Another year, another trip!
To be honest, we did travel to Juneau, Alaska in June of this year as our "first" big trip, but the short & hectic schedule of that trip didn't lend itself to a lot of logging - so even though it's our second trip, it's our first fully documented trip for '04.
This first day wasn't exciting as all - just a drive up to Mesquite, Nevada. Pleasant drive, no surprises, punctuated only by a nice inexpensive meal at the Railroad Pass Casino near Boulder City. Other than that, not much else to report - more fun to come on later days!
The second day of the trip was another work day for Richard, as he attended a preconstruction meeting for some heavy-duty paving and bridge repair work on that short but important stretch of Interstate 15 up in the far northwest corner of Arizona.
Meanwhile, Suzanne hid out in the bingo halls of Mesquite, and although the revenue was a bit disappointing, much fun was still had.
In the evening, after all the engineering & bingoing was done, we got together for some ball-heaving at the Virgin River's bowling center. The scores were certainly not high, and many spares went unspared, but we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly regardless.
Rolling them balls in Mesquite
The third day meant still more government work, as we'll explain.
A few weeks before we left, bridge inspectors at ADOT said that it might not be a good idea to let overweight vehicles drive over one of the Virgin River bridges up on I-15 for a little while. The problem is that the nearest place to detour those heavy haulers around this bridge is way up in Cedar City, Utah - a good 60 miles north of the Arizona border. ADOT's Interstate Signing crew zipped up there and put up detour signs in record time, and our job for this day was to peek at these signs and make sure everything was still fine with 'em. So, we rolled on up to Cedar City, saw the big & little orange signs, took lots of pictures, and then followed those detour signs along the open roads of Utah and Nevada, taking pictures of each of the signs as we passed by.
We finished our day's travel by veering off onto Nevada State Route 375, also known as the "Extraterrestrial Highway", and then driving under the stars to the "Little Al'e'-Inn" in Rachel, Nevada - a small place in the middle of absolutely nowhere... but apparently right next to the alleged "Area 51" government test site/UFO parking lot. The Al'e'-Inn welcomed us with lots of out-of-this-world decor and some down-to-earth food, and we rested well, rocked to sleep by the strong desert winds, in this "alien" environment.
A highway from beyond this world
Woke up before daylight this morning, savoring the absolute silence and stillness of the Nevada desert. We watched the sun rise over the mountains while standing in the middle of Nevada state route 375 - and were there for about 20 minutes before the first vehicle interrupted our reverie. Packed up & headed back out onto the Extraterrestrial Highway, and found out in a few miles that when Nevada posts "open range" cattle warning signs, they mean it - we had to slow quite a few times as we had "close en-cow-nters" with munching moos occupying the middle of the highway, and we politely yielded to those beefy roadblocks as they wandered along and across the road.
Another aspect of central Nevada we learned to respect was that the distance between inhabited points is considerably longer that what we're used to, even by Arizona standards. When there's 110 miles between towns, you make sure everything's taken care of (gas, food, personal needs, gambling) before you head off out on the open road. Fortunately, Truckasaurus has been behaving itself well so far on this trip (other than an intermittent "service engine soon" light that pops on & off at random without any other symptoms), and we crossed the mountains & deserts without incident.
Another nice thing about this day was that a cold front had blown its way across Nevada during the previous night, and the 110 degree heat we'd experienced in Mesquite was replaced by nice cool mid-60s temperatures. We even gave the AC the day off!
After many hours of high-speed cruising, we finally made it up through Austin, Battle Mountain, and Winnemucca, and pointed the truck northward up US 95 toward the Oregon border. We cut across the southwest corner of Oregon, where the high desert landscape looks nothing like the rain forest that many associate with this state. We entered Idaho from the west as evening fell (the 47th state truck has been in!) and found a room at an unconventional location - the Whitehouse Drive-In (and motel) in the little town of Marsing. Here you can step up to the Formica counter and order a fishburger, root beer float, and a nonsmoking room for the night, all on the same order. We enjoyed the food and the room, and other than a minor issue involving a ground fault and bathroom plumbing, we had an enjoyable and uneventful Idaho night.
Long lonesome highways of Nevada
We started out through the Owyhee valley, with the freshly-harvested fields of onions bringing tears to our eyes as we left Idaho behind and re-entered eastern Oregon. I-84 provided a quick way to roll past the rolling hills and wheatfields of northeast Oregon, interrupted only by an unfortunate experience at the Flying J truck stop in LaGrande where the so-called wireless Internet network allowed us only to access deep-seated irritation as it teased us with promises of connectivity while only furnishing error messages.
Turned north onto I-82 and on across the mighty Columbia River into Washington (Truckasaurus' 48th state, and our 49th!) , where again one's preconceptions of the "Evergreen State" were adjusted by the brown hilly horizons of the Tri-Cities area. Further up I-82, near the town of Zillah, we stopped at a peculiar little place - an old gas station shaped like a teapot! Although the pumps were closed, there was a little flea market (or should that be a "tea" market?) going on at the spot, and we picked up a souvenir or two.
A fast roll past Yakima and Ellensburg put us onto I-90 westbound, and as we ascended the slopes of the Cascades, the dryness and brownery of eastern Washington gave way to the greenery & wetness of western Washington. We topped out over Snoqualmie Pass and descended through the drizzle and across the lakes to the very end of I-90 in downtown Seattle. Passing the busy Saturday night crowds around the brand-new football and baseball stadia, we wandered our way through downtown and cruised up Aurora Avenue (old US 99) until we found a roomy place to rest under the happy neon sign of the Seals Motel.
She's a little teapot...
We slept late in the shadow of the giant neon pinniped, and after a decent rest finally roused ourselves to have some Seattle-style fun. Our first stop was a pilgrimage to the Archie McPhee world headquarters, where many wacky wonders awaited. We browsed the aisles of this supermarket of surreality, and picked up a few choice items to help us make it through our modern lives.
After the mind-warping of McPhee, our next plan of action was to do the tourist thing and visit Seattle Center and the Space Needle. Alas, this was not to be, as the hordes and throngs attending the Bumbershoot music and art festival made the Seattle Center area an impenetrable mass of people and vehicles in varying stages of lack of motion. Undaunted, we instead decided to do an impromptu driving tour of central Seattle, and the truck was guided up and down the steep hills and beside the blue lakes of this scenic city. We stopped for a classic drive-in dinner at the BurgerMaster up on north Aurora, and then parked back at the Seals Motel for another night's dozing.
Sounding out scenic Seattle
Back to The Big 2004 Road Trip Page
Back to Our Big Road Trips Page
Richard C. Moeur's Home Page
Latest Historical Revisionism 01 April 2005Scripting: Richard C. Moeur