Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Saab Sisters Hit the Road

The original plan had been to drive back to Kansas the same way I always did - across the Mojave desert, through a (very) small corner of Arizona, cut across Nevada, up into Utah and then across Colorado and Kansas heading due east. But at some point during my time in LA, the idea of the southern route had come up. Okay, I'm the one who brought it up. I confess. I've done the other way so many times and as beautiful as parts of it are, I thought it might be nice to do something a little different. (Remember that this was my idea. This will factor in later. Trust me).

The southern route is (again) across the Mojave, a straight line across Arizona and New Mexico, cut through the northern edge of the Texas panhandle, through Oklahoma and up into Kansas heading straight north. My mom wasn't too sure about this idea, so I was just going to let it drop, but then my step-father Stu (who is a road tripper at heart) threw in his two cents in favor and the next thing I knew we were map questing the route. The northern way is only two roads - Interstates 15 and 70. The other was more convoluted and took some fiddling with to avoid a four hundred mile stretch of two lane undivided highway, but in the end we had a workable route. Map quest said the northern route would take 22 hours of driving and the southern would take 24. I've driven the northern way many times and knew from experience that even with three young kids I could do it in three days. By myself I've done it in an easy two. (Remember this too. It will factor in later. Trust me).

We were planning on a two day trip, but left open the possibility of an extension into early Saturday for some side excursions. (Unfortunately, Vegas was scrapped right along with the northern route, and even though I really don't like Vegas we thought it would be a fun little stop for the two of us). But since I haven't been in most of the southern states for years and neither of us had ever been to Oklahoma, we were sure we could think of lots of things to do.

So Thursday morning we waved bye to Stu as he left for work at 7 am and headed out close on his heels. We fought the morning traffic for a while, but were able to get out of town without too much difficulty. If you aren't familiar with the Los Angeles area there's one important thing to keep in mind about getting out of it. Unless you're willing to swing quite far north you can't get out without crossing the Mojave desert. And even if you are familiar with the Los Angeles area there's one important thing to keep in mind that you couldn't know. I hate the Mojave desert. My mother hates the Mojave desert. Every thinking person I know hates the Mojave desert.

If you're one of those people who actually likes it - Congratulations. You win. You've officially rendered me speechless. Many have tried (some valiantly), but you have succeeded. First prize is a week in Palm Springs. Second prize is two weeks in Palm Springs.

This is what it looks like - for about four thousand miles.

(Photo disclaimer: I am photographically challenged. Admitting it is the first step in fixing it, I know. The whole time I was in LA my camera gave me fits and I blamed the equipment rather than the user. But this is taken with my moms good camera, so there goes that little rationale. I have no idea why the stupid date stamp is on and it's the wrong time to boot. And as a little pre-curser to the rest of the story, I'll confess right now that every single picture I took was from a moving car driving at (roughly) highway speed. This should give you some idea of where we're headed on the tourism front).

On the other hand we were listening to some great music.

When we had crossed the mighty Mojave River (oh god, do I wish I had a picture of that. Imagine a sandbox with a rut down the middle) we got to the thriving town of Barstow where we had to do a little navigating. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time might remember that I'm also directionally challenged. It would not be untrue to say that I can get lost in my own bathroom in the dark. (Reading over my list of shortcomings, I'm a little challenged to come up with anything I can do, actually).

I got us lost, is the upshot of all of this. For the first time, but not for the last. And as we were driving in circles, able to see the highway but not get to it, this is the sort of thing we were surrounded by...

That's a picture you'll never see in California tourism brochures. The Gubernator is not in this building. Sometimes I feel bad that I'm as snarky about the desert as I am, but what can I say? It did make me feel a little better when we stopped for drinks just over the Arizona border and and the store clerk asked me where I was coming from. I had barely gotten the word California out of my mouth when she snarled "God, I HATE this place" and went on a five minute anti-desert tirade. I backed out of the store gingerly, afraid of a potential postal moment on the one hand but seeing her point of view perfectly on the other. It seemed rude to hop in my car and peel out joyfully, so I kept a glum face until I was out of her sight. It wasn't easy.

We drove on. Lunch under our belts, perfect weather, open roads - so far so good. Except for the fact that my cell phone mysteriously died during lunch - and it was our only one - it was smooth sailing. I was taking my turn driving again as we went up a series of long grades leading into Kingman, Arizona. Up ahead of me, this was the picture -

Trucker heaven. Behind us looked much the same. In the left lane next to me was another. Our little Saab convertible was surrounded by semis. I sped up a little so as not to get flattened and looked at the dashboard to see how fast I was going. I looked again. Casually, I said Um, how high did the heat gauge get when you were driving? My mother leaned into my lap to look at the gauge and say Not THAT high and then she might have cussed just a little bit.

And as the long grade extended in front of us and the trucks all around put pedal to metal, the little needle crept slowly into the red.

to be continued.


my two cents said...

