Where are the mosquitoes?

I finally selected a new apartment after much searching. If you want my advice for looking for an apartment, you can find out just about all you need from their website and driving through the neighborhood, scout out where the rental office is, if you have a hard time finding a parking spot, skip it. Make a short list based on price and commute, then call ahead for a tour. Kitchen cabinet quality speaks volumes about a place. Most every place I remember as being scared just to be in the neighborhood ended up having kitchen cabinets that were dirty, or small, or looked very flimsy and cheap, or didn’t even have rails they would slide on. The places that I had a good impression of from the street, had very nice cabinets.

That could be a government study, how cheap kitchen cabinets destroy a neighborhood.

My new apartment overlooks a golf course with a little lake in it. I noticed all the windows had screens on them, but where were the insects? I realize it’s “winter” here, but there hasn’t been snow on the ground in I don’t know how many years, so where are all the pests?

I was thinking of investing in one of those bug zappers so that I could sit out on the porch and say “yep” a lot, but I don’t really see any bugs.

Not that I’m complaining. That is definitely a point in Phoenix favor.

A surprising lack of beggars

I suppose this is anecdotal evidence at best, but I haven’t really had a big problem with people asking me for money.

Coming to Phoenix I was under the impression that all the homeless people come to Phoenix because the weather is so good even during the winter that it’s not so very cold when you sleep on the streets.

That being said in November a homeless woman carried around the baby she delivered herself on the street and initial new reports mentioned that the baby “had turned blue from the cold” but it might have been blue since it wasn’t breathing. They mentioned that the homeless woman was “a known drug user and likely had a mental problems”.

I have a friend in Lubbock that did live in a homeless shelter in Phoenix, and he relayed that there were a lot of homeless in Phoenix as well. One of the local conservative radio talk show hosts was homeless at one time.

I’ve seen a few of them at intersections, stop lights and the like, but staying on the lane that’s not immediately beside the curb seems to work; but I haven’t had anyone yet come directly up to me and ask me for money. So that’s cool. I did take a trip to Tucson, and at the gas station a woman asked me for money and twice in November at a Jack in the Box by Indian School and 7th Avenue I was asked for money, but none since my time in January has started.

I think it’s that I’m starting to get a tad more cynical, and that I’m taking pains to avoid them. I was asked for money by people in Lubbock a few times, but I think that was just because of the exact area I lived in, and after awhile I was able to avoid them. I guess I’ve already gotten good at avoiding them here.


Celebrity Sightings

Celebrities, we all know we shouldn't care, yet we cannot look away. I don't buy any of the magazines I see in the supermarket check out line, but I do read the covers as I wait in line. I must admit that I've even gone so far as to adjust how the magazine sits in the display so that I may read all of the headline to find out which country two adulterers are flying off to next to help starving children.

Phoenix is home to a few in the ranks of celebrity, and people you've heard of too:
Leslie Nielsen, Stevie Nicks, Alice Cooper, those are the ones that when I heard them I went "really, wow!", and was impressed.

What does Lubbock have? Well the last big thing I can remember was a rumor that the white guy from "The Fast and the Furious" was planning to buy "the big house on Slide where that fire was". ***Edit 2006-02-07: I went back to the guy I first heard this rumor from and he tells me that that particular house was not destined for that actor, but that either his wife (or if he isn't married, girlfriend) is from Lubbock TX.***

I'm not saying that makes Phoenix any better or worse, in a perfect world you would want your neighbors to attract as little attention as possible, but I figured I would illustrate the difference.

-Update 2006-02-01: A relative pointed out that Lubbock does have Bobby Night. He also mentioned "Marsha Sharp" but I'm guessing unless you are from Lubbock, you don't know who that is. Then there is Buddy Holly, but I say he doesn't count since you can't have a "Celebrity Sighting" of someone who is no longer alive.

