16 March 2008

From St Louis to New Mexico

Stayed in St Louis for a couple nights and set off along Route 50 to Jefferson City to visit a relative. I left around seven in the morning, and hit some serious fog once I got close to Jeff City. Lots more traffic on this stretch of Route 50, with lots of trucks and enough dips and curves to make it tough to pass. Had a good visit with my aunt for a few hours and then pushed on, hoping to reach Dodge City KS for the night.

Didn't get very close to Dodge City--it got dark around Emporia KS, so I decided to stop there--must be lots of hotel rooms in Emporia KS on a Friday night in March, right? Wrong! Most of the hotels were full from a college softball tourney or some crap, so I got the only room I could find--the honeymoon suite at the Rodeway Inn! This was living--the heart-shaped hot tub and everything! But had to pay $125 for the privilege.

The hotel had a decent little bar, with good chips and cheese dip, free wings, and cold beer. I watched the Georgetown basketball game while I drank some beers and looked at the map. Meanwhile, the local happy hour crowd (about twenty geriatrics) were giving me funny looks, maybe because I was eating so many free wings, or because I hadn't bothered to change out of my riding pants.

After the basketball game, I lounged in the suite's heart-shaped jacuzzi (really!) while watched the Weather Channel to plot the route ahead. Colorado and the mountains north and south of there were getting dumped on with snow, so Route 50 to California was a no-go--had to divert south, but didn't know how far south yet... I would take Route 50 to Dodge City then break south on Route 54, which heads south-southwest through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and then decide if I would go all the way to the Mexican border (yuck, boring!), or try to dash through Flagstaff or somewhere like that.

When I got up for breakfast at O'dark thirty, it was about 35 degrees and pouring rain--not good!--but by first light the rain had stopped and I made pretty good time. But it got colder, not warmer, over the next couple of hours, down to about freezing, and the damp air made it feel even colder--riding when you're really cold seems to have the same effect as alcohol--numbs your brain, slows your reactions, etc.--it was time to stop for some coffee to thaw out.

I pulled over about halfway between Emporia and Dodge City, had some coffee and a couple of donuts, and stepped into the telephone-booth sized bathroom to put on some warmer undergarments. I had to dodge the people coming in and out of the bathroom, but finally got changed and back on the road.

Well, here we are in Dodge City, but there isn't much here...some fast food joints and a bunch of tourist places closed for the season. Had a heavy lunch at KFC and then--you know this is coming--got the hell out of Dodge.

I regretfully left Route 50 and set out for Tucumcari NM. I was making pretty good time when I got nailed for a speeding ticket outside of Liberal KS...bastard cop got me while I was rushing to get to a passing lane to pass four semis where were crawling up a hill. I explained that I was passing the trucks, but he said I wasn't, would listen to reason. Very polite, pleasant, sneaky, ambushing cop.

After Liberal KS slowed down a bit, made it to Tucumcari NM by about 1800, still plenty of light. I found a perfect dive motel across the street from the Lizard Lounge (I ain't picky). Apparently Tucumcari is on one of the scattered remnants of Route 66, because it had some of the familar cheezy motels, but in general the town looked like it had seen much better days--half the motels and gas stations had been shuttered for quite a while, although maybe it was seasonal as well. But, uh, didn't look like it... Watched more Georgetown basketball--they lost to Pitt in the Big East tournament final--and tried to figure out where to make the run through the mountains.

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