Day 3: Thursday, December 29th. Total Miles for the Day: 653.9. For the Trip: 1824.4.
Day 3 began with a disappointment: there’s a frightening shortage of Starbucks in New Mexico, and gas station cappuccino was a sorry substitute. But the landscape quickly made up for this, and we stopped at a tiny, truly middle-of-nowhere gas station to take pictures (and get real coffee).
This was an image of the Southwest I never could have imagined if I hadn’t seen it myself. A bright blue, sunny sky above us, but an endless sea of snowy white all around us. It was truly breathtaking, and I couldn’t get enough of it. (Stephen had to endure a lot of rest area stops and commands to “Take pictures!” “Take video!” throughout this day.)
As we neared Arizona, the scenes became even more dramatic. Bold red rocks jutted out of the white land, sometimes dusted themselves. I loved it—well, up until the moment that I was forced to drive on it. The interstates were of course clear, but we had to stop for gas and lunch eventually. This meant pulling into a small town and, for the first time in my life, actually driving on snow. (Since I’ve been old enough to drive, in Alabama it’s never been cold enough for significant snow to stick to the roadways.) Fortunately I had my Yankee boyfriend to coach me through, not to mention a belly full of road trip courage in the form of Taco Bell (A DRIVER’S GREATEST ALLY).
We made it safely back on the Interstate and continued on to Albuquerque where, miracle of miracles, we managed to snag some Starbucks. The day was saved!
…Or so we thought.
Fritz had been sniffly since the day before, and had taken to sneezing—a lot. He also spent all of our travels sleeping, never eating or drinking, and using the potty infrequently. I am the kind of person who tends to cat-astrophize (HIYOOO!), and so naturally in my mind this behavior could only be symptomatic of an Upper Respiratory Infection, which would inevitably lead to more serious illness, which would naturally end in my cat raising his head to say “You did this to me. It’s all your fault. You should’ve just flown,” before dying dramatically in the carrier in which he shat himself two days before. Stephen, being the King of Patience and Kindness, was completely understanding when I decided to detour into Flagstaff to find a vet. We got into town around 4pm and called at least seven offices looking for someone to take a walk-in; spending the night in town was not an option if we wanted to make it to Washington on schedule, but continuing on with Fritz could’ve been disastrous if he got worse and we were out in the boonies (which I think refers to everything in Arizona west of Flagstaff). Finally, a small office generously agreed to allow us to come in.
About an hour later, Fritz had gotten a shot, we were assured his lack of eating/drinking/peeing was natural stressed-out-about-travel defensive behavior, and we were on our way again with the kind well-wishes of the entire staff. If I ever live in Flagstaff—and it was so lovely, it has absolutely been added to my very short list of Places I Would Love to Live—this will be the vet I use. The doctor himself was hilarious and narrated our entire visit as Fritz. “Whoa, hey bud. Whatcha doin’ there? I liked the petting, now stop. Put me back in there. Where’s that stick going? What does that—I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS. I FEEL A LITTLE VIOLATED.” It was fantastic. …Well, not for Fritz, but you know.
We got more Starbucks and were on our way again. Flagstaff was the last of the Southwest Snow for us, so we continued on driving well into the evening.
Shortly before California, I was given an unexpected but glorious gift by the gods of travel:
I had longed for another taste of In-N-Out burgers and fries for years. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten to even be looking for them, and I thanked my lucky stars they appeared right when we were looking for dinner.
We crossed the California border and were stopped (along with everyone else) at a border crossing station. “Do you have any plants or animals in the car?” the attendant asked me as another car was searched a lane over. OH GOD ARE THEY GOING TO TAKE FRITZ FROM ME AFTER ALL WE’VE BEEN THROUGH?!
“I… have my cat in the backseat?”
“Have a nice night, ma’am.”
WE ARE SAVED
At this point in the day, all my elation at being over halfway through the trip couldn’t make up for the physical toll stress over Fritz had taken on me. To make matters worse, we couldn’t find a decent area to stop for the night; our choices were to stop in an area with limited hotel options, or drive on at least another hour, probably more, to the next city. We settled for stopping, which was good for us safety wise, but unfortunately, meant sleeping in a hotel that was, shall I say, not up to the standards to which I wish to become accustomed. (It probably did not help that we were in a place called “Needles” California. NEEDLES.) It was another moment on the journey when I was grateful for Stephen’s patience, as I complained myself to sleep.
Coming Up in Episode 4: California! There Is a Light That Never Goes Out (No Matter How Hard You Wish It Would)! Smells you don’t want to smell while you’re eating Taco Bell! Birds flying (and I’m not talking about our feathered friends)!