Monday was the big day – starting the trek back east! It started out with a shorter trek of my own – a three mile run near our hotel in Escondido, California. It was super hot out by the time I ran around 10:15am, but I needed to squeeze in a run since I could not run Saturday or Sunday mornings, and I wouldn’t be able to go the morning of our Grand Canyon adventure or our long 12 hour day to San Antonio (which is today while I am writing this.) I hate going longer than two days in between runs, but I also don’t particularly like going on a run from a hotel in a busy area, so I just chose one day in the middle for a quick few miles just to keep myself close to on track. I didn’t need to use it, but I decided to try out my new Road Noise vest (I was on sidewalks the whole time) so I would know how well I liked it and any oddities about it before a day comes on which I really need to wear it. It was a bit annoying compared to running without it, but I enjoyed not having to wear headphones, so I think the two balanced out. As you can tell from the picture, I was HOT when I finished the run – not a speck of shade and over 90 degress by then, with plenty of humidity.
John said the other day that he is living proof that you only need five outfits to travel cross country for a month. Just make sure you have a dinner jacket included in that number. Everyone who’s seen it has tried to get John’s Diamond Jubilee striped jacket off him, but it was finally Grandpa Cook who succeeded:
Once out of the mountains in Arizona we stopped at a McDonalds to cool off and for the kids to stretch their legs. Speaking of that, right now we are in THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE heading southeast from Albuquerque to San Antonio. The closest Starbucks is in 119 miles. We’re totally going to hit that place up. I have a feeling the next one after that will be about another 200 miles.
I was the driver leaving McDonalds, and it was quite the exciting drive for me. As we got into the Mojave Desert and the sun set, strange things started to happen. It was really windy, and the kids spent hours looking out the windows (and rebuckling in the seats with the best views) at the impressive light show. People keep asking, “How are the kids are doing on the trip?” since we don’t have a DVD player or anything. Really, they’re doing well and mostly just play with other or read or look out the window. This night it was the 2-3 hour lightning show that kept them occupied. You don’t see that every day! The sheet lightning was amazing, and there were several huge strikes as well that traversed the night sky right out the front windshield where I could see the whole thing, taking up my entire field of view. The most incredible lightning I’ve ever seen. Part of it was due to a storm that seemed to be in our future – and we did pass through a bit of rain – but actually the storm had gone through a while before we arrived. Evidence of the storm was everywhere, though, and it was what really affected us. I started seeing huge puddles here and there thinking, “Why is there water way out here?” The land on either side of the road looked like a beach – the sandy parts left when the tide goes out. Odd. Then the puddles were larger – all on the side of the road with oncoming traffic – and I was able to occasionally see lots of spray when cars up ahead would splash through the puddles at 70 mph. I saw a few coyotes hurry across the road in front of me. Then the puddles turned to a steady stream of water along either side of the road, and the smell in the air warned me of the impending rain. These things combined to cause me to slow down, even though water falling from the sky had yet to materialize. By the time I hit the first section of washed out road, I was down to 50-55 mph, and boy was I glad!! I have never seen a washed out road in the middle of a desert before – or anywhere for that matter – and it really is dangerous and scary. Huge amounts of sand and gravel and deep swaths of water crossed the road in places, making for something that can’t quite be called a puddle through which I had to drive. I would call it more of a stream (not a stream as in a trickle of water, but more like a small river.) I am probably exaggerating the amount of sand and water that were on the road (mud at this point, since sand+water=mud), but when it’s pitch black outside and you’re driving really fast through a desert where it’s not even raining, and you come across patches of road that are all water and mud, it’s hard to overestimate the amount of terror that I sort of felt. Not gonna lie. I slowed way down after this first patch of washed-out road, and I drove through maybe five more places that seemed really sketchy. I was thrilled to have my turn at the wheel over a little while later (It’s not like we could have switched drivers either, since it was a two-lane road late at night with lots of traffic that we saw and no shoulder of note.)
One of the more grisly periods of the bridge’s history was at the southern gateway between 1305 and 1660, when it was customary to display the severed heads of traitors, impaled on pikes and dipped in tar to preserve them against the elements. The head of William Wallace was the first to appear on the gate. Other famous heads on pikes included those of Jack Cade in 1450, Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher in 1535, and Thomas Cromwell in 1540. A German visitor to London in 1598 counted over 30 heads on the bridge. The practice was finally stopped in 1660, following the Restoration of King Charles II.