The Trip Home

Day 1:  Austin to Lordsburg, New Mexico (738 Miles)

Above:  After spending two weeks with Joan, I left Austin and headed straight back to Oregon.  After four long days of driving, covering 2344 miles, I reached Portland on a chilly night a few days before Christmas.

I had a great time visiting Joan, but after spending two weeks in Austin, it was time to head back to the Northwest.  Christmas was ten days away and I wanted to spend it with my sister Doti in Bellingham, Washington.  Joan was heading out that same morning, too – flying back east to see her grandson. 

Joan and I left her place at 3:00 a.m. and I drove her to the airport so she could catch her early-morning flight.  After we said goodbye at the airport, I got on the highway and headed west.  I just wanted to get home after this long road-trip and to see Doti again, and looking at the map I figured I could do it in four long days. 

After leaving Austin I headed through Fredericksburg, still sleepy at this dark hour well before sunrise and a town I’d passed through several months earlier on my way to the fabled Luckenbach, Texas.  I picked up Interstate 10 here again, the route I’d followed from Florida a few weeks earlier, then drove for hundreds of empty miles across central and west Texas, reaching El Paso around 2 p.m. and then on into New Mexico.  In western New Mexico that evening, 738 miles and 13 hours after leaving Austin, I pulled off the freeway and drove into the small, dusty town of Lordsburg, New Mexico where I found a motel room.  It had been a long day, and I don't know how truckers do it.

Day 2:  Lordsburg to San Bernardino (589 Miles)

I got up early and was on Interstate 10 well before sunrise.  The sun rose behind me around the time I reached the Arizona border, then a few hours later I drove through Tucson during the morning rush hour.  From there it was onto Interstate 8 so I could bypass Phoenix.  Turning north at Gila Bend, I pulled over at a Mexican curio shop and bought a few trinkets, Christmas presents for my sister Doti, knowing that she enjoyed Southwestern culture. 

I picked up Interstate 10 once again west of Phoenix and crossed over the Colorado River and into California in the early afternoon, pulling over in Blythe, near the river, to get gas.  A dust storm was rolling in from the Mojave Desert, turning Blythe into an eerie scene like something out of “The Grapes of Wrath.”  After a fill-up, I got back on Interstate 10 for a three-hour drive across the windy and dust-strewn Mojave Desert, battling the fierce head winds all the way through Palm Springs.  The skies cleared early that evening as I pulled into San Bernardino, where I found a motel room.  Many years earlier I’d gone to college nearby in Riverside, so this was sort of like coming home.  But the reunion would be brief.

Day 3:  San Bernardino to Anderson, California (597 Miles)

I got up early on this sunny and cool Saturday morning and pulled onto Interstate 210, which I took through Los Angeles, then I picked up Interstate 5, which would carry me home.   Out in the Central Valley of California, our nation’s fruit basket, it was sunny and seasonal for this time of year, with temps in the high 50s.  I continued up the valley, passing through Sacramento at sunset.

Around 9 p.m., I pulled off I-5 and drove into the town of Anderson, a few miles south of Redding, where I got a motel room – quite nice, actually, for a Motel 6.  I heated up a can of Chunky Soup in the microwave for dinner and watched the NCAA volleyball tournament on TV, content in my cozy little room.  It was a chilly evening and dipped down into the 20s, my coldest night since camping at the top of Lemhi Pass in Montana back in early September.

Day 4:  Anderson to Portland (420 miles)

I left Anderson early on a sunny Sunday morning and continued to push north on Interstate 5.  I crossed into Oregon a few hours later and drove through Medford, then Eugene, where I had lived back in 1989.  It was getting colder now and I started seeing small piles of snow on the freeway shoulders.  I reached chilly Portland around 6 p.m. and pulled into a gas station south of town.  I told the attendant, who was heavily bundled against the winter cold, that a few weeks earlier I’d been lying on a warm beach in the Florida Keys, and he smiled and laughed in the frosty air.

I’ve been in Portland for a couple days now and it’s good to be home.  I’ve been mostly working at my storage units in Hillsboro, west of Portland, and going through my 246 boxes of “stuff.”  During the three years I worked in Qatar, I rented out my house here in Portland and it’s still being rented, so everything I own, except for my truck, is in a couple of storage units.  I’ve been getting ready to move back into my house in a few months and resume my life after working in Qatar and taking this road-trip around America. 

In a few days I’ll be heading up to Bellingham, Washington, north of Seattle, to spend the holidays with my sister, Doti.  After that, I'll likely merge slowly back into my life in Portland and will go back to work (somewhere, hopefully) and get back to reality.  But for now, and after driving nearly 4,000 miles these last few weeks, I'm just looking forward to a sedentary (and white?) Christmas.

Austin, Texas to Portland, Oregon



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