Road Trip 2010 revisited

Awhile back I wrote about a potential future road trip we might take in the summer of 2010. The intent was to visit family and see the sights along the way on a trip that encircled nearly all of the continental U.S. According to my calculations then, the trip would involve 16 days for just the driving, never mind time taken for family and recreation. Given the unlikelihood of having 4 weeks of vacation by next summer (I have about 2 days at this moment), here is a revised itinerary:

  1. Portland
  2. This 1326 mile length will take two days. Stopping point will likely be Salt Lake City.
  3. Colorado Springs (Tina’s dad, Leroy)
    378 miles/5.5 hours
  4. Albuquerque (Jan and Tom)
    1010 miles/14 hours
  5. Houston (home to Tina’s grandfather, TQ)
    354 miles/6 hours
  6. New Orleans (stopping in Baton Rouge to visit my nephew, Wally, for a few hours)
    546 miles/8 hours
  7. Jacksonville (stopping in Pensacola to visit cousin Beth)
    139 miles/2 hours
  8. Savannah (Mardy and Steve)
    765 miles/12 hours
  9. Cleveland (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)
    344 miles/6 hours
  10. Chicago (various sights)
    377 miles/6.5 hours
  11. Riceville (stopping in Dubuque to visit my old friends, the Sunleafs
  12. This stretch of 1800 miles is a two or three day drive. Stopping points will be dynamic.
  13. Portland

That reduces the trip to 12 or 13 driving days. I would expect we would take extra days in Cleveland and Chicago, although we could see the HOF in the morning and drive to Chicago in the evening. We’ll also need several days in Riceville for a probable family reunion.

Sunday morning, 2 am

Somebody said they saw me, swinging the world by the tail
Bouncing over a white cloud, killing the blues

Wait? What’s that? Someone is spraying me with water.

“What the hell!?!?!”

I think I just woke up Tina. She asks me what’s going on.

“The wind blew the fly off the tent.”
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Leaves were falling, just like embers

I’m sitting beneath the picnic shelter at the Wolf Lodge Campground in the beautiful Idaho panhandle near Lake Coeur d’Alene. Today it’s just me and the dog watching over the camp as everyone else in our party cavorts at the Silverwood Theme Park and Boulder Beach Water Park. I didn’t bring a laptop with me but the dog’s owners brought several so I bummed one for the day. The dog is completely deaf and not a good conversationalist so I will amuse myself with some blogging, assuming this HP laptop doesn’t drive me crazy first (windows keep popping up every minute and it chooses to ignore many of the letters I type).

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Road trip 2010

Last week as I chatted with my newly discovered cousin, Beth, I pulled up Google Maps to get a better idea of where she is geographically. Specifically, I wondered how far she lived from my sister, Mardy. It didn’t take long before I realized that a killer road trip could be devised. My first pass at possible destinations yielded this list (see Glossary if you don’t know any of these names):

  1. Portland: Our home.
  2. San Francisco: Home to Uncle Ralph, Aunt Carol and cousins David and Danielle.
  3. Moreno Valley: Home to Maridee, Steve, Trisha and Michael.
  4. Phoenix: Home to Michelle, Ric, Xander and Wil.
  5. Albuquerque: Home to Jan and Tom.
  6. Austin: One of America’s music capitols. Need to find worthy venues to visit here.
  7. Houston: Home to TQ, Tina’s grandfather.
  8. New Orleans: Another of America’s music capitols. Will probably need a couple of days here. Any suggestions for family friendly spots?
  9. Pensacola: Home to Beth and her family.
  10. Jacksonville: Home to Mike, Micah and his family.
  11. Savannah: Home to Mardy, Steve, Barrett and Kendrick & his family. We should spend at least three days here.
  12. Charleston: My old stomping grounds and historic southern city.
  13. Washington, D.C.: Our nations capitol. We would want to spend more than one day here visiting monuments and historical curiosities.
  14. Philadelphia: A natural follow-up to a visit to D.C.
  15. New York: The boys have a long list of places they want to visit here so this might also take a few days.
  16. Cleveland: Home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  17. Madison: My cousins Dee and Jon live near here.
  18. Riceville: My little hometown where my 25th class reunion will be held in 2010.
  19. Colorado Springs: Tina’s cousins, Natians and Kelly live nearby.
  20. Salt Lake City: Much maligned but beautiful city.
  21. Portland: Our home.

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Vital Statistics

Bike odometer: 2360
Van odometer: 150701
Weight lost (in pounds): 8
Hours of sleep last night: 7
Aches & pains: none
Current reading: The Book of Totally Useless Information by Don Voorhees, The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman
Recent listening: The Rising Tied by Fort Minor, The Shepherd’s Dog by Iron & Wine, This American Life, Wolfmother by Wolfmother
Recent viewing: Countdown, The 4400, Superbowl XLII
Recent playing: Peggle
Recently accomplished: cleaned cat boxes, recycling, paid bills, finished Holiday Road series, evaluated Quicken Online (fail), started new job
Imperative To Do: Sift through inbox, post office (Kent, Sue, Lala), phone calls, finish Best of 2007, test bike commute, join gym, 401k rollover, find new internet host

Holiday Road: Day 15

Friday, January 4

As I recounted earlier, snow and car accidents kept us from completing the final leg of our long journey home. We stayed overnight in Redding, CA, hoping that we would be able to make it home the next day.

