2:05 a.m. I don't have time for a real entry right now, as I have to be back on the road in just over seven hours, but I just wanted to pass along that I put in over 1150 miles since I left Portland less than 17 hours ago.
As it was, I probably could've made North Dakota if it hadn't been for road construction in Spokane and about 40 miles worth of snow around Bozeman. Regardless, I now have a personal driving record that'll probably stick for a while.
~ ~ ~
And so it's Sunday. I guess this means my trip is over.
12:45 a.m. I'm at Tony and Katie's in Portland. I'm having a good time, and it looks like I'm going to stick here all day Friday. I know I'm setting myself up for two long days of driving on Saturday and Sunday, but, in retrospect, I don't know what I was thinking planning only one day for Portland anyway.
I have a fair amount to write about today, but I'm beat, so I'll have to cover it later. The next entry may come from here, or it may come from home.
~ ~ ~
Oh, one other thing: Tony introduced me to sushi this evening. It was really good, so I guess I have a new kind of food I have to explore.
11:35 p.m. I'm sitting in a room at a very skanky Travelodge just off I-5, eating Jack In The Box and recovering from being lost in the metropolis of Medford, Oregon for well over an hour. While that in itself may sound a bit grim, I actually had a pretty good day. The forecasted showers mostly stayed away, US 101 was clear and incredibly scenic, and the redwoods, well, words fail me.
Regrettably, photos seem to as well. I spent about five hours in the park, with my time about evenly split between light hiking and driving along some of the scenic routes there. It really was one of the most amazing places I've ever been. The trees were the highlight, of course, but the ocean finally got me as well. I drove up to Klamath River Overlook as daylight fell, sat out on a park bench, watched the sun disappear behind the Pacific, and said my goodbye to the western coast.
Aside from the small altercation I noted below, the drive to Medford went well. US 199 was shrouded in darkness as I passed through it, but I got the feeling I was driving through some pretty interesting territory. (This trip has already given me an almost unworkable to-do list, but it would be cool to drive 199 in daylight sometime.) Bad Yahoo! Maps directions resulted in over an hour of circling in Medford, but after three stops for directions and one stop by a local police officer (apparently U-turns are illegal in Medford) I finally managed to get to the hotel.
Tomorrow I'll hit Crater Lake in the morning and visit friends in Portland in the evening. After that, it'll be time to head back east. I have a number of reasons to look forward to getting back home, of course, but, really, I'm nowhere near being ready for this trip to be over.
12:23 a.m. It's Thursday now. More later.
~ ~ ~
The road was dark, narrow, hilly and curvy, with arrows and warning signs all over the place. In no particular hurry, I drove along at 35mph, around five over above the speed limit. I was the only one on the road for quite some time, and then, with almost no warning, I found myself getting aggressively tailgated by another car. This had been going on for about a mile—there was no shoulder for me to pull over on—when a family of cats wandered out on the road roughly 30 yards ahead of me. It would be a gross exaggeration to say I slammed on the brakes; instead, I tapped them and let off on the gas. My car probably never dropped below 25, but in response I received a nasty blow of the horn from the tailgater. The shoulder widened a quarter of a mile later, and I pulled over at my first opportunity, but instead of passing, the tailgater stopped next to me and opened her passenger-side door.
"What the hell are you doing stopping in the road like that," she yelled.
"We had animals crossing the road."
"They were just cats."
"What are you doing stopping? I have a baby on board!"
Long pause. There didn't seem to be any kind of emergency, so I failed to see how that was relevant. "So?"
"Stop again and see what happens."
That was such a contradiction that I suddenly felt predisposed to violence. "Oh, fuck you. How about you stop tailgating? You know, proper stopping distance?"
"Screw you. I have a baby on board!"
"So leave some fucking space between the cars!" She glared at me. "Go ahead," I said, waving her forward, "get the hell out of here." And, thankfully, she did.
~ ~ ~
Later, on the phone: "So," she asked, "what did you want to tell her?"
"Want to tell her? 'Get the fuck out of my face, bitch. I'm going to get your license plate number and call child services. You're never going to see that fucking child again, you stupid bitch. Fucking idiots like you shouldn't be allowed to breed. Now get your ratty-ass Mustang the fuck out of my face and go back to whatever crack-infested piece-of-shit house you came from. I feel sorry for your kid, bitch. I hope she grows up to fucking hate you.'"
She laughed. "You should have said that."
"Eh. I wasn't frightened of her or anything, but her car was pretty close to mine. If she opened her door any farther it could've scratched my paint."
