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Construction, Complications and Chaos in Kingman....

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Tucumcari is a quaint little town located on Route 66 almost on the Texas/New Mexico border.  We left Tucumcari around 9:00a.m. headed for Kingman, Arizona – this would be the longest part of our trip, driving just over 650 miles in one day.   It’s not that I have some twisted love of driving extreme distances on desolate roads – but after Tucumcari, there just aren’t a lot of towns, well, at least towns with signs of civilization. 

I wonder what, if anything, I will have to write about at the end of each day.  I mean, it’s just three people in a car driving across country – what could possible happen?  Well, don’t you worry, today provided many things for me to write about – here we go!

Our first stop was a gas station – we roamed Tucumcari hoping to find one with a car wash, no such luck.  So the three day layer of dust on the van would have to remain.   I decided that all that dust was well earned, seeing how we had been collecting it since Alabama.  So, on the road once again – we decided to drive as far as Albuquerque and would stop there for lunch.  As we drove along I-40 through New Mexico we were once again forced to drive in just one lane.  I may have forgotten to mention that the entire mid-west is going through some major highway renovations.   Every state we have driven through is engaged in road construction along I-40 and its really beginning to irritate me.  The memo I sent to the various Transportation Departments in Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico obviously were not taken seriously.  All I asked was that all construction along I-40 cease during the last three weeks in July.  You would think I was asking for the moon!

Okay, so we are driving with just one lane at a very impressive 45 m.p.h.  I won’t say what my usual speed is on this trip, but it’s a far cry from 45 m.p.h.  I turn to the radio for comfort – country music stations are easy to come by out in the Wild West.  I put the radio on scan….nothing.  I try again…..static.  I feel what must be the beginnings of a panic attack but remain composed and calm.  I tune the dial manually, certain that the scan button must not be functioning properly.  I find a radio station and life as I know it can continue….it sounds like a commercial so I just wait for George Strait or Kenny Chesney to come on at any minute.  A man with a very monotone and soothing, almost scary soothing, voice comes on and welcomes me to his station.  Not your typical country music DJ, but beggars can’t be choosers.  Then, he begins to read what sounds like POETRY!!!  Are you serious?!?  Who listens to poetry on the radio?  Since staying awake is crucial to driving I can’t believe this is legal!  Still driving with just one lane open and no hopes of music I decide it would be a good time to grab another cup of coffee.  Oh, but wait, the view from where I’m sitting looks like a scene from “Dances with Wolves”…..I was waiting for Kevin Costner to ride by on his horse…”Good Morning “mam, have you seen a herd of buffalo run through here?”  For the next few miles I imagined various movie scenes from modern westerns… Tombstone, Wyatt Earp, etc.  Picturing Kurt Russell, Dennis Quaid, Sam Elliot, among, others, did help the next few miles go by quicker and before we knew it, we were on two lanes again.

I was able to find an AM country music station so things were looking up.  Joey was doing great and Gia continued her self-appointed role as travel advisor, also offering optimistic pieces of advice when she would sense that my stress level was nearing its limit.   At some point during our travels through New Mexico, the scenery changed from wide open spaces to beautiful rock formations, like the Grand Canyon’s second cousin, twice removed.  They were just beautiful….I could write about them for a paragraph or so, but you really have to see them in person.

Albuquerque was our next stop – we were starving and desperate for signs of life.  Albuquerque took care of that.  We exited the interstate and drove a little further than I wanted to look for a restaurant, but I have a pretty good sense of direction so I wasn’t worried.  After lunch we were unable to turn onto the road that we had come in on….because of ROAD CONSTRUCTION, so I turned onto an adjacent street and that was a very big mistake.  For 30 minutes we drove looking for some sign that would lead us to I-40.  When I noticed that we were driving East, I panicked.  There would be no going in reverse on this trip!  I turned down another street, than another and before long we were officially lost.  I found I-25 and jumped on that, but sensing that going south wasn’t going to get us to Arizona, I quickly made an exit.  I asked for directions and once again, we were back on I-40 with Flagstaff, Arizona as our next stop.

This leg of the trip was not fun – but I knew it wouldn’t be.  Joey is very sensitive to elevation changes, fortunately, living in Alabama, that isn’t a problem.  However as we crossed into Arizona I knew at some point seizures could be a problem for my little guy, I just didn’t know when.  As I write this, I can’t remember what town we were in when we began to notice that Joey wasn’t “himself” anymore, but it was much sooner than I thought it would be.  We pulled over and Gia and I gave Joey medications that would hopefully keep the seizures at a minimum and maybe even make Joey very sleepy.  We continued on and had to stop the can yet again.  Joey was having seizures at an elevation of about 6000 feet.  More Phenobarbital was given….this time on an Indian Reservation!  I didn’t even pay attention to the exit we took, but all the employees that ran the little store that we were parked next to must have been extras on the “Dances with Wolves” movie set.  They weren’t the friendliest of people so we did what we had to do and continued to head west.