I woke at 4:30 am for an early morning reconnaissance mission up Interstate 5. When I reached the exit where we had been forced to turn around the day before and found that the roadblock had been removed, I concluded that the road was open and turned around. When I got back to the hotel, we roused the boys and departed Redding with no breakfast.

We hit the first snow as we ascended near Mount Shasta. About this time we noticed that we had acquired a small crack in the windshield on the passenger side. At first it wasn’t visible from the inside, but as we climbed we watched the crack grow! While we watched over a thirty second span, it stretched at least two more inches towards the center of the windshield. I turned down the defrost and it seemed to stop for the moment. It would continue to grow in fits and starts throughout the day whenever there were major differences in the inside and outside temperatures.

We had not put on the chains but we wouldn’t need them yet. A snow plow was less than half a mile ahead of us and when we reached what appeared to be the summit, he exited and headed back down from whence we came. At the same time, a snow plow from the other direction turned around at the same exit and blazed a trail for us going down.

Once we got back down to where it was raining, we stopped at a gas station to get fuel for the Scion and snacks for us. Since the pumps were covered by a canopy, I decided that it would be a good time to put on the new chains since we were certain to hit snow again at the Siskiyou Summit which was about 10 miles away. Unfortunately, my clever plan did not work as well as I would have liked. Because I had pulled to the forward-most pump, the front of the car (where the chains go on a front-wheel drive car) was sticking out from under the canopy. I had on the new raincoat which Tina had given me for Christmas and it worked perfectly, but my sweat pants were soon soaked as I struggled to put the chains on. Putting on chains requires quite a bit of knee-to-pavement contact, especially when one doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Unbeknownst to me, not all tire chains work the same and these were very unlike the set that I had bought and mastered for the van. Parts of the directions seemed vague until I was nearly done. When the meaning of “hooks up” became obvious, I removed the chains and started over again. After struggling with them for at least 45 minutes, we were finally ready to roll. I remembered the extra pair of dry pants from the night before and changed into them before we left. Now things were starting to fall into place!

It wouldn’t be long, though, before we began doubting our decision to chain up early. Driving the car over 45 mph caused a horrendous sound to come from the tires and Thomas pointed out that the directions said you shouldn’t drive over 40 mph with the chains. So we bump-bumped along for ten miles before we started seeing signs of snow. Soon, though, we felt good about our decision as we passed people trying to chain up in the cold. There were even entrepreneurs who were charging a fee to chain up other people’s cars. We drove right by the whole mess and continued on up to the pass.

There were no snowplows in sight this time but we traversed the pass at full speed (i.e. 40 mph) nearly the whole time and it was only about 45 minutes before we crossed the state line and descended into Ashland. After a delicious breakfast in Ashland, Tina took over the driving for the rest of the day while I napped. When I woke up Portland loomed in the distance and we faced afternoon rush hour on a Friday afternoon. It was only fitting, though, as it had seemed that the last hour was always the longest of each day of our entire journey.

Vital Statistics

Bike odometer: 2360
Weight lost (in pounds): 22
Hours of sleep last night: 8
Hours billed last week: 0
Aches & pains: sciatic (when I stand or walk too long)
Current reading: The Book of Totally Useless Information by Don Voorhees
Recent listening: NPR Story of the Day
Recent viewing: The Daily Show, Gilmore Girls, Incident at Loch Ness, The Year of the Yao, Tin Man, Countdown
Recent playing: Guitar Hero III (Wii), Peggle
Recently accomplished: cleaned cat boxes, recycling, paid bills
Imperative To Do: Sift through inbox, post office (Kent, Sue, Lala), sunglasses, InstantCake, phone calls, bike shop, return cans, finish Best of 2007, finish Holiday Road series

Holiday Road: Day 14

Thursday, January 3

We awoke Thursday morning with the intention of driving all day until we were home. After breakfast with Rob at a nearby restaurant, we embarked on what we thought would be the final leg of our long journey. Once again I navigated us out of the city and then handed over driving duties to Tina for a few hours while I napped.

When I awoke it was mid-afternoon, we were exiting Interstate 5 and I observed that there were a number of semi trucks parked on the shoulder. Although we were stopping for gas and food, we soon found that we would be waiting longer than we wanted. Despite my bleary state, I did think to ask “Are we north of Redding yet?” to which the answer was “Yes”. Just north of Redding is Mount Shasta and then the Siskiyou Pass at the California/Oregon border. Both are above 4000 feet elevation and can get snow during the winter months.

