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Just say "No" to Snow! 

  • ...or darqpony and beast's 2020 Cross Country Trip of Epic Proportions 

     I’ve never been a big fan of snow. Or even of the cold. And having been born and raised in Southern California, the only time I've been outta state was to Oklahoma when I was dragged across country by my parents to visit my Great Great Grandmother. Being seven years old at the time, I never truly appreciated the road trip for the grand adventure it was but only lamented, “Are we there yet?” 

    But I’d always assumed I’d move wherever my kid did, having a certain bond with her (some may call it co-dependence, but they’re just mean that way and wish they had what we did! LOL) and it would be a logical move since I do not own a home at the moment, and especially since she just had the first of four, (she says only TWO, but I’m sure were getting FOUR! LOL) g-babys. 

    So, when my twenty-five-year, married kidlet, decided to follow a job and move to IOWA, I was well and truly horrified! Visions of dragging buckets of half frozen water to hairy, woolly mammoths (my ponies! LOL) through twenty-foot snow drifts did NOT appeal! Iowa was never in the plan. NEVER! My kidlet cried to me, tears in her eyes, clutching my g-baby in her arms, “But you said wherever I went, you’d go!” Yes, but NOT Iowa!!! Not snow! Not so much snow you could drown in it! My ponies would get lost in it! Lost till spring! OMG! LOL 

    I’d have had the same reaction to any of the states that had that much snow. I always told her, “No snow.” She, apparently, is hard of hearing. :) 

    One of my friends told me there’s supposedly one small section of Montana that has only a leetle bit of snow, and I said I’d check it out, but Gary, my know-it-all friend of 40-forever years, said it was Fern Gully where I could ride unicorns and the fairies danced cuz there was NO place in Montana that was warm in winter. I told him I liked riding unicorns, of course. 

    Anyways, the other pickle to this dilemma was that my kid wanted me to move now. Right NOW! Quit my clients, leave all my friends, stop riding horses, and come now! Ahhh, the impetuousness of youth! Drop my responsibilities and become a stay-at-home mimah to my g-babies. Though the offer does sound gumdrops and lollipops awesome, I am too much a go-er and do-er to be a stay at home anything! :) 

    She moved in October 2020. We packed her house, said a teary goodbye, and she moved to Iowa. 

    Aaand, basically, we speak on the phone twice a day, every workday, on her drive to and from work. Far more than we did when she lived only an hour away! On weekends, we videochat! :) So, I do get to see my g-baby, but I don’t get to hold him, and hug him and snuggle him and call him my very own! 

    So, on December 16, 2020, I began a 4,600-mile, two week-ish trip, to visit my daughter and new grandbaby in Iowa from California. I planned to cruise through a bunch of states (19 of them!) and pick a retirement state (and talk my kidlet into that NEW move! LOLin and amongst all the travels, while driving my 2001, F-250 Crewcab, 4wheel drive truck. I assumed to hit snow, it being the dead of winter and all, and debated using a rental car, but I am familiar with this truck, having bought it new, special ordered, in 2001. I never really had any problems with the vehicle, except when I loan it out to other people to use, and as of now, it only has 139K miles on it. 

    And I really lucked out because that very good friend of 40-forever years, (Gary) decided he wanted an adventure, too, so he volunteered to drive the route while I took pictures out the window. And, boy, adventure it was! I’m not sure he really thought this through! It ended up being a lot of work for him what with three-ton jacks in the back of the truck, hoisting the truck up, down, up, down, sleeping in the driver’s seat more times than I can even remember... yeah, my trigger finger, to my camera, got a little tetchy, but a little ice, and I was good to go. Not so sure Gary’s ever recovering from this trip! He called me the Princess in my feather bed. When we pulled over, I’d just crawl over the console and lay on all the clothes and bags and blankies in the back seat. I came prepared! Ski pants, snow pants, jackets, blankets... even a heated blanket that plugged into the console! Yep! I was NOT gonna be cold! I would try to offer him a blanket, in the oh-dark-thirty of the snowy morn, but with his chattering teeth, he’d refuse and say I needed it more. Such a gentleman! LOL 

    We arrived in Iowa in about 22 hours? That was the quick leg of the trip—California to Nevada to Utah to Colorado to Nebraska to Iowa—because I knew I did not want to live in any of those states. Everybody knows all those Mid-West states go down for the count during wintertime! There is still a possibility of Utah, and if I hadn’t seen all the states I did, Utah would be “the go-to state” for me, but now it’s a runner up. You’ll see. ;) Vail in Colorado was beautiful! At night. I wish I could’ve seen it during the day. The Christmas lights were still up, and it truly was a Winter Wonderland! I will definitely have to go back during daylight hours, you know, for pictures... 

    However, the downhill side of those mountains, going towards Denver, at night, during a SUDDEN whiteout blizzard, is NOT something I’d recommend. But hey! My truck is a champ! Gary, too, I suppose, LOL though I was a pretty good copilot, my nose three inches from the windshield, calling out directions. Yeah, we had SOME issues. I’m not sure if it was “truck” issues, or situational “issues,” but they were pretty extensive issues, nonetheless! Gary was kinda worried the whole time he was gonna have to call my kid and tell her, he survived, but that mommy was sleeping with the fishes... in the ditch beside the road. I said, “No worries! The ditch is frozen! We’ll just skate over the top!” 

    We couldn’t see during that whiteout blizzard over the Vail pass. Other cars were totally booking it, but it was literally like looking through a gauzy curtain, underwater, in the fog, to see out our windshield. Apparently, there’s special windshield wiper fluid that does NOT freeze in -100 degree windchill. Who knew?!? 