Phoenix Podcasts vs Lubbock Podcasts

After listening to podcaster after podcaster mention the area that they were from, InsomniaRadio.net (or Indie Feed) and they mentioned a band from this area, and I thought "wouldn't it be great to get some podcasts from Phoenix"?

So I did a search of podcasts for Phoenix on iTunes. I had no idea how much podfading there was out there. Some really cool ones, some tech, some religion, some aimed at educators, maybe more than 20.

I had also done a search for Lubbock podcasts. However none of them seemed interesting enough to try. 6 spirituality, 2 educational institutions, 1 weather.

For fun try checking it now, or check your own town.

Phoenix vs suburbs, who wins national recognition?

One of the Phoenix podcasts I subscribed to was a text to speech conversion of the Arizona Central newspapers business section.

It mentioned how Scottsdale (one of the towns in "The Valley") had gotten a visit from celebrities recently and how that will increase their notice and they couldn't be luckier.

I figured "Hey, I wonder if the national media reports on this story if they will say 'Celebrities sited in:
A. Arizona
B. Phoenix
C. Phoenix Arizona
D. A suburb of Phoenix
E. Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix
F. Scottsdale Arizona
G. Scottsdale'

What do you vote? I was thinking 'B', they would just straight up ignore the exact location, or wouldn't know one Phoenix suburb from another and just lump them all together and call them 'Phoenix'.

Much to my surprise, they went with 'F', "Scottsdale Arizona", and when I say "they" I mean a search of "jennifer aniston vince vaughn arizona" on google, had 6 sites calling it "Scottsdale Arizona" off the 10 on the front page (I was unable to view the other 4 sites or they did not mention the couple in relation to their visit).


More Media Talk

Something I had never run into before was a comedy channel on the AM band. AM 1480 will play audio clips from stand up comedy routines, or some Saturday Night Live sketches that translate to not having any video. It was great. I’ll definitely have to add it to my AM preset list.

I had mentioned that there was FM 101.5 with pretty crass humor. I do listen to it in the car when I can’t listen to my podcasts, and one late night when turning it on, was Phil Hendrie, this hilarious DJ who does this comedy show with a “guest” who has a totally indefensible position that he or she will try to defend with the callers. It is hilarious. I also started listening to Adam Carolla’s radio show in the mornings. I had been disappointed by his Comedy Central TV show, but his radio show is great.

College Interaction

I should mention that I spent 6 years living across the street from Texas Tech University in Lubbock Texas, and I’m sure lots of residents would say that Lubbock is a “college town”.

As a for instance, some Lubbock residents in a particular neighborhood (called Tech Terrace), had a law passed that a maximum of three unrelated residents can live in the same house. This was passed to specifically keep a bunch of college students from moving into the house next door “because you know that all those college students are loud and noisy and trash out the neighborhood”. I’m not sure when it got passed, but I guess they finally tried to evict 4 students from one of the houses, they responded by painting the house purple, and then painting big black polka dots over that. The whole ordeal ended in a fizzle when one of the students moved out and was replaced with a cousin of one of the residents, thus bringing them up to code; at least that’s the way I remember it.

So far I’ve only noticed that they have colleges in this town because some of the roommates I looked for were students; other than that I’ve hardly noticed. That might be since there are many colleges, not just one.

Politics of the town

I had gotten requests by one of my relatives to touch upon the politics of the town. You always hear things like “Detroit is a big Democrat place”, but I’m not sure if I had ever heard a stereotype about the politics of Phoenix.

I do remember hearing that the Minute Men had patrolled the Arizona border for a month as a publicity event. But I’m unsure if that really proves the politics one way or another. One thing I have heard is that the population of Phoenix goes up by 120,000 every year, and I’m sure people bring their politics with them.

I hadn’t really had any political moments I’ve been confronted with. I did find the competing liberal and conservative talk radio stations to be a change, but the only real close attention I see politically is when a local host for either of the stations comes on. Really I guess it’s not any more political that Lubbock was.

