I’m alive on the road.

I’m back y’all. Sorry I’m so shitty about writing to you. I’m going to try to change that but an ADHD tiger has a hard time modifying that which is inherent to her genes.

This past school year was tough, mostly because I didn’t give a fuck. I realized the root cause a little too late, but I vow to change that. I loved the kids dearly, don’t get me wrong. They are the only reason I was searching for what was wrong. I’ll get it right next year. But I digress. Let’s talk about my lover. Let’s talk about The Road.

R had wanted to go to Los Angeles for awhile and I figured while she was still with me and a willing and available road trip partner that I would indulge her. LA isn’t off the beaten path, but I don’t shy away from cities in my travels. I’d been there before but I figured a few days wouldn’t kill me.

At first I thought let’s just fly. This was right after we had come off of an exhausting three week RV trip from Georgia to the Grand Canyon and back. I watched airfares. They crept up and up. I confess to being spoiled by first class and seriously didn’t want to be stuck in a three-person coach row for four hours. Eventually, the only choice was to drive. This took the trip from being a week of exploring all of Southern California to an out and back with only major SoCal highlights. Because we weren’t towing the travel trailer (I sold it just before we set out on the trip) we could log many more miles per day, and once I found that my summer MFA residency began in mid-June those miles became a necessity.

We decided to spring for some special destination hotels. The first was The Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico (where I am writing this…more on this gem later) and the other was The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California. An Airbnb in the Hollywood Hills would be more than sufficient. I went ahead and procured a few other hotels in some cities and the rest I would leave to chance.

My best friend, Cathy, was talking about how this mercury retrograde was really fucking with her. I said it hadn’t been too bad for me. This was a few days ago. She said, “If you had to write a paper right now could you?” and I responded that I had been as my critical thesis class was in full force. As always, I spoke too soon.

Indian Food at the closed truck stop in the middle of nowhere, Texas Panhandle.

Everything was fine on day one. A beautiful morning for driving. Little traffic. Smooth sailing all the way to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Found a cheap hotel room that had free breakfast. So far the biggest issue was that the air conditioner didn’t seem to cool as much as it could have. I called my mom and told her that we were in for the night.

A couple of hours later, my dad called and told me that they had to call an ambulance for my mom. She had come in and said she was having trouble breathing. I had joked with her before we left that I didn’t want any medical issues while I was gone. This had been when I dropped her back at her house only days earlier when she had had an allergic reaction to something. They gave her an EpiPen and kept her overnight. When I was finally able to get a hold of her this time around she said she was doing better, but she felt two stings and welts came up and suddenly she couldn’t breath. After some back and forth she decided the culprit was an ant. I went to bed and told her she could message me anytime. I plugged in my phone and went to sleep.

My sleep was fitful. I kept waking up every few hours. The last time I woke up the sun was clearly up and I thought huh, what time is it? But I couldn’t tell you because my phone had decided to become an absolute brick. No response. Frantic, because I was on a timeline to get to Tucumcari, I grabbed R’s phone. 8am. Not bad on a normal day but 30 minutes after my planned wake up. As we tried to get our stuff together and get ready for the day, I kept trying to wake up my phone. I hate that it is such a lifeline but it has a great camera and my road music. I finally had to give up.

We went downstairs to breakfast. It was a pitiful affair made worse by the man proudly wearing a T***P 2020 shirt. Even the coffee pissed me off. We left.

After a few miles of driving (and having gotten a LARGE shitty truck stop coffee), I came back to myself, remembering that there is always a fix. I had R look up TMobile stores in Oklahoma City and we arrived just before it opened. I remembered that I am blessed to have income and credit cards and the gentleman got me into a $200 smartphone that would get me what I needed for the trip and be a backup when I got home. I would have to deal with replacing my good phone when we got back. I still had no music because Spotify wouldn’t recognize my Facebook login until I got backup codes. I pouted but at least I had maps and texting.

Big Texan, Amarillo

The wind was ferocious all day, whipping my car this way and that. As we crossed into the Texas Panhandle the sky turned hazy and all around us the horizon was blurred. Dust. Dustbowl dust. We made it into Amarillo for an early dinner at The Big Texan Steakhouse. I ordered a ribeye. A young man around R’s age began taking the 72 oz steak challenge. When we emerged back into the sunlight, the dust was still there, the wind was still there.

It took another long ass drive to get to New Mexico, but there it was. One of my favorite states at my favorite time of day. The panhandle flat plains had given way to mesaland and scrubfields. Thirty-some miles in, we reached the cut off to Tucumcari on old route 66.

The sun was getting lower and the neon lights of the vintage motels and motor courts were beckoning. We crawled through, observing the mix of lovingly restored artifacts and desolate ruins. Soon we saw the Blue Swallow.

Tucumcari, NM

The proprietor greeted us outside and led us to the registration desk where we signed in on a paper card and he handed us an actual key. He personally escorted us to the room and showed us where to park. He gave us tidbits of information about the place and told us there would be coffee in the office at 6:30am. He lives behind the office so if we need anything, just bang loudly on his door. Amazing.

R an I instantly set about taking dusk photos of the neon time machine that was this motor court. We walked down the street (Route 66!) to photograph some of the other beauties as well. One less restored offering announced that Clint Eastwood had stayed there in ’66. Across the street from our place were two cannabis dispensaries. And we had 100% refrigerated air.

Night fell and I came outside to the vintage metal garden chairs in front of our room. And that is where I am now, under a jet black sky. It has cooled to 81 degrees, which in this dry air is extremely tolerable. The breeze is blowing and I am surrounded by the glow of neon. New Mexico always enchants me and I’m sorry that I’m not spending more time here. We will be hitting the very southern bit as we visit Carlsbad Caverns again, but that is all.

But tonight is perfect. I have tonight.

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