Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Our trip across the USA Day 4

Yayyyyy!!! We are in California! Admittedly, only just inside, in a place call Needles- the first town across the state line on I40. We are still a long way south of where we will end up -about 450 miles north of here, but it feels good to be here, and in the same time zone as Dick. He has had a very bureaucratic weekend in terms of the new apartment, so he'll be glad to see us too. We've now done 2050 miles, and I can truthfully say that its been fun and not hard at all- the first day was definitely the hardest, but largely because of the early start after a very late night and the stress and sadness of leaving the house. It was also the longest day in terms of distance. However, today was almost 550 miles too, and didn't feel anywhere near as long. Maybe we are just getting used to it!

We left Albuquerque early this morning- we haven't really caught up with all the changes in time zones and so we are still tired early and awake early. As I said before, the car is filthy, and so I pulled into a petrol station to clean all the windows (I am being a good girl and checking the car over as much as I can every day before I leave). Trouble was, it was 24 degrees F and although there was no frost on the car because it it dry there, as soon as the water provided in the petrol station (obviously not screen wash) was brushed onto the windows, it froze on the car! Luckily the scraper side of the brush got the ice off.. Albuquerque has the prettiest bridges we have seen- all decorated in a south western style- certainly makes the roads more interesting.

The roads were still quiet, mainly just trucks up bright and early, so again the driving was easy. The speed limit has been 75 mph for the most part and down to 65 whilst near towns. I've kept at a max of 80 mph as the car is fully loaded and it seems to be comfortable at that speed. You get to see a long way ahead almost all of the time so its easy to anticipate what is coming up. The trucks stay at a constant 65-70 mph and the cars at a similar speed to me- it's rare to see anyone blasting down the outside lane. Everyone seems to be doing long distances and just staying at constant speeds. Therefore we have also seen hardly any police- maybe one or two and they were sitting near towns in the center meridian watching the traffic.
There have also been weigh stations for the trucks all along the route, but most of them seem to be closed, although we did see one truck that missed an open one and we wondered what will happen to him.

Today the views started off pretty flat and moonscape like- very calming but not very exciting. You may wonder how we keep ourselves entertained. I had loaded my Ipod up with some books, however with the windows kept cracked open at the back to keep Pepper cool, it gets a bit noisy in the car if the winds are strong, and with the wide open landscapes, the winds have been strong more often than not. Therefore we tune into local radio stations, and you can imagine that the large majority of them are country and western, but they are very easy listening. When there are no stations (which isn't very often thank goodness), we amuse ourselves by trying to remember all the songs related to the place names on our trip. There is normally other things to see- today there were many roadside signs advertising upcoming attractions- largely at the numerous Indian reservations in new Mexico. Many of them are very funny, so we chuckle our way down the road, for example how about 50% off meteorites? Every chief has his own store which is always better than the previous one. I wish I could remember more of the ones we have laughed at..

Soon the landscape became amazing as we saw the beginnings of Red Rock Canyon- spectacular red colors depending how the sun hit it. Mary could not put her camera down, especially when the Santa Fe railway line rolled into view with what seemed like a constant stream of trains traveling along it. Most had at least three engines, and pulled 100-150 carriages- yes that was not a mistype, Mary has tried to count them several times and has lost count after 100. They look very majestic chugging along in the foreground with the red in the background. Today it was combined with a smattering of snow too- very picturesque- and cold! We were at an elevation of about 5000 feet for most of the day, so it didn't really warm up much, and we saw snow on the ground until leaving Arizona and dropping elevation much later in the day. I kept thinking we were going down, but it never seemed to happen and it became the joke of the day every time we climbed yet another hill to only go back down it again.

This morning we stopped at Gallup in New Mexico, at a famous restaurant called Earl's on the old route 66- the people there were fascinating and the food was great. A real mix of American Indians- Navajo in particular, and Mexicans, as well as American and every mix in between. I've also never eaten chips and salsa for breakfast before!

A little later we crossed into Arizona- our 9th state so far! and decided to take the side trip into the Petrified Forest National Park- a combination of Death Valley and the Grand Canyon rolled into one- with the petrified wood too. We found out Petrified wood is as a result of a mix of silt, mud and volcanic ash burying the logs- they are beautiful- different colored crystals depending on the minerals found nearby. We really enjoyed our detour, and if you ever get this way, its worth the side trip.

Back on the road, we 'awed and aahed' at the beautiful colors in the landscape of Arizona and reminisced about our separate trips to the Grand Canyon which we passed by but did not revisit.

Finally we did start to go down, and saw our first sign for Los Angeles- 497 miles away, a number which dropped to 200 by the time we crossed into California. We both cheered loudly as we crossed. Soon after you cross the state line, they stop every vehicle and ask you where you've come from and whether you are carrying any fruit or veg or plants. They were surprised at our reply of Georgia,' -the guard sang 'Georgia on my mind' whilst surreptitiously scanning the car, but it was also obvious we didn't have anything on the forbidden list as Dick had pre-warned us.

For those of you concerned about Pepper, she has really got into the swing of things, and is less concerned about the strange routine. Tonight she not only wandered out the room and explored the very quiet car park, but also ate a full bowl of food- the first time she has done that in a couple of weeks. Dick thinks it is because we are more relaxed too, knowing we are almost there and she feels that too. I can't wait to see the two of them reunited- I think it will do her good to see a familiar face.

Tomorrow we plan to head north and off I40 towards Pasa Robles, so we can finish our trip on state route 101 and not the interstate. We'll head to Dick's corporate apartment and meet him there when he gets in. I'm not sure I'll get to write again straightaway or not but I'll try to keep you posted about our first few days settling in.

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