I have been driving for just over two hours and have yet to see another vehicle. Cellphone reception is nonexistent and I am silently praying that I chose the most dependable rental car on the lot.
Horrible thoughts flash through my mind: "Who will find me if I break down?" "What if it's the Kathy Bates character from 'Misery?'" "Was that a vulture?"
Mitt Romney felt on election night.
I was one hour out of Albuquerque, bound for Lovington, N.M., an oil town near the Texas border. A hospital group had invited me to perform standup comedy during its end of year awards banquet. Suffice it to say, I never bothered to Google "Lovington transportation options" prior to accepting the job.
"Is there a shuttle service between the Albuquerque airport and Lovington?" I asked two weeks before the date. That question elicited gales of laughter from the hospital staff. It was like asking the Munchkins if there was a quick, unobstructed route to the Emerald City.
A visit to the Lea County Regional Airport website informed me that there were exactly TWO flights per day between Houston and Hobbs, N.M., considered the big city to nearby Lovington residents. Still, people must be desperate to get to Lovington since the prices were slightly higher than a round-trip ticket to Shanghai. That's when I chose to fly into the state's largest city and take what I assumed would be a leisurely, four hour drive down to Lovington. After dark.
For the first hour, that was indeed the case. Numerous billboards invited me to take a break at Lisa's Truck Stop in Moriarty. I resisted the urge -- but it wasn't easy, since I really wanted to meet Lisa and ask what attracted her to the truck stop business.
All the truckers who frequent Lisa's obviously head north because U.S. 285 south became positively desolate. I was left to my own devices, one of which thankfully was an iPod with a portable speaker. The No. 1 radio station in rural New Mexico plays 24-hour static.
My speed climbed to 80, then 85. I wasn't worried about getting pulled over; if anything I would relish the conversation. Better yet, maybe I'd lead the officer on a high-speed pursuit. At least I'd know someone was nearby.
After about 200 miles, civilization briefly beckoned, if one wants to call Roswell civilized. Remember, this is the town where an alien-inhabited UFO allegedly crashed in 1947. If their descendants chose to visit today, they could seek lodging at one of several motels with neon signs touting not cable TV, not satellite TV, but COLOR TV. I considered checking in, just to mess with the staff.
"Can I get a room with a Touch-Tone phone or is that extra?"
"Is there a drive-in malt shop around here?"
"Don't you think President Eisenhower is doing a great job?"
After Roswell, one must travel an hour on Highway 380, which makes U.S. 285 look like the Las Vegas Strip. Two lanes, no shoulder and, once again, no vehicles save mine. My speed hit 90, my heart rate double that.
Just as I began hearing voices in my head, the loudest of which said, "You must have passed it," the speed limit dropped to 45. I glimpsed lights and a sign: "Welcome to the City of Lovington. Making It Happen."
Considering I would be making this same harrowing journey in reverse 24 hours later, I had only one thought:
"Let's hope nothing happens."
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad," available at http://amzn.to/schwem. Visit Greg on the web at http://www.gregschwem.com.)