Vacations are supposed to contrast your real life against your imaginary life and thus make you appreciate how lucky you are to get “away from it all.” Sometimes the contrast is staggering, like our trip home.

Our last night on the beach was wonderful. We finally had a passable sunset, the weather was still pleasant (albeit cooling off) and the Christmas hordes had not yet arrived. We capped it with a nice dinner at our favorite place (Blackie’s) and steeled ourselves for the long return to civilization.

Not much to say about the packing and the trip through Mexico. The sky became cloudy as we traveled into northern Sonora, agreeing with our understanding of the weather that was coming – a storm from the Pacific that was supposed to haunt us as we headed north. No weather along the road though, and no impediments either. Including a lucky avoidance of the 5 mile traffic jam at the Hermosillo military checkpoint that we had witnessed on the trip down.

The border was the border – a 1 hour wait made interesting by people trying to sell us stuff. One young man came up to the window and stood there yelling at us for a minute or so. Not sure what he wanted. We picked a line of cars as the traffic split and we were doing well compared to the other lines until a car 3 up from us had some sort of papers problems. Just when it seemed we were so close.

Taking our place at the interrogation, we were told to pull over. We had “mistakingly” been selected to be searched. So we pulled into the spot, opened all the doors and hood and stood there in the breezy cold while the Customs boys worked over the vehicle. We were told to go once it had been verified with Washington that blueberries were not on the recently (as in that day) updated contraband list.

Our overnight in Tucson was wonderful as always and we were surprised to see a light rain shower – more portents of the day to come.

Next morrning we were out the door and on the road with stops for green corn tamales and gasoline. The traffic leaving Tucson was obnoxious as always but we cleared it and rode on until we took a short break in Texas Canyon, where it started to snow. A bit.

But the weather held until we left I-10 at Deming and headed across the short cut to Hatch. Here it began to rain in earnest as the sky adopted a most foreboding look. Still nothing serious though. Leaving NM26 much to the gratification of my GPS which was still trying to tell me it was a mistake to leave I-10 forty-six miles ago, we turned the car into the wind and north towards home. The sky was now a leaden gray and it was obvious that various forms of precipitation had been moving through earlier.

As we moved on, the desert became dusted with snow. And then the fog started, no doubt due to the conflict between the moisture on the ground and the sinking temperature. Really dense, 10 yard visibility fog that would thin out only as we passed through dips in the road. The only entertainment in this gray world was a Bosque Farms policeman in his car, far from home, alternating leads of the traffic line with a young woman in a Saab who couldn’t quite decide if it was okay to pass a police car. The fog would go thick, they would slow down. The fog would go thin, they would speed up. Apparently fog demands +/- 5 MPH.

The closer we came to home, the snowier it became. The road was pretty clear up until the last 80 or so miles when the slush began. A gray minivan that had been trying to pass me for 15 miles by going 1 MPH faster lost his nerve the minute the road got slick and disappeared into my murky rear view mirror.

By now it was clear we were headed for a monstrous traffic mess as rush hour Albuquerque always is when there is weather involved. We tried to decide whether to stick with the interstate or risk the back roads and finally decided to commit to the former. As we approached the city, traffic in the opposite direction suggested we were headed for a mess.

But no, the traffic gods were smiling upon us that night. Seems the snow had started earlier here and everyone had bailed out early so the highways were empty and we sailed right home to 6 inches of the white stuff and a wiggling dog turning himself inside out with glee.

Once again, there’s no place like home.