Traveling this winter is a harrowing experience
Going west (2,500 miles), getting high (7,150 feet), dodging storms all the way
After all the hard work of packing, I had hoped for a leisurely trip from New Hampshire to New Mexico. For that, I should have moved sometime other than winter. I planned to leave on Sunday the 9th of December, but the weather was not good. The best part about staying an extra day was that it allowed me additional time to see friends. One friend said I could probably extend the farewells for another month of parties and dinners. It was tempting, but I needed to meet the moving van on the other end.
Eight states, plus D.C., 560 miles
I left on Monday, December 10, in the middle of a small storm with snow, sleet and freezing rain that lasted through Massachusetts. There was ice on the trees in Connecticut, but the roads were dry. After 12 hours of driving, I arrived at a friend's in Virginia, 560 miles. I hoped that I was south of the bad weather, although I would have to cross Oklahoma, where an ice storm was about to cause travel problems and power outages.
Only two states, but they are getting bigger, 412 miles
On Tuesday I drove from Locust Grove, Virginia to Knoxville, Tennessee, a total of 412 miles and about six hours of driving. This was an easy driving day with good weather. Because I had so much in my car, I decided that it would be less vulnerable if I stayed in B&B's. On the internet I found a nice one outside Knoxville, a working farm, just perfect.
Two states, 679 miles
On Wednesday I drove across Tennessee and, after crossing the Mississippi River, entered Arkansas. This was my first time in Arkansas. Now I have visited all 50 states. I can't say that I saw much. It was miserable driving Route 40 in the pouring rain with lots of truck traffic. I had wanted to stop at several places, but the weather did not cooperate. At Little Rock I needed to decide whether to stay on Route 40 or drop south toward Dallas. I stayed on Route 40, because bad thunderstorms were forecast for the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Oklahoma was clear for the next 24 hours. I spent the night at an urban B&B in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, nearly on the Oklahoma line. I traveled 679 miles in roughly 10 hours, another tough day.
Three states, 652 miles
On Thursday I crossed into Oklahoma, along with huge convoys of power-company and tree-service trucks. I bought gas whenever I saw evidence of electricity from the highway, because I did not know where the outages were. The highway was clear, but about 20 miles east of Oklahoma City, I started to see trees laden with ice and broken, roofs damaged, fences and power lines down. There was another band of ice west of Oklahoma City. Three weeks after the storm, there were still homes and businesses without power. Another storm was on the way.
I continued on through the panhandle of Texas, into New Mexico. A week after I went through Amarillo, they were hit with a blinding snowstorm and an 80-car-and-truck pileup on Route 40. It does not surprise me. It is not the storms that cause the pileups, but the reckless driving. So many times I would be about to pass a big truck, and it would pull out right in front of me. Other times, I would have a big rig less than a car-length off my rear bumper. There is just no room for errors or surprises.
I spent the night in Roswell, New Mexico, after traveling 652 miles in about 10 hours. I did not see any little green men or women, but that does not prove they are not there.
I lost cell phone service from Ft. Smith, Arkansas, until I got to Ruidoso, New Mexico, about 36 hours later. I have a phone card but could not find a pay phone where I could use it. I tried to buy a pre-paid cell phone but could not figure out where they work. I did not know if there was something wrong with my phone.
On Friday I drove two hours to Ruidoso. My phone worked! I shopped for groceries and headed up the mountain on Route 244, a road less traveled. It passes along high mountain meadows. It looks like Colorado elk country. I will have to return some early morning or late afternoon with my camera. I drove through Cloudcroft, at 8,663 feet, on to Timberon, at 7,150 feet. I traveled about 2,500 miles in four and a half days. I guess that the grueling pace was worth it, as I managed to miss all of the bad storms and beat the moving van.
I did not take one picture the whole trip!
Timberon, New Mexico, in the Sacramento Mountains
I got winded unloading the car, not enough air up here at 7,150 feet, and went inside to discover there was no water in my daughter's house. I thought it might be turned off but found out that the whole mountain was without water and had been for about 24 hours. Later in the day I went to the fire station where they were giving out 4-gallon cartons of drinking water. By the time I returned to the house, the water pressure was returning. This is not an uncommon event, so I will be sure to keep some bottles of water around. Also, candles and kerosene lamps for when the power goes off. Oh, and there was something wrong with the phone, some setting at the local phone company. I didn't think it was a loose connection anywhere, because I never lost out-going calls. But in-coming calls were a problem. Sometimes it did not ring at all; sometimes it rang once, sometimes twice, sometimes more. If I managed to answer on the first ring, I could talk. But I was not always close enough to the phone to do that.
There was a dusting of snow my first night here. The day after I arrived, while driving up from Alamogordo, I saw two elk in the road. On my way to the post office I saw six deer. The deer are corn fed and, I hear, quite delicious. Since hunting is not allowed here, how do they know? Within 24 hours of arriving, I filled the bird feeders, and the birds found them immediately.
There is no home mail delivery here (as in New Castle, probably the only thing we have in common), so I have a PO box. UPS and FedEx deliveries go to the little store in town, so UPS and FedEx need a street address even though they don't use it. Most peculiar, DHL shipments go to El Paso where they travel the rest of the way by USPS. I swear some items come up the mountain by mule, they take so long to arrive. My daughter does not have TV service, but it is available. There is no cell phone signal here, but I can use the house phone to pick up messages. My cell phone works in Cloudcroft, Alamo (Alamogordo) and Ruidoso. I have DSL at my daughter's. It's all a little different from living in Rye.
Martha Jones, the author, Tricia Quinn and Pam Woods at Rye Public Library send-off. (Don Osborne photo)
While living in Rye, I made many wonderful friends. One nice thing about today's technology is that we can easily stay in touch, no matter where we are. I can still contribute to Rye Reflections
, and I will most certainly be back to visit.
Happy New Year!
All maps, courtesy Yahoo maps
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