Thursday, May 26, 2005

Road trip

I'm currently enjoying a short layover in Portland, Oregon, before I make my major foray southward. Here's a quick review of how things have gone thus far:

Day one
From: Chicago, IL (departed 11:30 am)
To: Minneapolis, MN (arrived 9 pm)
Distance: 400 miles

1- Went to the bathroom and picked up some Red Bull (just over the Illinois-Wisconsin border)
2- Visited with my former penpal in Madison, WI for awhile, walking over to the terrace on the lake and enjoying gorgeous weather (she had beer, I had an iced mocha).
2.5- Less than an hour out of Madison, pulled over by a cop for going 81 in a 65. I was cooperative, apologetic, and--the key--a bit tearful, and he had a change of heart and gave me a warning instead. Score.
3- Another pit stop to get some gas. Seems my truck's gas tank holds quite a bit more than does the one in my Jeep.

Lessons learned:
1. Tears work
2. So does espresso (for staying alert, not for getting out of tickets... well, that's an experiment I have yet to try, anyway)
3. Trucker's arm is tres sexy (but wear sunscreen next time, just for the hell of it)
4. Can drive and look at maps at the same time

Day two
From: Minneapolis, MN (departed 1:30 pm)
To: Dickinson, ND (arrived 11:30 pm)
Distance: 550 miles

1- Suddenly looked down and noticed the fuel indicator pointing at E. Oh shit. Filled up the tank and almost fell over when I saw the price. (eastern Minnesota)
2- Fargo, ND: just thought I'd have a look around. It's a cute town. Favorite part: the six protesters in front of the courthouse protesting the filibuster (realized I haven't really been paying attention to the news recently, as I had no idea what they were referring to)
3- Somewhere west of Fargo, ND: stopped for gas and food. Noticed as I went to remove the gas cap that it wasn't there: I'd left it on the ground at the last gas station (it's not attached to the truck the way it should be, that little rubber string is just hanging there). Had to hunt around for 45 minutes to find a replacement: was forced to make a purchase at Walmart. It doesn't really fit, but at least it stays on.

Lessons learned:
1. Always remember the gas cap (but if you forget and drive 250 miles without it, you'll probably be ok)
2. My truck should have a gas light
3. Somehow taught foot to act as substitute cruise control
4. North Dakota's a lot prettier than I'd expected, all rolling green hills. Also I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets, and there was light in the sky until close to midnight. Sure, complain about the flatness of the landscape, but you don't get sunsets like that in the mountains
5. Forgot to wear sunscreen again

Day three
From: Dickinson, ND (departed 10 am)
To: Missoula, MT (arrived 9 pm)
Distance: 650 miles

1- Painted Valley lookout in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, on the western side of North Dakota. Talk about unexpected after 800 miles of farmland.
2- Billings, MT: it's amazing how much you can see of a town while you're looking around for a Taco Bell.
3- Livingston, MT: cute little town at the northern entrance to Yellowstone. One movie theater that shows one movie at 7 pm every night. Made me wish I had the time to stop there and hang around for the night.

Lessons learned:
1. After driving 650 miles, you need a beer.
2. Or two.
3. I had one of the best burgers I've ever had at a bar in Missoula: my theory is that it's because they'd killed the cow that morning (I passed a few cows during my drive through Montana).

Day four
From: Missoula, MT (departed 9:30 am after a stop at the first Starbucks I'd seen in awhile)
To: Portland, OR (arrived 7:30 pm)
Distance: 550 miles

1- Took a picture of the Welcome to Idaho sign, because I've never seen one so dramatic. Most such signs are on a bit of straight road and look pretty unimpressive, but this one was next to a road that curves away along the side of a mountain, so behind the sign there's a steep drop-off and then trees and mountains on the far side of the canyon. You feel like entering Idaho actually means you'll be in a different place, not just ten feet away from where you are.
2- Wallace, ID: Another cute little mountain town.
3- Spokane, WA: stopped at Gonzaga to buy Brendan and Becky's wedding present (just kidding, Becky), then hunted around for another Taco Bell (bonus #1 of driving alone: there's no one around to get pissed off when I go out of my way to find Taco Bell... two days in a row) and then another Starbucks (I need that caffeine, and soda just isn't a reliable source).
4- Connell, WA: Now that's a one-horse town. The supermarket was slightly larger than a 7-Eleven.

Lessons learned:
1. Idaho is freaking spectacular up there: Coeur d'Alene was so beautiful I don't think I shut my mouth the entire time I was driving around it.
2. And then I entered Washington. The only dull stretch of my entire trip.
3. Thankfully, as soon as I got to Oregon I was driving along the Columbia River, which eventually became gorgeous (there were even waterfalls, and I loves me a good waterfall).
4. Beer is really good after only 550 miles of driving, too.

Tomorrow I head out for San Francisco, which will be another long day, Santa Cruz the day after that (kind of an easy day, that one), and then home to Los Angeles and my new apartment on Sunday. Where I'll have to say goodbye to Patty "The Badass" Penske truck. But not yet.

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