736 miles to go…

The evening spent in Cheyenne at the Lone Ranger motel (or whatever it was actually called) was definitely the worst night’s rest I had on the entire trip. On top of it stinking of some weird blend of smoke and BO, right before laying my head down for the evening I found a scattering  of dark hairs on my pillow and even more under the covers. Inexplicable. Despite that and the fact that it was a Sunday night, I still managed to have a good time on the town, stopping at the local Saloon and photographing Cheyenne’s Internationally renowned Boot!

Give ’em the Boot!

 

I awoke from a night of  fitful sleep with a mild hang-over and what felt like the beginnings of a chest cold. As the day wore on, the symptoms seemed to persist but grew neither worse nor better. Just a lingering shortness of breath and irritated lungs. It was only after a day of this that I finally concluded that my symptoms were not the onset of a cold but just a reaction to being at a really fucking high elevation! When I was young and came to the mountains, it was no big deal but  now its like I smoke a pack a day. What a drag it is getting old.

 

So after another stop at the good ol’ Village Inn for a bit of breakfast pie, I was back on the road and zooming through Wyoming. I was straining my eyes for the first glimpse of the mountains but I had to pass a whole bunch of wind farms first. Energy independence, here we come!

Dylan was right all along.. the answer IS blowing in the wind.

 

Then, after a few more hours of driving I was able to view in the distance the first protuberances on an otherwise level horizon. It was these very same protuberances that caused an intrepid French explorer many years ago to exclaim “Mon Dieu, they look like giant nipples” or something to that effect. Ah, if only more geography had been named by randy French explorers – what a world it would be! I’m looking at you West Vagina.

 

Les Grand Tetons

 

Thus begins the steady ascent in to the mountains. A truly breathtaking experience and definitely one that shouldn’t be done while operating a vehicle and a camera at the same time… but I digress.

This used to be Wyoming’s Mount Rushmore before Cheney shot their faces off.

 

Probably the town I enjoyed the most on my trip was Rock Springs, Wyoming. It felt like a real old Western town and had a main street that had been kept up over the years but still felt quite authentic. I stopped there for lunch and had a burger at this 50’s diner that was playing re-runs of Happy Days. They gave me a free order of fries for the road and a giant soda. The waitress had evidently grown tired of all the Happy Days re-runs because she had taken to drawing on table mats and she was really talented. Her sketches were great and I tried to snap a shot of them but this was right about when my camera died due to my  own charging negligence.

Rock Springs Rocks

 

I attempted to charge my camera in the lighter outlet  of the truck but it would give just enough juice to allow my camera to turn on, tell me that its battery was exhausted and then go back to sleep.  On an aside: Do they still make cars that come with the lighter portion of those outlets!? I haven’t seen mine in, like, 5 years. I do remember burning a large circle in my thumb when I was younger while testing to see if it was actually hot or not. Brilliant.

 

So without a camera and lunch already under my belt, I had no excuse but to gun it through the lovely Rocky Mountains towards Salt Lake City. I did manage to catch a few last shots before the Camera was kaput, including this choice one of what appeared to be a Plumber’s truck parked at a gas station where I was tanking up.

“Well let me see here… I think I filed that under FL for FUCKING LOST”

1,242 miles to go…

After the previous day’s unfortunate events I was ready for my luck to change and it started as early as breakfast with the discovery of the “make your own” waffle machine.  I helped myself liberally and was only slightly perturbed when I noticed the attendant refilling the machine from a giant slop bucket of batter they stored under the counter. No refrigeration necessary apparently.

The filet minion of continental breakfast

 

Wow. Nebraska is a very long, very flat, very corny state. I mean it grows a lot of corn of course. It would be difficult to define an entire state as being corny in the other sense but, if I had to, those cheese-hat wearing  folks are making a strong showing.

King Corn

 

This has been the most difficult part of the trip in terms of staying awake and focused. With nothing to distract your attention you tend to drift off in a haze only to be jerked back to consciousness by the growling of rumble strips or the blaring of oncoming traffic. Occasionally you happen upon something exciting like this arch:

Nebraska Arch

 

But mostly it just looks like this:

 

I can see for miles and miles

 

Interspersed between fields of corn you may encounter alien machinery whose purpose remains unclear.

 

"I will build an onion so big and powerful that no one will be able to stop me. I will rule the whole stinking world! mwahahahahaaaa"

 

Then after hours of driving through what seemed liked endless prairie I stopped in the small town of Ogallala, NE and found this beautiful lake McConaughy – no relation to Matthew although he is beautiful too 😉 – nestled amongst the corn fields. Looking at the map it seems to be one of about 5 lakes in the entire state but it is quite large.

Secluded beach front property available in Nebraska. Great views, plenty of parking and all the corn you can eat.

 

This is where the landscape really started to turn prehistoric and I snapped a whole bunch of shots. I think I will wait and put them all in a nice little photo gallery so as not do disturb this riveting narrative. This also happens to be right around where my progress really started to slow down – like when i just left my truck here for an hour and a half.

Loitering allowed here

 

It was in Ogallala that I stopped at my first truck stop diner for lunch. Its always a fascinating experience at these establishments where pie is considered a main course. The portions are just enormous and the waitresses always treat me like I’m malnourished when I visit them. “Hon, for an extra dollar you can get the all you can eat chicken friend steak-chicken!” Often times they will give me a free piece of pie or giant beverage on my way out the door because they don’t want me to starve before I reach my destination.  Really just the sweetest folks and I do love being called honey.

