We started our drive in drizzly Portland a bit before 3:30pm on the 19th (last Friday) and drove and drove and drove. We stopped in Ashland to see the Christmas lights on the buildings downtown, and to find coffee, which didn't happen - we got to Starbucks less than 5 minutes after it closed. Shoot.
South of Ashland, up in the mountains, we hit sleet, then snow, then dense fog; all in the space of ten minutes as we went over the pass. The clouds were so low that when light shined on them from a house, it looked like they were right above the treetops. And as we came down off the pass, we could see where the fog stopped, like it was stuck on top of the mountain.
After that, I dozed in the car and was asleep when Cory stopped at a rest stop just south of Sacramento at about 1am. We slept until about 4am, waking up every time we tossed and turned in those uncomfortable car seats. But it was nice to be able to lean the backs of the seats back - no dog in the way. (Cory jokingly turned back to talk to Remmy more than once in the last couple of days and was "sad" when she wasn't there.)
We had breakfast at Denny's along the highway early in the morning, and kept on going. I drove a couple of hours in the midmorning, and got us off I5 and onto 46, while Cory slept a bit.
We got to Joshua Tree National Park at about 4 (after stopping at the first Starbucks we'd seen in CA, in Yucca Valley) and drove the 60 miles through it, breaking out the camera for the first time. It was getting dark when we went on a self-guiding "cactus garden" tour, so we got halfway through and ran the rest of the way back to the car so we wouldn't get stuck in the dark.
Our plan had been to go to Indio to the Super 8 but then we realized that Blythe's Super 8 was cheaper and had more diamonds in the AAA book than Indio's. So we drove the 100 miles to Blythe and had Popeye's for dinner and had showers and went to sleep. Aaaaah.
The alarm didn't go off, but I woke up half an hour after we wanted to, and we had McDonald's and got gas and it only took a few minutes to get to Arizona.
And I had a piece of cactus stuck in the side of my shoe. Those things really ARE sticky - the NP had fifteen signs around that said "don't touch the cactus - it'll stick in you and pieces of it will break off to go with you!"
In Phoenix, we stopped at Starbucks and had coffee outside - nice and relaxing. Sunday mornings in Phoenix are DEAD. We actually found one Starbucks that was closed on weekends. A bum asked us for money and we had none to give to him, but he still gave us directions to the Starbucks that was open, which was nice. In Tucson, we had lunch at Carl's Jr. and watched a cop talk to a bum that had been sleeping on the sidewalk with his face in some gravel. Didn't look comfortable. His face in the gravel, I mean.
With the time change and driving a bit out of our way in order to get to Roswell, NM, it wasn't until almost 10pm that we got to our hotel.
This morning we went to Albertson's in Roswell and got a postcard and bottled water and some Starbucks for Cory. As we were leaving after we paid for the coffee, the man behind us stepped up to the register and said loudly "well THAT took forever!!" We giggled all the way to the car. Hope he felt a little better after his caffeine.
Next we drove south to Carlsbad, where my Grandpa was born. The caverns were AMAZING! We went to the Natural Entrance, and there was a park ranger there named Katherine Cassingham! It was her married name, which kind of explains why I was much more excited than she was to meet a Cassingham. (All Cassinghams are related, by the way - it's not like being a Smith or something, where there are tons of different ancestral lines with the same name.)
We went down the hill to the Natural Entrance. It was HUGE. We walked a couple of miles through the cave and said "wow!" too many times to remember. There was a system of lights running all the way through so we didn't need flashlights, and the stalactites and stalagmites were so varied - some were huge and some were tiny. The Big Room had 600,000 square feet of floor space. And at the end, there was the weirdest lunchroom/cafeteria thing 750 feet below the surface. We went to the bathroom (it's really weird to walk through a natural cave tunnel into a brightly-lit bathroom) and had a candy bar, and then took the elevator up to the surface.
After that, we drove a back road to Pecos, TX. We saw a roadrunner. Cory took my nap as an opportunity to go 110mph and photograph it. As soon as he went back to the speed limit, he went past a speed trap. That was close.
Then we drove all through western TX. The trees got bigger. It started to get dark and we saw deer EVERYWHERE. Along the side of the road grazing... or dead... we were really worried about one deciding to come across the road just as we were coming through. We hit Fredricksburg in the dark so we got to see all the Christmas lights on the trees and buildings. We got to Austin at about 9pm.