the road to get by. Seemed very dangerous.

Comet has been doing very well in the car. I was concerned about sedating him for several days in a row, so today I decided to forego the pill. He did fine. I think he’s getting used to the routine, and he’s just resigned himself to it.

Along the way there were many, many billboards trying to attract the almighty tourist dollar to Indian arts and crafts shops and trading posts.

Every single one of them promises the best prices, and lots of them offer a free piece of petrified wood. One of them even promised the unique experience of feeding ostriches. We also drove by the dinosaur park. I wanted to go, but wasn’t sure how far off the highway it was, and when we drove by the exit, all I saw was a little building, not giant replicas like I expected. There were several small replicas on the side of the road that made for novel scenery.

As you know, I’ve been paying close attention to out of state (i.e., non-California) license plates recently, and of course being in a different state now, I see lots of them. Along the 40, it seems like every car that passes is from elsewhere. Lots of Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri. But today I saw my first North Carolina plate since we started our trip. Unfortunately, the car flew past us so I couldn’t snap a photo. In other NC-related news, I’ve gotten two NC quarters as change, one in Victorville and one in Flagstaff. You know me and my quarters!

We stopped for a puppy potty break in Gallup, NM, and grabbed a quick lunch at Taco Bell. It was kind of disconcerting to see large black plastic rats on the counter. Pretty bizarre choice of Halloween decorations for an eating establishment.

We arrived in Albuquerque around 4:30 (we lost an hour crossing time zones). As you approach the city from the west, it looks positively ginormous, even though it has a population of only 448,000. There’s just a tad of sprawl. The sign on the freeway said “Albuquerque, Next 17 Exits”!! We hit a bit of traffic on the freeway, but it afforded me the opportunity to photograph the tangle of overpasses, painted peach and blue.

I checked into a Comfort Inn that accepts pets and supposedly has wireless internet...ha ha. My parents checked in at a KOA down the street. The rates are higher than normal this week due to the hot air balloon festival. My room was $63, and the campsite was $51, and they don’t even have a full hookup. I would be all over that festival (imagine the photo ops!) but during the week the only events are in the early morning, as in dawn. Yeah, no thanks.

For dinner, we drove down Route 66 through the middle of Albuquerque looking for a place to eat, and ended up at an Italian restaurant called Dion’s. It was okay but not as charming as the Railroad Café last night. Oh well, they can’t all be winners, right? I tried to get my parents to go to one of the trendy restaurants we passed while driving through downtown, but they’re more of the home-cooking kind of folk.

Mother Nature put on a little show for us this evening, with lots of lightning and loud thunder. There was a short spell of rain but it wasn’t a big deal. Hopefully it’s dry tomorrow. I wouldn’t want to be driving in a big storm.

Tomorrow we’re headed for Amarillo, TX. Should be mostly downhill again except for a bit of a climb at the beginning. One thing that’s odd here in NM…the cheapest gas isn’t 87 octane…it’s 86, so I had to go with mid-grade at 88 octane and pay $3.09/gallon. I shouldn’t complain, though. I was getting awesome mileage today—about 35 mpg!! My dad averaged seven. Wowsers.

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