    Also, cuz we couldn’t see the road, due to the frozen ice on the windshield, (Gary even tried at one point to get out and scrape it off with a dirty napkin and my alcohol spray, it made a tiny little peephole for him to squint out of, but it was still not “good,”) I just told Gary to follow the FedEx truck down the blizzard road. But said FedEx truck kept throwing black, mucky frozen mud on our windshield AND on our headlights. Who knew that was even a thing? Dirty headlights?!? The headlights kept getting dimmer and dimmer. It was like holding out a candle to see the road, of which, there was nothing to see! All white. No landmarks. No lines on the road. And no edge of the road, either. Incredibly stressful! Oh, and apparently, my 4-wheel drive wasn’t working? I don’t know, but Gary likes to brag how he made it over the blizzardy Vail Mountain Pass in two-wheel drive, no chains, with no lights and a frozen windshield. Yeah, he’s awesome that way… with the bragging, that is… ;) 

    We did make a quick side trip in Nebraska. I saw signs on the side of the freeway, Historic Site: Original Pony Express Station. OMG A Pony Express Station?!? I gotta see that! Please, please, please, can we stop and see the Pony Express Station?!? 

    Now, at the beginning of the trip, as Gary and I were setting up our businesses for our departures, I heard him tell so many of his clients that he hated traveling with girls cuz they always had to stop every few miles to pee, had to get out and shop, and to TAKE PICTURES! (Just kidding... :) he didn’t really know about my picture taking fetish until we were ON the road!) Anyways, I already had resigned myself to this being a super quick trip, no stopping, hold it till you drop, no restroom breaks for you! sort of drive... But it was nothing like that! My truck was helpful in this department, having a small bladder herself! So, every hundred miles or so, a tank fill up was in order at the gas station for the truck and a restroom break for us! :) And then, I realized, Gary would stop for “Attractions”!!! OMG So much fun! 

    So, yes, we stopped at the Original Pony Express Station and I, for one, was completely giddy with enthrallment! Gary didn’t make it out of the truck. A.)It was an old building to him. Who cares? LOL and B.)He was cold! Such a baby... ;) I thought “I” was the whiner about the cold, but I think he is right up there with me! I just know how to dress with seven layers of jackets better! 

    Did you know the Pony Express was only in operation for eighteen months? I knew this before, being such a horse aficionado, but every time I hear it, it kinda freaks me out cuz it’s such a big piece of our history but was only in business for such a short amount of time. And that little log cabin was amazingly well-kept for being a hundred and sixty years old! Can you imagine if those walls could talk? I’m so fascinated by that sort of thing. 

    When we arrived in Iowa, my kid was still at work and my SIL John helped Gary take the bags up the stairs while I scooped up the “lil bit” and snuggled! :) Through the next couple days, it was all about holding and squeezing and snuggling and catering to that little munchkin. In the morning, Kina would come out into the living room, drop the lil bit into my reaching arms, and then go back to bed. Gary would be on the computer, doing his computer thing, and me and baby William would be watching Stargate SG-1... for hours! Highlight of my day! When Gary and I left, that was the one thing Kina (and John?) lamented. How niiice it was to hand me the small child and actually get some REAL sleep for a few hours in the morning. 

    Somewhere in here, those long, soul fulfilling days of monotonous baby snuggling, :) I was checking my email, and pulled up the craigslist for the area. What cool things are for sale in Iowa that I may never see in California, eh? There happened to be on the front page a listing for a Harley. I turned the screen for Gary to see... Is this a good price? It was $1,200...” Uh, yeah!” he said. So, we emailed them. A couple times. But there was no number and no quick response to the email. I did an actual search for “Harley” in the area and this beautiful black beast came up. I turned the screen again, and Gary lit up! “What’s that?!?” he asked. “Uh, I don’t know,” I replied. Motorcycle? Duh... LOL 

    So, remembering that the title of this story is a warning to “Just Say No to Snow,” and the sheer fact that I tend to watch the change in weather with a jaundiced roll of the eye, apparently no matter the state I’m in, for the “day’s scheduled activities” (normally horse activities, but in this case, motorcycle activities) verses “weather.com,” I told Gary that if he was gonna go look at that bike, he better hurry up cuz it was gonna get cold in the afternoon. Like every good nag, I told him and the SIL to take a jacket. Unfortunately, no one listens to nagging “mommys” until it’s too late! 

    Gary did call the guy and scheduled a “visit.” Good thing I brought my truck. Handy bed for MC hauling. And my credit card! ;) He had fallen in love and was gonna bring the good puppy, er, pony, er, um... motorcycle home!  

    Anyways, as we stood at the second story window of my kid’s toasty warm abode, me and William (the only two sane people around, I guess! LOL) watched the afternoon blizzard roll in. We watched the wind splat a few raindrops/slushes on the window. Soon, the snow was driving sideways across the field behind the apartment building. Soon, there were little drifts in protected corners. It was getting worse. William and I were thinking, “I told you so!” on several occasions when Gary called for the credit card number and various issues and stated it was a little chilly. Yeah! See the snow?!? Driving sideways?!? That’s not fit for human habitation! 

    He kept saying how he wasn’t that cold, (riiiight! LOL) his warm jacket was keeping him very toasty, except for his hands. He’d had a terrible time trying to secure the bike to the back of the truck cuz his hands were so cold. Uh, huh. Yeah, -21F degree windchill would do that sometimes! 

    They managed their very slow way home through the blizzard and then it was all bike talk! Gary then proceeded to tell EVERYONE what a hero I was by buying him a Harley for Christmas! Uh, whuuutLOL Didn’t really think of it that way. I mean the whole X-mas thing... I guess if he wants to make me a hero, it’s okay... but I didn’t intend to buy a Harley with that intent! LOL Merry Christmas, Gary! 

    The only missing member of the family now, was my kidlet, mother of my gbaby. I know William was waiting with bated breath, and open mouth, waiting for muhmmy to get home so he could eat! ;) 

    Work suxs! And her particular work is particularly sucky since it’s a late-ish shift which made her drive home in the dark, during a blizzard, with the windshield wipers not working, (Been there, done that, looking at you, Colorado! LOL) and the heater blasting out cold air! (Something wrong there!) Later found out that the truck was missing half its antifreeze which kept the water from circulating. The engine was “hot” but the air blowing out was “cold!” Freezing cold! At the time, it was just enough to make her life miserable during that blizzardy drive home, with freezing fingers and frozen tears on her cheeks from crying. When trucks drove by, the snow on the ground whipped into a furry, obscuring the road, the ditches, the other cars, her windshield... Yeah, my kid’s been a pampered kidlet being born in SoCal! We get in a tiff when the misty fog smudges the dirt on our windshield! But this, apparently, was TOO MUCH!  

