One more time…

Today I slept until the alarm woke me. No panic — today’s tee time was for 7:00. Cool morning again, but by now I know the routine. Start with sweater and jacket and a hot coffee — and by the third hole we’ll be peeling off layers and lotioning up our noses.

Robert was waiting for me at the course. November 11, Remembrance Day. The last day to golf Mountain View — it was closing tomorrow for overseeding and wouldn’t open again until Christmas Day. As we headed to the first tee all I was determined to golf better than I did yesterday.

Robert and Rudy at Mountain View Golf Course

We were paired up with two big hitters, Brian and Barry, from Seattle. They’d flown in at midnight the night before and were hoping to golf 36 holes per day for the next 3 days, after which they were flying back home. They’d be hitting from the back tees; Robert and I would play the more reasonable ‘tan’ tees. 

The great thing about golf is that even if YOU are playing crappy, you can enjoy the other players’ success. Man, it was fun to watch these boys play, especially Barry. He would more-or-less walk up to the tee, wiggle his club a few times, and then wind up and WHIP that club so hard he nearly jumped out of his shoes — and that poor golf ball had no choice but to sail down the fairway. And when Brian had a birdie on the first hole, they asked us if we would mind if they would have a little celebration from time to time. No, they wouldn’t just drink their mini (airplane) bottles of Fireball; they also like to listen to music, if we were okay with that. Nothing too wild, they said. And so for the rest of the morning we were entertained by the sounds of “Today’s Country” (most of the songs were about drinking, and some of that ‘country’ music sounded more like ‘country rap’, and it stayed on loud throughout — no breaks at tee-off or on the green!) and fairly regular Fireball celebrations. Brian and Barry were great golf partners — very friendly and completely relaxed and so entertaining to watch, never mind good athletes. 

When we reached the 18th green I asked Barry if he would mind taking a photo of Robert and me. He obliged, and then said something about doing a handstand. Huh? Oh, he says, his ex-wife had been taking yoga classes and had called him up to ‘brag’ that they had learned how to do a handstand. “Phooey!” says Barry, unimpressed. “Who can’t do a handstand?”

“Well,” says I. “I can’t do a handstand. Can you?”

“Of course,” says Barry.

“Show me.”

And with that, Barry puts down his putter and bends over and does a handstand. Whoa! As the money spills out of his pockets, I line him up for a photo.

“Hold on,” says he. “I’ll give you a photo! I’ll count down 3-2-1, and you get ready to take another photo.”

And that’s how I got a photo of Barry standing on his head!

What a great morning! (And I finished the day 10 strokes better than yesterday, to boot.)

We loaded the clubs into the van and after a quick stop at Ralph’s for wieners and buns, we went to Robert and Arlene’s RV park for lunch. After lunch Arlene packed an assortment of groceries into a couple of bags for me to take back to my house — they were packing up and getting ready to go back home, and I got whatever they would not be needing after today. We arranged that the Dycks would come to my house later this afternoon, and we’d go out for pizza. Which we did.

I was watching the end of the Bomber semi-final game on TV, and had the Jets queued up on another channel when Robert and Arlene arrived. We had a G&T and watched a bit of hockey. Then we went up on Cook Street to Billy Q’s for supper. A great little place it is — the pizza is very good, and they even put the Jets game on for us. 

The Dycks gave me a ride home and left me the leftover pizza and wings for my lunch tomorrow. We said goodbye — they are leaving early tomorrow morning for Phoenix, where they are parking the motorhome and driving their Honda home. They’ll be coming back to Phoenix next March.

Mountain Views

I woke up way before my 6:00am alarm. Had half a banana and yogurt and I was off to the golf course. It’s about a 10-minute drive from John’s house to the Desert Willow Golf Resort. It was another cool morning. Sweater and jacket to start. Today I was riding with Bob — which meant that the Penner brothers were riding together! Hmmm… this could be interesting!

The Desert Willow Golf Resort features two 18-hole courses. Yesterday’s course, Firecliff, was green as green could be — it had been reseeded in October. Today’s round was on the Mountain View course, which would be closed after tomorrow for reseeding. The views were just as spectacular but the fairways were not lush and green like yesterday’s golf.

Whereas my start had been so good yesterday, today’s round (final round of 115!) would be a humbling experience. But score isn’t everything. I may not be a very good golfer, but I have a good time.

