So I was debating whether or not to post my experiences on my trip cross-country. On the one hand, I absolutely love the idea of electronic solitude and time apart from the world of electronic communication, yet, I found that it is nearly impossible to break out of the addiction to electronic communication that we all seem to suffer from; therefore, I’ll be making nightly posts about my road-trip experiences. I hope to include as much as I can and re-write them in order to create a greater body of work, but for now, what you’ll end up reading is the rough draft of my experiences driving coast to coast, from California to Washington, DC.
I rarely find the motivation to get up at five in the morning. Something about the lack of emerging sunlight and the indiscernible fatigue brought on by anticipatory restlessness and an intrinsic fear of forgetting things makes rising at such an hour an immense chore. Yet, I found myself able to hit the snooze button only once so, I was up by five-fifteen and was making coffee by 5:30am. I had a bit of a late start, only twenty minutes, but still a bit later than I would’ve liked. Considering that I’m moving the most essential items I left at home when I moved out to DC for college, I was more acutely concerned about forgetting things. My dad doesn’t quite approve of me having the car so, if I forgot something at home, it would take some convincing for me to have him ship it out, even if I offer to pay; time is money thus the effort he’d have to put in boxing something up and taking it to the post office doesn’t quite equal the shipping cost I’d reimburse him for. But that’s a minor point. I double checked, triple checked, and reassured myself I had everything and left the house I grew up in around 6 in the morning, this being likely the last time I see the house under the ownership of one my parents. I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet, but that house was a big part of my life and seeing it with different occupants and furniture in the future might be a bit much for me.
Anyways, I gassed the car up and was on the road around 6:30, a slight fog still lingering over the bay characteristic of a San Francisco morning. Traffic was light, just the early-birds trying to make it to work before the counterparts in order to prove some sort of intrinsic worth so, apart from the occasional merge-induced slowdown, I was able to cruise out of the Bay Area with all deliberate speed. What’s nice about driving east from San Francisco is that you’re essentially chasing the rising sun. You can see it emerging over the horizon and the closer you get, the more elusive it becomes, shining its rays into your retinas leading to a permanent squint that you get used to after a while. While I’ve done the drive up to Reno at least a thousand times, I’m always stricken by how beautiful it really is. The amber halo of downtown Sacramento in the morning, the greenish fields of strawberries, orchards of walnuts, and abandoned farm equipment really seem to stick out amongst the speeding cars of the highway and give the drive and interesting quality.
I made it to Truckee in record time, about two and a half hours and stopped at one of my favorite diners in the country for breakfast. This place used to be called Andy’s but was sold and renamed Jax, a name I tend to eschew due to sentimentality. I still call it Andy’s and it will always remain as such but, names placed aside, the most important part is the food. Having not eaten a full breakfast, I was rather looking forward to several cups of coffee and some pancakes, which I ended up getting, alongside some hashbrowns and poached eggs (my staple, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t get those at a diner). The waitress I had was Russian and I had to suppress the urge to speak the few words of Russian I knew, for fear of coming off too cultured and condescending. Besides, I had about three plates worth of food to deal with in the first place.
I ate quickly, not wanting to lose time. The drive from SF to Salt Lake City is about 750 miles and takes around 12 hours, not including rest stops. My stop in Truckee was the longest I took, as the other three stops I made were for gas and rest. Once you get passed Reno, you realize how expansive Nevada (and America) really is. I drove for hundreds of miles with nothing but distant crags and desert brush, along with the occasional passing car, for accompaniment. I wish I was able to take pictures to express how magnificent the desert scenery really is, but they wouldn’t do it justice. The desert is an expansive space and makes one feel akin to the meerkats and random bugs that appear every now and then; the only difference is that I have better eyesight and am in a car going about eighty miles an hour.
The first gas stop I made was in a little town called Lovelock. Most of these small, I-80 towns seem to be the place where dreams go to die; where people who once had hopes and aspirations seemed to settle into whatever work was available in the area. The gas station had a little jar by the register, as one of the employees lost her home and all her possessions in a fire and was soliciting donations. I contemplated dropping a couple measly dollars into the jar, but hesitated too long and by the time I had made up my mind, I was out the door. I still feel absolutely horrible for not putting even one cent into the jar, but it’s no use to plague yourself with hindsight pining. I did what I planned on doing, to just keep driving. Between gas stops I listened to an audio recording of The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov, which made the drive even more interesting yet made me conclude that most 19th century Russian playwrights are winey, melancholic ideologues. I stopped for gas in Elko, about a hundred miles from the Nevada-Utah boarder, and that was enough to get me from there to Salt Lake City.
How should I describe the Salt Flats? Have you ever driving for 80+ miles on a completely straight road? If not, then imagine that with fields of white salt baking in the summer sun on both sides of the highway and that’s what it’s like. There are mountains in the distance, teasing you with the thought of an elevation change and a winding road heading something other than east, but those are too far away to make things interesting. Luckily, I had cruise control, an iPod, and some amount of energy so I was able to make it through the last part of the drive into SLC.
Salt Lake is a rather interesting town, you’d think it would be all highbrow religious and puritan, but given the amount of bars and strip clubs that I passed by, the city is more interesting than meets the eye. At the hostel I stayed at I wound up talking to this 50 year old carpenter, whose name eclipses me (let’s call him Adam for now). I’ll do a separate post on him in the future, as he had a really eclectic life and told me some neat stories. There was also a man with a handlebar mustache who was in the process of pulling out his own tooth—more on this later as well. My dinner consisted of snacks I had in my car and a bike ride to Bar-X, the ‘hipster’ bar about a block away from the Mormon temple at the center of the city. Drinks were expensive, but I splurged a bit getting a Moscow mule, some absinthe (with burnt sugar to boot!), and bourbon on the rocks to start. Do you remember the saying about how one doesn’t forget how to ride a bike? Well, there definitely is some truth to that. I was able to bike back to the hostel, completely not sober, all while able to ride with no hands and hop curbs—and this is after a year of not having a bicycle. I definitely enjoyed that and it was a good way to cap off the night, that and a couple cigarettes and good conversation with Adam before I retired to my room. Tomorrow it’s on to Boulder and a visit with my brother, which I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I plan on driving through Rocky Mountain National Park so expect a large post about that in the very near future.