    So, when my daughter FINALLY opened the door to the apartment, her first words were, “I’m done! DONE! I no LONGER live in Iowa!” Oh, dear! But apparently, that’s all it took. One blizzard and she was done... Good! Cuz I don’t like snow, either! “Tell me where to move, mom, and we are moving!” 

    This was another, “I told you so,” moment, even if I couldn’t say it out loud! Every parent’s validated joy ;) 

    So, this was two incidences of “winter” and “snow” and “cold” and –21F weather. Nope! Not gonna do that again! Just say NO to snow! LOL 

    After spending a few days, plus Christmas at my daughter’s, we packed up again and headed out. Illinois to Missouri to Kentucky to Tennessee. Tennessee was eye-openingly friendly cuz it was the only Information Center Rest Stop that was fully open (pandemic and all) when we crossed the state line. The super friendly Security Guard (in a mask) inside gave us the lay of the land. It was obvious he thought highly of his home state and really wanted to share the experience. The Welcome Center was just that, super welcoming and super stocked with pamphlets and brochures for all the Tennessee things to do. 

    While I was taking pictures, snapping away, (like ten thousand of them! Gary kept making fun of me!) I’d find HIM gazing longingly at my truck’s gravid “Harley” condition, deep in thought, waiting expectantly, fervently, for that near-term, 2-wheeled pregnancy to just burst forth, fully formed so he could drive off into the sunset, (who knew he was so easily pleased) and he’d be telling me stories of his grand Harley days. He SO wanted to stop by a Harley store, somewhere, ANYWHERE (I’m sure just to show off the new addition! LOL) Kinda like me and saddle stores, I guess... ;) 

    Oh, look! A Harley store! ;) 

    The Bootlegger Harley store, in Centerville, Tennessee, was Gary’s new nirvana. His Fern Gully where unicorns are ridden, and fairies danced. I’m thinking of sneaking a horn on that Harley when Gary’s not looking... LOL Anyways, Gary rubbed elbows with some old timers, tried to talk me into buying the mini-Harley, and basically bought some new, “NEEDED” items for his riding pleasure. 

    He kept needling me, asking me when I was gonna ride the Harley, I should buy that one, it’d fit me fine, I could totally handle it... blah blah blah... I asked him, “So, that means, if I ride this Harley, that you’re gonna start riding horses with me?” Shut him down REAL quick! I think he got the hint, but good! LOL But the Harley store was really cool. Upstairs was a “Harley Museum” of old, original Harleys. Some were so hinky dink, I’m surprised they were ridden! I got pics! LOL  

    Around this time, driving through the middle of Tennessee, we were suddenly persona non grata. My phone internet wasn’t working and trying to track our progress through Tennessee was spotty at best. Weather.com, that “must-see” website and I, were having a heck of a time figuring out what to wear! (LOL just kidding...) I struggled and struggled with it, and as we drove farther and farther into the heart of Tennessee, I also realized none of my texts were being sent, either.  

    This was a huuuge problem! I was trying to discuss “homelife” with Jonelle, what to do with some pet problems which were occurring, trying to tell Kina, my kid, where we were, and just letting people know we were okay, when all those texts were just scrolling and ending with, “Text not sent.” What the heck? So, I pulled out the laptop, hotspotted to my phone, and checked if a map with directions could be pulled up. No. Ended up pulling into that Centerville town, where the Harley shop was, (but before it opened for the day) and tried to connect to some random, open wireless signal at a Starbuck’s or something. NOT great for security, but I was just bamboozled as to why suddenly there was such a problem with the phone connection. 

    There was no Starbuck’s, (do they even have a Starbuck’s in Tennessee?) but Arby’s had a great connection, still transmitting, even though it was too early for them to be open! Thank you, Arby’s! 

    I sent emails off to my kid, so she’d know we weren’t in some backwoods of some B-movie horror flicLOL but then my SIL called at this point, saying not to hit Nashville cuz there had been some sort of bombing incident the day before.  

    Oh. The website news showed the Christmas morning bomb in Nashville, Tennessee (December 25th, 2020) had caused all kinds of outages at a AT&T communication hub. Oh. A little depressing. Stoopid people. Gary was able to get ahold of the cell phone company and though they didn’t fess up to the bombing issue, they did say the cell coverage would be spotty for a while. 

    Ok, fine, and we hit the freeway again. It was only a few miles later and cell service returned like a cascade of text sending/receiving waterfall. Thank goodness, I now knew what jacket to put on!!! (Thanks, Weather.com! LOL) And apparently, my kid had been sort of freaking out, calling and texting EVERYONE, trying to track us down and see if anyone had heard from us! Good grief... we are adults. Not some “Learner’s Permit” kids on our first road trip! And I have GIG (Gary is God!) with me! LOL I think we can handle a little lack of cell phone coverage! :) 

    I’d like to take a moment here and comment on the political “lay of the land” since we just had the election a month ago between Trump and Biden. Supposedly, Biden came out on top as our new President... by a landslide in the last moments of the count. (Which took, what? Five days? :/ When has the election EVER taken five days to count?) There’s been so much mudslinging and naysaying... accusations flying... crazy stuff!  

    But ya know, we basically traveled across the United States of America and visited almost half of the states, thereof. Interestingly enough, do you know what we didn’t see? Not ONE bumper sticker, flag, billboard or ANYTHING that said, “Biden.” Not ONE. That’s weird. Especially since Biden supposedly had more votes than ANY PRESIDENT IN THE HISTORY OF PRESDENTS. Heh. That seems fishy to me. Especially since there were literally HUNDREDS of Trump paraphernalia items ALL OVER THE PLACE otherwise. People parked actual semi-truck trailers in their front yards, on the dirt, and painted “Trump” across them, in the middle of nowhere where likely their neighbors were the only ones to see them, but they wanted to be heard. Flags and signs were planted everywhere and cars stickered with Trump. Hundreds of them. There was a section across Illinois where some landowner had carried a ladder, and a bunch of Trump signs, and nailed them to their trees, twenty feet into the air, across a half mile of freeway. Guess we know who they voted for! LOL I’m sure there were SOME Biden followers SOMEWHERE... but they were not NEARLY so vocal as all the Trump supporters we came across. You’d think that by having more votes than ANY president in history, and being announced the winner of the election, that someone, somewhere, would’ve put up a little, “Yaaay!” banner or something... Like I said, “Fishy.” This election was not for the people. I don’t know who it was for, but from what we saw, it did not represent the vast majority of the political beliefs we saw. So, yeah, enough about that. I don’t really like talking politics cuz everyone gets so riled! Onward to more interesting things! ;) 