After our round Bob and I stopped at Ralph’s (grocery store) to pick up sandwich meat. Then back to Darrel’s for lunch.

After lunch Reg, Bob, and I decided to go for a hike. There are many good trails nearby. Reg remembered hiking the Art Smith trail, which begins (or ends) at the south end of town. We drove down Monterey, past the Bighorn Golf course, and parked the van at the small parking area beside the road. And off we were. Up, up, up. Stunning views of the resort community below, with snow-white sand traps on the green golf course. We met other hikers going up or down. I think we hiked for nearly an hour until we were almost at the top of the hill. Photo time. We met a couple of women who had started at the other end of the trail up in Cathedral Canyon at 7:30 in the morning — and were nearly done — quite impressive! As we turned to go back, a couple of guys on mountain bikes came zipping by us, bouncing from rock to rock! Crazy.

I drove the boys back to Darrel’s condo and went back to my house. I FaceTimed with the kids — gave them a quick tour of where I would be hanging out for the next 3 weeks. I showered and headed back to Darrel’s for happy hour and supper. Tonight we had big beef kebobs — another delicious meal.

With all that exercise, we were not going to be partying all night. I said goodbye to Bob and Reg (they were flying home tomorrow morning) and headed home. Tomorrow again — early to bed, early to rise, with another morning golf game on the schedule.

Morning golf at Firecliff, dinner at the Cork Tree

Darrel, Reg, Bob, and me at the first tee at Firecliff

An early morning today. I was at the Desert Willows golf course by 6:30, only to find Reg waiting impatiently for his clubs which were in my van. We registered and drove to the first tee. It was a COLD morning in Palm Desert; especially after a week of quite hot temperatures, this morning there was a bit of frost in some of the dips on the fairways.

I started my first game off playing quite well — and after nine holes my score was 45. Unfortunately the back nine were not quite as kind to me, and I ended up with a final score of 99. But the course was lush and green and each hole was absolutely beautiful.

We headed back to Darrel’s place for lunch. Sandwiches.

After lunch I decided to see if I could find a garage that would look at my brakes on this Friday afternoon.

I found a Good Year service centre a few blocks away and they took a look at my van almost right away. I actually thought I’d had my brakes done this summer, but as it turned out that was only the front brakes. I needed new rotors and brakes for the rear axle. So while they worked on the van I went across the parking lot to the big Walmart Supercenter and did a bit of a grocery shop. I returned to the van just as they were lowering the hoist. I loaded my groceries into the van and drove back to my villa. I unpacked and showered and then headed back to Darrel’s condo for happy hour.

Darrel had reserved an outside table for the four of us at the Cork Tree, a restaurant not far from his condo. We had a fine supper together.

After supper I dropped the other guys off at their condo and headed back to my villa. Because checkout time was 10 or 11 in the morning, and I would be out on the golf course during that time, and because John’s place (which I rented from the 9th to the end of the month) was available to me, I ended up packing up all my stuff and moving to my ‘new’ home in Palm Desert this evening.

I was tired and ready to go to bed by the time I had moved all my stuff, including the fridge stuff, to my new home, and went to bed early. I set me alarm for 6:00am so I wouldn’t be late for tomorrow’s 6:50am tee time.

Desert ghost town and an oasis at the Desert Willow Resort

I filled up the tank and shook the dust off my sandals as I left Mesquite this morning. I’ve rolled up my jeans and packed them away — it’s shorts and sandals from here on.

I decided to take a small detour from Google Maps’ suggested route to Palm Desert — after many trips near here today I would finally visit the ghost town (and tourist trap) of Calico. One of the first record albums I bought was a double album by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, a ‘concept album’, written by Michael Martin Murphey, released in 1972 (when I was in grade ten). ‘The Ballad of Calico’ included a booklet with pictures of the singers in period costumes, pictures of the town, and the lyrics written in long-hand on ‘tea-stained’ sepia pages. Marvellous! I spent hours studying the booklet as I listened to the songs — and (like the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack album) I still know the words to all the songs by heart. The album is no longer in print, but many years ago I digitized my nearly worn-out old record and enjoy listening to it still, in spite of the loud pops and scratches that don’t match up with the rhythm of the tunes.

