Departure time: 8:19am PST
Arrival time: 11:00pm MST
Dead deer: 9
Penske Trucks traveling in the opposite direction: 8
Wish I had brought: hand sanitizer. my girlfriend.
Traci starts law school at George Washington University in Washington D.C. In just over six weeks. She's been working madly to organize the transport of the furniture and stuff from mom's house and her things in her Denver apartment, to her new place in D.C. The final solution was to rent a U-Haul and drive across the country, stopping in Denver to pick up the rest of her stuff.
That's where I come in. Normally mom would be the logical candidate to help her drive and get settled in but since that's not an option anymore, I took on the role of sloppy seconds and agreed to do the job. My summer is turning out to be incredibly packed, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I have no job. I had a week-long window of availability between our beach trip last weekend and our Seattle to Portland ride on the 14th of July. We spent yesterday moving things from the storage space to the truck and now here we are, setting off across country on Independence Invasion day. By the end, we'll have either enjoyed a sisterly bonding adventure, or be really glad to be living three thousand miles apart.
I got up at 5:30 this morning and spent some time having breakfast with Jess and getting those last few Internet related to-do's done before I finished packing and we headed out.
I somehow forgot to buy turkey for our cooler yesterday so we couldn't leave town without just one more stop at New Seasons. I know they have grocery stores in other parts of the country, but I couldn't help feeling like we were about to leave civilization and there would be nothing to look forward to except a sea of Shell stations and rest areas.
I splurged for the expensive fresh cut turkey. We got into the truck and I opened the cooler and realized something important.
“We forgot ice,” I told Traci and we smacked our collective foreheads. It was a lot like trying to get out of the house, where I inevitably end up going upstairs eight separate times for things I forgot. But we finally got it together and headed for the open road.
It's amazing to me how much stuff I think I “need” to survive away from home for a week. And by stuff, I'm not talking about things like snacks, water & underwear. No, the packing list that concerned me the most contained the following items:
- computer & cord (w/ lighter attachment!)
- podium pad (to keep lap cool)
- camera (new!)
- books & journal
- Ipod & car radio adapter
- cell phone & charger
- Battlestar Galactica DVD
The first order of business was to break out my laptop and test out the lighter adapter cord. Every time I go on a road trip and get all excited about all the writing I can do while I'm not driving, the lighter doesn't work and I have to fall back on plan B. It's happened enough that I was starting to doubt the cord instead of the lighters in the various cars. With eight days of driving ahead of us, it was with some trepidation that I stuck the plug in to see if my little icon would switch from the battery symbol with it's shrinkage percentage of power left, to a comforting little picture of an electric cord. Before I even got it plugged in though, I saw the little blue light of success.
Yay! That means I'll have lots of time in the car to document this trip with the navel gazing detail you've all come to know and love/hate. And on a more practical note, I'll have plenty of time to do my homework for my on line Photoshop class.
That brought me to item number two, music organization. I have been missing the cord that connects my Ipod to my computer for a number of months now and I finally found it late last night which meant I could finally update my Ipod play lists. I decided to spend my first batch of free time rating all my songs and making new play lists. Suddenly 1500+ songs didn't seem like nearly enough to get across the whole country, but since I only have control while I'm driving, maybe I'll get by.I got behind the wheel for the first time in Pendleton, OR. I hadn't driven it at all yet, so I spent a few miles getting used to the feel and the fact that looking in the rear view mirror was utterly useless. Luckily that stretch of road is pretty deserted, so there was hardly ever anyone behind me anyway. But I never did stop looking at it or turning my head before changing lanes, as if I could actually see anything that way. Car habits die hard.
My first shift went pretty well. My biggest concern about this trip has been the fact that I pretty much hate driving and it's been a long time since I did a long distance trip. I wasn't sure about my stamina level, even for three hour shifts. Like reading a book for some people, sometimes just the act of getting behind the wheel with a long boring road ahead is enough to make my eyes droop. Fortunately, after an initial tiny slump, my play list kicked in and I actually started to have a good time. Listening to Salt n Pepper pared with Disney's Greatest Hits can do that for you.
