Miles Traveled: 566; Current Location: Austin, TX

I know that there are some of you out there who are surprised by the fact that I have yet to report getting lost or being pulled over by the police. Well… who had day five? Yes, that’s right everyone. Today, on day five, I managed to put both of these inevitable occurrences behind me. Like the Jnco craze of 1998, hopefully never to be revisited again.

Since I was pulled over before I was lost, I’ll address that first. If I haven’t already made it clear, let me hammer this point down, everything that I have seen of New Mexico is incredibly barren. While driving the last 120 miles or so to Roswell on Sunday, there was a point when I didn’t have cell phone service that I actively wondered how far I would be able to walk in the event that something went horribly wrong. I didn’t feel secure until I was in within ten miles of the town. Because of that, I’ll admit that for the last nine hours or so, I have felt a little uneasy. My entire drive today to Austin, Texas was identical to that last 120 miles.

So when I saw a police officer outside a small town on the New Mexico/Texas border, I was relieved. “Good,” I thought, “if something happens to me right this second, he will be able to save me.” Of course, as soon as I saw him pull out of his parking spot, I knew I was sunk. Every once in a while, in the midst of traversing the nothingness, the two lane highways that I have been cruising along go through very small towns, and the speed limit goes way down. Officer Gregory said he had me going 53 in a 40. I thought that this news was interesting because I was sure that I had been traveling much faster.

It was at this exact moment that I realized my outlook on life was starting to shift. Just seeing a police car in Los Angeles would send me into an instant panic, and on the few occasions that I actually was pulled over, I had full blown meltdowns. Part of my terror had to do with the desire to avoid trouble (as a T-shirt that I used to have says, “I don’t look for trouble, it finds me”), but I think that the other part had to do with the heavily regimented structure that I had created for myself and my inability to roll with the punches. Looking back, it seems that I spent quite a bit of time staring at my watch, just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I was completely unfazed when I was pulled over today. Obviously a lot of that has to do with the differences in the towns of Los Angeles, California and Tatum, New Mexico. I understand that a shift in outlook can really only account for so much, and it was this piece of the puzzle that again reminded me how wonderful a small (and I mean small) town can be.

Officer Gregory approached my car and asked me for my license, registration, and proof of insurance. I offered him two of the three. He told me to “continue to search for my insurance card” while he went to his car and promised that he would “be right back.” This part of being pulled over is usually where things start to get dicey for me. I have a California license, Massachusetts plates, and my car is registered to my mother. Trust me, no person of authority appreciates this scenario. I rummaged through all of my papers, but I couldn’t find the card. I decided that I would tell him that I have Progressive insurance and find out if there is some kind of way to look it up. I mean I do have insurance.

As it turned out, there was no need to explain. Officer Gregory came back to my car, returned my license and registration, and told me to pay closer attention to the posted speed limits. I knew I loved New Mexico. I felt very lucky and continued on my way. It was about five minutes later when I noticed a sign to my left that read, “last cold beer for 100 miles.” Yep, I figured, that about sums it up. No wonder I wasn’t ticketed. Tatum is a town that wants to make sure each person has a cold beer in his or her hands while also of the assumption that this person is likely to be driving for at least another 100 miles.

Despite being pulled over, things were going like clockwork. And then I realized that the road marker didn’t match up with the number that I was supposed to be following according to my directions. That’s right… directions. I decided not to take a GPS on the trip. Everyone who I shared this information with before I left was alarmed. My father offered to buy me a GPS. I told him I’d rather have the cash (which by the way dad, I’m still waiting on…). The truth is that I’m stubborn (big revelation there), but I also didn’t want another voice along with mine telling me where to go. I wanted to go where I wanted to go. And today, “where I wanted to go” turned out to add 67 miles to my trip. So be it. If Columbus had a GPS, it’s possible that no one would have ever found the New World (aside from the people already living here of course).

I realized about twenty minutes down the wrong road that I probably wasn’t going the right way, but I saw a sign indicating that I would hit Lubbock in 30 miles. Although up until this point I hadn’t seen a town bigger than one convenience store and a couple of horses, my roommate from freshman year of college is from Lubbock, and since she is great, I knew to expect more substantial things from this particular town. I was right. I wasn’t surprised that I had gotten lost. It’s one thing to follow directions when they essentially read “head north on Maple Street, hang a right, proceed 500 miles, your destination will be on the left,” but as soon as I saw the number of steps involved in getting to Austin, I assumed that I would struggle.  I am somewhat notoriously bad at following directions as it is, and since I was dealing with “the state of a million acres of identically appearing land,” there was bound to be a hiccup or two.  Once I got to Lubbock, I re-mapped my route from that point, and I was on my way. Though I don’t have a standard GPS, without Google maps, this undertaking would have been impossible for me. I have a newfound respect for Thelma and Louise.

While I do recommend taking a road trip across America, I do not recommend driving across Texas. When I said that I love fields, Texas apparently heard me loud and clear. I snapped a few photos from my drive and was happy that my surroundings started to include cows and trees, but I think I’ve gotten my fill of fields for a while. If you do drive across Texas, I have the following piece of advice for you: get gas when you see it. Luckily, I am paranoid about running out of gas, so I made sure that I was never verging on low because I’m certain that even the Energizer Bunny couldn’t walk the distance between gas stations in Texas. All in all, it was a good day of driving, and I’m excited to spend the rest of this week in Austin hanging out with my friend, Rebecca, who I lived with for a while in LA. I have already seen the Peter Pan statue outside the mini golf place where we are scheduled to go to for one outing, and she promises me that other equally exciting adventures are in store! Stay tuned! And thank you very much for reading!

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