Well now that I say that, I do recall two separate instances where American ex-soldiers mentioned their dislike of either the current or previous administrations. That was kind of odd. I wasn’t really involved in the conversation so much as I was standing within earshot, so I didn’t pipe up and say anything.

I should say that politics in Lubbock aren’t really that active either, only if you want them to be. You can get active, join an organization, read the paper, attend meetings; or you can just ignore the whole thing.

Arizona Laws

While discussing apartments with leasing agents, and discussing apartment searches with co-workers, I was made aware of some Arizona laws that its residents at least believe to exist, though I can't say with 100% certainty that they do.

First off, a light one, “$700 fine for non-leashed dogs” told to me by one of the leasing agents. I can understand why you would want all citizens to keep their dogs on a leash, but isn’t 700 dollars a pretty high fine for even the most dangerous of breeds?

Secondly, “All BBQ grills must be 10 feet from the wall of a building”, told to me by the same leasing agent. I’m not sure I get this one. I realize that you want to keep people from burning down their houses (or someone elses house), but if I am a home owner, what if that’s a risk I’m willing to take, shouldn’t I be allowed to take it?

Finally, the one that stood my hair on edge, “If you are in a lease at an apartment in Arizona, you can break it without penalty by purchasing a home in Arizona.”, this one told to me by a co-worker. I don’t see how this is fair at all, in an effort to get more tax revenue, the state government will allow a private citizen to break a contract with another private citizen solely for the benefit of the government. How wrong is that?


Another Glendale street sign

The same intersection that gave us "Use your head, stop on red", also brings you:

Red means stop

I'm sure this will be followed by some other obvious signs like: Food is good


Cost of Living

While I don't think anyone was surprised that I was not able to find an exact replica of the apartment I had for the price, I did find it dissapointing that any place comparable to where I live now is twice the cost.

We (or maybe just I) have a perception of "moving up in the world" as you get older, more educated, more experienced, getting better, faster, stronger, smarter, living better, making improvement, finding new ways to do things, more ways to pursue your own interests.

I suppose for what the wife and I were making we could have moved into a nicer apartment in Lubbock, but for what I'm making now, it appears we will have to take a step down in some of the nicer parts of our apartment. For instance, our Lubbock apartment combined the kitchen with the "utility room" (where the washer/dryer hookups were) into one room. This gave the kitchen loads of counter space and a big area you could walk around in. Most every Phoenix apartment I've come across has the "not wide enough for two butts" hallway kind of kitchen. With all the appliances taking up most of the counter space. (Oh, a good idea would be to put a piece of wood over two of the burners on the stove whenever its off).

It's dissapointing when I'm earning more, but I'm going to pay a much higher percentage of what I was paying for something comparable, with a longer commute and a premium for a "nice" neighborhood.

On the flip side, I have noticed that food is just a hair cheaper. Hot pockets come down to $1 each (as opposed to $1.50 in Lubbock) and the Tall Boy energy drinks are only $1.50 (as opposed to $2 in Lubbock). Of course this is for the supermarkets. Convenience stores are a whole other story.


Suburbs signs

Lubbock recently started a new advertising slogan: “The Giant Side of Texas”. The ads try to convey a sense that Lubbock is not just some town with nothing to do, but full or culture and a rich history. I’m not sure if they had any billboards that had “Welcome to Lubbock, the Giant Side of Texas” but I would bet that they are there to great travelers.

This morning in North Phoenix I happened to take the Bell Street exit off I-17. As mentioned before, you just drive down streets of shops and suddenly you find yourself in a new town.

Well Glendale Arizona doesn’t want you to just speed through their town and not notice it. So they have large signs placed around the city limits that read:

“It’s our town, SLOW down.”

Making Glendale sound like it’s full of old cantankerous people. Then on my way out at the protected left at Bell St and 75th Ave they had this smart-aleky sign “Use your head, stop on red.”

Thanks Glendale, for the condescending traffic reminders.