 

At this point I have to make up for some lost time so I peel out and hit the road. Its about now that I realize that no matter how much gas I apply I can’t seem to go beyond 75 miles per hour. I determine its a safety mechanism built in to the truck. Denied.

 

A full day of driving and I’m near the end of Nebraska. This is where the wild west really seems to begin.

Not an ATM for miles

 

Shortly after seeing the first majestic rock formations, I enter in to Wyoming and am faced with the following dilemma: The sun is beginning to set. Do I get a cup of coffee, tank up and muscle through for another 200-250 miles like a real trucker or do I stop in Cheyenne once the sun goes down and go out for a nice dinner and a stroll around town? Let’s just say the trucker union revoked my sleeveless button down when they heard of my decision.

 

Watch yourself boy. You're in Cheney country now.

 

Due to a lack of cell phone reception, my travel agent was unavailable to book a motel for me so I was left to my own devices. I chose poorly. The place was a veritable roach motel but I was too tired to be bother arguing with the woman for another room or my money back, especially since she was an older Asian lady who didn’t speak English very well.  I had asked for a non-smoking room but there was a definite odor so I went to the front desk to ask her about it. She came with me to the room with a can of Lysol and said “Oh, no smell of smoke. Last person here truck driver. Very bad BO. I fix.” and she proceeded to empty a 1/4 can of Lysol into the air. Sweet dreams!

 

1,732 miles to go…

Day number 3 began sunny, warm and full of promise. I took a leisurely romp through the continental breakfast area at the Super 8 motel,  loading my plate with an assortment of breakfast items I would never normally consider ingesting except for that they were suddenly “free”.  A half eaten plate of pop-tarts, lucky charms and waxy apple later, I was ready to hit the road again. Small word of advice: hold on  to that plastic motel key card till the bitter end because once you return it there is no going back  even despite the lack of a public restroom.  After some pleading, the woman behind the counter reluctantly gave me the card back, all the while eyeing the road donuts in my hand suspiciously. Apparently the Continental breakfast isn’t “to go”.

That jackass is taking up four spots!

 

So already this day was starting out somewhat ominously. The monotony of the landscape continued. It began to seem like there was some correlation between topographical blandness and religiosity,  for the amount of churches, religious themed billboards and evangelical radio was increasing dramatically. “Blessed are those with faith for they shall inherit wide expanses of nothing.”

 

I hit Illinois only to encounter my first traffic jam since leaving New York.

Part of this traffic jam MAY have been caused by me taking pictures

 

Minutes stretched in to hours.  Hours stretched in to days. Foot is locked on the gas peddle. Eyes are locked on the white lines of the road. Body is shaking from the ceaseless vibrations of the truck. Weariness, hunger and boredom set in. The only reprieve is the occasional stop for sustenance at a roadside convenience store in some small town when who should appear from nowhere but this beautiful specimen of humanity. And suddenly everything is right with the world again (unfortunately I couldn’t get his facial hair in this shot but  it was done in corn rows)

The Lebanese John Wayne

 

So with renewed hope I plunge headlong in to what is to be my most challenging experience yet. I decide to take a break and eat my sandwich on the banks of the Old Mississippi. I cross the bridge in to Iowa and find a cute little town on the banks of the Ol’ Miss called LeClaire – home of the Buffalo Bill Museum. The museum is great, not only as a tribute to William Cody – once the most famous man in the world – but also as a relic of 1950’s  American interior design. Unfortunately I did not have a lot of time to explore the museum because the only reason I went in side was to borrow their phone to call someone to help me get back in to my truck. It seems someone had locked the keys inside it. Whoopth.

 

I knew when I first saw the non-power locks on the door of the truck that this was but an eventuality. I called a few garages from the phone book but they were all either closed or too far. When the one guy who WAS nearby found out they were non-power locks I could practically hear him salivating through the phone receiver. “I’ll.. uh.. call you back”, I said. I called AAA but they were acting cagey due to some mix up with my account and the fact that I was registered in New England but was in Iowa. They said they would call me back.

 

Meanwhile a group of people had been watching me from their balcony overlooking the river and once they were aware of my predicament they jumped at the occasion to help me out. Mid-Westerners are super friendly. They had the brilliant idea to call the police. Coming from the New York you’d never think to call the police about something like this for fear they would show up, break your window and then write you a parking ticket for standing too long. But in other parts of the country this is something the police do.

 

So a police officer shows up and he is quite friendly. He phones another plains clothes officer who shows up with a bunch of tools including a long wire with a hook on the end. They wedge the side of the door open with what look like door stops and the first officer spends a while with the wire trying to flick the unlock switch inside the door. The sun is beating down hard and after a while he gives up and spits on the ground. “Ok, you try it.” The plain clothes officer steps up to bat and in a few minutes – pop – the door is unlocked. The first officer grins a big old grin and says, “When in doubt, call a Mexican!” I kid you not.

What has four eyes but cannot see?

 

So I thank everyone profusely and hop in to the truck. I need to make up for some serious lost time so I jet across Iowa. For those of you who have never been it looks like this:

 

Imagine my surprise when I come all this way to find myself here:

Shit. I’m going in circles.

 

Around 10pm I make it to Omaha, Nebraska and decide to call it a night. I pull into another Super 8 and have dinner at a Village Inn, home of the famous pie. I crash hard ready to start it all over again tomorrow.