    We did do some actual site-seeing in Tennessee, too. Not just the Harley shop and Arby’s! Could’ve totally done a few more days there but considering how the ending of the trip was so extended, we’ll have to leave that for the next Tennessee visit! :) We traveled into Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and then back down to Sweetwater, all along the Appalachian Mountains. NEVER thought I’d ever be able to say, “I visited the Appalachian Mountains,” but life takes you in grand directions, eh? I’ve been to Italy, for Pete’s sake! But never to the Appalachian Mountains. Weird. 

    I love Tennessee. When I got back to my lessons, one of my clients kept calling me “Tennessee Tammy” cuz I kept raving about Tennessee. Tennessee is awesome! See? I’m doing it again! Beautiful mountains with beautiful trees and various places with just the hint of snow. Brisk but not COOOLD. (Certainly NEVER –21F! LOL) The people at the various gas stations said the snow they had now on the ground was really quite aberrant. Unusual. It normally never lasted longer than a day or so and this was a week of an inch or so, in protected, shaded spots... Perfect!  

    Gatlinburg, significantly higher in the Appalachian Mountains, was a beautiful, slightly snowy, resort town. Art stores and antique shops and even a Harley shop! The Hillbilly Harley! How cool was that name!?! LOL Wanted to stop there super bad but the traffic was bumper to bumper like a theme park, trying to get out of line and onto the "rides.” The goal was to head for the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, but there was some sort of police action ahead stopping traffic, so we made a quick decision, and a quick right-hand turn, and headed for the Ripley’s Aquarium. I love aquariums so it was all good for me. There was even a bunch of Ripley stuff for Gary. 

    Sure, wouldn’t want to LIVE in Gatlinburg, what with all the traffic and stuff, but totally visitable. Gatlinburg, plus Pigeon Forge, would be great for out-of-town guest, if you’re into that sort of thing, to have good wholesome fun. Maybe for some incredible g-baby spoiling, to boot! :) Yeah, I could totally do that!  

    Pigeon Forge, eight miles below Gatlinburg in the mountains, was like Las Vegas without the Casinos. Disneyland on steroids. Good Family Fun. Twenty Go-cart speedways, many arcades, a handful of mini-golf, Big foot and the Bee shopping (Lots of Bigfoot paraphernalia! Again, Bigfoot is a “thing” here... LOL) Jurassic Park Boat Ride, Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, Dolly Parton Stampede Show, Dollywood, an Aquarium... It was just so ODD to me that they put ALL of this here in one town. It was PACKED with stuff to do! 

    AND, the Grand Finale, Parrot Mountain! A MOUNTAIN of parrots! Parrots anyone could handle and Lorikeets to feed and just an abundance of birds!... which was closed for the season. ;( But I still wanted to do a drive-by. I wanted to SEE, with my own eyes, what the area looked like and how they could keep so MANY tropical birds in such a chilly climate. 

    So, we turned up the road, a road that looked like a one lane horse path meandering off into the deep, dark enchanted forest. Gary pointed down the road, “You want to go down there?” 

    “Yes. Yes, I do.” 

    He shook his head in sad misgivings and rolled gently forward. 

    “Across that?” He pointed at the road again, the angle of his fingers highlighted the sheet of frozen H2O on the asphalt. I guess he hoped that by repeating the question, by pointing out the obvious, that I’d change my mind. “You know that’s like a glacier. We have no chains and that’s like a snowy, icy glacier.” 

    “Yep. I still do. Put the 4-wheel drive on, dude. We're gonna go see some birds!” LOL Now that we knew the vagaries of how to lock the 4-wheel drive on, I felt confident we could cross a glacier, no problem. Gary was less than convinced and continued to question my sanity for wanting to do so. 

    We crept along, hoping not to see another vehicle coming down the road cuz there was NO room to move around on that slick ice rink pathway. 

    Oh, oh dear... could that be? Yep! Wow... So, in the ditches on either side of the road, at a choke point of icy and narrow and ditch, a 4-wheel drive truck and a 4-door sedan lay like turtles on their backs. Well, the vehicles were sideways in the ditches floundering on their doors, but they still looked incredibly awkward that way. And you could see the truck still clung precariously to the side of the road with a rubbery grip of desperation. Poor thing... LOL How fast were they going?!? And where were the people? 

    And Gary was not happy! LOL 

    We crept up the road... towards the turnout on the right, across from the Parrot Mountain entrance. The entrance was actually up a really, really, REALLY steep driveway that there was for sure no convincing Gary to drive up! Fine. I got out and took pics. The turnout (parking lot?) was in a beautiful little clearing with the side of a mountain sloping above us, and lovely stark trees and an old, old 1800s cabin that had been relocated from a historic spot somewhere. Very picturesque. :) But I can’t wait to go back to Tennessee during open season and business hours to play with all the parrots on Parrot Mountain! :) 

    As we meandered our way out of the mountains, and through the outlying areas of Sweetwater, Tennessee, huge fields of trees, and grass and rolling, interesting creek filled gullies, (not Fern Gully, but close enough!) visions of Friesians cantering through the landscape fill my head. It’s gonna be awesome! The land is big and beautiful. The gun laws are favorable. The only downside is Gary’s gonna have to deal with helmet laws. He’s a little sad about that but I can’t get ALL the people, the “family,” to move to a “no helmet” state! He’s just gonna have to deal with riding his Harley around the hundred or so acres without his helmet to get the “wind in his no-hair" feeling! LOL He can make a track around the property... it’ll be fine! I can use it for the horses, too! 

