Driving across America: Day 5

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Sorry I didn’t post this blog entry sooner, but as you probably guess I have been busy moving into my new place.

Day 5 started early in the morning in Nevada. We had stayed in Sparks that evening, which was pretty close to the border of California.

Our drive began through a beautiful mountain range which stretched from Nevada to California. Before we knew it we had reached the California border, and I couldn’t believe what welcomed us as we drove over from the Nevada state line.

Just as the mountain range was turning into the Tahoe forest, we couldn’t believe our eyes when we looked up at the sky. It was snowing! For a second I thought I was back in New England all over again, or that the seasons had miraculously changed over night. Considering how high up we were in the mountains it made sense that it would snow, but I had never guessed or imagined I would be experiencing snow in California, especially on my first day in my new state. It was a beautiful sight though. I think the snow helped sell me on the idea of vacationing around Lake Tahoe sometime, which seems to be the thing to do for people who live here in Silicon Valley.

The mountains were extremely picturesque. I felt like I was in a Christmas movie.

Shortly after the first sight of snow we came to a check point area where I had to have my car “inspected” for agricultural reasons. I assume because of where we were driving through, the pristine snow capped Tahoe mountains, that they didn’t want me to bring in anything that would be hazardous to the environment.

When we pulled up, the lady who was in a giant snow suit, similar to the snow suits from the movie “A Christmas Story,” came over to my window and asked if we had an ice chest or any plants in the vehicle. We didn’t. She then stood where she was and just glanced into my back seat window for a second, which probably seemed pointless to her because all you could see in the back seat was a bunch of boxes and blankets covering other items. Then we were given a receipt I’m supposed to keep in my car for the duration of my time here. Guess I should register my car soon so I don’t have to worry about losing that piece of paper!

Once we were out of the mountains the snow had disappeared and it was warm once again.

The areas around us were rather pretty, yet I’m not sure how I feel about the “naked” mountains as Brian calls them. Around here there are a number of mountains that appear naked. They don’t have trees, no greenery at all. Instead of grass there appears to be dried hay all over them. But, it was nice to see all the mountains for once that actually surround Mountain View and Silicon Valley.

From Sparks it took around 3-4 hours to get into town. So, it was thankfully our shortest driving day and it was nice to actually have time to relax.

My car is still hanging in there, and actually still has 80% oil left. All it needs is a good bath from all the salt and snow!

Now it’s time to furnish the new apartment and start the job search.

 

Who wants to give me a journalism or communications job!?

 

Driving across America: Day 4

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We hit the road today for our fourth day of driving.

California is getting closer and closer by the minute.

Today started off in Wyoming, where we stayed for the night. Driving on I-80 this morning was extremely scenic. Running alongside the highway were a couple antelopes. A spectacular sight to start the day off with. Shortly after tha,t there was a pair of hyenas walking slowly along the fenced off area by the roadside. It felt like we were taking a safari.

After hours we finally got out of the state of Wyoming and into Utah.

Many of the mountains in Utah, especially in the areas closer to Salt Lake city where there was a small skiing village, reminded me of back home in New England, especially Vermont with its Okemo Mountain. It almost felt familiar.

We progressed on our journey, heading for the Salt Lake City area. Before we knew it we were surrounded by the Great Salt Lake. What a lake. Parts of it seemed rather beautiful, however other parts of the lake appeared neon green in color. The lake itself is known for giving off a rather pungent smell of dead fish. So many fish are known to die in the lake because of the high saline levels in the water.

Originally the area of Salt Lake was part of an inland ocean, the main reason why there is so much salt present in the area.

As we were driving down a very long stretch of highway, in the middle of the lake, and far far far from any sort of civilization I took a look around me and noticed the ground was completely white everywhere. It seemed like we were surrounded by white sand, or maybe even snow, however it was 95 degrees and we were in the desert, so that was obviously not the reasoning.

Believe it or not, we were completely surrounded by salt on every side of us. My college roommates would appreciate this story since I have a love for salt. Every meal they would make sure we sat at a table that had salt just for me. Well, here I was, finding myself completely surrounded by salt.

