I’ve gotten several e-mails regarding my Albuquerque trip, so I’ll take care of the exciting details right here, right now. It was all last minute; my boss talked to me Friday about making a delivery to New Mexico on Monday morning. Rather than thinking “work”, I thought, “ROAD TRIP!” and signed up before getting the details. What I didn’t realize was that I would be driving a huge truck alone through the ugliest land in North America. Here are a few of the highs and lows of an altogether strange trip:
7.20.03 | 12:30pm – Arrive at the office and realize that I am not qualified (or legally allowed, for that matter) to man a 25′ Penske truck. I looked at the qualifications manual – yup, my cajones were three sizes too small to drive this vehicle. The truck was loaded up with several tons of countertops making it one of the slower vehicles I’ve driven. My rollerblades had better pickup. I look sheepishly on as my boss tells me, “Check your mirrors” and “Make wide turns.” I try to listen but all I can hear in my head is “What was I thinking this thing is ginormous?”
7.20.03 | 1:00pm – On the road, I’ve already figured out the woes of driving with several blind areas. Not sure, but I’ve probably killed several living creatures by this point. This is also not an uphill driving machine. Each hill reduces my several ton truck into a 35-mile-an-hour brick. With the pedal to the floor and the engine screaming, I considering getting out and walking.
7.20.03 | 2:30pm – I enter Flagstaff, AZ with a quarter tank of gas and begin learning how to maneuver around small cars and skinny roads. Lesson number 1: This truck does not brake like my S-10. I end up halfway in an intersection before I stop.
White line fever had began to set in (yes, at the 2 hour mark I was ready for sleepy) so I purchased the delicious and powerful drink “Liquid X”. Labeled as “extreme euphoric energy”, I chugged the drink and actually felt quite awake and quite happy. I tuned into an R&B station and sang “Pink” songs until my throat hurt. This is the strangest part of the trip, because I don’t listen to “Pink”, and I don’t really know the lyrics to these songs. This part of the trip is difficult to remember.
7.20.03 | 7:00pm – I entered Gallup, New Mexico: Drunk Capitol of the US. Supposedly, it has the highest capita of drunks nationwide. Hey, if you can do something, and do it well, I say go for it. As I gassed up the truck, a guy stood and watched me for a few minutes. He would give me a creepy look, I would look over, he would look away. It was a game for him. I went to get my receipt, and as I was walking out, he approached me with a friend and said, “Hey, can we talk to you?” I quickly mumbled, “Yeah, can you hold on a second” and then booked it to my big yellow safety wagon.
7.20.03 | 7:15pm – In Gallup, I stop by a McDonald’s. I feel like the only white guy in the whole restaurant. Then I realize I’m the only white guy in the whole restaurant. Not that race is an issue; I just look like fresh meat. I scarf my quarter pounder with cheese and softly rock back and forth.
7.20.03 | 8:15pm – A severe weather watch warning is broadcast, and then it starts raining. Coincidentally, the radio (which is now playing solely country because nothing else will come in) plays a song about a guy who drives off the road and cripples his friend. I also don’t know how to turn on the headlights. Or they don’t work. I own a GMC truck (and the Penske truck was GMC), and the lights basically work the same way. Ram the switch, lights go on. Well, this Penske truck would only run daytime lights. For two hours I drove at night in the rain with daytime lights on. Thinking I’m going to die a virgin, listening to country.
7.20.03 | 9:30pm to 5:15am – Check into the “Crossroads Motel.” This is the ghetto. Seriously, I was afraid to get out of my truck. However, this wasn’t the worst part. I go to park the truck and take up four spaces. The attendant runs out to tell me to move, but there is nowhere to move. He instead tells me to move my truck. I mention that I suck at backing up (as well as driving forward), but he says I have to leave the lot open. As I back up, I feel something jolt the truck, and I look back and see the guy screaming at me. Turns out I can’t park in the lobby. I jacked the awning at the motel. I moved the truck back, still taking up four spaces, and I tell him, “This is where it’s staying buddy.” Later, as he’s billing me for the damage, I laugh and say, “Business expense.” We share a moment. He says he can fix it for $32. I bet he just pocketed the cash. If you are gonna stay at that motel, you probably wouldn’t care that part of the awning is missing.