    The next state we went through was Georgia. (Hey, Steve! LOL) We prolly should’ve stopped to visit Gary’s online friend, but we thought we were in a hurry. Prolly if we HAD stopped, it would’ve taken LESS time in the end, and we wouldn’t have had all the troubles we ended up with! LOL But I digress. ;) 

    We drove through Atlanta, Georgia around 6:30-7:00pm at night. We didn’t sightsee or anything, though it ended up being QUITE eye-opening to me. Apparently, we went through the low-life section of the city, through the DREGS of Atlanta, Georgia. 

    You know what we saw on the side of the freeway? And actually, almost ran into cuz it was hanging wide open in the slow lane? As we traveled under an overpass, (away from cameras?) there was a stripped out suv, doors wide open (cuz they stole the door panels, of all things, disgusting people) and my first thought was, they better be careful! We almost hit that door and took it off! The least of that vehicle owner’s worries though. Duh, when I realized what I was looking at. 

    And then, in another section of strange convergence of overpass-underpass lanes, ANOTHER stripped out car. Wow. Like I say, Eye-Opening. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that even on our LA freeways. ‘Course, this being my first country-wide travel, I guess I just may be too naïve. But it kinda made me sad. Kinda like when my catalytic converter was “removed without permission.” LOL I’m sure the owners of those cars are really quite sad, too. Yeah, I think the death sentence for car thieves! Kinda like horse thieves were hung in the old days! LOL Sounds good to me! :) 

    Through all of this, my sturdy truck just kept trucking along. Along with that new Harley addition in the bed... ;) 

    Until Alabama. Ah, Alabama. So many memories. ;) 

    It was around 10pm, incredibly dark, and I was incredibly nervous of deer jumping in front of us since we were in a woodsy area. Gary was driving and I was just watching the sides of the road for that tell-tell flash of buck, when suddenly the car’s engine ahead of us, kind of, well, exploded! LOL It had just gone under some off-ramp lights and so it was kinda highlighted how the smoke just came bursting from its hood. Almost like a cartoon explosion! LOL 

    We were in the fast lane and the exploded car was in the slow lane. They immediately pulled over to the side of the road, but the car in front of us, and slightly behind that car when it exploded, swerved back and forth a few times, and then they themselves pulled over. We slowed down, putting some distance between us and them, but then continued on when those two vehicles pulled over safely since by that time, we were significantly past the first car, and thought the second car was pulling over to help the first car. Or, at least, misery loved company?!? LOL 

    Until a few off-ramps later. I heard a noise. A noise in the right front tire. As Gary would say, my bat-ears and guardian angel saved us numerous times on this trip cuz Murphy never takes a break. We pulled over to the side of the road, partially down an off-ramp. Gary got out, flashlight in hand, and checked the tire. Sidewall split from a road hazard and tread peeling away. Greeeat. 

    We surmised at that point that the exploding vehicle had sprayed oil all over the windshield of the car in front of us, making them blind and swerve wildly until they could see, and then dumped whatever engine parts across the freeway that we ran over and killed our tire with. 

    Alrighty, then, now it’s time to make the decision to change the tire or call Triple AAA. It wasn’t too terribly cold, until the semi-trucks would come barreling down the road past us and then that gust of wind was downright chilly. But Gary finally got the tire changed. Special key for spare tire is in the glove box, by the way. LOL Also, the tire jack thingy doesn’t fit the new (15-year-old?) wheel lugs and so, Gary changed the tire with a CRESCENT WRENCH! Not recommended... He wants me to tell everyone how [email protected]$$ he is cuz he can change a tire, on the side of road, in the dark with a CRESCENT WRENCH while I sat on my feather pillows in the truck with the heater on! LOL Such a whiner... :) Unfortunately, the spare tire was a different size, and had low air pressure, so, new decision was made to pull off in a town, sleep in the truck, and get new tires in the morning. Joy! 

    We woke early in the morning and got breakfast at The Waffle House. We’d seen tons of these little restaurants and Gary said it was our duty to at least eat once in one. Well, Lucky, our waiter, was a hoot and we had waffles and blueberry pancakes for, like, ten bucks—amazingly cheap!—and then we were on our way to the tire shop, fortuitously, right off the off-ramp we chose last night. 

    While the truck was getting her skirts fluffed on the rack, Gary considered what tools we’d need if this were to occur again on our trip. I was horrified! Nothing else better happen on this trip! One flat tire was CLEARLY enough! But he was adamant. Ugh. I just thought it’d be bad mojo to buy any truck fixing tools while on the trip, but kept my mouth shut! No need to warn Murphy, with his stoopid Law, about my personal, if appropriate, misgivings! I was right! Well, and Gary was, too, LOL, but that’s for later. 

    Across the street from the tire store was an Advanced Autos supply store. Alabama is nothing if not filled with the NICEST people! Gary told his story to the guy behind the counter, of ripping off his shirt to expose the big red “GIG” there, (Gary is God! LOL) and of using a CRESCENT WRENCH to change the tire last night. The guy was truly impressed. Apparently, it’s a guy “Tool” thing. The guy was SO duly impressed, he gave Gary all his tools for 50% off and said, “No one should have to go through that again!” LOL Awwwwesome! It WAS only 50% off a small amount but made a huge impression on us. If only I could’ve got all the other shops to give me that discount, eh? 

    A few hours later, two spanking new tires installed, a little lighter in the pockets ($400.00!) than we were expecting for the trip, even after the huge discount the nice man at the auto store gave us, but we were on the road again. Through Mississippi, (All kinds of humor abounded from saying every creek and river we crossed was the Mighty Mississippi! Gary was preparing me for the actual view, which was astounding, of the actual Mighty Mississippi!) while crossing into Louisiana. 

    A moment about Louisiana... there was traffic! As bad as Los Angeles! Actually, it was from an all-day freeway closure and then detour. The I-20, both directions, had been closed since 4am on December 29, 2020, due to a big rig crash, and at 5pm, when we were going through, it was still shut down on the westbound side. I don’t think it opened until the next day. Big Rig Crash Further Reading. 

    We actually saw a random, “Freeway closed ahead” flashing sign about twenty miles before the detour. How do you find out about something like that? I tried to check my phone for “freeway closures” in LA, but there was nothing. And for miles, we clipped along at speed limit speeds... and thought, it must’ve been a mistake! But then it all slammed to a stop. Ugh. Literally stopped. For two hours.  

