Friday, May 14, 2010

Driving Across America 2010: Part 2

Note: I'm experimenting with picture formatting. Sorry that this post looks horrendous. It probably won't happen again.

We gave ourselves a 7am wake up call so that we could get going early for our 14 hour leg through the deadly prairie lands of a tornado ravaged middle-America. Several looks at the doppler radar and whatever other radar uses showed us that a dark and treacherous journey awaited us. But we were committed. There was no turning back. Trip must go on.

But first, we have to have our cups of cereal with milk for which Melissa was brilliant enough to pack. I made the mistake of buying a 2 gallon milk on Sunday, not realizing we would not be in Tempe long enough to drink it. So, we packed it, some solo cups, some of Melissa's favorite cereals (Peanut Butter Puffins are literally more addictive than crack to her - she has actually abused me on account of them in the past), and had ourselves a free breakfast in the 'Burque.

One quick pass through Old Town Albuquerque for a couple photos later, and we were at the Walgreens getting mousse and allergy meds. Then she saw it. What drive is complete without an official driving hat? Obviously, not this one. (Author's note: I blame this hat entirely for a mishap later in the trip. Stay tuned.).

Old Town 'Burque Statue.

The same winery we stopped at in Las Cruces last year...but this time it was in 'Burque.

Needless to say, once we left Walgreen's, we gathered Silas, Josephine, Henrietta, and Abraham, yoked the oxen and hit the Oregon Trail for a long journey full of alkali poisoning, snake bites, low food rations, and raging rivers. The time was about 10:30am.

Marigolds? Dandelions? I don't know what we're looking at here, but it was a ton of yellow, and it was nice on the eyes.

We stopped here at "Clive's Corner" for a bathroom break, one hour in.

Melissa thought Doug would want to see this. Goes back to an old family trip to the Wagon Wheel restaurant? This is not the restaurant, though. Instead, it is a "town" built around a towing and repair shop called Wagon Wheel. The town consists of said shop...and... a junkyard. That is all.

Driving hats: they work. Driving is now 94% more chic.


Not a good state to drive through. We crossed in for the tiniest little corner of northern Texas. We thought nothing could go wrong. We couldn't have been less right. For anyone who has not driven on the wide open roads of Tex-hom-ansas, this is how it works: speed limit is 70 until you get close to a town. It swiftly drops in increments of 5s or 10s until you are down to 35-40 in the heart of the town. As you leave, it increases in the same increments.

One small town we passed through had other ideas. Melissa was driving, and we were conditioned for these town speed laws. But what happened next was not okay. As we got to Stratford Texas, we noticed first that the high school has a huge banner on the edge of town boasting the many state sporting championships it had won in the last 20 years. Then, we saw the population of the city: 1991. Fishy, but okay. It must be competing in the 12E District for high schools with enrollments under 50 students (I made that up). The next thing we saw were a bunch of 18-wheelers parked in random spots in the middle of the road. The road itself was decrepit. The signage was terrible. We're trying to find a place to stop for another bathroom break. All the while, we were trying to keep a close eye on the speed limit. Then a cop pops out and pulls us over. We are confident Melissa was going within 5 miles of the speed limit, so we were expecting a warning or something along the lines of "you guys are driving strangely, are you lost? Can I help?" You know, the basic southern hospitality.

Instead, the police officer demands license and proof of insurance (Texas doesn't care about registration). Melissa doesn't have proof of insurance. He tells us he clocked us at 35. We both look at each other and then back at him.

Us: "Officer, isn't the speed limit 35?"

Officer: "It is..."

Us: blank stares.

Officer: "Well, you must not have seen the lights flashing back there. This here's a school zone, speed limit drops down to 20. Proof of insurance, please?"

Melissa and I start looking for her proof of insurance while he goes back and runs her license. No luck. We have a slip from her 2007 Geico insurance from her Saturn. Then a 2008 State Farm insurance card from the Honda. Then a pricing quote from All State, her current insurance, that doesn't have an effective date of coverage, so that's not good enough.

Officer: Returns to car. "Did you find that insurance?"

Melissa: "No, I'm really sorry, the car is packed full and..."

