Sunday, November 28, 2010

US Road Trip 2010: From West to East and Back Again

My camera is slowly dying, hence the pink shades. LOL.

This whole road trip thing was my idea...

Originally, I had planned to do the Silverman iron-distance triathlon in Vegas, but as time passed, the Beach 2 Battleship race in North Carolina caught my imagination. And as my friends and family can attest, when an idea takes root in my mind, nothing can prevent it from growing. And growing and growing.

Last November, my Dad almost died from a ruptured aorta. He collapsed whilst eating a bowl of chili one evening. Doctors told us later on, he shouldn't have survived the ambulance ride to the hospital.

But he did.

And he survived the hour and a half of poking and prodding at our local hospital. He even survived the renegade H1N1 patient who came stumbling into emergency coughing and hacking and putting her hands all over the desk, chairs, etc, before being escorted out. (It is in these rare moments, that I know I have it in me to kill.)

Then, he survived the hour and a half ambulance ride to the closest city, where upon arrival, the attending physician nearly pooped his pants and ordered a helicopter for my Dad to Calgary. My Dad remembers hearing the people in the helicopter talk about how he was not going to make it...

After all was said and done, the final doctor in Calgary said that my Dad's survival was a miracle. That even after landing in Calgary, most patients do not survive the surgery.

Thus, these were the thoughts that fertilized my mind and the idea of me and my Dad driving across the USA and me doing a race at a battleship. (My Dad is ex-military: air force to be precise, but he watches those war documentaries with as much gusto as the next!)

As usual with me, I didn't realize the enormity of what I was getting into. I mean how hard is it to drive 5000km one way? (We could have made it a shorter route according to google maps, but theory and reality are sometimes two very different things...)

As it turned out, I drove the entire way to Wilmington, North Carolina. My Dad drove the way back. We didn't plan it that way, that's just the way it happened.

There are things that I would never have seen nor done had we not gone on this trip. Geography (for me) is a sketchy subject at best, but actually being in a place, makes me remember it. Makes me realize how big the US is -- what state is beside the next -- in fact, even learning where in the world Wilmington was to begin with!

We only saw and experienced partial glimpses of certain states. Virtually all our driving was done on Interstates, so keep this in mind as you read my observations. Out of all our adventures, I am certain of two things:

1. I will NEVER drive that much again. (Hahahahaha!)

2. The 3 weeks I spent with my Dad was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

So....drum roll please! In no specific order, here is a collection of memories, observations of our 10 000km+ road trip. (Holy crap! We really drove that much?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!)

  • Montana is a big ass state. BIG ASS state. We drove south and then east in one day, and still never managed to get out of it!
  • Interstates ROCK! About every 20km (except in Montana because it is so big!) or so, you are guaranteed to find an off ramp with gas stations, fast food joints, etc. And further spaced along, are Interstate rest stops. These places are SWEET. Each state has a big, awesome, nice one when you first cross the state line. Decorated with sculptures, have big comfy couches, free wifi, coffee! Then, they have the *regular* ones spaced out an intervals -- think LARGE, heated, flush-able toilets. With maps, free wifi (!!), televised road conditions, etc. They put our piddly, miserable outhouses in Canada to shame.
  • 75 mph on the Utah, they had test sections of around 20km that were 80 mph! SWEET!!!
  • Kentucky drivers do not fool around. These people drive fast. FAST. I was cruising 80 mph in the right lane, and everyone was passing me.
  • Custer's last stand is very, very close to where I live. So is Yellowstone. Closer than driving to Penticton for IMC. This is a trip I will do next year!
  • I am related to Custer! (I knew this before, but had to throw it in for additional shock value and colour -- LOL!) Not by blood, but my cousin married his great-great-great (however many greats) grandson. No kidding.
  • When we crossed into Kentucky, it was in the middle of this bridge, and there was a big sign for THE Kentucky Fried Chicken convention centre. LOL. I bet most of you don't know this piece of Crowsnest Pass trivia --- In fact most people don't believe me when I tell them this: The gravy recipe for KFC was invented by a Crowsnest Pass woman -- Kay Kerr. See what you guys are missing by not visiting me in the Pass? We have a little bit of everything down here! Hahahahahahaha!
  • My antennae blew off in South Dakota.
  • Utah drivers are INSANE. My Dad and I kept joking about "those crazy Mormons." You thought Calgary drivers were crazy? Weaving in and out of traffic without signaling on the Deerfoot? NOTHING! Baby drivers! Picture this: 6 lanes of traffic all going 75 mph bumper to bumper. Bumper to bumper. And people darting in and out while texting. This is their NORMAL. I'm still recovering from this.
  • All along the interstates at intervals, are gas stations, fast food joints, and adult superstores. Big, big signs that tower over the gas station signs: ADULT SUPERSTORE. What?!?!?! Are truckers really horny or something? Favourite billboard I saw as we left Vegas: "Adult Superstore! Your last chance to get off!"
  • And about truckers....We saw THOUSANDS of trucks all along the interstates. I'm sure there is a show on the Discovery Channel about how products move from one place to another. I never fully grasped just how many trucks are on the roads. Unreal.
  • Us Canadians pay way too much for running shoes. I bought two brand new pairs (one Asics, the other Saucony) -- total was $120. And way too much for gels, cliff shot blocks, etc. I paid half of what I pay here. Granted our loonie is essentially at par, but still...
  • El Reno -- forget where this was...But the birds here LOVE these telephone poles/cables at the one section of town. I mean they really, really love it. They all sit there and chirp and sing and have phone pole quiver tail!!!!
  • Got a flat tire in Amarillo.
  • Arizona has my heart. I will buy property here. We drove through areas that looked like flat plains that were 5000 feet elevation. (That's higher than the Pass!) Drove through another part that was 7335 feet! This place has it all: mountains, desert, Grand Canyon, nice weather -- I LOVE ARIZONA! Visited a meteor crater - very odd experience. It feels as though all sound is sucked into this dense black hole. Even talking to someone right beside you -- it is very noticeable. So strange. Missed the Painted Desert -- we left before the park opened. Will return for this.
  • I DELIGHTED in investigating all the gas stations we stopped at: Food Porn! I felt such an evil thrill, hobbling up and down the aisles looking at the grossest, most sugary, fatty concoctions of junk food ever created. It was so gross, I was intrigued....could not look away. With guilty pleasure I would recite every new package and corresponding fat content I'd find to my Dad, once we got back in the car. Hahahaha! My favourite was: "Cracklins! WITH attached pig skin!" Awesome -- LMAO!!! Seriously, I think this junk food isn't legal in Canada, which is why you don't see it here. Hahahahahaha!
And here is my favourite road trip story:
  • Ogden, Utah. What can I say about this place....I can be very naive and blind sometimes. Yes, even now, though I am 35 years old, this girl was schooled in Ogden. The red flags I missed (in chronological order) when I rented our cheapest motel room yet:
1. The fact that the "Vac" was burnt out of the Vacancy sign. I joked, "let's go to "ancy" motel. It was right across from the Mariott (which wanted $99/night -- NO WAY!! I can get a better deal!) How bad could it be?