Oh my gosh, you and Laurie with the cliff hangers!! Can't wait to hear the rest of the story, and you already know what I think about the desert. Was it blasty windy the entire time, too? Those semis blow over sometimes, you know. They scare me!

Willowtree said...

I'm not worried about you being photographically challenged, photoshop can fix most of the problems. I'm more concerned that you seem to be geographically challenged. You've have the Mojave Desert finishing a thousand miles into the Altantic Ocean.

ped crossing said...

Oh, my. I've been there with the needle in the red. At least you weren't alone.

Still sounds like you were having a pretty good time. Waiting, kind of patiently, for the next installment.

Stacie said...

I've driven there often (grandparents in winslow, az--talk about armpit of america) and know those road much better than I care to admit. You have described it to a tee. Can't wait for tomorrow's post.

And thank you for your kind words. I am taking the day off from everything and hoping that helps some. And I am trying to take things one day at a time.

Flowerpot said...

I hate the idea of deserts - but I like the pictures - nothing wrong with them!

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

I've driven that route with my mother when she moved to California. And the car's air conditioning quit while driving through the Mojave Desert.

laurie said...

i sense impending doom! i can't wait!

i love road trips but definitely not through desert.

i hope you made it to oklahoma and i hope you stopped to visit kaycie! and my brother!

Swearing Mother said...

I HAVE NEVER BEEN TO THE STATES. There, I've said it, so even though you all think the desert is not good, I'd still like to see it.

Just the once, obviously. And from the comfort of a air-conditioned luxury car if possible.

This is exciting stuff RC, can't wait for the next bit.

Diana said...

I'm just going to hang on to the knowledge that you seem to have made it home.

I don't get wanting to live in a desert. I need water and green things. Winter is hard enough but at least the ground is covered with frozen water.

kathy said...

Oh wow, that is my worst fear, stuck in the middle of no where with no phone! in the desert, I can't wait to hear how you get through this.

Akelamalu said...

The pictures look OK to me honey.

Did you have a convoy Rubber Duck? :)

-Ann said...

Yikes! That is one of my worst nightmares - having the car break down somewhere remote.

Kaycie said...

No, Laurie, she did NOT stop and see me. Dammit.

I can't wait to see what happens anyway.

Amy said...

You made it home, so I'm not worried about you. I can guess the dread that crept through you as you watched that needle rise. Looking forward to part 2....

Anonymous said...

Amazing pictures. I'm so interested to learn more about your journey. You'd need something to do going through desert like that wouldn't you. I'd just fall asleep at the wheel.

Crystal xx

Mya said...

When does Brad Pitt wearing a Resistol step into this story??? I'm on tenterhooks.

I love the desert. I spent a fortnight in Palm Springs once, it was a bit weird. Like Disneyland for old farts. I remember burning my arse when I sat on the bonnet of a black car - in a bikini. Ouch.

Mya x

Jo Beaufoix said...

I hate it when cars do that.
It's just rude.

Anonymous said...

Oh, RC I have done that trip before, and I obessively watched that little needle move higher and higher towards the overheating part of the car!! I can't wait to hear what happens next..no cell phone working and in the midde of the Mojave....at least your listening to the amazing Eva Cassidy. I know your home safe..so that is makes it more comforting to wait and hear the rest of your story. Bringing back memories for me!!

The Rotten Correspondent said...

I'm just home from work and rather than try to hammer out part 2 of this never ending saga I'll just answer comments. So much easier.

my two cents - It wasn't too windy, luckily. I really don't like semis.

willowtree - well it sure as hell feels like four thousand miles.

ped crossing - It was a good time, mechanical
issues aside.

stacie - oh, yeah. Winslow is right up the road. Ick. Hope your day went alright.

flowerpot - I wanted so badly to just google other people's pictures, but decided not to. Oh well.

wakeup - the Mojave puts some kind of voodoo curse on air conditioners. It's weird.

laurie - my middle name is impending doom. and Oklahoma is a story all it's own.

swearing mother - the States are great. most of them. but the desert is...not. not at all.

diana - oh, I'm home all right. and I agree - I need green things and flowers.

kathy - my phone is really acting up lately. It just stops working for no reason. It's really making me mad.

akela - thank you. Convoy Rubber Duck? heh.

ann - well, this was certainly remote. except for the semis.

kaycie - you have no idea how badly I wanted to. I promise to explain.

amy - it does kind of ruin the suspense, doesn't it? I am most definitely alive and well.

crystal jigsaw - you have no idea how hard it is to stay awake when it's just you. You really need a buddy to keep you awake.

mya - you love the desert? well, well, well...I guess you won't be able to hold Hugh Grant over my head much longerl, will you? I would say we're even.

jo - and this car is usually quite civilized, too.

Eileen - when that stupid needle starts going up you just can't take your eyes off of it, can you? And isn't Eva Cassidy amazing??