I woke to a brilliant sunrise Thursday, August 23rd. I washed up in the bathroom. The caw of a crow echoed across the campsite, but it turned out to be coming from a little grey bird with a white tail. At 7:42 Oklahoma time (6:42 Mountain) I pulled out of the campsite. There were two of the huge black birds on the sign at the park entrance. They seemed to regard me with indifference. It was 7 miles to town. The low gas light came on at the 4 mile marker. 

In Santa Rosa, I pulled into the Shell station on El Rito Creek. There were a couple of big, black government vehicles filling up at the pumps. The drivers wore jeans and t-shirts, and seemed to be reading work orders. The weather forecast for the Farmington region said thunderstorms were likely by noon, with an 80% chance of rain and “localized flooding.” Odds for rain were 60% that night and 50% on Friday. It looked like there was rain in the forecast all across the Southwest that day. That settled it. I couldn’t risk getting flooded out either going to Chaco Canyon or trying to leave. It looked like I’d be heading for Las Vegas.

Down the road, I pulled over at Exit 252 and had breakfast in the rest area: leftover chicken, a hard boiled egg, and a V-8. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Well, the egg went last, I can say that. I could get a signal on my smartphone again, so I posted my position online and changed pants. There seemed to be a glut of Burning Man tickets for sale. Many on Craigslist were selling below cost. I called home before heading out.

The air was calm as I headed west. I listened to my MP3 player, hooked up to my car speakers. I could not find my earphones anywhere the night before. Why? Because they weren’t on my checklist, of course! Steep grades slowed me down to 45 MPH. At Clines Corners, mountains appeared in the distance. It looked like I’d get to Gallup about 1 PM (OK time). Overcast skies followed me. It was just past 10 when I went through Moriarty, and down the road a passed one of the big government vehicles I’d seen in Santa Rosa. It was on the shoulder, its red lights blinking. I got to Albuquerque at 10:30, and with light traffic it took about 15 minutes to get through. It was 66 miles to Grants. There was construction on the road just before the big Route 66 Casino. I stopped at Laguna to get some pictures.

Stormy clouds loomed ahead. Just before Sky City, I passed under the Khe Sahn Memorial Bridge. At Grants, I pulled over to fill up on gas. The Walmart was right next door, so I popped in to get some new earphones. As I was headed for the check-out lane, thunder boomed overhead, and the store filled with the sound of pelting rain. The lights even flickered from the storm. I had to wait until the rain let up so that I could get back out to the van. It turned chilly enough for me to put on my hoodie.
Down the road, Exit 79 led to Chaco Canyon, but I had to pass it by. A sign advertised an agate store that sold “totally rockin’ rocks.” A really big plane passed overhead near Bluewater Lake. It was just after 1 PM when I crossed the Continental Divide. Clouds and rain followed me the rest of the day. The Pilot truck stop, where I’d stopped years before, was selling gas for $3.39 a gallon. In the distance, I could see more west bound helicopters. It was 1:25 when I got to Gallup. Clear, blue skies beckoned in the west. It was 324 miles to Kingman, which would get me there about 7 PM, close to sunset. Did it take 6 hours to cross Arizona? I figured I’d get to Kingman, and then see how much sunlight I had left before continuing on to Nevada.

At 1:50, I pulled over at the Arizona Welcome Center and put a quart of oil in Satori. I calculated I needed to put in a quart about every 500 miles. Very blue patches of sky peeked out from patches in the unsettled clouds. The Sun was playing tricks with light and shadows across the rocky plains. The sky was very dark to the southwest. The closer I got, the more it looked like rain was coming. It was nice to see Stewart’s was still open at Exit 303, despite the Painted Desert Indian Center across the highway. Dinosaurs still stood guard in front of the Hopi Travel Plaza.

I made it to Holbrook at 3:10. Every time I saw a vehicle carrying a bicycle, I wondered if they were on their way to Burning Man, too. I drove into a shower at Exit 264, and then it cleared up just as quickly. There was lots of water in the Little Canadian River outside of Winslow. There were cars parked at Meteor City. It looked like it was raining off to the north. Just before 4 PM, I stopped at the Meteor Crater rest area. There were lots of cars in the lot. I had lunch: a hard boiled egg and an orange. An RV license plate read GRAMPMOBILE. Some faucets were labeled non-potable water. I brushed my teeth in the bathroom.

Mountains loomed in the distance as I took off; it was 37 miles to Flagstaff. I felt bad about missing out on Walnut Canyon, again, but I had to keep going. It was 4:55 when I went through Flagstaff. I stopped in Williams for a little gas. If I wanted to make Las Vegas, I was looking at four more hours on the road. The Sun was still pretty high in the sky—it seemed like I had plenty of daylight left… but the western skies were pretty dark. At 6 PM, it was still 91 miles to Kingman. At Seligman, a sign wared it was 56 miles to the next services. I had forgotten what a long road it was between Flagstaff and Kingman. It was highlighted by fields of golden wildflowers, but still a long-ass road. The recent rain seemed to bring out the color in everything. 
A semi truck passed me. In 2-foot-tall red letters, the sides of the trailer read JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, NOT A SWEAR WORD. I thought, not necessarily. It could also be an exclamation, a short declarative sentence, without any intent at profanity. Some people can't help but see obscenity everywhere... 
It was 7:23 when Kingman came into view, spread out across the approaching valley. My back hurt from being on the road all day. Going through town, I passed the $24 motel I once stayed at, but I was determined to find the RV park that had eluded me in the past. Over the hill, I found the RV Park. It was run by a guy named Harry, who charged me $26 for the night. That included wi-fi and TV, neither of which I was going to use, but I got charged for it, anyway. There was no shade. The park had a bunch of permanent residents; they had their own mailboxes and everything.

I wanted a beer, after driving all day, and Harry gave me directions to a store in town: just go down the dirt road to 4th Street and turn left to the pavement. I drove and drove down the dirt road and never found 4th Street, so I turned left and found the pavement, but even when I did there was no store. I backtracked and got back on the highway, and stopped at a nearby bar. They didn’t sell 6 packs, only drinks, and when I asked how to get to the elusive store, a local asked, “Do you live around here?” Well, I wanted to say, if I lived around here I’d know where the dang store was, wouldn’t I? Nobody could help me, because apparently you have to already know where something is before anybody can give you directions. They said “most every gas station” in Kingman sold beer, so I got back in the van to go back to Kingman, five miles over the hill, and discovered the gas gauge was on zero! I did some white-knuckle driving until I could stop at the first gas station I could find, which happened to be (1) the most expensive gas station in town and (2) the only one that didn’t sell beer. I got some gas and found a different place down the road, but had to wait until they found a bag big enough for the beer. “We have to bag it,” the girl said.

It was going on 9 PM when I finally made it back to the RV park and got to relax. I took a shower. I’d driven 622 miles that day. The Maps application on the smartphone said it was 520 miles to Fernley, a 9-hour drive. The weather forecast for the event predicted highs in the upper 80s all week. I called home. 

At a quarter to 10, it was still 82 degrees outside. For all the ambient light in the neighborhood, there were a remarkable number of stars visible that night—just beautiful. I was at last able to wind down and go to sleep... 

Prologue  Aug. 22  Aug. 23  Aug. 24  Aug. 25 
Sunday  Monday  Tuesday  Wednesday  Thursday  Friday  Saturday  Sunday  Monday 
Sept. 4  Sept. 5  Sept. 6  Sept. 7 & Epilogue
Original material (c)opyright 2012 by Tim Frayser
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LINKS: Khe Sahn 
Last updated: September, 2012