A-typical suburbs

Something that has been different about Phoenix that I’ve been meaning to talk about is how close all the suburbs are to Phoenix (and how close they are to each other).

Not that Lubbock really has what I would call “suburbs”, but Houston has places like Spring where you have to take a ride a good distance out on an interstate, and the Dallas / Ft Worth area has places like Plano, where you actually can have some fields or at least big swatches of grass and trees in between towns.

Not so with Phoenix, if you check it out on any of the online mapping tools you’ll notice that the grid of cross streets just keeps going even though the name of the area changes. The example I keep using to explain it, and it just happened today wouldn’t you know, is that you can often be driving down a street, and if you turn left is west Yorkshire road in Peoria, and on the right is west Utopia road in Phoenix. So most of the town just run side by side. So far I haven’t found any huge differences.

One thing that is definitely worth mentioning, the stop lights go from straight green, to straight yellow, to straight red and protected left green, and protected left yellow while still straight red, then red for everyone. In Lubbock it would be protected left green and straight red, protected left yellow and straight red, straight green, straight yellow, all red.

I’m told it’s the protected left first in some of the suburbs, but I’ve just started to really pay attention at lights instead of trying to remember and second guess.

Oh one more thing and this may be because I was driving a company vehicle with a big logo on the side, but I have noticed that repeatedly when I’m trying to turn in with traffic from a parking lot that’s near a stop light, people will stop to let me in. Thanks fellow Phoenicians.

Just this morning I happened to run across this article as to how to be accepted as a Phoenician. Apparently this town gets in 120,000 people a year, and I’ve run into three people in Lubbock who used to live in Phoenix. So “new comers” and “people who leave Phoenix” happens a lot.




The infamous shock jock recently went off the air. I had found his station by accident when I was visiting Phoenix about a week before his final show. I figured that I would listen to it as much as I could, since I wouldn’t get another chance unless I purchased it. I’m trying to keep the radio at a low volume in my cube so as not to disturb anyone else, or offend them, when one of my female co-workers overheard it and initiated a conversation about how much she enjoyed the show and that we had better hurry up and get satellite radio if we wanted to keep listening.

I guess this wasn’t really “surprising”. It’s been one of the universal truths that higher population leads to more widely defined permissible behavior. Why that is, I couldn’t say. You would almost expect that if there are fewer people to get angry, you could get away with more, perhaps it’s the anonymity of not having to know or ever interact with your neighbors.

Speaking of, I’ve driven or walked by my immediate neighbors every day the past week, and haven’t said word one to them yet. Actually that’s not that different from Lubbock. In Lubbock all I would say to my neighbors is “Howdy neighbor” as I walked by.

I guess what really surprised me was that I was under the impression that the shock jock had left because they were afraid of being fined by the FCC, well what do they replace him with? A format from Los Angeles called “Free FM” that’s just one crass shock jock after another. I eventually had to search for a music station because I didn’t want people to walk by my cube and hear the constant barrage of sex talk.

Phoenix is also one of the carriers of the liberal radio station. We don’t happen to have that in Lubbock either. I’m not sure the exact number of radio stations, but I tried to do a quick scan and preset setup, but ran out of my 8 presets on FM and AM pretty quickly. I’ve not sat down to determine for sure, but there even seems to be more TV broadcast channels than just the big 5.

Something I’ll have to do soon is do a search for Phoenix podcasts versus Lubbock podcasts.

Traffic Jams

So something that you’d notice coming from Lubbock to Phoenix is the traffic. Not to say that Lubbock doesn’t have any traffic, but rush hour is usually just the hour when you are trying to get home from work. Today, on a Saturday, while in Mesa, for whatever reason I couldn’t say, US 60 West headed into Phoenix around 5PM was stacked. As I made the turn and saw the cars on the on-ramp standing still, I cringed.

It was stop and go, and 20 minutes later I made it to the first exit two miles down the road. I took the surface streets until I could make it to the 101 loop. It wasn’t crowded for whatever reason. All in all a 30 minute trip took about a 1 hour.

