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.
$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)