ps I love you

March 3, 2010

(Alternate script: When it comes to being a better Caveman fan, nothing beats Current-Argus Sports. You can read exclusive game coverage by all you favorite writers. Like Dan Kukla. That guy is pretty good – if you like 5’10” 150 lb sports writers… lazer-rocket typing fingers).

I don’t want to toot my own horn… so I’ll let someone else do it for me. The following is an email sent by a reader to my editor, which she then passed on to me.


I grew up in this berg.  I played high-school sports in the the Roy Hall – Jim O’Hearn era.  Dan Kukla ranks with those giants of Current Argus greats.  His organization of the sport’s page is phenomenal.  I can tell at a glance what is happening sports-wise around town, the country and the globe.  His numerous daily articles are first-rate.  I used to use the internet to track sports, now I check his section first and follow
up online.

The recent tribute to John Wooten is but a representative example of his writing ability.  That a person (presumably) unfamiliar with Carlsbad sports lore could appreciate one of the true sports heroes of Carlsbad
is remarkable [note to Mr. Kukla, there is a treasure trove of unreported stories here].  He produces a section–essentially half of the substantive material in the paper–daily that covers major sports events, local eight-year-old team events, regional events and the lead national stories with remarkable clarity and depth.

Now, if he could only include an occasional rugby article he would be really first-rate.  (Only kidding, keep it up Mr. Kukla.)


J. Richard Brown

(Editor’s note: I did not actually write the mentioned John Wooten story. The by line on this article correctly attributed Don Eskins, but I guess people don’t typically read that part. I do, however, take full credit for publishing that story. Like I said… lazer-rocket typing fingers).



February 22, 2010

Claire from Modern Family just wishes she could homemake like my Mom.

Perhaps this post would be more appropriately named “Attack of the Mommy.” She came, she saw, she conquered. Said more plainly, she kicked my krib’s butt.

During a visit of just over four full days (Thursday night – Tuesday morning), my mom did the following: painted my bed room, painted my living room, carpeted my bed room, carpeted my living room, hung curtains in my bed room, bought a bunch of random kitchen and bathroom stuff (some of which I knew I needed, some of which I didn’t even knew existed), found a really nice desk that also easily comes apart and lies flat (not that I’m already thinking about moving), did laundry,  and bought a lazy-boy chair I’m sitting in right now for $3. Oh yeah, and my refrigerator is practically overflowing with excessively healthy and/or home cooked food.

The amazing part? Most of this happened while I was either at work or asleep. We still had time to tour the (famous?) Carlsbad Caverns and the Living Dessert State Park, find the one hill in Carlsbad and it’s corresponding lookout over the city, go to church, invite my neighbor Dan over for brunch, watch Modern Family and go to Bible study (I think she also read a book while here too).

To be fair, I did a decent job for myself in setting up a reasonable living arrangement. Also to be fair, it felt a lot like college. Now with a touch of Mom love, it actually feels like a real home. So while it is no longer anything like ‘Worth the Trip’ it now actually is worth the trip.

And what a trip it is, as my mom unfortunately found out. To get here from St. Louis requires either a) a day and a half of driving, b) three flights or c) two flights and 1-2 hours of driving. When it snows in Dallas and nearly shuts down the airport (as it did on my Mom’s travel day) it takes even longer. So don’t worry, I only expect those of you who really love me to come out.

Speaking of love, I had quite the Valentines Day here in Carlsbad. Well, actually it was on the day after. In an effort to serve, honor and appreciate the girls at Bible study, us guys got together to make the day special for them. We showed up to the Trone’s house a couple hours early to cook dinner. Jeremy designed a hand drawn card and made copies for everyone. We also had a rose and a small box of chocolates fro each girl. If any of this sounds suspiciously like ‘Naventines’ to my friends back at Miami, that’s because this may or may not have been phase 2 of my efforts to turn Monday Night at the Trone’s into Miami Navs (Phase 1 was inviting Ellen, of course).

"Doin things I never do... I'm in the kitchen cookin things she likes"

The whole group, with the girls showing off their gifts.