 

 

 

As you can see in these picture everything was white. Salt crystals glimmered in the hot beaming sun. It was really quite the sight. At one point we pulled off to get gas and I walked over the desert area to check out the salt. It even felt weird to walk on. Thankfully there was a wind blowing, but since it was so hot, the wind was just hot air blowing really fast on us. The rest stop itself was a bit special. We went in to buy some drinks and use the bathroom and one of the men working there was walking around the store with a cart going “ee ee ee.” Maybe he was an alien? I can see why the government uses areas of Nevada and Utah for special government operations and why people think there are alien sightings. Things are just a little odd and out of the place there and really secluded.

 

Progressing down the same road, all of a sudden what appeared to be clouds started to form all over the road. Turns out we were in the middle of a salt storm, yes a salt storm. Salt was blowing all over the place from the salt that had been left behind from the ocean or receding lake. It was so powerful that all you could on either side of you was white. You could barely see in front of you, and you couldn’t even see the sky. What we experienced is what I believe it would be like to be in a salt shaker. Pure white grains shaking all over the place.

At one point on the road we came to an area in the salty desert where there were a number of different designs made with rocks on top of the salt. Many of the formations were circles, some even spelt out names or words. Could it be the work of bored locals or crafty aliens? Hmm.

Further down we even came to a very odd and huge art installation. It was literally in the middle of nowhere, and I mean nowhere. We had been surrounded by salt for a couple hours now with no exits, no gas stations, nothing around. The installation itself was a giant pole like structure, probably 50 feet tall with several large colorful balls or globes around it. Unusual location for sure, and even more of an unusual sight.

Eventually we got out of Utah and made it to Nevada. Oh, Nevada.

Nevada is one of the flattest, most dangerous, and loneliest states we’ve traveled to. There seems to be a great deal of poverty around. Many people live in old and falling apart trailers hours away from any sort of civilization. I question how people can live like this, but I suppose it is all they know. I’m not sure what people out here do for food, shopping, emergencies, and work. All I know is I couldn’t handle being stuck out here alone.

The reason I said that Nevada was dangerous deals with a rather long drive we took on a location known to locals as “the pass.” Apparently the area in question, which is a huge stretch of desert surrounded by mountains, is known for being extremely dangerous with issues of wind. We found this out first hand.

Highway digital signs posted messages about dangerous winds being up ahead, and boy were they right. Winds were reported to be 40+ mph. I didn’t think much of the warnings at first. When I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced winds moving at such high speeds before.

We were having a hard time controlling my car. I drove for the majority of the time in the pass, my mom who isn’t quite as strong as me, and I’m a weakling, had even more trouble trying to choose and stay in a lane thanks to the wind. The wind became so bad that two tractor trailers and two RVs had flipped over onto their sides into ditches along the road. It was a scary sight and made us even more cautious driving. It seemed like we would never get out of the desert and into civilization and safety. Thankfully after of hours in the wind storm we arrived to our hotel here in Sparks, Nevada. Reno is right down the road and the lights remind me of Las Vegas. Thankfully it’s quiet and peaceful here.

We probably could have made it to California tonight, but we decided it was best to relax after a long and stressful day on the road.

Tomorrow we should roll into Mountain View in the afternoon. I can’t wait. We’ve made great timing on this trip so far and thankfully the traffic has been non existent until tractor trailers started flying off the roadside.

Time to get some rest!

See you in California.

 

Driving across America: Day 3

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Today started off in Nebraska. For miles on end all that the eye could see was flat farmland. Everything seemed so dry and dull.

With scenery that is the same over and over again, or should I say lack of scenery, it’s easy to get bored. I almost found myself wanting to fall asleep at the wheel.

Since we had spent the night in Omaha, all my mother could think of was Omaha steaks, meat, and so forth.

Whenever we saw a cow on the side of the road, which there were many of, my mother would yell out to the cows saying, “run cows run! You don’t want to become food!” Let’s just say it was a frequently used phrase.

Seeing all the cows was a bit sad, knowing that most of them were probably being raised solely for the purpose to be slaughtered.

A lot of the cows seemed to spread out very far from the rest of the herd. We would be driving by a completely desserted location and there would be a cow just chilling out in the middle of a giant field. Maybe if the cows hide or roam that far away they have a better chance of survival?

Originally I thought we would be hitting Colorado today. However, we didn’t go through that state, and ended up heading through Wyoming. Wyoming was quite the experience.

Around 2p.m. as we were just in the beginning of Wyoming the sky started to get extremely dark. Far off in the distance it even appeared that there was a funnel cloud forming, but it was hard to tell for sure.

