After Day 3's epic 758 miles over 14.5 hours (including 4 hours in Ft. Collins getting Smokey fixed up) I was in no mood to travel today. In fact, it seemed like a heck of a day to sleep in, then kill the afternoon in a pub. But then I remembered I was in a Motel 6 in Ogden, Utah and suddenly the open road didn't seem so bad.
So at 6:30AM I am once again hauling the duffel bags out and tying them onto the roof. Man, it is COOOOOLD in Ogden Utah in the morning. My hands turn numb while tying knots. But soon enough I am wandering back out to the interstate and making way towards Portland.
Utah is some pretty country. To my left for a while is the Salt Lake. I see a lot of nice rock formations along the way, but not much else. Once you get north of Ogden (which itself is north of Salt Lake City), it is some barren country.
I am also on like day 4 of the Roberts confirmation hearings and it is just killing me.
Quick enough and we're in Idaho. This part of Idaho looks a lot like Kansas. Then again, most of the country looks a lot like Kansas. Remember that next time you talk smack about Kansas.
My first gas stop is somewhere outside Twin Falls. Smokey is a smokin' and a drippin'.
I've always romanticized Boise, Idaho as being kind of a mini-Portland on the rise. A frontier town with character on the verge of taking off. Gateway to some beautiful country. I had never been any where near Boise before, so I don't know why I thought that. From the highway, Boise is kind of dreary and depressing. To be honest, a lot of places are like that (though not St. Louis or Louisville, both of which looked cool from the highway and made me want to visit). So, I drive on and decide to grab some lunch further up the road.
I am also making a list of life's universal truths. I have added these so far this trip:
23. From the interstate, the whole country pretty much looks like Kansas.
24. Truckers are apparently all perverts.
25. If there isn't constant and maddening construction on your highways, your congressman isn't doing his job 'cause the rest of the country is being widened. Call him and tell him you want your pork too.
26. Being in fear that at any moment your 6-year-old car with 108,000 miles on it will die, stranding you 30 miles from anywhere in an area with no cell phone reception, helps keep your mind off the fact that the entire country looks like Kansas and that all commercial radio sucks.
Up to the Oregon border the interstate system has pretty much been straight and flat. But soon after your cross into Oregon, Interstate 84 starts curving and climbing and showing off fancy things like "trees," which, believe it or not, they do not have in Kansas. Oregon seems to say "we're different here. We don't suck." It makes me feel good.
Well, until I notice two things about Oregon: (1) it is the most desolate state I have encountered, with even fewer roadside services than Wyoming; and (2) it is the only state with a 65mph speed limit on the interstate. I spend most of south eastern Oregon starving to death, hoping I don't run out of gas, with my foot on the brake. Speaking of which, it still pisses me off that you can't pump your own gas in Oregon.
At some point after half of a day driving in Oregon, I suddenly realize that the golden hills have been replaced with forest. It is kind of weird because you are driving through high desert plains one minute, and the next it's like "Wow, where the hell did the trees come from?" I also think to myself that if I had never been to western Oregon, I would be dumbfounded by the beauty.
The road in to Portland skirts the southern shore of the Columbia river, taking you through what they call "The Gorge." It is always windy out here and you see crazy muthers on their kite boards and wind surfers just blazing across the river. It doesn't look fun; it just looks scary.
About 5pm I finally am able to relax, knowing that Smokey is going to live long enough to take me home. A half an hour later I am puttering through my old neighborhood, tired, exhausted and sick of driving. Portland looks the same as when I left her a year ago, but is somehow busier, bigger and crazier than I remember. No other city we have visited in the world bussles with the same amount of energy as Portland. To be honest, it kind of overwhelms what is left of my brain.
I pull Smokey up to a spot in front our friend Susan's house, near 28th and E. Burnside. I shut off the engine and watch the oil smoke rise for the final time. I use what is left of my energy to unload the duffle bags from the roof one last time, before collapsing into a heap on Susan's couch. She shoves a bottle of Mirror Pond in my hand. It will be several days until my brain, road-weary from 2800 miles (I managed 742 the last day) is able to form a coherent thought.