Jeremy's hand-drawn card for the ladies

It’s occurring to me right now, as I think of what to write next, that I have failed post an update about the one reason I am even down here in the first place: work. So I will now close by telling you stories from my job… which is to tell stories.

Being a journalist is an interesting (for lack of better word) career because you fall somewhere in between a normal citizen and a public figure. I have now been here long enough that when I introduce myself to new people, more times than not they will pause, give an inquisitive look and ask for my last name. When I say ‘Kukla’ they will then reposition their head, give a new inquisitive look and say something to the effect of “I feel like I recognize you from somewhere.” So far I’ve decided to play dumb and tell them that I’m new in town so I don’t know how that could be.

It’s a funny thing, having your name put in the paper everyday but only your picture every so often (whenever I get enough time, energy and interesting thoughts about current events in the sports world – all at the same time – to write a column. This has only happened twice so far). It’s like people don’t quite know who you are, but they have heard of you. Not quite citizen, not quite celeb.

Once people do figure out who I am, it prompts various responses. The two most common are to a) say something polite like “we’re glad to have you here” / “you’re doing a good job” / “I liked your article” or b) offer advice.

“All I ask is that you be fair,” one lady said to me. “You know, women can be athletes too.”

“It would be nice to hear how all the lower level team are doing,” one man told me. “We care about the C-team, JV and the 8th graders too.”

“It’s great to get stories about the Cavemen,” another said, “but we need to know what’s going on with all of the 5A schools for when Carlsbad plays in districts and state.”

Um, does anyone happen to own a cloning device. Apparently I not only need to be in multiple places at once, I actually need to be everywhere, all the time.

The best comments, however, come by some form of mail (snail-, voice- or e-). These come from people so worked up about something that they feel the need to go out of their way to call or write me.

My favorite was the hand-written letter someone sent me to welcome me to town… and inform me of every single sports interest in Carlsbad from middle school (PR Leyva and Alta Vista), high school (CHS… and every other 5A school in the state), college (UNM, NMSU, Texas Tech and UTEP) and Pro (Cowboys and Astros because of proximity, Marlins because of former Caveman Cody Ross and the Dodgers for no apparent reason at all). I wonder what would happen if I just started running all Cardinals, Rams, Blues, RedHawks and Mizzou stories.

My least favorite was an angry phone call from a dad angry about my coverage of his son’s 8th grade basketball game. I will say, for the record, that I went to this game, stayed for the entire time, wrote a full story with TWO pictures and ran it top front. Unfortunately, in my picture of the team holding up their conference championship trophy after the game, I did not list the names of every single player… and his son, instead of celebrating with his team, decided to skip out on my photo op.

Apparently this is completely my fault and also complete bull s***, among many other four-letter words.

The most random message I’ve received? I’ll just give you the entire thing: “NASCAR. Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday. Carlsbad want it. Now let’s see how good you are.” I wish he had left a phone number. He was so nice and I would have liked to tell him that he got the wrong number. There’s no way someone calling about cars driving in circles wanted to talk to the SPORTS editor.

Rolling in the green

February 4, 2010

Let's play a game! What is this picture? a) A delicous meal b) A heart attack on a plate c) "tossed cookies" d) Not food, that's for sure e) Happiness

Green Chili. Is. Everywhere.

I went to a restaurant for lunch Monday and literally every sandwich came with green chili on it. Last week when I went back to Danny’s Place (that awesome BBQ restaurant that serves St. Louis cut pork ribs) I was the only person in a group of five who didn’t order the green chili cheeseburger. At this point I’m just waiting to find out that the Wendy’s in town serves green chili flavored frosties.

According to the locals, green chili comes in varying degrees of flavor and spicy-ness. On my turkey sandwich it was very mild and added more texture than it did flavor. Apparently I am not allowed to pass judgment on the condiment until I eat on Mexican food where it tends to have more kick.

This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I found out that it is actually a very good thing, and for reasons much more objective than taste. I am told that some chemical in green chili supposedly raises endorphin production in our bodies. I am also told that this consequently biologically improves people’s moods. Thus, by transitive property, eating green chili = happiness.

