I pulled out of the campsite at straight up 7 AM local time. Back in Santa Rosa, I went back to the Circle-K and filled up Satori with gas. I crossed the Pecos River headed west on Interstate 40 out of town. Near Exit 267, there was a huge hole in the ground off the north side of the highway; was it some kind of sinkhole? I saw a sign advertising the annual Billy the Kid Tombstone Race in Ft. Sumner. Outlaw Billy the Kid is buried in Ft. Sumner, and over the years his tombstone has been stolen 3 times. So, the town now sponsors a race where contestants have to carry an 80-pound stone over a 25-yard course which includes four-foot hurdles. The race has been boosting the local economy for years. The highway seemed to keep sloping up in long, gradual grades. There was a big windmill at Clines Corners, but it wasn’t moving. Forty-four miles from Albuquerque, I started seeing mountains ahead. I was still three hours from Gallup.
As I was going through Moriarty, I saw a sign for the Memorial of Perpetual Tears. I was intrigued, so I pulled over to take a look. There was a fenced-off field of little headstone-shaped markers. The markers were all arranged in rows, like at a national cemetery. I thought it was some veteran's memorial, or maybe an anti-war protest... but no. Perpetual Tears is a memorial to victims of drunk drivers. It was early and the place was locked up, so I climbed over the fence. The place was disturbing on several levels. A sign said the markers each marked a drunk driving victim, but the memorial only counted victims who died in New Mexico, and only for the past five years... and there were dozens and dozens of markers! Each one symbolizing somebody's mother, somebody's father, someone's husband or wife, someone's child, each marker symbolizing a life tragically cut short... The memorial is positioned right next to the interstate, so that anyone going down the highway can see the costs of drunk driving. The sad thing was, there was a big empty space in the memorial—I realized they left room for the inevitable drunk driving victims of the future.
I finally found some shade when I crossed the Arizona border and stopped at the visitor’s center. It was surrounded by picnic tables covered with shade structures. I found a shady spot and had my lunch: a hard boiled egg, beef jerky, and an apple. I watched cars and rtucks as they rolled down the nearby highway. There was a gentle breeze under the trees. Several carloads of fellow travelers stopped as I ate. A guy driving a pickup with a camper shell pulled up and got out to walk his dog. One couple walked by, hand in hand, carrying their lunch in a grocery sack. I finished my second roll of film and loaded my camera with a new roll. At that point, I had already taken over 50 pictures with my digital camera. A blonde lady walked her Scotty dog on a leash. The dog’s name was Cody. A guy eating his lunch got up to say, “I didn’t get to bring my buddy on this trip.” He was on his way to Sedona. As I went to the rest room, something rustled in the bushes. A sign warned of poisonous snakes in the area. It was 2:12 Oklahoma time, but 12:12 Arizona time as I pulled out of the visitor’s center. It was 162 miles to Flagstaff. The temperature climbed as I headed into the planes of eastern Arizona. Just before the exit for Petrified Forest, I saw a guy parked on the side of the road taking photographs. The skies got interesting as clouds moved in. It looked like there might even be some rain ahead. Stewart’s Petrified Wood, with its big concrete dinosaurs, appeared to still be in operation, although the Painted Desert Indian Center just across the highway looked like it was giving Stewart’s some competition. When I passed Holbrook, I could see smoke from some big fire way off on the horizon. The road never got close enough for me to see exactly what it was. Near mile marker 280 I passed the smokestacks of the Cholla coal-fueled power plant, on the dry banks of the Tanner Wash. Down the road, I noticed something smelled bad. I think it was me.
Just before 2 PM, it sure looked like rain ahead. There must have been construction on the highway, because I completely missed Winslow, Arizona. I always try to visit. About 40 miles west of Holbrook I saw buffalo grazing on a dry, red plain. At the Leupp Corner exit, a policeman sat underneath an overpass, his red lights flashing, like he’d forgotten to turn them off. Clouds obscured the Sun, and I picked up a tough headwind, but it didn’t feel any cooler out. Near the Meteor Crater, sprinkles hit my windshield. Rain started falling, stirring up red dust on the service roads alongside the highway. Minutes later I drove into a curtain of rain as the van was assaulted with gusty winds. It was around here that Satori clicked over 240,000 miles. Minutes later, the rain stopped and the winds died down, but the skies remained unsettled.
|As I got closer to Flagstaff, I had to make a decision. I wanted to visit the Wupatki ruins, which were about a half hour north of town, but I also wanted to see Walnut Canyon, which looked to be just south of the highway. It was the middle of the afternoon, and I still had miles to go before I slept, so I decided to go for Wupatki. If I had time, I figured, I’d swing by Walnut Canyon on my way back. I pulled off the interstate following highway 89, and just then the winds really gusted, almost blowing me off the road.|
The Sun was blinding as I headed west. Right as the Sun set, I spotted an RV park perched on the side of a hill. I was tempted to stop and hang it up for the night, but decided to continue towards my destination. It was long after dark when I pulled into Kingman. I was exhausted. The RV park I’d planned to stay at was on the far side of town. I followed the directions I’d downloaded from the Internet, turned off the highway, and found… nothing. Not only was there no RV park, there wasn’t even a street—the pavement abruptly ended after 100 feet. That was frustrating. I returned to Kingman and stopped at a convenience store to ask about any other RV parks in the area. The clerk didn’t live around there, however, and had no idea what I was talking about.
Wupatki National Monument
Memorial of Perpetual Tears