Kansas was not nice to me at the end. The last three days were marked by thunderstorms, then hail the next night, vicious winds and torrential rains on the last complete with tornado sirens. The power in the City of El Dorado and the park (That is El DorAdo there, sort of a kin to "AmblAnce" and other odd A's in the mid-western colloquial style) went off. It was about 4 AM when it did. The refrigerator of course was working on electric and not the optional Propane when it happened. Why not? After all, when we went to bed it was a lovely night.
Once I hauled myself up to fix that I decided I might as well start screwing down all that moves, get unhooked from the land lines at first light and get on the on the road. I pulled out about 6:00 AM and enjoyed a peaceful and lonely drive across the gypsum "hills" of western Kansas on an overcast morning. Kansas is essentially closed on Sundays so until the church goers appeared I had the roads to myself and found the next scheduled stop about noon. The NOAA radio said it would be 102 there with a chance of rain later so, with another five hours available, and the temperature beyond even the pale of mad dogs and Englishman, I soldiered on for an additional 350 miles to the place I was supposed to be on Monday. I stopped at a favorite side of the road campsite in Tucumcari and found the temperature there less than 100 but the much advertised winds of New Mexico were present. However, I had gained both a day on the schedule of the worst part of the trip and and hour on the clock. The good people of New Mexico are wise enough to adopt daylight time unlike there less informed neighbors to the west.
I vowed the next day not to drive any more than I had originally planned. One day of over 500 miles seemed sufficient. So I had breakfast at the diner, read the paper and left in what still seemed a cool day. Climbing off the desert floor to pass through Albuquerque and on to a small and uninteresting RV park at Grants, NM. The altitude of 6500 feet made the day a delight, The air required no conditioning and a good book was finished in the early evening. Cable Television was available and I learned it would be 42 degrees when the sun rose there on the first day of summer. Quite a difference, but one that would last only as long as the altitude was maintained. As I passed through Gallup and into Arizona and Pacific Daylight Time I was descending again and reached Flagstaff AZ at either 2:30 PM or 3:30 PM depending on which clock one looked at for assurance.
The road between was a grinding bore, a landscape of the moon by comparison to my previous bucolic journeys on the National Highway and the farm roads of Missouri and Illinois. There is a meteor crater one can go look at if one wishes, there are ruins from the earliest human settlers here about which little is still known that are best seen in the early spring or late fall when the temperatures are livable. There is also between Grants and Two Gun, AZ a higgily- piggily village of squalor at the side of the Interstate that should make you sad to be related to the people who put the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo out here to suffer the indignity they now enjoy. The grinding poverty from there to the end of the state and the beginning of the Mojave is occasionally interrupted by a perky town like Winslow and Flagstaff singing the praises of the famous Route 66, "America's Road" as they would have it and where the pale faces settled for there own reasons and live in what can only look to those who reside between the Sante Fe Railroad Tracks and Interstate 40 as the lap of luxury. It is a sad journey, a figurative walk along the trail of tears that brought them to this place, these noble and, in most cases, gentle people.
Tomorrow I will saddle up as early as sleep will allow to pass through Needles CA, a place no one should have to live, but where there is a remarkably good place to eat breakfast. Then it is south on U.S. 95 past Twenty-Nine Palms where every combat Marine that ever served has been taught to do scary things, on to Desert Center which is simply that, then Riverside, down Interstate 15 to home.
The journey will have covered more than 7,500 miles by then and I for one will be glad it is over. Juan agrees and La Coachasita will be very relieved, although she returns in excellent condition for a machine of her age.
I look forward to a day of high 70's. no rain or threat of it, no sirens to warn of impending doom, no smoke to remind of man's carelessness with his planet.
There are things there waiting to be done, but as always as my journey ends in this overheated wasteland this time of year--a place capable of remarkable beauty at other times--I will be glad to see the people and places of home.
Until next time, stay well, do good works, and stay in touch.