Westward ho, the wagons!

Late entry for August 7 – I’m catching up!

I may have mentioned this before – I printed out a set of MapQuest instructions for each day’s drive. Some days I did fine; others, not so much. Some of the directions didn’t make any sense when I looked at them, as they had me making several turns just to get back on the same piece of road I had been on originally. I eventually figured out that was where I must have been dragging the route when designing my trip, so that I could take a scenic route instead of the shortest / fastest / whichever. I think I caught all of these little side excursions before I actually tried to *drive* them; at least, I don’t remember making any repeated U-turns or anything similar.

Some sets of directions can be absurdly simple. For example, to get from my house in Tucson to the Stalker family farm in Florida, you drive about 15 miles and make 4 turns to get on I-10. Then you drive east on I-10 for, oh, 3 days or so. Then you get off (at the right exit, of course!) and drive about 7 miles and make 2 turns to get from I-10 to the farm’s driveway. How simple is that???

Thursday’s drive turned out to be that simple, although it took MapQuest two pages to tell me this: “From the Frasers’ house in Weatherford, make 5 turns in about 3 miles to get on US 180 West. Stay on US 180 West (about 550 miles) until you get to El Paso. Then make 2 turns in about 3 miles to get to your motel.” (To be fair, this set of instructions had *two* – count them, two – instances of “go down this street; make a U-turn to come back; make a *second* U-turn to go back in your original direction; turn right” because I dragged the route to make it more interesting. MQ *really* wanted to have me take the Interstate from Weatherford to El Paso!)

It was still a 10-hour drive, but it was much more interesting on US 180 than it would have been on I-20 and I-10. And I had some ad-VEN-chers, too!

Adventure One: At a gas stop, I happened to see a gouge on the inside of the left trailer tire. It looked kind of deep, but since the tire was new I figured it wouldn’t be fatal. Wrong. About an hour later, the trailer all of a sudden started banging and bouncing all over the place. I stopped as quickly as I could and found this:



It was a good thing I had bought the new spare back in North Carolina! The tire tread also whipped around and took out the wire for the left taillight. The turn signal / brake light still worked all right, though, so I wasn’t overly concerned. The tread also managed to chew off the bottom part of the temporary tag, but it didn’t do any permanent damage to the trailer itself.

The good news was that the truck’s lug wrench fit the trailer lug nuts! YAY! Once I figured out how to get the jack under some part of the trailer, everything went fine.

My next adventure was one of pure boredom. I had stopped in Hobbs, NM, for gas and a bio-break, and when I got going again I found that I wasn’t going to get very far: a train was across the road up ahead, doing nothing fast. First it moved to the right; then it stopped. Then it moved to the left; then it stopped. Then it moved to the right; then it stopped. Then it moved to the left and actually cleared the crossing – but it didn’t go far enough, so the gates stayed down. FINALLY, after ten minutes (it seemed like 30), it moved farther left and the gates went up.

Adventure Three was a bugstorm:


This is what happens when you drive through a swarm of bugs (big bugs) and there are so many of them that when you hit them they sound (and look) like huge raindrops hitting the windshield. YUCK!!!! I used my wipers and washer fluid to clean it up some, but didn’t get the windshield completely clean again until I gassed up in El Paso on Friday.

I had been invited to dinner with Tucker and Crawford Clark (she’s Tucker; he’s Crawford), and had planned to arrive in El Paso with about an hour to spare so I could check into my motel beforehand. I even adjusted for the (second) westward time change. This all meant I needed to leave Weatherford by 8:30 AM. Well, I left at 8:50; spent an unnecessary 10 minutes waiting for a train; spent another half hour or 45 minutes changing the trailer tire; and still managed to get to El Paso about 30 minutes before they were going to pick me up. Then I managed to miss the driveway to the motel (it’s on the westbound I-10 frontage road) – I didn’t even SEE it – and then use up about 25 of the 30 minutes working my way back around to the frontage road for a second try. So I didn’t get my shower, but then, I wasn’t *too* dirty. It was a clean sweat. 🙂

Tucker and Crawford took me to a place called The Ripe Eatery (http://ripeeatery.com/), where I had another great meal, this time Swedish meatballs. Yummy! Good wine, good dinner, good talk, good friends. They got me back to the motel about 9 PM and I went to bed shortly thereafter.

Oh, yes, I passed the 8,000-mile mark on the way into El Paso.

The question was raised: “How do you get from east of El Paso to El Paso by going through places that are west of El Paso?” Well, one of the places I thought I was going to be near, White Sands National Monument, wasn’t on the route, so I was wrong there. But US 180 is how you get to Carlsbad Caverns, and if you look at a map, you’ll see that US 180 pretty much goes west through the southern part of New Mexico (it also goes a little south, which is how I got back into Texas to get to El Paso).

One more day to home!


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