It wasn’t the first, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I’ve been in traffic jams in every other big city I’ve driven in as well, but I just figured I’d point it out to anyone moving from Lubbock.


Short tour of 2 bed, 2 bath, pet friendly Phoenix apartments

We start our journey in the "Central North west Phoenix" area. I’m going off of my memory and these pictures from 2 months previous.

Desert Lakes
8245 N 27th Ave Phoenix AZ 85051

I'm not sure if this was the intention, but the main gate was wide open as I drove in. It was on an awfully lonely stretch of road. I've become used to seeing people on every street corner and on every sidewalk, but I want to say that at the time I drove by, this street happened to be empty, which was odd. It might be because I-17 happens to run really close to it, and if you had to get on, or around I-17, you would take a different route unless you already lived on that road. So that's a point in it's favor.

When I parked another guy happened to pull up beside me, when he got out I asked him if I had taken his spot (this was a gated community after all) and he politely said no. So I would also chalk up random kindness from a stranger as a point.

The buildings were all two story, and I believe they all had 8 rooms per level. This would mean you share one wall and staircase with one neighbor, another wall with another neighbor, and a floor/ceiling with another neighbor, three neighbors in all. The actual part of the staircase you would share is probably only 8 steps and a landing.

Something that this apt had that I thought was really cool, was that as you came to the top of the stair, there would be a 4x4 porch with a door that had a deadbolt. After entering that door, would be a 4x16 porch that was kinda like outdoor storage. All the ground floor places had some sort of screen that went floor to ceiling so you couldn't just hop over the fence and make off with someones stuff.

The porch area looked really nice, kinda like a place where you could let a dog bounce around in.

This was all I saw from the outside, the grounds were clean and they had an additional locked entrance to their pool.

After turning the corner and driving a few miles down the road, I did come notice several youths hanging out at a convenience store.

Villa Serna
4221 W Dunlap Ave Phoenix AZ 85051
I rolled up to Villa Serna that had a Dairy Queen right beside it. There was what I assume a high school age girl working there. I asked her if she felt safe in the neighborhood and she said yes. I asked her what she thought about the Villa Serna and she said that one of the people who worked there lived there. So that's a point in their favor.

I didn't see a pool at the Villa Serna, that's unfortunate.

Again, gated community with the main gate left wide open.

At these apts you did share a few steps and a landing with one neighbor, you would also share a wall with them, then another neighbor on the other side, and some other neighbor would share the whole backside of the apt. Of course if you lived on the corner of the building, this would limit you to two neighbors.

They did have an outside grill which I though was interesting, and they looked like rather nice walkways between the buildings.

These apts would also an enclosed porch area, a room (I assume living room) would have a sliding glass door leading to the enclosed porch area, perfect to let dogs run out and play in. if you were direcly at ground level, it would instead be a row of shrubs. This place did have a "sense of cheapness to it". I know that sounds hard to describe, I'm not sure if it was the occasional baby cry, the music I could hear faintly in the background, or just the look of the tenants, but something told me I would want a discount to live there.

Driving to the South side of town. Right along I-10, about halfway between the loop and I-17.

5335 W McDowell Rd Phoenix AZ 85035
Not to much to say about this place. I walked throught it and just didn't feel safe, not to mention that there was trash. Not completedly covering everything, but enough that you would say "huh... there's trash here".

After "the most pregnant teenager I ever saw" and the group of men chatting and laughing and just all the dirt and grime on the roads there. I decided against it and left.

Villa del Sol
(address unknown)
Oddly I had some picks of this place. I think I started to check it out, and wasn’t as frightened of it as I was of Lynnwood, but I do think I ran into some more trash, and a pack of children just running around screaming, and eventually left. I want to say I saw a pool.