It's 11:25 p.m. here in San Francisco. I'm sitting here in the Super 8 on Lombard, eating a chicken sandwich from a nearby restaurant, listening to the rain fall outside and wondering how much more rain I'll see tomorrow.
It rained in Los Angeles. It rained in San Jose. It rained all the way up the Pacific Coast Highway. The weather forced numerous and repeated delays all the way to Cambria (I encountered both flooded roadways and downed trees), making me regret not taking US 101 to San Luis Obispo and cutting over to Morro Bay. As it was, it was getting dark by the time I reached Limekiln State Park, so I missed much of the drive the PCH is famous for. I cut over to the 101 as soon as the opportunity presented itself some 60 or so miles later, and decided it was a drive I'd have to try again some other time.
This has been a pretty good trip so far, so I guess I was due for a bad day. When I try driving the PCH again—and, believe me, I will—I'll probably want to start with a day or so in San Luis Obispo. (The drive south of there was kind of cool, but not one I need to repeat.) I found myself stuck there for about 45 minutes earlier today, and it seemed like a pretty cool town. From there I'd schedule at least two days for driving up to San Francisco, camping overnight and taking a few breaks for hiking along the way. And then, I'd want to finish it off with at least two full days in San Francisco. This is my third time passing through this city, and sooner or later I owe it a legitimate visit. (I didn't even bother taking my camera when I went searching for something to eat. I'm not really vacationing here, and so it seemed a bit rude to pretend to be doing so.)
All of that is subject to preparatory research, of course. I made a point of not planning too much for this trip, and now find myself wondering what the heck I was thinking.
Maybe I wasn't. It wouldn't have been the first time.
~ ~ ~
12:15 a.m. It's Wednesday now. It's hard to think that the trip is more than half over. It all seemed so long when I was planning it—there were times I started to think it was a bit excessive—but now, with each day that passes, it just feels fleeting.
Tomorrow, Redwood National Park. (I'll be taking US 101 this time.) More later.
Note to self: If a hotel's motto is anything along the lines of "Attractive Airport Parking Rates," it's probably time to look elsewhere.
~ ~ ~
In other news, Southern California and Mark do not really mix all that well. But more on that later.
~ ~ ~
So, San Diego was fun. (Okay, not all of Southern California is bad.) Sunday was quite busy, with a pleasant afternoon wandering around __________, a San Diego Gulls exhibition game against the team from Long Beach (Kristine and the other Gulls Girls performed during the second break), dinner at a regional chain called Dave & Buster's, and a second visit to Fry's Electronics. The Gulls game actually added a bit of drama to the afternoon, as through a long series of events I can't really explain, the Gulls Girls' ice shoes were at a location near downtown even though they were performing at a location in northern San Diego. Mike ended up being enlisted to retrieve the shoes, which resulted in a number of highly-expedient trips up and down I-5 and a trunk luggage transfer that probably resembled a drug drop.
All ended up OK, of course, and the show went on as planned, if maybe a bit delayed.
After the game and dinner at Dave & Buster's, Mike and I headed downtown to partake in some nighttime photography. My brother is turning into quite a photographer, and as soon as he gets that camera figured out, he may become outright dangerous. (In a way, I'm a bit envious of his rapidly-developing skills. I never really graduated from hack photographer status, and my brother seems poised to surpass me.) If there's one thing I regret about this trip so far, it's that I didn't spend enough time with my brother. I probably could've scheduled this trip differently.
And that was it for San Diego. Mike had to work today, so I got up to an empty apartment, did some laundry and headed north.
~ ~ ~
So, anyway, saying I don't care for most of Southern California is a bit of an understatement. Sure, I liked San Diego, but almost everything I passed north of that today just plain annoyed me. I could list everything out, of course, but all that would accomplish is getting me riled up again.
Besides, I have better things to do. Like sleep.
Los Angeles isn't all bad, of course, and I did have a decent afternoon and evening. I wasn't able to see the Getty, as it's apparently closed on Mondays, but I did get time to wander around Marina Del Ray and Venice Beach. Both were vacant, rainy and windy, but were kind of cool anyway. This evening I drove up to Santa Monica, which different from LA in two basic ways:
- There were people there
- I didn't have to try to like it, as it was pretty likable as it was
In retrospect, I probably should have taken it as a sign that many of the Los Angeles recommendations I received were actually Santa Monica recommendations. I visited the pier, of course, but also took time to wander around 3rd Street and up and down the beach a bit. And, well, that was pretty much it.
Well, it's getting late, and I should probably hit it. Tomorrow it's up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco. The forecast is calling for rain, but the past few days haven't been as severely soaked as the predictions have stated, so maybe tomorrow will turn out okay, too.
