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The 1450 Mile Roadtrip

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First of all let me give you a bit of a background on this trip.  A very good friend of mine, Josh, moved to Phoenix from our hometown of Spokane, WA a few years ago. He is the type of friend I would do almost anything for. He was teaching in Phoenix and due to budget cuts at the district he lost his job. His wife also gave birth to their third kid a couple months ago after about 6 weeks in the hospital on bed rest and the baby was 6 weeks premature so he had to be in the hospital for quite a while before he could come home. Because of these issues he decided now would be a great time to move back to Spokane and I couldn’t be happier.

His wife flew up here with their new baby but they still had 2 cars they needed to get up here.  Josh is driving one of them up with their other two kids and I volunteered to fly down and drive their other car up.  So that is how this trip came about in the first place.  Now on to the trip report.

As I was thinking about how to write all this up I realized that I will be getting off on many excurseses (sidenotes or rabbit trails) as I recap the trip but that just ads to the excitement.

Tuesday morning I woke up at 6:30 to catch a flight down to Phoenix. I didn’t sleep well that night due to it being very freaking hot in my house and a decent wind and thunderstorm blew through at about 2:30 waking me up.  So I had about 3 1/2 to 4 hours or so of sleep.  Not a good start to a long drive. 

I got on the flight which was totally full and took my seat.  A young guy came and was seated in my row and we were both hoping we wouldn’t have to deal with a 350 pound guy wedged between us.  Luckily a younger girl (maybe 18 or 19) had the middle seat.  Unluckily she was, how to put this gently, not fat but not thin either. She had a few extra pounds on her but I am guessing by the way she was dressed that she thought she was a supermodel.  She was wearing way too few clothes for someone of her build.  Her shorts were way too short and her shirt was way too short and tight causing some very unsightly rolls exposed that shouldn’t have been.

Anyway, the flight was very uneventful and I got into Phoenix at about 11 AM.  Josh picked me up and we headed to his apartment to pick up his family so we could head to lunch.  When we arrived his oldest son, Joshua, greeted me by screaming “Joe’s here!!! Joe’s here!!!”.  Apparently he had been looking forward to me coming which was sweet.  He also invited me to help him in the bathroom but I graciously declined.  Their daughter, Nadine, played the whole shy and frightened game for about 30 seconds but warmed up to me very quickly. 

So it is off to lunch.  We decided on Popeye’s for some fried chicken.  Up here in Spokane we don’t have Popeye’s and it is by far my favorite fast food fried chicken.  If I could pick two restaurants to come to Spokane it would be Popeye’s and Waffle House.  Yeah, I know, those are both pretty high up on the white trash scale but I would probably eat at those two restaurants a dozen times a week if we had them here.

They had a special running where you could get a leg and thigh for just 99 cents.  So I ordered 3 of those for myself along with a couple biscuits.  Of course I got the spicy version which is amazing.  6 pieces of spicy, greasy chicken might not be the best way to start a long drive but what the heck.  I might be a long time before I get Popeye’s again. While we were ordering a lady bumped into Nadine and she apologized and Nadine responded by saying “Where’s Joe?”

So after eating and feeling fat and satisfied I get in the car and head out.  Now, about the car… The vehicle in question is a 10 year old Suzuki Esteem that Pam bought when she lived here in Spokane.  For a cheap first car it is a fine choice.  As a second car for a family that will mostly be driving around town it is a fine choice.  For a long road trip it is a poor choice.  I am used to my big Yukon where I can spread out and relax so squeezing into that car was very different for me.  No matter where I put my knees or elbows they were banging on something hard and plastic. Not a great feeling if you are gonna be spending 20+ hours straight in the car. Also 2nd gear didn’t work which wasn’t a problem once I got on the highway but around town it is a bit annoying. And with a measly 4 cylinders compared to the 8 in the Yukon it didn’t exactly have the power I am used to.

I get on the 10, take that to the 101, and then to the 60. The problem is while going through Sun City and Suprise the 60 has about a dozen stop lights all timed perfectly so I hit them all.  Add in the fact that there was no second gear and I had to go from first to third every time this was not the perfect start. On another trip up from Phoenix a few years ago I was driving with a friend who enjoyed disrobing mostly at appropriate occasions and sometime at only semi-appropriate ones. As we were driving this stretch of road I looked over and see he is mooning a group of old people standing on a corner. We haven’t even got out of the city and he is already traumatizing the locals.  Once I got past Suprise it was clear sailing until Wickenberg where I got on the 93. 

