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.
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.