We'll see. My next entry will probably be from San Francisco. More later.
Sunday morning in San Diego. It's a little after 8:00 as I write this, the temperature is in the mid-50s, there's a light rain (I would end up in one of the driest cities in the US on a rainy day), any my brother and his girlfriend are still asleep in the neighboring bedroom. We're planning for breakfast around 9:00 or 9:30, and after that, who knows. It sounds like a trip to Mexico is out—not that Tijuana is representative of Mexico, anyway—but there may be a trip to the zoo, maybe some sight-seeing, maybe some general driving around.
~ ~ ~
Phoenix was fun. Craig gave me the grand tour of the city, with stops at Arizona Biltmore, Fry's Electronics (whoo, a bit excessive with the checkout aisle there), and a few of the remaining older areas of town. We also attempted a visit to South Mountain, which is supposed to have great views of the city, but it was closed for the repaving of the entrance road. There's more I could say about all of this, of course, but it was a day better represented photographs, which I'll try to publish here before the third Bush administration.
Lunch Friday was at Poncho's, a cool (and packed) little restaurant in another quickly-gentrifying portion of town. (The entire city of Phoenix seems intent on expanding and rebuilding. I'm not sure where all the poor people were being pushed, and I'm not sure they are either.) It was one of those cases where everything on the menu looked good, and while I was happy with my meal, there was a lot of second-guessing whether I was missing something better.
Who knows. Maybe I'll return some day.
~ ~ ~
Completely unrelated note: Craig's living room and kitchen, when combined, create a space larger than my entire apartment.
~ ~ ~
The drive from Phoenix to San Diego was quick and relatively uneventful. As Craig warned, the desert west of Phoenix was pretty bleak (and Gila Bend moderately disturbing), but, as my brother advised, the mountains in California would be one of the prettiest (and most unexpected) portions of the drive. I had no idea I'd be climbing from sea level to 4000 feet and back down again, but that's the kind of route I-8 apparently decided to take. In the end, I made the trip in less than four and a half hours, with the only stops being at a Chevron in Phoenix and at the California inspection station just inside the California border. (I'm not sure what the inspection station was about. They seemed intent in keeping foreign fruit and veggies out, but it would seem that the border would be pretty porous outside the interstates.)
Mike and Chrstine's apartment was ridiculously easy to find. They're in one of those transitional kind of neighborhoods, the kind where they can find a decent (and scenic) place to rent for a reasonable price, but where huge, overpriced condos are popping up just blocks away. (Kind of sounds like Minneapolis.) After meeting Kristine and hanging out for a while, Mike gave me a cursory tour of the nearby downtown, and then took me hiking at the Torrey Pines State Reserve just north of the city. The weather was absolutely beautiful, but I guess that's kind of the standard out here. Dinner was at Henry's Pub down in the Gaslamp District, where Mike and I enjoyed a very good meal while watching the Red Sox get their asses kicked by the Yankees.
Not every day can be perfect, I guess, but I probably shouldn't let a baseball game in Boston mar a pleasant evening in San Diego.
Well, it sounds like the natives are up and restless, so I guess I should wrap this up for now. The next entry will probably be from Los Angeles. More later.
Arizona time-zone funkiness: Mark has no idea what time it is. I think it's 11:30 in the evening, but due to some Arizona-based rebellion against Daylight Saving Time, maybe not. Regardless, I'm tired, so this is going to be short.
And so I'm in Phoenix, or, at least, some western suburb thereof. Craig and his family are being exceeding gracious guests, and I'm happy to be here. Craig and I will hit Phoenix tomorrow, and I'm definitely looking forward to it.
~ ~ ~
Not that this should be a surprise, but I did a lot of driving today, roughly 800 miles in just over 12 hours. Traffic-flow of 85 mph definitely helped, although beautiful scenery and a nearby camera didn't. Starting from Buena Vista, I traveled down US 285 and other roads to Santa Fe, where I grabbed I-40 to Flagstaff and then I-17 to Phoenix. I continue to be amazed how spoiled and lucky we are as a nation to have all this geological, ecological and cultural wonder. Each state I passed through today presented something new and breathtaking, and that's not even touching the things I blew by in my car, including Petrified Forest National Park, Montezuma's Castle National Monument, and Meteor Crater National Landmark. I almost feel guilty listing them.
I also blew by a Stuckey's. For some reason I thought they'd gone out of business.
On a slightly-related note, my track record for picking crappy gas stations remains quite good, which is to say, dismal. New rule for the rest of the trip: No stopping at Conoco stations. Period. That should eliminate at least 30% of my exposure right there. Also, I need to be wary of exits with only one gas station. Lack of competition breeds laziness, as well as dirty bathrooms.
