sarchasmic: (innocence)
[personal profile] sarchasmic
So. We got into our new/old digs back on Wednesday, which would be 6 days ago. Internet was up late Sunday night, although I'm typing this from a laptop on top of a filing cabinet, as our furniture situation is rather...lacking.



Friday the 18th: finally got out the apartment and promptly forgot to stop by the now-closed main office to drop off our keys. (Two days later, Sabrina watched as I deliberately took the envelope holding said keys from my coat pocket, saying, "It will probably be better if I move these some place where we're less likely to lose them." And now we can't remember where exactly I placed said keys. Though they will probably turn up after we notify the office accordingly). So. This was around 7:30 pm in single-digit weather. Sabrina was so exhausted she could hardly see straight, and I wasn't doing much better. We declined my mother-in-law's invitation to stay at her place, surmising it would take over an hour anyway, so we might as well use the travel time productively.

Got as far as lovely Rochelle, IL, 15 minutes west of the now notorious DeKalb, IL. Got lost in the industrialy/train track section of Rochelle, only to learn I had turned off the main road about half a mile too early. The hotel seemed promising enough, with a huge, two-sinked bathroom, and the promise of a restaurant on-site. Which was good, for we were hungry on top of being exhausted. Visions of the Sims' happiness system kept coming to mind, with my leisure, rest, food, and various other biological needs going unmet.

So we took the elevator to the second floor, followed the signs for the restaurant around several turns and corridors (place was a damned rats' maze), and found the restaurant uninhabited and directly adjacent to a bar packed to the brim with men, women, ear-splittlingly loud music, and the desperation of the single person in a small town. No hostess was available to seat us, although a guy sitting in an empty booth at the restaurant assured us that, "She'll be back out sometime soon." When that prediction failed to pass after a minute, Sabrina was on the verge of calling it quits and simply retiring to our rooms for the night unfed, but she relented to let me check with the front desk attendant downstairs to see if there was anything else that was open in the town at the hour (at this point, we were somewhere between 10 and 11, I think). Fortunately, she knew of a nice pizza place not two blocks down the street, where a sweet old Italian lady who had been working there for 43 years hooked us up with a decent Hawaiian pizza that was both pretty good and served within 15 minutes. And our Rochelle experience rated a success, even if we hadn't even left the state of Illinois.

Saturday saw us get through Iowa into Lincoln. Would have stopped in Omaha, but thanks to Claudia's able weather.com-reading ability (and I'm not making light of this, as my first attempt to get useful information from the road was a college buddy who stumbled over the page with comments like, "Uh...golf forecast? You don't need that, right?"), we decided to press an hour westward to avoid snowfall the next day. Incidentally, not a drop of snow fell during our journey. Note that this is not the same as having clear roads during the journey.

The highlight of Lincoln, Nebraska, was the close proximity of a Sonic to the hotel. My buddy Randy would turn his nose up at that, but this is a man who until recently felt that a stocked refrigerator needed only frozen pizza and Coke, so take that for what it's worth. We were determined to make it through the trip without experiencing the familiar franchises along the road. And, considering the lack of their restaurants in the Chicagoland area and my native portion of the Bay Area, Sonic qualified. Their watermelon slushees are quite good; their popcorn chicken things, not so much. Oh, and here occurred the Sonic incident that, like the Calvin and Hobbes noodle incident, is better left undetailed.

Also, the demographic makeup at the mall in Lincoln prompted this comment from my wife: "They all look like each other's cousins!"

Sunday contained our most difficult driving of the trip. While no precipitation fell, western Nebraska and Wyoming had had enough recent snow and biting winds that the road still required continual upkeep from the gigantic roadwork trucks that wielded huge, toothbrush-like bristle wheels and spewed out grayish brown salted water behind them. Sabrina was angry at me because I passed one of these things, prompting her to attempt the same maneuver while it was spewing out said brownish liquid right onto her windshield. Apparently, that stuff is a bitch to remove, even with wiper fluid.

So the roads were icy. They were also occasionally difficult to see. This part of the country should be inundated with windmills. If you live in snowy regions, you know how little bits of snow will dance out across the street when it's windy and it has just started to snow? The little white currents will swirl in quick little patterns on the road that make you realize there's a biting wind out there and you hope that they've got the plows and salt all ready. The winds in this case were so powerful that there was none of this dancing, playful snow. It just dashed in a straight line across the highway, in great big gusts that looked like ghosts fleeing across the road in quick, intense lines like rioters into an American embassy. And you'd get multiple lines where enough snow banks had deposited on the side of the road so dozens of these lines lay out in front of you and you'd hear the rattle of minute deposits banging into the side of the car as you swept past. Beautiful, but not something you wanted a firsthand view of.

We knew the roads were bad when they stopped for 5 minutes, only to pick up along a measured crawl as we passed the remains of an overturned trailer in the ditch to our left that constituted a median. Within the next quarter mile, we saw an RV and then a car that had both spun out along the side, and now were being rigged with chains so as to be returned to the car-friendly portion of the highway. After about an hour of our cautiously following a big rig with its hazards on in the slow lane at 25 miles per, the asphalt looked clear enough for us to resume a decent pace. Nebraska was a long, torturous drive, and we were glad to leave it.