After doing some very brief, non-scientific research on google, this seems to be a generally accepted theory. But I have better proof than that. The people here in New Mexico really are super nice. Seriously. My goal when moving here was to know enough people by Super Bowl Sunday that I would have a party to go to and not have to watch the big game by myself or at a sports bar. Well I now find myself having to chose between multiple super bowl parties. Half the stuff in my krib was donated to me by a local church or co-workers. Not to say that people in St. Louis or Oxford are mean or unhappy, but people here do genuinely seem nicer and happier than the norm. I’m telling you, it’s gotta be the chili.

Speaking of nice people, I had an interesting run in with some Tuesday morning. As I exited my car in front of the krib after running an errand, three passer bys stopped for a chat. “Did you just move in?” they asked. “Well you should know there are three ghosts that live in there.” They then proceeded to tell me a tall tale of an old black lady and two kids who haunt my place. Apparently, if I leave my bathroom light on a night and turn everything else off, I will be able to see them moving around from my bed. “But don’t worry,” they assured me, “they are nice ghosts so you don’t have to be afraid.” I am still quite curious as to how they know all of this, considering I am the one living here and not them. For the record, the only ghost I have encountered thus far is of the holy variety.
And speaking of that third member of the trinity, I recently joined a Bible study. Well, it’s a Bible study, but then again it’s so much more. The gathering is designed for guys and gals in the 18-25ish year-old range. A very nice couple hosts it in their home (an incredibly beautiful one, I might add… the couple I mean, but yes the home is quite gorgeous too). Janice makes sure to have a delicious meal ready for us around 7:30. This is no easy task since the group size both nights has been in the upper teens. After eating and socializing for half an hour we then gather in the living room where Paul leads the study/discussion on the night’s topic. I should also add that Steven leads us on the guitar in two worship songs (gotta make sure I get all my shout outs in). This weekly event has been so great for me because a) it’s another chance to get into God’s word b) the large and diverse group always provides interesting points of views that challenge me and make me think and c) it is a great way to meet some awesome people my age-ish.

I found this Bible study through a series of random but connected events. Ellen, the girl here I know from Miami, works with Robbey at the caves. I met Robbey on my first night in Carlsbad when I played volleyball with them. He took me to Church one Sunday where I met his cousin Stephanie. Even though Robbey was going hiking that afternoon, I planned on staying back because it was conference championship Sunday and I needed (yes, needed) to watch me some football. Stephanie kindly offered me to come to her Aunt’s house for family lunch (I would take Robbey’s place at the table). This is where she told me about the really cool Bible study on Monday nights.

My mom will be happy to know that between Sunday afternoons at the Bemis’ (I now seem to be adopted by that family… at least on Sundays after Church) and Monday nights at the Trone’s I am fed my two good meals of the week. So my diet isn’t completely based off of Ramen noodles, Honey Bunches of Oats and KFC.

And while we are kinda sorta still on the topic of church I should probably mention my latest encounter with my neighbor Dan. I often see him walking his tiny dog Fritzy (yeah, I guess tiny went without saying) around the block. One day he caught me at the mail box. I a very ‘I’m just trying to be a nice neighbor and don’t want to offend anyone way’ he asked if I would attend church with him that Sunday. After I agreed to that he also roped me into ‘Sunday school’ before the service. This turned out to be another Bible study, just one of a much older demographic than Monday nights at the Trone’s. I was a big hit.

Let the spiritual illustrations fly!

So I am now officially being courted by three area churches and still have 2-4 left on my list of ones I need to check out. Robbey’s church actually gave me a coffee mug with their logo on it and text that says “I was mugged at the Church Street Church of the Nazarene.” People from the Lutheran church I went to on my first Sunday in town continue to donate random items for the krib. And then it’s just really hard to say no to a neighbor who is the nicest navy veteran you will ever meet.

Current-Argus Update

February 4, 2010

Many people have recently been sending me messages like this: “Dan, why can’t I find any of your writing on the Current-Argus website? Do you really work them or is this all a big joke!?”

