Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010, the Road Trip

I'll be recounting a more detailed version of my road trip adventure on archival quality paper for the historians and archaeologists of future centuries, but for now here's a brief recap of my escape from the demons of doldrums.

Louis & Clark took the easy route across the continent: sideways. I climbed up from the bottom to the top of our country from the Mexican border to Vancouver, BC on a trip that lasted 12 days, covered 4931.7 miles, using 387.9 gallons of regular unleaded while averaging 12.7 MPG with an average speed of 57 MPH which may be the average counting all the time spent in city traffic but I was driving at 75 + MPH most of the time I was on the freeways.

Before hitting the road I checked the Weather Channel online and was informed at that time 70% of our nation was covered with snow so, like any normal American male, I geared up. I bought a bag of cat litter to help power my HUMMER out of snow banks, made sure the radiator and windshield wiper reservoirs were filled with fluids guaranteed to not freeze down to minus 20 degrees, packed my cold weather gear (OK, not much by northerner's standards), made sure my E-tool was in the vehicle's emergency gear box and went down to the local car parts place for snow chains and a windshield ice scrapper.

There wasn't an ice scraper in town. I hadn't expected to find snow chains, but you'd think self respecting auto parts stores would carry windshield ice scrappers in the wintertime. I stopped asking for an ice scraper somewhere in northern Colorado when, in response to my request, the woman at the truck stop counter replied: "Just turn on the windshield defogger."

For the record, I didn't see a single snow covered highway during my entire trip. I did however see lots of cars and pickups parked just inside the gates of roads leading to farms and ranches. Seems folks would rather wade a mile through waist deep snow from the bunkhouse to the gate then drive into town than shovel the entire mile long driveway.

When I mentioned my windshield ice scrapper deficiency to my sister she promptly gave me a two foot Godzilla scrapper with a snow brush on the other end. Now if we have another blizzard like the one we had in 1987 I'll be the only guy in town with an ice scrapper.

The trip up was uneventful but I did spot a herd of 25 deer feeding at the edge of the freeway one evening. Seems they'd figured out the hunting season was over. (On the way back I spotted another dozen or so grazing on a hillside so steep you & I would have had to hold onto the bushes to keep from sliding down.) I can also confirm that major chain (Taco Bell, McDonald's etc.) fast food restaurants still have the best/cleanest restrooms along our highways and byways. Speaking of fast food, my weight when I left was 206 and upon my return (after 12 days without my daily one mile walks) was 208 so take that CSPI!

I arrived at my sister's home with a bit of a sniffle. In an hour my nose was running like a hose. I don't know what kind of plague I brought into her house, but she was prepared (and forgiving). I think she doubled the daily dose of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements for the kids and doctored me with Echinacea, vitamin C and garlic. Those, plus healthy home cooked meals pulled me back from the brink. I think there may be something to that Echinacea stuff, it worked for me! Thanks Sis!

Never having had kids of my own I was sort of at a loss when confronted with her platoon of children. I was just starting to connect names with faces when they showed me their Wii which gives each player an icon (that kind'a sort'a looks like the player) and a nickname. Wii is fun but I gave up trying to connect names to faces and icons to nicknames.

All those kids were a handful for me but my sister runs a well oiled machine. Like a philharmonic orchestra conductor she coordinates in the midst of chaos turning bedlam into dinner with dessert and getting the horses, donkeys, dog, cat and frogs fed all before bedtime.

If I seem in awe of my little sister it's because I am. I hadn't seen her in many years and while I wasn't looking she'd built a house, a home and a family that's the epitome of the American dream. If more families turned out kids like hers our nation would have a lot fewer problems.

The trouble with good examples is they're contagious. The next day I was ordering up the usual when a little voice in the back of my head piped up: "Where's the leafy green vegetables in a triple cheeseburger with fries?"

I replied to my self: "Hey, it's got lettuce and tomato."

Self: "Not enough vegetables!"

"And onion and mustard."

"Not enough vegetables!"

"Pickles are a vegetable."

"Not enough vegetables!"

Feeling guilty while you're eating takes all the fun out of fast food.

The next morning at the hotel's breakfast bar I asked the server: "Bacon's a vegetable, right?"

Turns out, if you tip enough, bacon is anything you want it to be.

On my way up to Canada I passed through Vancouver (not BC) Washington (not DC) and shortly thereafter visited my nephew who has bought a house while attending college and is renting parts of it out to others so his mortgage payments are made with a little to spare each month. I expect this kid to become a land baron in the Northwest in a few more years.

In view of the way our politicians are debasing the American dollar I wanted to open a bank account, in Canada, in Canadian dollars, as a hedge against hyper inflation of the US buck. (Yes, the Canuck buck (along with most other world currencies) will be dragged down too, but not so much.) So I headed up to the other Vancouver, eh.

Either I'm on a watch list or your beloved author looks very suspicious because both Canadian and American customs searched my HUMMER as I entered their respective countries. Maybe our guys had heard "I do declare it's good to be back in the USA again!" joke too many times?

The rest of the trip home was uneventful except for a van on its roof in the median (black ice) and, at 75 MPH, I passed one of those little roller-skate sized envirocars chugging up a 6% grade mountainside with its emergency flashers on and white smoke coming out the tailpipe. For the next fifty miles I was on the lookout for a state trooper 'cause it didn't look like Ed Begley Jr. was gunn'a make it to the next town.

The next day, and state, (while doing four MPH over the posted speed limit) I slowly came up behind a state trooper doing exactly the speed limit in the middle of nowhere. Naturally nobody passed him. After a few miles of follow the leader he pulled off onto a farm road. Everybody else sped up but I wanted to check my map so I followed him up the off ramp. (My policy is never to stop on the freeway unless I absolutely have to and then only if I can get the right two wheels off pavement. So map checks and cell phone (I bought one just for this trip) calls are done at the top of off ramps when I'm driving in the wilderness.) Seeing me behind him the trooper came around to check me out and, among other things, I learned there'd been a fatality on that very stretch of freeway the night before (more black ice) and that I was 45 miles from the next town with a McDonald's. Getting back on the freeway I found another state trooper radar-ing beside the road. I guess those guys that sped up got ticketed, pretty tricky of those two troopers. For the record, I stayed within ten (usually five) MPH of the posted speed limits for the entire trip.

If all these meanderings have put the wanderlust into your heart I heartily recommend Fairfield Inns and the Hyatt Place hotels (5% discount when you pay with American express) and filling up your gas tank at Costco stores (more discounts) wherever possible.

Having slain the demons of doldrums with my little adventure, I returned to my loving wife Sunday afternoon giving her hugs and kisses and two bags of dirty laundry.

Desert (turns out Twinkies are vegetables too) Dave

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