Thunderstorms, Jack knifing big rigs, wide open expanses of Texas.
Brian and I returned from our epic road trip and funeral attendance Tuesday evening. By far, this is our most long distance road trip. We covered 5300 miles in 8 days. 2.5 of those days were spent in North Carolina visiting family. Our longest driving day was just under 1200 miles.
Monday was filled with the most excitement. We drove through thunderstorms for most of the morning. Traffic moved along really well in spite of the down pour and limited visibility. The freeway opened up to three lanes as we approached a small town in Texas. Brian was on his phone with a work. Traffic was moderate, with decent spacing between cars, when suddenly we are confronted with a wall of brake lights. I know I have plenty of room to stop on the rain-soaked road. I was more concerned about the tractor-trailer immediately in front of us, and immediately behind us.
As I quickly decelerate it was apparent the truck in front of us isn’t going to be able to stop before plowing into the back of multiple stopped cars in the lanes ahead. The driver thinks quickly and heads for the open lane to his right which was fortunately barren of traffic. His panic then becomes ever more evident as he locks up the trailer brakes. The truck begins to jack-knife. Brian sees this while on the phone and says “uhhhhhh” and points at the tractor-trailer.
While this was occurring in front of us, I am concerned about the tractor-trailer behind us experiencing a similar fate. I switch focus between the rear view mirror and the cars ahead of us, rapidly. As I notice the tractor-trailer to our rear getting increasingly closer, I realize he needs more room. I too veer into the newly added right lane.
The truck in front of us narrowly avoids a full jack-knife and stops a few feet from the shoulder of the road. The truck behind us managed to come to a stop several car lengths before impacting the wall of stopped cars.
Everything turned out well, except for the addition of a few new grey hairs.
After creeping along for the next 40 minutes we make our way past the accident scene which had resulted in the traffic delay. A tractor-trailer and a couple of cars met with a similar fate, except in this instance, they were not as fortunate.
Shortly after, the rain stopped and traffic was back to full speed. Texas is the first state I have ever legally driven 80 mph. In the open expanses of west Texas, the speed limit has increased to 80. This is quite a change from the 90’s when the speed limit was 75 during the day and 65 at night. In the early evening hours before the sun had fully set, I may or may not have achieved a new land speed record for myself. What a rush.
We stopped for dinner in a small town called Ft Stockton about 3 hours from El Paso. We had initially planned on staying the night, but decided we could make El Paso. We grabbed dinner to go and hit the road. The miles between Ft Stockton and El Paso passed quickly. Arriving in the outskirts of town, we noticed a sign indicating the 10 freeway was closed 10 miles ahead. As a detour it was recommended we take the 375 loop. We hop on the NE bound loop. I realize this is going to take us to way the north side of El Paso, about 5 miles north of the city itself. In a somewhat hazy state from the 16 hours of driving I turn to Brian and say, “You realize there aren’t going to be any hotels where we join back up to the freeway and we are going to have to back track several miles.”
He glared at me saying, “Why didn’t you tell me this when we got to the loop, I would have went the other direction.”
A little back story is necessary. I am terrible with directions in the city. I always have been. However, put me in the back country and I’m fine. I can navigate myself around with ease. Brian knows this. It has been a running joke in our relationship for years. Whenever we go somewhere, even if we have been there a dozen times, he barks directions. It’s just the way things works. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Silver City, and Las Cruces, NM I can navigate with ease. I grew up in Silver City. I learned to drive there, and subsequently became very familiar with the streets. Additionally it’s a small town. Las Cruces is a larger city, but has one thing that made navigating the city simple for me. Las Cruces is flanked on its east side by a very prominent mountain range called the Organ Mountains. I always used the mountains as a landmark. I knew how to get anywhere in town based on where the destination was in relation to the mountains. As a young adult I worked in El Paso for close to a year, so I was also reasonably familiar with it.
I responded to his inquiry by saying, ” Well you looked at the map too! I thought you realized this road came out way north!”
We grumbled back and forth for a minute and he promptly exits the freeway to reverse our path and head back toward the city. After a little deliberation, we decide to push on to Las Cruces, only an additional 30 minutes, and stay there. We were already half way to rejoining the 10 freeway and thought it silly to back track all that distance, only to find a hotel.
Brian gets off at the next exit and gets back on the 375 heading in our original direction. As we are merging on to the 2 lane highway, we are quickly passed by 3 Shelby mustangs. Brian turns to me as say, “there’s going to be some street racing somewhere.”
No sooner had he uttered the sentence, we get passed by 2 more mustangs, followed by a GTO, Camero, and some for supped up japanese import. A total of 8 cars. At this point they weren’t hooning, but all get into formation as if they were going to perform a rolling start at a Nascar race. With little warning the cars take off in a flash. All manner of testosterone is released with varying degrees of noise emanating from custom exhaust systems. It was quite a spectacle to see at 12:30 in the morning after sitting in a car for the better part of a day.
Their speed never was excessive, and I’m not sure they ever exceeded the speed limit, but their play was no less dangerous. After each sprint, they would all slow back down to 30 to 40 mph to bunch back up. Then off they would go. This continued for a good 5 minutes.
Traffic started to back up on the highway when they would slow to all bunch up. Several drivers in this accumulated traffic began to get frustrated. One F150 driver decided he had enough and made for an exit, and at the last-minute cut back across in front of the racers to get back on the freeway. Another driver in a Honda, thought he would pass them on the shoulder. His attempt failed miserably and he ended up in the bushes once the racers took off.
After the run in with the F150 and the Honda, the racers decided they had enough and exited the freeway. My hope is they didn’t continue their antics on surface streets which can be much less forgiving than relatively open freeway.
The time from the street racers exiting until we arrived in Las Cruces and picked a hotel was somewhat of a blur. We were both road weary and needed a good nights sleep.
The following day was rather routine. We had breakfast and hit the road. The trip between Las Cruces and San Diego is rather routine. We have made this jaunt at least a dozen times. Its 10 hours of rather monotonous travel. We arrived him at 5pm, glad to be out of the car, but also happy we had chosen to drive as opposed to fly. We are able to cross one off the bucket list.
Surprisingly, we are not averse to another cross country road trip, but agreed we would like to spend more time doing it. 5.5 solid days of driving is not something we wish to repeat in the near future.