So after a few hours on the I-15, right through the middle of Las Vegas (enough with the casinos already!) and across the state line into California, I turned off the interstate at the little town of Yermo and followed a short winding road up to the ghost town of Calico. I paid eight dollars to park my car in the huge but nearly empty parking lot and trudged up the old main street. Yep, there they were — all the names and places I had come to know from listening to the album: the post office, the saloon, the shops, the school house, the trail leading up to the entrance to the silver mine. A couple of big tour buses coming from L.A., heading to Las Vegas, made a stop here, the halfway point on their trip. I don’t think any of French tourists that had joined me on my pilgrimage knew anything at all about the great Kenny Rogers album that had so inspired me. Same with the Japanese couples with their selfie sticks posing in front of the old stage coach. But for me, after numerous road trips where I had passed by not far from this place without making the stop, after 45 years of listening to and living these stories, it was a highlight. 

Back on the road I soon turned off the Mojave highway, and took the 247 down past the Joshua Tree National Park. That took me through a long blustery sandstorm of a drive through a big valley spotted with little ‘communities’ of ‘off-the-grid’ hobos and hippies, before I turned east on the I-10 and reached my destination — the lush irrigated oasis that is Palm Desert. 

As I arrived in Palm Desert, my ultimate destination, the brakes on my van were making a very loud shrieking noise as I slowed down for each traffic light. It hadn’t been a problem when I was flying down the highway, but it sure would need to get repaired if I was going to drive around here in this hoity-toity town of BMWs and Porsches. I found the Westin Desert Willow Villas where my friend Darrel had provided a stay for me for two nights. I checked in. When I got to my room I discovered that the room hadn’t been made up. I sent Darrel a text. His brand new condo was not far the villa. Reg and Bob had flown in earlier in the day and the three of them had just finished lunch. Darrel offered to come pick me up, but first I needed to contact housekeeping and get my room cleaned. When I talked to the maid she came right away and started cleaning. No chance for me to quickly shower first, so I decided to find a grocery store and buy a couple of things, including some wine for tonight’s supper at Darrel’s. When I returned the maid was just finishing up. I unpacked, hung up my clothes, and showered. Then I sent Darrel a text that I was ready for happy hour. He was right over in his golf cart to pick me up.

Robert Dyck was there now too — the five of us were going to have supper at the condo. I had a tour of Darrel’s magnificent home and then we sat out on the outdoor ‘veranda’ overlooking the Firecliff golf course for drinks and visiting until it was time for dinner. We had a delicious meal (steaks grilled on Darrel’s new electric barbecue) and watched the Jets game on the big outdoor TV.

Everyone was tired — it had been a long day for Bob and Reg who had gotten up early to catch the plane here from Winnipeg, and had lost 2 hours due to the time change to boot. And we had a 6:40 tee time booked for tomorrow morning. Early to bed, early to rise. Robert gave me a ride back to my villa (and stopped by for another little nightcap) before heading back to the RV campground where he’s been parked for the past number of weeks. I don’t think my head was on the pillow for more than a minute or two before I was fast asleep. 

Humming through my favourite state in the union

There is nothing better than a LONG drive on the American freeway system. For the third day in a row, I was up early, cruising at a ridiculous 85 miles-per-hour, doing my best to keep up with all the truckers I was sharing the road with. With wind, and often downhill! Eighty-five miles per hour and still the ‘ECO’ light regularly lit up on my dashboard — ‘ECO’ means the engine shuts down 3 of the 6 cylinders so it SAVES ON FUEL. Crazy!

Near Heber City, Utah

Today would be a shorter day. I could have made the trip from home to Palm Desert in three long days of driving, but I had decided to do it in four (just in case of bad weather or poor road conditions or a breakdown of my old van). So today would be a six-hour driving day, only 400 miles. And another glorious day it was. Mostly sunny skies. Mostly downhill. Amazing scenery from the minute I entered Utah. In Heber City the highway took me right through the centre of town. I spotted a car wash and made a quick pit stop to wash the brown Wyoming silt off of my van. A shiny clean vehicle is as invigorating and refreshing as washing your hair and brushing your teeth in the morning.

I was on the I-15 all day today. A great road and beautiful day in what I consider the prettiest state in the US. Utah has five national parks — I don’t think I’ve been in all five, but wow! the ones I have visited…

Of course, my photos don’t do justice to what I actually saw — they never do. (And they are taken through my windshield as I’m screaming down the highway at more than 85 mph.)

With wind and downhill! Near Coalville, Utah.

