A Thousand Miles from Nowhere

“But I have to tell you, when we were driving home, we were on some highway in Utah? That highway goes on forever! We were getting scared. The towns are like fifty miles apart!”

— my coworker talking about her family’s summer vacation to Bryce and Zion canyons in Utah.

So she said that and I laughed. A lot. Loudly.

She looked very offended. “It’s not funny, we were totally freaked out!”

Ah. That’s so cute. City kids. How utterly charming. I should know, I married one.

Speaking of the one I married, when we made the drive from Las Cruces to Albuquerque in the month of October a few years back, he was very adamant that we had to pack in quite a bit of water before we drove. Now, he’s not wrong. It’s just good thinking.

He also wanted blankets, flashlights and a first aid kit. We were venturing out into the desert and by god like the Boy Scout he used to be, we were going in prepared.

Again, nothing wrong with that. All very fair.

Except I used to drive that same 200 miles in the dead heat of August in a rickety old Mercury Bobcat with too many miles, not enough metal and every single little possession that I could cram inside. Well, everything except water, blankets and a flashlight.

I guess when you’re raised where towns are fifty miles (or a lot more) apart, these things don’t worry you.

Sure, one Thanksgiving I was driving back from Deming to Albuquerque and got caught in a really heavy snowstorm. So I got off the highway to a state road, put my Jeep in four wheel drive and drove slowly to the ranch home located at the bottom of Nogal Canyon. My friend’s folks live there and they took me in, gave me a hot meal and we played cards all night.

Once, south of El Paso, I got caught in a terrible rain and hail storm. So I pulled over to the side, listened to the radio and read a book.

Then there was the time I made the ride to Silver City in July and had to turn off the A/C and turn on the heater since my engine was starting to overheat as I climbed the hill in my very weak Dodge Shadow (now known as a Neon). I was a puddle of sweat by the time I got there, but it was nothing that a Route 44 from Sonic couldn’t cure.

Oddly enough, even on all the blisteringly hot days I hit the endless highways of New Mexico, I never broke down, never lost a tire, never had a reason to need a gallon of water and a blanket.

In February my best good friend drove me and my two godkids out to the Spaceport in Upham. We spent an hour or more on dirt roads with only cows to accompany us. I didn’t get worried. I didn’t get scared. What I did is feel calm. Really, really calm. Being where the eye can’t see another human (other than the people you chose to be with) is a very happy place for me.

So I apologized to my city friend. Then I advised she’s allowed to laugh at me when I slip off my nut over getting lost (again!) in San Francisco, and then I go the wrong way on that one section of California Ave while everyone honks and yells, and WHY IN THE $%^# can’t I make a left turn to get off Market Street!

It’s all about where you’re from, I guess.

The view from Upham. It’s a happy place.

Photo by Karen Fayeth, copyright 2010, and subject to the Creative Commons license found in the far right hand column of this page.

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  • Sandy

    Yes, I guess it is were you are from but I like the contrast of the two every now and then. I prefer the smaller towns-too bad I live in Las Vegas.lol

    • Karen Fayeth

      Sandy – Las Vegas, Nevada or Las Vegas, New Mexico? I’m guessing Nevada since the LV in NM is very, very small! :)

      Maybe for me living in such a huge metropolitan area makes me appreciate those quiet country roads all the more.

  • Sandy

    I meant where…ooops

  • Lynn

    Haha! Great story! I used to make the 218 mile trip from Albuquerque to Portales every Monday morning, leaving around 2 am to be back to ENMU in time for my 8am class. I did it in a Mercury Topaz with too many miles, a sturdy jack and spotty cell phone reception. I never once worried and sure did not have a flashlight, water or blankets. I think I will put my story on my site…

    • Karen Fayeth

      Lynn – Whew…the ABQ to Portales run is a doozy! I’m amazed you could drive all night and still go to class. Wow, I don’t think I could do that. I did push my departure time occasionally and drove in the dark. That I25 corridor from ABQ to Cruces is a whole other sort of vibe at night.

      Would love to read your story!

  • Don

    I prefer small towns in the middle of nowhere over big cities too. I often traveled from El Paso TX to all parts of the US, often on long (>200 miles) roads with little but VERY small towns to stop for gas. I would often take the back roads just to stay way from populations. I travel for the fun of it, and seldom had the “emergency water, blankets, etc.


    • Karen Fayeth

      Don – I do have a fondness for two lane roads. I mean, the four lane highways are great, they get you there fast with plenty of amenities. But the two lane roads have personality.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Ur Bro

    Short on money i drove Las Cruces to Albuquerque in the F100 pick up. Ran out of gas just after Belen, near the spot where the casino is now, just desert then. Walked to the gas station but they would not take a check for gas. Had to call Dad on a pay phone (cell phones had not been invented yet), he drove out and rescued me.

    I was in western Australia recently and was impressed that everyone carries both water and gas cans in their cars and trucks, everyone.

  • Ur Bro

    Oh called Dad collect. Another thing that is lost in history…

    • Karen Fayeth

      Bro – And these days a car will start shouting at you when the gas gets low. The era of “I wonder if the gauge is right” is ovah!

      • Ur Bro

        I knew the gas gauge was right, I was just playing the gas gauge limbo….. How low can you go?

      • Dave Bonner

        Oh no they aint ovah! I’m driving my grand parent’s new 1976 Chevy LUV! When it gets below quarter tank or I leave Dona Ana County, I gots a can of gas by the dog water. I tend to go exploring when I dint mean to so, I make sure I gots plenty of water… for Boy. Sometimes she has to share with me…. or the radiator.
        the mayor
        ps: I’ve been here for near sixty years… I don’t go through my gate without water…. NEVER

  • Emmett

    Had the opportunity to tourist around various folks who came from more developed territories, many had questioned my adamant insistence that gun laws need to be very local. New York, New Jersey, city Texans; various times and places.

    But my favorite was pulling out of the east exit from the Grand Canyon, huge vistas and you can see forever. But your cellphone doesn’t work and I used to point it out.

    Then I’d turn south toward civilization and drive a couple hours to the booming town of Tuba City. Then we’d check the cell phone, depending on carrier either a bar or another hour south before they were covered.

    And the Highway Patrol only runs that road every couple days.

    So for years I’ve carried water, oil, food, space blankets etc. And a .38.

  • Elise

    It’s farther from Houston to El Paso than it is from El Paso to Los Angeles. That fact has always boggled my mind.

    On morning I took off from Houston for Cruces and realized about halfway that I’d left my $$ card at home. I had about $25 on me. This meant I had to make Fort Stockton on the gas I had before 5pm–so that I could get to a Bank of America before they closed for a replacement card or cash. That was one long, hot, scary stretch of nothing but dirt & scrub.

  • Alan

    Ha! I’ve been on those roads around Bryce and Zion. On the positive end, there can be some pretty scenery between towns. On the downside, there can be a “The Hills Have Eyes” feeling to it.

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