Tag Archives: Interstate 40

Four Corners – Into the Valley of Fire

6 Sep

This day started with two people doing something special and two people doing something ordinary. My wife and my stepdaughter’s friend got up before daylight to see the sun rise over the Grand Canyon. My stepdaughter and I stayed in bed.

When they returned to the room, they talked about the spiritual experience, but they also talked about the crazy tourists who climbed over the fencing and walked to the edge of the canyon. They went to pray for the beauty that God created and ended up praying that these people did not fall to their deaths.image-53

Once their nerves were in order, we loaded the car and headed toward Phoenix. This meant doing something that we had not done in over a week – drive on an interstate. This was Interstate 40, which goes through our hometown. I asked if they wanted to drive home, but that suggestion was not well received.

Eventually, we turned south, and I noticed something on the thermometer. For the entire trip, we had comfortable temperatures that rarely climbed out of the 80s. As we got closer to Phoenix, the thermometer kept easing higher. It would eventually reach 112 degrees.

Before the trip, my wife and I decided that we would stop at two places on this day. The first was Montezuma’s Castle, an ancient Native American cliff dwelling. We had visited the site with my parents and thought the girls should see it. Surprisingly, we did not encounter much history on this trip, and we needed to see some.image-55

There is one thing I must say about Montezuma’s Castle. It was named after stupid Europeans who thought the Native Americans in this area could not have built such a thing. It must have been built by the Aztec because everyone knew that they had built a magnificent city. Now, the place is stuck with an inappropriate name.

Our next stop was another place introduced to us by our parents. We had to eat at the Rock Springs Cafe.image-54

This place is known for its pies. They have every imaginable kind, and they are all good. I was going to get something made of berries but ended up getting pecan. It is hard to beat pecan pie.

From there, we drove to our hotel in Scottsdale. It was hot. Really hot. It was dry heat, but it was extreme heat. I love Scottsdale in the winter, but I do not see how people live there in the summer. To beat the heat, we spent the day in the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall. It was an expensive jaunt into the air conditioning, but the cool air was worth it.

We ended the day by eating at Barrio Queen Restaurante y Tequileria. The food was good, and the bathrooms were confusing. However, that is a political issue, and I do not want to get into that.

The next day, we flew home to Tennessee, but we all agreed that it was a fun trip. The people who followed us on Facebook and Twitter have said that it looked awesome. They were not wrong. It was an awesome trip, and I am ready to go back.

 

On the Way to Santa Fe

12 May

Within the next 36 hours, I will be heading west on Interstate 40 with a few teachers and a bunch of students. It is our annual field trip class to Santa Fe and other parts of northern New Mexico.BB-New Mexico 104

There are several archived posts about this trip, and those of you would have been around for a while may have read a few of them. If you have, then you know that this is a great trip that gives students an opportunity to explore an interesting part of our country. It also gives the teachers an opportunity to eat some great food.

Upon my return, I will certainly have stories to write about. Until then, I will be checking in on the blogs that I follow to see what great things everyone is writing about.

Musical Journey

14 May

In a few days, we will be leaving on our annual field trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I will return with stories from the Wild West, but, until then, I will be out-of-pocket for a while.

The trip to Santa Fe is an adventurous one. Four teachers and ten students jump into a couple of vans and journey from one end of the continent to the other. It’s a long way, but the directions are easy. My town sits on Interstate 40. That means we stay on one road through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and part of New Mexico. Like Bugs Bunny, we take a right at Albuquerque.

Or maybe it was left.

Or maybe it was left.

The stretch of Interstate 40 between Nashville and Memphis has been dubbed the “Music Highway”, but the entire road to pretty musical. It seems that a lot of the places we pass have songs written about them.

Nashville has a bunch of songs written about it, but one of my favorites is “Nashville Cats” by The Lovin’ Spoonful.

Not long after Nashville, we go through Jackson. Now, I don’t know if June and Johnny Cash were singing about the Jackson in Tennessee or the Jackson in Mississippi. However, this is my blog, so it’s going to be Tennessee.

Next, we go through Memphis, a city of Blues and Rock n’ Roll. Like Nashville, there are a lot of songs about Memphis, but one of the best was by Johnny Rivers.

I guess Little Rock has some songs about it, but we don’t really go through that town. This means that Oklahoma is the next musical place we hit. Obviously, there is a musical about this state, but Three Dog Night recorded my favorite Oklahoma song. It’s a weird tune that talks about Spain and the Beatles.

We stop in Oklahoma City, but I can’t think of a good Oklahoma City song. However, Carrie Underwood has a song about her hometown of Checotah.

From Oklahoma, we venture into the panhandle of Texas. There’s not much in the panhandle of Texas but the city of Amarillo. George Strait has a great song about Amarillo.

That’s about it for Texas, but there is one more song. When we get close to Albuquerque, I always think about a song that is about a guy driving on Interstate 40. However, he is traveling the opposite direction. Instead of going west, he is going east through all of the towns that we have passed. He is leaving a bad woman, and “by the time I make Albuquerque she’ll be workin’“.