    Do you know those signs on the side of freeways that tell you, “Dial 511 to get Traffic Info?” They work! Well, in the sense that I could now tell my driver, (I just love saying that! LOL) WHAT had happened and WHY we were stuck for two hours in that awful traffic jam. But it didn’t help us to get OUT of the jam. Just told us WHY we were there. Heh. Not sure that was helpful. 

    Weird thing as we pulled off the highway... did that right front tire do a little squeal? Nooo... my imagination... cuz I’m so hypersensitive to that noise right now after the blowout. I think It’s prolly the new tires, eh? I didn’t say anything to Gary. I was sure he’d just think I was crazy or something. “I” thought I was crazy to even THINK I heard a noise from that tire! Spent too much money so as NOT to hear a noise from that tire... so it better shaddup! LOL 

    And then miles and miles of Louisiana backroads BACK to the freeway around the closure. I wish it’d at least been during the day cuz there were some really cool buildings along the road when we hit this teeny tiny town of Nowheresville, LA. It being dark out, and me NOT being the best photographer in a moving vehicle, my pics came out as big, blurry smears of light... ;( I suppose I could research the name of that town, but it really was a podunk town in the middle of nowhere! LOL So, Nowheresville, it is! :) 

    Finished Louisiana with a weird, anticlimactic roll into Texas, on up through an Oklahoma blizzard, to purposely hit Historic Route 66. Wow. So cool. Gary would suddenly veer off the highway into these old business loops, and these old incredible buildings, in these old incredible towns, some abandoned… it was just a highlight of this trip. Got cool pics! ;) 

    We passed through the top of Texas again on the way out of the Oklahoma blizzard (so random! LOL) and by this time, knowing that I was not going to see anything of interest in New Mexico, (everyone tells me, dry, flat and boring… nothing to take pics of) and it being night, we just drove on through. 

    Now, through all these states, I kept getting a weird vibe from that right front tire. I kept saying, “Can’t you hear that? I hear something!” Every time we pulled off the highway, every hundred miles or so, I kept HEARING a squealing… and Gary would not. I wondered if it was because I was sitting right over the wheel or something, but I SWORE there was a noise, AND a weird vibration. Gary kept saying it was how the off-ramps were scored to keep the rain and snow from piling up on them or some such. I was only half listening cuz, OMG, the noise was freaking me out! LOL All that money and the tire people said they did a “free brake inspection” (all good) and there was STILL a noise! Driving me outta my mind! LOL 

    Somewhere on December 31st, early morning, as we drove down an off-ramp to get gas, I anxiously said, “Yep! There it is again!” I tried to be all cool, “I hear a noise,” but inside I was getting all kinds of freak out going on. THANKFULLY, the noise spoke up and my driving partner said, “Oh! THAT noise?” Well, maybe I should check that!?! LOL OMG yes! Finally! 

    Got gas, pulled into a parking spot of the McDonald’s, and in the snow, Gary got down on the snowy ground (Arizona has snow, apparently! LOL) and checked the tire. Again. 

    Lo and behold! There! He yanked, cranked, and teased a mangled piece of metal out from between the calipers and brake pad and disc and wheel… or something… I don’t know… but, like pulling a rabbit outta his hat, “Wa-lah!” he handed me a hunk of twisted metal. 

    So, that’s what had been grating on my eardrums like fingernails on chalkboard? I turned it over in my hand and felt VERY vindicated. I was kinda wanting to go, “See! SEE! I TOLD YOU SO!” Me and my bat ears got it going on! LOL Not that I wanted anything wrong with the tire, but hello! I was just glad it wasn’t my imagination or that I was going to have to LIVE with that squealing cacophony for the next lifetime of those tires! 

    Somewhere in here, we ended up at some new housing projects, trying to find a flat, stable spot to put the truck up on the jacks, AGAIN. The McDonald’s parking lot was too slopey and the jacks were too wobbly and there was an inappropriate, shiny groove thing going on inside the tire thing that Gary wanted to check out.  So many times, that truck was up on jacks, during this trip, it was ridiculous! LOL 

    Anyways, truck was up on the jacks, and since I was inside the vehicle, (Hey! It was cold out there! LOL) all I could hear was yanking and cranking and various metallic clanks going on. Gary finally deigns me with his company and says, “I have good news! And I have bad news!” His favorite saying! ;) Basically, and I paraphrase here, cuz most of the time I don’t follow his “Tool” talk, LOL, “Wheels go round and round and should NOT wobble back and forth while going round and round.” 

    “Eh?” Yeah, not even going to TRY and follow that one. LOL 

    “Wheel bearing is going out. It could last ten miles. It could last till home. It could fall off while going back to McDonalds.” In a nutshell, we’re cruising along the highway, 70mph, the wheel falls off, the truck takes a nosedive, the back end goes over front, Gary survives, and STILL has to call my kid to tell her the truck and mommy are sleeping with the fishes. Where have I head this story before? 

    Yeah. Okay. Fine... and I think, “So, just fix it, already?” Cuz, you know, he IS GIG and all, right? ;) 

    Uh, no, it ain’t so simple as that. Need to take the wheel guts out and perform triple bypass. Really? Ugh. How much is THAT gonna cost?!? I’m beginning to really not like that right front tire. It’s like a horse with a bad leg, forever threatening to fall off when I’m not looking! I’m wondering if I can teach the truck to just use three tires like I do the horses? Cuz I may have to shoot her if she doesn’t step up and get back into line! LOL 

    Triple AAA is called, my poor truck is loaded onto a flatbed and hauled from Bellemont BACK to Flagstaff fifteen miles in the opposite direction. I hate traveling backwards, but it’s the closest Ford dealership around and to get back on the road as soon as possible, (it being New Year’s Eve, and all) we need someone with the parts on hand. The tow truck driver was kind enough to allow us in the cab with him, (me with mask and alcohol spray!) even during these pandemic times. I suppose we could’ve stayed at McDonald’s and eaten ourselves into oblivion, waiting for the truck to be fixed, but that wouldn’t have been too helpful considering the fifteen miles and all. Gary said we could walk? Maybe to burn off all the McDonald’s, eh? 