The 93 goes up through a big Joshua Tree forest which is pretty cool.  Then you come to Wikieup. Not sure how to describe this little town.  Lots of rundown buildings surrounded by trailers and mobile homes.  I have no idea why someone would choose to live in a place like this.  There are plenty of other nice towns to live in as opposed to this one which looked like a giant junkyard.

From there the 93 goes on to Kingman, AZ.  If I were making a list of cities I wouldn’t want to live in Kingman, AZ would be near the top of the list.  It is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and it is in the middle of this big, ugly desert valley.  Not the pretty desert with cool red rocks, Joshua trees, or big cacti. More like a scrubbrush desert. The only redeeming value of going through Kingman was hoping that the Depeche Mode cover of “Route 66” would come up on the shuffle on the MP3 player since the song mentions Kingman because Route 66 runs through it.

I stop in Kingman to get gas and also to start my caffine intake.  I pick up a 20 oz Mt. Dew (my drink of choice) and a big can of Red Bull. We’re talking the 16 oz can, not the normal 8.3 oz size.  All told that is 245 mg of caffine. Remember that I am starting this trip on less than 4 hours of sleep.

After Kingman we come to Hoover Dam. They are currently constructing a new bridge at Hoover Dam so cars don’t have to drive across the top of the dam anymore. I guess they don’t want a terrorist parking a bomb on the dam. But the new bridge, even though it is only half done, is pretty awesome looking. It should be pretty sweet when they get it all done.

On to Vegas! Since I am heading right through Las Vegas I decide to stop for a bit and try and win some money.  I head to Mandalay Bay since it is right at the end of the strip, is easy to get to, and is one of my favorite Vegas casinos. As I am parking and heading to the blackjack table I am having all kinds of visions of taking my $200 (wanted to keep the amount fairly low since I didn’t have much time) and turning it into a fortune so I could buy Josh and Pam a new SUV or something and suprise them when I drove it up.  Or winning enough that the hotel would comp me a driver for the rest of the trip. Either way.

As I walk up to the table I recognize the dealer.  I guess when I play enough that I start recognizing the dealers that might be one of the first signs I have a problem.  But I just deny that and tell myself that it is only a problem when they start recognizing me.  So I get my 8 green $25 chips and get to work.  The dealer (I think Laura was her name) is hitting 21s left and right, I am pulling more than my share of blackjacks, she fights back by killing all my double downs, I start hitting some good cards to make some hands as well and on it goes.

After about 30 minutes of this back and forth I am right about even.  I have been up $50 and down $150 during this battle. A lady sits down and start playing like a complete idiot. Now obviously what she does has no mathmatical effect on my cards or the dealers cards but on a hand by hand basis she is killing me.  Stuff like not splitting aces against a dealer 6, staying on 13 when the dealer is showing a face, hitting her 16 when the dealer is showing a 5 and on it goes.  I usually don’t like rooting for players to lose but I was rooting for her to lose so she would leave which eventually happens. 

So after about 2 1/2 hours we are still fighting it out with my original $200.  I can never get up enough to leave and they never bust me.  It is just wrong to leave even so I stay to try and make something happen.  Then the hammer falls.  Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!  4 or 5 hands in a row that I “should” have won and they dealer pulls some amazing cards and it is over.  If you know nothing about blackjack these couple paragraphs won’t mean much to you but to play that long with just 8 bets is pretty amazing.  I waddle off to find an ice pack to help ease the pain of that swift kick in the junk and decide to check out the sports book.

I mainly wanted to see what the odds for the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl were and if the numbers were good I would put down a few bucks and collect my fortune in February after the Seahawks hoist the Lombardi trophy.  The Seahawks opened at 20-1 to win the NFC and 40-1 to win the Super Bowl which are both good values in my opinion.  But the current lines were 9-1 and 20-1. Not a big enough payoff for me but suprising that the odds went down that much.  I guess people like the fact that the Seahawks picked up the best free agent receiver in Houshmandzadeh and got the best player in the draft in Aaron Curry.  I am happy the Seahawks are getting that much respect but the payout on those bets wasn’t good enough for me so I head to the car.

