We left early Tuesday (9-25-07) for San Francisco. We spent the morning crossing Indiana and then into Illinois and finally Iowa by afternoon (don’t hold me to the times of state crossing- There is a bit of blur of motion.)
I LOVE IOWA! It appeals to my orderliness. The farmers in Iowa value neat and tidy rows- And they cut the area next to the crop so there is never this swatch of weeds next to their crops. And their homes and barns look straight out of a Hallmark card- or Rockwell drawing. Not that they don’t have their share of BIG- and I mean BIG equipment. Don loves BIG tractors- or mowers etc. All the Deere stuff to him is absolutely thrilling (though not as thrilling as a BIG CRANE when we went by the mining camps in Wyoming and Nevada). But as luck would have it he was always driving when we passed the really interesting stuff- like a BIG John Deere tractor- or a BIG mining crane.
But Iowa was beautiful. It was our second trip across Iowa- the first on our way to Minot, North Dakota to see Brandy. (Brandy has been the impetus for much of our really interesting travel- we’ve been to Del Rio, Texas- really in the middle of nowhere. Guess the Air Force does not want to train their new pilots close to anything- And I mean anything! And then there was the trip to Enterprise, Alabama and the Bo Weevil Monument. And then finally two trips to Minot- And the drives across Iowa- and Minnesota- and South Dakota -and North Dakota- and Michigan- to say nothing of two drives across Kansas on the way to the Air Force Academy in Colorado.) So I’ve looked at some farms through the window of a car moving down the Interstate at 70 miles a hours.. Iowa is the favorite. Iowa knows that random fields filled with discarded rusting automobiles, refrigerators, farm equipment is not easy on the eyes. And Iowa does not have sheds or barns that are falling down next to the farm house. Iowa mows next to the highway. So hats off to Iowa and the idyllic picture of farm life in America!
We finished the day in Omaha, Nebraska. I’d never been to Nebraska- but boy do I ever have an opinion about Nebraska. After all I’m a Sooner (as in Boomer from University of Oklahoma)- And I have spent many a Saturday (or often a Friday after Thanksgiving) yelling at the Cornhuskers. But I’d never been. Now I have. And I must admit it reminded me- not of the flat- see forever Kansas- But rather Illinois- one of the those states that takes forever to cross but doesn’t give you much to look at as you cross.
One further comment about Nebraska. We do know why that call them the Cornhuskers. They do grow lots of corn there and I suppose someone has to shuck it, although I never thought you needed a college degree to do it.
But I did have a great steak for dinner in Omaha- so I don’t need to go back again- to Nebraska that is. The steak was good- But it was a bit of a long drive just for dinner.
An as you might expect, they served corn with their steaks.
The second days drive was the longest. It is 470 miles just across Nebraska- And we crossed much of Wyoming as well. I’d only flown into Wyoming- and then only Jackson Hole (and Yellowstone). I was in for a bit of surprise. Southern Wyoming is not Jackson Hole. It is miles of open- not much. And it gets terrible cell phone reception- so you can’t spend the time talking on the phone. I'm really glad that Don's brother Ron picked Jackson Hole for his beautiful home in the mountains- not Rock Springs. Sure makes for a different vacation! I’ll let Don talk of crossing Wyoming- nothing much stuck in my mind. I do know I wouldn’t ever want to spend a winter in that part of the world.
It’s obvious that Max doesn’t appreciate some of the more interesting things we saw in Wyoming. One thing Wyoming does have is lots of minerals and consequently, lots of mines, mining equipment, and processing plants. They were everywhere we looked. She did mention the big drag line we saw just before getting to Rock Springs, but there were enormous processing plants near every mine. Who knows what they were processing, but there were lots of smoke stacks and piles of colored stuff all in the middle of nowhere. It was finally fun to see those places from the ground instead of from 30,000 feet when I fly overhead.
We finished day two in Rock Springs, Wyoming at a charming Bed and Breakfast (a bed and breakfast is almost by definition “charming).
The best part about the B&B is that Rock Springs is a big mining town. The B&B and the restaurant we ate at all had lots of mining pictures. In fact our B&B host and her husband worked for a mining and processing company making sodium phosphate. The rumor was that the streets were laid out based upon the mines because they built the houses on top of old mine locations. I guess my thought about mining in Wyoming is that you really had to look hard to tell if the hills were real hills or just piles of mine tailings. They all look the same in Wyoming because nothing grows there anyway except sage brush. So I guess I would much rather see desolate land where nothing grows get turned into wasteland instead of the beautiful mountains in West Virginia and Kentucky that they bulldoze to get to the coal.