    At the dealership, I’m bored and want to go walking to take pics cuz I saw signs for Historic Route 66! Or at least parts of it. Apparently, as new highways go in, and the desert takes over, bits and pieces of the route get swallowed up. Sad. 

    I manage a huge lap around the dealership, blocks of walking, through an old railway station, tons of pics, snow on the ground… it was a leetle chilly… but as long as I didn’t think of all the money that was going out at the moment, it was kinda cool… We asked if there was a fast-food close by, it now being afternoon, and they said, “As soon as Walter comes back, he can take you!” Okay! So, we waited for Walter. 

    What a cool guy! Gary and he talked politics, and how Flagstaff was going downhill as the people who had ruined California, left California to move to Arizona, so they could ruin it, too... sucks. It was kinda funny, after he brought us back with our food, he showed us a message that the office people gave him cuz it was one of his jobs to take the mail to post office or something. He said he had to have incentive to work and so they taped some mini-Snickers bars to his packet of mail. Um… yeah… ok, the “K” of the Snickers bar was folded on the wrapper, so it faced upwards. Three of them. I looked at him and he smiled. Whoa! LOL Interesting! LOL He made the comment earlier to keep our politics to ourselves cuz some of the office people at the dealership were those ex-California aficionados and didn’t appreciate his conservative attitudes! Got it! Mum’s the word! 

    But the truck had new right wheel guts! Yaaay! On the road again!  

    Ended up at my dad’s towards evening, stayed a few hours, oooh’ed and aaah’ed over the new pool, Poppop oooh’ed and aaah’ed over Gary’s new Harley in the back of the truck, decided the stove they wanted to give me wasn’t doing to fit in the back of the truck WITH the motorcycle, had dinner, and then got back on the road again! 

    ALMOST HOME! Yaaay! 300 miles to go! So close! Could do that in our sleep! Uh, yeah, not a good idea. LOL 

    So, driving driving driving… Gary was behind the wheel, as he’d done the whole trip, but he started complaining about the “fog”?!? 

    “Fog? What fog?!?” I asked, more than a little confused as I peered through the windshield. The dark, desolate, desert landscape was clear as a bell. Except for the dark part. “There’s no fog...” OMG Was he...? He WAS! He was falling asleep while driving! LOL 

    I finally talked him into pulling over at the next off-ramp, after a small argument, (which he prolly doesn’t even remember!) so I could take over for a little night driving fun of my own. 

    Well, that’s weird... As he pulled off the random, dark, secluded off-ramp, no gas station or lights around, I heard the theme from Deliverance! LOL... oh, yeah, but I also heard a weird noise. 

    OMG Say it isn’t so! It can’t be! What the Hades? Maybe this is how my truck is going to sound from now on? Wait... maybe it’s just that weird scoring of the road that Gary was talking about before. How much snow do they possibly get in Arizona, eh?  

    I still ruminated on the possibilities as I got behind the wheel and drove off, thinking about the weird vibration in the steering wheel now, but you know how you talk yourself out of something? How it’s prolly nothing? Yeah, don’t do that, either. LOL 

    We were in the middle of nowhere. Seriously. Nowhere. 50? 75? miles until the next rest stop/gas station. Alrighty, then, on we rolled. As the truck drove at speed, I didn’t feel any weird vibrations or hear any more noises, so I chalked it up to my IMAGINATION! 

    Yeah, don’t do that. Seriously. Just don’t. LOL 

    I drove that lonely stretch of highway, Gary sleeping now in the passenger side seat, and worried about animals jumping in front of me… or ufo’s… cuz this was where people got taken away, right? And all kinds of other weird things. 

    Oh, look! The first gas station in literally miles and miles. It’s Ludlow. Does anyone know where Ludlow is? Neither do I, but it’s the first civilization in miles of desert! Yaaay! 

    I pulled down the off-ramp, and holey komoley, THAT ain’t right! Thunk thunk thunk Flat tire again? No… but something was up with that evil right front tire again. I pulled up to the gas pump and Gary stirred. He went out, half asleep, and pumped the gas while I went in to use the restroom. When I came back out, (sprayed sanitizer all over me, again... the skin on my hands is never gonna forgive me! LOL) he automatically went to the passenger side. I guess he was gonna sleep some more!?! ;) I started the truck, pulled forward, stopped, and said, “There’s something still wrong with that tire.” I cringed. I’m sure Gary’s gonna go through the roof! I know I would! I pulled forward a little more. Thunk thunk thunk Ugh... I HATE that noise. ;( 

    He told me to pull over there, and waved halfheartedly in a vague direction, and when I stopped, he got out and looked at the tire. He came back and got the flashlight and ducked down again, disappearing from view. He very quietly got back into the truck, closed the door, and said, “The tire’s about to fall off.” 

    What? 

    “The tire’s about to fall off. Go park over there. Don’t make any sharp turns, go real slow, the tire’s about to fall off.” 

    What? The what is doing what? (Obviously I was in denial... LOL) 

    Ugh! Not anywhere near nerve wracking or anything! I crossed the DESOLATE, middle of the night, dark road, into this weird open field area, and then realized I’m still ON the road, so have to back up some more towards some semi’s in the corner. Did I tell you it was dark? And weird? No idea where I was or what sort of situation I was backing into… ugh! Just UGH! LOL 

    Gary’s all chitty chatty now (how men freak out, I guess, mechanical problem solving,) about how there were only two lug nuts and studs left, that six of the wheel studs had been sheared off at the hub, the wheel was just slapping back and forth, and he didn’t EVEN know how to fix this enough to EVEN get it on a tow truck. Any pressure and those last lug nuts would snap off like rubber bands and the tire would roll away and OMG, if that had happened while we were going 70-80miles/hour, how the front end would drop to the ground and the truck would do an endo… Well, he already told me that would occur with the original problem of the wheel “wobble” before the dealership replaced the hub and bearings, so how much MORE horror did he want to put me through, eh? 

    So. Close. To. Home!… ugh... 