After circling the parking garage for 10 minutes trying to find my way out I finally get out and head west thinking there is a freeway entrance off that road which there isn’t.  So I circle around to another street where I know there is an entrance and there is a sign saying it is closed (which it really wasn’t). By the time I realize that the ramp is open I am in the wrong lane and headed for the very crowded Strip.

Traffic on the Strip is usually terrible and this was only compounded by one lane being closed off while they work on the entrance to City Center.  So after a 30 minute, 4 block trip I finally get on the freeway.  I wave to Billy K a I head out of town (don’t think he saw me) and head north on the 15. It is now about 10PM and I am a couple hours behind what I thought my schedule would be after the blackjack battle. This road will be my friend for the next 833 miles.

Heading northeast towards Mesquite, NV I am witness to an awesome lightning display. I can see bolts of lightning hitting everywhere and this goes on for about an hour or so until I get past St. George, UT.

I decide to stop in Cedar City, UT for some gas and something to eat. I was planning on eating at the Burger Bar in Vegas but since I spent too much time at the blackjack table I didn’t want to take the time.  I was hoping for some fast food restaurant to be open 24 hrs but no luck.  It is 1:15 or so now and they are all closed so I just get some food from the gas station. I go with a slim jim, a Whatchamacalit, and a really dry ham sandwich augmented with another Red Bull and Mt. Dew.  Up to 490 mgs of caffine.

As I sit in the parking lot enjoying my gourmet meal a big van pulls up and out pile about 13 people. This family looked exactly like a family from Juniper Creek from the show Big Love (a show about polygamy). There was a guy who looked to be 60, 3 women who looked like they ranged from ages 20-50, and a bunch of kids including a baby. And they were all dressed with the standard long dresses and the boys all had button up shirts.  It was a bit creepy.

I press on up the middle of Utah. Various animals seem to like darting out in front of my car this night and when they are small I think about trying to run them over but then I remember my friend Corey telling me on another trip “Don’t hit that thing. I could very easily be a furry little baby”.  Not wanting to be accused of possible infanticide and realizing that there are more than the average number of kids per family in this state and a family could easily forget a baby somewhere and it could crawl across the highway at anytime I avoid all the “animals”.

There is something that creeps me out about this state. Not sure exactly what it is but whenever I drive through it I feel like I am driving around Donnie and Marie’s backyard.  This is a pretty desolate drive and by the time I get just south of Salt Lake City I am wiped out so I find a gas station, drive around back and find a quite place to take a nap.

Contortionism isn’t one of my fortes but I squeeze myself into a positon I think I can sleep in and doze off. I am startled awake by a truck driving by but for some reason my head isn’t moving. After a few seconds I am able to move my neck but it is an ordeal since my head was so cranked over as I slept.  I have no idea if I slept for 5 minutes or 2 hours but the sun is starting to come up. I guess I was alseep for 30 minutes or an hour at the most.  Time to grab another Red Bull (up to 643 mgs of caffine), a box of milk duds, and some sour patch kids, some mini hostess chocolate donuts and hit the road. 

Luckily it is still early enough that I miss rush hour going through SLC. When driving through SLC if you look on the mountain side of the freeway it looks like a perfectly pleasant place to live. But if you look to the other side you see the giant cesspool that is Great Salt Lake accompinied by a huge refinery or chemical plant or something.  Pretty ugly.

I cross into Idaho for the first time and come across Malad City. I have to say this is one of the most beautiful cities I have seen.  It is a pretty small town but is surrounded by cool looking mountains and I guess the sun was just perfect at the time. I gas up a ways down the road, pick up another Red Bull (796 mgs), a bag of almonds and some gummi cola bottles. I have been checking every stop for my favorite driving candy (more on this later) but haven’t found it anywhere. I guess the other stuff will suffice.

Once you get north of Pocatello there isn’t much to see. I did get an idea for a new song for my band (http://www.moderndissent.com And while you are at it go search for us on iTunes and buy some of our songs!!!) during this time though.

As I am crossing into Montana I go across the Continental Divide (from the west side to the east) and contemplate taking a whiz on the side of the road knowing that eventually it would wash into the Gulf of Mexico instead of the Pacific which I am used to. But I exercise some self controll and head to the nearest rest stop.

