Nick & Sara’s Tour de West – 01

Sat, 5 Sep, 2009

“Are you at pump 1?”

It was all I could do not to burst out laughing at the scrawny teen behind the register. Am I at pump 1? Take a look outside, kid – there’s ONE car at the pumps – one car in the parking lot, even – I have no idea how you got here.. the only other cars anywhere in sight are doing 80 down the interstate. Other than that, it’s just you, me, one car at the pumps, and miles and miles of sagebrush. So unless that bright blue Porsche at pump 1 is yours — yeah, I’m at pump 1.

That pretty much sums up Wyoming – the state whose motto should be “There’s really not a lot here.”

Started out this morning in Boulder. Me and Sara got a bit of a late start right off the bat, but we made good time and now we’re in the middle of Wyoming, on our way to Idaho.

But more on that later – who’s Sara, you ask? Sorry, let me introduce you – meet Sara Carrera, Sally Carrera’s (remember Bonnie Hunt’s character in the pixar movie “Cars” ?)  younger, slightly naughty sister – well, Sara does like to cruise around the neighborhood topless, after all.

Technically, she’s a 2003 Porsche 911 subtype 996 Mk II Carrera 4 Cabriolet. But unless you’re a Porsche geek you wouldn’t know all that. And even if you were a Porsche geek, you wouldn’t say all that. Most folks just call her a 911 C4 Cab. She’s a 911 – which means the engines in back, the “trunk” is in front, and in between there’s 2 good front seats and couple of back seats that are fit more for luggage then human beings; a “C4” – which means AWD; and a “cabriolet” – which is Porsche’s fancy way of saying convertible.

Sara and I got the idea to head west together when it turned out I had to go to Seattle for a week for work, right after a 3 day weekend. And I needed to burn some leave, as I’m coming up on a “use or lose” situation at the end of the year. And I’ve always wanted to drive PCH 1 down the west coast. So, here we are. The plan is fairly loose. Drive to Seattle over the Labor Day weekend, stay in Seattle for work until 9/11, then well, head south I guess. Though we might start out by heading slightly north up to Port Townsend in Washington and then from there curve around and down the Olympic Peninsula – we’ll see. Sara and I are deliberately not trying to overplan and keep our options open.

Sara likes to run – 85 mph feels like nothing to her – so I borrowed a radar detector from a speed-demon coworker (he had a spare) for the trip. Not that I’m planning extra-legal speeds, but it’s nice to be kept honest – and the warning beeps point out the cops by the side of the road (that you might not otherwise have seen) definitely do just that.

That’s why we got a bit of a late start. I wanted to be able to plug both my iPhone FM transmitter and the radar detector into Sara’s one and only cigarette lighter. I had a borrow one splitter to make that possible, but physically it was an awkward fit so I hit McGuckins – the Boulder “if we don’t have it, it hasn’t been made” hardware store to see if I could come up with a better solution – they did, but it took a little futzing with electrical tape to make it all work right, so Sara and I hit the road in earnest about 9 AM.

One we did, we made good time. We’re now in Burley, Idaho, just a hair over 700 miles away. Took us about 12 hours to get here, so that’s about.. oh 58 mph average. Considering I stopped for lunch and a couple of times we stopped to assuage Sara’s thirst (she’s actually a bit thirstier than I thought she would be running at 80-85 most of the way), we’re making pretty good time.

The plan *was* to stop in Ogden, UT, right outside of SLC. But when we got there at 6:30, the sun was still shining, it still felt relatively early, and neither Sara and I were tired so we decided to push on into Idaho – bit of a mistake actually. We made it just fine, but it was dark by the time we got here and a bit later than we thought and besides, this journey is all about the journey itself, so why be in a hurry? I guess it’s hard to get out of that “type A” mentality if that’s the way you work for so long – me and Sara are gonna work on that over the next 2 weeks. Tomorrow we’ll have another longish day as we’re aiming for Portland by that evening – but then we’ll take it easy on Monday as we’ll have a relatively short drive into Seattle

So we buzzed out of Boulder this morning, hit I-24 North to Cheyenne, turned due West on I-80 and ran across Wyoming most of the day. Stopped for lunch in Rawlins, Wyoming (town motto: “Hey, you’re still in Wyoming, not much here, either.”), hit the Utah border around 4, buzzed the NE corner of Utah before heading into Idaho and stopping at Burley for the night (Town motto: “There’s a LOT of chain hotels, fast food restaurants, and neon signs here – hey, it’s better than Wyoming.”)

Been a long time since I’ve done 700 miles in a day – with or without Sara. Been a long time since I’ve done a major road trip like this by myself. The last time was probably, oh, 1982 when I still had a full head of hair and I was heading south to Del Rio, Tx, to report to the USAF for pilot training. “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now,” Bob Dylan sings, and in a way, he’s right. Of course, back then, I was driving a very rusty Plymouth “Volare” station wagon with 3 on the floor, fake-wood trim, no AC, and a pretty crappy AM/FM radio for company. 60 was about all you could do – anything much faster than that definitely felt pretty sketchy. Now I’ve got Sara with full AC, 16 gig of tunes on my iPhone, and 60 to her feels like we’re loafing.

That was over 25 years ago.. 25 years.. I wish I could say I feel like I’ve gained 25 years worth of wisdom in the meantime, but, sadly, that ain’t the case. If anything – I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. Oh, I suppose I’ve learned a thing or two. One thing in particular I’ve learned – you could call it the overarching lesson of the last 25 years I suppose:

You have to take responsibility for your own happiness, and you can’t be responsible for
anyone else’s.

Don’t get me wrong – you can and should try to make others happy.. but what I mean is that you can’t live your life waiting for someone *else* to make you happy, and you can’t spend you’re life trying to make someone else happy if you haven’t made yourself a happy person first. You gotta take responsibility for your own state of mind. What, you were expecting the secrets to life, the universe, and everything? Go read Hitchhikers Guide – I ain’t that wise. Besides, what do you want from a trip across a state who’s senior politician’s sole avocation appears to be shooting old men in the face?

Funniest sign so far: “Pronghorn Pride Fest” seen in the middle of Wyoming. Huh? Pronghorn Pride? I’ll bet that’s one pride festival that isn’t *anything* like the pride festival happening in DC’s Dupont Circle when I first went to live there.

Today’s playlist via the iPhone: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John, New York – Lou Reed, Flirting with the Universe, The Good News and Bad – The Rainmakers, Back to Black – Amy Winehouse. Hey, there’s not a lot of radio in Wyoming, either.