Sunday, April 30, 2017

Road Trip by Diane Burton

I’ve mentioned a time or two that Hubs loves to drive. Being a passenger is an invitation for him to snooze. I’ve adapted by being the navigator. Give me a map (a GPS thingee or my phone) and I can get you anywhere. As you can tell by the map above, it's one I've used a lot--actually, since our first visit after our son moved to Arizona in 2010. Can you imagine Hubs wanted to throw it out and get a new Southwest US map from AAA? Heck, no, I told him. It's got all my notes. Anyway, after all the driving trips to Arizona, the old route is pretty much same-old, same-old: Michigan -> Illinois -> Missouri -> Oklahoma -> Texas -> New Mexico -> Arizona.

When we’re concerned about snow in the mountains (Flagstaff), we’ve taken a diagonal route across New Mexico. I even got to stop in Roswell. Twice! Perfect for someone who writes sci-fi. Soon, that became old, too. So, I suggested we go through Texas on our way home. First thing Hubs and Son mentioned was how close we would be to Mexico. On the map, it looks like the highway runs alongside the Rio Grande. We hear horror stories all the time about Americans being kidnapped, and my imagination worked overtime. I thought about bad guys creeping up the river bank and jumping out in front of our car. Wild imagination, right? For about a hundred miles east of El Paso, we drove next to the river, which we were so far away from that I saw it once or twice.

Next thing the guys said was won’t that take longer. Possibly. But…I’ve never been through that part of Texas—diagonally up through Odessa and Midland then through Fort Worth and Dallas. I had an ulterior motive. I wanted to see oil wells. Not just the pump jacks in the fields that I can see in Michigan, but the rigs/platforms for doing the actual drilling.

You might think that odd until you consider that for four years I worked for an oil and gas company. When I was sent there by a temp agency to do secretarial-type work, I was asked by my boss if I knew anything about oil and gas. I told him I put gas in my car and we heat our home with natural gas. That was the extent. He tried hard not to roll his eyes. What he didn’t know was I’m very curious. I wanted to know everything about how oil got out of the earth and into our cars. Or how natural gas came out and heated our house.

I’m like a sponge when I want to learn something. The guys I worked with were eager to explain things to a novice. After my temp stint was up, I was hired to work in the Land Department—that’s where leases are drawn up before the drilling can start. I still did a lot of secretarial work and learned more.

The thing is…I worked at the corporate headquarters. Never out in the field. I suggested to my (new) boss that we should do a field trip so we understood our jobs better. He said we could. On our own time. LOL Now I suppose Hubs (you know, the one who likes to drive?) and I could have driven up north to see the drilling. Never happened. When the opportunity to see oil rigs from the highway in Texas arose, I had to grab it.

So I convinced Hubs to go that route. Mistake #1: Texas is big, towns are far apart, towns with hotels are even farther apart. Mistake #2: not making a reservation. Hubs likes to see how far we can drive and then stop when we want to. Usually, that works. But not when drilling is going on around our designated stop, Pecos, Texas. Our first clue were the “Christmas trees” (oil rigs) on both sides of the highway. And since it was now dark, they were lit! Just like the nickname.
USA Today: Photo Courtesy Sacco, AP
All the pick-up trucks in front of the hotels was our second clue that we might not find a room. Well, there was one room we could have at $245 for the night. Did I ever tell you about Hubs’ Scot’s ancestry? Even though we’d been driving for eleven hours, no way was he paying that much for a room at a Comfort Inn. We drove on down the road. The hotel apps on my phone weren’t working. The internet wasn’t working. How the heck do you find the number for reservations?

Shakespeare said, “All’s well that ends well.” I found a phone number, got a reservation for a room at the next town. We’d driven 700 miles in 12 hours through two times zones. We were whipped. It’s amazing what comfortable beds and a good night’s sleep can accomplish.

In our youth, we could drive through the night and think nothing of it. We’d take turns sleeping and had a blast. Newsflash. We aren’t young anymore. The second day, even though we drove through (around) Fort Worth and Dallas, we stopped earlier. I'm writing this on Saturday, our 3rd day on the road. No problems. Until the storms started. Thank goodness, we're in a hotel room where we watched on TV about all the flooding...of the highway we're supposed to take in Illinois. Hopefully, we'll make it home. (I'll let you know in the comments.)