Avante Apartments
6161 W McDowell Rd Phoenix AZ 85035

McDowell appeared to be a pretty busy street that wasn’t really sidewalk friendly. So while there was a lot of cars driving back and forth, I didn’t really see a lot of people at the street entrance.

Now this was a gated community that seemed to take itself seriously, as though they were trying to keep the people in Lynnwood out. However they did have a gate on the sidewalk that a person could walk through, and it was propped open. The car gate required a code or something similar before it would open to allow you to drive through.

I walked around, saw a really big pool that some kids were playing in, that was pretty far separated from the apartments (I assume to help reduce noise). The buildings here were 2 floors with 4 apts per floor, so one neighbor shares your porch and a wall, another shares a wall, and another the floor/ceiling. Instead of just a few steps, you would share the entire staircase and half of a porch that ran from their door all the way to yours. It also came with a sliding glass door exit to an enclosed porch area. Perfect for the dogs to run and play in.

This place thoroughly impressed me with it’s cleanliness and sharpness. If that was a big concern, this was definitely a place to check out.

Did you ever wonder if someone would think it odd that no one would accost a person walking around with a camera? One guy did pull back the curtains to give me an odd look, I just waved, and to my amazement he waved back. Kindness to strangers, that’s a point in it’s favor.

Now we head just South of I-10.

Copper Cove
101 N 91st Ave Tolleson AZ 85353

Well lookee there, someone doesn’t want to be Phoenix, instead they are “Tolleson”. Of the 5 weeks I’ve spent in this town I can’t remember seeing that at any other time. And I printed out directions to this place 2 months ago. I’m just playing with the citizens of Tolleson, I’m just making light that the rest of the country just knows everything in sun valley as “Phoenix”.

Copper Cove was actually the one gated community that I had a hard time getting into. I had to scope it out, check all the entrances, and there was a tenant playing with her kids right beside the car gate (that required a code to get in), so I figured she would likely rat me out if she saw me tailgating in or just walking in. I eventually found a sidewalk gate for people to walk through that was just barely latched. Even then it required a little finesse and pen to push the latch in enough to open the gate. That’s a point in their favor for protecting the grounds that well.

There were some kids out playing in the parking lot, but they looked clean cut, although I’d say watch out for them since they were pushing one kid along on a big wheel.

Copper Cove had two story buildings with 4 apts per floor, but I think you would just share stairs and a landing with one neighbor, another neighbor sharing a wall, and another neighbor on the floor/ceiling. So really only two neighbors you might have to deal with.

Copper Cove also impressed me with it’s cleanliness and sharpness.


I'm here

Turns out there were two nails in that tire. I finally heard the “hisss” of escaping air at a Loves convenience store in some town in New Mexico. An L word I think. Sure enough most places were closed since it was the first Monday after New Years. But M & A towing did me up right, patched the tire for like twelve dollars. It did add about 1 hour to the whole time.

Thus my trip from El Paso to Phoenix went from 12 to 7:30 pm, for a total of seven and a half hours. Yes I did get a late start, but that allowed me to sleep in. Besides I had nothing to do when I got here, so I didn’t really see a point in getting up early.

Something else that really got to me, more after I crossed into New Mexico and while in Arizona, was that it seemed like the two lane interstate (I-10 West the whole way) was really crowded. I always had lots of cars in front or behind me. And we kept doing this “shuffle”, when the speed limit was 75 miles per hour, I and a couple of cars would be doing 75 in the right lane while the speeders would whip by in the left hand lane, and all was right with the world. The “shuffling problem” would happen when we’d come up on a car in the right hand lane that was going below the speed limit. It would be going really under the speed limit like 55, but as if it was doing 65 or 70. Well eventually we’d all start slowing down to that speed, and the last car in line would pass everyone, and then get back in the right lane, then the next car would pass, and get up front, and so on. Then we’d again proceed until we came upon another slow car. It wasn’t an exact car for car replacement, but I know me and 3 other trucks repeatedly would pass each other. My question though, is why in the world would you be going under the speed limit? It’s just miles and miles of nothing, there were some hills but a great deal of it was flat.