Another concern I had about the trip was being trapped in a confined space for long hours with my sister. I love her dearly, but she does chatter on sometimes (most of the time) in a most unstoppable fashion. So far, my fears have not been realized. In the car, she's generally quiet except for pointing out good scenery, occasional memories of trips gone by with mom etc. Last time they drove this route, they stayed in Ogden as well and mom saw someone she knew in the motel parking lot. So typical. When we stop at towns or rest stops, word flow returns to normal, but that's fine with me. And (unlike me) she doesn't even sing along with her music.
A few early observations:
1. Rest areas in the middle of nowhere are not big on stocking soap. :(
2. Small towns really are different. We have not stopped once that someone hasn't said a friendly hello and/or tried to start a conversation.
3. Stretching outside the car in 103 degree heat—it's just like hot yoga!
4. You can take the girl off the bike but you can't take the cyclist out of the girl. I just read (book title) about a middle aged, out of shape writer who decided to bike across the country so, even more so than usual, I look at the road as a cyclist, checking out things like the width and smoothness of the shoulder, the presence or lack of rumble strips and the grades and lengths of the climbs. We've been on the road less than half a day and I miss my bike already. I saw a car with two high end mountain bikes at a rest stop and couldn't help striking up conversation with the occupants on the way back from the bathroom. They were on their way to trails in Wallawa, from Portland. I will definitely bike across the country someday.
5. There are way too many dead Bambi's by the side of the road between The Dalles and Ontario.
6. T.B.S. (Tiny Bladder Syndrome). It's not just for biking anymore! Right now we're hoping I can make the 72 mile gap between rest areas, as there is not much cover by the side of the road... Traci is very disgusted by this inconvenience.
We stopped in La Grande for our first refueling. I'm really glad not to be paying for the gas on this trip. If prices keep going up, those Oxen might start to look pretty good. I was thinking as I drove that when gas does run out, people are going to have to get to whichever part of the country they want to spend their days in and stay there.
I got out of the car, just to be getting out and then decided to go into the store for a snack. When I went back to the passenger side door to get my wallet, there was a bee hovering next to the big yellow truck as if it had hit the mother load. I waited for it to figure out that the truck wasn't a flower, but it didn't seem to be getting the clue, so I went to the driver's side.
“Convenience” stores are proof that Satan exists. What is about them that makes me feel like I have buy something, even when there's clearly no need? I will make it my goal to escape one with my wallet unscathed. So far I resisted powdered donuts (too messy) in favor of snack pack pudding, which I haven't touched yet. Also, Traci has gotten me hooked on Lipton PureLeaf ice tea, which doesn't help the T.B.S.
My driving shift ended in Ontario, our last stop in Oregon. I have any number of projects to work on while I'm not driving. One of the top three is learning all the features of my new Pentax Optio M20 camera. I've been reading the manual from the beginning so I can at least get an idea of all the cool features and then look them up later. If this post ends up with embedded video, then I will have checked of one of those low priority oh-I-need-to-learn-that goals.
Boise came up not long after and we left the highway for a little while so Traci could show me her turf. Boise is one of her frequent stops while she's working so she's got a fondness for it. She even mentioned she wouldn't mind ending up living there. What I saw of it did seem nice. I saw people riding bikes for the first time since leaving Portland (no helmets) and got all nostalgic again. “Yup,” Traci commented, “there's plenty of your people here.”
