Square State Tour

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Day 11
Getting our kicks

Wed, Oct 10, 2007

9:20 am
2,154 miles from home

Amarillo, Texas

We're just about finished packing and ready to take off out the door when Mary Ann comes in holding a cute, but very skinny, white kitten. She and Jim were out walking their dog at a park nearby when they ran across the abandoned kitten (whom we hereby dub Snowball).

Mary Ann and Robert are both suckers for cats, so the two of them set to work feeding Snowball, who's very acclimated to people and purrs the entire time. He plows through the dish of food like it's been a week since he's eaten (and for all we know, it has been).

Then he sets out to explore the room and practice climbing on Robert and all the other things that kittens do.

We practice cursing people who abandon kittens. Jerks.

10:17 am

Okay, now we're ready to go. We've got four days to make it back home, with a stop at the Grand Canyon (which Laura's never seen), so we figure we'll be Freeway People for a while.

We start by heading west on I-40.

11:08 am
2,198 miles

Vega, TX

Wow—we've found where all those Vegans come from! Right here in Vega, Texas. Who knew?

Vega also proudly proclaims that it is the home of the oldest hardware store on Route 66. It seems that I-40 is mostly built on Route 66, although sometimes a separate road wanders off, which they've named "Historic Route 66."

11:52 am
2,230 miles

26 miles east of San Jon, Texas

The plains have just abruptly ended and we're back to desert. No more waves of grain now.

11:57 am ==> 10:57 am
2,237 miles

New Mexico

We enter New Mexico (still the "Land of Enchantment") and our clocks whiz backwards an hour.

11:25 am
2,275 miles

Tucumcari, NM

Laura is happy that we're going through Tucumcari, because it was mentioned in one of the Spaghetti Westerns that Clint Eastwood made in the 60's and she always thought it sounded neat.

In real life, Tucumcari posts billboards along the highway bragging that it has:

34 Motels
4 Campgrounds
54 Restaurants

We're not sure exactly the point of this, given that it doesn't tell us what we really want to know, like how many of them are fast food chains? We'd rather have one good restaurant than 54 fast food joints.

11:38 am
2,289 miles

Palomas, NM

The last three rest areas along the freeway have been closed for repair or remodeling ("New Mexico: Land of Holding It In"). Fortunately, there are stores called "Stuckey's" at every "town" along the way (the town of Palomas, for example, consists of a Stuckey's and a Shell station).

Stuckey's sells convenience food and boat loads of tourist crap. Need a resin paperweight with a scorpion in it? How about tequila-flavored candy (with a real worm)? Got a hankering for some steer horns to mount on your car? All this and more available at Stuckey's!

We restrict our purchases to a snack and move on.

12:20 pm
2,337 miles

Santa Rosa, NM

We're noticing that just about every attraction with a billboard along the freeway says "Exit Now!" as in: "Fireworks ahead! Exit now!"

It's like the slogan of New Mexico, so we start greeting each other with "Exit Now!" because we've been on the road way too long and are getting punchy.

1:49 pm
2,380 miles

We've just run into a nasty thunderstorm with lightning in the distance and rain that sounds like hammers on the windshield. Hmmm, maybe we won't be camping out tonight.

2:10 pm
2,405 miles

We finally found the one open rest area in New Mexico and Robert immediately notices that you can vote on it. There's some buttons in the middle of the rest area under a sign that says, "I approve of this rest area" with a "Yes" button and a "No" button.

We look for a button that says, "Yes, but how come the last four rest areas were closed?" but there doesn't seem to be one.

3:32 pm

Suddenly all the traffic on the freeway comes to a complete stop and all we can see for miles ahead is stopped semi-trucks. Fortunately, this happens right by an exit, so we quickly get off the freeway.

Unfortunately, we are on a road that the GPS euphemistically refers to as "unimproved rural road" meaning, "Hoo boy! Good luck driving on that." But we notice a UPS truck driving down it, so we take off after the UPS truck.

3:50 pm

It's been ten miles of potholes, washboard, and washed out road but we're heading back to the freeway, which has cleared up (we must be past whatever the hold-up was).

Laura has used all the off-road knowledge we picked up in Moab to steer us down this "unimproved" road on the Laguna Indian Reservation. The funniest part is that local drivers keep whizzing past us, expertly steering around all the potholes and bad areas. We decide that we'd rather not have to replace our shocks or tires, so we go slower.

We're now at a point where we can get back on the freeway, but—the on- ramp is closed! Yipes!

Fortunately, the road improves to merely "bad" and we continue on it. Giant signs painted on the road inform us that we're on "Rt. 66" and we wonder what kind of "kicks" those folks in the 50's enjoyed on this route. Maybe kicks in the pants?

3:55 pm

The I-40 freeway finally deigns to let us back on, so we're now traveling on nice smooth road, which we appreciate a lot more than we did earlier today.

4:34 pm
2,534 miles

Grants, NM

Our plan was to stop here today at a local campground, but the weather has made us reconsider. We find a visitor information center and ask them about the weather forecast. All they have is a two-day old forecast that says, "Some weather might be coming" and doesn't mention the earlier thundershowers.

"If it rains on our campsite like it did on the freeway," Robert points out, "It would really really suck. Like suckus maximus."

So we decide to stay in a motel room for tonight.

5:15 pm
2,572 miles

Continental Divide, NM

We're at the Continental Divide again! There's a small gas station here called "Indian Village" which is run by actual Indians. We try to get gas, but it turns out that our credit cards don't like it when we travel.

They're beginning to whine that we're not in Salem anymore and how come we've been away from home so long? In practical terms, this means that they get rejected at the gas pump and we have to go inside and show the cashier our driver's license and prove that we're really us.

At this gas station, though, we manage to drop the entire satellite connection and lock up their credit system. Rather than wait for the system to reset, we resort to using actual cash, which doesn't mind that we're traveling.

6:00 pm
2,582 miles

Gallup, NM

HeyŚwe're in Gallup, land of the polls!

We've tracked down another minimal hotel room—no coffee maker, no microwave, not even any shampoo (although we do have eight tiny bars of soap). This one, though, charges only $30 a night for the two of us, so we're getting what we pay for.

We're a little nervous when we read the rules posted on the door. The last rule says, "If you hear a fighting in the parking lot, you should call the police."

We decide to sleep with our earplugs in.

Tomorrow: Arizona!

Robert & Laura
Square State Tour

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