October 21st, 2004


He's baaa-aaaack!

I'm back from my trip to Roswell, New Mexico.  1945 miles round trip, 29 hours and 20 minutes behind the wheel for a average speed of 66.3 MPH.  Top speed on this trip was 105.  I used about 88 gallons of fuel for an average fuel economy of 22 MPG.  Yes, the Ratmobile is a gas hog, but she's fun to drive.

Day 1

Left home, taking I-15 north, then I-215, then I-10 east. Following directions from my GPS, I then got off the Interstate and took US-60, a two-lane highway.  At first I thought this was a big mistake, but it turned out the road was so rarely traveled, I was able to make really good time.   I then took AZ-74 across to intersect with I-17, thus routing around Phoenix.  I-17 north was a blast.  Steep mountain highway with relatively gentle curves.  I just downshifted into third, set the cruise control at 80, and passed every other vehicle on the road.  Gotta love having a V-8.  :-)   I was convoying with someone else, and he had fallen well behind, so I pulled off the highway just before Flagstaff and stopped at the top of the offramp, waiting for him to pass by.  I waited and waited and waited, and after a while, I started to become worried.   He should have caught up by then.   So I called him and asked where he was, and somehow I'd missed him, giving him a 10 mile lead.

So I set out trying to play catch-up, hitting speeds up to 105 along I-40.  I would have gone faster, but the road surface wasn't all that great, and there were lots of trucks on the road.  As the speed limit was 75, and I had to slow down at least a dozen times for slow trucks, it took all the way to Winslow to catch up.  We filled up our gas tanks on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.  It was dark by the time we got to Gallup, New Mexico. 

As I pulled off the freeway, I saw a sign for Budget Inn advertising rooms for $29 a night.  Trying to save money, I decided to stay there.  Big mistake.   There was a reason the rooms were cheap.   Because it was the crappiest hotel I'd ever stayed at.  I thought that Scotts made the worst toilet paper, no, I discovered there's a brand even worse, and that's what that hotel used.  There was no clock in the room.  Everything (and I mean everything) was bolted down.  And the room had this creepy, sleezy aura to it.   But I was so tired, I fell asleep almost immediately.

Day 2

I set out that morning for Roswell, continuing down I-40 to Albuquerque.  Stopped at the Sonic there for breakfast.  They really need to open a Sonic in San Diego, I love their food.  Hit the freeway again, then hit US-285.  That's when I began to notice how lousy New Mexico's transportation system was.  In California, you have freeways everywhere, and the speed it pretty much constant the entire way.   Not in New Mexico.  They only have 3 freeways in the entire state, the rest is mostly 2 lane highways.  And you have to slow down to 35 in every freaking town along the way.   And of course, the towns are all built alongside the highway to maximize the time you have to slow down.  Around Vaughn, I start thinking that maybe I'd better buy some gas.  That's when I learn something else about New Mexico.   Very few gas stations carry high octane gas.   Most carry 90 octane at best.   The Ratmobile needs 91 minimum.  Great...   So I continue on my way, hoping to find another gas station before Roswell.   Nope.   Nothing.   Nothing at all for almost 100 miles.  No houses, no gas stations, no rest stops, nothing.  Fortunately, the road was mostly empty, and mostly flat, so I just switched on the cruise control, and got lucky with the gas mileage.

I finally pulled into Roswell at noon.   Major disappointment.   If you've ever watched the History Channel, you probably have the idea that Roswell is some tiny, back-water burg with maybe 100 residents, all UFO nuts.  In reality, however, it's a surprising large city, with a major airport (there were at least a dozen jumbo jets on the tarmac) and a population of nearly 50,000.  The only "UFO" presence was a UFO museum and a Halloween haunted house calling itself "Alien Encounter".  That was it.  No cement space ships along the side of the road, no crazy people protesting the government conspiracy, nothing!  Just a typical, suburban city.  I'd bought a disposable camera to take pictures (I'd forgotten my good camera), and managed to snap 10 shots the whole time, and most of those were things that will go into my Gallery of the Absurd, almost nothing to do with UFO's.

After getting tired of trying to find anything unusual, I headed west down US-70.   And here is where I learned just how bad New Mexico's highway system is.   Almost the entire route was under construction.   I really couldn't tell why, they weren't widening the road, and they weren't resurfacing it.  It looked like they were just tearing up an otherwise perfectly fine road and rebuilding it, just to waste taxpayer dollars.  And, while most places would schedule construction work for nighttime to minimize disruption to travelers, nope, not in New Mexico.  They'll just close down the road, and to hell with the drivers.  I encountered at least 100 miles worth of road contruction in New Mexico.  I also discovered that New Mexico residents do not slow down for contruction zones.  I could be doing 60 in a constuction zone, and I'd get a line of cars (and trucks) build up behind me.

I also discovered just how much the oil companies are ripping off California residents.   If you'll recall a previous journal entry, I ranted about how some stations in San Diego were charging nearly $3.00 a gallon.  Yet around Mescalero, there was a station selling premium gas for $1.99 a gallon.   WTF???  We're just down the coast from the Long Beach oil fields, and the oil refineries, at the end of a gasoline pipeline, and we're paying $1.00 more per gallon than a station out in the middle of freaking Nowhere, New Mexico?

Continued down I-10 to Deming, where I stopped to have dinner at Sonic, then continued on to the outskirts of Tucson.  I spent the night at a Red Roof Inn, a considerable improvement over the Budget Inn of the previous night.  And with my AAA discount, it was actually a few dollars cheaper.

Day 3

Hit the Sonic in Tucson for breakfast, the last chance I'd have to eat at a Sonic until I drive to Further Confusion in January.  The rest of the trip back, I-10 to I-8 to I-15 was pretty uneventful, other than the rain.   The rain was coming down in buckets at times, making me have to slow down, and also making the scenery invisible.   There was a massive accident on I-15, but fortunately I'd spent the 50 cents and taken the FasTrak lane, and ended up passing by the entire Sig Alert.at 90.  :-)