Days 204-207 – West to Sedona

We’ve been keeping our eye on the weather, of course, and we get an early start out of Hilton Head because there’s an unusually snowy, icy winter storm headed through Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee tonight. It’s hard to believe there’s bad weather ahead because we drive the first 900 miles under crystal-clear blue skies.

We had planned to spend the night in Vicksburg, some 700 miles from Hilton Head. We ’re planning to be in Sedona in four days and with three 600-700 mile driving days followed by a short hop up from Tucson on the last day. While we’re crossing Mississippi, I re-check the weather to see if dipping South to Baton Rouge will get us below the storm. It will work for a bit, but Houston and San Antonio are both expecting lousy weather and since we know the further south we go, the less ability cities will be have to recover from ice and snow (eg., no plows, no ice, no will to do anything but wait for it to melt), we decide to stick to our planned route on I-20 across northern Louisiana and into Texas.

We decide to aim for Tyler, Texas. The day has been sunny and in the 50s but as the sun sets, the temperature starts to drop. By the time we are 30 miles East of Tyler, it is raining and dark and we are both anxiously watching the thermometer in our car that registers the temperature outside. It drops pretty quickly through the 50s and into the 40s. The rain comes and goes but it’s been a long day of driving, it’s dark, our car is not made for ice (not that any car is) and we are very happy when our Tyler exit comes into view. We had picked a hotel just off the highway so barely 15 minutes after leaving the highway, we are checked in and having a snack in our room, checking the weather channel.

The weather forecasters turned out to be mostly right. Starting 40 miles west of us and extending all the way east to Mississippi, I-20 is iced by morning. There are pileups and wrecks off the road. We can see the highway from our room and there is no traffic on it. We resign ourselves to spending a day in Tyler and set to work finding a way to get to Sedona on the same time schedule even though we’ve lost a day. The good part is that we are more than 200 miles further west than we had planned. The bad part is that if we could have traveled 40 miles further on Monday night, we would have been out of all the ice. Dallas, which had been expecting the ice and snow, somehow ducked it.

The weather is clear and dry headed west so we decide to ditch the Dallas-Midland-Tucson route we had planned and instead head for Albuquerque via Amarillo. We figure if we drive about 11 hours, we can make Albuquerque for the night and that will put us just five hours or so from Sedona, which will mean arriving on time. So that’s what we do.

The first few miles out of Tyler are a bit challenging. The highway is mostly clear and dry but then there are patches of ice, limited to the left passing lane but, unfortunately, we learn this as we are passing a line of tractor trailer trucks. Walt is driving and handling it very smoothly. I’m holding the door and praying. Did I mention that of the three car accidents I’ve had in my entire driving life, two were on ice and one was in rain? I panic on ice. We get back safely in the right lane and stay there until it is clear that there is no more ice on the road. Our day, though long, passes uneventfully and we are very grateful. The Albuquerque-to-Sedona trip goes just as smoothly and we arrive at our Vacation Rental By Owner townhouse in time to get unpacked, grab dinner out, and go grocery shopping before falling into bed.

Our rental is very nice and spacious with views of the famed red rocks out our back windows (there’s a great patio for when the weather warms up a bit, too).

All in all, we are well pleased with our choice and can’t wait to go explore the area.

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