Well I am here to assure you that I do indeed work for the Current-Argus. I am also here to announce the publishing of my first column! My first two preview stories and my first game story will be coming out Friday and Saturday. As promised, I will not post these articles here but force you to look on our website. That’s what that flashy new link in the right hand column is for. Enjoy.

PS Stay tuned for the release of a Current-Argus Sports facebook page and Twitter feed. I’m not really sure when I plan on making these things but they will happen… eventually.

PSS The next Dan in Real Life post is currently half written (or is it currently half un-written?) Should be out soon as well but I won’t make any promises.

Mr. Mom and the Desert heat

January 29, 2010

"I had to drive to work today in a freaking blizzard! You couldn't even see if the stoplights were red or green or whatever color they're supposed to be because they were all covered in snow!" -Anonymous source from the Current-Argus newsroom

No, I didn’t wither away in the heat of the desert. And no, I didn’t get eaten by a mountain lion. The reason it has taken me so long to make this post is that I didn’t have internet in ‘my place’ until yesterday.

Speaking of my place, I’ve been thinking it needs a better name. Kukla’s (quite literal) Korner or DK Kountry obviously came to mind rather quickly. But then I outdid even myself in coming up with the new official name for my place: Kukla’s Krib. I wonder how my landlord will feel about a house sign out front.

The krib is coming along quite nicely now. I spent my first week doing some serious homemaking (or I guess that’s kribmaking). Besides making all-too-frequent Walmart runs to buy the various things I kept discovering I needed, I also got down and dirty with some heavy duty cleaning. Yes, you can just go ahead and start calling me Mr. Mom (actually, on second thought, don’t do that).

While the place is now pretty much fully functional, it wasn’t always that way. The first night I spent in here I slept on my newly bought $50 couch without heat. It made for quite the pathetic scene if I do say so myself. Here I was, just me, my couch and an empty apartment with no heat or hot water, much less cable or internet. And for those of you who are finding it hard to feel sympathetic for poor Dan complaining about a lack of heat in the middle of the desert, let me just call your attention to the lovely picture of my car… covered in SNOW!

That’s right, it snows here. Yes here, as in the desert. So yeah, it is cold, especially when your krib is without heat. That night all I could do was bury myself inside my sleeping bag wrapped in the three blankets I own and quote Dr. Evil: “It’s frickin freezing in here Mr. Bigglesworth.” That’s pretty much how the night went for me, except there was no Mr. Bigglesworth so I was talking to myself.

Now this whole anecdote poses one very valid and logical question. Why would I move into my place when I knew I didn’t have heat? What happened to Reid and his place? (Ok so that was two questions). Ah, touche my friend. Well you see, the gas company was supposed to come turn on my heat and hot water earlier that day. This was also the day my bed was supposed to arrive. Notice the key word in both of those last two sentences. “Supposed” to. As in they were scheduled to but didn’t.

The gas man did finally arrive the next morning. It didn’t take him long to discover that my heater and water tank are both boarded up behind a wall. Upon making this discovery he proclaimed, “I’m not allowed to open stuff like that so you’re gonna have to do that part yourself.” Not ok. Not at all. In my head I was basically left with two options: a) start tearing into the wall at the expense of my deposit before I even paid it or b) tell the gas man to come back later, and who knows when that would be. I was literally standing in front of the boarded wall with a hammer in hand when it occurred to me I should call the real estate agency. They sent out their ‘handy man’ right away. Whew.

Opening and closing the wall was still just as much of a project as I thought it would be. On the bright side, I finally met my neighbor living next door in apartment B. Apparently she works a night shift and was just getting to bed when all the hammering started. So yeah, at least that wasn’t awkward.

When the gas man left, the heater still wasn’t on. He insisted the gas was connected and all the handy man needed to do was flip the breaker once to restart it. I can’t tell you how incredibly reassuring that was. Handy man to me: “You stand here and watch for the flames. I’ll go back and look for the breaker box.” Me (nervously): “Uh, ok.” When those flames actually did turn on I about put a hole in the ceiling with my head from jumping so high. Talk about relief.