Before we knew it, the sky opened up with rain and hail. The conditions got progressively worse and it was quite spooky. The rain was falling down at such a fast speed and the hail kept pelting down, causing visibility to be low. To give you a perspective of how bad the storm on the prairie was, as the hail and rain came to an end we saw roughly 6 cars on the other side of the road piled up in a car crash. Thankfully we were safe and made sure to slow down when the storm unleashed its winds and rains down upon us.

As the weather improved, the real beauty of Wyoming started to appear before our eyes. For a little while we drove through some beautiful mountains in the absolute middle of nowhere. In the far distance you could see the mountains in our next state to head to tomorrow, Utah. You could even make out their snow capped tops. It was certainly a nice change of scenery.

Then, when I had thought I had seen it all so far here in the Midwest, as my mother is sleeping away next to me, mouth wide open, drooped over like a dead possum, I pass a sign for a town called Buford. According to the billboard advertising the town, the population is a grand total of…1. Apparently one man lives in the town all alone. The town itself appeared to consist of his house, a little gas station, and a trading post. Only in the midwest.

Tonight we are staying in a cute little area in a town called Little America. Yes, you read that right, Little America, Wyoming. Conveniently, the hotel chain, Little America has made home here. I suppose the town is named Little America only because the hotel is here and literally all that exists in this piece of land is the hotel and the buildings on the compound such as a gas station, restaurant, and a little shop. The room is nice and we found out the hotel offers 50 cent ice cream cones. You can’t beat that! And let me tell you, the ice cream hit the spot after several hundreds of miles of driving today.

Tomorrow we’re off to Salt Lake City, Utah. I’m looking forward to going to the home of mormons and the original home of the Sister Wives stars from TLC.

Until then, happy travels!

Driving Across America: Day 2 – Farmville

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Today we found ourselves driving through Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and eventually Nebraska where we are now.

It was a long day full of flat farm fields, minimal rest areas, and heat from the glaring sun.

I found myself questioning how people came to decide to stay and make a life for themselves in many of these middle states. There seemed to be nothing worth staying around for.

For most of the ride I felt like I was taking a drive through the past. Everything was very old, barns were falling apart all over the place and you could tell they had been standing there for decades, rotting away. There didn’t appear to be anything for miles. No matter what direction you looked everything seemed to blend in and look the same. Farm land, farm land, and more.

Occasionally you would spot a farm house along the way, typically in what seemed like the middle of absolute nowhere as if a tornado had decided that spot was efficient and a good place to plop a house down.

We felt like we were in the land of silos. Everywhere we went by where there was a hint of civilization you were bound to spot farm equipment.

What surprised me was the lack of animals. Yes, there were a number of cows grazing in the meadows along with the occasional horse, but when you think Midwest and farm land, don’t you think farm animals in abundance?

I though I would see chickens running about, goats scattered here and there, or more cow farms, but there wasn’t any of that in sight.

One sight that caught our eyes was the glorious windmills. The windmills put here are being used to harvest power, and they are bigger than any one I’ve ever seen before. Each blade, there are three per windmill, must have been around 50-100 feet in length. It was tough to tell while driving underneathe them how large they actually were. However, when we came upon a wind farm, and not just a random windmill here and there, I couldn’t help but be meerized by their beauty. There was just something so pretty and neat about them. For some the windmills are eyesores, but I found that in a deserted location like Iowa, the way the windmills turn in the wind resembles someone doing cartwheels in the fields. It was just a sight to see. Below is a picture of one of the windmills so you can see just how massive they are.

Also, I never thought I would run across the RV and Motor Home hall of fame.  Only in the Midwest!  I’m not too sure this would be a riveting stop but I’m sure some people must enjoy it?  Only in Iowa would a town have a name that sees made up by mistake.  Take a look at this picture, who names a town “What Cheer?”  I bet those folks aren’t too cheery.  Finally, the last off sight was the world’s biggest truck stop.  They had flashy lights and everything.  We were almost tempted to stop by.

What we’ve also noticed along the way was that the drivers out here are rather crazy. The speed limit on most of the highway is 70 so you expect people to be going fast, however, when you think Midwest it just seems to make me imagine things moving at a slower pace. The drivers here are not slow in any means. I feel I can comment on their driving abilities since I went to college on Long Island and I’m also from Massachusetts where drivers have a bad reputation.