I don’t think Hubs was thrilled with my route. But we saw parts of the country we’d never seen before. I got to see the oil rigs. If I’d planned ahead, we could have stopped at the Petroleum Museum in Midland. I saw the sign as we whizzed past going 75 mph. Oh, well. Maybe another time.

As an aside, I’ve used my experiences at the oil and gas company in my Alex O’Hara PI mystery series. In The Case of the Meddling Mama, one of the characters worked in the Land Department of a fictional oil and gas company. Can’t let experience and good info go to waste.

Once again, Alex O’Hara is up to her ears in mysteries. After surviving an attempted murder, all she wants is R&R time with Nick Palzetti. But his mother leaving his father (“that horse’s patoot”) and moving in with Alex puts a crimp in their plans. Then Nick leaves on assignment and the teen she rescued from an abusive father believes his buddy is doing drugs. Meanwhile, Alex has two easy cases to take her mind off her shaky relationship with Nick—a philandering husband and a background check on a client’s boyfriend. Piece of cake.

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mysteries. She blogs here on the 30th of each month.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Great story. We've done various routes to bot AZ and FL. The only way to travel! Love hearing about your experiences. Always valuable to keep learning. At least that's one thing we're not too old to do.

Sandra Tilley said...

Diane, the last thing I like to do is drive. :) I can't stand being cooped up in a car. However, my best friend and I decided to put visiting ALL the states on our bucket list. Last year we talked our husbands into a cross-country trip and ticked off ten new states. The miles pass much faster with my bestie in the back and lots of snacks. And lots of sight-seeing stops. This year it's the West Coast. Wish I had your love for the road. The states on my US map would ALL be colored in. :)

Great post! And your book sounds awesome.

Rolynn Anderson said...

On the road that song. Road trips are fun and we get to use what we learn in our novels! I still write in the mornings when we take road DH and I explore/drive in the afternoons. We've always liked to meander rather than 'cover ground.' Love the blurb for your new book...sounds like a great cozy!

Brenda Whiteside said...

I love road trips, Diane. And I always start them by singing a few words from the Willy song, Rolynn. But I hate to drive so I'm lucky FDW likes to drive. Great post, great blurb.

Jannine Gallant said...

I've criss-crossed the country a few times via car. Did the southern route across AZ, NM, and the Texas panhandle but not any further south into Texas. I found the landscape there...well...flat. LOL I'm a mountain girl at heart. Hope you made it home okay!

Leah St. James said...

I'm a road-tripper, too, although it's mostly been the north/south route along the eastern seaboard. (Yeah, Travis Tritt's "Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde" is my usual driving song. "It's a long way to Richmond, rollin' north on 95...." One time I took the kids from Jersey to Iowa on Amtrak. Now THAT was an experience. I'll have to see if I've blogged about that trip here. I'm glad your hubby doesn't mind detours. Mine is a planner, and anything that deviates from "the plan" might make him cranky. (This latest road trip with my son and sister was a break from routine!)

Great post, Diane. "The Case of the Meddling Mama" has just downloaded to my Kindle in the past day or two and is next in my reading list. Can't wait!

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I hope Blogger allows this remark to go through. It ate my first one for Sunday Brunch. I loved your post and read it with great envy. Calvin does not like road trips. He prefers Amtrak or flying. I pinky-clicked on your cozy and my Kindle sang a happy song, so it's in my TBR pile.

Andrea Downing said...

I am SO jealous Diane--I love road trips. My recent ones have been with my daughter sharing the driving, the last one being 7 weeks. Such a learning experience more ways than one!

Diane Burton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diane Burton said...

Thanks, guys, for all your comments. We made it home safely. Whew! Not as much rain as we expected this morning. Hubs got the rain and I got to drive thru Chicago. Yuck! After almost a month away, it's good to be home. Willie Nelson's On The Road Again has been my theme song. I'm glad we missed the horrible weather that hit the country. Scary and frightening for so many.

Lucy Kubash said...

I love road trips! We had a similar experience in Iowa two years ago. Not a room or campsite available for miles. The reason was the State Fair was going on and it was campaign season. Who knew their state fair was such a big deal? We learned ! Glad you made it home safe.

Alicia Dean said...

Oh my gosh, what an adventure. I have a story about a long drive to Texas from my younger days...ha, quite an experience, although coming from Oklahoma the trip wasn't nearly as long as yours. It just seemed like it was. :D Glad it worked out, and now you have a story to tell for years to come. Remember when we drove to Texas...