The motel’s A/C was crap; it was 80 and humid in the room. I went to wash up, and the soap was already wet. Premoistened soap is disgusting. It said, “Radisson Hotel” on the wrapper. I figure that’s probably cheaper than buying your own soap. I hoped they washed their sheets more than once a month, but I couldn’t be sure. I spent the evening wide awake. I read the Gideon’s bible, smashed cockroaches on the wall, and even watched several hours of infomercials. In the end, I had accumulated 45 minutes of sleep. There were sirens every few minutes. I really wanted to get the Chuck Norris work out bench. I also wanted this rotating hair removal brush. I still need that damn chop chop knife. I eventually settled in and watched a fiery preacher teach about salvation. I fell asleep within 10 minutes at 4:45am. Sometimes church is the best time to sleep.
7.21.03 | 5:00am – Wake up call. I got in a nice 15 minutes of sleep at the end. I pack up, say a few swear words about the quality of the motel, and then head out. I should have just backed over the whole motel on the way out. I get to my truck, covered in awning dust, and notice significant damage to the truck roof. Hope they don’t catch that on the Penske report.
7.21.03 | 5:30am – I reach the jobsite, and sit in my truck for a half hour waiting for the construction site to open up. As I’m sitting there, a woman, about 5’1″ walks up to the passenger side and stands a few feet back and waves at me. I reach over to roll down the window, but the seatbelt catches my arm, and I can’t reach the door. As I’m unbuckling the belt, she tries to open my door. Luckily, it’s locked. I’m a little freaked out at this point, and as I roll down the window she says, “Are you dating anyone?” Confused, I reply, “What?” She again says, “Are you dating anyone?” I reply, “Uh, no, what are you talking about?” She says, “Can I keep you company?” “HOLY CRAP!” was all I could think. Not “HOLY CRAP this could be the best vacation ever!” But “HOLY CRAP a prostitute at 5:30am in New Mexico!” At this point, I was a bit shocked and said in a squeamish 13-year-old voice, “No, um, no thank you!” I rolled up the window quickly and reparked the truck in a less seedy area of the neighborhood.
7.21.03 | 6:15am – I begin unloading an ungodly amount of countertops – several tons – in the hot hot sun. Construction workers freak me out. They were a large potpourri of people with bad teeth and good tans. I was most intimidated by the women. Female construction workers are very very scary. Not because they aren’t fitting a female stereotype, but because they could kill me with their bare hands. Well, who am I kidding, women belong in the kitchen.
7.21.03 | 8:45am – I return the truck to Penske and an employee asks if I had any problems. Problems? I see no problems. Just don’t look at the roof of the truck. She brought the paperwork back after examining the truck. No problems. I said “Thanks!” with a huge grin and fast walked it out of that joint.
7.21.03 | 9:15am – At the airport, I thought lady luck had smiled on me again when I looked at my ticket, and it had a checker pattern on it. The checker pattern meant that I got to bypass the 25-minute security line. Well, the checker pattern is a free ticket to Feel Me Up Central. I was screened as a “high security risk.” There I was – shoes off, arms up, and a scary man patting me down. I couldn’t really understand until I went into the bathroom and saw myself. Hmm – coated in dust, sweaty, blood-shot eyes, cuts all over my arms from the countertops, ruffled hard-hat hair, an evil goatee. Oh yeah, and I had a one-way ticket from Albuquerque to Phoenix. It was only 9:15am and I felt like hitting every bar in that New Mexico airport.
7.21.03 | 10:45am – My plane leaves New Mexico, I fall asleep without even touching the Sky Mall magazine. I wake up an hour later as the plane touches down, my head lodged between the chair and airplane walls. Severe neck pain.
Springer Closing Thoughts
In the end, I discovered why Albuquerque is not a popular vacation spot. The entire trip took less than 23 hours, but I felt aged. I had experienced more of the good and the bad in those 23 hours than the last two years. Well, not everything. Probably should have reconsidered the offer from the ‘woman of ill-repute.’