In all honesty though, I may be over sensationalizing the whole cold thing. While the night without heat was uncomfortably cold, it was just one night. As for the snow, it was more funny than anything else. I coulda had a great picture for you all because when I woke up Thursday morning it looked like a blizzard outside. But when I got out of the shower 10 minutes later, the blizzard was over and the snow was already half melted off my car. I only have the picture I do because we got a slight re dusting Friday morning.

Other than our quick “blizzard” (overhearing conversations about the snow at work was great fun… you woulda thought we were in Canada with all the tall tales I heard) and some rain the night before, the weather here has been quite peachy. I played disc golf Monday and have been in short sleeves more often than not.

When I started this post I planned to provide updates on work life and my rapidly developing social scene. Seeing as my word count is already over 900, however, I will have to save that for next time. Until then (I promise it won’t be as long of a wait, now that I have internet and all) enjoy the bright sunny January weather in St. Louis, Oxford, Illinois or wherever you are. I sure am enjoying it here in the Southwest.

In with the New (Mexico)

January 19, 2010

507 W Bonbright, Apt A, Carlsbad, NM 88220... that's my address. Now you have it. Just sayin.

It’s certainly no “Depot” and I can’t claim it to be “Worth the Trip” either; but hey, at least it’s bigger than Emerson 227. “It” of course is my new place. Now I realize that “place” isn’t all the descriptive, but I really don’t know what else to call it. If I say apartment that will make you think of an apartment complex, which I not at all where I live. If I say house, well that would be lying too. Duplex probably comes closest, but I’m not totally certain that is accurate either. So place it is.

I found my place with incredible speed and ease. Ironically, this seems to be a recent trend in my life ever since graduating college, which I did neither quickly (took me an extra semester) nor easily (double major in two different schools… who’s idea was that?). Perhaps I’m just making up for lost time. After arriving in Carlsbad at 1:30, I managed to get tours of three ‘places’ that afternoon. The next morning the real estate agency called back to say my application passed and I could come in to sign the lease at 1.

Before rushing over there, however, there was one final place I needed to look at. This provided me a classic welcome to Carlsbad moment. The landlord, a scraggly (she had remnants of a beard so I think its a fair comment) 60ish-year old woman named Rosemary met me outside in the lawn, which just so happened to be covered (may be an exaggeration, but not by much) dog poop. After several failed attempts to open the door, Rosemary declared she had brought the wrong key and needed to go retrieve the right one. As I headed back to my car to wait, one of the neighbors from across the street came out and gave me a short wave. I said hi and waved back then proceeded to enter my car. That’s when I noticed the neighbor was walking over and wanted to speak to me. I opened my door and before I could say anything this old man pointed to the house next to the one I came to see and said “that man who lives over there is a f***ing crook, watch your a**”. I nodded sheepishly, not really knowing what to say or do, and sat there shell shocked as the man turned around and went back into his house. Wow, I thought to myself, that just happened.

Between the creepy neighbor man I just met, the alleged crook next door and the absentminded landlord (not to mention the excessive amounts of feces in the front yard), I just about left right then and there. I only stayed to be polite to Rosemary. My tour lasted all of two minutes. I walked in, acted like I was looking around and told her I just felt better about another place I already looked at. Then, I got the heck outta there as fast as I could.

Even with the lease signed, I still couldn’t start living in my place right away. Utilities wouldn’t be turned on until Tuesday and every room was completely empty. Until then, I could stay at a fellow reporter’s house and sleep on his couch. His name, by the way, is Reid Wright. Yeah, he was pretty much born to be a journalist.

During the days I have kept busy running errands of various sorts… and watching football of course. Yard sale shopping Saturday morning was a fun way for Jesse and I to learn our way around town. Actually, I must say that without Jesse this whole would be a complete lost cause. Seriously, I would be so lost without her. What did people moving to new towns before the days of GPS even do anyway. I’m not totally sure what I would have done but it probably would have involved sitting on a street corner and crying.