That being said, right before mile marker 203 in Arizona I did see a woman lying in the street around a lot of parked cars. A man was bent over her very closely, and some other men were standing around. This was at an entrance ramp in a pretty desolate patch of road. I called 911 and the operator told me there were already police in route, someone else had called to report she got hit by a car. I wonder how she got hit, or where she was walking from and to, we weren’t exactly in the middle of nowhere, but it was close.

Well I came into Phoenix after dark. My tiny studio apartment’s neighborhood looks a lot scarier. Of course I needed to use the bathroom (as it seems I always do when I buy a 44 ounce Dr Pepper every 2 hours), so I stopped at a 7-11 just down the street. No public restroom. I did notice a homeless person hanging around outside, counting the change in his hand over and over, and figured that was why. There happened to be a Burger King on the opposite corner, so I stopped in there, ordered a meal, and asked where the bathroom was. On my way out, the guy who had been working the register was stopping a homeless guy from entering the bathroom. I’m pretty sure that was what he was doing, all I heard him say was “I’m sorry, they don’t want people to get used to it, I’m sorry”. So I do have to commend Burger King for having a restroom available to customers. However it gave me serious pause about where I was living.

So far the apartment meets with my approval. I have to give 30 days notice if I want the security and key deposit returned to me, so it looks like I’ll start looking for a new apartment pronto.

I’m planning on recording the property on video camera, then converting that to digital and mailing it back to the wife to help her decide which apt we will choose. I do still need to buy a box to convert it with, but I guess I’ll do that now.

Personal Growth

On a personal note, I do feel like this is a growing experience. Perhaps you could say that living in Lubbock allowed me to deny reality somewhat, or maybe I’ve just been living in denial this whole time and it’s got nothing to do with Lubbock.

Up to this point, I didn’t believe this was happening.

Yes, I realize that sounds strange.

I had gone to visit it twice, and have an apartment picked out and everything else, but up to this point I really hadn’t made any moves that I couldn’t have said “No, I’ve changed my mind, I’m not going to do this”, and gone back to a fairly normal day to day experience.

Even while packing, I almost felt as though I was just cleaning and organizing my stuff that I needed to do anyway, not actually packing for a trip two states away.

Saturday my back left tire got really low, I filled it back up. Checked it again Saturday evening, it had gone down a little in pressure (thought it didn’t really look lower), so likely a slow leak. By now it was 6PM, New Years Eve, and a Saturday, likely no places open to get it fixed up. The next day was Sunday, also unlikely to get it fixed since it would be New Years Day, and I wasn’t sure I’d have time to take it in, get it fixed, pick it back up, and do all my errands, and load the car.

So I checked the spare. Made sure it was in good condition. I just figured “I’ll get on down the road, it will go flat, and I’ll come back on the spare, I’ll have to wait till Wednesday to get it fixed because of the New Years holiday, and then I’ll leave.

A high wind advisory goes into effect for most of the Texas Panhandle on Sunday. Thirty to forty mile an hour winds with gusts up to sixty. The wind was coming from the south-west so I’d be driving straight into it. No way would I be able to drive through that.

I’m needed in Lubbock. There are people who depend on me. I’ll get outside of town and they will call me and tell me to come back, right?

I say goodbye to the wife (she’ll tell me to stay), I top off the tank (I’ll run out of gas and have to hitch back), I tune into 88.1 (I won’t make it out of transmitting range), I take off the antenna and hook the fm transmitter to the mp3 player (if I do get out of transmitting range I’ll need something to listen to as I drive back), I grab a burger and drink (I’ll need food while I’m waiting for my family to pick me up after my car overheats and breaks down and the engine seizes up), I recheck the low tire and fill it up (it will explore 5 miles out), I reserve a hotel room (I can cancel before 6PM) and, with everything to stop me, I point the car down US 82 West toward Brownfield.

