Number of miles driven today: 689

Total miles driven on road trip: 1,907

Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? After Dunkin' Donuts debut yesterday, we're back to only Starbucks on freeway signs. 

Cheapest gas I saw today: $2.55 (lowest of the trip so far)

Number of states visited overall: 4

Number of red states visited overall (as of 2012 presidential election): 2

Number of blue states visited overall: 2

Oddest product advertised on freeway billboards: Tie (Rose opals, moccasins)

​Highest speed limit of the day: 80 mph

Never before have I been so sad to stop after a 700-mile driving day. That is how addictive the podcast Serial is. 

I say without a smidge of exaggeration that Serial is the single most riveting entertainment experience of my life. Better than 24 when it first came out. Better even then the Ivan Drago vs. Rocky Balboa fight at the end of Rocky IV

Serial rescued me from my own thoughts, from the tedium of driving 700 miles through New Mexico and west Texas, and from the other aural options in my car CD collection: Foreigner live from Germany, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and the Best of Wheeler School a cappella (my alma mater). 

By the way, I think Adnan probably did it. Maybe. Unless...

My only regret of this trip so far is that I don't have more time with each player. It's hard to get comfortable with someone when you only have a few hours here or there, and frustrating as a writer when they open up about very serious personal issues (Steve Yeager talking about his dad's alcoholism, Garry Templeton discussing how racism impacted his career) and you don't have time to fully explore it. There's no way around this issue in a project like this, but I still wish I had more time. It is nice, however, to build something of a relationship with these guys in the brief time I have with them.

When I entered El Paso, Texas today, where Rance Mulliniks lived during his playing career, I sent him a text: "El Paso says hi!" 

He wrote back: "Did you stop there for a bit?"

"Just stopped here for gas."

"Van Horn here we come!" he said, and I could picture him sitting in his living room in his Blue Jays shorts, his kids Shaylee and Seth bounding about nearby, smiling. 

He also asked if I was on Facebook, which was cute. 

When I got to my Motel 6 in Ft. Stockton, Texas, I checked my Twitter account and found a radio interview that Garry Templeton had given yesterday to the sports station in San Diego. They were asking him what's wrong with the slumping Padres, and specifically, with Matt Kemp, one of their star players brought over from the Dodgers. 

He said, "You know, I was watching the game yesterday with a friend, and I noticed that he's starting his swing too late."

That friend was me, and he was referring to the bit of the Padres vs. Giants game we watched right after watching kung fu.

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Day 9: Phoenix, AZ to Ft. Stockton, TX, 6.27.15


One Pack. No Turning Back.