Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Back home: reflections on a journey across the southwest USA


Well, we're home at last.  The past 24 hours have been spent on five or six loads of laundry;  unpacking and putting away luggage, clothes and what have you;  dealing with ten days' worth of mail;  persuading suspicious cats that no, just because we're picking up a suitcase doesn't mean we're leaving again - "Look, you can watch us put it on a shelf!";  and generally decompressing.  Well over 2,000 miles and almost 40 hours on the road catches up with an older back a lot faster than it did when I was younger . . .

Nevertheless, it was a good trip.  We met a new friend in meatspace, Larry Lambert, after having known him for years in the blogosphere, which made the trip worthwhile in itself.  He's quite the character, and we now understand why Old NFO told us we had to meet him.  The 20 Books to 50K Convention in Las Vegas was informative and interesting;  not fun so much as educational.  I concentrated on the business side of writing, and learned a lot about organizing my time, how to use some of the modern aids and tools for publishing that are out there, and how other successful author-publishers are making it work.  Over the next month or two I'm going to be reorganizing my work process and trying to formalize it, because without that sort of focus one is merely tinkering at it - and I need to do much better than tinker if I want to earn my daily bread at it.

Several things we saw impressed me.  The long, long railway trains we saw in Arizona and New Mexico were pretty amazing.  We're used to mile-long trains here in northern Texas, perhaps a bit longer, but out there two-mile-plus trains are not unusual:  containers, coal trucks, and mixed freight.  I tried to work out their length by using the odometer as we passed them, and allowing for differences in speed.  I think the longest we saw must have been two and a half miles long, all coal trucks, with multiple engines moving it along at about 40 mph.  I suppose, by the time they reach our little town, they've been broken down into shorter trains for ease of management on our more congested railway lines.

Miss D. and I commented to each other on the relative lack of hawks, eagles, buzzards, etc. along the highway in Arizona and New Mexico.  We were wondering whether that's because of the ongoing drought there, which may have killed off a lot of the small animals (mice, voles, raccoons, skunks, etc.) on which these raptors feed.  We've noticed a reduction in the number of such birds in our area as the drought bit harder this year.  It's the only reason we can think of to explain it, and it would tie in with the relatively few bodies of dead animals we saw along the side of the road there.  We're used to many more of them in our part of the world.  If anyone knows a better explanation, please tell us in Comments.

The colors of the landscape in northern New Mexico and Arizona are sometimes amazing, ranging from pink, through various shades of brown, to an almost bleached-white stone.  We understand now how the "painted desert" got its name.  We didn't have time to visit the petrified forest in Arizona, but we did make it to the meteor crater there, and were sobered at the thought of what that impact must have been like for whatever was living there at the time.  Sadly, I suspect we'll need a bigger one to clean up Washington DC . . .

We had relatively few close calls on the highway.  There were a couple of lane-changing issues with semi's, who don't seem willing to give way to anything smaller than themselves, and/or want to move into our lane whether we've made room for them or not;  but fortunately there were no unwanted contacts.  The scariest moment was encountering two steers/bulls near Claude, Texas, who escaped their enclosure and charged towards the highway, stopping with their front hooves on the shoulder.  I hit the anchors pretty hard (hard enough to make me want to check my brake shoes at the dealer this week, to see if I wore them down).  Fortunately everyone was able to avoid a nasty accident.  The semi a few vehicles behind us locked up his tires under braking, producing lots of white smoke and noise, so I suspect he'll have several flat spots on his tires that may need attention.  Heartfelt thanks to all of you who said a prayer for us for traveling safety.  We needed them!

We were both happy to get home at last.  We enjoy traveling together, but home is where the heart is - and our cats, too.  They greeted us with mingled joy and irritation, because it's our fault they were "abandoned".  Our neighbors across the street were also happy to see us, because we buy free-range eggs from them, and in our absence they hadn't managed to find other buyers for them:  so Monday afternoon I collected nine dozen eggs!  I'll have to do a big share-out among our friends over the next few days, otherwise Miss D. and I will be sprouting pin-feathers from all the egg dishes we'll be eating.




bravokilo said...


pjk said...

The wind farms kill lots of raptors - that may be why you saw so few of them.

Rob said...

It's always good to be home... I started driving a '59 VW bus way back when, it had a 36hp engine & that means not real fast. I quickly learned that if I gave up ANY speed on a hill I would never recover it. When I find myself behind a semi passing another on a hill I understand, if he slows down at all it's gone.
I shrug my shoulders, curse my luck and hope to do better on the timing on the next uphill part.
All those lessons came back when I started driving an RV...

That meteor crater was something else! Well worth the stop.
Welcome home...

Aesop said...

What pjk said about windfarms. They're raptor-bird slaughterhouses, something the Greenidiots seem to gloss over in the press releases.

Glad you're safe, home and dry.

David said...

Peter, that's my railroad running alongside Interstate 40. The BNSF. Formerly the Santa Fe. And the answer to all the big trucks clogging up the freeway. Just remove the government ownership subsidy from the highway transportation economics and watch long distance trucking wither.

Railways move each ton-mile using only 25 percent of the fuel required for trucks. So why are the Greens all in on an orderly discontinuation of long distance trucking? Because they don't want to join Jimmy Hoffa?

Feral Ferret said...

I see that the livestock around Claude hasn't changed much over the last 60+ years. I wish I had a buck for every time I've passed through Claude, TX. I grew up near Panhandle.

ThoreMo said...

Reading our host's comments has been interesting, as we drove some of those same roads on our first big vacation in years, about a month before his trip.

" I 40" is probably going to be a part of our household inside jokes for years to come.
It was raining when we hit Albuquerque and the West-bound downhill stretch into town involved a 40-minute sit while an accident was cleared. Once cleared, the floodgates were opened for all of that backed-up traffic and the jockeying for position got turned up to eleven. One particular semi driver with a uniquely painted rig was especially noteworthy for not only driving like a tool, but like he was acting as representative of the entire contents of a large rolling toolchest.

The SECOND 40-minute sit in the rain was on the section crossing the res, not far inside AZ. That one included seeing where one semi had gone offroad until mired, presumably to avoid ramming something, then seeing debris along the roadway for a surprisingly long distance before finding a semi on the left shoulder with a smashed left front end and another, just past it and off on the right side, upside down and wearing that same unique paint job that had made such an impression earlier. That was the moment I understood why he'd been in such a hurry; he was running late to arrive at the scene of his crash.

Congestion got appreciably better only about the time we passed Winslow, but we'd had enough of crowding and weren't taking chances, so got onto scenic secondary routes at Flagstaff. Got a little worrisome hitting sleet up high in a Natl. Forest, but it was pretty and almost no traffic after the first dozen or so miles.

On the way home, the weather was nice, but we were leaving from Phoenix and went the secondary roads route through the Tonto Basin and into Holbrook from the south. Nice museum in Holbrook and it was a necessity to stop in front of the Bevins House for pictures while there. Petrified Forest NP was great, but we messed up and had to enter, drive to the locations we wanted to see and retrace our footsteps back to the entrance for the best use of time/distance. Bad part of the park is that there isn't a really good way to see beds of the stuff without walking. The Mrs. was relying on her cane quite heavily before we got very far on the trail loop we'd decided we could handle and I was glad to have grabbed water before leaving the car.

David said...

'Why are the Greens NOT all in...'

Edit your comments, David, before you post!!!!!!