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Thursday, December 4, 2014

On Route 66 in our '67!

Starting time: 8:40 AM CST, Topeka, KS
Starting mileage: 58173
Yesterday's mileage: 325 miles

MADE IT!  Now on to California!!!
 I have a confession. Semi trucks give me panic attacks.

Yes, Doctor Freud, I can trace this back to my younger days. I was in my first year in college, driving the second-to-fast lane on the 57 Freeway from Cal State Fullerton to my job at a restaurant in Tustin, CA on a rainy day in November. A double-trailered semi truck in the slow lane of the six-lane highway hit his brakes and they locked up, and on the slippery road he lost all traction. He careened across the six lanes of traffic, hit the cement center divider, and slid back across the freeway. His second trailer fishtailed into the front quarter panel of my 1966 Mustang GT, sending me spinning into traffic. My car stopped spinning facing north on the southbound freeway, and I said a quick prayer that all those cars heading straight at me would stop and...they did. Shaking, I drove off the freeway. Indented into the driver's door and front quarter panel was a perfect mold of a semi's large dual wheel. The frame of my Mustang was buckled, the driver's side now only 2/3 of the width of the passenger side.

But I didn't have a scratch on me.

Thirty years later, I still feel my heart race in instances where I am sandwiched between a semi truck and a concrete divider on a highway. This is especially true when driving through large cities, where the big rigs seem oversized and out of place amidst the spaghetti junctions. When traffic is feeding from many directions and the roads are curving in a way that the trucks seem likely to either topple or merge into me, or when I'm driving through constricted areas of road construction, I start to feel short of breath. It's a challenge that still confronts me during a road trip.

Chris, Ron & Betsy and the Duchess, bathed and
well rested  after her garage accommodations
Anyway. So this morning at eight AM, before we left the safety of my cousins' house in Topeka, Chris took the Duchess to a mechanic to check the oil leak situation.

"Sure," the guy said, "I can look at that for you right now," and he put the old girl up on the lift. Diagnosis? Yes, there is a little leak. Prognosis? No, it isn't a threat, or something we need to address before we reach our final destination. Watch her, he advised, check her at gasoline fill ups, add oil when needed, and enjoy your trip.

No charge. I love Midwesterners.
What is "Red Dyed Diesel??"

So, Chris added one quart of oil late this afternoon, and we inflated the tire pressure to 36 psi (which we should have done in the first place, as this is recommended pressure for touring while fully loaded). Immediately noticed a much smoother ride as we headed south on I-35 towards Wichita, then west through Oklahoma to Texas, through miles and miles of open prarie or farmland.

Lots of cows. Lots and lots of hawks. Sort of surprised to pass a field in Oklahoma with cotton boles still on the leafless rust-colored stalks. I didn't realize cotton grew this far west.

It was a long but exhillerating day of driving. We made it over 500 miles, stopping only for gas and coffee, with Lucas Davenport keeping us company on our audiobook.

The final hour was hair-raising, as we journeyed through northern Texas in pea-soup fog, unbroken by any lights of towns.

And here's when the semi trucks redeemed themselves for me. Unable to see more than 300 feet ahead, we were eventually passed by a big rig. Tucking in behind him, Chris sped along in his slip stream, mimicking anything he did. And I felt safer, surrounded by the big rigs. Fog or no, that lead trucker kept on at 75 MPH (!!!) and Chris gritted his teeth and followed him with blind trust until the mist lifted as we reached Amarillo.

It was a white knuckle ride. We really needed a glass of wine tonight!

Arrival: 7:13 PM, Amarillo, TX

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, Kimberly. Am wondering where The Duchess will reside once you reach L.B. Ocean salt air will not fare well on her.
    love and thunder