Addicted to Driving Long Road Trips – part 1

I’ve done it again.   Actually I’ve done it twice since my last post (which was forever ago).  I like to drive.  I live for the freedom that comes with driving long distances.  In the past 3 months I’ve driven nearly 10,000 miles by myself.   Most people would be bored or scared of that task, but not me, I’m a ROAD WARRIOR!

My first trip was to visit family on the east coast for Christmas, to New Jersey (from Colorado, via rt. 70).  It’s been 3 1/2 years since I drove to Colorado, so I figured that it was time to make my way back–this time, having a self-proclaimed status of being a road trip veteran.  3 days on the road ain’t shit, although challenges are always presented, generally around winter.

The wind gusts swirled through Colorado’s eastern plains and carried with them a whiteout of snow.  Visibility was horrendous. Tractor trailers were overturned and the highway was closed.    All that was left was were county roads that was were being taken over by snow and ice.   When I say taken over, I mean patches of snow that would pop out of nowhere, sometimes 6 inches deep.  It was pretty nerve wrecking, especially when an old, local lady at the gas station tole me to plan on waiting for 3+ hours until the highway patrol cleared an accident.  She said that I’d be crazy to take the county roads, so I went ahead and made my move.  I was only 2 hours into my 38 hr. drive and I couldn’t wait that long to get driving.  I had people to see and places to be.

I made it through the county road and there were several times when I said to myself, that I should have listened to her.  Low and behold, I made it to the highway and things only got more hectic.  Tractor trailers were driving besides me, the wind was super powerful and the visibility was zero.  It’s pretty scary when you’re going 40 miles per hour in those conditions. My car was shaking and I couldn’t see anything in front of me.

Once I got to Burlington, CO everything was good.  Kansas was a piece of cake, however because I left at like 9 A.M., I decided to rest at KC.  The next morning I drove to Bloomington, Indiana which is a really cool college town/intellectual hub of Indiana.  I was surprised at how diverse the restaurants are over there.  I met up with an old friend and his family for a fine Turkish meal.  The next day I drove 11 hrs. to the Philly area and stayed with some family for a few days, then drove up to home, in North Jersey.  It was good to be back.

When I drove back to Colorado, I decided to take a southern approach to avoid the cold, stormy weather.  I also just wanted another new route.   Driving through new cities and scenery is way more fun than driving through the same paths and seeing the same sights.

I took 95 S to 85 s to 4o w.  It was a great drive.  The first day, I drove about 6-7 hrs and met up with a friend from elementary school in Richmond, Virginia.  She took me out to her favorite bar (forgot the name) and we got pretty sloshed.  Well, needless to say, I went to bed late that night and woke up early, hungover and back on the road.  Definitely not recommended.  That took me to within 100 miles of Nashville.  The Appalachian drive was great.  I always wanted to see that part of the country.  To no surprise a lot of it is still pretty Podunk.  The Smokey Ridge region was gorgeous.  I’d love to check out Asheville someday.  I know I’d love it.

Which brings me saying, unless I’m going to stop and sleep in a town, I generally do not stop for anything (unless gas or bio break).  I pass through places, I observe the geography and make mental notes of where I want to be again.

The following day I drove a nice stretch from TN to OKC.   I was excited to finally see Ozark country, but in all honesty wasn’t overly impressed with what I saw on rt. 40.  I know that by being on the highway, that’s not a real fair assessment, but it reminded me of the Catskills in NY.  I figured it would be that.   The Smokey’s were very hilly and had a few nice peaks.  The highway goes through the mts. on the NC/TN border.

I got to OKC and stayed at a Motel 6.  Motel 6 is by far the biggest dump of a motel.  However it’s generally the cheapest place to stay.  I get the vibe that Motel 6 is where all the felons in hiding linger…

The next morning, I had an easy (or so I thought) 9-10 drive to Boulder.  Instead of driving through Kansas and back onto 70 W, I decided to stay on 40 W, so I can finally see what North Texas was all about.  Before I hit the road, I filled up my gas tank at $1.65 per gallon.  That was shockingly phenomenal.

So, North Texas didn’t really have anything to see.  It was rather kind of boring.  I saw some windmills, but didn’t really see anything until I reached Amarillo.  Amarillo is Texas’s largest northwestern city and once I reached this point, I got off at an exit and headed for some county roads.

This may have been the most regretful decisions that I’ve ever made.  I had about a quarter tank left and had plenty of opportunities to find a gas station.  I figured that I’d find a station once I exited off the highway.  Well, I didn’t see a station right away, so I decided to proceed.  I mean, I was in city limits and there would be suburbs of course (that was the Jersey guy in me thinking).   Well, to my surprise, there was nothing in sight.

One would think, why don’t I just turn around?  Well, the night before they must have gotten a snow/ice storm, so the roads were choppy and there was no place to pull over.   The roads were only two lane and big trucks were driving 60 mhp, plus I had some dude on my tail the whole time.  I couldn’t hit the breaks and turn, so I kept driving.  As the minutes went by, so did the fuel in my gas tank.

I was driving for about 40 minutes without seeing any signs of a community and was at the point of no return.   I finally came up to another intersection to 87 North and found a place to pull over.  I tried looking up gas stations on my GPS but there was no service.  I drove my car up another 25 feet and my GPS said that I was 65 miles away from the nearest station.   At this point I was getting nervous and pretty anxious.  I had a car packed with tools and this was the most non ideal place to run out of gas.  It was cold, very desolate and there wasn’t even a place to pull over.

My gas light turned on and there was still no signs of a community.  At this point, I just decided to keep driving toward my destination.  If I ran out of gas, at least I’d be closer to Colorado.  Finally, after about 10 minutes of driving with my light on, I found a village.  I pulled into this very old gas station.  I pulled up to the tank and was so confused on how to use it.  When I stepped inside the country shop, the cashier asked if I was trying to get gas.  When I said “yes,” he said that the delivery was two weeks late.

He told me that 15 miles down the road is another small town.  I was so stressed at this point.  Here I was, at a gas station and there was no gas.   Go figure.

So I drove along and got to the station, which had another ancient pump.  The cashier laughed at how I was confused and proceeded to tell me how to use it.   The gas was about dollar more in price than what I paid, but I did not care. I was so relieved.

I got back on the road and within 30 miles I passed through the next town, which had about 10 gas stations all priced within the national average.  I still didn’t care and at that point it was funny.

The short drive through New Mexico was great.  Before Raton, there are old volcanos that looked like large mountains.  It was great to be back in the west.

So I lived in Colorado for 3 1/2 years and finally saw drove I-25 from the southern most point.  Southern Colorado is way beautiful.  The mountain peaks are huge! Unlike how Boulder is in the front range, I was surprised to see how Colorado Springs and other towns were surrounded by mountains.  It kind of made Boulder seem like any other mountain town.

It was a good trip!