The yard sale adventure was a huge success. I came away with a hide-a-bed couch, a kitchen table with chairs and a set of dishes. One of my neighbors, who just so happens to be much friendlier than my alternatives, also gave me a small cushioned chair for the living room. His (the neighbor’s, not the chair’s) name is Dan so I will be able to remember his name. His wife (who’s name is not Dan and thus I am unable to recall it) is also super nice.

Dem Cowboys are the local favorite in Carlsbad... unless they get crushed in the playoffs of course

I dedicated Saturday and Sunday to the NFL playoffs with the justification that it would help me learn the local sports bar scene (side note: Sunday NFL games start at 11 am in this time zone. This is both weird and inconvenient. I will have to find a church with an early or evening service). Well, Saturday and Sunday are over, and I have yet to find said sports bars. Chili’s seems to be the best option this town has to offer. There is also a Mexican restaurant called Lucy’s that will suffice as well. Other than that… nothin. Oh, and for all of you who suddenly hold ambitions of starting a BW’s franchise in Carlsbad you should kill that dream immediately. Even with only two quasi sports bars in town, neither were anywhere closed to being full during game time. This both scares and excites me because it means that high school sports really are more important to these people than any other team. By the way, do you know why New Mexico doesn’t have a professional sports team? Because then Texas would want one too!

While Carlsbad lacks in sports bars it does offer some nice local restaurant options (they just don’t like putting TV’s in every corner of the room, that’s all). So far my best meal by far came at Danny’s Place. No, this is not me making up ridiculous lies about how good my home cooking is. There is actually a really great BBQ restaurant in town called Danny’s Place. It even serves “St. Louis cut pork ribs.” Between Danny’s, my neighbor and the new sports editor, I’m beginning to think that all good things in this town share a common name 😉 No that is not an invitation for you to start calling me Danny (only my sister gets to do that). Yes, I did just insert a winky smiley face into my post.

Besides random errands, aimless driving around and football, I also have already had several fun and/or interesting nights here too. Ellen Rohn (a girl I know from Miami and Navs who also randomly ended up in Carlsbad) has let me tag along with her group of friends from work as a tour guide at the Caverns. Thursday (my first night in town) I joined them for two hours of volleyball at the rec. Friday I trekked it out to her place (housing provided by her employer, about 45 minutes from town) for Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and Poker night. While walking back to my car I discovered that in addition to the sunny short sleeve weather you can also be jealous of me for how great the stars are here (yes, even better than Oxford, Ohio). I seriously almost fell over when I walked out Ellen’s front door. They are that good.

Sunday night was a ‘weekend’ night for Reid and I; we spent it over at one of his friend’s houses where we were joined by a bunch of college and/or (I didn’t really know) high school aged kids who also had a weekend night due to MLK day. The details of this gathering probably should not be posted on the world wide web but the cliff notes version says there was a ‘rave’ (think black lights, glow sticks and techno music) and we will leave it at that. Like I said, fun and/or interesting.

Well, work starts Tuesday (which will probably be ‘today’ when this gets posted). Reid said my desk has been empty for several months and there are probably hundreds of messages on the phone, none of which he expects to be pleasant. I’ve been told this town is quite serious about its high school sports and that’s no joke. Everyone I’ve told about my job as sports editor gave me some comment about how bad the section has been or how they want it to be. The good news, anyway, is that improving the section will not be much of a challenge (so easy a caveman could do it). Improving it enough, however, will.

Off into the sunset

January 17, 2010

The perfect ending…

Why, at the end of every movie, do the main characters feel so compelled to suddenly turn and travel west? And how does this always happen during a sunset? I really wouldn’t care all that much except for the fact that this unexplainable phenomenon now creates big problems for me. You see, riding off into the sunset has become directly linked with storybook endings. Just the other day, however, I jumped into my little Toyota Carolla and quite literally drove off into the sunset (well, at least the sun set 8-9 hours into the ride). But this is not the end! As a wise man named Happy Gilmore once said, we’ve only just begun

My drive west totaled around 16 hours over two days. The drive itself proved largely uneventful outside of two malicious attacks by mother nature. The first of these happened on I-44 not far into the trip at all. As I began to pass a semi truck, huge chunks of ice flew off its top and landed right next to my car. I’m just glad I was in the left lane because at that moment in time it definitely was the right one. The second attack came much later in the drive. While cruising through the not-so-scenic (and all too) plains of West Texas, a tiny little tumble weed bounced harmlessly in front of my path. It was terrifying. I hadn’t seen anything move in hours.

