Archive for the ‘Wyoming’ Category

Kelso to Mile High

Friday, August 19th, 2011

The first leg of this journey started with a crazy month of packing and moving the bulk of my belongings into storage.  I was rushed right up to the last day, which was pushed back twice.  The original date to leave Washington was supposed to be Sunday, May 22, but ended up being Tuesday, May 24.

I crammed as much into my truck as I could carry and headed out Tuesday night to Gee Creek Rest Area on Southbound I-5 near Ridgefield, Washington.  Blankets and pillows to sleep on in the cab of my truck weren’t too uncomfortable, but getting into a decent sleeping position proved almost impossible.  I was too tired to care.  I bundled my jacket around me and passed out.  The next morning, I dropped off a few items I did not need for the trip and said good bye to Washington.  It started to rain as I was leaving.

Back on I-5, I continued south and followed I-205 to I-84.  It was still too early for rush hour traffic in Vancouver and Portland, so I was almost to Multnomah Falls by that time.  Through the Columbia River Gorge and the rain stopped.  It was sunny and warm the rest of the day.  Stopped at Biggs Junction for a bite to eat and fuel, and headed back out.

Breezed through Pendelton and climbed the Blue Mountains.  Now the truckers started taking more notice of the little white truck with a heavy load.  I’d been playing somewhat of a game of leap-frog with them all through the Gorge.  One or another would pull off at a truck stop for a break and I’d get passed them, then I’d pull over for a break and they’d pass me.  Then I’d pass them again on the road again later.  And so it was the whole trip.

Stopped at Deadman’s Pass Rest Area, then back out again.  Through Baker City and La Grande, and I stopped again at Weatherby Rest Area and ate a little snack.  Then on to Ontario, Oregon where I stopped at the first Love’s along the way.  Fueled up and got some food to eat.  Was about to leave and noticed that there had been an accident on the access road while I was taking a break.  It was nearly cleared up and the uniforms were directing traffic.  In a few moments I was back on the road and into Idaho.  Idaho was more uneventful than Oregon, with a stop in Jerome at the Flying J for fuel and food.

The sun was setting as I left Idaho and entered Utah.  The red sky glowed over my right shoulder as the road turned more southeasterly the closer I got to the Salt Lake area.  Then dusk and darkness came and the Utah freeway went dark, very dark.  Where there should have been white lines defining the edges of the highway, it was faded so badly that the truck’s halogens couldn’t even illuminate them on any setting.  Yet the huge persistent signs along the side of the highway kept hinting at tired drivers to pull over and rest.  There must have been two dozen of those signs and they were far newer than the road paint.  Seems Utah has an issue with safety – they don’t have the common sense to save a little money from the signage budget by ordering fewer safety signs and investing into some safety reflective paint to help drivers see where the road is!

The next rest stop was near Brigham City, so I pulled in and arranged my pillows and blankets for the night.  It soon became clear that there was no escape from the bright lamp on the pole across the parking lot.  I applied a blanket curtain between the headrest on my seat and the visor to block the light.

Up at dawn with the truckers and out on the road again, I continued south on I-84 / I-15.  After Odgen I followed I-84 to I-80 where I would continue east.  I was looking for a place to get fuel and saw signs for fuel near US-89, so I exted the freeway in search of this source.  Nothing close to the freeway, so I turned around and continued east along the winding ribbon through the gap in the mountains.  I stopped in Morgan, UT for fuel and food at a 7-11, then headed for I-80.  More winding road, then a climb up to the Continental Divide.

Wyoming – this became known to me as the longest snore ever.  Once across the Continental Divide and into the Intercontinental Basin, I found myself stopping more frequently.  Every hour or so I was pulling off at a Flying J or Love’s to rest.  There was the Flying J in Rock Springs, the Love’s in Wamsutter, and another Flying J in Rawlins.  Imagine my surprise when I saw another sign for the Continental Divide.  Did I cross it twice and would I cross it again?  I checked the map.  It was a split in the Divide that held this big basin in it and I’d just passed right through.

About 40 minutes after Rawlins, my eyes were getting so heavy.  I fought the whiplash of the eyelids for the next 20 or so minutes it took to get to the Rest Area on Elk Mountain.  It was windy.  The break was good and when I got back to the truck I realized that I was not going anywhere til I took a nap.  I sprawled across my pillows and blankets amidst the big trucks.  About an hour after the lights went dim on my eyes a big truck pulled up in the spot to my right.  I vaguely heard the brakes and the engine and drifted for a few more minutes in dreamland.

When I had reached Elk Mountain, I estimated arrival in Northglenn to be about 3 pm.  After my nap I adjusted that estimate to about 4 pm.  I’d never been this route before so I was just guessing based on the map.  Back on I-80 east, I continued to Cheyenne and took I-25 south to Denver feeling refreshed from my little snooze on the mountain.

Denver traffic was interesting to say the least.  The first thing I noticed were signs stating that it was law to clear the highway of debris in case of an accident.  I didn’t realize how risky that law was til I encountered a slow down.  A farmer with some hay loaded on his pickup had lost a few bales.  He was grabbing the loose bales from the freeway in the middle of traffic.  His truck and a small motorhome the size of a truck and camper were on the emergency lane.  The motorhome had a bale under the front bumper.

The thoughts I had on this incident regarded safety.  I recalled the many loads of hay I helped with while growing up, and how we tied the load very securely with a single very long rope.  I remember Hugh teaching Dad how to loop the rope through a hook under the front bumper, catching the corners of the top row of bales just right, crossing the two halves of the rope on the top, then catching the other corners and cinching it down to hooks on the rear bumper.  Of course the bales were stacked brick style so the load was tight, and the top two rows of bales staggered in narrower rows to secure the whole.  We always stopped before getting on the highway to double-check the ropes for any slack and re-tighten.  Did this farmer think to do this?  Had he done so, he probably would not have lost any bales.  Of course he needed to have the load properly stacked to prevent the bales from shifting too.

Onward to Northglenn, and I might add I arrived at my cousin’s house just a couple minutes after 4pm.  Even though I’d never been to my cousin’s house, it was as if I knew the place like I’d been there before.  The turnoff, the streets, even the driveway.  Well not the driveway.  One thing Google maps doesn’t show well even at street level is the elevation.  The house was right where I expected and looked just as I expected it to.  The driveway was a bit steep.  I got out and rang the bell.  My cousin answered the door and was glad to see me.  He had a house full that night with his daughter returning from her mom’s house with her two little ones.  After all the excitement, a couple phone calls, and a well appreciated shower, I crawled under the blankets on my cousin’s sofa sleeper and fell asleep.

The next day would take me to Ratan Pass and into Texas.