For the next few days, mother nature decided to send us a test of our patience, our ability to plan on a whim and to drive through some of the most bizarre and eerie conditions we have ever experienced.
The doppler on Michelle’s phone became our best friend. “Check the doppler again, will ya Clark,” became a phrase we would say every 10 miles.
The drive from Sedona to Albuquerque was rainy and dreary, not much to see, barely any service on our phones.
The plan was to stay in Albuquerque for the night, reasses the weather and make a plan from there. Cate’s uncle John lived in Albuquerque years and years and years ago. He was not only the head chef at Nob Hill Cafe, but also was very instrumental in the growth of the restaurant. John’s friend Bob had a friend Susan who agreed to host us for the evening.
We arrived at Susan’s in the early evening to a delicious home cooked meal, open arms and a night filled with story telling and sharing. Susan’s friend, Chris, was over for dinner as well. We loved spending some time with Susan and Chris, hearing about their travel stories and Albuquergue life, seeing photos of the famous balloon festival in town every year and sharing our stories with them. We felt very welcomed, so at home. Susan, we cannot thank you enough.
As if the home cooked dinner wasn’t enough, we woke up to delicious coffee and probably the most amazing homemade oatmeal with fruit we have ever had.
We spent some time checking out every weather channel, weather app, every doppler scan from here to there, watched Youtube weather reports. It was happening. The storm was coming, there was no way around out. Tropical cyclone Helen was quickly approaching as was winter storm Nelson.
The reality was that we were not going to make it to Santa Fe as the roads were closing due to the ice; if we didn’t head east we would probably be in Albuquerque until Monday. No matter what our decision or plan of action, we were in for a bad few days of weather.
We decided to keep moving, to brave the storm, and see how far we could get before we had to pull over. Our time in Albuquerque concluded with an amazingly delicious lunch at Scalo. Which, is the restaurant that Cate’s uncle used to work at (previously Nob Hill Cafe). Full bellies, full hearts and doppler ready; we were off.
We got as far as a small little town in southern New Mexico called Truth or Consequences. Yes, Truth or Consequences. The town, population no more than 1,000, is known for their hot springs and baths. The town is sprinkled with “spas” and inns that boast the best soaking in town. We stayed at a little inn spending the night cozy in our room and soaking in the thermal baths. Heavenly. As we went to bed, the snow was falling and accumulating quickly. Video:
We woke up to a winter wonderland. There was a good 2 to 3 inches on the ground when we opened the curtain. Stella was covered.
The hope was to try to get as close to San Antonio as we could, but the reality was that we were just going to drive until we couldn’t any longer due to weather and road conditions.
We entered Texas down by El Paso and it was crazy to be driving down the highway with Mexico just a mere 5 miles to our right. Just another road, and border crossing, separating us.
This was probably one of our worst drives to date. First of all, there is nothing in West Texas. A good 60 to 70 miles separate each town, there is not much to see, lots of trucks on the road, and it feels as if you are going to drive forever and not get anywhere.
The weather conditions were a combination of ice, rain, sleet, snow and nothing. We took it slow. We were cautious but it was not fun. By 6pm the temperatures dropped drastically, the sun was disappearing and the roads were getting worse. It was time to pull over and call it a day.
It was a small town in West Texas called Balmorea, off the highway. We had no service for hours, we could identify that the next town after Balmorea was a good 60 miles away. There was a small sign that there was lodging in Balmorea, fingers crossed.
Let’s just put it this way. We got really lucky. There was one room left at the only motel in the entire town, and it was ours. And surprisingly, it was one of the nicest rooms we have stayed in on this trip – complete with two king sized beds and a fire place! We woke up early the next morning after a great night sleep to no water. The entire town had such a bad ice storm, the pipes had frozen and burst – the entire town was without water.
In desperate need of coffee (and a shower), we were on our way to Austin. The drive was a little better than the day before, but eerie. We would drive through what felt like Antartica or the tundra – palm trees, cactus, everything frozen, icicles dropping down. Then, we would drive through another 10 mile stretch and it was as if no storm had come through at all. Then another 10 miles of ice. Not to mention, we passed at least 12 trucks overturned along the road. Very lucky and very grateful we had pulled over the night before and waited out the ice.
We pulled into Austin in the later part of the afternoon and couldn’t have been more excited for heat, a roaring fire and hot showers at our friend’s house!