Officer: "Alright then. Sign here."

Melissa: "I'm sorry, let me just look..."

Officer: "You have had ample time. I have to go. I actually have to be...right over" Broadly sweeps his hand in the general direction of absolutely nothing.

Melissa: "Please, sir, I have insurance."

Officer: "You'll have to take it up with the judge. Call her within 2 weeks and you can work that out. I've already checked the box."

Melissa: "How much is the fine?"

Officer: Hands us a crumpled and folded blue sheet of paper listing all the fines, directions for payment, etc. Walks away.

We read the paper. Turns out going the speed limit when the speed limit mysteriously drops to a school zone with very little warning (neither of us saw a school zone sign, flashing lights, or a school, for that matter) is a $160 fine. Furthermore, it turns out that "failure to show proof of financial responsibility" is a $300 fine! Yes, $300, for not having proof of insurance. Court date is in two weeks. In Stratford, TX. As my brother has appropriately pointed out, we received this ticket not for speeding, but for being out-of-town drivers. And, I'm convinced we would have just gotten a warning if Melissa had not been wearing the goofy not quite cowboy hat. She didn't want to take it off for fear of panicking the police officer with 'sudden movements.'

Once again, internet is shoddy and picture uploading is no longer working. I will supplement with more pictures later tonight or tomorrow.

On our way out of town, we passed Tex. He was pointing his gun at us and laughing. "Suckers," he said, with his cold, hard cowboy stare.

We also passed a farm that stretched further than we could see in every direction, made up entirely of livestock mashed into tiny enclosures full of their own feces and waste. It was so pungent, we were coughing and gagging by the time we cleared the area.

All the while, we had been defrosting lunch on the dash board, as our cooler was a bit too cold. Lunch was two sandwiches - one salmon, one garden burger, that Melissa had made in Tempe.

Once she had settled down enough to eat them, we decided that they were awful. Dry, flavorless, and chewy. So we pitched them.

Instead, we decided to take a quick break in Hooker, Oklahoma to grab Subway at Love's. Love's, in Hooker, Oklahoma. Yep. This was tasty.

Shortly after that, on the road again, Melissa is back being a menace behind the wheel. Passing through the farmlands at dusk is dangerous. Birds are starting to go crazy, swooping across the highway looking for food. Generally, they do quick fly-by's and avoid the car well enough. This poor fellow was a little too fat and happy from the day's feasting, unfortunately. With a huge thud, he literally exploded all over our grill. Feathers went everywhere. He just missed rolling up our windshield. We checked the front of the car later, and it is splattered with a little bird and feather, which is probably now stuck permanently on the Honda's grill.

Fortunately, not much more happened after that. We crossed into Kansas. Lots of bright green, sweeping farmlands. Lots of one lane highway driving. Crossing through Wichita was uneventful. Kansas City was also uneventful. We ended up in North Kansas City at another Best Western around 1:30am. We grabbed a snack at 711 and quickly passed out.

It is now about 8:30am on Friday. We're doing the final preparations for the final stretch to Chicago, where Jay is awaiting our arrival. Stay tuned for more tonight or tomorrow!


Julie and Tim said...

PB Puffins = most awesome cereal ever. I actually cannot buy them for our house, because I cannot control myself to just have one bowl a day.
Also, was pleased to read further down in the post that your cooler was cold enough to freeze lunch. I was really grossed out that you thought milk was a road-trip worthy beverage.
Enjoy Chicago, can't wait to read about your adventures there!

Nina said...

Ok so I went from laughing, to worried, to being sad all while reading this post! I had to laugh at the hat...although it was cute... I would expect nothing less from Mel. Obviously the officer wasn't That really sucks about the ticket!!
And poor bird!
Oh and I'm going to have to agree with Juile on the milk thing...

Have a safe trip...can't wait to see you guys...keep us updated!

diane said...

Yikes...those damn Texans will get you every time! Have to agree about the milk..can't say that I ever packed milk in the cooler even with all the dogs in a thermos of hot water, yes, but milk, no.....please be careful..and we enjoy the blog!!!
PS..that guy must have just been jealous that his wife or girlfriend didnt look as cute in her cowboy hat!!!!