I had to catch up on the US election results so I listened to a bit of Rush Limbaugh on the AM talk radio. Hmmm… That is POISON! No wonder America is divided. You’d never know that the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives from the way this right-wing hate-filled radio host described the outcome. Mom always said if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all. If Rush followed Mom’s advice this would have been a very quiet morning. Well, I didn’t NEED to listen to it, so I didn’t. I switched back to my trusty old iPod, filled with songs from my iTunes library.I sang my heart out. What a random collection of fine music! Ella Fitzgerald singing a happy scat tune with the horn section blasting away, followed by the melancholy accordion-backed Mary Chapin Carpenter making you feel so good about being depressed! Neil Young, the Eagles, Kris Kristofferson, Linda Ronstadt, Van Morrison, John Prine, and even the odd Mozart and Gram Parsons in there, all mixed up together, side by side.  

And when I wasn’t singing, I was humming. I am ALWAYS humming. It used to drive Sue nuts. I don’t even notice it. I can’t help it. It’s a (bad) habit. And I’m usually ‘playing the drums’ on my my teeth — maybe that will end once my (newly installed) braces have kicked in and aligned the high-hat with the snare and moved the tom-toms where the top left molar can no longer reach them. Hey, what’s this? An old Delaney and Bonnie tune. I didn’t even know I had this. I must have recorded this off of one of my old records — it still has the clicks and pops of static in all the wrong places. But a great song! THAT’S why I like listening to this old iPod. That is just one more reason I love road trips.

I stopped in St George, the southern-most city in Utah, and a gorgeous city at that. I checked out a couple of hotels since I hadn’t booked anything — and I really SHOULD HAVE stayed there. But I’d seen billboards on the way in, advertising cheap hotel rooms and restaurants just across the border in Nevada. And that’s why I ended up in the Virgin River Hotel and Casino in Mesquite, Nevada. Oh boy! Won’t do that again. Sure, the room was clean and had everything I needed and only $27! But yuck! Mesquite’s only reason for being was casinos, and I find casinos very depressing. A big ‘factory’ to suck people into staying there and spending all their time and money in a giant arcade of losers. What a sad way to end a perfect day. I bought a pizza and ate it in my room while I watched TV.

Why oh why? Y-O-ming

I woke up at three and again at 5:30. When I went downstairs to enjoy the breakfast the kitchen was all dark. The guys at the front desk told me I had missed the Daylight Savings Time time change. No, I hadn’t. Okay then, how about the fact that I was in a new time zone. Oh! so it was really only 5 o’clock — still another hour until the breakfast bar opened. I took a cup of coffee up to my room and waited it out. Not that it was worth it!

I was going to take the ‘short cut’ by going through Lead and down through the Black Hills National Park, but after a couple of miles along that slippery foggy uphill road I gave up, turned around, and headed back up to the I-90 freeway through Spearfish. Good call. No issues on that road. At least no issues as far as road conditions.

I followed the I-90 into northeast Wyoming and down to Casper, where I once again took a two-lane road south to the next east-west freeway, the I-80. And once again, I had gas gauge drama. As I was driving my Garmin advised me that I would NOT make it to Rawlins, where there were many gas stations — but I would JUST make it to Muddy Gap, about 30 miles short of Rawlins, where there was ONE gas station. About 10 miles before reaching Muddy Gap the traffic in my lane came to a standstill. An LED road sign announced that both lanes up ahead were closed due to a major accident. We were stopped for only a few minutes before traffic began to move ahead, slowly. A pilot car was leading us along the left lane. Unfortunately for me, I could NOT continue in that procession as it past the accident scene — I was almost out of gas and had to turn off at the only gas station, just across from the intersection where a big Freightliner semi truck had demolished another vehicle. I filled in twenty bucks while the long procession of cars continued on past the plugged intersection. By the time I’d paid for my fuel the officials (and there were many of them) who were measuring and documenting the accident scene had once again stopped all traffic. I had to sit on the gas station driveway with about 10 other cars and wait until the next opportunity.

Accident scene at Muddy Gap, WY

For the next hour and a half no traffic moved. I had a ‘front-row’ scene from the gas station parking lot, but it wasn’t until I saw officials sweeping up debris and heading for their various vehicles and I decided to make a run for it around the taped off scene, that I saw the completely obliterated pieces of a white vehicle that had been crushed by the semi. Horrible. As I headed down the highway, passing MILES of stopped traffic in the opposing lane, I couldn’t help singing Bruce Cockburn’s “Tokyo” song: “Did you have to show me that accident scene / Didn’t I get enough shaking up?”