While at the rest stop I see a guy and his family getting out of this huge, jacked up F-350.  Sweet looking truck but the guy looks like a cross between the fat guy from Lost and another person I can’t really remember.  Since I have been at it for about 20 hours at this time I take some time to stretch my legs here and I lay down on a big concrete picnic table to relax for a moment. I almost doze off but then remember all the stories I have heard about unsavory happenings at rest stops and decide I don’t want this to be the place I lose my innocence so I get back in the car and drive on.

Stopping in Dillon, MT (horrible little town) I have the craving for some “real” food so I grab an apple and some cheese. This should offset all that other junk I have been eating.  And since the weariness continues to grow I decide that Red Bull with its meager 153 mgs of caffine per can just won’t cut it I opt for a Wired 344 which has 344 mgs of caffine. Grand total of 1140 mgs.  I also grab another Mt. Dew but never get around to drinking that.

I pass the Continental Divide again and take comfort that anything I spill on the ground will end up in the Pacific. But I am starting to have my own drainage problems.  All those energy drinks are taking their toll on my bladder so the bathroom visits need to increase which will just slow me down.

The 15 meets up with I-90 just outside of Butte, MT which, if you didn’t know, is famous for having the world’s largest open pit copper mine. So if you want to see a big, ugly hole in the ground go to Butte.  But I am excited because being on I-90 means that I am getting closer to home.  Only 300 miles to go!!!

I stop at a rest stop a few miles down the road. This is one of the nicest settings I have seen for a rest stop.  It is situated back in the woods right by a creek and a nice pond. All the water reminds me of the urgency of why I stopped to I head into the facilities. When flushed the toilet conveniently spits out a nice portion of urine saturated water that is aimed perfectly at your legs. Nice touch.

With most of the urine off my legs I head outside and notice a man sleeping in the bushes by the pond.  Classy.  As I head to my car I see the dude who looked like the fat guy from Lost again and we have one of those awkward moments trying to decide if we should acknowledge that we saw each other a few hours earlier or if we should just go on our way and pretend that nothing happened.  We opt for the latter.

Like I said, the frequency of my need for a toilet has increased from earlier in the trip. I contemplate stopping in Missoula, MT (only about 30 minutes from the last rest stop) but decide I am a man, not a little child.  I can hold it.  I also remember my last visit to Missoula when I was getting some gas and looked over to see a guy stumble out of a bar and whiz in the bushes. Decided not to take a chance on witnessing an occurance like that and drive on.

Superior, MT is just a little tiny town (maybe it should be called Inferior???) but they do have a gas station which usually contains a bathroom so I pull in out of great necessity. I waddle in trying not to let anything leak out, reach for the door of the men’s room, and it is locked. Guess it is one of those single person jobs.  I assume whoever is in there will be out very shortly so I hop around outside the door like a 4 year old anxiously waiting my turn.  A couple minutes pass and nobody is coming out.  I figure the dude is taking care of some other business and know that when he walks out if he is doing what I think he is doing there will be that awkward moment of eye contact that would say “dude, don’t go in there”.

At this moment I happen to see the ladies room right next door.  The need is very pressing at this moment so my options would either be A) Wet myself, B) Go outside behind the building, or C) Use the ladies room.  I decide C would be the best course of action so I gingerly test the knob and it turns and the door opens.  Luckily there is nobody inside.  I go in and happily do what needs to be done, wash up, and head out the door.  As I am exiting the ladies’ room what do I run into but a lady waiting to go in. Just a bit awkward.

Since I really don’t want to stop again but still have 2 hours of driving to do I opt not for an energy drink but go with one of those 5 Hour Energy shots.  10,000% of my vitamin B6 and 8333% of my B12 is quickly in my system so I guess I am good for the next few months with those vitamins.  Standing at the checkout line I see a box that catches my attention. It is the candy object of my desire!!! JUJUBES!!! I finally found them.

The thing I like about JuJubes (No, not jujyfruits.  Those are totally different.  Decent in their own way but the mint chewy candy really turns me off) is they are small and take quite an effort to eat. You have to chew them very carefully so as not to permantly lodge them in your teeth and if they do get stuck you have to fish around with your tongue for a few minutes to get them off. Since I have to do so much work eating them it helps me not fall alseep while I drive.  Same reason that I went through almost a half pound of Spitz Dill Pickle flavored sunflower seeds on this trip. If your mouth is occupied doing stuff it helps keep you awake. And Jujubes are even better if you open the box and let them get stale for a couple weeks.

