I left Wisconsin after a visit with my family this past Monday, and started my southwest drive by actually heading slightly to the northwest, as I gave my brother Al a ride home to Wausau. I stopped in to see his apartment, and as I went back to the van, smelled an odor which set off the "UhOh" receptors of my brain but denial told me that it must simply be a little bit of oil I'd spilled earlier as I topped off at the gas station.
Several miles down the highway, as the cruise control kicked in as I went uphill, I'd hear a little crunchy, crinkling sound... as if I'd driven over wet asphalt and bits were dropping from the car.... That wasn't a very comforting sound.
JUST as I neared an exit, power dropped considerable, and the power steering failed. I had exactly enough time to realize I needed to take that exit and get safely stopped out of traffic; preferably near a place to ask for assistance in calling a tow truck.
Limping in to a Kwik Trip gas station/convenience store, I rolled up to a parking spot, parked and cut the engine. Opening the hood, I looked for, and found, the obvious. Well, actually found remnants, that is. The fan belt was fried and had disintegrated, leaving just a string or two of...crinkled dry rubber near the alternator.
That sucked. But it certainly could have been worse. The people in the store suggested a tow truck driver who turned out to be pleasant, helpful and reasonable on cost($47.50). He took me to a repair shop who got the van up and running in short order, despite having a full day's schedule of appointments and several walk-ins they turned away. Thanks, Martins Auto Repair!
The rest of the trip went fairly smoothly, except of course the Kum&Go debacle. Easy sleeping in Walmart lots through the midwest, miles and miles and miles of grasslands in Kansas. And oil wells. Lots of those. And quint, holding themselves up by their bootstraps towns, dotting the highways of Iowa, Kansas. Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, most of which I cut just the corners on. Except Kansas... I went straight through that one. But it was still very nice - a pleasant drive on decent highway.
Yesterday I crossed from Texas into New Mexico and the change of terrain was immediately obvious. Instead of flat cattle-grazing ranges and commercial feedlots, and oil wells, the land became rich red soil, peppered with desert grasses and Juniper. Hills rolled with cut-ways hinting at the mountains coming as I ventured further. Massive hills rose up from the flatter lands as if they did it just to surprise you as you crested a hill and caught sight of them.
I stopped in Santa Rosa to rest, refresh myself with an ice coffee, give Teddy a walk and some Teddy-Time, and then began heading toward Albuquerque, where I stayed for the night(in a Walmart parking lot, of course.... I'd wanted to check for free camping in a *more natural* setting, but missed the last roadside pull off 30 miles east of the city. Thinking there would be one more, I soon came upon the suburban sprawl and knew I had gone too far....
This morning, I am at U-Mound, a bouldering spot right outside Albuquerque in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.
After my coffee, and Teddy's breakfast - that's where we are headed.
I HAVE arrived!
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