Day 1: Road Trip in the Time of Covid
Drive time: 11 hrs, 15 mins
Start: Austin, TX
Sights: Roswell, New Mexico
End: Edgewood, NM
My journey has begun! These past two week have been a whirlwind. Usually when I organize an extended trip (a month or longer), I plan for months ahead of time. Since I just came up with this idea two weeks ago, I’ve had to hustle to get everything in order. Special thanks to Amazon Prime for two-day delivery.
In addition to the stress of rushing through the gear up process, I was also feeling a bit mentally frazzled. Granted, with my job, I always experience a minor pre-departure "high-strung episode" a few days before I hit the road; but, since this was a personal trip, I didn’t expect to go through that. I pondered on it a bit and determined I'm feeling a bit agoraphobic. I realized that for the past three months, I’ve been living a very sheltered life in quarantine. I left my house for (infrequent) exercise and grocery store runs. True, the last few weeks have seen a return to Friday Happy Hours and the occasional dominos party, but that was still only 1-2 days a week of being out around other people. The minty blue walls of my 500 sq ft condo have become a comfort zone that a small part of me didn’t want to leave for an extended period of time. It was a weird feeling since I spend half my year on the road, but at least now I recognize the emotion and I can be on the lookout if I start to get squirrelly during my trip.
The first day was delightfully uneventful. Because I live in central Texas, it is a full day’s drive just to get out of the state. I love you, Texas, but your endless flat plains aren't my prefered road trip scenery. That said, I did encounter a few very “Texas” things along the way. The land was a mix of cattle pastures and cornfields. Having grown up in a Midwestern ocean of corn and soybean fields, I admit to experiencing a cheap thrill watching the rows of crops rush by in a hypnotic display of ordered greenery. I got down right nostalgic.
The only difference was the color of the soil. In Iowa, dirt is black. In west Texas, it’s a shocking rusty red. I guess I can now fully appreciate how the University of Texas chose their school colors.
Scattered amid the cows and crops, I occasionally saw a cluster of windmills and oil pumpjacks. It was a unique juxtaposition. I find the long, white windmill blades to be elegant in an ethereally sort of way. The “nodding donkeys,” however, are a visual mix of industrial ugly and ridiculousness. Admittedly, I may be partial since about twenty years ago, the wind energy sector started to boom in the fields surrounding my hometown. One of my favorite sights in the world is a lush green cornfield swaying in the breeze with a brilliant blue sky & white fluffy clouds floating overhead and a 300 foot windmill silently sweeping the breeze. Aaaand I’m nostalgic, again.
A few other West Texas staples were dust devils, tumbleweeds, and vultures. Seriously, there was a crazy amount of roadkill. I guess it's good to be a buzzard in Texas.
When I entered the state of New Mexico, I was greeted with a lovely sign proclaiming I had arrived in “The Land of Enchantment.” I thought to myself: What a great state motto. The next sign was to let me know I had entered “District 2.” Of course, I then thought, Oh, crap - I’ve somehow ended up in The Hunger Games.
I made a tourist stop in Roswell, New Mexico, at the International UFO Museum and Research Center. Yes. It’s a “research” center. As most people know, back in 1947 “aliens” “crash landed” north of the remote town, which led to a massive “coverup” by the “government.” Seventy years later, Roswell is still banking heavily on the tourist dollars its alien reputation generates. The museum was closed due to Covid-19, but I wasn’t fussed since I had visited 15 years ago. Interestingly, the gift shop was open, but they still took my temperature before they would let me in. I can only assume it was a temperature they were taking. They pointed a medical looking “instrument" at me and said I was, “okay.” I like to think they were screening for aliens...and I “passed.”
I wanted to make the first day a longer driving day that usual since I was just trying to get out of the state of Texas and get closer to Arizona where I plan to meet up with one of my guiding coworkers. Carol owns a house in Phoenix, but has a vacation property amid the tall ponderosa pine trees in the north part of the state. I’m promised a real bed, a shower, and a home-cooked meal tomorrow night.
Tonight, I used the great camping app “Campendium” to find a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) free campsite outside of Edgewood, New Mexico. It was perfect. No one else anywhere near me - it felt completely safe and private. Wonderful for a first car camping experience.
One small issue was a nasty wind storm which rocked the car throughout the night and liberally sprinkled sand onto my dinner. Mmmm crunchy. All in all, I think it was a great first day to my “Road Trip in the Time of Covid!”