(I wrote this story on February 20th, which was the day after I got home from my nightmarish trip. It's all true!)
What’s the harm in flying to Miami to buy a new car and then driving it back across the country? Plenty.
I flew back to Miami one week ago to fulfill a desire I’ve had for quite some time–a brand new Mustang. There was some urgency because the 2021 Mustangs have driver “assistance” as a standard feature. I don’t like nanny government, and I don’t like nanny cars. Therefore, the game was on.
Before last Saturday, I spent countless hours scouring the country for a 2020 Mustang in the color and with the features I wanted, and none of the features I didn’t want. The nearest match I could find was in Miami. The car had bigger wheels (20″) than I wanted, but I figured that I could swap them out later if I wanted. Otherwise, it was perfect.
So, after some e-mail negotiation (the best way to dicker), I pulled the trigger on the deal and bought a one-way ticket to Miami. The weather in Miami was delightful. Last Sunday the temperature was in the low 80s. The weather in Gainesville, which was my first overnight stay on the trip home, was also agreeable. On Monday I got as far as Port Allen, Louisiana. The weather was turning cold, but no big deal. Tuesday morning there was a lot of ice in the parking lot of the hotel, which I found odd because there were palm trees at the edge of the lot.
I had originally planned to stop in Dallas to see my sister. When I checked the weather I saw that wouldn’t be advisable. Surely I could traverse Texas by sticking to I-10, right? Wrong. Between Port Allen and San Antonio the roads were HORRIBLE. I grew up in Utah, and have driven in plenty of snow. Icy roads are ten times worse. It was the most harrowing drive of my life. Mustangs are rear-wheel-drive only. Moreover, my new car is a V8 GT with 460 horsepower. I had to be very careful with the gas pedal. I came very close to sliding into other vehicles and/or the walls at the side of the road.
Nearing San Antonio, I just couldn’t take it any more. Even with the most careful driving, I could feel my back wheels starting to slip and slide. I stopped at a Best Western in Converse. The parking lot had even more ice than the one in Louisiana. I had to walk gingerly to the office. An Indian-looking woman was behind the counter. She said she could give me a room, but that the hotel had no running water. I was all too happy to take the deal, because it seemed that a lot of businesses didn’t have power, but this hotel did. While I was checking in, she was fielding calls left and right from people looking for a room. She turned them all down without even mentioning the water issue. I was feeling quite lucky.
The next day the treacherous roads were again the main feature. I-10 was closed in places, either because of road work or the weather. I saw where one access point had cones to block entry, but it appeared that one of the cones had been moved to allow vehicles to squeeze in. I decided to roll the dice and get on the freeway. I had it all to myself for a while. Then I noticed a handful of other cars on the road along with me. I passed one off-ramp that had a cop car blocking access. I saw that the off-ramp was full of ice and snow. The cop didn’t seem to mind that I and others were on I-10.
About an hour west of San Antonio the roads started to get better. I wasn’t about to chance anything, so I resolved to keep my gas tank above half-full at all times. I stopped in a little town called Sonora to get gas. There were a few gas stations still dispensing gas, although it seemed that they were starting to shut down along with all the other businesses. People were lined up to get gas. After no success at one station, I went across the street and found an open pump. Thank God!
After I filled up, I realized that I needed to hit a bathroom very badly, and it wasn’t just to take a leak, either. There were no bathrooms to be found! Most businesses were closed. The gas stations either had their store section closed, or, if the store was open, the bathrooms were closed (probably due to lack of water). I drove around frantically. I can’t remember the last time I did #2 outside. Maybe 30 plus years ago on a camping trip, out where there was no chance somebody would see me. This situation was more dire than the road conditions and gasoline shortage!
Finally, I spotted an RV park. There was a standing building that I figured to be the office. Maybe there was a bathroom in there. There were two doors with windows that faced the road. I looked inside the first door. It was dark. And locked too, I believe. I saw a light through the window of the second door, and the door wasn’t locked! It was the laundry room. It was warm, and the washing machine or dryer was running. There was even a nice flat screen on the wall with a show on! Nobody was around.
But, best of all, there was a bathroom off the laundry room. I checked the toilet. Water. (Not that that would have stopped me.) Checked the faucet. Running water. There was toilet paper. What a feeling of relief. It was only lessened by the fact that there was no soap to be found anywhere in the bathroom. I saw a box of laundry detergent on top of one of the machines. Surely I could be excused for just getting a pinch of the powder with which to wash my hands? Well, it wasn’t to be. It was a box full of those Tide pods or whatever. That was a bridge too far for me. That was stealing. So, I washed my hands the best I could with just the water. I started thinking about humans thousands of years ago. They didn’t have soap then, did they? And yet, they managed to live and reproduce, and here we all are.
I hit the road. As I neared El Paso, the skies cleared up and the roads were dry. I got to El Paso before dark, and was amazed how beautiful and comfortable it looked. There were palm trees, but they were not juxtaposed with ice!
From then on, the trip was a breeze. My brand new car was filthy, and I knew that no car wash would do it justice. I’d have to go to town on it after I got home.
I feel lucky to have gotten through it all with my life, car, and sanity intact.