Day 14: I woke up Thursday, September 9th, in Flagstaff. Again. I spent the night in Flagstaff the year before, on my way back from Burning Man, and once more I had a hell of a day's travel ahead of me. I couldn't believe I was killing myself like that again... but I needed to get home.  It was my 14th day on the road. I'd been away from home for two weeks.

The sun was already up when I checked out of my motel room. Across the street was a basic, down-home diner, and I stopped in for a hearty breakfast. Everything was wonderful, even through the ketchup had to be forced out of the bottle at knifepoint. I got some gas, and headed out of Flagstaff at just after 10 AM Oklahoma time. The skies were overcast to the east, diffusing the early morning sunlight. Pastel colors splashed across the landscape. I passes the little town of Two Guns, and noticed some interesting ruins along the rim of Canyon Diablo. Someday, I figured, I'll have a chance to stop and look. I had planned on stopping at the Meteor Crater, tourist trap warnings notwithstanding, but the overcast skies precluded any good photography. Instead, I stopped off at Meteor City, basically a domed gift shop alongside the highway. It had the "world's longest map of Route 66." The map featured various landmarks along the famous road, including the Blue Whale outside of Catoosa. Near the entrance stood a big, decorated hoop, 12 feet or more in diameter: "the world's largest dreamcatcher." I got a couple of trinkets inside. The owner was from Waco, and when I told him I was from Tulsa, he asked if the weather in Oklahoma was as strange as it was in Texas that year. The last time he went home, he was surprised by how green everything was. I thought of the unseasonably cool weather at Black Rock City; things were strange all over.

Down the road, I took Exit 252 and drove through downtown Winslow, Arizona. I didn't stop to stand on "the corner;" I'd already done that in 2003. One store had the sign "Lookers welcome– especially good lookers." Just before getting back on the interstate, I passed a memorial to the victims of September 11th just outside of town. It was a cross made of steel beams salvaged from the destroyed World Trade Center. The cross stands, bent and rusty, yet defiant against the harsh Arizona winds. There was a long stretch of construction near Joseph City, which slowed me down. About two hours out of Flagstaff, I stopped in Holbrook, "home of the Roadrunners." I wanted to look through Dinosaur Park, where I'd visited with the family in 2000. They wanted a $10 cover charge, but let me in for free if I just went to the gift shop and didn't take any pictures. I found some tacky souvenirs and hit the road again.

That was the afternoon Satori clicked over 120,000 miles. The cloudy sky broke up past Holbrook, and I got to see some pretty glimpses of the Painted Desert just off the highway. A heavily-loaded black car zoomed past me, covered in –playa dust? It wouldn't surprise me. I passed the Dead River– it sure was. About three hours out of Flagstaff, I crossed the border into New Mexico and soon arrived in Gallup. Time be damned, I pulled off the highway again and let myself sightsee down the streets of Gallup. It was a bustling community, and unlike many towns along the old Route 66 it seemed to be doing well. I saw lots of little, 1-story motels, still in business, still operational decades after being bypassed by the interstate. Tiny, 30-unit or less places, with names like the Hascienda and El Capitan. It felt good to know they were still in business. I drove past Earl's Restaurant, in operation since 1947, and a gas station that had been in business since 1941. I stopped for some gas and a Dr. Pepper. The wind was cool. Sharp, blue skies lay to the north, but to the east there were still clouds. I wasn't worried about storms because I could see blue sky on the horizon.

I went over the Continental Divide again about a half hour out of Gallup. I drove on through a pleasant New Mexico afternoon, fueled with beef jerky and caffeine. Just past Casa Blanca, the mountains above Albuquerque came into view. I still had some money a friend had given me to gamble with, so I stopped at the Route 66 Casino, owned by the Laguna Indian tribe. I tried the slot machines, but didn't win anything. I took a picture of the Rio Puerco Bridge, built in 1933 for Route 66 travelers. At one time, it was the longest bridge in the state. Six hours from Flagstaff, I rolled over the ridge and into Albuquerque. I'll never get used to seeing that huge city spread out all over that massive valley floor. As good as it was to reach Albuquerque, I was sobered by the fact that I still had ten more hours of driving to do. I was in getting-home mode, and not much of a sight-seer from that point on. In a little under three hours, I made it to Tucumcari, where I got more gas. Prices for gasoline dropped the further I got from the west coast.

When I crossed the Texas border, I was back in the Central Time Zone again. It had taken me about 6 and a half hours to cross New Mexico. Behind me, I saw glimpses of a bright, cloudless sunset, and ahead of me I saw a hand-sized tarantula trying to cross the road. I hope he made it. The sun went down about 8 PM. My new CD player worked fine, but on long trips like I was driving the batteries only lasted two days. Luckily, I found some good radio stations. I didn't know Alice Cooper had his own radio show. Just before 9:30 I passed the big cross at Groom, and wondered if the big cross in Illinois gave them a hard time about being the "biggest." By 10:30, I was in Oklahoma, covering the Texas panhandle in about three hours. I made a pit stop in Sayre, then hit the road again. It was 12:40 when I made it to Oklahoma City, and just after 2 AM when I paid my last toll on the turnpike. At 3:07 AM, September 10th, I pulled into my driveway. I was finally home again. It felt so good to be home. I put on something clean and headed on to bed. In two days, I had driven 1,742 miles from San Leandro to Broken Arrow. All together, I had driven 4,324 miles on my trip– about 800 miles more than I'd estimated I would travel. I don't know how I could have miscalculated so widely. I fell asleep as soon as I got into bed. I was so glad to be home.
Along Interstate 40, New Mexico
Meteor City, Arizona
Coming into Albuquerque
Restored Route 66 gas station, Shamrock, Texas

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All original content (c)opyright 2004 by Tim Frayser