This summer there appears to be a lot of road work being done on I-80. Don’t worry about it getting in the way of your driving plans though. There’s hardly anyone on the roads and we haven’t found ourselves being slown down yet due to construction, which is good.

While driving my mom and I had a brief moment of getting spooked when a bird came out of nowhere and swooped down right above the windshield and glided along the curvator of my car. Of course we both let out screeches of surprise but luckily we didn’t get hit! Unfortunately the bugs here in th Midwest are not as fortunate. My windshield has been collecting quite the collection of little flying friends. I can only imagine how dirty the car will be when we pull into Mountain View.

Tonight we’ve pulled into a Double Tree hotel in Omaha, Nebraska. I’m looking forward to dropping down yet head on the many fluffy pillows on my bed.

Tomorrow we will continue our trip through Nebraska and head towards Colorado. I’m hoping to stop in Denver, but who knows what our travels will have in plan for us.

Until then, happy travels.

Driving Across America: Day 1

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Today I set out from western Massachusetts with my car stuffed to the brim with my mother loaded in the passenger seat. We looked like two sardines in a tiny window lined can.

We’re headed for sunny California where I plan to move for the next chapter of my life.

Most people complain about packing. I’m more than guilty myself, but what people don’t always keep in mind is the difficulty that comes with packing for long distance driving and how to choose what stays behind, what comes along, and what lands in the trash can. I found myself challenged more than ever trying to pack my small car for my move to California. I own a bright orange Honda Fit Sport that I absolutely adore, but fitting in three suitcases of clothes, a giant Buddha head table, two bags for my mom, plenty of snacks, and god knows what else, is beyond stressful and difficult!

I recommend that if you find yourself traveling across the great US to only bring absolute essentials, aka clothing. I’m not sure what to expect weather wise during this trek, so it’s important to make sure you have an assortment of clothes on hand for any occasion. I unfortunately wasn’t keeping this in mind when I decided it was ok to just leave the suitcases I had packed with clothes from college as is, and only pack shorts and tank tops in my actual overnight bag for the hotel. Let me tell you, it’s pretty chilly out there today!

My trip today sent me out of Massachusetts, to Buffalo, Erie, and finally to Cincinnati.

New York surprised me a bit. I didn’t expect to see wine orchards after wine orchards along the way, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that a lot of the farm land in upper New York was full of yummy grapes.

Buffalo, Erie and Cincinnati were all a bit dull. Nothing seemed too exciting and the land got progressively flatter and flatter, only preparing me for the long hours to come in Nebraska, Iowa, and Nevada.

I was hoping for some neat roadside attractions along the way so far, but sadly there have been none. Hopefully once we get out west more there will be more things to see and stop to admire. Maybe there will be some silly tourist attractions out there. I sure hope so, it would be nice to get out and stretch while getting to see some new sights.

That brings me to the next important point to keep in mind. Don’t forget to stop and stop often. I’m a fan of driving and never stopping for breaks. That was always how I drove down to Long Island for college or back home to Mass. But, when you’re driving such a long drive, I recommend considering taking little stops every three hours or so. Your legs and back will greatly thank you. Plus, it’s a good excuse to take some time to get a snack, fuel up, and use the bathroom.

We stopped three times today on our drive to Ohio were we are staying for the night. It was nice to stop especially since it seemed we were attracting every storm cloud from New York and on. Driving in downpours, especially in the middle of nowhere, is not fun!

Moving on to chow. Food choices on the road were definitely limited. We’re taking the I-90/I-80 route to get out to Mountain View, and so far we’ve found you pretty much have to just stop wherever you see food. For lunch we stopped at a Roy Rogers. My chicken strips were a yucky pink color inside, and you can bet I’ll be turned off of that place now. Dinner was just McDonalds but luckily you can usually expect to get the same tasting meal at any McDonalds, so in my mind it’s a safe option.

Tonight we picked a hotel right off the highway to catch up on some rest. It’s nothing spectacular, but it has a TV and free Wifi and breakfast so it’s not too bad. When looking for places to stay on the road, look for places that offer free wifi. It helps eleviate boredom and let’s you stay up to date on travel plans, weather, and so forth.

Driving long distance is tiring. So with that, I think we should call it a day.

I look forward to seeing what adventures tomorrow brings when we hit the “I” states, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa.

Catch up with me tomorrrow.

For now, happy travels!