Monday, July 20, 2009

Road Trip: Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas

At this point, after five days thoroughly recreating in Sun Valley, the Special Lady had appointments back East with her new job and I was saddled with the responsibility of the car and our stuff, packed into the car with all the organization of a mash of sundried tomatoes, and getting said collective out to the East Coast.

Originally a daunting prospect, some 2,800 miles of solo, man-on-freeway action, was fortuitously thwarted by the welcomed (and uncoerced) intervention of Blake - my voluntary wingman who flew in from California for the chance to hit the road and man up the Interstate system one more time.

We struck out from Boise at 6am, because suddenly we had a goal - get to St. Louis, Missouri in time to catch the San Francisco Giants at the Cardinals the next evening. We were looking at almost 1,700 miles to cover in less than two days and a heroic first day was simply a requirement.

Idaho and Utah slipped by easily, under the heady fuel of enthusiasm for the opening hours on the road and nostalgic delight at the forgotten tracks on Blake's battered, old CD collection. Somehow, amid the emergent weirdness of two guys talking nonsense in the car for hours on end, the R. Kelly/Notorious B.I.G. collabo 'I'm Fucking You Tonight' from the album 'Life After Death,' became the anthem of the roadtrip. As amusing as we found this to be, it was tough to convey to people we ran into along the way. It's hard to share the sacred space of a road trip.

Wyoming was an entirely different proposition. I-80 soars over the high plains in a mostly straight line for nearly 500 miles. We stopped in Evanston on the southwestern edge of the state and made our first gastronomic mistake of the campaign - an eight taco lunchtime pigfest at Taco Time - a place which surely occupies the second to lowest rung on the fast food taco ladder, just barely outclassing Taco John's.

From there it was a gassy, malaodorous, 85mph slog over vast, open spaces, among herds of antelope, high winds, and mile after mile of the proverbial 'Big Sky.'

By the time we turned south, the sun was getting low in the sky and the scarp of the Rocky Mountain front near Fort Collins, Colorado was backlit. We arrived in Denver a little after 8pm with the express intent of dining at Illegal Pete's, where the concept of the enormous burrito is further advanced by the so-simple-it-should-have-been-obvious step of stirring your filling ingredients together before wrapping in tortilla. This way you capture the full flavor experience in each bit and avoid the unfortunate (and now former?) inevitably of the odd biteful of sour cream or lettuce.

By 8:30 we were headed east again, but on I-70 blazing out into the Great Plains and noticed that Colorado doesn't end just outside of Denver after the nose of dogfood from the Purina plant has left the air. In fact, it goes a long fucking way east and I was starting to think, that we'd made a big mistake housing enormous burritos before needing to drive another 350 miles into the night.

I was fading fast, eyelids leaden, and beginning to hallucinate in that way particular to the weary driver. Shadows of animals and obstacles flashed on the side of the road. My reaction time and decision making were slowed by the dearth of blood in my head as Illegal Pete's product ground slowly through the GI machinery. The Classic Rock, even, wasn't having any effect.

Things were looking grim, and the decision was made to get a tin of dip at the next gas station in Goodland, Kansas. Thereafter the little wad of tobacco and fiberglass sped the nicotine to my brain and I perked right up for the long cruise into Hays, Kansas. We arrived 1am local time, thanks to the timezone crossing and settled down for 5 hours of sleep at the Best Western.

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