Our hostess at the B&B said that for a while they thought the town was dying- then there was a resurgence of mining and now there are 28,000 people- when the Starbucks opened they knew they had arrived. She had grown up in Denver and then went to college at Colorado State in Fort Collins and then spent 4 years in San Fran. She said it took a long time but she knows now that the important thing in life isn’t where you live- But rather who you’re living with... and we remember all who remain those 2439 miles away.
The third day saw us driving out of Wyoming, across Utah and then Nevada before finally stopping in Carson City, Nevada. Another very long day! I am staggered at the size of this beautiful country of ours. You can drive forever and ever and there is still more road in front of you. Sometimes the emptiness of the open places takes your breath away. I fall in love all over again. It’s not that it’s one picturesque scene after another- it’s not- But rather the overwhelming variety- And uniqueness- And twist that the road brings.
And I saw the salt plains- I’ve seen grassy plains- But never salt plains. We walked to the edge and tasted the saltyness of this most usual place. And it was beautiful- the white, glassy reflection as you drove along the desolate landscape- you felt like you might fall off the road into the eerie reflection of the white salt.
And today was our last day on the road. A piece of cake! Only 6 hours in the car- and much of that driving through the beautiful mountains of Lake Tahoe. How different these mountains from the emptiness of Wyoming and Nevada. Ponderosa pines all around.
Don told the stories of his Sunday nights growing up- they’d always eat hot dogs and popcorn- Grandpa Lucas would cook- And then they’d gather around the TV and watch little Joe and Hos and Adam with Pa (the Cartrights) rescue one or the other from some disaster or other each Sunday night on Bonanza- the ranch at the Ponderosa- right where we were today.
We stopped for lunch just before we got to Sacramento. I ordered fish tacos. About 10 years ago or so I had the most delicious tacos I have ever put in my mouth- We were in San Diego at the pier and I had the fish tacos- They were incredible! I have been looking for that experience ever since. Well – today was not that day. Fortunately at a Mexican joint there are always chips and salsa and refried beans so even if the food is awful- the fish tacos were- you don’t go away hungry- I didn’t.
I always wonder why Max thinks she can get good fish tacos in a place like Sacramento. Moreover the place she chose was in a strip mall right on I-80 that was empty when we got there and empty when we left. The waiter was not Hispanic. Who would have thought that they would be the exception to the rule and have great fish tacos?
When Don and I are on road trips- we both love road trips- we alternate the driving- he’ll drive for a while and then I’ll drive. It works. Then we listen to the radio- siurus is great- So we didn’t miss a single episode of Diane Rhemes on NPR- and listened to a lot of chat on NPR today. When we’d get tired of talk we’d listen to Oldies (I’d switch when there was too much doo-wop) to the 60s (and would switch when the Beach Boys came on- Don hates the Beach Boys). And I knit. I’m knitting a blanket for my next grandson- Sarah and Shawn’s baby is due in December- I don’t think I realized how many stitches it takes to knit a blanket- even a baby blanket- And then I’m trying some new things- But I loved thinking about that next baby when we drove across the country. I like to knit- But I like most to think about the person I’m knitting for while I’m doing my knitting. And this baby blanket is going to give me lots of time to think about Anthony- (the name Sarah and Shawn have picked for my next grandchild).
To sum it all up, it was a long drive, but we made it. The Honda Hybrid proved it's economy, and we got 40.8 miles per gallon over the whole 2436 miles. Right now we are spending Saturday and Sunday in Oakland, saving P&G some money on the cost of the hotel. Once we cross the bridge into SF, the prices go up, but I guess that's the difference in East Bay and West Bay. Now we just have to wait on the delivery of our stuff. We still don't know when it will get here, but estimates are the middle of next week. We spent some time today shopping for stuff that we didn't bring. We were planning on a new flat screen TV and found a Best Buy not far away. We also visited the IKEA in Emeryville. Now that was a new experience. It's a store the size of a football field laid out in a rat maze path from one end to the other. It seemed that most of humanity was there looking for stuff for their house. I think I'm too old to be buying furniture that I have to assemble, but I expect that is what we will end up doing for a table & chairs and TV stand. We'll let you know as we continue this adventure.