It’s been eighteen days since I left California! One thing I’ve learned about road-tripping across the US on a budget is that the constant moving on, moving on, moving on doesn’t give you much time to breath. By the time you reach your destination, plot your next move, and update your Instagram, all you really want to do is sleep. This is especially true traveling eastwards. The next stop may only be “X” hours as the crow flies, but you have to remember to add an hour for every time zone. The good news is:

  • You have extra time to revise anything that you’re still posting in Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)
  • You actually wake up early enough to listen to Classical KUSC’s Morning Show
  • You aren’t sunburned/tan on one side of your body because the sun is traveling over your car lengthwise (not crosswise), and
  • The sun is setting behind you instead of in your eyes

Only one of those points will still be applicable on my “westward ho,” but I will be accumulating a tidy sum of spare hours.

Here’s what I’ve been up to so far:

Wednesday, October 21

After postponing Sunday’s departure till Monday Tuesday Wednesday, I finally hit the road for Coachella (the city, not the music festival) in the late afternoon. After checking into my Airbnb, I book it to Joshua Tree (the national park, not the city) to see the Orionid meteor shower.

One thing they don’t tell you about Joshua Tree is how easy it is to get there. From the I-10 East, you just take the exit and make a left. From there, it took me a minute to realize that the little road I was traveling down was the “highway” through the park. To be honest, I can’t help feeling that any significant stretch of land near the same vicinity would do just as well for a park. But I love taking my time on Cottonwood Springs/Pinto Bean Road and seeing absolutely nothing in my rearview.

If you get there after the visitor centers close, don’t worry. The signs say “prepare to pay” (?), but no one will inhibit you, unless they catch you sleeping in your car or camping/hiking without a permit.

I make a pitstop at the Cottonwood Visitor Center and decide that now is a good time to set up the handsfree device I finally bought for my iPhone. The “super sticky” suction cup is a consummate failure on my windshield, but it’s been working really well on my dash.

I don’t have time to make it all the way to Skull Rock, but I pull off on the side of the road and do some stargazing on my backseat. I also do some soul-searching about my trajectory in life and nearly fall asleep.

On my way back to Judiann’s, a semi repeatedly tries to pass me in the slow lane and a sports car flashes its lights at me three times before passive-aggressively zooming around me and sending me more than one kind of signal with its blinker. The next day, I learn that:

  • Drivers in southeastern California and Arizona are rudely aggressive, and
  • The left lane on a two-lane highway is typically reserved for passing slower moving vehicles (though I don’t remember seeing any signs for this until I reached Arizona)

Thursday, October 22-Friday, October 23

Driving through Arizona and New Mexico is fairly uneventful, as deserts often are, since I have no particular interest in seeing either state (no offense, guys). My family owned property outside the “happening” town of Snowflake, so I’m kind of Arizona’d out. As for the “Land of Enchantment”—well—that pretty much consisted of a moonlit stop at a gas station, where the manager sneered at me for asking about pepper spray, refused to price check my beef jerky for the cashier, and then slammed the door in my face. Apparently, she skipped the “Enchanting” course at finishing school, which could explain her job at the gas station (says the college graduate who’s currently unemployed).

On Thursday, I spend the night at a Comfort Inn & Suites outside Phoenix, Arizona. The next morning, I eat Chick-fil-a across from a Mimi’s Cafe, which makes me feel more at home. Phoenix—or more properly, Avondale—reminds me of Palm Desert/Springs. I veer so close to the Rio Grande that I get a text from T-Mobile, welcoming me to Mexico. That night, I sleep at a Motel 6 in El Paso, Texas (as one does) and plot my stay in San Antonio.

Saturday, October 24

Southern Texas is more fertile than I imagined with some hilly, twisty roads. I almost hit the K-9 at border control (whoops). Then Adrienne doesn’t want to leave a rest stop, and I realize that I’ve been pushing her uphill for several hundred miles without any oil in her (sorry, old girl). This is a good time to mention that:

  • The distance between California and Texas is uphill work. I don’t mean that you’ll be driving up hills, necessarily, but that your car will be in low-level overdrive for almost the entire journey. I can’t be sure for these on-the-go travelblogs, but the elevation seemed to plateau somewhere around Texas.
  • It’s a good idea to bring extra oil, especially if your second-to-last mechanic charged you $1,450 to improperly repair whatever regulates how quickly your car burns through it. In Adrienne’s case, I’m having to top her off every day, or approximately every 200-300 miles. I’d get better food-to-water mileage with a camel.
  • If you want to draw the attention of every male in the vicinity, be the kind of girl who adds her own oil, but don’t expect anything else. They may stare but most of them mind their own business, I’ll give them that. Some even offer to help without quotation marks. Thank God for Southern gentlemen.

It’s dark by the time I reach the O’Brien Historic Hotel in San Antonio, so I just check in with my new friend Joe and grab some delicious red curry from the Thai restaurant next door.

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