According to the truckers at the restaurant/gas station, such was the case on this day. There was also an accident reported and, as a result of these two factors, Interstate 5 northbound was closed at the next exit. We tuned to a local AM radio station that is broadcast by the California Department of Transportation who confirmed this information and also reported that chains would be required for all vehicles except four wheel drive. Anticipating that we would almost certainly need chains, Tina bought a set from the gas station at an outrageous markup. We had a long lunch and decided to try our luck again. We spent about an hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic and were eventually directed onto the next exit because the road was still closed.

Once we were southbound again, we drove back to Redding and hunted for a hotel. Since Redding is slightly west of the interstate, we had to drive around a few minutes before we found a hotel. We found a great old motel with a pool and a nice old lady at the counter. While I waited for her to complete the paper work, I observed a Post-It note on the counter which said “Hot tub is out of order.” I jokingly mentioned it and said that I had really been looking forward to using it. She told me that the only problem was a leaky ceiling and we could use it if we didn’t mind getting wet. We both had a laugh over that.

Once again I unloaded the bags from the top of the Scion and the boys helped me haul them into the motel room. It was not long before I realized that the thin tarp we had put over the bags was mostly ineffectual. Not only had the wind worn holes in it, but all of the suitcases also got wet on the bottom where there was no protection from the rain. My new books had gotten wet and would eventually warp but all the electronic stuff was safe inside their little bag. We’ll need a better rooftop solution for our next trip.

While looking for the laundry room, I found the hot tub, which was the size of a very small pool. I showed the boys and we resolved that the first thing we did would be to have a soak. It proved to be incredibly relaxing and fun with the Tina and boys as all the stress of the day melted away. After 45 minutes, we retired to the room while Tina resumed the search for the laundry room. She was successful and also reported that the nearby restaurant was due to close soon so we should get in there while we could. The people there were really nice and served us one of the best road meals of our trip. Tina was in and out to the nearby laundry room while we ate. She washed and dried a change of clothes for everyone as well as an extra pair of pants for me. Everybody was incredibly upbeat when we returned to the room but also relaxed with full bellies. In no time at all we were all asleep in anticipation of a very early wake up.

Holiday Road: Day 13

Wednesday, January 2

Tina’s only “must-see” in southern California was the La Brea Tar Pits in the middle of Los Angeles. La Brea was closed on New Year’s Day so we visited it on our way out of town. Despite the fact that their gift shop is full of dinosaur memorabilia, nobody has ever found dinosaur bones at La Brea. In fact nothing older than 60,000 years has been found there.

Outside the museum we watched the methane gas bubble up in the little lake and marveled at tar pits that had only recently appeared in the grass. As I repacked our luggage in the roof rack, I asked Tina if we should use the tarp. A passerby in the parking lot asked where were going. When we told him “Oregon”, he said that we were headed into a big storm and that we should definitely use the tarp.

It took forever to get back onto the freeway but we did finally see that elusive “Hollywood” sign. After grabbing some Thai food, we finally found the freeway and began the long drive to Redwood City in the Silicon Valley to visit my friend, Rob, whom I’ve known since my first day as a freshman at Wartburg College.

Predictably, we were behind schedule and the drive took longer than expected, so we didn’t arrive at Rob’s until evening. Even so, we spent several hours with him playing on his PS3 (Ratchet & Clank, Guitar Hero 3), watching David Letterman’s first show since the writer’s strike started and just talking. Finally, at 3:00 AM, Rob, Thomas and I retired because at least two of us had a long drive ahead of us the next day.

Holiday Road: Day 12

Tuesday, January 1

Despite our late night, we were still able to rise early and head north to Rosemead where we stayed at a Motel 6 that we would soon dub the Roach Motel. Tina thought she killed the roach in question, but he either came to life again or he had friends. It didn’t matter much, though, because we didn’t hang around there long.

After lunch we drove to downtown L.A. where we got on Pico Boulevard and drove west towards Santa Monica for about an hour and a half. Along the way we stopped at a Mexican bakery for some goodies.

Once we got close to Santa Monica, we turned south to Venice Beach where we once again watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean while the boys dug in the sand. I had intended to arrive earlier and rent skates on the boardwalk, but the boys were more than happy to just dig and play in the waves. After it got dark, we dragged the boys to the car and convinced them to put their street clothes on while I held towels from the Roach Motel around them.

After finding dinner at a California healthy food restaurant, we asked the boys if they wanted to drive north to Hollywood. “Hollywood? The Hollywood?” Graham asked. Twenty minutes later we walked up and down Hollywood Boulevard looking at the names on the stars on the Walk of Fame. We saw the handprints and footprints by Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and then bought tickets for the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Guinness Book of World Records Museum in a two-for-one deal. The Guinness museum was disappointing but the wax museum was fun, even if we couldn’t always recognize the stars depicted. During the drive back to the motel, we searched the dark hills for the famous Hollywood sign but did not see it.