The Trip Out Here
Personal entry follows. Locations have been obscured to preserve privacy.
It's been a couple months since I'd arrived at this spot in the wilderness, and the drive out here was a memorable one. I wanted to note down a few things for posterity so I can continue to look back on them and laugh a bit.
To sum things up quickly: about 2,000 miles, across two time zones, over six days. I now live in one of those vaguely-square-shaped states in the USA, and I'd never lived so close to the Rocky Mountains before.
Regarding the route, I deliberately plotted things out using a map program, and didn't want to drive much over 400 miles a day - emphasis on driving during the day. Also a high priority was to stick with the Interstates. There were some seasoned travelers who suggested I "take the back roads" and adventure a little bit, however being as though I was crossing and finally landing in is "cowboy country" and a bit o' the Wild West is left either in law or attitude... I decided not to do many forays into what Utah Phillips called, "all the unknown places."
Besides, the different towns and cities I'd visited provided me with just enough palpitation and adventure that I felt satisfied enough in that regard. I left my home city on a Monday, visited relatives in two nearby states until the following Saturday, and then it was points unknown for nearly the rest of the week. I made my stop in my destination city the following Thursday. I made it to where I am now - the eco-institute - the following Saturday.
Along the way I saw snow and sleet falling over farmland in late April and early May: not something I expected! But it was an enlightening experience, at least in terms of a climate-knowledge perspective. I really hadn't thought much about how to prepare for the weather for the trip out here, honestly. I knew it was to be "cold," but I was surprised by actual precipitation. Also, on 10th May there was sleet and hail coming down at the eco-institute! I had thought wintry weather would have been long-gone by then, but that was a surprise.
Back to the journey... A few points of interest (for me personally, at least):
- Route stops were based on traveling 350 - 400 miles per day, and the nearest town was where I had set up a hotel reservation.
- In only one case had I checked-in at one of my hotels, staying just long enough to use their Wi-fi to book a room at another hotel across town. It was a true "no-tell-motel" and it wigged me out. First it was the billboard for the "massage parlor" just underneath the hotel sign. Then there was the guy in the parking lot, measuring up my car and its cargo like a horse thief, while giving me the stink-eye. Finally, my first step in the room was met with cracked lamp shades, dark-red-plastic countertops, and an excessive wall of decorated mirrors that just screamed, "fuck pad." The other place was more expensive, but at least I had the feeling my car would be mostly-unmolested at night (as would I). That place was the only poor choice I made on Expedia when booking ahead of time.
- I visited a Little Free Library in each town or city I stayed in, dropping off books here and there.
- I taught myself sudoku, thanks to a book I picked-up from one of those Little Free Libraries.
- I learned what snow fences looked like, as I was traveling through areas prone to snow drifts late into Spring.
- For the record, I really enjoy the terrain of Wyoming and Nebraska (at least the part near the highways).
- Driving with a loaded cargo box on top of a Toyota Corolla will keep you on your toes. Considering high winds and a... "creative" center of gravity, I was both terrified and endlessly entertained. On the downside, I do think the wind resistance did slow me down and I took a lot longer than I expected, in most cases.
- Hotels that cater primarily to truckers are surprisingly good. Staff across all locations was hospitable, rooms were simple but very clean, and most had an excellent, complimentary breakfast spread that started me off on the right foot each day.
- Casinos are weird. They're either open 24/7, or they open in the early afternoon and people are lined up at the door to go in right when the doors are unlocked.
- I wonder what it's like to be a front-desk receptionist at one of these hotels, particularly the overnight shift. Part of me thinks it must be dreadfully boring, but other parts of me think that creepers come to hotels late at night and I'm certain they'd freak me out or whatever.
- Walking into a hotel lobby with a bicycle, or asking a hotel clerk about bicycle trails, is a surefire way to kick off an interesting conversation.
- Restaurants connected to hotels are a mixed bag. They might have a good menu, but the fact they take hotel guests for granted kind of turns me off. Maybe they were just too busy to care (which is what I suspect, honestly).
Much like my first-ever solo bicycle trip from the city to the shore (165 miles spread over 3 days), this journey was part vision quest, part next step, and part normal human life moving forward. I'm not special, and in fact I find myself to be a rather spectacular example of average. In a way, none of the front desk clerks, gas station cashiers, and fast-food staff with whom I crossed paths would be considered "special" either.
But with a long-distance journey, seeing so many places in such quick succession reminds me that there are so many people - at least here in the USA - trapped in a "close-bordered" existence. Maybe they're college-educated, but in many cases the clerks I talked with scarcely lived 100 miles where they were raised, or perhaps born. Not many people travel far in this day and age, unless it's for a family vacation. And those seem to be even more rare these days.
So the fact I was able to pull up stakes and essentially start a brand new life is an opportunity and stroke of good fortune that's not lost on me.
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