After a 6 day, 3,000 mile end-to-end blitz of I-80, we made it all the way from California into Hoboken Tuesday afternoon.
We rented an immense juggernaut of a vehicle to carry us across the vast width of the country, large enough (but just barely) to hold two months-worth of clothes, two plants, two guitars, cameras, some essential kitchen tools, and the odds and ends that we didn’t feel comfortable entrusting to a moving company.
We only made it as far as Reno on our first day. Wednesday was an agonizing day of loading the big moving truck, renting the car, dropping off our car to be shipped, packing the rental car, closing up our apartment, saying our last goodbyes, and finally taking that gut-wrenching drive out over the Suisun Bay Bridge to I-80 east.
Our first full day of driving through Nevada was surprisingly beautiful, our late, wet Spring leaving a green haze over the immense landscape. We kept timing the distance as far as we could see because the road looked like it went on forever; it was always seven miles from rise to rise. Like Johnny Cash, we stopped in Winnemucca and had some lame stringy BBQ at a restaurant with some kind of slot machines on the bar. Maybe the slot machines should have been an indicator. However, there are not necessarily a lot of options along the interstate for the “culinarily-aware”and it beat another fast-food stop. The mountains quickly dropped away as we approached the Utah border and we sailed down in the huge white salt flats, a strange lunar-looking landscape full of mirages, speed testing tracks and salt factories.
After a night in Salt Lake City, we made it way up through the Wasatch Mountains (with a quick detour through Park City- beautiful!) and on through Wyoming. Wyoming was incredibly beautiful, especially the eastern half as we approached the Medicine Bow area and our destination for the night, Laramie. Scott decided a couple of hours earlier that it was Friday night, he was in Wyoming, and he wanted a steak. I did some looking around on Yelp, and since Yelp agreed with the front desk at our hotel, we ended up with a fabulously good grass-fed steak and a couple of house-brewed beers at Altitude Chophouse and Brewery downtown. We were a couple of hours too late for the annual Beerfest, although we passed a store front with some judging in progress, but the bands at the street party afterward were great. I was really impressed by what good and enthusiastic dancers the Laramians were.
Day three was spent in a long slow descent from the continental divide, beyond the edge of the dry, sere beauty of the West, through the hypnotic monotony of Nebraska (we distracted ourselves by eating “spicy hot” chicharronnes and lurid blue slurpees) and across the Missouri River and into Des Moines, Iowa. When we got out at a rest stop to stretch our legs and switch drivers in eastern Nebraska, we remarked on the humidity, the first we had felt. And then as we drove into the green fecundity of Iowa, it was a distinct regional shift- we were out of the West and had made it to the mid-West, the heartland.
Iowa was remarkably pretty, with chalk-white dirt roads between the greenest fields I had seen in years. There were pretty farmhouses in their groves of mature trees and the verges of the roads were a tangle of Queen Anne’s Lace, blue flax, purple coneflower, yellow buttercups, gold black-eyed susans, indian paintbrush, clover, and orange day lilies. We made a short detour through Iowa City to try the BBQ at Jimmy Jacks’ Rib Shack, which I would characterize as “fusion” style, a little mustard for the Carolinas, a hint of celery seed for Memphis, pulled pork for the South, beef brisket for Texas. It was really good BBQ at an establishment obviously run with a lot of care.
We crossed the mighty Mississippi at Davenport, Iowa and it all started to blend together in a thousand miles of flat, straight roads, cornfields and rainy weather. I must have seen a million acres of corn on this trip. Illinois was remarkable only for its bad roads and worse traffic. Overnight in South Bend, Indiana, we met a very nice waitress who chatted with us and said that she aspired to visit the South someday, and we encouraged her to visit California too. Then on through Ohio and into Pennsylvania and the Appalachians, with high bridges crossing deep ravines with boulder-strewn rivers at the bottom, fern covered forest floors, and bits of fog catching the edges of the mountains like bushes on the roadside after a cotton truck has driven past.
After one last night on the road in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, we loaded the truck on last time for the final leg of the trip into Hoboken. Almost as soon as we crossed the Delaware river into New Jersey, we were engulfed in a torrential rainstorm- welcome to East coast summers! All the way into Jersey City, we had to drive slowly just to be able to see. The low-lying areas as we finally left I-80 were flooded, small cars stalled out in a foot or two of rainwater. The rain began to lift as we approached the railroad bridge announcing the entrance to Hoboken and we drove past the weekly downtown farmers market being set up on Washington Street and then around the corner to the Hudson River and our temporary apartment.
So, we made it. Six days and 3,000 miles from one end of 1-80 to the other, and it seems like from one world to another. It still doesn’t feel real- I keep thinking I can go home after this trip is over. It’s a new chapter starting now. We’ll see what happens next.