I pulled into another service station at Rawlins and filled up the tank and bought a burger for the road. I still had three-and-a-half hours of driving to reach the hotel I had booked in Evanston, Wyoming. At least the road was good, driving conditions were great. After two long days on the road, I was feeling great. It felt good to be driving — I should have been a truck driver. All day it was me and mostly truckers sharing these great American highways. And all day today I was ‘home on the range’ in Wyoming, where the deer were mostly lying dead along the side of the road, and the antelopes (pronghorns, actually) were hanging out in clusters in the open fields, their distinct white rumps making them easy to spot as I squinted into the setting sun.

I wanted to check in early today — it is the day of the mid-term elections in the US. I got to my hotel at around 6pm. The van was filthy. I filled it up and looked around for a car wash. Nope. I checked in and checked out the hotel TV. Hmmm.. lots of Fox News, and only static on the local CBS station. I guess I won’t be watching Colbert who’s supposed to be ‘broadcasting live’ the election results tonight.

I went for a fine supper at the steakhouse across the road from the Quality Inn. Then back to my room. I was now in Mountain Time Zone, so the eastern polls were already reporting results and Fox News (all that was on in the restaurant too!) was predicting results. Not a big surprise. It was interesting that Fox was declaring a ‘bigly’ win for the Republicans even though they lost control of the house. I probably wouldn’t have been able to stay awake to watch Colbert anyway — after two early morning starts and long days of driving I think I was asleep the minute my head hit the pillow.

On the road again

I’m heading down to Palm Desert, California. I’ve rented a friend’s condo in the Monterey Country Club until the end of November. I’m driving down in my van which is carrying a bicycle, 2 sets of golf clubs, a golf cart, a guitar, a small cooler, and a big suitcase. I’ve packed a lot of my Oak Leaf golf shirts, shorts, and sandals in that suitcase. And my trusty old (and it really IS getting old) MacBook Air. So I’m blogging again.

Monday morning, six o’clock. I gather up the garbage, turn off the hot water, lower the thermostat, and back out of the garage. On the road again. I drop the garbage bag off in a dumpster on my way out of town. It’s cold and dark.

Sunrise in Morris, MB

By the time I get past Morris the sun is coloring up the eastern sky. At the border crossing there is only one car ahead of me. Customs guy asks me all the usual questions and just like that I’m in America!

In Fargo I took a right turn and headed west on the I-94. Roads were fine, although the skies were cloudy all day and there were occasional sprinkles of rain — just enough to get the van dirty. I went through Jamestown and Bismarck and turned south in Dickinson, ND. Down a two-lane into South Dakota. The road started winding as I neared the Black Hills of South Dakota. I’d booked a hotel in Deadwood, a small tourist trap that I recalled fondly from 50 years ago when the Nikkel family went to the Black Hills. Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Cowboys and saloons and shootouts.

near Newell, SD
near Newell, SD

Right now I was getting a bit antsy about getting there. My gas gauge was getting near empty and there sure weren’t any towns with gas stations on this road! I punched in gas stations on my trusty old Garmin. Nothing until the town of Belle Fourche. The Garmin was giving me MILES to go, while the Honda was showing me KILOMETRES left with the fuel I had. So I had to do a bit of math. Yikes! This was going to be close.

I pulled into the CENEX station with the dashboard alight with warning lights. It showed that I had 2 kilometres of fuel left. Whew! As I pulled out of town and drove the last 30 miles to Deadwood I realized how tense I had been. My shoulders were all hunched up and tight. It would be better NOT to try that again.

It was dark, wet, and cold by the time I pulled into the Comfort Inn & Suites in Deadwood. Wow! Not at all the town I had envisioned. Casinos everywhere. In fact, after checking into my room I headed out to look for a nice restaurant and couldn’t find any! ONLY casinos. I ended up eating at a Mexican restaurant inside one of those casinos — something I found very disappointing, even depressing. Casino towns are depressing. Poor losers sitting at VLTs, tapping away at big red buttons while their credit disappears. Sad.

But the room was nice and I was tired. I had a glass of merlot from the bottle I’d bought on my way into town. And went to sleep.

Roadtrip home, Day 3 – North Platte, NE to Winnipeg and home.