Loaded up on my B vitamins and with gobs of chewy candy working at ripping out all my fillings I get set for the last 150 or so miles of the trip. Once on the freeway I quickly hit some dreaded road construction.  The freeway is down to one lane each direction and there is a maze of cones and barriers I have to navigate.  While driving along this 15 miles of construction I realize that there is nobody working along the whole stretch save for one solitary guy digging with a shovel.  There isn’t even 4 guys standing around watching him.  Why do they need to block off 15 miles of road?  Where are all the workers?  Kind of puzzling.

As I near the end of the construction there is a split in the road and I am not sure which side to take so I make my choice and quickly realize it is the wrong one and soon I am exiting the freeway. It is a simple exit and then I can get right back on so it isn’t that big of a deal.  Kind of reminds me of a NASCAR driver who gets a pass through penalty while under caution. The two cars that were behind me are able to take away my track position as I re-enter the freeway so that is kind of a bummer.

40 or so miles down the road I enter Idaho for the second time. One step closer to home!  But my excitement quickly wanes when I see more construction.  Upon entering the construction zone there is a sign that says “Motorcycles use extreme caution” and I look in my rear view mirror and what do I see? A motorcycle!!! I spend the next 15 minutes driving out of my rear view mirror as I wait for something catastrophic but nothing does.

A few miles down the road I realize that I am singing along to the music much more than I normally do.  I guess singing is keeping me awake. I also realize that I am commending myself for my great vocal talent and in my mind I amaze myself for the ability to mimic perfectly voices such as Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Dave Gahan, Layne Staley, Tom Petty, Neil Tennant, the Beastie Boys, the Black Eyed Peas, Robert Plant, Bono, Michael Stipe, and all the othersI have been hearing for the past 1350 miles.  Maybe I will convince myself to tee it up at Affiliate Summit Karaoke night.  Or maybe I will come back to reality and realize that I don’t sing well at all.

I drive by Wolf Lodge and think about stopping for a steak.  I haven’t eaten a real meal in a day and a half so what would be better than 46 ozs of the best steak you will ever taste?  Yeah, I have eaten 46 ozs of steak before.  I think I am 5 for 6 in my attempts to finish the Rancher. After one of those I came home and had 2 Cadbury Eggs, I stopped by Krispy Kreme after a couple others, and pounded a big slice of cheesecake after another successful attempt.  What can I say, it is excellent steak.  And at only $40.95 how can you turn it down?  But I do and press on home.

Finally at 4:59 PM I pull up to my house.  When I was leaving Salt Lake City I told myself that I would be home between 4 and 5. Originally I wanted to be home closer to noon but all the extra stops ate into that time.  But 1450 miles and 28 hours: COMPLETED!!! I owe it all to a great diet (1/2 pound of dill pickle sunflower seeds, a slim jim, ham sandwich, Whatchamacalit, Milk Duds, Sour Patch Kids, Smokehouse Almonds, Gummi Cola bottles, Jujubes, and mini hostess donuts.  I guess that is all of it. Oh, and a half a bottle of water. Maybe I need to hydrate more), 1140 mgs of caffine and 3 months worth of my B vitamins. But now Josh and Pam have their car here and I am very happy I could help.

So what do I do when I get home?  Sleep?  Of course not.  I sit here and write over 4700 words that will probably only ever be read my me.  Maybe I should just go to bed.

Did you like the report? Can you relate to any of it? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

Comments

  1. Joe that is a great synopsis. I truly did read it. You are a great friend to drive that far alone. Sounds like it was an experience. A friend and I drove to Vegas before (pretty much a straight through), and it was long with someone else!! So , kudos to you! Your friend is lucky to have you!! The world needs more people like you.Take care

  2. Thank you so much, bro. I am very blessed to have a friend like you. I love your cynicism too. Can't get enough of it. I thought I was the only person whose blog no one ever reads.

  3. Brianne says:

    Hahaha…this was a very fun read. 🙂 Thank you for documenting all of your stops and food choices. I am inspired to take a trip. And by the way…would have loved to have been a fly on the wall while you were exercising your vocal chords.
    In all seriousness, I am so thankful to God for the heart He has given you to serve your brothers. You are such a blessing Joe – thank you for serving the Gilchrists in that way!

  4. Sounds like the makings of a road movie.
    when's it coming out?

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