Me and Wallie vs. the Sun

Trip Start Mar 18, 2010
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
On a rock

Flag of United States  , New Mexico
Monday, April 5, 2010

It wouldn't be moving day without the traditional race against time to beat the sunset. As usual, the past four days and countless miles of hiking and driving have worn me out, and I didn't get up as early as I would have liked. Last night, I was too distracted with the pictures I had taken at the Grand Canyon to think about packing for the next adventure. I rolled off the air mattress and ended up eye to eye with a pile of dirty gear. I had looked at my clock the first time I woke up, so I knew it was already time to be gone. In the midst of gathering up my things, my dad reminded me about time lines. Crossing into New Mexico was going to cost me an hour. Now I really had to fly. The directions I got from my phone gave me 7 hours 29 mins. That seemed excessive for 319 miles so I figured I could probably shave an hour off that and call the time change a wash. I still needed more time because that would leave me just one hour to choose a site and set up camp before the sun went down.

I drove through the Salt River Canyon on US-60 which was a great choice. Even though I later found out it would have saved me 30 minutes to take I-40 instead, I would do it again. The road carves along the path of the river with a lot of quick, narrow turns, and everything was so green. Passing lanes only came about every 10-20 miles. It wasn't quick, but I knew there were a lot of long straight aways coming. I tried to enjoy the scenery as much as I could while also trying to avoid thinking about the time until I could do something about it. Luckily, most drivers thought 10 over was reasonable.

About 20 miles from the Arizona/New Mexico state line, I came up on a car that looked just like mine. Only this one had some yellow letters printed on the bumper. The letters quickly became legible. "POLICE" I slowed down gradually, but he still let me catch up. He pulled over to let me pass and got right back on the road behind me. I couldn't wait to see what kind of Supertroopers they had out there just waiting for a dirty SUV with Washington plates to come rolling by at 10 over.

The speed limit increased quickly as we got out of the town and headed toward the border, but I'm not sure the cop realized that. It went from 45 to 55 to 65 in a matter of about a minute and he quickly became a spec on my rear-view mirror. So from 65, I proceeded to 75, 85, and by the time I crossed the border and could see for what seemed like 100 miles ahead of me, I pushed it to 95. I was cruising. Finally, I could gain some ground on the sun. Occasionally, a car would pass going the opposite direction, but I didn't come up on anyone headed East. My guess was everybody was going as fast or faster than me. Finally I did see a car going the same direction as me. Only it was behind me. And it was getting closer. Soon I could see the flashing lights, and I knew I was about to lose some time.

The officer slowly walked up to my car as I rolled down the window and pulled my registration from the overhead compartment. He paused at the back seat window which I thought was odd. I was expecting either some sort of practical joke or a stern, "step out of the vehicle." Luckily, I think he was just putting in a fresh dip. After I handed my license and registration around the corner, he stepped up to the window. With slivers of chew all around his mouth, he said, "dis here's a 65 mile 'n hour zone. 'n welp...I clocked y'in at 99. Wer ya headed son?"

99 in a 65? I knew I was screwed. I tried to tell him about my trip and how I was just trying to get to this wonderful New Mexican landmark before the sun goes down, but I knew it was of no use. I can only hope doing 34 over the posted speed limit doesn't put me in jail. After about 10 minutes in his car, Officer Thorny came back with a some paperwork and a choice for me. Either I could agree to appear before a judge on Wednesday or pay a $206 fine within 30 days. I was shocked. I thought New Mexico litter laws were easy at just $300, but 99 in a 65 is a lesser crime than that? No wonder they have traffic signs suggesting you don't drink and drive.

Even with our run in with the law, we had made up enough time to beat the sun. It did take some time to find a camp site, but we found a great one. The rest of the day is pretty well captured on video. I'll do my best to edit it and get it posted along with a couple others as soon as I can. Check back to see some great footage of a pretty awesome, not so well known area of New Mexico.

From El Malpais National Monument,

Zach and Wallie
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