Thursday, 1 February 2018

Home Sweet Home

We are all home. Anne, Macy and I made it home last week, and we went to Austin yesterday to run errands and bring Stoli home. All four of us in our home stayed warm and cozy last night. Even though Stoli was way too excited about being home to sleep, the rest of us managed a few winks between meows and fifty pound cat paws stepping on one of us to get to the other. He is usually a very good night time cat, but it takes a night or two to adjust every time he comes home from his Auntie Pat's house.

It is incredibly difficult to narrow down what I want to tell you about the trip. Anne mentioned a couple of towns that were quite inviting with good cafes, libraries, and generally good community feel. I am always looking for my true home. I don't mind being a homeless-on-the-road traveler. I've done that in the past and in some ways, I enjoyed that life better than having a home. There was never an obligation or draw back to the home, only to the next gig or town or adventure. With a home, one does at some point need to return if for no other reason than to make sure it hasn't burned down! Luckily, our return was mostly uneventful. There was a multi-day freeze while we were gone which is very unusual for south Texas. I had prepared for this as much as I could, but, alas, the outdoor-shower water heater (designed for outdoor use) must be even more fragile than I thought. Its internal water tubes burst in the freeze even though I had released and bled the water before we left... there must have been just enough. Oh well, could have been much much worse!

We learned a few things about the way we like to travel. We planned three nights for Patagonia Lake State Park in southern AZ which means two full days. That was too short. We decided that three days (four nights) needs to be our minimum. Even if it turns out there is nothing to do, nothing is something. We could use a day or two of staring at nothing but birds and clouds. From this discovery in southern AZ, we decided to extend our northern AZ stop to our new standard. Northern AZ in January can be hit or miss, but this year, there were warmer than normal temperatures and everyone was enjoying the sunshine everywhere we went. We watched the weather, and by the time we arrived at Dead Horse State Park, the weather for our final day was looking colder and rainy with 20's overnight. Frozen rain on the roads is not how I wanted to drive to NM, so we seriously debated. We decided to hope for the best and go on the Verde Canyon Railroad on that rainy day and if it meant leaving late on our departure day to wait for temperatures to rise, so be it.
Turned out to be a gorgeous day for a train ride!
Leaving the railroad station, it was cloudy, misty and a bit chilly. As we traveled into the canyon sipping our wine, the sky cleared and the scenes were clear and gorgeous. There are outdoor cars for seeing up the canyon walls. I feared these would be too windy and cold, but with a coat, we were fine for short looks at the amazing scenery.
Anne looking for cool stuff. Our bartender behind her is hoping for bald eagles which we got to see near the end.
We went to bed after packing up most of the camp satisfied with our gamble. It had not rained much and the roads would be fine even with a really serious freeze.

We had chosen a road that was not the interstate, but a highway that seemed dotted with towns and major enough to not be called a "backroad." We left our camp at 5:55AM. We are early risers for travel... and insomniacs many nights. Up and over our side of the mountain and down the road we had chosen. What should await us 10 miles down the road? Signs that seemed to have tar on them. A few signs later, we realized that the reflection from our headlights onto these signs was being obscured and blackened like tar BY SNOW. We had a winding descent that I took carefully and steadily.
Anne took this while I drove.
This snow became ice in places. The snow and ice would clear up only to begin again around the next mountain. We had very easy spots and very slow-going spots. The whole trip for the day was supposed to be about 8 hours. At 8 hours, we rolled into Pie Town, NM. The wind was blowing so hard that it was unclear if there was new snow or if that was ice, or what was going on. We thought this might be the end of our day.
Here is Anne looking down the side of the mountain. She might have been praying or cursing... not sure.
We coasted into the parking lot of Pie-o-neer. We hoped there might be some internet so we could take a look at the weather. We carefully made our way to the front door. Locked. How about the other front door? Locked...  but wait! I could see someone walking toward the door. She opened the door and began to tell us, "I'm sorry we're closed...." and then she seemed to take pity and invited us in. Grateful doesn't begin to describe how that felt. Very soon behind us arrived another couple. We began talking and found that they had come from the opposite direction. This meant we could swap weather reports. In good weather, it appeared we had another 3 hours and 15 minutes to our hopeful destination. The Angel of the Pie-o-neer made us all coffee and sold us some pie (which we later ate and it was delicious! NM apple pie with green chilis.) The other couple claimed we would be just fine with the rest of our drive, and so, we drove on, and it cleared up completely within about 5 miles!

We made it to my parents' home and made a full recovery... and washed the poor snow-filthy truck.

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