After a hearty Waffle House breakfast, I headed for Roswell, New Mexico.
I’ve heard people say that they hate driving through Texas. It’s so big, they say. It takes too long. There’s one thing I love about the Texas landscape: the windmills. I’m completely in love with those giant, white, weird windmills.
As the flat landscape began to change, I saw them in the distance to my left. I was disappointed that they weren’t closer. I thought perhaps my route wouldn’t show them to me. Then all of sudden there they were in front of me. As I drove closer I realized I would be passing right next to some of them. I pulled over to photograph them.
I don’t know what it is about them. They look like giant aliens or magical angels. Their three blades turning ever so slowly, completely out of sync and some perfectly still, waiting for the wind to give them life. They have a majesty about them. When they are facing the sun with dark clouds behind them, they glow on the landscape.
I tried to find out once where the design came from? Why only three blades? Why are they so skinny? How did we go from pin-wheel looking windmills to these three-winged giants? I don’t know but I’m completely enarmored.
Entering New Mexico, the landscape changed again, sometimes flat, sometimes hilly, sometimes jarring and stark with mini canyons and alway polka dotted with the vegetation of the south west.
The towns I passed through seemed very odd. Ghost towns, broken down buildings and boarded up windows, broken by pockets of civilization with restaurants and gas stations.
About two hours outside of Roswell, I made my first big mistake. I remembered someone saying, “Don’t let your gas tank go below half,” and had headed that advise…..until the last stop. I guess I had been so hungry that I forgot to think about gas. After a horrid experience at a DQ, I spun out of that parking lot never to step foot in one again.
But as I approached Roswell, I looked down to see that I had less than half a tank. And my gas milage was off due to the weight of all my belongings. I started to think of contingency plans. What if I ran out of gas before Roswell? There were no towns in between. I had water. I had food. I could call Allstate roadside assistance. I could see if there was a pop-a-lock in Roswell. (They deliver gas.) Why hadn’t I taken a gas tank with me? I set the cruise control and waited it out.
When I was 14 miles from the nearest gas station, I had about an eighth of a tank left. I knew from experience that I had until the needle was a good 1/8-inch below the empty line before the car would actually stop moving. I got this, I thought. I’m gonna make it.
And I did, tanking up just inside the Roswell city line.
Before this minor faux pas…..well during it as well…….as I was driving along the strange landscape, I felt a sense of freedom I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. I mean, I’ve been independent for five years now. And I’ve certainly felt free many times. But there’s something different about having absolutely no obligations…….no mortgage or rent, no job, no deadline, no schedule…….not even a traveling companion to please or compromise with. Everything I owned in the world was right there with me. I had only myself to please. Any mistakes I made were mine to make with the consequences on my shoulders alone. And though I did have a destination, I had no deadline to get there.
It was an amazing feeling I may never have again. I was enjoying every second of it.
I found the Roswell Museum and visited Mr. Goddard’s rockets and reproduction of his workshop. The museum also had an impressive display of Native American and Western artifacts.
I made an obligatory visit to the alien museum which was predictably campy, goofy and over the top. I bought my obligatory alien sticker and magnet, then went off to find an army/navy store I had seen on the way. I bought a gas mask holder that I thought I could turn into a purse. I had researched a hostel to stay in the night before. It was a good two hours away, so I grabbed a quick meal, stopped for a few groceries and a bottle of wine and made my way south to the place I had found online.
When I left Roswell, the light was beautiful. I traveled long, straight, stark roads as the sun set. Once it was dark, the landscape changed again but I couldn’t really see it. After a while, I sensed dark masses on either side of me. I was heading into the mountains. The roads got a bit steeper and and began to curve this way and that. Then they were really steep and I found myself navigating hair pin turns. Where the fuck am I? Then weird signs began to appear. Warnings about deer or elk jumping into the path. Warnings about rocks falling onto the road and the presence of snow plows. The increasingly nerve wracking drive was made worse by locals who knew their way around, tailing close to me, their lights blaring into my eyes. More than once I looked for places to pull over (not an easy task) and let them by so I could survive what was becoming a rather tenuous drive.
The steep climb ended to be replaced with my car free-falling down as I braked and navigated the turns. All of a sudden a sign indicating congestion, school bus stops or pedestrians would pop up.
Finally, my navigation voice told me my destination was imminent. Just in time to break and turn into a driveway, I saw a giant neon sign on an old barrel that said, “Hostel.”
I had made it.
I was orientated by the owner, opened my bottle of wine, took a hot shower, talked to Mr. Canada at length, marveling at the drop in temperature and then I slept like a baby, the only person in a room of 8 bunk beds.
If I had known what the drive was going to be, I would’ve stayed in Roswell. I suspected that when I saw the view the next morning I would be glad I didn’t.
Besides the gas fiasco, the only mistake I had made that day was trying to keep a schedule, trying to be somewhere by a certain time. I wouldn’t do that again. Tomorrow would be mine.