Steve and I drove his car across the country because he moved to San Francisco. Basically the route we took was 80 West, the only other roads involved were local to the start and finish points [map]. Here is my journal from the trip…
Sunday – Ohio, Indiana, Illinois into Grinnell, Iowa
Yesterday was the first day of our trip. Steve had to say goodbye to his dad and sister again. It was very sad. We did some running around, and when we left my house I shed a few tears – it was the last time he’d be there (most likely). We were finally on our way at 2:30 in the afternoon.
There wasn’t too much to see yet on our journey. Around Toledo, Ohio there was a really cool pumpkin patch – it was a huge bright orange stripe in the distance, very neat. We stopped in Mokena, Illinois for dinner at Denny’s. When we walked in everyone starred – we obviously didn’t fit in somehow. There was a guy there making animal balloons for kids (they eat free on Saturdays). He came over to our table and I ordered a blue giraffe. I asked him how he learned to make them so well. He said his wife taught him, but there are schools for it. I wonder how much that costs and what that would be like – funny!
We decided to keep driving for a while, which turned out to be a bad idea because when we looked for a hotel in a random town they were all booked – two of the cities had football events and the third had pheasant hunting season. Go figure! We finally got a good, cheap one in Grinnell, Illinois at 1am – shoo!
Monday – Iowa and Nebraska into Cheyenne, Wyoming
Yesterday’s trip took us through the rest of Iowa, which we both thought looked a lot like southern Ohio (we anticipated flat boring plains), nothing eventful really. Nebraska turned into flat, boring corn fields – it all looked the same: field, barn, irrigation system, tree or two; repeat. It took all day to get through half of Iowa and all of Nebraska. Around Brule, Nebraska we came upon the foulest stink either of us had ever smelled. It smelled like a port-a-potty graveyard. The peak of the stench lasted about 5 miles, and then it lightly lingered for another 15 miles or so. We could not breath it in, it was so bad. Through the west end of Nebraska we saw some strange light in the sky – it might have been clouds, but it looked more like it was as far away as the stars, very interesting.
We stopped for the night in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We ate dinner at a place in the city called Sanford’s. It was pretty good food, but it was a media overload after seeing nothing but darkness and black through several hours of driving. It had road signs, sports flags, posters, photos, TV’sï¿½ way too much to take in at once.
Hopefully now we’ll start to see some awesome scenery today. Oh yeah, and my dad called this morning to say that my half-sister, Danielle, had her baby boy, Evan, yesterday – 6 lbs.
Tuesday – Wyoming into Salt Lake City, Utah
Yesterday Wyoming started out soooo beautiful, mountains in the distance, and clouds in the sky (none on either of the two days before). Every turn we took revealed a new set of mountains and each one was very different from the last – all gorgeous. And there were turns in the road; Iowa and Nebraska were pretty straight for the most part.
We saw a wild horse in Wyoming, up on a hill right beside the freeway. It was black, and shaggy, leading us to believe that it was wild – a gorgeous animal. The sky towards the end of the day was tremendous – so many different clouds and we could see so much landï¿½ and so far.
Driving through Salt Lake City was neat – you have the typical nasty, boring strips of stores, but behind them are gorgeous mountains. At a gas station back in Wyoming Steve had messed up his windshield wiper, so when we got there we stopped at a dealership to have them fix it. We asked the guy if he had any suggestions for good restaurants, something unique to the locality and after much hard thought he said he liked Outback Steak House. Yeah, we don’t have any of those in Ohio.
The first hotel we stopped at had only a few cars in the parking lot, so we thought there would be plenty of rooms. However the guy behind the desk claimed that there was only one room and it was about $200 per night. That price was outrageous. I asked if there was something going on in town that would cause the lack of rooms, and he said no, their just very busy on Monday through Thursday. Steve thought maybe he was being rude, since we weren’t married. The next hotel had plenty of rooms, so who knows.
We ended up driving downtown to eat dinner at a local brewery and we discovered that there were big orange flags on each side of the street, which you are supposed to use to help increase your visibility as you cross the road – hilarious [picture]! The city is pretty small, not too much to see.
Today we plan on getting to Reno and staying there for the night.
Wednesday – Utah, Nevada into Lake Tahoe, California
Yesterday was a long day of driving. Getting through Utah was quick, but Nevada took all day. We continued past Reno and are staying in Lake Tahoe, California side for two nights (the lake is split, half in California and half in Nevada). Finally in the state of our destination! Three more hours of driving and we’ll be in San Francisco.
As we drove through Utah and Nevada, the mountains were gorgeous again – every turn revealed a hidden treasure. And the sky was immaculate, again. At times we could see entire trains, from engine to caboose, because everything was so wide open. Occasionally we’d pass these scary road signs that read, “Prison area, hitchhiking prohibited.”
The second half of Utah was this long straight stretch of highway that went on for 77 miles [picture]. As we began we could see a mountain in the distance that turned out to be at the very end of the stretch – so we were seeing it from 77 miles away – neat! The stretch rode beside the Evaporation Basin [Read more about the area]. A lot of people must go out there to drink, because there were beer bottles stuck in the sand upside down and small rocks spread out to spell words. There was also a strange sculpture about 35 miles into it, tons of empty space, then bam – sculpture right in the middle [picture]. So weird. The Bonneville Salt Flats were on the way too, covered with water this time of year [picture].
In Nevada there was a farm house with horses (there weren’t a lot of houses for the most part) and it had a mountain / hill right behind it. Could you imagine waking up to that beautiful scenery everyday?
