The journey from Chicago, IL and Albuquerque, NM is a gruesome 2-day trek.  No offense to those who reside between points A and B, but driving through Flatlandia leaves much to be desired.  To be fair, having to lug all of your worldly possessions across the United States in two days isn't the most ideal way to explore and enjoy your surroundings.  St. Louis was very nice.  Modern day tarp technology doesn't seem to have evolved in several decades, and after an hour on the road, regardless of the number of straps and whatever tuck-job you cleverly implement, you still end up conspicuously displaying the tattered flag of your displacement from whatever vehicle you happen to be driving.

 "The farther we go today, the less we'll have to drive tomorrow." - Everyone.

Plagued by leg cramps and exhaustion, you drive as far as you possibly can the first day. But, of course, you woke up late the first day, had issues acquiring your rental vehicle, you realize you did a not-so-great job calculating how much space you would need to pack, you find a mystery pantry full of stuff you forgot about entirely, the person who contacted you on Craigslist about picking up your crap at 7am was a no show, etc., etc. So the first day you drive until your eyes burn and you start to hear voices, then you succumb to your soft, weak body's overwhelming desire to sleep and you find the closest (cheapest) hotel you can.  But, since everything you own is in the back of a pick-up truck, concealed and protected by only a few tie-downs and half a tarp, you sleep with the curtain open with a clear view of your belongings.  Outside, the constant buzzing of the neon lights and whatever mechanical racket being produced by the turbine-technology that is, somehow, powering the hotel keeps you in a half-awake daze, covered in sweat, peering through the blinds every 23 minutes like a cop on a stakeout.

On the second day, late in the afternoon, you find yourself staring out your windshield and it suddently dawns on you that you are NOW in the Southwest.  The familiar terrain sends waves of strange comfort throughout your body as the vastness of the horizon stretches out into infinity.  Bands of pink and orange in the sky beckon you into the suddenly mountainous pass that lies ahead.  You pick up speed, as it slowly begins to rain in the final hour of your journey, lightly seeping into your exposed boxes of books, as the remaining third of the tarp whips against the cab of the truck, wearing away paint and your chances of getting back your deposit.

To say that it was a comfort to be greeted by close friends and family would be a dramatic understatement.  After being away from home for 2 years, the familiarity of the people, old haunts, and weather was overwhelming.  Whenever I think about summertime in Albuquerque, the memory is always very vivid: sitting outside on a sun-drenched patio with close friends,  a warm breeze surrounding you as you drink ice-cold beer and eat mountains of nachos. Those sun-drenched, halcyon days of youth, totally free from worry.

The next several weeks were a glorious montage of enchiladas, glorious weather, and conversations both deep and ridiculous around the fire. Being reunited after long periods apart, you talk about everything and nothing with such depth and breadth that it can never be repeated with any sort of specificity, yet it's somehow still extremely meaningful. Conversations move fluidly between serious world issues and cheesy Hollywood time travel plots, with equal vehemence and eloquence.

The comfort and familiarity of the desert was a much needed and appreciated pause in the midst of everything else that was going on.  However, all the preparation and paperwork and bureaucratic crap that would still need to be taken care of in order to get to our final destination still lay ahead, and would prove to be an absolute living hell...

See you in Purgatory.