Somebody’s cellphone went off in the night. I heard somebody stumble around the bathroom, and then go out the door before I fell back asleep. I think it was Francisco. He had mentioned catching an Amtrak train to some destination. I woke just after 6, Pacific Time, which was the same as Arizona time part of the year. I figure I got about 9 hours or so sleep.

I took a hot shower and went to make some breakfast. In the kitchen, I spoke to the nice owner lady as I cooked up a bowl of ramen noodles. She said summers in Flagstaff only got up in the 90’s, though it can feel hotter than that in direct sunlight because of the altitude. In winter, however, the snow can be impressive. “I love living in the mountains,” she said, “but I could do without the shoveling.” I helped myself to a complimentary orange.

Outside, Satori’s oil level was good. At 7:25, I packed up to head out. I knew from experience it was a 16 hour trip back home from Flagstaff, but I really didn’t want to do it all at once again. I followed the 1-way streets, coming back around by the other hostel in town (same people in charge, it gets mostly winter folks). The air was very cool. I had a good idea about how to get to the interstate, but I wanted to find a gas station first. I was stopped at a red light, thinking things over, when some guy on a bike zooms straight at me, swerving away at the last minute. “What are you doing?” he yelled before disappearing. The hell? I was minding my own business, having a perfectly good morning, and then somebody yells at me for no reason. Well, that’s different.

I found a station near a school, kids in backpacks walking by, and got $25 worth of gas. I got on Interstate 40 and turned east, towards home. Ahead, the morning Sun was trying to crack through a disorganized, overcast sky. The highway held few surprises. I passed the domed Meteor City, which looked closed but still had the world’s largest dreamcatcher out front.

It was just after 8:30 when I pulled off to stop in Winslow, Arizona. There were lots of closed, boarded-up buildings. I bought a patch in the store across from Standin’ on the Corner Park, which looked like it had seen better days. The other store catty-cornered away was closed and empty. 
I walked down the street to the La Posada Hotel, one of the original Harvey Houses, right on the main drag. People were still staying there. It was right next to the railroad tracks. Seriously, how many hotels can say they have their own train station? I loved the old architecture. I opened the windows, and a gust of wind blew playa dust everywhere.
Going out of town, I passed a Sonic Drive-In and a Denny’s Restaurant. I was so hungry. I finished off the can of nuts. I still had four hours to go to get to Albuquerque. When I passed Jackrabbit Road, it looked like there were a bunch of cars at the old Route 66 tourist stop. I went through Holbrook about 20 to 10. That was where I would have pulled off to go to Canyon de Chelly. It was a disappointment, but one I could live with. Anything missed is an adventure waiting to happen next time.

The state had replaced a bunch of highway signs with new ones, planted in the ground only a foot or so in front of the old ones. The new signs said the exact same things as the old signs. I could see part of the Painted Desert off to the north. The Sun came out, and it turned into a pretty day. I listened to music. At 10:35 I was back in the Navajo Nation again.

The tall bluffs at Lupton came into view, and I crossed the border into New Mexico just before 11. At Gallup, I pulled off the highway and spent way too much time trying to find the Walmart. I got some motor oil, some Dr. Pepper and something to eat. The detour put me behind schedule but made me feel a lot better about the journey. I spoke to the Missus on the phone, and she said it was okay to use the credit card. I got $20 worth of gas. It had clouded up while I was in the store.

Back on the road, it was a little over two hours to Albuquerque. I crossed the Continental Divide again at a quarter to 1. Down the road, I passed the exit for Bluewater State Park. The air turned cooler, and I got a splatter of rain. At Exit 89, I could see the Lavaland RV Park off to the side; it looked like it had a lot of trees. I got concerned I might have left my Ranger t-shirt back in Flagstaff. A quick inspection found it. There were no vendors at the Laguna Pueblo rest area. The miles just rolled on and on. Overpass railings were painted a pretty turquoise blue. It was after 2 PM when I passed the big route 66 Casino; Melissa Etheridge was scheduled to perform there. There were three RV parks at Exit 149. Traffic was thick, but everyone was rolling along.

At Moriarty, I stopped and filled up the gas tank on the Discover card. A female hitchhiker in a purple top sat in the shade, hoping for a ride. A fast food clerk followed an old man out to his truck and helped him with his walker. It was the middle of the afternoon, I was tired, and there were still 623 miles to Broken Arrow. It looked like I wouldn’t even be back in Texas before 6 PM. I called home, and the Missus said I should find a place to crash for the night. She said they weren’t expecting me home until Friday, anyway.

Back on the road, patches of wildflowers created splashes of color across green fields. On the radio, there was a commercial encouraging people to apply for the “national clandestine service.” I’d never heard a commercial for the CIA before. 
It was a quarter to 5 when I got to Santa Rosa, 167 miles from Amarillo. A billboard announced Judgment Day would be May 21st. “The Bible guarantees it!” Ahead, a huge spider, bigger than my hand, hurried across the highway. I swerved to miss it. The Sun was very low in the sky when I passed Cuervo. I decided I wouldn’t make it to Texas that evening. My best bet would be to get off at Tucumcari and crash again at Ute Lake. I drove through Tucumcari, the empty motel windows calling out to me like silent zombies, and headed north. Past Tucumcari Lake, Highway 54 runs alongside the railroad tracks almost all the way to Logan. The Sun was on the horizon, falling behind some clouds. I listened to President Obama address Congress about his jobs bill, interrupted by thunderous applause.

I stopped at a Logan convenience store for some supplies. A loud bell rang the whole time the door was open. I said that bell must get old quick, and the clerk said, “Oh man, you have no idea.” I turned down the road for Ute Lake, paid my $8 fee, and found an empty spot next to a picnic table at 6:17 PM. As far as I could see, I was the only person in the whole park. There was nobody camped anywhere close to me. All was quiet, except for an occasional car passing down the far-off highway.

The Sun was setting. Lightning flashed in the west. I got out the stove and boiled up some water for my dehydrated spaghetti in meat sauce. I was impressed. It was surprisingly good. As I finished eating, the wind picked up. It quickly got dark, except for the almost full Moon in the east. I stood outside in the wind watching the tempest brew. 
Rumbling clouds rolled in from the west. The wind grew. The Moon was swallowed in darkness. I packed everything back up in the van and closed all the windows. Inside, there was no signal with the smartphone. I was alone. Lightning flashed again. I had been so tired on the road, but as soon as I stopped I was awake again. It took me a while to settle down enough for sleep. It started to rain, and was really pouring down when I drifted off to sleep.
Prologue Aug. 24  Aug. 25 Aug. 26 Aug. 27 Aug. 28 
 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday
Sept.6 Sept. 7 Sept. 8  Sept. 9 & Epilogue
Original content (c)opyright 2011 by Tim Frayser
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Links: The End of the World
 La Posada Hotel   Harvey House 
President Obama's Jobs Speech