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Wednesday, March 1, 2000

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Off to Kearney, Nebraska

I just could not sleep last night. It was a combination of excitement about traveling, being under pressure to get up early, not eating much supper and going to bed before my bedtime. I am such a creature of habit. It felt like I never fell asleep but there were some disconnects so I'm sure I got some sleep.

We got up at 3:00 AM and left Dad's house at 3:45. He can't drive in the dark so he couldn't come and pick me up. We zipped around Tucson and headed east on I-10 in a very dark night. Traffic was very light and it was great just driving along in the dark.

Dad talked about his father for a long time as I was driving along in the dark. He says he remembers 75 or 80 years ago better than he remembers five minutes ago. I never knew my paternal grandfather as he died in 1938. He had stomach cancer but Dad says it was caused by his alcoholism. He started drinking during the flu epidemic that swept the world during WWI. More people died of the flu than from the war which was quite costly in itself. One of the preventions people tried was alcohol and my grandfather just never stopped drinking.

We crossed into New Mexico still on I-10 and at Lordsburg NM Dad took over the driving. It's good to be on a road trip again. I always enjoy driving over the southwest plains with the mountains in the distance. I'm amazingly awake for not getting enough sleep, but I'm sure it will catch up with me in the afternoon.

US-70 joins us from the north and stays with us till Deming. Once again the railroad is following along with us. They all came through this route to California, from the army to the Butterfield stagecoaches, the Mormon Battalion and the railroad.

There's a haze in the distance like a layer of dust and a jet streak across the sky. Most of the traffic is semis and a Greyhound bus. Only serious travelers are out this far this early. Even the motorhomes aren't up even though it's still snowbird season.

We missed the Deming exit for the NM-26 so doubled back to US-180 on I-10 Bus and took it north a couple of miles where NM-26 went east. This is a well used shortcut from I-10 to I-25. It's just two lane but in good condition. I am always glad of a chance to get off the interstate.

We passed some stone chimneys sitting by themselves in the middle of nowhere, all that was left of a house. The electrical pylons march off in the distance with black cows grazing on the golden brown grass that coats the small, rolling hills. Not much else out here. We passed few farms.

We crossed the Rio Grande, passed through Hatch and got on I-25 heading north. Hatch is your basic little out in the middle of nowhere town. People ooh and aah over little towns but most of them are quite a bit alike. I think cities are much more diverse with distinct characters.

We go up I-25 through miles and miles of dry rolling hills. The Rio Grande runs beside the interstate providing irrigated fields. We always seem to go up and up. From Socorro to Bernardo US-60 joined us.

At Albuquerque we pass Historic Route 66 and I-40 then start climbing into juniper country and see mountains with snow on them. We pass Santa Fe, where US-84 and US-285 joined us, and are well into fir country. US-285 leaves after a few miles and US-84 at Romeroville, both heading south. It's nice to see so much green. The sky's been overcast most of the time so it feels colder just looking around.

Soon we were driving across a high plain covered with golden grass and a few cows. I love places like this. If the high plains just didn't have such lousy weather. US-64 joins us for a few miles to exit at Raton, where US-87 joins us as we enter Colorado and start down from the plain. There is snow on the hills around us now, tucked into a few hollows.

Colorado shows that we are on I-25, US-87 and US-85. US-85 technically starts at El Paso but isn't even marked on the map till we reach Colorado. US-180 joins us from Trinidad to Walsenburg. We wind down from Raton Pass which the Santa Fe trail also passed through. These are rather scruffy looking hills and a very windy road. At Trinidad we multiplex with US-160 to Walsenburg. To the east stretch the great plains while to the west are the foothills of the rockies.

We started to feel a vibration and as we were crawling through Colorado Springs it turned into a major wobble. I managed to get through three lanes of rush hour traffic and exit the interstate. The tread was peeling off one of the tires.

After waiting an hour and a half for AAA we found out that the spare was one of those tiny doughnuts that wouldn't get us to Longmont. My father had another tire that could be mounted on the rim but it turned out to be the wrong size.. We finally had to get towed to my brother's house in. It was nearly ten by then and we were so tired.

We were welcomed with pie and ice cream and had a good story to tell. It was great to see everyone.

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(c) Rachel Aschmann 2000.
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