I woke up at 4 a.m. Without looking at a clock I knew it was far too early to be getting up for the big drive today. The Great Horned Owl was still shrieking in the back yard, warning off his potential rivals in between soft hoots. His warning call is like the screech of a frightened small child, and it always wakes us up. But he never does it in the morning, so I knew I had to get back to sleep if I was to be ready for ten hours of driving. I rolled over and tried not to think about what lay ahead.
The strange thing is that we go on roadtrips all the time, and I don’t have this sort of nervous anticipation normally. Something felt different about this one, but why should I be surprised? Traveling without E&E, hotels instead of Airstream, and a rigid 600-mile per day schedule. Everything was different.
Well, I did get a few hours more sleep, and was finally rolling away at 7:50 a.m. The trip started off with a bad omen: the GPS would not power on. It worked fine just two days ago. Why should it suddenly die? I took it along anyway, thinking that by wiggling some cords or perhaps applying some other form of persuasion I would get it working again along the way. The day’s route was as simple as could be. Get on I-10, and stay there for 600 miles. I didn’t think I’d need it for a while.
I did stop at The Thing in Arizona, but the sky was gloomy and my photographer alter ego said to try again on the way back, when I have the Airstream in tow. I took a few half-hearted snapshots of the exterior and continued on.
Along the road I counted five Airstreams, all headed west. One of them was a Caravel, just like the one I’m going to pick up, which gave me a pang of wistfulness. I wished I had it in tow already, and I was heading for Big Bend National Park instead of Louisville.
But for today there was the compensation of just driving the heck out of the car without anything in tow. Mercedes enthusiasts says it is “autobahn ready,” which means theoretically I should be able to go 150 MPH with no trouble. In reality the car is electronically limited to 130 MPH, and even in Texas that’s a big ticket. The speed limit was 75 through Arizona and New Mexico, and once I was about 30 miles past El Paso things opened up to a neat 80 MPH, which meant I could at least flirt with what the car could do in those big empty spaces between El Paso and Van Horn.
By the numbers: 622 miles total driving, average speed 73, fuel economy a startling 26.7 miles per gallon! I hadn’t expected such good fuel economy at 80 MPH, but speed doesn’t seem to affect the fuel economy on this car very much. After 622 miles the computer said I could go another 59 miles, but when the orange “low fuel” indicator went on I decided to call it quits. I was in Midland, where I had planned to stop anyway. It was just a matter of finding the hotel I had reserved. And then I remembered: no GPS.
The dead Garmin is still a week inside it’s one-year warranty period, so tomorrow I’ll call for a return authorization, and when it comes back we’ll have a GPS for each car. In the meantime, I need a functioning one to navigate my way around half a dozen cities on this trip. Fortunately, all along America’s highways one can find handy superstores, so I stopped at the first one I saw and bought a replacement GPS.
And with that, I found my hotel, grabbed some takeout dinner, unloaded my valuables into the room, and settled in to update you with the millionth re-run of “Caddyshack” playing on the TV in the background. I think the presence of a cheap room, cheap takeout, and a brainless old movie at the end of the day completes the requirements for this to be an official roadtrip. It has been a long day, and tomorrow another long day lies ahead.