We drove into downtown and she showed me the Red Lion where she stays on work trips, the mall she goes to, the movie theatre etc. Suddenly she lit up like a kid on Christmas. “Let's go to the ice cream place!” There was some worry whether it would be open on a holiday but when we pulled up, there were plenty of people sitting outside the fanci Freeze, including an older couple on matching Specialized hybrids. I had the urge to ask if I could take a spin around the block but, like kissing the babies of strangers, I felt it would probably be frowned on and resisted.
fanci Freeze was worth getting excited about and here's why:
Originally, we planned to stop for an early dinner, but after filling up on Boston sundaes (my girlfriend isn't reading this is she?) we decided to wait. If we can't find an open restaurant in Ogden, we still have plenty of sandwich makings and fruit in the cooler. As we headed back to the freeway, we passed the Emerald Bar where Traci and I could both go dancing if she does move to Boise—the subtitle under the bar name read, “Straight Friendly.”
Traci chose the ultimate pop play list for her driving shift and as each new song comes up, there are a lot of chorus of “Seriously!?” or just outright hysterical laughter while simultaneously turning up the volume. Fortunately, our musical tastes have a wide overlapping streak in the area of anything smacking of vintage pop/disco/cheesy stuff. A few examples: 'Hello' by Lionel Ritchie, Candy Girl by New Edition and (wait for it), the remake* of the Christopher Cross song 'Sailing' by (wait for it again) N'Sync.
Things were uneventful for a while after Boise. The Snake River lived up to it's name as we passed over it several times while going in a basically straight line. The landscape was brown and featureless for the most part, giving me no reason to look up from my typing until a few miles before Wendell. Traci said, “Animals,” and pointed out the window. My nose told me it was either cows or horses so I didn't look up. Then she suddenly shouted again, “ANIMALS!!” I looked up to see a herd of seven or eight puppies (yes, you read that right) running west along the shoulder of the eastbound highway. They looked insanely happy, like they were so excited to have escaped.
We were horrified. They could get run over any moment, but there was no way we had time to stop and dodge traffic in the hope of catching them, even if we'd been willing to. I like puppies, but my girlfriend would be slightly put out if I got run over trying to save a bunch of them. So we did the next best thing and called the Wendell police and told them the mile marker where we'd seen them and which direction they were going. The female officer assured me someone would check it out. We felt slightly better after that. I hope they use the sirens to get there.
Mile 590, I was typing away and Traci said something. I didn't catch it and it seemed like something that might require a response.
“You missed your cue.”
I thought she said 'q'. I knew she had been playing the alphabet game by herself so I started looking around for a road sign. There was nothing.
She saw me looking around and said, “You're Paul. You missed your cue!”
That's when I finally realized that “The Girl is Mine” had just come up on the Ipod shuffle and she had been singing along and now it was Paul McCartney's verse.
I burst out laughing. It was too late to pick up my verse, but I was ready when the next one came. By the end we were both laughing too hard to really get the talking parts right:
P: Michael, we're not going to fight about this, OK?
M: I told you, I'm a lover, not a fighter.
P: I've heard it all before, Michael
. She told me that I'm her forever lover you know, don't you remember?
M:Well, after loving me, she said she could never love another
P: Is that what she said?
M: Yes, She said it, you keep dreaming.
P: I don't belieeeeeeeeeeeeeeve it...
This song just gets better with age, given the irony of Michael's proclivities. We both agreed that Paul 'wins' in the song. And since I was playing Paul and the girl is actually mine, it works out both ways.
After that I joined in the alphabet fun because, what's a road trip without the alphabet game? I took the early lead, but by 'j', we were even again and then spent the next few letters leap-frogging each other. Then we passed by the town we were in and letters got scarce. Traci got 'q' off “Quality" on the only semi for miles around and that proved to be my undoing. I was hoping the glare from the setting sun would blind her to the hazmat check point, but no such luck. Round 1 to Traci.
About 40 miles from Ogden, we were treated to not one, but three different fireworks displays that were almost directly ahead of us, so even Traci (who was driving) could enjoy them. We pulled into a rest stop for a few minutes to catch the last of the first show.
We pulled into the parking lot of the Comfort Suites at 11:00pm. Showers, food, wifi and bed. What more could you want?
Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.