With so much going on, I neglected to pay attention to the gas gauge – that pretty yellow light that I saw must have been on for quite some time, as the van was running of fumes at this point.  Once again, we made another stop – and had to pay $2.99 a gallon for gas!  Just yesterday I paid $2.18 a gallon in Oklahoma City – why the big difference?!?  For some reason, this was the first time in the trip that I wondered “what have I gotten myself into”?  I knew we still had 300 miles to go before we reached Kingman, Arizona, there was a storm coming, Joey wasn’t doing well and because of all our stops, I would be driving at night.  I think a few tears were shed as I pumped the over-priced fuel into the car, but I shook it off, bought a coke and we once again, headed west.

All the medications we gave Joey were taking effect – he didn’t sleep, but he was very, very, happy.  For about ten miles Joey was in awe of his toes, and then his fingers.  Honestly, he could be in awe of his nose hairs, as long as there were not any seizures.  The drive to Flagstaff was absolutely beautiful – had it not been for the high elevation, I would have loved to stay there for the night.  Instead, we quickly went through a drive through and felt encouraged that Kingman, Arizona would be our next and last stop of the day.

The skies turned a dark blue once again and then the rain started – not quite as intense as the previous storms we had gone through, but it was night time now – and I really don’t like to drive at night.  I was sharing the road with about half a dozen 18-wheelers, so that combined with the rain and darkness made me a little nervous. 

The kids and I finally made it to Kingman and quickly located our hotel – a very nice Holiday Inn Express.  I had called earlier in the day when I knew we would be a late check-in and a very nice lady told us not to worry.  Not sure what happened to the “very nice lady” we spoke to on the phone.  Apparently, her evil twin was now manning the desk and for the rest of this story, she will be called Hortense the Hotel Henchwoman (HHH).

I approach the desk and HHH asks for my name.  She confirms our reservation but tells me that my room is not ready.  Not what I wanted to hear – so I ask, Why?    HHH cannot come up with an acceptable answer – actually, she doesn’t even try.  She says it will be ready in 30 minutes.  Now, it’s after 8:00 p.m. – check in time is 3:00 p.m.  I inform her of this and HHH just stares at me.  I stare back – a battle of the wills I will always win – I guess that memo was lost also.  HHH calls the maid and I’m told again that the room will be ready in 30 minutes.  I ask her to please stop repeating what she has already told me.  I then go on to tell her that I need to make formula for my son and that I need a microwave.  HHH informs me of the lovely microwave and refrigerator that is in my room……I interrupt her and ask her if this is the same room that WON’T BE READY FOR 30 MINUTES.  I don’t typically discuss Joey’s illness with complete strangers, and especially idiots, but I feel that to get a microwave now, I’m going to have to give HHH some details.  I explain in very basic terms, JoJo’s illness, I tell her about his seizures today and how a drop is his blood sugar will trigger more seizures.  I might as well have been speaking Arabic – HHH had zero emotion/empathy and again, told me that a microwave would be available in my room.  At this point Gia had taken Joey away from the front desk.  Gia, from past experience, knew I was about to give HHH “what for” and that it wasn’t going to be pretty.  I had a small audience at this point and explained to HHH that somewhere in this Hotel was a microwave that I could use right now.  I asked her about the one in the breakfast room – her reply, we’ve already closed that room for the day.  I inquired as to if the door was on some sort of time lock and if only the Pentagon has access to the code that could lock and unlock the door.   HHH was not at all amused and I was far from being done.  I went on to explain that if my son had just one seizure while we waited for our room that supposedly held the only available microwave in the greater Kingman area, that I would make sure the founder and everyone else involved with Holiday Inn would know about it – and that she would never forget the day that she met the Mama from Alabama who had been in a car for three days and just needed a damn microwave to boil some water to make formula for her son who cannot swallow and is therefore fed through a tube.  HHH was speechless and she said that there was a microwave we could use….oh, and she mentioned that our room would be ready in 20 minutes.

Folks, it’s not over yet.  Once in our room I calmed down and made my way to the hotels laundry facilities to do our laundry.  The washer and dryers were coin operated so I joyfully skipped to the front desk to have another chat with HHH.   I asked her if I could have change for a dollar – and before I could finish my request she said “no”.  I explained that all I had were “ones” and I just needed quarters for the laundry room.  She informed me that the laundry room would be closing (apparently, the Pentagon has jurisdiction over that as well).  I told her the laundry room would NOT be closing until I had done my laundry.   She went on to say that she was out of quarters.  I find that hard to believe, but fine, HHH is out of quarters and I need quarters, what to do?!    For lack of a better term, I became the Holiday Inn Express Greeter for about 15 minutes tonight – as guest arrived I welcomed them and asked them if they had any quarters.  Occasionally I would turn my glance towards HHH and smile – I’m pretty sure I saw the veins on her forehead bulging.  One elderly man who was returning from dinner thought it was terrible that the hotel would not provide change for its guests, or at the very least, a machine that could make change.  He gave me a few quarters and within ten minutes, I had enough change to do laundry all night long!  I returned to the room feeling vindicated and there was a bounce in my step as I made my way to the laundry room.  For some reason, doing that particular load of laundry was almost fun!

Next, the kids and I will drive to Morgan Hill, California – we will be staying with our cousin, Terri, and her family and on Saturday there will be a family reunion.  Sunday we will leave for Napa Valley where we will stay until we begin our road trip back to Alabama.  So, until next time…..

If you ever plan to motor west,
travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.

Lots of photos tonight, I promise. “


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California Dreamin' 2009

Alabama To California, United States