On our way out to Arizona at the end of February, hotel reservations were unnecessary. Tom and I had our pick of hotels, rooms, and rates. Hotels offered us bargain-basement prices just for the honor of our presence. However, what we learned on the way back is that every person over aged 60 from the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa had Texas and Arizona rentals that went until March 31—and then it was mass migration back north. Like geese, we hit the highways all at the same time and vied for the same hotel rooms. It was an ugly, dog-eat-dog, gray-haired battle for highways and hotels.
Our first day on the road, we drove through places with names like “Bloody Basin Road” and “Big Bug Creek.” We went from the balmy 70-degree temperatures of Phoenix to steadily dropping temperatures—elevation 5,000 feet, 59 degrees. Elevation 6,000 feet, 50 degrees. We passed signs into the Verde Valley that warned us about “Safety Pullouts” and had runaway truck ramps that looked like gravel skateboard ramps, angled off into nowhere. We passed signs that said “Watch for Falling Rocks” and “Watch for Ice”—so we did (luckily, we encountered no falling rocks or ice).
All we saw was empty landscape and blowing dust. We drove by the signs for “Animated Dinosaurs” and “Jack Rabbit Petrified Wood,” not even tempted to stop and explore. We listened to a book on CD by Ann Lamott entitled Joe Jones. The foul language on the tape stripped the new-car smell right out of our Toyota Camry.
We drove through Hopi reservation land and Navajo reservation land. We were bombarded by tumble weed hurtling across the highway, smashing into the car. We lost an hour with a time zone change. The temperature dropped to 48 degrees, and at 3 p.m., we ran into a snow storm outside Gallup, New Mexico. The temperature continued to drop: 34 degrees, 30 degrees. New Mexico was the land of road construction, and we lost an hour in the heavy snow and one-lane construction-zone traffic. “I’m beginning to dislike New Mexico,” the usually patient Tom commented. Sky City Travel Center . . . Albuquerque . . . strange-looking clouds in the east as the sun set behind us in the west. When we finally got to Tucumcari, New Mexico, we were just relieved that New Mexico was mostly behind us. That was when we discovered that every senior citizen from Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, and Wisconsin was on the road with us.
At the fifth hotel we tried, a Super 8, we found the last room in Tucumcari—under renovation with one double bed and no TV. But it was better than sleeping in the back seat of the car at a rest area. All we needed was a bed, and that was what we got.
The Last Hotel Room in Tucumcari, New Mexico
After our traumatic experience on Wednesday, we were grateful for Thursday’s uneventful (although windy) drive across the Texas panhandle, up through Oklahoma, and up into Kansas (beautiful, flat, uneventful Kansas). We made it to York, Nebraska, before calling it a day. Tom was celebrating his 65th birthday, so we had a 9 p.m. dinner at Applebee’s in York, Nebraska, where a friendly waitress gave him a Key Lime dessert on the house.
Friday was a beautiful day, and Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota had never looked so good. We could almost smell home. We listened to a CD book entitled The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and learned how we are all governed by the Law of Attraction, and she told us how we could make our lives darn near perfect if we would only learn to think good thoughts and visualize the life we would like to lead. Rhonda was earnestly persuasive, and Tom and I will try to be a better people.
I was afraid our house would look shabby after the $600,000+ rental in Pebble Creek—but it looked beautiful. I fought the urge to bend down and kiss the shabby carpet and caress the outdated wallpaper. The cats were not dead, courtesy of Cindee from the “Affordable Pet Service” who had kept them alive for five weeks.
I miss our little Colbie like an amputated limb, but it’s good to be home.