And its funny, so many people have asked me "are you on your bike?" I mean really they ask that! Somehow thinking that I'd be riding in winter weather through snow and slush and below freezing temps down through Oregon, Idaho, and Utah with Christmas presents for the family like a Harley riding Santa. I just shake my head and say no, not this time of the year. I'm not suicidal!
This is the fourth or fifth time I've done this loop: Seattle to Boise, Idaho; Boise to Salt Lake City; Salt Lake City to Las Vegas; Las Vegas to Palm Springs; and Palm Springs home. It's always great to see the family and my friends and to spend time in all those cities -- all of which feel like "home" to some degree. I love being on the road, in my big Hummer, with it's comfortable chairs, the Bose stereo, and its size. Unlike on the bike I tend to stick to the Interstate, unless there is a shortcut on a back road, like between Las Vegas and Palm Springs.
I would never do this on the bike, but in the Hummer in the winter it's not bad. But it does reinforce the "sameness" and the mendacity of the Interstate. McDonalds and other fast-food at every exit, the same brands advertised along the way, the same chain hotels and truck stops. Aside from the natural scenery and the weather, most Interstate exits are indistinguishable and you could be anywhere in the country. In many ways this reinforces why I take the back roads on the bike.
The final leg of the trip is the tough one -- the slog from Palm Springs back up to Seattle. I realized on the drive today that on this segment I'm really not going anywhere except home -- I'm not stopping to see friends or family, and I'm not "anticipating" anything at the end of the day when I arrive, Indeed I don't even know where I'll arrive to -- just some unknown town that is as far as I feel like driving that day. The other legs are broken into quite manageable chunks, that allow me time to wander if I want, and even to stop and take some pics which I've done. And there is the anticipation of seeing familiar faces and places at the end of the day.
Each of the other segments are relatively short -- say 400 or so miles and six hours or so driving. The last two segments are just long -- very long -- drives up the Interstate, with nothing to look forward to other than a night in a roadside hotel and maybe dinner at a local interesting place if I can find one, but more than likely at a standard Interstate chain place and at a last resort, at a fast food haunt. It makes for a long day.
I left Palm Springs this morning in glorious desert sunshine and pointed the truck North past the windmills that were busy farming the wind that blows up the Beaumont cut. And I stuck to various freeways until I got up and over the mountains and down into the Central Valley of California, where I just rode the current of traffic up CA-99 and I-5 past Bakersfield, and Fresno and Modesto and Sacramento and all the little towns between. I pulled off and got gas when I needed to and a drink or a snack. Near Fresno I stopped to guestimate how long I could drive and used my smart-phone app to book a Holiday Inn Express in Red Bluff, CA, which as it turned out was almost EXACTLY half way to Seattle. 621 miles today, 623 tomorrow.
So tomorrow is the second half of the homeward journey. Another long slog up through Oregon and Washington. But at least when I get home I'll know which room is mine.