So, that’s the musical journey I will be making this week.

Terror on the Plateau

8 Mar

I recently wrote about my battle with the forces of nature while supporting my favorite basketball team. That event took place in 2008, but another event just as terrifying took place the next season.

In January 2009, I headed out with my friends, Jeff and McDonald, to watch the University of Tennessee play basketball against South Carolina. Being a night game, we got a late start and knew that we would have a late night return. We didn’t realize that we would be lucky to get home at all.

After a victory by the home team, we walked out of the arena and into a night that was damp but not cold, the type of night that we had driven through many times. Jeff, who was driving, hit Interstate 40 while we listened to the post game show on the radio. We were all hungry but decided to drive until the show was over. Having done this many times, all of us knew that this would get us to the Rockwood exit and a Ruby Tuesday’s.

We had a great meal before driving off into the night. As we walked out of the restaurant, it was impossible to ignore the fine mist falling from the sky, and I, without realizing it, made a fateful decision. I told McDonald that I would sacrifice and sit in the cramped backseat.

Traffic was heavy as we drove westward toward home, and the mist continued. It was a tricky drive, but something was happening outside that we didn’t realize. Between Nashville and Knoxville sits a geographic formation called the Cumberland Plateau that is higher in elevation that the two cities on either end of it. The higher we climbed, the colder it was getting. The fine mist was turning to black ice on the road.

The first sign of trouble was a pickup and a trailer that began swerving in front of us. We thought he just didn’t know how to pull a U-Haul and passed him. That’s when Jeff realized that we were on ice, and the vehicle was out of his control. For me, the next few seconds went into a mental slow motion. We were sliding along with other cars, and Jeff was trying to steer toward the guard rail to get us stopped. The mist was coming down, and fog had descended. That’s when the headlights hit something that no one could ever suspect. A wall was sitting across the road. Not a real wall, but an over turned tractor-trailer lying in our path.

Idiotically, I was not wearing a seatbelt and knew that I was in trouble. Without thinking, I laid down in the backseat and closed my eyes. From the back of my mind came the idea that I needed to stay limber. Maybe I heard it while watching a NASCAR race. Whatever the reason, I forced myself to stay loose on impact.

After that, I heard Jeff say, “I believe we’re gonna hit her, boys!” McDonald replied, “No shit!” Then, there was impact, and my head hit the back of the seat. Almost instantaneously, another vehicle, the one pulling the trailer, hit us. We sat stunned until someone from the outside yelled, “I smell gasoline!” The doors would not open, so we crawled out the smashed back window; climbed over the other truck; and, jumped over the guard rail.

I had the foresight to grab my cellphone as we escaped the carnage and called my parents when I knew that we were out of harm’s way. As I told them the story, I could hear crashes in the distance. Before it was over, we were car number one in a forty car pileup.

However, the night was just beginning. Jeff’s face smashed into the steering wheel, and he was losing blood and teeth at an alarming rate. McDonald couldn’t climb over the guard rail because his arm was broken. Luckily, I only had a scratch on my forehead. Immediately, people started scrambling. A woman was trapped in her car and under the truck. The TV announcer for the game was in the wreck as well. Truckers were climbing out of their cabs and trying to help. The air was getting colder by the minute, and the road was getting slicker. Now, we jokingly call it “Terror on the Plateau”, but it wasn’t funny that night.

I got Jeff into the cab of a truck for warmth and called his wife. I also called our friend Larry and asked him to call McDonald’s wife. That’s when I got a call from a friend caught in the traffic. He asked, “Are you caught up in this wreck?” I replied, “We are the wreck.” He sat in one spot until daylight.

After 1 1/2 hours, the ambulances began to show up. They were behind because seven other wrecks happened at the same time, and they couldn’t make it up the incline to us. It was too frozen. We finally got Jeff into an ambulance, and I waited for another one with McDonald. When it arrived, I stormed my way into it because it was the only ride I had into town. McDonald asked the paramedic if his arm was broke. The paramedic answered, “I don’t know, but it’s deformed.” That made us laugh for the first time in a while.

They checked us at the emergency room in Crossville while we waited for Larry, who had decided to head our way, to pick us up. He had a heck of a time too, as the interstate was closed coming from the west as well. When he arrived, I was sitting in a chair. McDonald had his arm in a sling. Jeff was sitting in a wheelchair and looking like Rocky Balboa after his first fight with Apollo Creed.

We were all nervous on the way home but finally made it at 6 in the morning.

After several operations, Jeff is back to normal, except for some false teeth. McDonald’s arm healed but only after he missed a season of senior softball. I was sore for a while but had no injuries. We have been to many basketball and football games since, and the terror of that night is slowly fading away. However, we still talk about that night as we go down the interstate, and I always look at the spot where the truck created a wall across the road. The spot where we lived several hours in our own disaster movie.