We left the Wal Mart car park at 8.40 am. As we headed out of town we passed a police car with a radar gun - the first we’d seen on the whole trip. It’s amazing that everyone seems to drive five or ten miles per hour faster than the speed limit. There doesn’t seem to be any fixed radar units like the ones we have in Australia nor does there seem to be police cars parked with radars. However, we did quite often see police on the highway with vehicles they had pulled over - whether they had been pulled over at random or for some other reason we did not know.
Shortly after departing Farmington, we turned south at Bluefield onto Highway 550. We were soon driving into green fields, irrigation and more oil wells - on both sides of the road. No wonder this country is so wealthy!
The truck traffic started to get greater as we headed south. We passed vehicles carrying horses as well as lots of covered vehicles. There were beautiful yellow sunflowers growing beside the road and every so often we sighted a huge gas plant.
We transited the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation and noticed the small villages had pawn shops and big laundromats in each community. Also, right in the middle of nowhere, was an Apache Casino - obviously the native people must have approval to run a casino in this area and people drive great distances to go to the Indian reservation to gamble. Could this be an answer for our own Aboriginal people? We hope not.
At about 11.10 am we stopped beside the road for tea and toast using the inverter, which was working well, although we were unaware of what would happen later on that night.
Just before we got to San Ysidro, Dick spotted an unusual display board headed “Abstinence Before Marriage”. Dick reckons it refers to drinking. They don’t want people to start drinking before they marry. Perhaps that is what it means? Look at the photograph and decide for yourself!
We crossed the Mighty Rio Grande River. This river starts to the north in The Rockies and ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gradually the highway started to expand as we got closer to Albuquerque. At one stage there were eight lanes! We reached Highway 40 and it was gigantic with 12 lanes wide and then it dropped to a miserly 8 - that is 4 lanes each way. The GPS showed we had 1,990 miles to New York and if we kept driving at the rate we had been we would be there in 34 hours and 37 minutes. We knew that we had over two weeks to reach New York so we would definitely be able to see a lot along the way.
Beside the road there were factories and warehouses with huge “Fireworks For Sale” signs - a bit akin to what you see in Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. Obviously the Albuquerque area allows the sale of fireworks and we presumed that other states do not, giving people driving through the opportunity to purchase fireworks.
Leaving Albuquerque on Highway 40, we realized we were parallel with the famous Route 66. It’s called the Great Mother Road and it goes from Chicago to Los Angeles and was incredibly popular in the 30s and 40s when cars were just starting to be accepted as a mode of long distance transport, over railroads. There have been songs sung about it too!
Every chance we got we exited the boring Interstate and got onto Route 66. Much of it is still there and the small towns have capitalised to the hilt - good on them! At different times we could see the new highway next to the railroad and the old Route 66 - a simple bitumen narrow road with an orange center line.
We left the Interstate at Santa Rosa and drove through the main street. It’s quite extraordinary because many of the old buildings from the 50s and 60s have been left exactly as they were.
Back on Interstate 40, the truck traffic was truly staggering because there seemed to be more trucks than cars. Dick remembers seeing such a situation in Russia in 1966 but that was because people couldn’t afford cars. In America, with flying being so competitive and cheap, many people now fly the long distances, but freight being shipped from one side of the country to the other is truly colossal.
At Tucumcari we moved off 40 East onto the old Route 66. Firstly we stopped beside the old railway station and, whilst making a cup of tea, we watched a few trains pass through. We then drove along the main street to the Cactus RV Park - yes, it was pretty cactus but it only cost $17.00 for the night. We went for a walk up the main street and looked at the old buildings - some were completely abandoned but many were reconditioned, especially the beautiful Blue Swallow Motel. We decided that we would stay there the next time we visit the area. We understand it even has its own 1950 Cadillac Convertible. It’s obvious that the local business people are really astute. The Interstate is boring whereas if you exit onto Route 66, real time history exists.
We parked in the RV Park and at about 9.00 pm we heard thunder in the distance. Then there was a colossal explosion, which shook the van and all the lights went out. We looked outside fearing that something nearby had blown-up. The next morning we discovered that lightning had hit a tree only 10 metres from us and literally blew the tree apart, plus put a six inch hole in the ground. That was the explosion we heard. The reason we lost our power was because we had plugged into the ground power. This was connected to the inverter in the Earthroamer and the lightning obviously took out our inverter.
Pip grabbed the torch and Dick looked under the seat to see if he could get his soldering iron out to fix the inverter. Unfortunately it was “cactus” in the Cactus RV Park. There didn’t appear to be any other problems though. As it was raining outside and the 12 volt side of everything worked we watched “ Friends With Money” DVD that Pip had bought the previous night at the Wal Mart. Fortunately the Earthroamer is cosy inside when it’s raining and even when lightning strikes 10 metres away!