Tuesday, October 13, 2009

road trip

September 30, 2009, Wednesday. I won’t repeat the nightmare closing/not-closing saga listed below, but we got up at a leisurely 6:30 a.m. and loaded our “few dearest possessions” (per H) into the truck: clean underwear, the dog and our soon to be obsolete non-powder skis. After the interlude at the title company, we were surprised by a good friend in the parking lot: she’d been driving around South Portland, looking for our truck, to give us homemade Maine-style, sugar-coated fried doughnuts, homemade chocolates for H’s dad and dog biscuits for Becky. We also stopped in at H’s work for a few last minute goodbyes and then were heading south on the Maine Turnpike at 10:27 a.m.

We saw our first Utah license plate at 11:56 a.m. and took that as a good omen. At 3:30 p.m. we crossed the Hudson River and said goodbye to New England. At 7:55 p.m., 484 miles into the trip, we arrived at H’s parents’ house in upstate New York. H’s brother and his family graciously drove 1.5 hours from Syracuse to see us, which, on a school night for the kids, was sooooo nice of them to do. We had dinner, family photos and hugs all around and then H and I crashed into bed at 10:30 p.m.

October 1, 2009, Thursday. With a long day ahead of us, we got up at 5:30 a.m. (luckily H’s parents are early birds). We had breakfast, family photos and hugs all around, and we hit the road at 6:55 a.m. We managed to hit Buffalo, NY, right at the morning rush hour, but H utilized the concentration that got him through three actuarial exams and we made it through unscathed. We then hit Cleveland (the Cuyahoga River was not on fire) just in time for the lunchtime rush hour. Also, we hit Chicago in time for the evening rush hour. It’s a gift.

It was unfortunately too dark and rainy to see the Mississippi River when we crossed it. Also unfortunate was all the roadwork that made it challenging to find/get to any motels for the night in Davenport, Iowa. At last we managed to maneuver our caravan into a brand new Comfort Inn that allowed dogs … and we even ponied up the extra $15 that allowed B to have her own queen-sized bed.

Random notes for the day: Our friends P and C had given us a Garmin as a going-away present and, although we were really only taking five roads (95, 495, 290, 90 and 80) for 2,500 miles, we were definitely enjoying the little gadget. When we lost satellite reception for the GPS for about ten minutes this day, H was quite distraught, having to go old school (you know, maps and road signs) for a bit. Also: any large farm equipment in the fields that are not easily identified as “tractors” are “combines,” according to H and A. And “Fangboner Road” is the best road name ever.

October 2, 2009, Friday. The eastern horizon was clear enough for a great sunrise this morning … and then the rain started. For most of the day we had 40 degrees and rain (our second least favorite kind of weather) although we did manage two hours of sunshine in Ohio on Thursday – the best weather of the trip to date. Unfortunately we didn’t stop at the World’s Largest Truck Stop because it was only eight miles from our Davenport, IA, motel, but it’s certainly impressive from the highway, even at 59 mph.

Western Iowa and all of Nebraska was extremely windy – blowing 30 mph and gusting to 50, making for very challenging driving – I’ve never seen so many cornhusks sailing through the air and at one rest stop, the wind ripped the truck door right out of H’s hand. The skies cleared and the winds died in the early evening, just as we neared the far western edge of Nebraska.

We stopped for refueling, dog-feeding and to answer nature’s call just over the Wyoming border, then continued to drive another 40 miles into Cheyenne to our motel … where we discovered that I had left the truck’s tailgate DOWN. OMG: we could have lost everything out the back. After that, A was no longer allowed to muck about in the bed of the truck.

This night we stayed at a Day’s Inn where we got a free upgrade because the room we were sold wasn’t clean, and this time $5 scored B her own queen bed. Dog is going to be spoiled when we try to make her sleep in her crate again!

Random note of the day: Lots of hunters in Cheyenne as mule deer season has arrived.

October 3, 2009, Saturday. You know, I’m sure that Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons are gorgeous, but the parts of Wyoming that we traveled through on Saturday were just not that interesting or pretty. We got our first view of the mountains just before 7:00 a.m., looming large and snow-capped. We crossed the Continental Divide at 9:37 a.m., at 7000 feet; at 12:12 p.m. we saw our first sign for Salt Lake City, 144 miles ahead; we crossed into Utah proper one hour later.

For me, the absolute scariest part of the whole friggin’ trip was coming down from Park City into SLC. The truck had only its own set of brakes to stop itself, and the heavy trailer, and the trailered Subaru, and that road is some wicked steep and winding, not to mention all the traffic and semi-trucks. H did a great job but I was pretty scared. Good thing I’d already chewed off all my fingernails from move stress.

SLC came into view for the first time at 2:30 p.m. and was not even too smoggy. We dropped the trailer off at U-Haul at 2:43 p.m. and called that “the Official End of the Road trip.” Now we were home.

So we then had to find a home, at least a really short-term temporary one (motel) before a short-term one (apartment) before a long-term one (house). It took us two and a half hours to find a motel in a non-sketchy part of town that accepted dogs – we rejected several, including one next to a strip club – finally arriving at the Candlewood Suites in Cottonwood Heights. We brought the houseplants into our room, all four having survived the trip (amazingly), and then went up to the Porcupine Pub & Grille (3698 East Fort Union Blvd., Cottonwood Hts.) to celebrate the end of our 2,488-mile journey across the country. Wah-frickin-hoo!!!!

Random note of the day: Mary Beth at the Candlewood Suites = awesome customer service. Also, for the record, we did the entire trip without turning on the radio or iPod or anything other than us. Who knew H was so entertainingly talkative?!

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