At first, it just looked like a little flurry, a little rain with some frozen snow mixed in to look more majestic. However, as my trip to Tucumcari from Clovis progressed Friday night, it became clear that Highway 209 would serve as a war zone between humans and nature.
The slush quickly solidified into hail and began pelting my car. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website estimates that a 9-centimeter hail stone travels to the ground at 108 mph. These stones were pretty small, but they made a big noise as they collided with my windshield, hood and roof. I started to wonder If I was going to have a makeshift moonroof on my sedan.
I pulled over with a couple of other vehicles under an old, covered gas station in Grady, I think it was. A green minivan circled the lot while we were parked there, and as the driver realized there was no place left to park, the van pulled away, heading north.
Eventually the downpour subsided, though just as soon as I got back on the road, it started up again with full intensity, slickening the highway and reducing visibility until I had to use the white line on the right side of my lane to guide me ever so slowly forward.
A little further up the road, the green van that circled the gas station was stuck with its front two wheels off the side of the road. I pulled over, flipped on my hazard lights, opened the door and walked to the van as the hail grazed my face and hands, stinging like heavenly spitballs. A gentleman in the passenger seat got out and joined me in pushing the van backwards onto the road. We waved and wished each other a safe trip.
I was outside of my car for a good 37 seconds to assist the guys in the van, but I still felt awfully gracious, and wet. But as I drove on, my tires slided along the hail-covered highway from time to time, and I hoped somebody would come along if I found myself stuck. As many of you know, one can’t just make a cell phone call for assistance on that highway.
It was a bona fide contest between man and the elements. In fact, as I drove and the white hail rushed to the ground, the spectacle reminded me of passing stars as seen through the window of a spaceship in warp speed. Surely this is how astronauts must feel when escaping the confines of the earth. Maybe not, though. I don’t know.
A good 2 1/4 hours after my trip began, I pulled into my driveway. I don’t think I had ever been so worn out from a car trip before, but I was glad to be back in this fine city. I may not get out much, but it was a pretty wild Friday night by my standards.