1300 miles which has taken us from California to Texas. Leaving the city of SFO, through the farmland and acres and acres of crop growing (mainly almonds) where there is evidence of divisions over water use: signs protested questions with a child looking perplexed above the statement ‘Is growing food wasting water?’ and other posters criticised use of this precious resource in a drought ridden state. Farmers seem to have rallied behind the bouffant red candidate (Another farmer behind Trump!). I wonder if they’ve thought of who might harvest their crops should Trump’s immigration reforms come to be. Towards the state line and into more arid landscape and then into Arizona. More green, more elevation and more palatable gas prices at air Williams, returning to a campsite we’d visited before, with free waffles for breakfast and spotless bathrooms. We saw some friends from Durham, and had our first visitors in our camper. It boasts sleeping 9. 6 was a push, but manageable for 2 nights, and well worth it for some catching up and checking in.
The rest area at the New Mexico state line is the only facility for hundreds of miles. It’s busy, with trucks, cars, RVs and even a lone cyclist. It comes with authentic kitch Native American tack, fake cows and goats sitting atop large cliffsides and teepees perched in ‘dwellings’. Young girls strut the exit roads to the gas station, hoping to earn some $ by tempting truckers. Those drivers that don’t cave to lust, or want to serve their bellies first, shuffle into the food court, armed with gallon sized travel mugs and come out with warm slimy shiny hot dogs stuffed in yellow foam type buns, loaded with ketchup and bubbling sodas refilled in the mugs - all one might need ready to sit stationary for the next 300 miles. From the self service stand of 3000 coffee types, I took a coffee and a hot water (for a tea I could make, after searching in vain for one) and went to the counter, explaining my choices. ‘Oh it don’t matter honey, both the same price; we charge according to cup size’ Interesting economics.
Albuquerque was as empty of soul and character as we felt Las Cruces was when we visited there six weeks ago. Dusty, unimaginative, crowded with a sort of fait accomplis hanging in the air. This permeated even the walls at an Episcopal Church we visited for a service today; the congregation smiley but fidgety, vestry apologetic for missed prayer requests and an odd sermon whose message was lost in platitudes and the status quo. There was a strange energy in that place, where we sat at the back, and the priest was a small lego looking man at the front, who seemed unsteady on his feet and swallowed by the congregation. Returning to our camper, we packed up quickly. But - as ever, the people make it. I was stopped by a lady in an airstream (#envy) who recognised Ralph and his blond locks from a campsite three days ago; she and her family are also travelling on I40 east. They were stranded as their Ford Explorer’s security system had failed and wouldn’t allow them in the car. It had to be towed to the nearest mechanic, and they would have to wait for them to beat the robots that somehow keeps an owner out of his car.
It was a rather long 270 miles today to Amarillo, long for Rob who is doing so much of the driving and for us as passengers as we’re somewhat weary of travelling. Even the purchase of The Jungle Book didn’t excite the boys but Oreos worked their magic. As the miles counted down, our moods perked up and we listened to some good meaty discussion on Democracy Now radio station, debating the issue of the cleaner at Yale University who smashed the stained glass window depicting slaves carrying cotton in the fields, one of whom was smiling. He was apologetic for the violent incident but spoke eloquently of how the people serving the community of these ivy league universities - driving the buses, cooking the food and cleaning the lecture halls - are almost invisible, and still serving a largely white privileged population. With the news of Baton Rouge and Dallas, one understands why there is so much unrest here, and people feeling oppressed.
At the campsite, it was very windy but it took an edge off the heat which was a nice change. Toasted sandwiches for dinner, and we didn’t even unhitch from the truck. Rob and I chuckle at how when we started the journey, we used to put down the awning each night, put out the string lights and lay out all the chairs. 9 weeks on and other priorities take their place: getting miles under the wheels, letting the boys run out some energy and then a quick easy meal. We’ve promised the string lights will appear again in New Orleans. Whilst Ralph ran around in his shirt and underpants only, I chatted to our neighbour: he’d driven 800 miles today in his large motorhome, with his wife and parents in tow lounging on the sofas all on their way back to Seattle. He does all the driving, even though his father owns the vehicle - as his Dad is blind in one eye, and after telling enough people, one sensible soul thought it wise to alert the DMV. His licence revoked, his son a reluctant but accepting designated driver. Apparently ‘the wife’ doesn’t drive as she’s ‘you know, retarded’ he said with a nervous chuckle, which I think was affectionate. Last week, they dry camped as they were driving through The Badlands further north and both the headlights went out. They soldiered on, but after nearly going over a cliff using the one functioning fog light on the 45 ft RV, he parked up on the edge of the road and there they stayed - much to the chagrin of partially sighted father who was all for going on in the night up the winding roads. Ralph and I parted with neighbour saying ‘I’m off to roll a marijuana cigarette - it’s medically prescribed’.