Wednesday, July 18, 2007

AMA IBET - Getting Home from the Great Northwest

I had already determined to change my route home down through Colorado and across Kansas in order to re-take an AMA photo of the Oklahoma state line This new route would take me south on Nebraska 71 and into Colorado. I was mesmerized by the miles and miles of golden wheat along this road, glowing in the early morning sun, interrupted only by the occasional farm road that disappeared into the horizon. I was so taken by this early morning beauty that I failed to stop for gas when I passed through Brush, even though I had over 150 miles on the odometer by this time. Further down the road my low fuel light came on, jolting me into the here-and-now.

I was about to become fast friends with Jill. I apologized to her profusely for yelling at her and calling her names earlier. I begged her forgiveness and asked her to tell me where the nearest gas stations were. She obediently threw up a list of gas stations on the screen…all of them 30 miles back up the road where I just came from. My feeble memory conjured up the name of the town at the I-70 intersection and in the “near to…” field I typed in Limon. Jill showed me the list of gas stations in Limon, 40 miles ahead. I should JUST make it, but it didn’t allay my concerns by very much.

Now, instead of watching the scenery, I was slavishly watching the trip odometer and the GPS, waiting for Limon to appear at the top of the screen. Finally, with that near-catastrophe averted, I headed east on I-70 along what is possibly the most crushingly boring 350 mile stretch of interstate in America. The monotony was only momentarily interrupted by the appearance of flashing blue lights in my rearview mirrors, and the incredibly polite, blue-eyed, uniformed specimen of a man who appeared along side of me and who handed me my first-ever speeding ticket.

Finally arriving in Wichita, I stopped at the same Comfort Inn I’d stayed at a week earlier as I headed north on this trip. The parking lot seemed alarmingly full as I walked inside to get a room. I was informed that they were indeed full as were most hotels in Wichita. There was a chemical plant explosion earlier that day in a town just north of there (“didn’t I see the plumes of black smoke?”) and the entire town had been evacuated. She thought there might be a room left at the Comfort Inn on the south side, and a call ahead confirmed it and I had them hold the room for me.

The next morning, I made a brief stop along the side of the interstate to take the photo of the Oklahoma state sign. The morning sun illuminated the stone wall for a perfect shot, and I was on my way again in minutes. I would be home in Houston that evening.

This leg of the AMA IBET taught me some additional things. I learned how to use a GPS and how valuable it will be in my upcoming trip to the Northeast. I also learned that pre-scouting photo opportunities was a tremendous help, and become even more of a help on the next trip, where the bonus locations will be much smaller and further off the major highways.

Next entry: tiny dots on the map

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