Firstly let me explain to those of you who don't know, why we left earlier than originally planned (we were not supposed to be going until next Tuesday 27th). We planned our trip last weekend and made most of the final arrangements and suddenly realized that all we were waiting for was for Tuesday 27th to arrive, so it seemed logical to leave early, and be with Dick sooner. As you can imagine, he wholeheartedly agreed. Besides, Mary kept wanting to go shopping, and I knew if she did, we'd never fit it all in the car ;-) So she is now eagerly waiting to explore and shop in California instead. She is also addicted to Wal-Mart, and is getting slightly worried as we only saw 2 Wal-Mart trucks today!
Obviously we made it through the tornado watch last night- it barely rained even. However.... we left to bright sunshine and headed back on Interstate 40. It's funny because we have started to recognize some of the trucks and even cars who are doing a long trip. There seems to be very little tourist traffic at this time of year- every seems to be going somewhere fully loaded. Almost everyone is driving very calmly and courteously. It is only a two lane interstate in most areas, so you have to pass and then get back onto the inside lane. It is very easy driving- especially on cruise control- I just have to point the car in the right direction :-) It is pretty quiet really, so not stressful at all normally. Anyway, the winds were quite strong this morning and there seemed to be very dark clouds way ahead in the distance. We passed what claimed to be the largest cross in the western hemisphere just in the middle of nowhere with a tourist stop next to it.
Then we passed into Texas and the fun started! It was very barren and you could see for miles in all directions- just tumble weed blowing across our path in the strong wind. The dark clouds turned to some kind of rain, which turned into sleet or small hail- not tornado related, just cold weather related. The closer we got to Amarillo, the more sleety it became. Luckily the roads were fine- the wind was just blowing it everywhere. Visibility was also still fine- it was just noisy. So we decided to stop for breakfast at IHOP- the pancake house. We had totally forgotten that it was Saturday, and it was very busy. However, after a stomach warming hot breakfast, we set out into light snow!! Again, it was not settling, just blowing everywhere- Mary couldn't believe it, and swore she wouldn't tell anyone at home as she had told everyone she was coming out it here for the warm weather :-) Eventually we were clear and although it was still windy , the sun came back out. We'd been wondering why the other cars on the road looked so dirty until we stopped at a rest stop and realized how dirty ours had become. This particular rest stop in Texas will forever stay in my mind as the coldest and windy-est one ever. It was for some reason located right on top of a hill (the nearer to New Mexico you get, the more hilly it becomes). As you drove up, it warned of snakes! There was no chance they would be around as it was so cold. I could barely stand up but Pepper seemed to love it- she stood there with her nose in the air, sniffing all the new smells while I froze. Mary scooted to the loos and came back with tales of the signs over the doors which denoted that the bathrooms were also tornado shelters! The building was built into the hillside- it was very pretty, with the lone star in the architecture all around it, but boy was it cold. The landscape was still barren but becoming more like it is in Arizona, with small craters like mini Grand Canyons but nothing much else.
Time wise we were doing really well until the traffic came to a dead stop not long before the new Mexico state line. We had no idea what was going on, although we did see some real idiots very impatient of waiting who crossed the area on the side of the interstate to join the old route 66 which runs alongside it in some places. We kept thinking that someone would get stuck as it was a deep water run off area, or cause another accident. It seems the police were already diverting traffic behind us as there was a sudden increase in traffic on the side road. I asked the truck driver behind us what was going on and he said it was an accident in the construction area ahead. We never saw anything except a burnt upside down car several miles later, which may not have been the incident. We sat for about 45 minutes in total and then suddenly it all stated moving. So far, we haven't seen any other problems in 1500 miles. We have however seen a lot more construction happening on the interstate itself, which means it goes down to one lane which does slow you down. In this case, it didn't really matter as we had just gained another hour by crossing into Mountain time.
The terrain started to become very hilly, we drove up and down very long hills with not much else around, except slow trucks trying to get up the hills. We too kept a very steady pace and have done all the way. Petrol/gas prices have increased slightly from around $2.10 a gallon to $2.30 except over these hills (no idea what they are called) where it was $2.65 due to the inaccessibility of the area. Finally we began to go down hill again and could see miles ahead on the very straight interstate.
There is a basin just before Albuquerque which seems to be the bottom, but then suddenly you have to drive down a very steep long road which feels like you are driving down a mountain, zigzagging through steep cut away areas where you can there would be a danger of rock falls. I forgot to mention that there was still pockets of snow on the ground all the way from Amarillo- unfortunately it is still no warmer- the forecast is for 25 degrees Fahrenheit tonight.
Some of you have suggested other places we can stop- by the time we get to our evening destination, we are tired and just happy to get out of the car- Pepper especially, and I don't want to leave her in a strange room by herself, so we have not done much exploring. This isn't really a sightseeing tour, we'll do that another time hopefully. Right now we are focused on achieving our goal of 500 miles a day, and now we are already over half way :-)