It was just after 5:00am when I woke up in our Motel 6 room. Dave was ‘fossicking‘ around in the dark. Time to get up. I had a quick shower and off we were. The GPS led us down the road, a quick U-turn, drive-thru at the McDonalds for a coffee to go, and north up Hwy 83 which would take us into South Dakota. We drove and watched the sunrise. The highway was an undivided two-lane but there was no traffic and we made good time. I kept watching the gas gauge — and was cutting it pretty fine in between fuel stops. Not too many towns along this route today! Several times on this drive home we were down to about 35kms of fuel left when we finally pulled into a gas station. And so it was when we pulled into Casey’s General Store and Gas in Valentine, Nebraska, just south of the South Dakota state line. Whew! Made it. After feeding the van we went across the street to the Bunkhouse Restaurant and Saloon for a big hearty breakfast.

This is near Valentine, Nebraska. We were surprised to see snow on the ground. It got MUCH whiter once we crossed into South Dakota!

The scenery on our drive was ‘other-worldly’ today. I guess that big snowstorm that almost cancelled the Jets hockey game in Minneapolis on Sunday night must have dumped a LOT of snow across South Dakota and northern Nebraska. The gently rolling hills, mostly ranch land, was covered with the white fluffy stuff. The small towns we drove through had huge snowbanks on the side of the streets. We also saw a lot of deer and pronghorns, as well as big colourful wild turkeys, and ducks and geese along our route today.

We took Interstate 90 east to Sioux Falls and then turned north on the I-29 which would take us all the way up to Winnipeg. We again tested the Honda’s “estimated range” calculator and coasted into the town of Brookings on gas fumes. Filled up the tank and stopped in at the Dairy Queen for a burger and milkshake before heading back on the road.

We filled up once more in Grand Forks. It was around 4:30pm. If we hurried Dave might still get to watch most of the Jets game tonight. There were about 5 vehicles ahead of us at the border, but when we pulled up to the window the customs guy asked us where we’d been and for how long and waved us through. Lickety-split. Welcome to Canada. Welcome home.

As soon as we were across the border Dave was on his cell phone, programming his PVR to record the Jets, Raptors, and Blue Jays games. He was going to do some serious ‘catching up’ tonight! Then he was FaceTiming with MaryLou. Supper would be waiting for him when he got home. Which he did, at around 7:30. I dropped him off at the entrance to his condo building and we said goodbye. It was very kind of Dave to join me in Phoenix and then to drive home with me. He is, as he likes to say, ‘a professional driver’. It was fun sharing the driving duties these last couple of days. But more importantly, Dave is a true friend. I have really enjoyed hanging out with him this past week.

When I got home the mail was all neatly sorted on the kitchen counter. A note from Alex welcomed me home. She had bought fresh fruit, bread, cheese, and sandwich meat for me. Nice!

I decided I would unpack the van tomorrow. I made myself a sandwich, opened up a Goose Island IPA, and turned on my TV. Oops! No Jets channel. I quickly logged onto the BellMTS website and subscribed to the sports channels. Boom! middle of the second period. One-nothing Jets. Great!

That’s it for another trip! A good one. Everything worked out so well. I won’t be golfing in the next few days, but I’m hoping that I don’t have to wait too long, and that when I DO get out there my game will just get better! It’s been fun ‘blogging’ for another month, but I’m happy to take another break. So, until next time, thanks for following along with me on my ‘adventure’.

Auf Wiedersehen.

Roadtrip home, Day 2 – Santa Fe, NM to North Platte, NE

Dave with the NYT crossword in front of our breakfast cafe in Limon
Dave with the NYT crossword in front of our breakfast cafe in Trinidad, New Mexico

Woke up around 6am. Showered and put on my long pants and socks and shoes. Packed my shorts and sandals away. It’s supposed to be a lot nicer in Steinbach than it has been for the past month, but I’m afraid I won’t be wearing sandals for a while yet. We picked up a coffee at the Starbucks in the big grocery store next to our motel and then hit the road. Dave took the first turn at the wheel. He suggested that we stop for ‘brunch’ sometime later in the morning and that’s what we did. As we drove through Trinidad, Colorado we passed a lovely cafe. We parked the van and had a very nice wrap that doubled as breakfast and lunch for us. Dave worked on his New York Times Sunday crossword and finished it on the road a while later while I drove a stretch.