Well, it's 11:50 (I think), and I'm beat, so it's time for me to turn in. More later.
And so I'm in Colorado. No state deserves to be as pretty as this.
It was quite a day of driving. I put on over 720 miles over the course of 11 hours, although that time included a number of stops for gas, food and photography. My basic route consisted of I-80 from Lincoln to Cheyenne, I-25 to Denver, I-70 to US 24, and finally US 24 to my stopping point here in Buena Vista, Colorado. (I-80 through Wyoming was supposedly a faster drive than taking I-76, although I'm starting to doubt that.) Tomorrow's drive to Phoenix actually stands to be longer, so I'll have to be a little more disciplined with my stops and detours.
As far as today, though, it was actually a lot of fun. The mountains were beautiful to drive through, and Nebraska wasn't as bad as I expected. Actually, considering all the fall colors, I have to say I actually liked Nebraska, although I wouldn't want to try the same drive again in January. The radio stations were predictably sparse, and while I did have my mp3 player with me, I still found myself channel surfing between religious, talk and country stations. (Whenever something seemed to be on the verge of causing an aneurism, I changed the station.) A few miles before Wyoming I stumbled upon ESPN radio out of Denver, and I let that carry me all the way to the mountains.
That reminds me... I wonder how the Red Sox did. (Checks TV.) Dammit.
Other than the miles, there's not much to report from today. There was an unfortunate incident involving my windshield and a semi trailer carrying cattle, as well as some very consistent luck at picking excessively skanky gas stations. On the bright side, I did decent job of dodging tumbleweed—I only hit one of the 14 encountered—and I got some pretty good photos along the way, too. Beyond that, not much.
Well, it's 10:11 now. That's not late, but I should try to get up early tomorrow and use as much daylight as possible. Tonight Colorado, tomorrow Arizona.
2:10 a.m. It's actually Wednesday as I write this, but I'm leaving it with the Tuesday dateline as that's what the entry is referencing. I get up in just over six hours, so this has to be very short.
So I'm in Lincoln. Or some HoJo near it. The drive from the Twin Cities went fairly well, with only a couple of bouts of construction and almost no overt moments of law enforcement. I left my place of employment 55 minutes later than planned—I don't know how I managed to delude myself into thinking I'd get out of work on time—but things went fairly smoothly after that.
Since this was primarily a "get the heck out of Dodge" day, there's not much to report. Iowa seemed particularly receptive to far-flung AM radio, even by nightime standards, and I found myself listening to stations as far away as Atlanta and Kentucky. Granted, none of them were carrying the ACLS, the only thing I was really looking for, but that problem resolved itself while holding a prolonged phone conversation with a friend who happened to be near a television.
Also, two things about Omaha: One, not only does it have a skyline, but to my quick glances it seemed to have a relatively impressive one. (Those comments about the Twin Cities becoming a cold Omaha if the Twins or Vikings leave suddenly seem more relevant.) Also, its skyline is much more impressive than Des Moines, which only seems to have one skyscraper, even though it actually has many. (A trick of building placement? Maybe.) Not that many people try to compare their skylines to Des Moines, but anyway...
Well, it's 2:20. I need to hit it. (Tomorrow will be one of the top-four driving days of the trip, so I guess I should try to be awake for it.) The next entry will probably come from Colorado. More later.
~ ~ ~
Oh, one other thing: The sprawl around Omaha and Council Bluffs caused a serious flashback involving a bunch of UW-River Falls college students, a couple of borrowed vans and a snow-fated hiking trip to Utah. But I guess that's a different story for a different time.
Over the next 13 days I'll be driving over 5500 miles in the pursuit of nothing in particular. Along the way I'll be passing through Des Moines, Denver, Santa Fe and many other cities, while making full-fledged stops in the following:
- Lincoln, NE
- Buena Vista, CO
- Phoenix, AZ
- San Diego, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- Portland, OR
There are still four days with undefined itineraries; I know I'll be between San Francisco and Portland, and I know I'll be between Portland and Minneapolis, but I have no idea what route I'll be taking, where I'll be staying or what I'll be doing during those times. This trip has been in the planning stages for quite some time now, but it's always been a distant idea, something I've toyed with but never fully thought out. But, as it happens, I leave tomorrow, and I now find I myself with only one unescapable thought:
What. The fuck. Was I thinking?
That's only a metaphorical question, of course. It will be good to see my brother in San Diego. It'll be good to see my friends along the way. That said, I've never done a road trip anywhere near this size by myself, so I find myself both excited and wary. It'll be interesting to see how things play out, especially for those unplanned days. Or how my car does. Or...
