The Mundling Zone

Thoughts, rants, and raves from the desk of Michelle Mundling

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Roadtrippin': Day Four

Woke up to abundant sunshine in Lordsburg, New Mexico this morning. A stark contrast to the rain and wind (especially the wind) from yesterday evening.

I'm finding out the hard way that when you make a reservation at any hotel, be very specific about which room you need. I requested a ground floor room, and I got a ground floor room. However, the hotel was one of those places in which there was only one entrance. My room was waaaaaaaay in the back of the hotel. The hotel did not have a cart to carry my bags in, the clerk did not offer to help unload my truck, in fact, he had an attitude, and my right knee was killing me.

The morning clerk was much friendlier and offered to help me load my truck. I had slept seven hours and took two pain pills, so I felt good enough to do it myself, but I did let him know that he was appreciated. I got to fill my ice chest before I left, so I knew my Slim-Fast shakes would be nice and cold in a couple of hours.

Speaking of food, I didn't feel like eating one of my salads this morning. Since I spotted the Kentucky Fried Chicken down the road when I arrived last night, I decided to stop there for chicken strips. But first, I needed sunglasses. There was a Dollar General store up the road close to the McDonalds I stopped at last night, so I went there. I got two of the same pair of the wide-lensed glasses. The price wasn't bad ... $5.00 a pair.

This Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant was one of those combo-restaurants in which it was a Kentucky Fried Chicken AND Taco Bell. I had never seen this before. Apparently, this is becoming a trend in numerous areas along the Interstate. It seemed strange to look at the menu and be able to order items from both restaurants. All I wanted was chicken strips, so that's what I got. I already had Diet Dr Pepper.

Finally, I was able to hit the road. I will be in San Diego this evening.

As I was travelling west on Interstate 10, I kept gazing at the scenery. I was in the desert now, surrounded by mountains. The green and brown shrubs contrasted nicely with the light tan sand as the mountains and boulders separated the bright blue cloudless sky from the desert ground. It was as beautiful as it was deadly. This was not a place you would want to find yourself stranded without food, water, and shelter. There was no water to be seen for miles. This was mid-October, so the air temperatures were more moderate than if I were to have travelled in, say, July. I thought about that while sitting in my comfortable truck with the air conditioner running and listening to my favorite 80's tunes.

Remember, I'm from Georgia, where I was surrounded by pine trees. Some people might think that this area would be a wasteland, but to me, it's a breathtaking view. I also considered pulling over to take pictures. I'm not sure pictures could do justice to the scenery. Looking at a small picture does not compare to being surrounded by the scenery in its entirety. It's one of those things in which you've got to be there to appreciate the full beauty God bestowed upon this place.

Upon entering Arizona, I noticed the license plates of the state's residents. The older ones were dark brown with white letters and white silhouettes of a barrel cactus. The newer ones more a little more colorful. I looked around to see if I could find any barrel cacti, and I couldn't see any. I was almost disappointed. Was I in the wrong region for them to grow? It wasn't long though before my attention turned toward the group of mountains that I would be driving over.

I checked my cell phone signal, and it was maxxed out. However, that was soon to change. As I started up the road into the mountainous area, my signal dropped from a full five bars to one bar. I also noticed something I had not encountered in a long time: my ears were reacting to the air pressure change. A few weeks ago, my friend Silke had suggested I chew gum to alleviate the air pressure in my ears. While driving with my left hand, I plundered through my purse with my right hand, trying to find the pack of gum I placed in it. After I found the gum, I placed a piece and started chewing. To my surprise, it worked. Even when it started souring after ten minutes, I kept chomping away on it.

Coming down a mountain was a different story. I was approaching Benson, Arizona, and I was chomping on that piece of gum furiously as my truck descended from the mountain area. I managed to keep the full-blown pain at bay, but I noticed that my hearing was diminishing. When we came down from the mountain, we came DOWN from the mountain! Oh my God! I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I had flown in an airplane!!

The things we travellers do for entertainment! There was this sheriff's deputy travelling on the Interstate at 80 miles an hour. The posted speed limit was 75 miles per hour. I and two other travellers decided to follow the deputy. After all, if he can drive it, so can we, right? This continued until we got to Tuscon, Arizona. When the deputy took an exit and left the Interstate, I waved my hand and said, "Goodbye, officer! Thanks for letting us play 'follow the leader!'" Yes, I entertain easily.

In comparison to driving in New Mexico, it seemed like driving through Arizona took forever and was more tedious. Probably because it only took 170-something miles to drive through New Mexico, whereas it took twice as long with Arizona. At least I did finally get to see the barrel cacti that we've all seen in various pictures. What we don't see in many of these pictures is that the cacti along the Interstate were shot up and full of bullet holes. The ones further away from the Interstate didn't have any or nearly as many bullet-sized holes. This was a constant sight for many miles. It saddened and concerned me at the same time. I was saddened because the damage these plants sustained. I was concerned because of the number of bullets that had to be fired to cause all the damage. How many people do you know go out on an interstate highway to use cacti for target practice??

