Jun 252017

I realized in writing a post today that I wanted to link to this one, so I’ve resurrected it. Originally posted August 3, 2003, about my drive out to start law school.

As if relocating across the country weren’t emotionally stressful enough, the moving itself caused all sorts of hassles and elevated blood pressure. It took two days and several emergency trips to UPS (too much stuff!) to pack up my car to the gills (where on earth did I get all this stuff????) and then four days to then drive from Santa Clara, CA to Boston, MA.

The most interesting day was probably Day 2 when I went from Salt Lake City to Omaha. First I nearly failed Basic Roadtripping 101 when I almost ran out of gas. That morning when I left Salt Lake there seemed to be enough left in the tank to get me to Evanston, WY, where I had planned to stop and get breakfast. It’s the border town, only 60-70 miles away, and I figured it would be more efficient to hit the road right away and get the gas when I’d be ready to eat. My car generally gets great mileage so I didn’t think the extra miles would pose any problem at all. However, I neglected to calculate the loss of fuel efficiency that comes from lugging a car hauling a gazillion pounds of stuff (approx. 1/2 gazillion kilograms for you metric types) up the northerly spires of the Rocky Mountains. As I was climbing the gas gauge started to drop precipitously low. When I passed the sign indicating 22 miles to go, I figured I was toast. I took out my cell phone and started watching the mileage markers so that I could give AAA precise location information about where to find me when I inevitably stalled out.

And then, over a ridge, like an oasis in a desert, was the first exit in Wyoming. With a gas station at the end of it. I nursed my car down the exit ramp and pulled up to the pump. I’ve never been so happy to be at a gas station before. Had you been there you would have seen me lovingly pat my dashboard and say, “Good car! Very good car!” Next you would have seen me slap myself upside the head for being such a moron.

Gas purchased, and a new personal policy passed to always top off the tank any time I stopped, I headed off across the vastness of Wyoming. I have a book called Rising from the Plains which is about the geology of Wyoming. Apparently the state has some very interesting geological features, some of which are visible from I-80. Unfortunately, while the state may be interesting from a plate-tectonic standpoint, it’s not all that interesting from an automotive touring standpoint. Until about Laramie when the terrain gets more varied with buttes and valleys chasing each other to see which can be the highest.

Heading through the hills surrounding Cheyenne, the friendly fluffy rainbow-bearing clouds from the day before had started ganging up into some nasty looking storm clouds. As I descended out of the hills into Nebraska, I saw in the rearview mirror dark charcoal skies with a lightning bolt slicing through to the ground. Growing up back East I’d seen thunderstorms build up before, but they’d tended to swell up more slowly as they inhaled all the humidity. Whereas in Nebraska follicles of moisture careened into vengeful atmospheric monsters with great speed and viciousness.

When I was a little I had one of those irrational childhood fears of thunderstorms, probably because they were loud. It was only when I grew up and found out that thunderstorms could actually be dangerous that the fear turned more rational. So as raindrops started dripping onto me I began trying to outrace the storm. And good thing too, because as I happened to glance off to the right I saw a swirling patch of dirt. It looked a little bit like the clear air dustdevils I’ve seen while driving through the Nevada desert. But it was bigger, and it was connected by a ghostly funnel silhouette to a big nasty cloud up above.

I’m no idiot, I saw what happened to Dorothy. Tornadoes cause all sorts of havoc and I wanted nothing to do with this one. Fortunately, it was heading southeast and I was just heading east so it posed no threat to me, other than the inherent danger that comes from zipping down a highway while looking at a tornado.

For the most part, I managed to avoid other calamitous weather. The only rain of any significance fell just as I was crossing the Hudson River and ended by Connecticut. I was originally going to cross at the George Washington Bridge at the eastern end of Route 80 so that I could say I’d gone from Bridge to Bridge (Bay Bridge to GWB). But then my dad told me that 80 technically stopped in Teaneck, NJ, and there just didn’t seem to be anything romantic about saying I’d driven from Bridge to Teaneck. Disillusioned and tired, apathy took over and so in Pennsylvania I veered off to I-84 instead.

However it’s too bad I didn’t drive through New York City, because with all of the beautiful flitting butterflies smashed on my windshield I could have used the services of those famous Squeegee Men.