Sunday, August 21, 2016

So Long, Las Vegas (part 2)

Part 2

Before I begin the saga of our nearly 2,000 mile drive across the nation, a few musings on the process of moving:
  • Do items of clothing secretly breed within our closets? How is it that I can donate, sell, or toss five full garbage bags of clothes and still barely have enough room to squeeze the rest in my car?
  • Speaking of clothes, why have we not yet invented a clever way to pack clothing hangers? Why don't we make them collapsible or something? Even an internet search provided no useful life hacks.
  • Why is it so hard to sell a bed? It's not like I have cooties. 
With that out of the way: LeeAnn and I left Las Vegas early in the morning on Saturday, August 13th, our bodies contorted into the front seats of my ancient-by-car-standards Volkswagen Beetle convertible, the backseat and trunk of which were crammed with as much of my stuff as I could fit. Not that "I" could fit, to be perfectly honest. The night before our departure, Lulu and Joe, who are all too familiar with my ineptitude at simple domestic tasks, basically told me to get out of the way and tetrised my belongings into the tiny vehicle. (Yes, I did just use "tetris" as a verb. You get to do things like that when you have a Master's degree in writing.) I am undoubtedly lucky to have wonderful friends like them, and friends like LeeAnn, who took two days off work in order to be the Lewis to my Clark--in reverse, that is. 

With sunglasses on our faces and caffeinated liquid sustenance precariously placed in my janky cupholders, we hopped onto I-15 towards Utah. My car was chugging its way up and down the slopes of the Virgin River Gorge, which cuts through the small section of Arizona that separates southern Nevada from its eastern neighbor, when its engine began to stall on the climbs. Regular readers of my blog may remember that the last time I drove to Utah, a similar problem occurred--a problem that resulted in me replacing the same part not once, but twice. We let the Beetle rest on the side of the road for a few minutes before heading off again, shouting encouragements at the poor old machine in the hopes that we'd at least be able to make it to the VW dealership in St. George, right over the Utah border.

Happily, we did make it to that VW dealership--just after their service department had closed for the day. We were at a loss as to what our next step should be; if the car couldn't make it up some big hills in Arizona, it certainly wasn't going to make it over the Rockies. Should we rent an SUV and tow the Bug? Neither LeeAnn nor I had ever tried to tow anything before. Should we sell the car for what little it's worth and rent another car for the rest of the trip--assuming we could even find a place to sell the car in St. George? We eventually got my parents on the phone, as the title of the Beetle was still in their name, and we therefore figured that it was ultimately their decision.

"Dad, what should we do?"

*Muffled conferring with my mother nearby.*

"Just trade it in and lease a new car."


"Just lease a new car."

"You want us to buy a car?"

"No--lease one. Try to get us a good deal."


And that's how LeeAnn and I ended up with a brand new Passat. If my personal preferences were the sole consideration, I probably would have gone with a Jetta, but the Passat was a far better price, and it had way more room for us to re-pack all my stuff. We were able to see out of the back window and everything!

Goodbye, Beetle.

Hello, Passat.

After a four-hour delay, we continued our drive across Utah, jogging between its jagged, barren mesas until we pulled into Grand Junction, Colorado at around 11 p.m. Our room at the Clarion Inn was a welcome sight after the day's unexpected travails, and we promptly fell asleep watching the Olympics. 

Day 2 went much more smoothly. We brought our continental breakfast up to bed and turned the Olympics back on (who says Millennials don't watch the Olympics?), and when our appetites for both food and international sport were satisfied, we got back in the car and began our relatively short drive to Denver. 

We zoomed up and over the Rocky Mountains, climbing the scenic rises carefully and trying not to immediately wear out our breaks on the way down the equally scenic slopes. We hit some traffic around Idaho Springs, but overall we reached Denver quickly, where I eagerly leapt into the open arms of the lovely Leta--in her beautiful new apartment, no less! 

Albert, our good luck charm, and The Rocky Mountains.

Denver, as always, was paradisiacal. We hunted Pokemon in Cheesman Park. We had beer and a delicious dinner at Vine Street Pub & Brewery. We stopped for ice cream at Liks because ice cream. A delightful evening was had by all. 

On the lookout for the elusive Pokemon.

Cheers to local brews.

