Ah yes… 8 weeks later and I finally arrived in San Francisco. Unfortunately 3 members of my crew perished along the way of typhoid, dysentery and other pioneer-era ailments. Ok, not really – I ‘ve just been super busy and maybe *cough* a bit too lazy to get this travel blog done. Really, its one thing to cart all your crap in a truck cross country. It’s entirely another thing to unpack that crap and find places to shove it. This past weekend was the first time there wasn’t a pile of random stuff in at least one corner of the whole apartment. That’s progress! But let’s back track a bit.
So when we last left off, our intrepid caravan had made it to the mountain metropolis of Salt Lake City. It looks like this:
The journey in to Salt Lake City was probably the most terrified I had been on the entire trip. It is essentially one steady descent from quite high up for at least 15 to 20 minutes. That would be fine if Mr. Penske hadn’t decided to disable down-shifting in his fleet of moving trucks. I was forced to ride the breaks for the entire trip down. Do you know what happens when you try to apply the breaks for more then a few seconds on a truck that is hurtling down hill with an SUV trailing behind it? It felt like I was sitting in one of those machines that mixes paint cans. That was the only time on the entire trip that the truck got above 70 mph (the speedometer read 80) and I was applying the breaks the whole time! Meanwhile normal cars and trucks were zooming past me left and right. Thank Joseph Smith I arrived in SLC in one piece!
With my travel agent back on duty (love ya ma), I was booked in the lavish Shilo Inn downtown for a fraction of the price due to some internet blowout deal. I believe this caused the young man at the counter to take an instant disliking to me which was only exacerbated by the fact that I pulled my truck up under the awning that clearly said “No Trucks over 20 feet” or something. I fit… but just barely. As a punishment he made me park on the top of the back parking garage which could only be reached by a maze of small alleys. It took nearly 40 minutes and the help of a professional truck driver/innocent bystander to get ‘er done.
Salt Lake City is actually quite pleasant and, much to my surprise, the bars and restaurants were open pretty late for a Sunday night. Mormons are very polite and certainly very clean but I always get the sense that they are judging me. They just have a way of looking at you that always seems tinged with pity. I’m perfectly capable of feeling sorry for myself, Thank You!
The next morning I headed out pretty early with the hopes of possibly getting to Sacremento by that evening. The goal was to get very close to San Francisco so that I could roll in to the city shortly after morning rush hour traffic, unpack and return the truck before the post-work traffic started. Unfortunately, while all this scheming was taking place the gas tank on the truck was getting closer and closer to the half-way mark. There was a moment, as I was pulling out of Salt Lake, that I thought – I really SHOULD tank up – but I decided that I would just find somewhere on the road. Bad decision. In this part of America distances take on a whole new meaning.
So the reason that Salt Lake City is named that is because the city is situated next to a giant Salt Lake. No shite, right?!! I’ve often thought of what a burn it must have been for those initial exploring pioneers. They finally made it over this giant mountain range and discover this beautiful oasis in the distance. I imagine them running down the hill toward the lake, thirsty as all hell, thinking they found the promise land. They fall to their knees in front of this giant body of water to slake their thirst and… “Wait a minute!? It’s filled with salt!! Can we get a fucking break, puh-leeeze?!?”
Possibly a lesser known fact, though, is that the lake was once actually much larger then it is today – a veritable salt ocean – and what is left of that ancient body of water is a Great Salt Flat. Driving through this Salt Flat feels a bit like you are driving on the surface of the moon. It is several inches of hard salt for as far as the eye can see, surrounded by majestic mountains. But what is even better is that their isn’t a gas station for at least 60 miles once you enter the Salt Flat! There isn’t even a way to u-turn!! Right after passing the last road sign for many many miles was when my gas tank reserve light decided to suddenly flash on. It was the perfect storm!!
At this point, things became very tense. I had no idea how much gas was in the reserve tank but I imagined it couldn’t be a lot. I had 60 miles to go till the next town and all I could think was that a stupid bumper sticker I read once said something about how driving too fast burns more fuel. Well who’s stupid now!? So I planted the speedometer at a blazing 45mph and time began to stand still on this desolate patch of earth (except for the other cars and trucks zooming past me, of course). It felt like I was in Mad Max. I kept waiting for a legion of motorcycle riding bandits to appear on the horizon, making their way to pillage my caravan and scalp me in the process.
I managed to make it almost 50 miles when I finally saw another road sign that indicated a town in 12 miles. I was almost there. I made it one more mile and then *cough* *splurt* *cough*… dead. I could even see the town in the distance! I forgot to mention that there isn’t any cell phone reception in this part of the world either. So what did I do?! Well, I had the brilliant revelation that I’d been trailing a car behind me for 2000 miles, maybe I could use it to go get some gas. So that is what I did. I unhitched my 4-runner from the trailer and drove to the town I saw on the horizon, bought a gallon of gas and a tub to carry it in and drove back. It involved a bit of off-roading (probably illegal), but I managed to get the truck started again and tanked up at the gas station in under an hour. It was then that I decided that I would never travel long distances by vehicle again unless I’m towing another emergency vehicle behind me 😉
It has been said that at some point in your voyage through life you will ultimately run in to yourself somewhere along the road. Well that happened at the gas station just outside the Great Salt Flats. There was some guy on the other side of the gas pump who was filling up a similar big yellow Penske moving truck and he was also trailing a 4-runner behind him. He was leaving California for the East Coast. An inverted doppelganger essentially. We exchanged pleasantries about our similar circumstances and how it’s funny that we both arrived at the same gas pump. He said something like, “Well when I get to this part of the States, I’m sure to tank up every time I get near a half a tank.” Now you tell me, ya douche!?
With that valuable lesson under my belt (along with an Arby’s turkey sandwich which is surprisingly good actually), I made my now slightly hastened journey across Nevada. Nevada can be summed up in four words: Gambling at gas stations. There was this rather lovely sunset, though:
And just when it seemed like Nevada couldn’t go on for any longer, I came upon this small sign on the side of the road:
It seemed like I was finally home free! Unfortunately I was forced to stop at a roadside check point first where they make sure you’re not smuggling foreigners in to the state. By foreigners I mean non-native insects and other assorted pests, of course. I happened to have a few plants from back east and the socially-awkward, but very nice, lady at the booth proceeded to up-end them all in search of the dreaded Japanese Beatle (that’s just how I spell it now thanks to Sir Paul). It’s actually no joke – those beatles are everywhere in the North East. The whole time she was digging through my plants I kept thinking, “Imagine if thousands of people died of starvation because my crappy bonsai tree unleashed a plague of beatles on the California plant life. That would suck.” I had two big bags of delicious Riiska Farm Massachusett’s apples with me that I had carted all this way and the officious lady went through each and every apple VERY closely. After, like, the 40th apple I said something like, “You could have one if you like, you know? There quite delicious.” She just looked at me stone-faced and said “I would just bring it inside, dissect it and inspect it under the microscope”. Ok, byeee!
So after 6 days, 3,220 miles, $1326 in gas, countless cups of coffee and this last hurdle passed, I finally manged to roll in to San Francisco.
With the help of my lovely sister and her boyfriend, we managed to unpack the truck relatively quickly. Everything was stacked in a nice orderly maze of boxes and thus began the next exciting chapter in the great American Moving Novel entitled, “Where is the damn can opener!?”