Road tripping (or, Why one should never ever drive through New Mexico)

Middle daughter Megan and her hubby Preston moved to the Arizona desert right after they got married in 2006. Jim and I have visited them—and our subsequent grandsons—several times since then. Always by air, though, never by car.

We decided to make our most recent trip there by car. "We gotta do it at least once," Jim said. So we did. And here are some of my ever-so-deep thoughts and observations about our road trip from the mountains to the desert and back again:

• Other states (and even the nether regions of my own state) are home to some pretty awesome wildlife, according to road signage. My fave previously unseen caricatures posted along the Interstate: elk featuring impossibly massive racks and bear resembling bumbling buds of Yogi.

• New Mexico has an unbelievable number of crosses along the Interstate, memorializing loved ones who had lost their lives along the way. Really, an unbelievable number. Like 50 or more just on the route we traveled. Jim says it's because New Mexico drivers are the very worst <cussing> <cussing> drivers in the nation. I think it's more because of the high Hispanic culture in that area, folks who are likely Catholic and more likely to honor the departed with the tributes. (I kind of liked my explanation but apparently Jim is correct. According to the NHTSA: New Mexico's crash and fatality rates are consistently higher than the national average. But, I must add, it's not because NM drivers are the worst but because it has become a heavily traveled "bridge" for travelers and freight.)

• Traveling through New Mexico will always and forever remind me of the first time Jim and I did so together. With the girls, we headed to Carlsbad Cavern and spent many hours of the drive looking for roadrunners. Roadrunners that looked like THE Road Runner, because we were young and naive...and hadn't traveled much...and certainly had never seen a roadrunner. Imagine our embarassment—which we kept to ourselves, of course—when we saw postcards in a tourist spot of the real roadrunners that speed along the New Mexico highways and byways.

• "Safety corridor"? What the heck is a "Safety Corridor" along the Interstate. Signs told us when we were entering one. Signs told us when we were leaving one. But never did we see a sign that told us what the heck it was. Were we supposed to duck? Lock the doors? A sign did tell us to turn on our lights for safety...which made no sense in the middle of the day in the desert, but we turned them on anyway. Much to our surprise, we got through safely...and were never transported to another time or dimension. (Well, I just researched the term for this post and gave thanks we made it out alive. The areas are named such by the DOT because of their high numbers of fatalities. I would think a more appropriate name would be a NOT-Safe Corridor. That's the government for you, I guess.)

• Being stuck for three freakin' hours between miles and miles of semis on an Interstate brought to a standstill by an accident sucks. Really. If you follow Grandma's Briefs on Facebook or Twitter you found out in real time on Tuesday how much I thought it sucked. Because of posted photos such as these:

• I'd always driven the highways and byways with the notion that when it comes to road ettiquette and challenges between semis and smaller vehicles, the semis always win. That's not always the case, I now know. When two semis tussle and tangle, neither wins, evidenced by the disastrous (and surely deadly) accident that caused the aforementioned traffic jam.

• Listening to Tina Fey reading "Bossypants" by Tina Fey is an enjoyable way to pass the time while on the road. Jim and I both agree.

• Listening to Kirsten Kairos reading "The Darkest Evening of the Year" by Dean Koontz is not. Jim and I both agree. (But we finished it anyway since we had hours and hours to go before we could sleep...or stop. And because I'd not gotten around to putting "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" by Michael Chabon on the iPod.)

• When driving 15 miles per hour over the speed limit at night, what scares me most is the possibility of one of those wild and wacky animals mentioned above—or deer or skunk or fox or Road Runner with Wile E. Coyote on his tail—running out in front of me. Even more so than signs declaring icy bridges and falling rock. (Although not quite as much as becoming one of those crosses. Well, on second thought, hitting an animal while going 90 miles an hour just might result in exactly that, so yeah, the animals are still scariest.)

• Roads? Where we're going we don't need least not anymore. At least not for visits to the desert. Because we'll be flying next time. And every time forever going forward. Yeah, I know, life is a journey not a destination and all that blah, blah, blah. But when my grandchildren are the destination, I'll take that over the journey any day.

(Plus, now that I've researched Safety Corridors and New Mexico traffic fatality statistics for this post, I can guarantee you we will never, ever drive that route again. Nor will I ever encourage friends and family—or strangers—to take a road trip that way. Take the plane, folks. It's safer—and I can provide statistics to prove it, if you need them.)

(One more thing: If you live in New Mexico, get out! Now! Run for your lives! Better yet, take a's safer. Again, I can provide statistics to prove it, if you need them.)

Today's question:

How do you pass the time when on road trips?