Friday, September 19, 2014

1700 miles of sagebrush

Truths of a road trip:

1. You probably shouldn't stop to pick up the dude who runs out of gas outside of Lovelock, Nevada after tailgating and zooming around you at 90 mph earlier (I didn't stop)

2. Gum and grapes are essential to keep you awake.

3. When you are in the most desolate part of Nevada, the only radio station you will get plays Christian rock or Rush Limbaugh.

4. At some point you will think, I really should have stopped for gas back in Lovelock.

5. When you really have to pee, there will only be this sign: Prison area. No Stopping.

I recently went on a work road trip to Reno and Winnemucca. In fact, I drove the lovely stretch of road between Reno and Winnemucca four times. Good times! Though a work road trip is not the same as a recreational one, there are some similarities. For example, the idea of a road trip is fun until about 100 miles down the road when the reality of it hits. Also, despite your best efforts, you will end up eating food that isn't great for you.

I should know; for a decade I drove between Idaho, California and Florida every six months as a traveling seasonal worker. It was enough to make me swear off road trips forever. Give  me an airplane anytime. But for this trip, I decided to drive, thinking I would a) have time to hike; and b) could stop into a hot springs place on the way back. Neither happened--work got in the way, like I should have known it would.

There's a curious state that occurs a few hundred miles into a solo road trip, at least for me. It's almost like a dream state, where you are awake but not, on autopilot, kind of like mile 20 of a marathon. It's the road trip zone. You pass by all the exits, wondering; what really is at Nightingale hot springs, no services? and, oh, Jordan Valley, I had a boyfriend from here, I wonder what happened to him?  And, shudder, McDermitt, how do people survive? For me the years blur and I'm back to being twenty, enroute to another national park.

I look at the other people driving and wonder about their lives. So many little satellites circling the nation's arteries. There's somebody with a sign saying, Going to Stanford. So glad I'm not just going to college! There's somebody with skis and a bunch of bikes. Where are they going with both snow and trails? Oh look, firefighters. I used to do that.

Road trips aren't my favorite thing. I tend to avoid them--it's too much sitting and not very interesting. But it's also another way to get down to the essential thoughts, spend some time alone with yourself, wrestle with old love stories, sing loudly and badly, and eat Oreos.  Everyone should take a solo road trip once in their life. Just make sure you stop at the hot springs. Don't let work get in the way.


  1. I actually love solo road trips, for all of the reasons you mention. I wouldn't want to make a living driving U.S. highways, but once or twice a year is fun. Driving is not as engaging as human-powered travel, but it's still moving through the world, taking in the landscapes, and, of course, listening to music/NPR and guiltlessly eating junk food. (It shouldn't be guiltless, but somehow highway culture makes this practice feel acceptable .... I'm tired! I need M&Ms and high-octane coffee sludge to stay awake!) Minds do wander off to interesting corners out there, and unlike physical efforts, bodily functions/complaints aren't a constant distraction.

    I hate air travel, everything about it. I'd pick a road trip any time schedules and distances allow (which is why I nearly always drive on my trips home to Utah, even though time spent and gas costs make flying cheaper.) But I agree on the hot springs.

  2. I don't love air travel either. The hardest part about driving for me is trying to stay alert. I naturally feel sleepy in a car. It's a big effort, thus the junk food you mention.

  3. Philosophy: I need chocolate. Get in the car.

  4. I echo all your sentiments.

    I've driven the Alaska highway over thirty times, and I have only stopped at the hot springs once. It was worth it. Once.

  5. I just got back from a road trip and I echo your sentiments. I was so much more exhausted, with multiple aches and pains, from the drive vs from my 5-10 day hikes along the way.

  6. So here is my road trip story, speaking of Reno and Winnemucca. I drove to Reno in early August to visit my mom. I had my googlmaps printout and off I went. No problem. I neglected to print out a googlemap for the return trip. Shouldn't have been a big deal right? But the lack of signage at Winnemucca meant that the road hypnosis you alluded to aloud me to just keep on driving until I got pulled over for speeding entering Elko. 2 HOURS from Winnemucca. I suspect I would have driven all the way to Idaho before I noticed anything was amiss, if I hadn't gotten pulled over. The state patrol officer pointed out my error (while laughing) and didn't give me a ticket (I WAS using my cruise-control, just happened to miss the change from 75 to 65 coming into the city). Made for a very long day and I was called out on a fire for the next morning and still had to get ready to go. I rely on non-sugar energy drinks (like Hi-ball) and energy powders (like Green Energy Tea Fusion) and good low-sugar dark chocolate. When I can't keep my eyes open another minute, I stop and take a power nap. I enjoy the occasional roadtrip, but some trips are better done with a partner to share the driving and conversation (and keep one from adding an unnecessary 4 hours to their trip...).

    1. I also find that town confusing. I had a hard time finding the FS office for example.

  7. and that should have read "allowed" not "aloud"...oy.


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