Saturday, April 13, 2013

Come Ride With Me


Your invitation to come along is figurative, of course. There's no room even for the dog. Plus, when I'm putting on the miles like this, I like getting out early, driving as long as I can stand, and stopping at my need and convenience. Like this:

5:50 AM alarm goes off. I set it to off. A peek out the window on the way to the bathroom brings disappointment: again? snow? another whole inch? Is it ever going to end?

The morning routine goes bare bones. There's no reason to turn on the TV, the laptop is packed and in the car. All I need to do is have coffee and pills, shower, dress, bring the dog back in with a Milk Bone bribe, and load two gallons water and a box of plants which also hold my pocketbook, stuff that, other than the pocketbook couldn't freeze.

6:22 AM, and I'm on the phone to Steve, letting him know I'm rolling, a bit late due to scraping snow. My back windshield is wonderfully clean, a status it will retain for at least 10 miles. The radio says it's 27 degrees. That's metro, likely a few cooler here. McDonalds furnishes breakfast: 2 sausage egg muffins. Lest you think that's way too much carbs, fat and calories, I "adjust" them before eating. First, I order no cheese. Then I throw out half the muffin pieces, cutting carbs in half. It's the top part they slather with butter, so that's the one tossed. The abundance of napkins come in handy. I take one to surround the egg, another the sausage, soaking up a ton of extraneous grease. Before reassembling my two open face sandwiches, I split a packet of strawberry jam between the two remaining muffins. My next stop is one that requires handwashing, even if I didn't need to from the jam.

My third stop of the morning puts me at a restroom in Lino Lakes about 7:30, less than 25 miles down the road. Now it's time to book some miles. By this time the roads are wet/salty, not snowy. My wipers are good, washer reservoir full. They'll get a lot of use for the next 80 miles. Everything is solid white, except roads.

9:13 AM has me leaving the rest stop south of Owatonna. Once I hit Forest Lake, it's freeway all the way till a couple miles from Steve, except for stops. 35 to 40 to 17 to 101. This stop includes a 15 minute nap. A kitchen stove timer rides in my car always, just so I can sleep without worrying how long before I wake up. Handy both for road trips and work to cure drowsiness. By now the roads are dry enough I take time to use spare napkins to polish off salt from the side mirrors, though they film over before I'm driving again.

The sky has been solid grey - dark grey - all the way so far, so it takes me a bit to notice the wind farms down near the border. Windmills on my left are dark grey, on my right grey or white. Once I notice them, I find them reassuring, more so as I pass wind farm after wind farm.  With nothing much for scenery, I have time for musing over which way the blades are turning. At first they appear to be in opposite directions, but it's obvious I'm seeing the front of the eastern ones and the back of the western. So it's a west wind, and I already know it's strong from my brief forays out of the car. If you are upwind, the blades rotate clockwise.

Entering Iowa, it's at mile marker 201 I notice for the first time there's no longer a solid cover of snow. At 194 we finally run out of snow, barring a few places where chunks got knocked off semis rolling through. There's also a Wendy's there. I start making a log of mile markers where they are, something good to know while traveling, and this is a route that will be well traveled. Wendy's has two menu items I love, both of which are comfortably within my carb parameters: chili, and chicken apple pecan salad. I'll likely pick up a salad later in the day.

A bit further down the road, I finally get one full second of sun. Later, 7. Then 15, followed quickly by another 15. Time to quit keeping track. I notice the lakes are ice free. When did that happen? Maybe by the time I get home, the local lakes will also be ice free. Right now they have liquid edges, maybe 10 feet from shore to the ice.

At 10:35 I grab my next rest stop. 208 miles down the road so far. Time for a packet of jerky, followed by ibuprofin. It's not that I need it for a lot of walking, but driving long periods are also hard on the knees.

Noon finds me gassing up in Des Moines, leaving the jacket on the seat before I hop back in. Mile marker 128 shows the first bits of green grass. A few score miles later it's solid bright shaggy green everywhere on the ground. Wendy's pop up at 90, and 131 where 35 and 80 run together, changing the numbering system briefly.

1:30 brings the Missouri border. Wendy's here are more plentiful, at 92, 54, 9 and 5. Mile 50 has the first actual leaves on a smattering of trees, yellow green mist among a forest of bare branches. 3:00 is a rest stop with the salad I picked up back at mile 92. It turns into a half hour break. They stuffed the bowl so full of lettuce that each forkful dislodges an additional forkful over my lap and onto the floor until I finally get enough out to be able to actually stir the ingredients up in the dressing. Not helpful, guys! While there, I take advantage of the break to figure out where I want to spend the night, settling on Emporia, just before the turnpike starts. A couple phone calls yield no luck with motel reservations on the first floor. With my knees, lugging a suitcase up stairs is a no-go. It seems there is a golf tournament in town plus a business convention and something else I couldn't quite decipher through a very thick accent. The what didn't matter anyway, just the lack of rooms.

Kearney advertised gas for $3.25, the best price I've seen since last December. Only 5 gallons go in, but get it while you can, right? As I pulled in, I noticed an Econo Lodge next door. Maybe they had an 800 number so I could check that chain? They did, and I booked a room in Emporia.

Feeling like I'd "wasted" an excess of time by now, it was time to get back on the road. 70 mph is a nice mile eating pace, but it ended quickly. Liberty had a lane closed for shoulder construction, with a back up of about 5 miles. ZZZZZZZZZZ............. I rolled a window down to welcome some warm air. With no road noise, I managed to hear my first singing frog of the year.

Finally able to get some speed again, I breezed through the Kansas Cities. Both had the first flowering trees of the year. Of all I saw, only two were pink, likely flowering crabs unless the flora is significantly different down here. All the rest were white, tiny flowers and not apple shaped, so I can't offer identification. Leaving the low lying cities, the flowering trees ceased for about 60 miles, then started popping up again. Heat island effect.

Wendy's showed up at miles 225, 182, and 128, right up the street from my motel. So far the only other notable thing was when I hit Ottowa a big juice bug returned the favor. So did a bunch of his tinier compatriots. I'll have a scrubbing job in the morning.

588 miles. 12 hours. Theme song for the day: "Winter Into Spring".

Albuqureque tomorrow?

No comments: