Christmas Crossing America
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John & Jarrett & Sweetie head cross country from New Mexico to Michigan for a Christmas back on the farm. Click here for a map of the trip.
I didn't buy plane tickets early enough. There was no way I could afford to fly myself and Jarrett back to my folk's house for Christmas. The only other option was to drive. But could the 10 year old Beretta make the treacherous journey? After all, it had just had a run in with a curb and I had spent the past week trying to get insurance to pay for new rims so we could actually leave town. What next?
So it was the Sunday before Christmas and Jarrett was out of school for Christmas break. I had a client or two to finish up with and collect from so he could deposit enough money to make the trip. It was about 4:30 PM (Mountain Time) before they were able to leave town. After a quick swing by McDonald's for a little Chirstmas cheer - and after checking in with Jarrett's Mom at the fire station, we were gone.
The trip would start in Santa Fe, New Mexico and terminate in Conway, Michigan. The trip is about 1600 miles each way. Much of it not of any interest. The wind was cold and blowing across the Interstate as I drove the blue shivering beast South to Cline's Corners. This is a well known truck stop that boasts trinkets and velvet Elvis paintings. We gassed up there and got onto I-40 East through Tucumcari and onto Amarillo. Once past Tucumcari, the roads became more windswept with snow. In Texas they were well covered and not cleared. It was slower than planned, but at around 9:30 (Central Time) we pulled into a gas station and Jarrett and I loaded up on giant mugs of coffee and hot chocolate. Gas was $1.04, which was about 20 cents cheaper than Santa Fe.
Driving from Texas to Oklahoma the roads were slippery, but there wasn't much traffic to contend with. It was around 2 AM when I pulled into a Love's diner just outside of Oklahoma City. Gas was 90 cents and we were 540 miles into our trip. Now if we had left at 7 AM this wouldn't have been bad, but I was very tired and slept for a few hours. We had to keep turning the car on and try to get some heat out of the heater, as it was freezing out.
We left Love's around 6 AM and by 8 AM we were passing through Tulsa. At 9:24 we drove into Missouri. (Misery.)
This state had hills at least, and one big Interstate that runs right up the middle to St. Louis. Along the way there are the typical fireworks stores, claiming the biggest explosions this side of China. We stopped at a freak show (alright, it was just a gas station) and Jarrett stocked up on fireworks at one store. Sweetie was enjoying running around in the wet grass and sniffing everything in site.
We spent the whole of the day driving across Missouri. It was very boring and bland. Not exciting like New Mexico - what with the banditos and the covered wagons.... Around 4:10 we crossed the Mississippi into Illinois. We were sitting at 1065 Miles and almost a day into the trip. From there we cut over and up to Chicago. Then took the toll roads over to Michigan. We entered Michigan at about 9:38 PM (Eastern Time) and 1400 miles into the journey.
The 4-5 hour trip north into Michigan is always pretty boring. The Interstate goes as far as Big Rapids and from there on up you are back down to 55 MPH. Well, as close as I would get to that at that hour of the night. That was about where I needed to pull over and take a nap. I was very exhausted from driving. So we pulled into my parent's driveway at about 2 AM.
The weather was dry and cold. My sister Kathy had a baby a couple months earlier and this was Nephew Mitch's first Christmas. I was glad to be home and tried to not think about money and things for a few days. We played with Mitch a lot, went shopping, wrapped presents, played with Mitch some more and I worked on Mom's computer. Raman came up to visit on Christmas and stayed a couple days. Christmas was fun and filling as usual. Jarrett went snowmobiling with Chad, although the snow was very light. Jarrett also put on a fireworks display since there wasn't much wintery weather on Christmas Day.
We played N64, ate and watched movies and then it was Sunday again and time to leave. The trip back was about the same, except this time we got into Missouri as darkness fell. I got lost, of course, and after an hour detour and almost losing the dog as we unexpectedly visited Daniel Boone's home, we were back on the road and into a big snow storm. We were nearly across Missouri before I had to pull over to take a nap and a break from the tense driving on ice with little visability. I rested for a few hours and then started back up. I could have used more rest, but the heater wasn't working very well by this point, and I didn't enjoy frostbite much.
Jarrett and I were at each other's throats. No doubt we were both sad to see our vacation end. It was back to work, school and responsibilities and we weren't excited about that. Money matters always made things worse then they really were. But having a 14 year old blowing on you with his new blow gun from the back seat was a tad distracting.
We got back into Santa Fe around 5 PM and there was the answering machine waiting to tell us everyone who called with emergencies with their computers over the holiday. At least Jarrett had a few days before school started. It was a good trip and I wasn't sure I'd want to drive back to Michigan again!
On the next pages you will find pictures of baby Mitch's first Christmas
and everyone sitting around eating and watching TV.
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