Road Trip

When the idea was first pitched to me, it sounded horrible.

It would be a four-day trip: three days on the road, and one day to relax and play. It was simply this; drive a Cadillac Escalade, towing a 15-foot furniture trailer, from the Fort up to Aspen, Colorado. Spend a day goofing off in Aspen while hired movers loaded said trailer. Drive the rig back to Texas over the next two days, with an overnight stop to visit our Amarillo daughter and son-in-law. Other than the driving, which we would do in shifts, it wasn’t a labor-intensive job.

For our troubles, we would spend two nights in a luxury condo, and have all of our travel and meal expenses covered. And we would be paid rather handsomely.

But it was going to be a grind. And Colorado in late March? Still too much chance for snow. I hate snow.

However, I didn’t want Mark making the trip alone. That’s a lot of driving, even for a long-haul trucker. Which he is not. I’d never driven anything with a trailer attached, but Mark felt sure I could handle it. The forecast for our target weekend looked good – no snow to deal with coming or going.

Finally, he tossed out the perfect lure. “Just think, babe, endless hours in the car listening to your music. You know I won’t care what we listen to.” That’s true. His hearing is so bad that he can only distinguish what comes from the speakers as “loud” and “louder”.

Suddenly the idea of a long weekend, with two days away from my soul-killing job, some crisp mountain air, a fast visit with my daughter, and uninterrupted music, had tremendous appeal. I was in!

And so began the longest damn day of my life, at 4:30 AM (pre-buttcrack of dawn for me) on a Friday. Luckily, I didn’t know it then. Some things are better determined in hindsight.

We had targeted a 6:00 AM departure, but we’d left a few things undone the night before (like packing!) and it just took longer to get going than expected. And there was the whole issue with the stereo…

The Caddy, as nice as it was, had no auxiliary port to accommodate my electronic music collection. We spent about 15 minutes looking for one, but no dice. This revelation meant 16 hours on the road with no music. I felt unhinged. But what are you gonna do? Too late to back out. I had an idea, which gave me a tiny inkling of hope.

I made a last dash back into the house to retrieve my car keys and a grocery bag, gathered up a stack of CDs littering the floorboard of my car, and bagged them up. The Caddy DID have a CD player. Things were bleak, but all was not lost.

We finally hit the road, almost an hour behind schedule. The sun was coming up, it was a stunning spring morning, and I had Sonic Highways playing. I sent my IT department (Celeste) a text explaining my music dilemma, and she told me I could stop at any Best Buy and find a Bluetooth FM transmitter, which would solve my problem, and provided directions to the Best Buy in Amarillo. All I had to do was shuffle CDs for the next six hours until we could make the purchase.

An hour into the trip, we had to stop to fill up, because, well, an Escalade! They’re not particularly fuel-efficient. Attach a few thousand pounds of trailer, and suddenly you’re driving the QEII. This was to be the first stop of many. Fine by me. My pre-trip jitters had made for a fitful night’s sleep, and I needed more coffee. And a bathroom.

Speaking of bathrooms. If you’re planning a road trip, be prepared to find restrooms that run the gamut between four-star cleanliness and “hmmm, maybe I really don’t have to go that bad.” From Fort Worth to Aspen and back, I saw the whole array. The nicest was at the CEFCO station in Vernon, Texas, and the worst was in Trinidad, Colorado, at a combination Wendy’s/Shell station. At least I think that’s what it was. It was dirty and nasty and I’ve tried to block it out of my mind.

But I couldn’t forget the family of religious fundamentalists I encountered there, (I’m not judging, just basing this on the long hair and the plain cotton dresses) who appeared both wary and disapproving of my terrifying, heathen body art! I could feel the stares from all of them, including a boy who was eight or nine if he was a day. There’s a nine-year old boy in the ladies room, but I’M the problem?? Jeez…

Driving with the trailer was really not an issue. I got the hang of it quickly. You have to allow more maneuvering room, just to make sure you don’t take out any gas pumps, pedestrians, or other cars, but that really only applies in parking lots. On the road, the only dicey part is dealing with wind gusts. Wind will play havoc with a trailer. I had to learn to hold tight and maintain control at the first sign of trailer sway. Steady as she goes.

We hit Amarillo around lunchtime, and stopped for gas and Subway sandwiches. My insistence that we also stop for the FM transmitter didn’t make my driving partner happy. But I reminded him that he had promised me music, and music I would have, even if it cost us an extra 20 minutes. He caved. I knew he would. Twenty minutes is a small price to pay when the alternative is spending 10 more hours in a car with a cranky woman.

Back on the road, we began to relax and enjoy the trip. It took us nine hours to get out of Texas. NINE HOURS! I really need to consider moving to a smaller state. But we were rewarded with a robin’s egg blue New Mexico sky. Traffic was light, the scenery was lovely, and the music was fine. We were in and out of the Land of Enchantment and across the Colorado state line in what seemed like no time at all.

Three more hours and we made it to Denver. More gasoline, more coffee, more snacks. We agreed not to stop for dinner. It was nearly nine, the sun was down, and we were still three hours from our destination. And even though we gained an hour when we crossed into New Mexico, our bodies told us it was bedtime in Texas.

As we drove west out of Denver, I looked back and admired the city lights. Denver sits in a bowl at the base of the Rockies, and makes for a pretty picture at night. It was a blanket of black velvet, littered with a million flecks of gold. Beautiful.

Then things got kinda hairy.

To be continued…

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