Sunday, July 26, 2009

El Paso to Phoenix then Home – Page Eleven

Last issue for a few days:

We left El Paso at 7:50 A.M., our earliest start to-date, and we were still trying to find something that Chris could eat to settle her stomach. The Chinese food the night before, it turned out, wasn’t appealing after the food was on the table. I was hoping that the restaurant offered Won Ton Soup, which is as close to Chicken Noodle Soup as Chinese food can be, but they didn’t offer it and the food it did serve was too spicy. Dry toast at a Flying J’s the next morning in route to Phoenix was all that Chris could manage.

As we passed through Tucson we debated whether to call a friend who lives there, but decided that staying on the road was a better choice. Sorry, Nadia and Chuck. We’ll stop by next time. We no sooner made that choice when Interstate 10 came to a full stop and we were trying to keep cool in 101 degree heat behind about 10 miles of parked cars, pickups and semi trucks. A trucker, we heard, had rolled his rig of hazardous cargo, caught fire, and died in the accident. Interstate 10, both East and West bound lanes, was closed. By luck, we took an exit to a frontage road and drove about three miles and I was lured back to the highway by an imaginary movement of the highway traffic. But, as I say, it was only my imagination, because we soon stopped again and we stayed stopped for over an hour; a good time for thinking as long as the car didn’t overheat.

Fortunately, the car did not overheat. Looking out at West Tucson at the rows and rows of adobe houses with tile roofs, I couldn’t help but think that the blazing sun in 101 degree heat could power a lot of houses if they all had solar photovoltaic panels installed. That thought lead to thinking that some company, perhaps a public company, had likely already thought of that and that there may be an investment opportunity. I made a mental note to look it up. I mentioned that to Chris. Chris’ response was “we should have given Diane and Jean some money for the meals they served.” Zing – there went my altruistic, save the earth, thoughts. So, we talked about our donation, or lack of, to The Reunion. By the time we were done, I felt like a heel for being so cheap. So, with Chris with an upset stomach and me with a guilty conscious, the traffic finally began to move and we inched passed the accident gawking like everyone else was and we began to pick up speed as the traffic thinned. Now, what was I was thinking about? Nothing, I guess.

It’s funny that I bought a digital Sony pocket-sized recorder in Texarkana to record ideas WHEN I thought of them. I’ve used the thing once. Want to know what I said? “Testing, 1, 2, 3. Testing this thing to see if it works.” That’s it. Nothing else is on it. I promised to read the instructions and I dutifully placed it in the door pocket for easy use, but I didn’t use it and I haven’t read the instructions yet. So much for that!

We drove through Phoenix around 2:30 P.M. and Chris searched the maps trying to find a hotel between Phoenix and Blythe, California so we could drive another hour. But, apparently, there is nothing but desert, cacti and thistle between Phoenix and California, so we found a hotel in western Phoenix. Our choice was between driving three more hours to California and staying in Phoenix. We stayed in Phoenix.

Chris felt better and thought an ordinary hamburger and fries at In-'n-Out Burger would be okay. “Low carbs,” she said. Hmmm. I’m not sure about that. I’ve never thought a fast-food hamburger of having low carbohydrates. Whatever makes her happy, however, is my job, so we ate at the local In-'n-Out Burger. Maybe it was the fries, but she did feel a little better, but not well enough to detour from a homeward route.

We were up at 5:00 A.M. and on the road 30 minutes later and we ate breakfast in Palm Desert, California around 9:00 A.M. after a relatively cool, 90 degree, drive across the Phoenix desert. I guess I’ve never thought about how big the Los Angeles metropolitan area is. Ten minutes after getting back on the highway and nearing Palm Springs we were on a four-lane freeway and the traffic increased at least four-fold and we were still 100 to 150 miles from LA. Where did all the cars come from?

The LA traffic reminded me of a note that I wanted to record on that Sony Recorder (but didn’t) as we drove through Dallas; i.e., that Dallas traffic was as bad California traffic. I take it back. Even at its worse, Dallas traffic cannot be compared to LA traffic. California drivers have a unique ability to line up at 80 or 90 mph, bumper to bumper, in the fast lane and SCARE the, er, “stuff” out of you. The “trains” zoomed past us as we tried to peddle at the speed limit, 70 mph, in the center lane, usually with a large pickup or Mercedes on our rear bumper. I hope I pissed them off by my speed-limit driving and the large gap between us and the car in front of us. I figured I was saving his or her life as well as ours; the ungrateful ass. No matter how far back you drive, someone will fill the gap in front of you.

Two hours later we were finally leaving the LA area and down the last steep hill in the Grapevine. The Grapevine is a 40 mile stretch of Interstate 5 that twists and turns through large, nearly mountain-sized, hills; four to six lanes where nearly half of every car and semi in the world is leaving LA (the other half is entering LA) and all are going 20 mph over the speed limit. And, if you’re not with them, then you’re against them. It’s a harrowing experience.

After that, Interstate 5 is a long straight highway along the eastern side of a range of hills that traverse the length of California separating the coastal plains from the inner valley farm land. You can actually settle in at the speed limit in the slow lane on this stretch of highway and pick and choose gaps in traffic to pass slower vehicles. The hills are a golden brown in summer. Many people believe that California got the “Golden State” name from gold found in California, but actually the name comes from the “Golden Hills,” or so I've read. The traffic “trains” continued on I-5 and inevitably we came upon stopped traffic due to an accident that apparently happened a few minutes ahead of us. As we passed the accident, several motorists were assisting a young woman whose car had left the highway and stopped in an orchard fence row. My guess is that she either clipped or was clipped by another bumper-to-bumper driver jockeying for a position in the train. We drove on as there was nothing we could do that wasn’t already being done to help. A minute later we notice the Highway Patrol already on their way. Meanwhile, un-phased or lesson ignored, the speeding traffic-trains continued past us.

Chris was feeling better. She noticed that it was “only 82 miles” to Sacramento where we might visit Marcus, her son, if we were so inclined. She was changing her mind about going home so quickly. I think I said, “Yep,” as I turned left toward San Francisco. We’ll save that trip for another day. I was tired and out of clean underwear. We drove 732 miles in about twelve hours and arrived home at 5:41 P.M. Pacific Time. Whew. I think I’ll look around for a motor home for the next driving trip.


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