If you need another reminder...
Turns out I've already drafted what happened it was just waiting for pictures! Easy peasy lemon squeezy, look at me being a smart but forgetful blogger.
After our frigid night in the forest of semi's, we left chicago and illinois behind and headed west through Iowa to Nebraska. That, and the road we'd already been on, was a lot of freeway. Open, winding highway weaving through the country. A good portion of it was wonderfully scenic, even with the billowing snow storms pressing in around us erring on "dangerous". With that in mind, we ended up keeping a running tally of the number of vehicles we saw that had been run off the road. Whether by wind or ice or sleep deprivation, it's hard to say. On the long stretch between Pennsylvania and Nebraska there was a grand total of 47 cars/semis/trucks that were lying dark and cold off the side of the highway. It got a little creepy when along one single mile there were 9 cars dumped in the frozen embankments.
Our scariest encounter with this phenomenon however, was while rounding a long curve in the highway, broken in the middle by a deep median overgrown with shrubs and large spindly bushes. We had just been talking and laughing about the last chapter in our audiobook when suddenly Mark gasped and pointed off to the other highway lane going the opposite direction, "Look!"
A fully loaded semi was hurtling up the side of the hill directly off the highway and made an awkwardly graceful leap through the snow, cascades of white powder exploding around the cab as it twisted through the air, landing with a great "whump!" heard even from our enclosed vehicle speeding away on the other side of the highway. It was one of those rare, inexplicable slow-motion moments of awe and surprise. And then it was over and we were around the bend, the truck no longer in sight. We debated calling 9-1-1 before another truck came rumbling along the empty highway and we figured they'd know better what to do and who to contact. Hopefully it didn't turn into a pileup.
After that, watching trucks ahead of and behind us drift haplessly across the highway inspired great caution and a bit of fear as we crossed our fingers that they weren't falling asleep at the wheel.
East coast drivers be crazy! Even here in Arizona, when it comes to monsoon season and the rain comes pouring down in great buckets and the windshield wipers can barely seem to keep up, I am the type of driver that will go 30 and below to get optimum visibility. When we were first coming in to Chicago, the wind was whipping up all sorts of snow and ice, swirling over the road in low clouds and sometimes there was not a bit of dark pavement to be seen. No lane lines, hardly any directive assistance and still people are hurtling along at 60 mph. We were completely content to chug along at our slow, safe speeds. Always keeping to the set minimum.
We stopped in Davenport to gas up and took a surprisingly minuscule detour to visit Mark's old home. He was continuously shocked how close we were without even realizing it, we had almost just passed through without bothering to find his old house. It was seriously not even five minutes off the highway, we're glad we stopped. I took a couple creeper photos and we debated finding a dollar store to buy some cheap plastic sleds and take a couple runs down the nearby hill.
We booked it out to Nebraska to stay at my dear, sweet Aunt's house and it was the best part of our trip. We got a chance to shower, clean up and just chill. We had fun watching the horses and playing with the doggies. Sitting on a blessedly comfortable couch and snuggling wasn't too bad, either.
How gross is that salt muck?
And how beautiful is this house?
Stiff, cold bums and aching backs from driving too long are
no comparison to fleece blankets and mini lap heaters.
We had settled back into our van and quickly discovered that it was obstinately not going to be starting anytime soon. We tried and tried to get the engine going. I pored over the owner's manual I'd downloaded to my phone and Mark scoured google looking for possible causes and solutions. We were not very fruitful. Or at least not very certain of what it could be. No use huddling in the freezing van, though. We slunk back up to the house and knocked sheepishly. My aunt graciously let us back in, the dogs acting as though we'd been gone for ages, and Mark settled down at the computer to hash out what we could do or where we could go to fix the problem. We ended up calling for a free tow through Geico (thank ye lawd) but they didn't show up. An hour after their first projected arrival time Mark tried calling. No answer. He called Geico and they called. No answer. We finally heard back and were promised, "twenty minutes!"
Forty minutes later, he finally shows up.
And the van starts up just fine.
The adventures never cease.
We were back on the road way late in the day, near or after four o'clock I can't remember exactly. But it didn't much matter because after the diesel gelling fiasco, we determined we weren't willing to risk it again and would just take shifts to drive through the night and straight on till morning/home. Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico flew by in a flurry of dark highways, small cities bordering on Ghost Town, and a lot of pot holes. New Mexico was exceptionally empty but also quite scenic. Mark had opted for the shortest distance rather than time considering we couldn't really optimize speed in our lumbering van anyway, so we got to go the backwoods route. We had finished our book so we depended on oh-so-reliable pandora to keep our minds alert. We ended up with a lot of silence. But oh well.
Oh! Right, so...as we were headed out of Albuquerque (accompanied with endless Weird Al references by Mark), we stopped along the highway to administer the van's 200 mile motor oil dosage and as I looked ahead I noticed, not 20 yards in front of us, a sign for the Petroglyph Museum off the next exit.
We decided then and there that sounded fun and went to the very empty and lonely visitor's center where the stationed cashier was prepared for us before we even got to the door.
But we both needed the bathroom...badly.
So before the poor guy could start his obviously well-rehearsed spiel we dashed to the restroom.
He seemed elated that rather than dash back out the way we came, we approached the counter and asked about hiking trails. He was very informative and excited about our interest and told us all about a couple of the relatively shorter trails and sent us on our merry way.
We were skeptical about parking charges when he had said, "They take your dollar and you're free to hike all day," but it was literally $1 for the parking pass. Again, we were glad we hadn't just skipped out of town and instead persevered. We hiked around for the next hour and had a grand ole time adventuring and taking pictures. Then we ate at Red Robin and indulged in a little food coma in the back of the van listening to our audiobook. It was a relaxing break to the drive-drive-driving.
We had gone through Zuni, NM when I switched shifts with Mark and he continued driving while I clambered in the back of the van and read some Harry Potter. The road there was rather bumpy and full of rolling hills and curves, winding through the half forest, half desert. I quickly became ill and had to put the book down. For the rest of the trip I was a miserable ball of nausea and pain huddled under a blanket.
We pulled into our driveway around 10:30 Wednesday night and it couldn't have come soon enough. We gathered up the electronics and important stuff, stumbled inside and dumped everything inside the front door, clambering up the stairs and slumped in the shower, soaking in the steam. We were both exhausted but somehow couldn't shut down our minds. We were fatigued, but not sleepy. So we stuck on an episode of Supernatural or two and finally made it into bed.
I love that bed. Like, a lot.
So there you have it! Our five-day adventure across most of the United States in the middle of the Polar Vortex/Arctic Blanket hullabaloo.
Thank goodness we can be crazy together.
(I took a zillion photos of the petroglyphs, here are the rest that I didn't post above)
Mark thought this one was a fake.
I thought it seemed legit and looked like a little happy balloon dude with an axe.
Okay one last story, I'm sorry.
We were messing around with the sighting binocular things and I swung it around to pretend like I was looking at Mark and he started laughing hysterically and told me not to move.
Apparently my eyes were comically magnified and he tried diligently to get a photo of it.
It didn't quite work but you can definitely tell there are eyeballs present.