Originally published 10/09/2008
With so much stuff to pack, I was glad that I took off work that Wednesday. The original plan was to pack the car Tuesday night and Wednesday Morning, then leave from Work (an hour closer to my goal) on Wednesday Night at 8pm. But packing, and repacking took all day Wednesday and when I left, it was after 10pm. [ Mapquest says Las Vegas is 33 hours away. Perhaps, if you never sleep, drive 66mph continuously, and never stop for a bathroom break or gas.] I calculated it at 48 hours best time. But I hadn’t calculated in crossing three time zones.
So, around 10pm, I pulled out of my driveway and hit the road. By 2am I had reached the western end of Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh and, after working all day to pack, I finally had to stop. I set my alarm clock for 2 hours and crashed. 4 am found me ready to go again and I crossed into Ohio and stopped for a fast-food breakfast while the sun rose.
Onward then, across Ohio, and into Indiana, stopping every 280 miles or so to refill the tank. There, Route 80 flirts with the Michigan border and enters into Elkhart. RV capital of the U.S. as borne out by all the RV, trailer, and motor home plants along the highway and capped by the National RV and Motorhome Hall of Fame! No time to stop and look though, so I moved onward into Illinois. The day passed slowly as I crossed from one state to the next. After Illinois came Iowa, then Nebraska. By 10pm, 24 hours after leaving home, I pulled into a rest stop near North Platte and set the alarm for 2 hours again. 4 hours later I woke up. The road was starting to take its toll.
Back on the road again, in the wee hours of the morning, I cut southwest on 76 to Denver where the sun was just coming up. There, I stopped for gas and noticed the presence of many SUVs all bearing Homeland Security markings. An entire parade of them passed the station while three others filled up at the pumps nearby. I realized it must have been because the Democrats were coming to town.
Heading west out of Denver I climbed well beyond one mile above sea level and my car started to complain about the thinning air. On a road posted as 75mph, I could barely get to 60 going up hills, I stayed in the truck lane as other cars and trucks flew past. Farther up the mountain, I mistook an off ramp for regular route 70 at a split in the highway and found myself in a sleepy little gold mine town. I turned around and headed back toward the real Route 70. This is where I finally got out the camera and started taking pictures.
Once back on the highway, the road entered a tunnel through the mountain and at the other end, the view was spectacular. I stopped outside the exit to the tunnel and took a shot of the mountains. There was still snow on some of the higher peaks.
From there the road began to head downward, into Glen Rock Canyon where it wound its way, at 75mph, through the mountains and where I discovered that Mountain Dew, actually makes me sleepier. I can’t count the number of times, winding through the canyon, that I started to nod off, but I shook it off each time. It’s a long way down to the river if you run off the road there.
Route 70 passes through several winter recreation towns, all of which seem to be growing and building, then down off the mountains to the foothills and the flats beyond. I realized then, that I had crossed the Great Divide and entered Utah.
In Utah the brushy flats contrast with what appears from a distance to be large rocks, looking almost as if thrown from space and lodged in the flat land at odd angles. This mildly warm desert area runs on for miles. I stopped briefly to admire a few scenic spots along the way.
The Miracle of the Gas Tank
Toward mid-afternoon I checked my gas guage, it appeared as if it had not moved in some time. Then, I checked my trip odometer to find it had been more than 380 miles since filling the tank. That should be impossible, the guage must not be working, and there am I , 25 miles from the nearest town wondering when the fumes would run out. Panic sets in, I slowed from 75 to 55, hoping to make my gas last. The tank said around 1/8 full, but the low gas light, which I hadn’t even seen in years, was blinking regularly. I pictured myself unloading the bike and peddling 20 miles for gas. Why hadn’t I filled up that spare gas can before I got this far? (same reason the two water cans are empty, weight, that’s why)
Eventually, I did make it to the next place with gas, a small outpost some 40 miles from the next big town, and paid the highest price ever for gas, $4.34 / gal. [ No doubt thanks to Utah's huge taxes, which pushed all the gas prices in that state above $4 per gallon. The cheapest gas I found there was $4.09.] I put just enough gas in the tank to get to the next big town and off I went at 75mph again. Funny, but the gas guage seemed to be working again, so, I wondered, how did I get so far on one tank?
[Editors note: I checked my gas receipts to make sure I hadn't forgotten a fill up somewhere between Denver and Central Utah, I had not, but the distance was such that I probably forgot to reset my MPG trip odometer. That would account for why it seemed like I had gone more than 380 miles, although if I had forgotten the trip odometer, it should have read closer to 460 miles instead of 380.]
Lost – in Las Vegas
Pushing ever onward, route 70 curves down toward the Southwest cutting through more Utah desert, then ends at Route 15. Jumping onto 15, I headed south, cutting across a corner of Arizona into Nevada, North of Las Vegas. This stretch of road no longer felt like a warm summer day. For most of the trip, I had kept the windows rolled down and avoided using the AC to save gas. The road there felt more like driving near a furnace, as the temperatures in that part of the desert easily reach over 110 during the day.
I alternated between air conditioning and trying to acclimate myself to the heat. After all, the Black Rock Desert, where I was headed, can hit 115 degrees some afternoons, and I needed to be ready to handle that kind of heat. I was doing well with that until I got to Las Vegas, slowed down and got lost. Following the directions from Mapquest, I got off Route 15 at Las Vegas and promptly got lost for over an hour. The directions were wrong, the Northeast part of LV that they dropped me into is an area divided by train tracks that go on forever without a crossing and the communities there are gated and hard to bypass. Eventually I figured out that one of the directions was bad and proceeded to find my way through 6 or more miles of city streets (these were Mapquest’s idea of a direct way to get to my hotel. I found out later that I could have stayed on the freeway and gotten there in 15 minutes, via main routes.)
I finally arrived at the hotel around 7pm. With time zone changes, that ended up being exactly 48 hours. Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall, expecting an older, run-down hotel, in the older part of town. I was pleasantly surprised to see that after 30 years, this part of town had become nicer and the hotel was a large, family-oriented one with spacious rooms and great restaurants. I chose this hotel for it’s low prices and the fact that it was just up the street from the CruiseAmerica RV rental office.
I hit the shower and after two days of fast-food – I was ready for a real meal. I headed for the restaurant downstairs! The atrium / lobby of the hotel is a park-like area with a waterfall and laser light show at night, there is also a fast-food court there and several good restaurants. They even have a multi-screen theater there, but I was too tired to think about anything but food and sleep.