I left Austin, Texas on April 16 just ahead of a good old-fashioned Texas thunderstorm. It had started to sprinkle just at the last of my things were loaded into the containers that would be transported to Santa Fe in a few days. I had intended to take the northern route up through San Angelo and Big Spring before heading due west at Brownfield. I was leaving Austin in the afternoon and figured I could make it to Big Spring and find a hotel for the night. However, one of my movers, Justin, told me that his brother was driving a truck in far West Texas and that he had called saying that there were really bad storms all over the area. Having experienced enough of West Texas storms to know that they can contain not only extremely high winds but also large hail stones, I decided it would be prudent to take the southern route which would take me down IH10 to Ft. Stockton where I would head west on US 285. (I found out the next day that Lubbock had experienced an awful hailstorm).
My drive that afternoon was pretty easy. It was cloudy and the wind was at my back. The sun came out about the time I got to Sonora where I had thought I might stop for the night.It was only about 7pm then so I decided to go on to Ft. Stockton. I had sort of dreaded the very last part of the drive because I thought that I might be driving right into the setting sun. Just as the sun started sinking toward the horizon, a big dark cloud settled in just in front of it and a little off to one side. The result was that I saw some gorgeous colors in the sky and did not have the sun in my face and got to watch a wonderful display of lightening just to the east as I walked Lani around the motel grounds later on. I got to Ft. Stockton about nine o’clock and checked Lani and me into the Motel 6. (I have to recommend the Ft. Stockton Motel 6 if you are passing through and need a place to lay your head for the night. It was clean and felt very safe. There are several motels and hotels along I 10 in Ft. Stockton and I was a little bit overwhelmed with the choices. I chose the Motel 6 because they were the only one that posted their rates on their sign. I only paid $40 for a non smoking room and they did not ask for more money for Lani even though I am sure the staff could see her in the car. There were several other guests who had dogs with them and no one seemed to mind.)
I took my time getting out of town the next day. I slept in due to being tired from all of the work of packing and moving and attempting to sleep on a no-air mattress the night before. Then I drove around Ft. Stockton until I found a car wash and still had to do some work on my windshield as I had run into a swarm of large bugs of some kind at sunset the previous evening. I did not get out of town until around 10:00 am central time.
I am always amazed at the way the landscape changes immediately when you cross the state line into New Mexico on 285. The drive up until that point is pretty flat even though you are steadily gaining altitude. As soon as you cross the state line, the road starts to curve and wind up and down the hills. The plant life seems to change as well. Cactus and chaparral seem to be spaced at somewhat equal intervals. The road surface is a lot quieter and smoother as well.
The drive north was gruesome. There was a steady wind from the west that grew stronger the further north I traveled. By the time I got to Roswell, I was getting pretty tired. I drove around behind a convenience store to find a somewhat sheltered place to let Lani out of the car. It was miserably windy even there. I had to coax her to get back into the car with a piece of beef jerky. Our next stop was in Vaughn.(Follow the link and you will see that it is almost listed as a ghost town.) By then my hands had started to hurt from fighting to hold the car on the road. The wind hitting us from the side was pushing us to the right. I found a small building to stop behind and let Lani get out for a few minutes. Again, she did not want to get back into the car and I did not blame her. If there had been a decent looking hotel in that run down little burg, I would have considered stopping for the night. I tried to talk Lani into driving for a little while but she ignored me and stretched out on the back seat for a nap. I made up my mind that I was not stopping again until I got to Santa Fe.
Stephen had called to tell me that it was snowing in Santa Fe. I did not see any snow until I crossed I 40 at Cline’s Corner. I could see a strange fogginess around the mountains in the distance that I knew was snow. When I drove into it, the flakes were big and wet and smooshed on my windshield. That only lasted about five miles. Then I was back into the flats of the high desert with more wind than ever.
By the time I got to Santa Fe, the snow had just about stopped and the roads were fine. (I had come through a construction zone that Stephen had been a little worried about without having to stop.) The city was covered in a white blanket. There was still a little bit on the trees and roofs the next morning. We drove up near the ski area the next day and let Lani get out and run around in the snow. She seemed to like it.
Things I learned during this move:
Rachel, Ann and Colleen just ROCK! I already knew this but it was reinforced by all of the help they gave me with packing and helping me stay somewhat sane.
Lani is a wonderful travel companion, even if she won’t take her turn at the wheel.
I don’t ever want to have to pack up and do all of the nuts and bolts of moving again while Stephen goes on ahead and picks out a house by himself.
Leaving Texas always feels a little sad to me when I know I am not coming back for a while.
Soundtrack to this post:
Jerry Jeff Walker’s Leaving Texas.