Stopped at Cheyenne for the evening, and again got a recommendation from the local desk clerk for some non-chainey fare. She sent us toward a local chain, a 50's diner called Penny's, which offered some huge burgers and Coke flavored with vanilla (they were out of Cherry). Sabrina also met a waitress there, who commented that she liked Wyoming's windiness, because "it keeps the outsiders away." We made a wrong turn along the way that sent us into the desolate portion of Cheyenne, with great sweeping vistas and the dying light of the sun gracing the horizons, and the waitress's comment made a lot more sense. Prompted another comment from Sabrina: "Wyoming is a handsome, mentally disturbed older woman who has been stripped naked." The screaming winds put Chicago to shame, but there was a desolate beauty to the area that definitely had its own appeal. We spent the night in a drafty motel room that combated the cold air with intermittent blasts from a noisy heater that had the effect of warming us, but also drying the air out so thoroughly that we woke with bloody noses that didn't begin to heal until our arrival in California.

Monday morning was nearly disastrous. We stepped out of the room to grab a quick breakfast from the motel lobby. Half an hour later, we returned to find a room with Cooper in it, but no sign of Six. We checked everything at least twice: the bathtub, behind the toilet, underneath the sink, inside each chest drawer, beneath the air conditioner, between and behind our stacked bags, behind the television, behind the chests. We both conducted perimeter sweeps of the motel property, which was probably around 15 degrees in the morning daylight with winds at least 30 mph. Sabrina was beginning to panic while I was beginning to consider whether we should book another day to canvas the area when the thought occurred: check the bed.

We had overlooked the bed because the area beneath the mattresses seemed impregnable: lined with these dark wooden shelves that went directly from box spring to floor. No way a cat could fit where there were no gaps to traverse, right? But I pulled aside the king-sized mattress, then the two flimsy twin-sized box springs supporting it, and a quick and quiet gray form leaped out. Turned out that the piece of wood lining the bed closest to the wall had fallen at a diagonal angle, leaving an opening just wide enough for our treachourous, no-good, no-answering to her parents' desperate calls, time-wasting tabby.

15 minutes later, a very relieved pair of humans and a bewildered pair of (and one slightly disgruntled) cats departed Cheyenne.

Made a quick rest stop at Little America, this big hotel...thingy, which apparently has no other reason for existing other than it's a big rest stop on a road in the middle of nowhere. There are about 15 billboards leading up to it from each direction, starting about 150 miles away, to let you know to stop there. They've got their own 24 hour mechanic. And 31 inch tvs. So bring the whole family.

I have little to say about Salt Lake City, except that I was pleased to see highway overpasses and highways, after miles of two lane rural roads. Cities make me happy, even though I don't like living in the heart of them, either. We finally got a net hookup, and didn't see anything at Chowhound that made Salt Lake City fare seem that appealing, so we gave in and found the nearest Chipotle. Where no margaritas were served. Thanks a lot, restrictive religious rules!

Oh, one other nice thing about the area. Well, about 60 minutes to the east of the area: on I-80. Whoever designed the roads there really knows how to build roads for drivers. Cruising around 75-80 mph on those mountain roads was a pleasure, and a great change from the boring and occasionally hair-raising stuff we'd experienced 1 and 2 states earlier. Precisely angled curves that permit high speed turns without having to slow down much, and gentle enough that they still feel very safe. A fun change of pace, but not so challenging as to stress one out.

Tuesday was our longest drive, and Nevada stretched out longer than Nebraska did. The only saving graces were the snow-capped mountains set against a bluer shade of sky that hinted at warmth ahead, and the promise of an honest-to-god real city at the end of the day. Well, town, if Reno's moniker is to be believed. We covered 500 miles that day, and we were emotionally sick of driving as well as just generally fatigued. Had some mediocre pad thai in a casino, and pretty much crashed.

The next morning, I woke up at 5:00. Well, Sabrina was up. Hadn't slept a lick all night. So she woke me up because she felt ill. So I hit a nearby supermarket (thank you God, for making cities! The real kind, not the creepy kind, I mean), got some Pepto, and then waited for the motel-connected restaurant to open at 6. Sat alone in a booth to grab a great, grease-filled breakfast, where I heard the local radio mention news like, "I-80 closed in both directions due to an accident" and "chains required westbound from Truckee to Kingsvale." Sabrina called while I was eating to let me know she might want some oatmeal and a banana. I mentioned that my wife was sick to the proprietor, a very kind Asian lady, who added brown sugar on the side and even chopped up the banana into bite-sized pieces.

When I returned to our room, I couldn't sleep, so I left to grab an energy drink from the supermarket (bad idea, as I'd already had two coffees), and some cat supplies. Then I parked in front of an Auto Zone for 15 minutes until they opened so I could grab some chains, which set me back $100. Moving is not for the faint of heart or wallet. Returned to the motel, arranged for a late checkout at 2, as well as keeping open the possibilities we might have to stay another day, which Sabrina's mother recommended, given her condition.

But I really, really, wanted to get in today, considering how much time we'd probably need to unpack. And Sabrina felt good enough by 12:30 to give it a go. So we checked the road conditions from Caltrans' convenient 800 number, packed up, checked out, and set off. Roads weren't great, but they were cleared of debris, bodies, and snow (with the notable exception of a HUGE freakin' boulder in the middle of the right lane at one point; I swear that thing would have killed an inattentive driver had they hit that at 60). And, wonder of wonders, we didn't even need to install the chains. Descended several thousand feet rapidly, to the protesting mews of Cooper, where the speed limit standardized at 65 and the highways widened to three and then four lanes.

After driving an hour or so into the flatter lands, we stopped in Sacramento for a late lunch. Here, the sun was warm enough that we worried about the heat if we left the cats in the car, and it was comfortable enough that we took their carriers outside with us and sat at a bench. Lunch consisted of In-N-Out cheeseburgers in the mild California sun. It was wonderful.
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sarchasmic

July 2009

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