While the drive itself provided less items of interest than a Chicago Cubs trophy case, my stops along the way all came with their own festivities. First up was Miami, OK. That’s right all you Redskin, cough, um, I mean RedHawk fans, it does exist. I knew the Indian tribe my alma mater is named after was located in the (just) OK state, but had no idea I would run into it on I-44. Needless to say, I was all but obligated to stop. After briefly entertaining ambitions of driving around town I settled for a quick gas stop and an extra glance at the Miami billboard. Sadly, no one noticed the Miami sticker on my car during the few moments I spent next to the pump.

West Texas… yup, that’s about it

$10.30 of Oklahoma toll-road dues and several hours later I found myself making stop number two in Elk City. This was my projected stopping point for the night but I had arrived ahead of schedule. Another quick fill up of the tank and stomach and I was on my way. Not long after I left town, however, I was quickly searching for another exit. My mom was on the phone trying to give me phone numbers to a family we knew in Amarillio and I needed to stop to write them down. Luckily I pulled off at an exit  rather quickly. Not-so luckily, this exit lacked both an enterance ramp back on the west-bound interstate and phone service.

So back I went to Elk City where I parked and re-called mom. Then I called the Monahans (the parents of my sister’s friend from school who live in Amarillio) to make sure I had a place to stay for the night… and knew how to get there. This is when Jesse, my new GPS, first proved her worth. While following directions on a screen isn’t quite as fun as squinting for street signs in the dark, it certainly is much easier. Jesse got her name after a phone conversation with the one and only Gregg Kennedy, who kindly called me late in my drive to help me through those West Texas plains. He asked me if I had named my GPS yet and I honestly told him that doing so just never really occurred to me. Well, of course this got me thinking. Lets see, the brand name is Magellan… like a fellon… like Jesse James… yup that works, Jesse it is. What can I say, I like to keep it simple. I will note that Jesse often goes by “Mav” (short for Maverick) since she is my road trip wingman… Top Gun… get it? By the way, why isn’t there a GPS company named “wingman” yet? Is it just me or is that not just ridiculously obvious?

In Amarillo the Monahans greeted me with my own room, a pork chop dinner, NHL hockey and a beer. All of a sudden 11 hours in the car seemed totally worth it. The next morning I woke up to a bowl of cheerios, a toasted english muffin and the local sports page. Just one night and it already felt like home. That’s when I remembered I still had five more hours on the road ahead of me. Not just any five hours. Five hours through land flatter than Kansas and with less barns to look at. I couldn’t believe it… I actually missed I-70.

Jesse went on the fritz in Lubbock when road work sent me on a slight detour; it routed me off the road enough that she knew I wasn’t there any more but kept me close enough to keep her confused as to where I was instead. Really Mav just wanted me to stop and just so happen to find the Jimmy John’s because she already knows me that well (does it weird you out that both of her names come from famous men… well, it shouldn’t).

After my red raid of Lubbock (I hope you’re still awake sports fans) I entertained myself by over reacting to every sign that had anything to do with New Mexico and or Carlsbad. Seriously, I almost got out of my car to take a picture on multiple occasions. When I say “signs,” all I am talking about are those standard green mile makers on the side of the road that say “Carlsbad… 97”. Nothing to hoot and holler about (much less leave your seat for)… unless of course you’ve just driven through Oklahoma, west Texas and anywhere in New Mexico.

Carlsbad has two different “Welcome to Carlsbad” signs, both of which I nearly fell out of my car for. You all (I’m will resist saying “yall” as long as possible) can blame seat belts for this post’s lack of pictures not stolen from google images. Jesse guided me to the Current-Argus newsroom, where I practically jumped out and ran in to find my managing editor. “Hey Martha. I’m here!”

(To be continued)