US Road Trip Travelog: 15th March 2005

The snow, and the cold, has arrived in Roswell in the morning. Maybe the aliens are coming in for a bit of skiing. There's an inch or so on the top of the Riviera, but it's swirling around and not really settling. The choice I have to make is to stay in Roswell for a day, and maybe visit the International UFO Museum & Research Center, or to try to head further west. The weather doesn't look too bad, so I decide to head off.

On Highway 380 west of Roswell the main problem isn't the snow but the fog, which reduces visibility and speed to the point where I'm beginning to wonder if I've made the right choice.

Highway 380 in the snow
Highway 380 in the snow.

After Highway 380 splits from Highway 70 it becomes a slower but more scenic road. Well, I'm sure it would be scenic but I only get occasional glimpses of it. What I'd failed to really take into account back in Roswell is that I'm heading high up in to the mountains here, and that won't improve the weather. It's not too bad until the point where the road heads down into Carrizozo.

Highway 380 into Carrizozo
Highway 380 into Carrizozo.

The above photo was taken after the worst of the driving. By this time I'd joined a 20 MPH convoy of pickups and SUV's and, as long as we were all careful with our braking, it was relatively safe. God alone knows what they thought of a 40-year-old Riviera in their midst.

The really scary bit was the miles before, with the snow thick on the road and only faint tyre tracks to follow to have any idea where the road would be. If those tracks had been someone going home I'd probably have ended up parked in their house. The Riviera is a big heavy car with sensitive brakes and throttle, and we did end up a bit sideways from time to time. I've already cursed myself a thousand times for not having stayed in Roswell, and I'm sure the poor old car has done the same.

After Carrizozo the snow clears and it's an easy run down into Socorro. I need to get some work done on the car here. I'd tried to arrange this in Austin but on Monday morning found a garage where all the staff had obviously been partying too hard over the weekend, and would need a few hours to get themselves together.

Confession time. Before I'd had the tune-up done in Houston I'd had all the required settings emailed to me by Jim Cannon. What I forgot to do is to take these settings off my internet-based email before arriving at Craft's. They therefore set the car up according to the 1963 settings, which were fine for the time but don't work too well on modern grades of gas. I now need to get the timing reset to stop the car 'pinking' (as it's known in the UK, I don't know what the American term is). The run from Austin was fine, as long as I didn't too accelerate hard, but the altitudes today have made the problem much more obvious.

In Socorro there are only two car places, and one has a broken timing light. That'll leave the other one then, the one with the stuffed deer head in the office and the two old guys who can't (or can't be bothered to) understand my accent. $20 later and the car is definitely running better but I know I'll need a Riviera specialist to go over all the settings before too long.

From Socorro Highway 60 goes back up into the mountains, without the heavy snow this time. This is another great driving road (after the one out of Austin), though the surface isn't the best in the world, and on a clear day this would be a fun and scenic run.

Highway 60 into Arizona
Highway 60 into Arizona.

The run into Arizona is just fantastic. We're still at quite at altitude and I don't think I remember a sky like this, where you're looking into the clouds rather than up at the clouds. It's like the world has narrowed.

I must apologise for all the 'through the screen' photos recently, though I suppose that on a road trip that shouldn't be a surprise. The fact is that at most times today it would've been too unsafe (and bloody cold) to stop, and on the drive down Highway 60 there simply wasn't anywhere to pull over that had a decent view. There are 'Rest Stops' on the Highways, but they seem to think it's a good idea to surround them with trees so you have no view of the scenery around you.

The first town in Arizona, Springerville, has a Super 8 motel and that'll do for me for the night. Today was hard work, and I think I need to pay a bit more attention to the weather forecasts in the future. My main focus for the evening will be an attempt to drown myself in Coors Light. I really don't want another day like today again.

US Road Trip Travelog: 16th March 2005 >