I was the first to stir in the campground. That was not a surprise to me. Hopefully I didn’t wake everyone up. I made coffee, packed up, and went on my way to find a hike. I drove back to Pecos to see if I could find a trail map. I wound up at the National Forest Headquarters, and surprised them. It was 7:00am and they weren’t open yet, but the back door was ajar so I poked my head in. They showed me where the closest trailhead was, then scolded me for hiking alone. Is that what I get for interrupting their morning? This is becoming a theme, and was driving my desire to drive completely out of my way to do this hike. Ultimately, because I had a rather long drive ahead of me, and didn’t want to be the kind of person that would waste time out of spite, I chose to get in the car and start driving toward my Oklahoma destination. If I passed something along the way, I would stop. So long Pecos! Maybe we will meet again.
Once I was back on 40, I found the Santa Rosa Lake State Park, and decided to check it out. It’s very pretty. I pulled into the campground looking for the nature trail, but it was gated closed. Hmm. I walked around the campground. The drought was bad enough that all of the fire pits were roped off with caution tape. I drove over to the damn and did the scenic walk. I was trying desperately to piece walks along their little trails together to be considered a hike, but in the long run I accomplished maybe a mile. There just wasn’t enough trail. This place is more for boating and water sports. It also seemed like a good place to meet a snake, but I just met a rabbit who is pictured below in the photo in the lower lefthand corner.
I got back in the cool air conditioned car and kept going. Running low on gas, I stopped in Tuccumcari, NM at a Flying J’s/Denny’s combo along I40. I gassed up, pulled the car over to the parking lot, made a salad for lunch and ate it in the car. The car wasn’t all the way on, the key was just turned in the ignition to run the fan while I ate. I think my phone was also charging. I didn’t think anything else was on, but maybe my lights were on. It was the middle of the super bright day so I don’t know why they would have been on, but … what I’m getting at is when I went to start my car it wouldn’t start. Things were coming on though, so I thought the battery was fine. I called AAA, went inside Denny’s to get the address, and asked AAA to send out a tow. I honestly didn’t think it was just the battery, and really was almost in the middle of nowhere. I had no idea where they would tow it to, but figured I needed to do something. I had a plane to catch in several days, and couldn’t stand to lose more than one day to a break down. While inside I grabbed someone who appeared to be the store manager and asked him where the closest garage was. He asked if he could take a look. I said heck yes. He came out to the car, and I tried to start it up for him secretly hoping it would be a fluke and start. No fluke. He said he really thought it was the battery, and that it had drained just enough to not completely start. He brought his gigantic truck over, and attached our batteries. I turned the key in the ignition, and it started!!! Hurray! I let it run for a bit. He cautioned that it might be my alternator, and said if I let it run for a bit, then turned it off and it didn’t start again to come and find him. I let it run while chatting with my friend in San Diego. Remember him? He had told me about a motel I should always be able to find if I needed one and it would always be reasonably priced. I had completely forgotten which one it was. Turns out it was Motel 6, and I made sure to commit that to memory. While chatting about that all of this battery debacle happened. He told me to turn on all of my accessories and rev the gas. If lights dimmed, there was an alternator issue. No lights dimmed, but I was still cautious. I called AAA back to cancel the tow while he called the local NAPA to find out if they test car batteries. (Special thanks to my friend for helping me out that day.) They did, so I drove less then a mile over to Old Route 66 and had my battery tested. It tested fine, hallelujah! I left NAPA and stopped at this super trendy looking coffee shop/Historic Motel for a much deserved cappuccino. What a cool place, great service, good prices, clean, and so friendly. I kind of want to see inside of those motel rooms. I wonder what the rest of Tuccumcari is like. I drove back to the Flying J parking lot, and left a thank you note on the windshield of the guy that saved my day. If you’re ever in the Flying J/Denny’s in Tuccumcari, NM and you see a bald man with blue eyes, dressed business casual with a blue tooth headset, shake his hand for me, give him a high five, or something. That guy deserves a raise.
Crisis averted, I got back on the road with a large chunk of time lost. I must have had the lights on while I sat there. What else could have drained the battery that much? Okay, not going to dwell… My next stop was Amarillo. I popped into a Starbucks to get their wifi. I found a local NAPA and had my battery tested once more, just to be sure the alternator had fully charged it. It had. I was good to go. Then I was told to stop at the most ridiculous place I’ve seen so far, The Big Texan Steak Ranch. What was this place? I particularly like the 1980s faded limos with the steer horns on the front. Nice touch. The inside was like a Chuckie Cheese combined forces with a truck stop. It’s one of those places where if you eat a super huge steak, your meal is free. I used the atm to make sure I had cash for the campsite, then hopped back in the car before this place swallowed me whole.
My destination for the evening was Red Rock Canyon Oklahoma State Park. I was excited to get to this place. It looked like I might actually get in some climbing. It had been forever since I climbed, and I was itching to do it. I had my shoes and chalk bag stored in the back and was ready to go. Not long after I entered Oklahoma one of those emergency broadcasts came onto the radio. This is another reason I like to indulge in local stations. This would be the first rain I had seen since leaving Nebraska on June 26th! I pulled over and looked at the weather for where I would be camping. Sure enough it was under a severe weather alert too, until the weee hours of the morning. Damaging hail and heavy winds were in the forecast. I had a flashback to the storm that blew through Linden, VA just before I left, knocking two trees down in my yard, flooding my kitchen, and destroying all of those windshields and moon-roofs in Middleburg. I didn’t want to take any chances. I had camped in a horrible wind storm before, and it had kept me up most of the night worrying that a tree was going to come down on my tent. I didn’t need to be driving drowsy tomorrow, right? Or worse. I had some thinking to do because there’s always the chance that it might pass by as nothing. While sitting there contemplating I read a text from a friend I had seen in Los Angeles. His friend, someone I met on the 4th of July, passed away yesterday. He had suffered from seizures, and had just finished physical therapy following a car accident. He collapsed in his home, and his roommate tried to revive him. I can’t believe it. He was so young, and it seemed like things were turning around for him. I promised to send some of the photos I took that night that included him as soon as I got to wifi. Contemplatively, I continued driving east.
To give you some perspective of when this day was taking place, and just how off I have gotten with my posts, all of this happened on Bastille Day. Not long after I started driving again I heard about the attack in Nice. I listened to the radio waiting for more updates. I was getting close to the park, and a Motel 6 was in my sites. I guess my choice was made. I would sit in a clean, dry $40 room, sheltered from the storms, watching the news on cable while blogging and eating tacos from a really good place I found on Yelp, Taqueria Fresnillo. It was true Mexican food, the kind with tongue on the menu, in the tiny town of Clinton, OK. If you’re ever in Clinton, stop in for a bite to eat. You won’t be disappointed. I didn’t get a picture of the food or the room, which was updated minus the towels. (They should really replace those towels.) My mind was elsewhere. I no longer wanted to do anything but dig a hole, and sit in it until all of the craziness came to a stop. When will it stop? How will it stop? The answer is bigger then me, but I’ll help any way I can. It rained a big, heavy, lightening and thunder filled rain most of the night. Thankful for good friends, for that guy that got me back on the road in Tuccumcari, for all the experiences I had been afforded this summer, and for my life, I fell asleep wondering what I could do to help.