    He tried to tell me he could take two lug nuts off each tire and do some magic handwaving and it would all work, and I was all, “I’m going to the back seat and closing my eyes. You keep doing your ‘thinking’… night night!” :) 

    So, basically, we kept getting halfway home from where we fixed the vehicle last, and then broke down again! I hoped this wasn't becoming a pattern! :( 

    Early, early, early the next morning, I jumped out of the truck, stretched, and immediately hear donkeys braying in the distance! Whoo hoo! Kina always said I could find a horse no matter where I was at! Donkeys count, right? 

    We went to the Ludlow Café restaurant, the one that wasN’T an actual abandoned building in the weird parking lot, even though it kinda LOOKED like an abandoned building, and got breakfast. But we’re NOT allowed to eat inside cuz of the pandemic. ;(  

    Interestingly enough, every other state allowed us to eat indoors with tables in between and social distancing. Only California, with our ridiculous hypocritical governor, made us eat outside in the cold. 

    The waitress, chitty chatting up a storm, shared how someone in that small, nowhere town of Ludlow, had turned the restaurant in to the Health Department by saying they were breaking pandemic law and not practicing social distancing or something. The Health Department had subsequently been to their place more in the last few months, trying to “catch” them NOT practicing social distancing, than they had been in all the previous years she’d worked there before. Go figure. 

    So, we ate outside on the picnic benches with a little chill in the air. Gary was still “thinking” during and after breakfast. He called his brother. His brother could fetch us… no, don’t do that. Brother called all the auto shops within fifty miles, ugh, but how could we get there? Uber? $80! Ugh. AND it was New Year’s Day! Most of the places were closed! Such a dilemma! My dad wanted to come fetch me. He was gonna have Cal come fetch us with the flatbed truck hauler. Gary asked if I should call Nina to have her come fetch me and he’d deal with the problem… uh, no. No to all that. That’s not appropriate, I said. I’m not gonna abandon him in, what’s the name of this truck stop?!? LOL LUUUDLOW. Right… LOL 

    Gary jacked the truck up AGAIN, (getting to be a daily habit, now! LOL) to check the last two lug nuts to see if they could be tightened down. Yeeeah, no. The lug nuts were about a quarter inch too short of tightening the rim to the hub. That was the slapping Thunk Thunk Thunk sound I heard last night. That quarter inch of “play” gave it just enough room to shear off those bolts just from the slap-wobble alone. It was either the wrong hub, the wrong studs or the wrong lug nuts for the rims on the truck. So, Gary took a lug nut off one of the original three wheels (because they were about one and a half inches longer—should “set” deeper) to see if THAT would snug up the rim to the wheel. No go. They were a different size. The original three wheels had a coarser, smaller thread with a longer lug nut. 

    Ever ingenious, Gary went into a field where an old, big-truck repair shop had burnt down and scavenged for something to either shim the rim, or to jury-rig some washers for the lugs to tighten the rim against the hub. All just so the truck could be towed again. But this time straight home. Lo and behold, he found two big diesel lug nuts and slipped them over the two remaining wheel studs and then used the too-short lug nuts to tighten the wheel to the hub. Still couldn't drive it, (only two lug nuts left out of eight) but it was enough to tow it home on a flatbed at least without worry it was gonna collapse like a fainting bride on the tow truck bed. Oh, and lose my new tire down the road, to boot! LOL 

    While Gary did all his magic hand waving, I broke out the camera… and actually DID kinda abandon him. But only to take pics! Honest to goodness truth! LOL Well, I did go to the restaurant, and ask for carrots to feed the donkeys… but I didn’t abandon him for long! I swear! ;) By the time I got back though, the tow truck driver was already there, getting ready to hoist the truck aboard. Good thing I didn’t dawdle! 

    Funny story about the donkeys… apparently two years ago, there was a terrible storm. After the storm, this little female donkey showed up, all skinny like a rack of bones. They made a pen for her, on the other side of the freeway and fattened her up. Some people had to get rid of their two, younger donkeys and since they thought their little mare donkey was lonely, they put them all together. But the original mare donkey had other ideas. She was kinda mean to them and disliked them and bit them a little rudely whenever they got too annoying… like small children everywhere get sometimes... annoying, that is. LOL Apparently, they’re quite clever and can get out of their pen sometimes. They end up on the restaurant side of the freeway and while the older mare is catchable, the younger donkeys are brats and won’t be caught and they have a heck of a time penning them back up again. And I fed these random donkeys some carrots. It was great! :) 

    Another story, (the waitress at the Ludlow Cafe Restaurant was just full of them!) apparently, in the 1940s, a circus came through town, and somehow the lion got loose. They couldn’t catch him, so they just left him. A lion. Loose in the desert. Weird. So, anyways, hunters would go out and find dead coyotes and others of his kills, but he himself was never found. I hope he lived a long and lovely life. 

    So, as I said, by the time I got back from feeding the donkeys, the tow truck driver was getting ready to hook up the truck and put it on the flatbed. And here was the next dilemma… how do WE get home? Tow truck driver immediately asked if we had a ride. Uh, no, you have our “ride” on the back of your truck! LOL But the nice lady on the phone said we could sit in OUR truck, while it was on the back of YOUR truck? He was like, Oh, you want to do that? Uh, well, yeah, it beats the alternative! Stranded in the desert! LOL 

    So, yeah, we ended the very last leg of our trip, 139 miles or so, IN our truck on the back of a flatbed tow truck. That was weird. Very bouncy. Like a boat. I wondered what other people were thinking, seeing us still in our truck, on the back of a truck. Kinda like that “weasel on the back of the woodpecker” picture that was all the rage a few years ago! LOL And I was practically POSITIVE it wasn’t quite legal… But hey, Gary got to sleep some more, and I still got to take pictures out the window! It was all good in my book. And unless the tow truck actually broke down, (shut your mouth! LOL) we were getting home today! 

    To wrap things up, I’m not exactly sure I can AFFORD another trip like this one, LOL, but I did have a grand adventure that was absolutely memorable! And though I never thought I’d enjoy traveling across the countryside in this fashion, by vehicle, I’m all for it now! Just gotta remember to keep Murphy on my good side, my guardian angel well taken care of, and my bat ears tuned up! LOL  

    Good times had by all! :)

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