- Tuesday, April 20
- Made it to my hometown, Orange, TX. Spent a little time driving around looking at things like the house I grew up in. It’s different now. In fact, everything there is either alarmingly different or alarmingly the same. I wonder if any of the people I knew in school are still there, or again there. I am sure some of the parents are. I stayed in a motel in the strip of motels on the freeway access road, which is very much like what I’ve been doing all across the country, but somehow it was more dismal in Orange.
- Wednesday, April 21
- In the morning I spent some more time looking around Orange. Had a bad hamburger (pretty much just like I remembered it) at Cody’s Restaurant and then drove on to my brother’s house in Houston, TX. BBQ at Goode Company was good as always.
- Thursday, April 22 – Friday, April 23
- Drove on to my sister’s house in Carrollton, TX, and played with her for a day or so.
- Saturday, April 24 – Sunday, April 25
- Drove on to my sister’s house in Austin, TX, and played with her and my middle niece.
- Monday, April 26
- My plan was to drive up to the panhandle and join up with what’s left of Route 66 in Amarillo. By the time I got on the road and consulted the navigation system in the car, it was clear that I wouldn’t be able to make it that far in one day. A little dynamic replanning and I punched in Albuquerque, which would be about the right distance for a two-day drive. I was planning to pick a small town halfway in between, on the automatically selected “avoid highways” route, but the pickings were awfully slim. I ended up taking a slight detour to stay in the teeming metropolis of Lubbock, TX. Where there’s no high-speed internet in the hotels, but at least the cellular system supports 1xRTT data connections.
- Tuesday, April 27
- Drove on toward Albuquerque, NM. Thanks to some lightly traveled, very straight roads, I ended up getting close to Albuquerque earlier than I had expected. So, I took a turnoff marked for Manzano Mountains State Park, near Mountainair, NM. When I got there it appeared to be nothing but campsites, so I just drove around the loop road and returned the way I’d come. (I see now that there were hiking trails too, but I didn’t spot them or see any information posted at the park.) On the way back, I took another turnoff marked for the Quarai site of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. There were some very striking-looking old adobe-brick buildings. Unfortunately I arrived about four minutes before the site closed. The ranger let me go in, but obviously I only had time for a few snapshots. The ranger seemed delighted when I took a brochure and asked about coming back in the morning for a longer visit. I hope he wasn’t too disappointed when I didn’t show up. Then it was on into Albuquerque for the night.
- Wednesday, April 28
- I still wanted to do some hiking, so did some research in advance this time. Studying the brochure from Quarai, it appeared that there wasn’t very much more at the site than I’d already seen, albeit hurriedly. So instead of going back to Quarai, I decided to go a bit out of my way to the north and visit the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. It has similar ruins, but lots more of them, and extensive hiking trails too. The only problem was that to get to the park you have to drive on 16 miles of unpaved road. That’s if you swing around to the recommended north entrance; it’s 19 miles from the south, along a road that’s not guaranteed to be passable.I chose the recommended route, and the 16 miles of dirt road weren’t too bad. It was wide and well-graded, though not recently. It was marked for 35 mph, which was reasonable most of the way, even in the extremely low-clearance Z4.
With my usual late start and the long way around to the north entrance, I arrived at the park at about 3 pm. The trails (and the road out) close at sunset. I consulted with the ranger and picked one trail that would be hikable in the time available, and would provide good views of the ruins. And then I hiked it. Took lots of pictures. Ended up taking the maximum distance route, and seeing all the optional things along the way. The trail basically scrambles up from the valley to the top of the mesa, and then skirts around the cliff edge of the mesa. It was very, very windy on top of the mesa. The weather was like an illustration of the term scattered showers, with small dark clouds blowing by. I got spattered with some raindrops, but not enough to get wet.
I finished the hike before sunset, and decided (being pretty pooped from all the climbing and fighting the wind, with too much camera gear hanging awkwardly from my shoulders) to go ahead and drive out of the park. I didn’t really want to be driving on the dirt road in the dark. I asked the Z4′s navigation system to pick a route. It wanted to use the southern route, and it was going to be much shorter than going back to the northern entrance. The northern entrance would also have involved quite a bit of backtracking along the same highway, which is never as fun as exploring new ones. So, I went south on New Mexico 57. The sign said ROUGH ROAD May Be Impassable Travel at Your Own Risk but it didn’t look any worse than the north road. I went on, knowing that if it got too bad I could always turn back and use the north road. It never quite got too bad, but it was definitely slower and rougher. I saw one other vehicle on the road, a local in a pickup I think, which quickly outdistanced me. There was no cellular coverage at all, and out in Navajo lands the population was very sparse. But I got through with no real problem. I stopped at the other end to take a picture of the Z4 under the matching ROUGH ROAD sign, but by then it was too dark to really come out. Getting back onto a smoothly paved highway was an amazing difference, even though it was a small BIA back road. (It took me a while to figure out that BIA probably stands for Bureau of Indian Affairs in this context.) I drove on in the dark, trying fruitlessly to find a decent FM radio station among the three or four I could receive out there. As per the plan, I stopped for the night in Gallup, NM. Doesn’t that name just make you want to whistle the old Route 66 song?
- Thursday, April 29
- A little sore from all the climbing, I did little except drive. New Mexico and, especially, Arizona have marked the more active parts of historic Route�66, and I took a few detours onto the Main Streets of various towns to see the historic road sprawl, or what’s become of it. I didn’t see any of the high-profile landmarks, though.The weather got worse, and at one point it was in the 40′s and raining. At that exact point I came to the turnoff for Meteor Crater, AZ. I hadn’t been aware it was on my route, but I have always wanted to see it, so I turned off. Paid my $12, and went in to see the crater in the 40-degree, 40-mph windy, sleetish rain. Needless to say, I didn’t spend a lot of time gawking at the crater. It’s very big, but not as awe-inspiringly big as I had pictured it. Not like landscape; more like a monumental human-scale excavation. Remarkably compact and localized, too. There was a very nice visitor’s center with good informative exhibits and shops. That was my touristing for the day; I drove on, taking the Route�66 loop north of the Interstate, and got as far as Needles, CA. It was still early, but would have been too late for dinner by the time I reached another town had I continued, so I stopped there in Needles.
Logged on (1xRTT cellular) and found out that the AMSAT.ORG mail alias system I administer had screwed itself up. Spent a while unscrewing it.
- Friday, April 30
- Logged on again in the morning and found another, unrelated (AFAIK) problem had cropped up on the AMSAT system. Not much I could do about it, except send a message to the guy who’d have to fix it. Logged off and tried to forget about it, since I’d be very much offline as I crossed the desert.The desert crossing was uneventful. It wasn’t even hot, only 90° F at the warmest. Nor was it windy in Glamis, where blowing sand once sandblasted the windshield and paint of my RX-7. This route leads into the mountains to Julian, one of my most favorite roads anywhere (even after driving the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive on this trip). By late afternoon, I was home in San Diego. Had some work waiting to finish unscrewing the new problem at AMSAT, but was able to do by Saturday.
- Miles logged: 7373
- Temperature range: 28 to 90 F
- Elevation range: -160 to 7350 feet ASL
- Gasoline prices: $1.80 to $2.90 per gallon, name-brand Premium
- Gas mileage: 27
- Average speed: 41.5 mph
- Messages waiting on answering machine: 22 (memory full)
- Pounds of paper mail waiting: 18