Sunday, August 19, 2007
We left Hazleton PA by 11AM Thursday and started the first full day of driving along I-80 West. The wind rushing past your head at 80mph is a thrill as the countryside goes whizzing past. For music, we've got CDs and the excellent XM Satellite radio, but the wind, and the roar of all the trucks we pass, make it hard to listen, so we often speed with the music off. The landscape opens up a bit going from PA through Ohio and Indiana, and we're always in touch with the wide open sky.
I wanted to get past Chicago by nightfall to get a good start towards Madison Friday morning, but darkness and fatigue brought our day to an end in Hammond, Indiana, an industrial suburb (think: the Secaucus of Chicago), where we used a motel discount coupon Gosia had picked up at a rest stop in eastern Indiana. Wireless internet didn't reach the room, so it was down to the lobby after midnight to catch up on the web stuff. But it's a bit of treat to get out of NYC and hear that old phrase "Smoking or non-smoking?" and be given a choice.
I thought we got up early Friday, but their comp breakfast ended at 9:30 AM, so we missed that. I figured the straight run up to Madison on I-90 wouldn't take long, but I had forgotten about interstates and big cities, so after sitting for miles in stop-and-10mph traffic through Chicago, we took to the streets to find breakfast. Found I-90 again past 1PM, so I had to revert to my high-speed mode of the old days to have a chance at making it to Madison by 4PM. With no fuel gauge, it's essential to watch the odometer AS WELL as remembering the last mileage I wrote down on the last gas receipt. Slipped up, ran out of gas along the way - but the 2-gallon gas jug in the trunk turned it into only a minor inconvenience and delay. We actually pulled into super-cute Madison at 10 to 4, got my check and some food at the little sandwich shop!
Someone had told us it was a 3-hour drive from Madison to Minneapolis, where we'd be staying with my sister Michelle for several days, but it was more like 5. Wisconsin isn't really "the West" yet, but past Chicago the landscape opens up and we got a taste of the vastness awaiting us further out. Huge farms, lots of CHEESE billboards, and always the trucks (you can kind of tell which drivers are cranked on speed by their driving patterns). With no deadline, and especially after dark, I try to get behind some reasonably fast vehicle and maintain some manual cruise control, tired of racing and weaving. And once the sun goes down and temperature drops, we have to relinquish the open-top driving and put the top up. Still a nice ride, but different.
Gosia hadn't been back to the twin cities for several years, when she went to school there, so driving past St. Paul and into Mpls was a bit like coming home. We left the interstate and drove through downtown for the full experience, and put the top back down stopped at red light on Hennepin Ave. to take in the Friday night downtown experience.
Saturday was cold and rainy in Mpls, as it's supposed to be for days. So this'll be a break from the sunny speed of the road, visiting friends and family. I'm gonna bring the car in for an oil change, lube, and checkout Monday (like I was planning to do before leaving NYC) before setting out for The West on Tuesday. Gotta be at Burning Man in Nevada Monday, and we'll be doing some shopping on the way (camping supplies, dried food, bicycles to get around the Black Rock city).