North America,  Travel,  Travel Rambles

GART: St. Louis to Albuquerque

This is the start of a series reflecting back on the self-described Great American Roadtrip that David and I took in July. See our itinerary here!

Plops of soap were landing on my bathroom floor.

I’m not much of a shaver. Despite being a overgrown Italian, the leg on my hair prefers to come in blonde. This blesses me to forget I even have hairy legs, sometimes. With vacation on it’s way though, I thought to myself, maybe I should finally rid of it?
Is that what society wants?
Will it expose me to the ozone and help me get more tan? Probably.
So I decide to stream the entire series of Vida on Starz (amazing, plz watch) and begin the 2 hour long process of parting with around 4 months of leg fuzz.

For some reason, I thought the day before I left could be relaxing. But as the timer ticked up, my list of to-do’s seemed to somehow get even longer. Check the pet’s microchip numbers. Water all of the plants. Make sure the house is clean for the dog-sitter. Shave my stupid legs.

Oh, and pack.

By the time I’d finished everything, I’d watched all of Vida and had stuffed my suitcase well into midnight. We were supposed to leave at 4 in the morning.

The drive to Albuquerque from St. Louis is 16 hours long. I’d decided early on that I was going to complete the trek in one go because I did not want to waste the time/money on a motel. Last year I’d made the same drive and stayed in a middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma motel. As I snuggled into my nonsmokers/still smokey smelling room, I thought about how dumb it was that I was even there. I could have made the drive! Easy!

BLEP BLEP BLEP. Then my alarm reminded me, hey, it’s 2018 and the present and you are in bed and you gotta get up and drive to New Mexico again now.

After forcing Lola into a hug and nearly weeping over how much I’d miss her, we were onto the road.

Driving in the early morning with David always feels like a special secret. While everyone else snores on, we are instead quietly racing through the pink, morning hue, on an adventure where no one else is invited. We drive straight through the winding Ozark mountains and by the time we reach Oklahoma, the sun is finally awake.

As I pass through toll after toll after evil Oklahomian toll, David closes his eyes and assumes car-sleeping position. I put on a podcast but can feel my eyes getting heavy. Oh no. We are only 5 hours in. So, as one does, I began hitting myself. Wake up! Wake up!

The landscape fades from green to red (have you ever noticed how strikingly red the dirt is in Oklahoma?). Soon we are in the tippy-top of Texas and find ourselves at Taco Bell, our lord and savior.

Goals & Garbage - A photo of Taco Bell in Texas

It isn’t until we stuff ourselves with bean burritos that I feel more alert. To make sure the incident doesn’t repeat itself, I stop us in Amarillo for some Starbucks as well – thanks to Rob and Stephani for the gift cards!

At last, after 15 hours of driving, we can see the faded outline of the Sandia Mountains in the distance. We pull off into Santa Rosa to partake in our first official, vacay tourist attraction – so that I can dive into the Blue Hole.

The Santa Rosa Blue Hole is one of seven sister lakes connected by an underground water system. It’s a true oasis, being such a random source of water smack dab in the desert. I almost think it looks fake. Something so blue surely can’t be natural, not when everything I eat contains a chemical. Not when I put serums on my face to stop acne and couch fibers are coated in chemicals.

But it’s real, 130 ft. deep, and 62 degrees all year round.

I almost decide to turn around when I see the vast quantity of people jumping in, doing backflips. I just spent 14 hours in solitude within my rental car confines. I think I’ll just keep going.

David stops me when I announce my decision. “We didn’t drive all the way here so that you could back out.” He’s an expert at stopping me from dissuading myself. I typically try to not let my anxiety talk me out of stuff, but when it does, he is there as backup. He’s a great partner.

I slip into my swimming suit and before I know it I am on the ledge of the ominous water. From up here it looks less inviting. The water is black. I am going to die. People gather around behind me, waiting for me to jump. David is ready, camera in hand. So, in I go.

The minute I hit the water, my body revolts. I surface as quickly as possible and am hyperventilating. Oh my god. I really am going to die! The temperature contrast is too much, too extreme, and I struggle to make my way to the ledge.

“It’s so fucking cold!” I exclaim to David, once safely out. I wrap myself in my towel and realize the insides of my ears are sore, like they touched snow with their bare feet. It’s at this point that I realize that everyone’s reaction is verbatim. Another guy pops up – “It’s fucking cold!” Another one – “IT IS FUCKING COLD.”

Goals & Garbage - A photo of the sunset in Albuquerque

It probably isn’t helpful that I just spent an entire day in a toasty, temperature controlled environment and then plunged, with no warning, into a hyperbolic arctic pond. I feel physically ill and have to eat some freeze-dried snap peas to not wanna vom. That is enough adventure for me today. Time to finally get to where we need to go. I crank the heat on in the car, as my body has turned into an ice cube and I need to thaw.

As we approach Albuquerque, the mountains grow bigger and bigger and the sun begins to set. Albuquerque is known for having striking sunset shows, and we watch as the sky turns a vibrant pink and pull over several times to take a massive amount of photos.

And then, at last, we are finally in ABQ. My legs are jelly from driving all day, but I am glad to have conquered the trek in one day.

It’s not until we have finally made it to our motel that we discover we have been cursed by an evil sunset baby…. To be continued…

Goals & Garbage - Photo of the author driving to Albuquerque, New Mexico

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