When we got to the Tahoe area we saw a lot of crossing signs – I mention them because there were so many, and here is how I interpreted the black silhouettes: playful bull crossing, deer / gazelle crossing, cowboy on horse crossing, bear and baby bear crossing, bike crossing, school bus crossing – I’m just picturing a school bus running across the roadï¿½ funny.
Our hotel room is very nice, and luckily it is off-season, because if it wasn’t the room rate would be almost four times more! We’re going to try to do some cool stuff here today. No driving, yay!
Thursday – Lake Tahoe, Again
Yesterday we drove around the lake [pictures]. We stopped several times to catch the unbelievable view and ate lunch on the opposite side. We didn’t take any tours or anything because they were all closed (off-season). As we drove around the lake there were parts where the road dropped off at the side, and there were no guard rails – at one point neither side had them! That was pretty scary, glad I wasn’t driving!
Some of the homes around the lake were just gorgeous – I can’t imagine living here. The only way to do it would be if you were rich and didn’t have to work. As I was looking at the homes I thought they resembled the estate in the Godfather II – and wouldn’t you know it, that’s where it was, in Lake Tahoe (I found out later)!
The lake is divided by Nevada and California. Right where that state line is Nevada has big casinos (both sides of the lake) – I mean right next to the state line, hilarious. Actually, most of the small cities we passed through in Nevada all had casinos. I am thinking they are obsessed with gambling or something.
The drive around the lake took about 4 hours with stopping – go figure on the day off we ended up driving! The rest of the day we just rested in the room. Then we walked across the street for dinner. It was freezing outside and neither of us had winter coats on. But I’m still glad we walked instead of drove!
I miss my dog. I hope he’s doing alright with the neighbors!
Friday – Into San Francisco, California
So yesterday we finished the last day of our journey, a trip that should’ve taken about three to three and half hours – ended up taking around five. Why? Because as we left Tahoe it was snowing and Steve’s rear tires were on their last threads. I started the drive, and I was very nervous for several reasons: it was not my car, the roads twisted and turned like mad (it was a mountain after all), the tires were bad, and I felt like Steve was analyzing every little thing I did (though he didn’t say anything) – if the situation were reversed and he were driving my car I would’ve done the same. I drove for about an hour, then the rear end started sliding a bit and I was done. Steve drove the rest of the way, until it got unbearable near Sacramento. We pulled off and found a tire dealer. Luckily they didn’t rip him off – they cost about the same as if he’d gotten them anywhere else.
As we finally started to approach San Francisco, I could see hills all around, but it was still very cloudy and rainy, so visibility was not so good. When we crossed the San Mateo Bridge (that’s the city he’ll be living in) I saw a rainbow – strong and bright. Brighter than any other one I have ever seen, it was beautiful! I could just make out the city across the bay. They say it never (barely ever) rains in San Francisco, go figure my first glimpse of it is covered in rain and clouds!
The first thing we did was go see the house. It looked just like the pictures he took last month [pictures]. We ended up talking to Robin (the landlady) and her husband for quite some time. They were telling us what to do in San Francisco and what to expect. They suggested a restaurant for the evening – seafood, yum! It was really good food, but there was a funky smell in the room. We were both pretty tired from our stressful day, so we crashed at the hotel after that. Lot’s planned for today and tomorrow.
Saturday – San Francisco, California
Yesterday we went to Muir Woods, and on the way I got to see a good portion of the city and surrounding areas [pictures]. It is definitely different. Seeing hills, steep hills, throughout the city is very strange. The bay is gorgeous – it’s as if they planned the freeways to give you an awesome view all the way around. The road to the woods is really cool too – has an amazing view of a tree-covered valley ending at the ocean. And the air is filled with the sweet aroma of Eucalyptus trees.
Then there were the trees of Muir Woods – the tallest trees on the planet – Redwoods [pictures]. I’ve wanted to see them since I was a young girl. Man, are they big! Walking through that forest is like nothing else, those trees are thousands of years old. Reminds me how small our lives really are. On the way there we had to cross the Golden Gate Bridge – that was awesome as well [pictures].
Later that night we parked in front of the house and walked to downtown San Mateo to eat dinner and catch a movie. The city was a lot bigger than either of us expected. There are tons of shops and restaurants, and the movie theater – within walking distance! So cool! And half of the waiting area for the movies is outside – like they assume the weather will be nice (it usually is).
Sunday – San Francisco, Last Day
Yesterday we went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Much bigger than I thought it would be; it has about four floors worth of stuff. We spent a good portion of the day looking at two of the floors. One of the special exhibits was Liechtenstein, which turned out to be a delightful surprise. I was mostly familiar with his earlier stuff, just the comic paintings, but later in his career he kept the comic style while tackling other subject matter. Like still life’s and living room scenes. One of his paintings was a living room scene that included pieces of his earlier works – that one was a really neat concept.
The piece in the entire museum that upset us the most was one by Rauschenberg, White Painting. Just three large canvases, painted white – flat with no texture. Neither of us was buying into that one. Overall it was a very impressive museum. They had Duchamp’s Fountain, and many pieces by Matisse, Miro, a few from Diego Rivera and Frida. Some very good work in that place, very inspiring.
After the museum we headed out to the beach so that I could see the Pacific Ocean for the first time ever [pictures]. The waves seemed to be about average size; the rocks and the beach were beautiful. We took our shoes off to avoid filling them with sand, which turned out to be a bad idea because our feet got cold very quickly.
That evening we walked to downtown San Mateo again and ate some very yummy sushi. For desert we had Cold Stone Creamery and the walk back to the car probably wasn’t enough to undo the damage of what we ate!
Then back to the hotel for our last night together, as I am leaving today and very sad about it. I had a really great time, and driving across the country was a great experience – I think that everyone should do it at least once in their lifetime.