Dawn was breaking and the wind was cold and blustery when my friend (and sometimes red head) Pat and I loaded our possessions in “Little Red,” my modest but reliable Toyota pick-up. Twelve hundred miles of asphalt and the promise of bad weather lay before us. Pat had planned for every possible contingency. There was an inflated air mattress for napping, electric pump in case the mattress lost air, numerous pillows, quilts, two wool blankets. Dozens of shoes and boots (hers), jumper cables, heavy-duty flashlight, a case of bottled water, a carton of Sundrop, a basket of snacks, breakfast cereal, apples, bananas, popcorn, candy, soup. Two suitcases, my gym bag, a basket of gifts, more bags that contained more shoes, cosmetics, toiletries and two hanging bags of clothes, and finally, a 20 pound bag of cat litter.
“There’s a limit to how much we can carry,” I said. “We don’t own a cat and I’m not taking it.”
“You’ll be sorrrry.”
“Hmmm.” I scratched my head. When females act that way, a man should take heed. I stuffed the cat litter behind the seat. At the last minute she decided not to carry the frozen dressing – there wasn’t room.
Finally, we departed for Taos, New Mexico to spend Thanksgiving with my daughter, Shannon and my grand-doggy Marley Dog. Several days earlier Shannon had phoned and invited us out.
“Dad, I’ve bought a free-range turkey. It’s an antibiotic free contented turkey that died a peaceful and non-violent death.”
“Died in his sleep, huh?”
“And you’ll have your own bedroom,” she added.
“Don’t tell me that we get to sleep in the dog’s master bedroom!”
“Wow!” I felt honored. Marley Dog is my only claimed grand-doggy. The chow had once belonged to my ex and Shannon’s mother, Carol, who died three years ago. I love Marley Dog. The chow doesn’t like me, possibly having overheard that I was late paying my child support. I ignore the darn cat.
Exactly 39 minutes after departing Elk River, Pat wanted a Sundrop. I was tempted to invoke my traveling rule: If it isn’t on the same side of the road we don’t stop and we pee only when we stop for gas. But, I was in a generous mood. After a few swigs of Sundrop, she was purring like a kitten and sound asleep.
Before leaving home, I checked the weather forecast. Snow was predicted in Oklahoma City and westward. I like road trips. There is always the promise of the unknown and that’s what makes it exciting.
The trip was proving to be uneventful. The weather man was wrong again! We listened to Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers which put us in a western mood. It was 9:30 p.m. and spitting snow when we reached Elk City in western Oklahoma. I stopped for gas. “What’s the weather between here and Amarillo?” I asked a trucker.
“Two to three inches of snow and still falling. Not wanting to take a chance, we spent the night in Elk City. I got up about 3 a.m. and looked out. No snow! I returned to bed, fretting.
Later Pat woke me saying, “Look outside!”
There were four of inches of snow on the ground and still more falling. Only a few 18-wheelers moved on I-40. I kept watching the weather. It stopped snowing. I saw several 18-wheelers on I-40. Fifteen minutes before checkout, I said, “Let’s go!”
“I knew you were gonna do this,” Pat said.
We hurriedly packed and dragged our luggage out the door where an Indian cleaning lady was in the hallway.
“I’m dumb and this is dumber,” I said pointing to Pat. “We’re checking out.”
“Well good luck dumb and dumber,” she said. “I hope you make it.”
Big trucks were knocking snow and slush off the road. Several had crashed. In the Texas panhandle, we passed a road sign: “FM1920”.
“I’m going to see what the weather is,” Pat said and twisted the radio dial. “Good idea,” I replied. “This radio doesn’t go up to 1920.” She said and worked the dial.
It dawned on me that the sign designated farm-to-market road number 1920, not an FM radio channel. I chuckled to myself and said nothing as Pat continued to turn the knob and complain.
Mouth-watering billboards advertising the “Big Texan – free 72 ounce steak” greeted our approach to Amarillo. That’s about how much I weighed when birthed.
“I want to eat at the Big Texan,” Pat said. We stopped and she had steak. I ate grilled salmon. We were serenaded at our table by a songster who crooned, “San Antonio Rose.” We talked. He had known Roger Miller who had worked for the Amarillo Fire Department. “He was more interested in singing than putting out fires,” the singer said.
Later we learned that Oklahoma City was being pounded by snow, sleet, and ice. We had been lucky and slipped through a window of fairly good weather.
It was night when we encountered more snow at Albuquerque and we stopped for the night. Later, we drove to a nearby sports bar for sandwiches.
“You drive back to the motel,” I said to Pat. She settled behind the wheel of Little Red, slid the bench seat forward until it cracked my kneecaps against the dash, pressed the clutch and yanked the stick shift into low. Out the parking lot we sailed. Little Red jerked forward as she shifted gears. Then she turned left onto six lanes of one-way oncoming traffic. The cars looked like the headlights of a 747 coming straight at us. There was no time to turn and no time to back up. A wide concrete median, at least a foot high divided the highway.
“JUMP THE MEDIAN!” I shouted.
Pat stomped the accelerator and Little Red responded. We hit the concrete barrier producing a loud noise and then sailed across the median in the nick of time.
“Whew, Little Red has saved us again!” I said.
“I hate this truck.”
Taos was 132 miles north and the weather was clearing. The promise of Thanksgiving looked good.
To be continued…
By: Jerry R. Barksdale