Friday, September 28

Go West, Young Man

Odometer: 6291
Location: Seattle, WA
States visited: Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington

I love traveling solo. I have always found that when it comes to getting in touch with the culture and character of a place, you will always lose a little something by having a group to fall back on socially. Having done Europe, South America and various American cities on my own, I knew that this journey would benefit from my relative solitude. But when my brother told me he’d be up for going with me to Seattle and then down to Dallas, drives of 30 and 32 hours, respectively, it didn’t take much to convince me. I believe after a quick, “Are you serious?” I gave an immediate “Definitely!” The crazy thing is that he returned from an around the world trip on Monday afternoon, with his most recent stay in Australia. Even if he had to sleep half the journey, he would be a major benefit to getting to the destinations safely and with some measure of sanity.

When I hit the road for the first game, I had a month to plan and, aside from forgetting my toiletry bag until I was in Hyde Park, departure went without issue. Even then, I was only going to be away from home for three weeks on that stint. This exit was entirely different. I had a day to pull everything together for two and a half months on the road. I can now say with great authority that staying up until 3am the night before a 2000 mile drive is not recommended.

So we set forth a little later than planned on Tuesday morning, knowing that two-thirds of the country lay before us. My brother’s internal clock was still on Australian time. I have no idea how he even managed to get in the car, let alone stay awake most of the way.

On my way out of Chicago, it was somehow fitting that I drove directly past the building where I spent the last ten years in a career in market research. It was a job I greatly enjoyed over that time, but so far this one has been even more fulfilling. The experience of leaving my only place of employment since college was an extremely surreal one. I had no delusions of spending my entire working career with the same company, and I certainly didn’t plan on lasting a decade. It was very difficult to leave a place with interesting work and incredible people. I haven’t given the job much thought since I first hit the road for South Bend, but now I have a bit more perspective on things. After four weeks, I can safely say that my new occupation is beyond full time and the most engaging challenge I’ve ever taken up.

Wisconsin and Minnesota felt like old hat, especially since they came at the outset of the drive. South Dakota is a much bigger state than people realize. It is loaded with touristy locales, at least based on the billboards along the way. There are various caves, a petrified forest, Wall Drug, and something called the Corn Palace, just to name a few. I have no idea how big tourism is in SD’s GDP, but I’m certain the billboard business is healthy. Because people don’t really visit South Dakota as a destination all that often, most of the traffic consists of drivers passing through. And if they’re passing through South Dakota, they’re on a really long drive. So it makes sense that they’d want to break the journey up a bit with a stop at the Corn Palace, especially if they have restless kids. I have to imagine that in-auto DVD players are killing the Corn Palace’s revenue. We spent Tuesday night at a friend’s place in Rapid City, just twenty miles from Mount Rushmore. Sadly, there wasn’t time for a visit. Maybe when I do an Alfred Hitchcock book, I can return and spend a little more time. The more upsetting part was only having a couple awake hours to visit with a friend I hadn’t seen in three years (and two kids!). Up and out early, we hit the road and entered Wyoming. The terrain is hilly, but totally vacant. Despite the lack of landmarks, I managed to miss the police officer who clocked me at 88 in a 75. I had a firm goal of zero tickets on this endeavor. So much for that. In Wyoming, without a Corn Palace to attract tourist dollars, they have to generate revenue through speeding tickets. I can’t blame them, and it was foolish of me to turn off the cruise control. I was asking for it. From there, we drove through Montana for about nine hours. After crossing the Idaho panhandle at sunset, we settled in for the last leg. Four hours across Washington. My brother has done this drive several times and compares eastern Washington to Indiana. Lucky for us it was dark by then and we couldn’t see what we were missing. Just west of Spokane, with my brother at the wheel, we were nabbed for 78 in a 70. It was unbelievable. But the cop let us go with a light warning. The going theory is that they pull a lot of people over in Spokane , hunting for drug addicts. While we probably seemed a bit haggard after 1600 miles, we were clearly sober. By 11:30, we had arrived at our destination in Seattle, ready to crash out for a much deserved sleep. In hindsight, the highway 90 drive is one that would best be served by a leisurely pace. But the great northwest beckoned and we had friends to see. Abe, Teddy, George, Thomas and the rest of the sights will have to wait for the next time around.

Finally, I was contacted by a kindred spirit the other day who is also traveling around the country and taking in a whopping 24 games(!) this season. I thought my schedule was aggressive. He also has a blog covering his journey as well. His name is Jonathan and you can track his progress here.

1 comment:

Kozy said...

Sounds like it was a great drive! I wonder what the patrol at rest-stops near Spokane must be like??

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