July 24/Day 7.
On previous trips I’ve ta
Only 400 miles to go. I roll out onto IH-10, another concession to the interstate since Hwy 90 swings too far south and, like an old horse, I can smell the barn. The most direct route will serve my purpose best.
I’ve driven this highway so many times over the past 45 years I’ve practically got it memorized. One thing that’s changed is the speed limit, now 80 mph, which puts me in the slow lane at about 65 mph. Everyone passes me; I pass no one, which for some reason I find mildly amusing.
The closer I get to home, the worse the landscape looks. Even before Ft. Stockton, the green desert scrub, creosote bush and sage, are brown and desiccated by drought, something I’ve never seen before in this area. It’s the same all the way to Comfort.
About 20 miles west of Junction, the dreaded wrench icon on my dash lights up. A few minutes later, I watch the engine temperature needle rise into the red and a warning flashes on the dash: “Check Engine Temperature.”
I pull off the highway as far as I dare and let the engine idle until the temperature drops to normal, about 10 minutes. Then I switch the engine off and restart. Good. The wrench light is off.
I lumber back onto the highway, keeping my speed down to 55 mph, which is like standing still at Daytona. Sure enough, the needle starts to rise again after a few minutes.
It seems I still have one more adventure left in this trip. I pull off the road again and wait at idle for the needle to drop. Then I shut off the air conditioner (something I never did even in Death Valley, where there are large caution signs warning you to do so to take the extra load off the engine) and merge back into the traffic lane, this time going only 45 mph with my 4-way flashers on.
It happens that there are some substantial uphill grades through Junction and the Kerrville area. I play an off and on game, sometimes driving off the traffic lane on the shoulder because I’m so slow, other times pulling into the lane as I coast back down a hill. I am determined that one way or another I will make it home under my own power.
Finally I exit the interstate at Comfort and feel more easy driving ridiculously slow on the back roads. The last gasp is a steep hill leading up to my house. The needle is in the red, but screw it! I’m here! Jane opens the gate as I make the last few hundred yards, practically wheezing all the way.
To paraphrase T.S. Elliot: This is the way my journey ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
NOTE: To all who’ve followed this blog, thank you. I’m gratified and humbled that you took the time to read it. I hope in some small way I’ve given you the chance to ride shotgun.