Monday, July 18, 2011

US Cross Country-3: Reaching Arizona

Here is the day 3 of my 16 day adventure, driving 8700+ miles solo cross country across the entire width of the US and back. Read about day 2 here: US Cross Country-2: Oklahoma City and the Monument

Date: Monday, June 23, 2003

I wanted to wake up early, as today would be one of the longest drives of the trip. Over 770 miles (1239 km) to be covered by night. I would be in Arizona, where the real fun would begin. Once I reach there, I had planned to spend about 4 days in and around Arizona covering all those wonderful and mysterious places. And yes the Grand Canyon! The dream of a lifetime.

But after two full days of driving, it was a bit tough to get up at 6am as intended. Finally I was out of the motel by 8am. I checked out and started westward out of Oklahoma city. Wasn't sure how the drive through New Mexico would be and next would be Arizona. I knew that from the fertile lands I was currently in, I'd be entering a very dry place, where nothing grows -- bad lands and deserts. I had never been to a desert in my life before. So I dropped into a Walmart that I found on the way and stocked up on water and more edibles. I even bought some flares, just in case...

Passed the city of El Reno and decided not to stop at Fort Reno, seeing it pass by was mighty tempting. But on second thoughts, the concept of fort is very different back in India, where forts are mighty and majestic. Here its totally scaled down. The history of US runs down to a few centuries, whereas the history of India goes back till mythological times. 

Flat Texas

Then I crossed the Canadian River, and later Elk City. I was soon in the state of Texas, the 2nd largest state in the US. One thing that struck me was the continuous change in the landscape and the vegetation as I headed west. Texas was flat. I've not seen anything so flat before or since. It was like I was on a flat table as far as the eye could see. And straight roads with very sparse traffic. I was passing through the very northern part of Texas state. I drove straight through the city of Amarillo and next entered the state of New Mexico.

Flatter Texas

Took a small break in a rest area soon after entering New Mexico. Was intrigued to see a board warning visitors to be wary of snakes. Well how I wished to see a rattlesnake. But it was a very hot day and no chance of catching any snake out in the open.

It was the month of Ashad as per the Hindu Calendar. The month of high winds. The one month when nothing important ever gets done or started. It is inauspicious and even considered life threatening to travel.  The fear probably comes from prehistoric times, when high winds would knock down trees, and cause storms in the seas making it dangerous for travelers. Even to this day, the fear of Ashad is deep in every Indian heart. One might say it was fool hardiness that I even considered the trip during Ashad. But did I care? I was never superstitious and I was on the adventure of my life!

As I was driving in New Mexico, the wind began to pick up. And say what winds! 40mph strong and maybe more as I heard on some local radio station. I had to roll up windows to avoid the roar of the wind. I even had to hold the steering wheel slightly tilted in one angle to counter the wind force. Such was its might. I was driving at near 90-100 mph. Fun was when I would pass under any bridge, suddenly the wind would die for a brief instant and my car would lurch in the direction I had tilted the steering wheel. Had to instantly correct the angle and again bring in the tilt as soon as I was out in the open. It happened a few times and I found it mighty amusing, waiting for the next bridge. Soon got totally adapted to the winds, and this would be my companion for next few days.

Bikers on I40

I was in company of some bikers on the road next. A whole group of them driving on their Harley Davidsons. I got the first snap of them. I would be seeing so many of them over the next few days. I think most of them want to be wild and love to drive around the wild west, Arizona, California, Nevada. 

Racing a Train
In this section of New Mexico, the I40 is as straight as it can be. From Santa Rosa, NM to Moriarty, NM a total of about 129 km (80 miles). Not a bend, not a curve and as far as the eye can see. I put the car on cruise control, a steady 85 mph. But couldn't take my hands off the wheels due to the wind. One can so easily fall asleep here. The traffic is very sparse too. But I was too thrilled to be in New Mexico for Arizona was fast approaching me. Then I was racing a train which was running in parallel to I40. It was a long goods train. It was a really long goods train. 138 bogies in all. I had never seen such a long train my entire life.

Nearing Gallup, NM

I next passed through the largest city of New Mexico, Albuquerque, that is on the banks of River Rio Grande. What grand names. No stoppages. Finally zipped through the city of Gallup, NM before I entered the state of Arizona. So finally I was there. Not too much driving next couple of days. Or would there be? It was almost 8pm when I reached the Motel 6 at Holbrook,  AZ. Checked in and made a long distance call to India, to tell my folks that I was doing OK. These calls were made on a daily basis, as soon as I reached my destination of the day. Folks were a bit anxious back home.

So that was it, the end of the longest drive of the trip in terms of miles. I found it difficult to fall asleep, was just too excited. I knew that the next few days would be amazingly good. Tomorrow I would be visiting a lot of very interesting places. The Arizona Meteor crater was one of them. A childhood dream would be realized.


The complete set of photos from day 3

Route Map:

Route Map - end of day 3


DayDateMapPlaceTime hh:mmkmmilesStates

StartAMaple Shade, NJ00:00

0Fri, 20-Jun-2003BFalls Church, VA03:00259161NJ, DE, VA
1Sat, 21-Jun-2003CNashville, TN11:001067663VA, TN
2Sun, 22-Jun-2003DOklahoma City, OK11:001088676TN, AR, OK
3Mon, 23-Jun-2003EHolbrook, AZ12:151239770OK, TX, NM, AZ

Trip Total37:15365322709

Read the next part, day 4 of the 16 day solo trip: The Meteor Crater and the fossil of an entire forest Coming soon...