Let's be real--we all scream for it.

We kicked off the next morning with greasy diner brunch at Pete's and a trip to The Tattered Cover so LeeAnn could see one of the best bookstores in the United States. Also so I could obtain a spicy bhakti chai. It's not a trip to Denver without a spicy bhakti chai. It was early afternoon when we started the long slog to Omaha. 

Here's the thing about Nebraska: there's not much in it. However, it was still sunflower season, so the cheerful yellow blossoms of my favorite flower followed us all along the largely desolate highway. The trip wasn't completely boring--we relived our high school days with a soundtrack composed of Bright Eyes, The Faint, Jimmy Eat World, The Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, and more. On top of that, LeeAnn treated us to some sweet (both literally and figuratively) candy necklaces in Brule. Nevertheless, we were relieved when we finally rolled into our Holiday Inn Express that night.

Blurry sunflowers.

We want candy. 

The last day of our trip began with--what else?--continental breakfast in bed and the Olympics. My goodness, those divers have phenomenal abs. When we finished eating and ogling the male athletes, we set out for Chicago. Iowa isn't much more interesting than Nebraska, but we did make a pit stop in Des Moines for lunch, as LeeAnn used to live and work there. I had never visited Des Moines before, so I was excited to see the city. Or rather, "city." Charming large town is more accurate. Not only did we witness the biggest gold-plated dome of any state capitol in the country, but we also ate at LeeAnn's favorite spot, El Bait Shop/High Life Lounge. I highly recommend the fried pickles.

On our drive out of Des Moines, I received a phone call with a Cleveland area code. "How spontaneous are you feeling?" asked the recruiting manager from the aforementioned prospective employer. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm always willing to be spontaneous, especially when it comes to travel. And that's how I ended up flying to Cleveland for a job interview two days later--but more about that in Part 3.

Another advantage that Iowa has over Nebraska is the world's largest truck stop. It contains a whole food court, a depot for truck supplies, and every tchotchke under the sun, as well as a barber shop, a dentist's office, and a giant car wash just for semis. It's the type of place that makes you truly proud to be an American.

The oh-so-Midwestern lights of the High Life Lounge.

The finest of roadside attractions. 

After we crossed the mighty Mississippi and paid several outrageously expensive tolls in western Illinois, our road trip came to a successful and tasty end when we met my father for pizza at Kaiser's--the best pizza in the whole world. From there we simply went back to my parents' place and crashed. 

LeeAnn and I had ambitious plans for our day in Chicago. We were going to get tattoos, and I was going to take her to all my old haunts. Instead we reclined on the couch, cuddled the family dogs, and watched the Olympics. We managed to get off our lazy butts that evening and drive to Evanston to meet Becca, one of LeeAnn's childhood friends, for dinner. We stuffed our bellies with absurdly good tapas and sangria at Tapas Barcelona, and then, sadly, I had to bring my loyal traveling companion back to the airport for her flight to Vegas. 

I can't thank LeeAnn enough for adventuring with me--the trip would have been much harder without her boundless optimism and her flawless taste in music. Shoutouts are also due to Leta, Nick, and Grant, who so kindly welcomed us into their home--despite the fact that they were still in the midst of unpacking--as well as to my ridiculously generous parents for sponsoring a new car when a new car was so desperately needed. I love you all.

And now, for posterity, here is a list of the bizarre town names we passed on our cross-country journey: 

Hurricane, Sulphurdale, Nephi, Panguitch, Kanab, Sigurd, Mussentuchit, Floy, Yellowcat, Danish Flat, Fruita, Parachute, Powderhorn, Rifle, Silt, No Name, Gypsum, Eagle, Leadville, Roggen, Wiggins, Weldona, Brush!, Hillrose, Holyoke, Iliff, Crook, Haxtun, Ogallala, Cozad, Eustis, Gibbon, Doniphan, Friend, Wahoo, Gretna, Niola, Avoca, Wiota, Panora, Earlham, Winterset, Altoona, Montezuma, What Cheer, Ladora, Marengo, Tiffin, Keokuk, Atalissa, Muscatine, Silvis, Prophetstown, Mendota. 

Mussentuchit is the clear winner.


To read Part 1, click here
To read Part 3, click here.

1 comment:

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