We drove north, heading for North Platte, Nebraska. It was a 2-lane road most of the way. Not too many trucks. Thousands of big windmills. Increasing amounts of snow in the ‘ditches’ and white salt residue on the highway. We stopped for gas (the gauge showed we had about 35kms worth of fuel left) and ice cream in Limon, Colorado. Dave drove from there to North Platte. We pulled into North Platte at around 6:00pm local time (we lost another hour due to the timezone today). Dave parked on a Starbucks parking lot and logged onto the wifi there. He booked a Motel 6 room for us and we drove across the road to check in.

The motel was newly renovated but wifi was an extra charge. Nope, not me — charging for wifi seems petty and I will take a moral stand against it and do without tonight. We called the front desk and got info about a local movie theatre and list of shows and show times. The theatre was more or less across the street from our motel — so we walked there. “A Quiet Place” was getting great reviews. We sat through ads for the first 15 minutes and previews for another 15 after that. Then the movie. It was over at 9:30. We walked out into a dark empty parking lot. It was cold outside! We hurried across a few streets to a Chinese restaurant that featured an all-you-can-eat buffet. Just in time! They were closing at 10:00 and quite a few of the food trays were already empty. But we managed to fill up our plates a couple of times and called it supper. After our meal we logged on to the restaurant’s wi-fi and deleted all our new spam. I sent Alex a text that we might well be home late tomorrow night so she would know to turn on the water and heat in my house. Got an immediate reply: all done. My kids are marvellous!

Roadtrip home, Day 1 – golf, Jets game, Santa Fe

Got up at 6. Packed up and were in the van, heading to Bashas’ by 7. Fresh pastry from the bakery with a Starbucks dark roast. Ready for the road. Dave took the wheel. Heading east, into the rising sun. Up through Globe, heading to Show Low. Elevation is over 6,000 feet. The scenery is inspiring.

Show Low has a number of golf courses. We pick a random one, entered it into the GPS. About 12 miles off the road that we’re on. But it’s a golf course, and it has greenish fairways, and it’s open, and it’s got cars on the parking lot. Good to go. Parked the van. Restaurant is busy. Register at the pro shop. $40 with cart. Tee off right now, if you like. 

The course was okay — not great. The greens had been cored recently so putting wasn’t ANYTHING like on Sidewinder. The fairways looked easier than they were. We had a fine round. No waiting (a few players let us play through). The weather was PERFECT golfing weather — 21 degrees and a very light breeze. We made some pars and we lost (and found) a few balls. So that was about ‘par’ for the course. 

After the round it was about 12:30, (high) time for lunch. We went in and sat down at a table. Ordered. Not bad. Dave’s clubhouse was too big to finish. My chicken tenders were more crispy than tender. But it did the job. We left feeling well-fed. 

Back on the road. I drove for much of the afternoon. Again, the scenery was the highlight. At times, wide open spaces with desert plants. The some big buttes come into view. Especially once we got closer to the El Malpais National Monument. Dave tried taking a few photos through the van window as we whizzed by — without too much success!

We got into Albuquerque at around 6:30. The fuel gauge on the van was dinging — 30kms and we are DRY! No problem; Dave has found a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant just off the highway. We make it. Hurry into the restaurant. Yes, there is at least one of their TVs showing the Jets game. We get a table in front of that TV. The score midway through the second period is 3-2 Minnesota. Yes! With Dave and me cheering them on, the Jets should be able to turn this sip around.

We order drinks and a ‘sampler’ plate of food. But the game isn’t going according the plan. Boom. It’s 4-2 Minnesota. Then 5-2. Oh no. By the middle of the third period it is quite clear how this is going to turn out. And that’s what it does. It’s very disappointing.

Dave and I discuss options. There are LOTS of hotels within walking distance from where we’re parked. But what are we going to do from now (around 7pm) until bedtime? What if we decide to drive on for a way? What’s coming up next for us?

Looks Like the road out of here leads through Santa Fe, about an hour north. Let’s check that out. So we do. Dave drives into Santa Fe, and finds the hotel we should stay in almost right away. We check into the Santa Fe Suites. Park the van. Dave goes to the Albertson’s grocery store across the parking lot to get us some ice cream. I unpack some of our stuff and put the drinks into the fridge. We have just enough to make about 2 gin and tonics. Our little ‘kitchenette’ has a fridge and there ice in the ice tray. Dave comes back with the ice cream.

We have a nice evening, watching TV, me writing my blog, and Dave working on the New York Times Sunday crossword before calling it a day.

End of Day 1, roadtrip edition.