Get off my lawn.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Just got back

...from driving my new (to me) car back from Albuqueruqe, New Mexico. It was kind of a grueling trip, but enjoyable at times.

The guy that sold me my car was a guy named Irving. He had a German wife with a filthy mouth and a good personality. She was making pumpkin pie mix when I showed up, and she asked me my name. I told her: "Kelly". She said, "Oh my god I was married to a man named 'Kelly'. I hate zat name. Ze man I vas married to vas a $*%($^. How do you spell your name?" I said "Different than most. The 'P' is silent." She was okay with that, and was pretty friendly from then on. She complimented me on my strong handshake, and called me a "nice young man." Irving and his wife live on the bank of the river that runs through Albuquerque. The view of the Sandia mountains is good. It looked like a nice town, but Irving told me they're being overrun by Mexican immigrants who have no idea what it's like to live in the New World: They throw trash everywhere, steal everything that's not nailed down, and cause all kinds of mischief. I left town.

New Mexico is a pretty scenic state, with mountains, dormant volcanoes, trains, and red dirt. There are also a lot of strange piles of dirt sticking up out of the ground, probably because of some kind of geological goings-on underground. The highways are smooth, straight, and not heavily patrolled. So, I was able to make pretty good time. I crossed NM in about 2.5 hours.

Being a traveler in a hurry, I was interested in how fast I could get away with driving. In Texas, the answer is "not nearly fast enough". The speed limit drops to 65 at night. I initially thought this was was an unnecessary restriction, but then I noticed the occasional sprays of animal meat on the pavement, and keeping a slower pace seemed like a prudent idea. I had a close call there: Sometime after I had passed the point where I should be sleeping and not driving, I was passed by an SUV with California plates going about 85. I slipped in behind him, reasoning that if a deer jumped in the way, the SUV would mow it down for me, and if a cop jumped in the way, he would mow the SUV down instead of me. Mr. SUV got pulled over within 5 minutes, and I had to slow down and wait for more "bait". At one point, I crept up to 68 mph, and a cop flashed his spotlight at me from across the median. "Yes, I see you over there exceeding the limit by 3 mph", he seemed to be saying. I was glad to be out of there.

As soon as I crossed the TX/OK border, traffic sped up, and the gravel road turned back into a highway again. The incessant bumping stopped, and things went smoother in general. I was ready to catch some Z's, so I stopped in Sayre at the "AmericInn". It was a nice place, and a guy in front of me was trying to get a room and pay in cash. The lady behind the counter was completely flummoxed by the cash register. She kept poking at it, jumping slightly, and saying "oh". Over. And over. She did that for 10 minutes.

I was dog-tired at that point, and not up to standing there waiting on this lady. So, I did the natural thing and jumped in the car and took off. I drove another 30 miles before stopping at... Elk... something (City? Point?) I got a room, and fell asleep watching a movie where everyone spoke French.

Next morning, I discovered that there is not a good cup of coffee to be had in Elk... something, and that they've somehow managed to make shrink-wrapped Hostess donuts taste like they've been soaked in paint thinner. I took off. I saw a group of giant wind turbines from the highway, and stopped to take some pics of them. They were so big that when I first saw them, I thought they were 1/4 mile or so away and marvelled at how I was able to see them from 1/4 mile away. I ended up driving about 4 more miles before I got to the exit where I could get near them. Pictures don't do them justice. They are huge. Think of that scene in LOTR when they ride past the Argonath in their boats: That's kind of what driving past these turbines is like (except for the fact that the turbines have spinning blades, I'm not being chased by Orcs, I was in a car, not a boat, and I had no hobbits with me). In the picture below, my car is parked about 400ft. from the base of the tower. Here's a sense of scale: I've seen the blades for these things being hauled by semis on the highway. They're over 90 ft. long! The hubs on the fans are hauled by themselves on a lo-boy trailer, 1 per truck. The word, again, is "huge". The fans spin at about 14-15 rpm. The little box on top of the turbine is big enough for 3 families to camp comfortably in. The sound they make is a little like a big electric motor. Apparently the generators inside are geared way up. They generate 4 megawatts apiece, which sounds like more than enough for me. I want one.

Finally, I made it to MO. I stopped for gas in Joplin, and hit the highway again. I saw a sign: "Kansas City, 158 miles." I followed the signs pointing to 17 North, but by this time I was seriously glazed over (saying that my mind had turned to mush would be an insult to mush of all kinds). There's apparently some place where you have to actually turn onto 71 North. I didn't, and in the next 60 miles, I kind of wondered why I wasn't seeing any more signs mentioning Kansas City. I didn't give it much thought, because I was more interested in why the signs kept indicating that Springfield, MO was getting closer. The average ball of mush would have doubled back in an effort to find the right road, but not me. Oh, no. I ended up at a McDonald's in Springfield, talking to a smirking guy in a pickup. "Yeaap. Ya went about 60 miles outta yer way." Great. I headed north on 13, kicking myself in various places, until I got to Osceola. Cheese sticks, a can of coke, and pepperoni sticks (the best food I'd had since Friday morning) put me in a better mood. I cut across to 71 on C highway through Appleton City, which is a nice road to drive on. I realize that it's just driving, but driving on a scenic road is still pretty fun.

Anyway, the car didn't give me any problems on the longest trip I'll probably ever take it on, it looks okay, and it runs pretty well. Alissia said it looked like a "chick car" today though. Huh? She says it's the wheels. I think I'll put some other wheels on this car, and at least try to make it look like something a guy would drive. It's bad enough that I like a car that's the envy of teenage boys.


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