Heading west on I-10, I got my first break of the drive early on. I didn't have to stop at the Inspection Checkpoint. Since my car was totally packed (about half of my possessions were stuffed into a Geo Metro), the delay would have been a long one.
Leaving at 7 PM for a long drive after a busy day sounds stupid, but there was method to my madness. This way I got to drive across the worst of the desert at night. I-10 is a straight shot across New Mexico. No traffic, no cities (Deming and Lordsburg are the only towns you go through in the 140 miles west of Las Cruces).
The flip of that is that you have to plan your fill ups well in advance when you have scores of miles between all night gas stations. Of course I stopped at the Flying J Travel Plaza near Casa Grande before heading off towards Phoenix. I grabbed a few Dr Peppers and headed north.
In Phoenix, I switched off the Interstate to take shortcut number 1. I drove US 93 on a different road trip in the middle of the night. I remembered it as being kind of hilly but straight. The only problem with that memory is that it had no relation to any form of reality. The road curves and dipped up the sides of mountains. It was nothing like US 550 north of Durango, but it wasn't straight by anyone's standards. Getting my first dose of exhaustedness didn't help matters much.
I hit I-40 slightly past sunrise. Normally at this point I would be looking for a rest stop, but on this trip I couldn't. "Why not?" you ask. Remember that my car was filled to the brim with my stuff. Not only did I not really want to park somewhere with everything if I could avoid it, but the car was filled to the point where I couldn't even lean the seat back to go to sleep.
I hit California and drove to Barstow. Shortcut number 2, and a really pleasant drive to boot, was California route 58. While the I-40/I-15 intersection comes really close to being a triple intersection with 58, I had to retrace my steps for a couple of miles and take I-15 east to get to my exit.
West of Barstow is pretty much nothing forever, so I figured I better fuel up before I left town. I bought gas and, in somewhat of a desperation move, switched from Dr Pepper to Jolt. However I was about to have an upsetting revelation. Not only was I exhausted, but was no longer able to consume any more sodas. I was too bloated.
I managed to keep a minimal amount of caffeine in my system by sipping the Jolt all the way to Bakersfield. Once I hit town, I used the other source of energy- chocolate. It was a good attempt, but it really wasn't enough.
By the time I hit I-5 things were getting out of control. I would stop at every rest stop, splash water on my face, and start driving some more. By Sacramento, sleep deprivation hallucinations were starting to happen. Nothing major mind you, but enough to make me scared. However, my sleep deprived mind was not intelligent enough to think of stopping before Red Bluff.
When all seemed lost, I finally saw a sign. "Motel 6 next exit" The Hell would be over soon... or would it. The insane part of my brain, the part that wants adventures and cool stories over everything else, the part that I want to destroy sometimes, and other times am convinced is the best thing about me, put forth the proposition that it would be even cooler if I could make it to Eugene. For once in my life I shut it up.
I got off the highway and grabbed my room. I looked at my stopwatch. From hitting I-10 in Las Cruces to the Motel 6 parking lot, was 23 hours and 59 minutes. I had been awake for 36 hours at this point. I briefly thought about finding out what one does in Red Bluff for fun, before I knew what I would do. I was asleep within minutes.
This was my last major road trip. I don't know if it's because the hallucinations towards the end scared me, if it's because I realised that I am getting too old for the sunrise to sunset to sunrise drives, or if I just haven't had a reason to drive all night. For the time being, the insane all night driving, story wanting part of me is locked up, but every now and then the temptation is there. I don't know if I ever will give in to that cry of the open road again, but- just in case- I hope all Flying J's keep plenty of Dr Pepper in stock.