It was late Monday afternoon and we were making better time than I would have guessed. The tedium of the west Texas panhandle turned into the magnificent rock formations and colors of New Mexico. The posh Best Western was awaiting us sixty miles across I-40 in Santa Rosa, right smack on Route 66 where Tod Stiles and Buz Murdoch, err Martin Milner and George Maharis, once played. If you remember them you are old. Very old.
Since ‘Route 66’ was canceled by CBS in 1964 not much happens in Santa Rosa anymore. The locals are proud you can’t buy newspaper anywhere in town. If something happened, it would be news. But nothing ever happens in the town of 3,000. Not even fake news.
Andi’s Grand Cherokee was jammed tight with about everything you can imagine, not the least of which were Ibis and Deuce crunched in the back seat with cushions under and over them. Ibis at ninety pounds and Deuce at seventy, didn’t leave much room for cushions either. We barely had room for Aunt Edna on the roof.
My car was shipped and left three days before us, due in Vegas just about the time we went to Annie’s Diner of Santa Rosa for dinner. The Monday evening special was the ‘Thanksgiving Dinner’ but our eighteen-year-old waitress saw no humor in me asking if September 24 was Thanksgiving in Santa Rosa. “No it’s not,” she chirped. “Thanksgiving is in November.” Thank you for the clarification.
Our furniture left Friday, two days before we did. It was due on Tuesday, two days before I figured we would arrive. Pulling out of Birmingham on Sunday midday for our retirement relocation in Summerlin, Nv. a dozen or so miles northwest of Las Vegas, we planned on about four days on the road to cover the eighteen hundred miles with arrival Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. Ideally the car retrieval and furniture placement was left in the capable hands of a friend and now neighbor, Kim Barron.
By Monday night we already rolled through Memphis, Little Rock, Oklahoma City and Amarillo, turning down the temptation for the 72-ounce ribeye at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, which is free if you can eat the whole thing in an hour. If not the tab is, of course, $72. Ibis was drooling to take the challenge.
Come Tuesday the final metro area on our TripTix was Albuquerque and as I lay on a not-so-heavenly-bed in Santa Rosa Monday night, it hit me that after forty-some-odd-years traveling as part of my career, I had never been to ABQ. Ever since Walter White was killed I don’t know anybody in Albuquerque either. Or so I thought.
Saturday, three days earlier, I got a call from our car hauler, Gregory, that his rig had broke down in Alburquerque and he had no idea how long he would be there but “don’t plan on seeing your car soon.”
Tuesday morning as we enjoyed the trademark waffle and cold egg spread in the cozy Santa Rosa Best Western dining nook, Raymond, our crusty but likable United Van Lines driver, phoned to tell us he was in Moriarty, New Mexico, about an hour past Santa Rosa and an hour from Albuquerque and like Gregory, was broken down. Moriarity is a good place to be stranded because it’s not everywhere you can find Sally’s Massage and Truck Stop with massages for only $29.99. Or so says the billboard. He had no idea how long it would be before he was running again, he first had to be towed forty miles into ABQ where I suggested he meet Gregory for a bite to eat. He, like the Thanksgiving dinner waitress, didn’t quite see the humor.
In the meantime as we said goodbye to Route 66, we were eleven hours from Vegas and determined to finish the trip that day. We drove six hours the first day and ten the second, so an eleven hour day with an early seven o’clock start was in the cards. I drove about two-thirds of the time, Andi the balance. Andi never followed a car she didn’t want to tailgate, following just closely enough to make sure their license plate registration tag was valid.
We went through Albuquerque just past nine on Tuesday morning, now only nine hours and a time zone away from Nevada. I tipped my cap to the memory of Walter White, a half-assed high school chemistry teacher and a world class meth producer. I also gave a wave to my car and our furniture.
We turned down a lot of temptation en route. It would have been easy to divert in Henrietta, Oklahoma to see Troy Aikman’s boyhood home or the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague in New Mexico; or we could have just taken it easy standin’ on a corner when we got to Winslow, Arizona. And if you’re prone to gambling there are more Native American casinos in Oklahoma and New Mexico than there are Indians in Cleveland.
However we pushed on. Two nights in a Quality Inn and Best Western was enough to say let’s get ‘home’ even though we had no furniture and had never been ‘home’ before.
What I didn’t realize before we stopped the first night in Clarksville, Arkansas was that Andi had Quality Inn status. It’s amazing what you can still learn about a gal after being married for twenty-seven years. Something about all those trips home to western Kentucky and the Quality Inn being the Ritz of Paducah. No doubt we are blessed as her elite status got us upgraded to a nice corner room overlooking the Walmart fulfillment center. I felt like a player.
We made Vegas late Tuesday afternoon, despite traveling the last sixty miles on state highway 93, just east of Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam, with a hole in our right rear tire that was spewing air faster than a Lindsey Graham diatribe. We arrived at an empty house. No furniture. No furniture in sight, either. Raymond was still stranded in Albuquerque. Andi ran to Target to grab a queen size air mattress for $75 which Ibis and Deuce immediately claimed. Andi and me were on two dog cushions on either side of them. Life does have its priorities but it was still was better than the Best Western in Santa Rosa.
Ibis and Deuce took the trip like champions. Not a peep and not one fight or squabble to break up like you’d find between most nine and two-year-olds. Whenever they need to do their thing, every couple of hours, they’d give us a throaty ‘Hupff’ and we’d find a spot to pull over. Andi caught on to the scheme and started ‘Hupffing’ every thirty minutes.
We covered the eighteen hundred miles in two and a half days and twenty-seven hours driving time when we finally docked on Tuesday. I hate long drives but I have to admit it wasn’t bad at all, in fact almost therapeutic. My car finally arrived on Thursday and Raymond got the van rolling again and was at the house at seven on Friday morning.
At least he had a sense of humor. I asked him about Sally’s $29.99 massage when he was stranded in Moriarty.
“Ah, that’s entry level,” Raymond smiled. “ For that price, it’s only a foot massage.”
Hupff, it’s good to be home for the first time.