It’s amazing how much ground you can cover when you just press down on the accelerator and keep fuel in the car.

The wind is bad, really bad, I’m not exaggerating. Visibility is limited worse than a lot of fog I’ve seen. I don’t see any objects being blown across the road. But it’s not stopping me.

The tire does look like it’s sagging around Carlsbad, I put some more air in it, I must have checked it 10 times the whole day, and I do put some more air in it. But it’s not stopping me.

I get emails, I get phone calls, I get text (SMS) messages, none of them tell me I have to come back though, they all wish me well and that they will miss me. But it’s not stopping me.

Seven hours later I am in El Paso. How did I get here? Wasn’t I supposed to have been stopped? I was supposed to have turned back, I wasn’t supposed to have made it.

I guess this is real. I really am going to Phoenix.

I'm halfway

All the online mapping tools (Yahoo, Rand McNally, Google) wanted me to take the Northern route, or head directly west. But I found out one of my friends had made the Lubbock to Phoenix trek about 20 weekends in a row a few years back, and he told me that he had tried all the routes, and the fastest by far was the southern route, 82 West out of Lubbock toward Brownfield, then straight on to Odessa, hook up on I-10 West, and ride that all the way through El Paso, to Tucson, to Phoenix. He did state that it was an ugly trip, with no scenery, but few twists and turns in which to get lost.

When I mentioned this to another friend who has family in El Paso and had just made the trip, he referred me to a different El Paso route that he recently took that shaved off two and a half hours for him.

So the route I took was to head out 82 West, through Brownfield, when you reach the first stop light in Seminole (with the box clock hanging off the building to your left), take a right onto 180 West. Travel all the way to Carlsbad New Mexico, at the second light you’ll see signs diverting trucks to turn left to continue on to 62 West, take that if you don’t need to stop, otherwise continue to the third light on S Canal St where you can see the McDonalds on the left. You’ll drive through a couple more stop lights and what not, and pass my favorite childhood convenience store Allsups, then Wal-Mart, and eventually meet back up with 62 West.

Carlsbad is a good place to stop and use the bathroom and refuel the car since it is a desolate stretch of road from here to El Paso, mountainous too. (Edit from 1/8/2006: I forgot to mention, that while driving through the mountains, and even when driving straight into the wind; it felt like something was pushing the car. I'd keep my foot off the gas for what seemed like a long time, and the car would stay at over 65 miles per hour.)

Once you reach El Paso you’ll have to go through an almost countless number of stop lights (the first convenience store you see after coming out of the mountains does not have a bathroom, and that’s a nasty surprise after you refuel the car and buy the obligatory fountain drink, so remember to just skip the first one and continue on), until eventually getting to Lee Trevino with a 7-11 on the left hand side (it’s the next light after the Valero Corner Store, my new favorite convenience store, on your left).

Eventually after a few twists it crosses I-10 West, and you can take it from there all the way to South Phoenix.

My hotel happens to be on Mesa at exit 11, not exit 19, which apparently I-10 crosses twice.

I chose to spend the night ($55 before tax) at a hotel in El Paso instead of pressing on all the way to Phoenix in one day. Though if you do go this route and choose to stay at the BayMont Inn and Suites, be sure to test the wireless internet access before it gets to late. Apparently they can’t fix a broken access point after a certain time at night because the entry to the access point is in one of the rooms. Their alternative was to go down to the lobby. I thought that if the access point needed to be rebooted we could cut the power to that room for 60 seconds, but I did not offer this solution since it seemed unlikely to be followed.

It took me from 4PM – 11PM (10PM local time) in total. Of course I had quite a few detours, and had to drive 5 miles slower due to it being at night for most of the trip, and drove into a 40 miles an hour wind while in Texas, calm weather in New Mexico, then high cross winds right after crossing the state line into Texas again that caused me to slow to 50 in some places.

Not to mention the mountains required a few speed reductions down to 40 mph.