Anatomy of a Road Trip

College football fans are very familiar with the 2005 football season - that year Texas, the heavy underdog in the BCS National Championship game, upset USC, ESPN's sweetheart and "the greatest football team ever". Many forget that the road to the 2006 Rose Bowl began in 2004 and, oddly enough, also passed through Pasadena. It was that year that the Vince Young-led Longhorns rolled into the Rose Bowl and battled Michigan in a hard-fought victory.

The 2005 Rose Bowl was a truly special match-up. The game would finally pit Texas and Michigan, two storied football programs that had never played against each other. It also marked the first time that Texas would visit "The Granddaddy of them all". That's what I kept telling my wife... "We have to go. It's the granddaddy of them all. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!" Never mind that we went back the next year... that's not important right now.

Anyway, we managed to get tickets through The Longhorn Foundation but found that airfares were going through the roof. It was at that point that I hatched the brilliant idea to drive to Pasadena from Houston.

Look at a map.

That's roughly 1,500 miles and some change. Half of the trip is in Texas and as anyone who has driven through west Texas can tell you - it's not that interesting. Don't get me wrong - it's actually kind of cool (not as bad as I expected) but it's not like you're driving for the Pacific Coast Highway for 700+ miles.

Anyway, my wife was a trooper and agreed to make the long drive in my Jeep Grand Cherokee - an extremely noisy Jeep Grand Cherokee, at that. I would do most of the driving and she would be my copilot providing "emotional support." The jeep was loaded with everything we needed - a car-powered cooler with snacks, coffee, water, etc.; maps with details of all the ExxonMobil's and Chevron's along the way; a DVD player with a handful of DVDs and plenty of books, magazines, etc.

Our plan was simple:

1. Leave at 6:00 AM on December 30th and drive all the way to Tucson. Stay in Tucson for the night
2. Leave at 6:00 AM on the December 31st and make the rest of the drive to Burbank, CA (hotels were sold out in Pasadena as the Longhorn nation had booked all the rooms)

Something happened somewhere between 1 and 2. Essentially, I couldn't stand waiting. By the 28th, tons of Longhorn fans were starting to head to California. I couldn't wait to leave so my wife agreed to a harebrained plan. Essentially, 1. changed to...

1. Leave at midnight and maybe drive until Tucson
2. Unknown but make it to Burbank from "somewhere"

In fact, this a very annotated idea of how our drive turned out:

December 30th
Midnight - Get in the car and say a prayer for God's protection on the road. Since we had been in the garage for a while, the light over the door shut off. Not paying attention, I put the Jeep in reverse and hit the garage door. Good start!
5:00 AM - Decided to stop in Junction for gas. Not paying attention, I run a stop sign on the access road and a cop pulls me over. He can tell I'm bewildered and sleepy so he lets me off with a warning.
6:00 AM - Pull over at a rest stop just past Sonora for a 1/2 hour nap. I feel "one" with the truckers.
7:00 AM - The sun is starting to rise - thank, God! I realize that I'm driving past a lot of nothing... mostly rolling hills with scrubby brush.
Mid-morning - Somewhere around Fort Stockton, I relinquish the wheel and let my wife take over for a while. I only manage about 1:45 minutes and take back over in Van Horn.
11:00ish AM - El Paso. Yup... El Paso. Drove it straight with only 1/2 hour of sleep
Around noon - What is that horrid smell? Welcome to New Mexico and the absolute stench of dairies.
2:00 PM - When does New Mexico end? This is terrible! The rest of the state must be nice but anything along I-10 should be passed 20 mph over the speed limit. It was probably around this time that we started seeing signs for "The Thing". It was somewhere in New Mexico that we canceled our hotel in Tucson and booked a room at the Caliente Tropics Resort in Palm Springs.
Early Rush Hour - We make it through Phoenix without too many issues. Dang... my knees really hurt.
8:00 PM - The Coachella Valley is within sight. Stop at Carl's Jr. is our last stop before making it to the hotel.
8:20 PM - Thank God... we park the Jeep at the Caliente Tropics.
10:00 PM - Lights out

By 10:00 AM the next day, we were back on the road and on the way to Burbank for the last leg of the first half of our road trip.

22 hours on our first leg with only a 1/2 hour stop
1546 miles
A few breaks along the way... Junction, Sonora, Fort Stockton, Van Horn, Deming (NM), Wilcox (AZ), Phoenix and Palm Springs, CA. I probably missed something as I was relatively delirious by the time the trip was over.

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