Saturday, January 14, 2023

Unexpected Southwest Airlines Southwest Road Trip: Day 1

As some of you know, I was caught up in the Southwest Airlines mess over the holidays. After spending two weeks with my in-laws in Florida, we started flying home on Christmas Day. We thought we were being clever by flying on Christmas Day because we expected it to be chill and relatively easy. We were wrong. We landed in Kansas City and when we were looking for our connecting flight, we saw the pandemonium. The crying gate agents, the sea of abandoned luggage, lines of people not moving. We were stuck in Kansas City. After two days of canceled flights, we decided to rent a car and drive home.

Our goal for Day 1 was Tucumcari, New Mexico. We did not want to go straight west because we did not want to hit the mountains and snow of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.


Here we were, waiting for the hotel shuttle bus on Christmas Day when our connecting flight was canceled. We had no idea what we were in for.


On the first night at the Kansas City airport hotel, I ordered a wedge salad and a steak. The steak was actually not bad.



Okay, back to the road trip. This was the morning of Day 1. We drove through rural and very cold (around 15 degrees F) Kansas. 





This part of Kansas was much hillier than I imagined.


We had a nice breakfast in Wichita at a place called Homegrown. The low cost of living here was insane. I filled up our Kia Sportage rental for $28!




After breakfast, it was more driving. Rural Kansas was like another world. Every small town had multiple urgent care centers for some reason. Most of the work trucks were Dodge Rams. And they all looked like they were worked hard. Formal rest areas were rare, so the kids just peed on the side of the road.



For late lunch, we went to Asian Market in Liberal, Kansas. It was all takeout and the food was very spicy and had a Southeast Asian influence. We stocked up on Pockys and shrimp chips. The town of Liberal is majority Latino and has a huge beef processing plant. The largest helium facility in the world is nearby as well.

As an addendum, about a week after driving through Liberal, one of my mentors passed away. In reading his obituary, he was born in Liberal!



We drove through slivers of Oklahoma and Texas. It's just cattle and oil wells.



We arrived in Tucumcari, New Mexico after sunset. We gained an hour because we entered the Mountain Time Zone. I was determined to take advantage of the local food. I had this enchilada plate with green chiles at La Cita

Exhausted, the first few hotels we called had no vacancies. Lots of stranded Southwest passengers were driving along Interstate 40/Route 66. We got a charming room in a mid-century modern motel called Motel Safari. We watched old America's Funniest Home Videos before we went to bed.

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