Sorry for the absence and lack of posts.  Just returned from a long drive.  I drove a company truck and trailer from El Paso, Texas back to McMinnville, Oregon.  Since I was already planning to be in Denver to help celebrate a granddaughter’s 4th birthday, I volunteered to return the vehicles since I was half-way there.  My wife wanted to join me for the 2000 mile trip which I could not understand until she mentioned how nice it would be to visit Santa Fe on the way (only a couple of hours out of the way).  We did spend two very nice days there.  We then drove I-40 (parallels the old Route 66) across New Mexico and Arizona and then up I-5 through California and Oregon.

Some observations: El Paso, Texas, and most of New Mexico seemed far less affected by the economic woes of the nation than California and Oregon.  In El Paso, Las Cruces, Socorro, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe, there was a lot of construction in progress.  Most large commercial and industrial buildings along the freeways (25 and 40) seemed to have full parking lots and much activity.  There were big buildings being built and lots of highway construction.  That may be due to the high percentage of government activity in New Mexico but it was still striking to me.  It seemed like every car I saw was less than five years old – almost no ‘beaters.’

Did you know that there are more scientists per capita in New Mexico than any other state?  Or that New Mexico has now surpassed Mississippi for the lowest ranking public school system in America?  Quite a contrast.

I was surprised by Santa Fe.  More fine art is sold in Santa Fe than any other place in America outside of New York (and occasionally L.A.).  There must be 200 or 300 serious fine art galleries in a city of just over 60,000 people.

While in Santa Fe, I was fortunate to hear a presentation by Chuck Bowden, author of the new book Murder City (and about 10 other books). He has lived with the Mexican Drug/Immigration problem for the past 20 years, intimately.  He claims that Ciudad Juarez is the most deadly city on earth with over 3000 murders this year alone.  With about 300 street gangs and no faith in any of the government institutions, drugs, protection money, and just surviving are daily topics of real life (and death) drama.  Interestingly, El Paso, its cross border neighbor may be the safest city in the U.S. with 5 murders so far this year in a town of 600,000.  I hope to read the book in the next month and may do a review in this space.  It is currently #3 on my list.  His comments about Mexico and our border were chilling.

Driving the old Route 66 is not very interesting if there is no time to stop and get involved in anything.  My only impression of Arizona was a run-in with Arizona’s Department of Transportation.  I drove through the scales upon entry to Arizona on I-40 more as a courtesy than anything since I was driving a simple one-ton pick-up pulling an empty 20 foot flatbed trailer (total weight under 10,000#).  I was ordered (not asked politely but yelled an order) to park the vehicle and come into the office.  As I opened the door to the office at the weigh station, I found myself 6th in line with 5 very unhappy professional truck drivers.  With three people behind the counter, I thought it would be a matter of minutes before I would be through the line and on my way.  It took 30 minutes for the first person in line to be ‘processed.’  As one driver mentioned to me, they were just looking for every method possible to bring in money.  Of the three, I lucked out and got the one officer who decided to let me ‘get away’ with a 30 day DOT permit to cross the state.  It cost me $12 and 45 minutes.  Others were not so lucky.  One of the woman officers was literally yelling at everyone with whom she came into contact – one of the most nasty creatures I have ever seen.  As one truck driver mentioned to me, these are the worst kind of bureaucrat.  If they don’t like the way you look or act, it is within their power to make you drive the truck around for a random inspection.  Even if everything is perfect with your rig, you can lose a couple of hours.  The other woman was just plain dull.  She must have asked every question 3 times and retyped everything into her computer three more times.  Watching her ‘work’ (there wasn’t much else to do) was like watching paint dry.  You would have to work at it to be slower or less competent.  They obviously don’t have production standards for these folks.  None of the AZDOT employees ever smiled.  The atmosphere in the room was toxic.

While driving I listened to an audio book on the iPad.  This was a first for me and I will do it more often.  The book was the Watchman’s Rattle.  I was very impressed.  May even buy the print version to underline and dog-ear.  It is about the best analysis of where we are today as a society that I have read.  Rebecca Costa is very impressive.  This may be the most significant book I’ve read in the past couple of years.  I highly recommend it.  May do a review of this one, too.

In any event, the trip was more interesting than I thought it would be and I returned (happily) to again remember how educational travel can be.