2. The finger-print smeared window the manager had to slide open to talk to me...

3. When I told the manager I wanted a room, he got out of his chair and came out of the office and stood very close (definitely invading my personal space) and asked "What do you want?" "Umm, I want a room?"

4. When he asked if we wanted 1 or 2 beds....(My Dad said very loudly, "TWO!")

5. When he said the credit card machine was broken and he could only take cash...

6. When he said they were just waiting for a room to open -- it was a late checkout and could we come back in 30-45 minutes and then the room would be ready? It was 6:00pm.

7. The kicker (but I STILL didn't get it!): I looked down at the table beside the front desk and saw a pile of newspapers and a plastic container that said the word FREE on it. A container filled with condoms...I was bedazzled by the word FREE! I was thinking FREE!! Yes! I should take one as a souvenir! One for my sister, one for my Mom, FREE!!! (I didn't take any.)

My Dad tried to prepare me: As we sat in Denny's waiting for 45 minutes, things slowly started to dawn on me.

We went back to the Ancy motel "just to see." As we pulled in, we watched through the lighted window as a woman sprayed aerosol throughout the room...Never seen that before. We waited until she had left, and then went in. Oh. My. God. There were stains on the carpet that you didn't need a black light to see.

The sink was 3/4 full of a light blue cleaning product and water - wouldn't drain. The smell of the aerosol fragrance. The ash tray beside the bed. The bedding.

My Dad walked over to the sink and said, "I wouldn't be able to shave in the morning." I stood beside him, both of us looking into the filled sink.

A fly landed on the mirror above the sink. My Dad instinctively took a towel, twisted it a little and flicked at the fly. "Let's see how you do in that chemical bath," he said. The fly landed on it's back in the blue water. We watched it twitch.

We left.

I didn't ask for my money back.

The resident prostitute/room cleaner was pretty high as we made our stealthy escape.


At the Grand Canyon. Before we did the Sky Walk. You have got to do this!
A plexi-glass horse-shoe shaped bridge that juts out over the canyon.
You see right underneath your feet -- so cool!!
(It took me a LONG time to hobble to each spot. Wish I had the
air cast here!!!)

Outdoor dining at the Grand Canyon. See that gravy? :)

Welcome to the off season! Hahahahahahaha!


KK said...

LOL you are hilarious. WHAT? I cannot believe that experience at the motel. SICK. And Gah-ross that he asked how many beds you guys wanted. That's your father!!!!!!!!!!! Although probably par for the course in those parts.

You should do IMAZ. You would love it. I pray there's no wind/rain for you when you do it though :).

Everything in the US is filthy (food wise). Be happy you live in a country that has food standards :).

Thanks for your comments on my post. I love you and will still be your friend and love that you love Ironman. I will continue to read your blog and support all your IM endeavors, all while I sip coffee in my PJs :)

Keep on rockin, Jules! Wishing you a speedy recovery.

Oh, and that story about your dad is remarkable. What a testament to his strength. It was such a cool trip for the two of you to take!

Heather said...

Sounds like a fun trip! You missed Philadelphia though :) And for the record we might have all kinds of crazy junk food but we don't have Crunchies-my all time favorite candy bar!!!! Man I miss those!

Julie said...

Heather -- you should give me your address! Seriously -- I can mail you a special care package of Crunchies. Email me!!!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

HAHAHA This was a great read

I lived in AZ for 17 years. I dont like it, I also never been to the crater nor the Grand Canyon, did you go on the bridge that was glass see thru on the bottom at the GC?

And Kentuky is right below me, 2 hours north and I could have taken you and your dad out for some pizza.

Lisa G said...

Wow - amazing about your dad. I'm so glad it all worked out so well and you were able to take this trip with him :)

OMG - the motel! I got a very clear picture in my head as you were describing it all, and eeeeww! Glad to hear you got out of there when you did! I would have hightailed it out of there as well!

Tiffa said...

I love your road-trip stories!

In all seriousness, I think it is awesome that you got to do this trip with your Dad!

kizzy said...

Very nice road trip story...looks like you have a great time...

--I prefer running without shoes. My toes didn't get cold. Besides, if I'm in front from the start, no one can step on them. ~Michelle Dekkers - arteryx jackets