I may nor may not be making updates along the way. So, I may see you in a few days, or, maybe, I'll see you nearer to November.
California, here I come.
According to the site I just ordered it from, the package will be inconspicuous and discreetly wrapped.
No, I'm not talking about porn. I'm talking about Rogaine.
So, this is what getting old is like.
~ ~ ~
I suppose it would be cheaper to just let my hair fall out. Heck, I could shave off most of my beard and walk around with a mustache and a comb-over. And maybe get a couple of polyester sport coats. All of that would go great with tennis shoes, of course... And sweatpants! Can't forget sweatpants, light blue with huge white stripes running down the sides. Top it off with a pair of 70's aviator glasses and my metamorphosis would be complete.
Granted, to really nail that image I'd have to stop showering on a daily basis. I'm not too keen on that part. Nor on the word "keen," for that matter.
So, anyway, it was a busy weekend. Sarah and her boyfriend, PJ, were up in Minneapolis Friday, and after hanging out at my apartment for a while the three of us headed over to St. Paul for dinner at the Zander Cafe. The Zander's highly-regarded reputation preceeded it and, in the end, that's pretty much all it did. Maybe it was just an inevitable backlash of hype, but, overall, it was kind of disappointing. From a food standpoint, a trip to Zeno redeemed the evening somewhat, and also afforded Sarah the opportunity to explain why a French press coffee maker is inherently better than a drip coffee maker. (On a related note, I found myself looking at coffee makers online this evening. Not that I have money for such things.)
PJ seems pretty cool. Also, he's rather tall, even by Minnesota standards.
Saturday wasn't nearly as interesting. Well, it was interesting, just not in a particularly pleasant sense: Much of the afternoon was spent running back and forth to Ikea and battling the demon-spawn kitchen table I purchased from them a few weeks ago. (Note to self: All because box #1 and box #2 say they're for the same table doesn't actually mean they'll be for the same table.) In the end, the table won, and I retreated to a local bookstore in an effort to recover.
Sunday brought one final trip to Ikea (oooh, this new box actually contains bolts!) and a few hours hanging out with Jason and (the other) Sarah in River Falls.
Beyond that, not much, although I did spend a lot of time planning for next week's road trip to California and other points west. The first seven days are pretty nailed down at this point, but the final four (or five) are still fairly open. It'll be interesting to see how they play out. Part of me feels it would be a good idea to hold off on developing a plan until I'm actually out on the road, but past experience has shown such experiments can end up being terribly expensive. Money is kind of tight right now, of course, so I'll probably end up sketching out a basic game plan before leaving next Tuesday.
Regardless of what happens those last days, though, it's looking to be one heck of a trip.
Well, it was a very busy weekend, and a good one at that, but it's late and I'm tired. Most of it will have to be deferred until tomorrow.
~ ~ ~
But for now, there's this: I got up at 7:00 this morning—that's dreadfully early for me—to catch the sight of 10,000 people running through my neighborhood.
Words and photos cannot adequately describe how massive the Twin Cities Marathon is. It's one thing to see a picture of a huge mass of people running down a street, but what you can't understand unless you actually see the race is that those huge crowds just keep coming and coming. There's almost no end. In all, there were more people in this race than there were students enrolled in both of the colleges I went to. Combined.
Now, there are a lot of things I don't understand about marathons—chief among them why anyone would want to get up at 5:30 on a cold Sunday morning to run well over 20 miles—but what confuses me more is that many of the runners actually seemed to be enjoying the run.
I mean, look at the guy on the right. It wouldn't be fair to call that a grin, but he's obviously enjoying himself. What's going through his mind? "Oooh, 23 more miles to go. And I'm going uphill. Yay!" This is probably like a religion, I suppose, a religion I'll never get.
It is awesome to watch, though. Even if it is cold and too damn early.
And so it's October. Fall is here, the weather is growing cool, and I'm moving forward with a very different outlook. To say September was fucked up would be an understatement of almost absurd proportions, but it's in the past now. What I can say is that I'm clearly not the person I was only 30 days ago. Considering the circumstances, I don't know how that could possibly be a bad thing, but I guess only time will tell.
I still have plenty of work to do, of course, and there's much I'll have to learn to live with, but I can't beat myself up anymore. Not only am I ready to move on, but I have to move on. This is not really a choice as much as it is a statement of fact. There are many reasons for this, of course, but they're not ones I can mention on these pages or try to explain in public.
As it happens, good things are not only on the horizon, but already here. It's up to me to make the most of them.
~ ~ ~
If I can help it, this will be the last I'll write here of any of this.