Finally, at 6:40 PM EST, I entered the state of California. I took a deep breath when I crossed the state line. I was almost to my destination, and I was getting a little emotional. Less than five miles to the south of me was Baja California, which is Mexico. I haven't been this close to another country since July 1975. There was nothing but white sand for the first few miles inside the state line. By the time it occured to me to pull out my camera and take some video, the scenery had changed. I did manage to get a quick bit of video here:



Once I entered California, I noticed that there were call boxes placed every so many miles from each other so if someone was stranded along the interstate, that someone could call for help. My cell phone signal dropped down to one bar, so I'm glad to see these call boxes out here.

I approached the forth border patrol checkpoint of my entire trip. For the first time, I actually had to stop. I was approached by a cute hispanic-looking border patrolman who spoke to me in a thick accent, "Good afternoon ma'am. How are you today?"

I smiled as I concentrated to eliminate all traces of the southern dialect I acquired while living 30 years in Georgia. "I'm doing great today, sir!"

"Great. Are you an American citizen?" With all due respect sir, I sound more like an American than you do.

"Yes sir I am. Here's my driver's license," I handed him the ID case containing my license and insurance card.

He looked at my license, then handed it back to me. "What do you have in the back of your truck, ma'am?" Hmmm ... should I have told him about my salads in the ice chest in the passenger side floorboard?

"Luggage. I'm on vacation from Waycross, Georgia. Would you like for me to open the back for you?" ... so you can take a look at my leopard-print luggage and come to the conclusion that I have no taste.

"No, ma'am. That won't be necessary. Thanks for your help. You have a great day"

"You, too. By the way, I appreciate what you all do, so you all be careful."

His smile got bigger. "Thank you, ma'am."

All jokes aside, the border patrol has a thankless job to perform, and they're catching hell from both sides. One side says they're being too hard on illegals and everyone should have a chance to enter the country. The other side says that they're not doing enough to protect our borders from the illegal intruders. That's why I took the time to tell him that they were appreciated. You'd be surprised what "you are appreciated" can do to help someone get through the day. No one likes to be taken for granted.

Thirty minutes later, I see more mountains ahead of me. Without thinking, my right hand started searching my purse for more gum. How high was I going to go this time?

As I started my ascent, I noticed the road signs suggesting that drivers should turn off their air conditioners to prevent their vehicles from overheating. Not a bad idea. Besides, the weather was surprisingly pleasant, so I decided to roll down my windows. I also noticed the placement of barrels of radiator water on the side of the road every couple of miles for motorists who had the unfortunate luck of dealing with an overheating vehicle. Glad to know they were there, but I prayed I would not need them.

I reached up to a height of a little over 4,100 ft above sea-level. Wouldn't you know it? I approached another wind farm! This time, I got very close, as you can see from the video below:



There was another border patrol station during my descent from the mountainous area. I had to stop at this one, too. Unlike the last one, these guys wanted to see what I had in the back of my truck. I handed him a key to the truck bed lid. Looking in the rearview mirror, I saw he was having difficulty opening it up. Not wanting to hold up the vehicles behind me nor startle any jumpy patrolmen by leaving my truck too quickly, I slowly opened the truck door, stepped out, and said, "The lock on that lid can be tricky. Would you like for me to open it for you?" He shook his head and said yes. I walked to the back of my truck, jiggled the key, then opened the bed lid.

In view of five border patrolmen was all my leopard-print luggage, a bag filled with dirty laundry, a hot pink tote box filled with boxed food, and two five-gallon gas cans full of gasoline. Now, I've got nothing to hide, but I didn't know what to expect next. Flashes of heightened airport security checks raced through my head as I looked at the faces of the uniformed men. Were they going to go through everything, including my unmentionables? Of course, one brief look and they were through with their inspection of my vehicle, so I was free to go.

The sun was setting as I entered San Diego County. I wasn't going to worry about trying to recognize anything at this point. My only concerns were to get to my hotel room, make two phone calls, and get on the Internet.

After checking in, driving to my room, and unloading the truck, I sat down on the bed. All that kept going through my mind was, "I can't believe I'm here! I did it! I'm here!" I reflected on the various places that were near and dear to my heart when I lived in San Diego: my old elementary school, my sister's high school, Belmont Park, The San Diego Zoo, Sea World, the beach, Miramar, and especially the Millers ... I was going to see them again.

I finally made it back to San Diego.

1 Comments:

  • At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    After you passed Benson and about half way to Tucson go south about 20 miles to Ft Huachuca, I and wife were stationed there for four years back in the sixties. I love the country, after you get used to it.

    Louis Herrin

     

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