Road Trip by the Numbers: Albuquerque to Oakland

Photo by Andrew Kearns

Taking time and 1,074 miles to daydream

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 The American West. The Road Trip. Taken separately, each speaks volumes in languages understood around the globe. Married, the pair assails a traveler with iconography that’s too easy to describe by hackneyed observations or deafening silence. Is there a Middle Way? How do we describe an unseen feeling, both individual and universal? The space that floods in between thoughts and molecules on a road trip. How do we describe a place rooted in macro vastness that does not undercut the value of its micro thin places? A solitary Brewers’s Blackbird soaring along the undeveloped north rim of the Grand Canyon. Even when pushed by unrelenting schedules, by needing to get from Point A to Point B because Object C is just around the corner demanding our attention tomorrow, we find solace in wandering today. Even if it’s just our mind wandering, with heightened awareness and a strengthened resolve to return at a slower pace. Heading West to the California dream – through Southwest places revered by the Ancients – demands our attention and commands our psyches. The numbers that follow are measures of a road trip well-taken, experienced, imprinted. As Jack Kerouac said in On The Road, “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”


15.5: Hours to drive from Northern New Mexico to Northern California
3: Stops along the way
38: Minute difference between what Waze calculated at the beginning of the 15.5-hour trip and the actual arrival time


13.5: Hours feeling completely free
Pi to the nth degree: Increased space between my cells from the beginning of the road trip to the end


6.32am: First sip of Peet’s coffee (pour-over) as sun peeked over Sandia Mountains
8.40pm: Last sip of Peet’s coffee (iced espresso) as sun sank over Central Valley near Bakersfield

Sandias; photo by G Morrow

13: Bonafide stops or nearby detours for a ‘normal’ visitor along this route (Acoma Pueblo, El Malpais, Navajo Nation, Hopi Nation, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Route 66, Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Sedona, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Havasu Wildlife Refuge on the Colorado River, the Mohave Desert).
10: Days for a ‘normal’ person’s trip through this region


11: Teepees seen at wayside tourist traps in Arizona
3: Tyrannosaurus Rex seen at wayside tourist traps in the Petrified Forest

Teepees; photo by Mike Girard

292: Songs listened to from 3 iTunes playlists
289: Songs sung at top of lungs (the last 15 minutes was quiet)
146: Number of songs danced-to while driving


25: Ounces of espresso consumed
16: Ounces of Thompson seedless raisins consumed
4: Green chili and tricolor quinoa turkey burgers consumed
0: Other food products consumed


Million: Ocatillo & Cholla cactus within 30 miles of the AZ-CA border (as far as the eye could see)
Quarter million: Joshua & Yucca trees within 30 miles of the AZ-CA border (as far as the eye could see)

Cholla (left, by mvcornelius); Ocatillo (right, by Sandy Slaymaker)

3: Conversations with friends
3: Dropped cell phone calls


0: Facebook check-ins
4: Email check-ins
0: Emails returned
17: Siri-dictated texts sent


5000: Wind turbines in Tehachapi Wind Farm that provide energy needs to 350,000 people annually
100s: Commercial airlines parked in graveyard of Mohave Air & Space Port, from where Richard Branson launched ‘Space Ship One’

Tehachapi Wind Farm; photo by Marcin Wichary

114: Highest temperature in Mohave Desert
31: Degrees (Fahrenheit) drop after a 10-minute monsoon-like downpour


2: Accidents seen that were probably fatal (one flipped car on fire, one motorcycle)
2: Times slowed below the posted speed limit


0.5: Lanes the car was thrown (once) by a heavy gust of wind
1: Single syllable word blurted out loud (to said gust of wind)


27: Mile-long train seen ferrying a gazillion cubic tons of goods in double-stacked Maersk shipping containers
1200: Semi-trailer trucks passed along a 120-mile stretch of I-5 in CA after dark

Double-stacked train; photo by Rennett Stowe

1: Bird seen crashing into car in front of me
0: Birds seen crashing into cars in front of me in my entire lifetime


1: Number of cows seen running in front of a power plant
9: Number of minutes spent smiling at the sight


1: Apocalyptic sky over Barstow with a freaky-day-glow-orange sun
24+: Cars destroyed by a brush fire that jumped the highway near Victorville and caused the sky to look Armageddon-y


8: Different types of clouds (cumulus, stratus, nimbostratus, cirrus, cumulonimbus, altocumulus, stratocumulus, cirrocumulus)
1: Photo taken while driving (see final photo)

Name those clouds; photo by Pat Hayes

6559: Elevation in feet of home in Albuquerque (NM)
243: Elevation in feet of home in California (CA)


72: Degrees Fahrenheit on departure from NM
73: Degrees Fahrenheit on arrival in CA


610: Elevation in feet of Mohave Desert (on my I-40 route)
7320: Elevation in feet of Continental divide in Arizona (on my I-40 route)


210: Minutes spent wishing for driving glasses
210: Minutes driven after dark


180: Minutes spent playing this ‘by the numbers’ game after dark
0: Minutes spent playing this ‘by the numbers’ game during daylight
362: More stupid and silly ‘by the numbers’ minutiae that crossed my mind


1: AirBnB guest left in my Albuquerque house
1: Person greeting me with open arms on the curbside at midnight in the East Bay

Near Barstow, California; photo by Kim Grant


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