The Long Haul

Okay, so I’m finally getting around to posting about the trip across the country. The delay in posting about it is purely because I’m a lazy slacker who sleeps away the days in a lackadaisical fashion not dissimilar to a coma patient. That, or I’ve been busy unpacking and generally want to go to bed by the time I have a chance to sit and write a blog.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

I don’t have it in front of me right now (and don’t feel like trudging outside to the car to get it), but I kept a logbook of the starting mileage at the start of each day of the trip, plus departure time, date, and location. The starting times would probably be more useful if I also wrote down ending times, but c’est la vie (Emerson Lake and Palmer?). I’ll post it sometime later, for the truly curious (or truly bored… some days, there isn’t much difference). [Worth a passing note but not much more: I also keep a running logbook of date, mileage, gas, and location that I filled up at in my car. It’s not that hard a habit to get into, and being able to look back over the past 50,000 miles of your car is pretty damn cool.]

Mickey and I left Squam on Friday, seen off by Mom, Dad, and Uri. We meandered south down I-93 into the Boston area, where we grabbed I-495 out to I-90. The traffic was pretty reasonable: some slowdowns getting out of Boston, a few more slowdowns passing through Springfield and Albany, and then clear sailing into the night. After driving through a bizarre mixture of downpours and clear skies, we called it a night in Erie, PA (around 12ish hours).

The next day was fairly short. We continued on I-90 through Ohio and Indiana, stopping for the night in Chicago, to see Mickey’s parents (we again missed her brother and sister-in-law by a day… though I’ve met them all, I’ve never actually been in the same place as that whole side of the family at the same time). The trip was largely uneventful, though there was a brief period of going “How the HELL did he do that???” after driving past a tanker truck that had managed to pull a 180 and dig himself into the ground a good 4 feet (the hood was covered up to the windows). Inertia + Fluid Dynamics = BAD NEWS.

While in Chicago, we went up to the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, IL, and wandered the gardens and the bookstore for a while. I got some pretty decent shots, which I’ll post sometime soon (probably once I have a connection of my own). I also picked up a few pieces of Baha’i literature (my father-in-law got me a really nice early-holiday present: a nice hardcover edition of The Dawnbreakers), including The Secret of Divine Civilization by Abdul’Baha (which I’m looking forward to reading). I also picked up a really nifty pendant that acts like a mood-ring (the pendant is of the ringstone symbol).

After eating some tasty Chicago-style pizza (TRUE Chicago style) and visiting with her parents for the night, Mickey and I headed west along I-94, stopping in Minnesota (one of the last two northern states I needed) to visit her friend Brian. We tried out a Thai place down the street from Brian’s, and were well pleased with the result. Not too surprising: Thai food is yummy.

Of course, we didn’t actually STOP in Minneapolis. We continued on into the night, finally stopping around midnight out in Jamestown, North Dakota (the last northern state I needed to visit, woo! Well, other than Alaska, but that’s going to need a special trip). We floated in the hot tub at the hotel for a while (mmm, such a good thing), and then went to bed, waking up early the next morning (timezone shifts are a good thing!), and drove for the entire day, stopping a few times to take pictures of random stuff (again, I’ll post at least some of it soon), such as HUGE fields of sunflowers, and also shots of the forest fires in Montana.

Speaking of the forest fires in Montana, yes, we drove right through them. The smoke started around the foothills (the eastern third of the state is flat, in case you didn’t know), and ranged in thickness as we continued through the state, until we stopped in Missoula. You couldn’t see the sky the smoke was so thick, and it left a nasty aftertaste in my mouth in the morning. I know that might seem a minor thing compared to the level of devastation the fires are/were doing out there, and I by no means wish to belittle it. It’s just.. well, that’s just the way it was, I suppose. It will be interesting to go back to Glacier in a year or two and compare it to when I was there before the fire. Last I heard, the park was actually closed down, the fires were so bad.

Done ranting about the fires for now, on to other things. As we were driving through Montana, we crossed the continental divide just east of Butte (pronounced Beaut like Beautiful, not butt like someone’s posterior), just as the sun was setting. We pulled over in the truck parking/rest area to try and get a few shots of the sunset (they came out alright, not nearly as spectacular as the actual sunset was, though). While we were at the rest area, we noticed a guy with a sign standing by the road saying “Need a tow, have $$$”. We weren’t exactly equipped to do any towing (hell, we had so much stuff in the car that we couldn’t really even realistically give him a lift), but we asked him if we could help nonetheless.

His transmission had died earlier that day, and he’d spent the previous 6 hours trying to get someone to call a tow truck (there was no cell service nor a pay phone… we were in the middle of the mountains), to no avail. We promised to deliver a message to his friends who were waiting for him in Washington, and also resolved to call AAA and get him a tow.

As we got into Butte, we pulled over at the first real exit in town, and waiting for our turn to use the pay phone… two girls were swearing heavily into the phone, thoroughly ticked off… their brakes had apparently overheated and died on their way down the mountains, and were now stuck in town and not sure what to do. All of this really does go to show that you should NOT underestimate the Rockies. (I already knew this from when I melted my radiator trying to cross them 4 years ago.) TJ, if you stumble across this somehow, hope everything worked out alright.

We finally stopped in Missoula for the evening, and stayed in a brand new, fairly swank Newgate Inn (good rates though, as the waterpark was still under construction). Leaving Missoula in the morning (roughly the same time as the other days, based on Eastern Standard Time, but we were in Mountain time by this point, which was 2 hours earlier), we made our way through the mountains out of Montana, through the top of Idaho (it’s only 60 miles wide up there), and into Spokane, WA.

The trip from Spokane to Seattle was largely uneventful, though I will note two things: we drove by a series of fields, each marked on the interstate fence as to what was growing in it. In the process of reading through them as we drove by, Mickey noticed the branding on some of the equipment in the fields… we were apparently driving by the farms of the potato distributor for McDonalds, which we found fairly humorous, seeing as Mickey had just finished reading Fast Food Nation which has a fascinating anecdote about how they make McDonald’s fries. What they do is they shoot potatos through a grid of metal wires with a water gun. Just kind of random is all.

The other thing to note is that I am a surrealist in a lot of ways, and part of the reason for that is because surreal things happen around me. For instance, on my previous trip out west a few years ago, I happened to be driving through a drought stricken section of farm land, and beheld what appeared to be miniature tornados. Dust Devils, as it were. I was fascinated by them then, and was a little disappointed that I hadn’t seen any this trip. I commented on this to Mickey, and just as I finished describing them, one appeared in the field ahead of us. The conversation went kind of like this: “I think dust devils are really interesting. They look kind of like that.”

Yeah. Aaaanyway, we made it safely into Seattle a full day and a half sooner than expected. I’ll write about this past week tomorrow (really!), but for now, I’m going to bed. And yes, I know this is a disjointed, rambling post, cut me some slack please while things settle out a bit.

2 thoughts on “The Long Haul

  1. Sounds like an interesting trip. And maybe even somewhat educational.

    Should be easy to plan a weekend in Alaska from where you are now. Another one down.

    Let me know if Mickey needs one of those mileage books. When she gets a car, that is. ;-)

  2. mickey has one of those milage books :-)

    Actually, I have a slightly more fancy one than ‘bil’s which includes boxes for if the miles are for business, commuting, or personal, allowing me to split out parts of a day or a trip if I run errands or something while I should be working.

    Tho’ what I have always used in reality is a little spreadsheet form that I print out myself. I always seem to use the margins and back to scribble stuff on, like directions to places. Then I type up the numbers when a page is full and make excel do the actual math for me.

    but thanks for the offer anyways!

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