Kansas Has Company
*This originally wasn't intended as a two-part post; it started as a one-time entry, from what started as a very unhappy life event in 2006; but thanks to one very disgruntled reader, it became a two-part entry, and amused at least a few...be sure to read the comments at the end, and Part II will make perfect sense*
The reason for the trip was anything but enjoyable. But the reason made the trip necessary: I had to drive from Denver, Colorado, to Phoenix, Arizona. Cost negated the flying option, leaving me only the choice of route.
SW across Colorado and into Utah, then straight south to Phoenix, or straight south from Denver to I-40, and then straight west into Arizona, traversing a fair portion of New Mexico. Those were the choices.
For expediency, the choice was dictated by interstate highway: I-25 to I-40 to I-17, destination Arizona, by way of New Mexico.
Having now made the drive and returned via the same route, I am armed with an opinion based on personal experience. And personal experience renders an opinion somewhat more viable from one what's been there. And that experienced opinion is thus: Kansas has competition for *yawn*.
Or put another way: driving across New Mexico is like wiping ones' bum with a cactus*. At least, the route I took, anyway.
Less than an hour into New Mexico, I was already bored with the flat, endless vista of not a helluva lot, punctuated by little else, interspersed with several mega herds of antelope. After passing perhaps the fifth such mega herd, I dared to mindlessly venture a set-up line to my equally-smart ass younger brother:
Me (in a mind-numbed state): I wonder what the antelope's main predator is here?
Lil' Bro: Kenworths...
A hundred miles more -- and nothing else added to the scenery -- it was his turn to lazily stumble into a set-up line:
Lil' Bro: What do you think the New Mexico state slogan is?
Me: Roadrunner...the coyote's after you..
Of course, there were a few breaks in the scenery vacuum that defined New Mexico south toward I-40 at Albuquerque. One such was Santa Fe, New Mexico. Which my brother slept through. Waking up 30 minutes later, this brief conversation:
Lil' Bro: Where are we?
Me: About 40 miles south of Santa Fe.
Lil' Bro: Missed it, eh?
Lil' Bro: Miss much?
Me: Dunno...I slept through it, too.
Lil' Bro (tilting his head back to resume his nap): Good. Then we both have something to look forward to on the return trip.
We approached Albuquerque with some trepidation, knowing that not only did we need I-40 west there, but from our distant (sorta) childhoods, we recalled the sh...crap that Bugs Bunny used to get into, everytime he missed that infamous "left turn at Albuquerque".
On the trip down, a turn left simply wasn't in the geographical cards, short of circling the town and approaching it from the south. Ideologically, it was even less in the cards, but I digress. Anyway, it worked out okay: no stuttering pigs or maniacal ducks were encountered as a result of turning right at Albuquerque.
Instead, once clear of it, we re-encountered that signature geography that so well defined this part of New Mexico: nuthin'. Save for some curious rock formations that straddled the interstate for a period of some miles: my rocket-scientist brother suspected that they were lava bed formations; my less-geologically-educated self suspected that they were large deposits of petrified dinosaur dung. While Lil' Bro was probably right, we spent a few miles considering the warped notion of some NMDOT engineer -- probably off at a donut shop giggling to him/herself -- over routing I-40 direct through a massive petrified Jurassic outhouse.
And, of course, there were the various and sundry Indian reservations we motored through. Each marked by a sign noting the entry to a particular tribal reservation, a sign noting the exit from a particular tribal reservation, and somewhere there betwixt -- in the middle of absolutely nuthin but petrified lava or dino dung, depending on ones' education level -- were ornate, even lavish, tribal casinos.
We figured that the only craps we needed to chance were the fauxpetrified ones we passed at 80 mph.
As we continued west, a discussion briefly landed on an issue that cuts across national politics and science fiction:
Me: do we pass anywhere near Roswell?
Lil' Bro: *scanning map*...nope. It's behind and well south of us.
Me: So much for alien encounters.
Lil' Bro: There's still Arizona.
Me: Not the same...these here have big heads and eyes, and those ahead have fake IDs.
Seven hours after crossing the Rue-it-con, we exited New Mexico for the distinctly similiar geography of NE Arizona. Relieved as we were, we both knew that, in roughly three or so days, we'd have to do it again. And neither of us fancied another seven hours of wiping our bums with cactus*. So we pondered the alternate route north to Utah, and east to Colorado.
But after three days in Mesa, AZ (a SE 'burb of Phoenix) -- where every restaurant we stopped in, WE were the youngest people present; and on every other block in the town sat a mortuary, as if we needed constant reminders as to why we were making this trip -- we were ready to face about anything other than another meal with false teeth in the mashed potatoes.
Even New Mexico.
And that was how it wound up: weather to the north and a rockslide along western I-70 in Colorado made it necessary to revisit that which we'd just yawned through. Dadgummed Roswellians: they were going to make sure we took that left turn at Albuquerque.
Which we did, without incident or interference from animated animals, aliens of any kind or local/state gendarme, strangely enough (since we passed through at 80 mph enroute, and returned through averaging 85+).
And even with the left turn at Albuquerque, nothing had changed. New Mexico remained exactly as it had probably been for eons: the equivalent of wiping ones' butt with a cactus*.
At least in Kansas, they don't have cactus.
At any rate, that's my fauxtravelogue for New Mexico. Great people, I'm sure. Wonderful place to avoid, I know (at least the route we took).
In a brief aside, I did leave out one aspect of the Mesa experience: the encounter we had with the hooker at the Travelodge we stayed at in Mesa. But that's for another time.
* of course, I was kidding about the wiping the bum with a cactus. But as readers will note, one reader took mighty offense at my poking fun at the state to our south...