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Driving Miss Knoxville -- the Trip to Tennessee: Day 1

Posted 04-30-2021 at 08:33 PM by Igor Blevin
Updated 04-30-2021 at 09:08 PM by Igor Blevin

Day 1, Saturday

Sacramento, California to Battle Mountain, Nevada on Interstate 80 (350 miles)

After surviving the move from hell, I enjoyed a day off, recuperating at my mother's house rather than a hotel, and taking the opportunity to reorganize everything I am taking with me, but it cost me a full day I planned to spend driving.

I am almost back to normal after a shower, shave, and coffee. I wave good-bye to Mother with no clue when I will see her again and head for the open road.

Off to another late start.

The drive to Reno is familiar, routine, and boring. Feels like any other day. Nothing special. You would never think I was making a life-changing move, sight unseen, to a state I have never set foot in.

Driving through the Sierra Nevada mountains, I realize I am going to miss being 2-hours to Lake Tahoe’s snowcapped peaks and walking beside her crystal-clear waters. I am going to miss Yosemite National Park. I am going to miss Monterey and the Calaveras Big Trees. I am going to miss driving along the rocky cliffs of coastal highway 1 and watching the dark water churn breaking waves into spastic green foam. I am going to miss Golden Gate Park and driving across the Golden Gate Bridge. I am going to miss going to San Francisco Giants baseball games. I am going to miss unbroken blue skies.

Time to move on.

I arrive in Reno at 1:30 pm, well behind schedule. Typical.

Boy, Reno is an armpit, isn’t it? Discounting all the sin and depravity, it is just plain ugly in the daytime. Living up to it’s nickname “Sin City”, everywhere you go are places to gamble away your life savings, fall down roaring drunk, and wind up a convicted felon. Broke, drunk, and hand-cuffed is no way to go through life, son.

By the time I get gas and run errands around town, I have seen a dozen locations with police pulling people over or dealing with traffic accidents, bums, drunks and assorted criminals, and seen a half dozen ambulances flying around the city streets. One location had a massive presence with several patrol cars, 2 ambulances, and multiple fire trucks. I have no clue what happened there.

All of this in the hour or so that I was in Reno. A daily occurrence, I am sure. Who would tolerate living here? You’ve got to be insane. What a malignant cesspool. You can have it.

I am happy to leave Reno behind in Believer’s rear-view mirror.

“Believer” is my midnight blue, 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T, which will be a suitable chariot to navigate Interstate 80 east on my 5-day cannonball road-trip ahead. It is 2,300 miles from the World’s Smallest City to Knoxville, Tennessee. Earplugs in, driving gloves on, the bright sun blaring overhead, I am in Reno Nevada and I’m wearing sunglasses. Hit it!

I stopped in Elko, Nevada to fill my tires and run more errands. How refreshing that air for tires is a free service here in Elko. That would be a $1.75 charge in Sacramento, if you could find a machine that works. I feel like I am back in the United States already, having left the People’s Republic of California far behind.

The trip is just starting to feel significant, and that I am making a big move. It is starting to feel real. I am on my way to a permanent new life.

Nevada is just an empty, barren wasteland. It is no wonder it is not heavily populated and was empty for eons. Las Vegas was just a small, faux-opulent place to splurge on vacation or take a honeymoon, doing its best impression of Monte Carlo, and falling dreadfully short. In 1960, Las Vegas had a population of 64,400 and the Nugget was the premier Casino, featuring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret. It was an adult town, and in 1968, Circus Circus was the only place a kid could have fun in Las Vegas.

Then in 1989, Steve Wynn built the Mirage with the erupting volcano out front, and everything changed. Vegas decided to attract families and shed its Mafia town image. The 1990s boom brought in Luxor, Excalibur, Treasure Island, MGM Grand, Stratosphere, New York New York, Belagio, Mandalay Bay and more. By 2000, the population of Las Vegas exploded to 480,000 souls. The rest of Nevada remained more or less empty.

And so I am driving through ugly desert nothingness on my way to Tennessee. But at least I am making tracks. Driving 80-mph on lightly traveled highways is a testament to freedom.

Baby, I was made to hold a steering wheel in my hands! I was born for road trips. I love driving and I always want to see what is around the next corner. I HATE to turn around and head home. Just hate it. I even tried to get a custom California license plate to that effect, "H82STOP". But California denied my request as "racist, hateful, or divisive". So what if I had asked for "H8CANCER" or "H8RACISM". Would those be divisive too?

California, the state with no common sense. And then I am asked why I would want to leave behind such ideal weather.

What an absolute delight for a car nut and road trip addict to glide down smooth, empty highways at 80-mph or more. No traffic. No congestion. Nobody tailgating me or cutting me off because I am trying to safely follow 3 seconds behind.

In fact, I love driving so much, I hope I die behind the wheel of a car. Alone, not hurting anyone else in the process, of course. I have even written my own epitaph, just in case my wish comes true. "He died with a smile on his face and a steering wheel in his hands."

The joy and delight of the Nevada driving experience carries me all the way to my hotel in Battle Mountain, where I check in after 8 pm, and pretty tired from the drive . I have no reservation. Thankfully, I get one of the last available rooms. With Covid, I had assumed hotels would be fairly empty, but that is not the case here in Battle Mountain It is full up. The gold mines are going like gangbusters and the hotel is full of exhausted miners.

Poor progress today. Only a lousy 350-miles achieved. Nothing yesterday and 350 miles today. I am supposed to be 800 miles along by now. I am already well behind schedule and putting pressure on the next 4 days of driving. I still have 2,000 miles to go in 3 days.

I am now looking dreadfully toward 700-mile driving days ahead. Just exactly what I was trying to avoid in my old age.

The original plan for driving day 2 was to make Green River, WY. With such poor progress so far, my new goal for tomorrow’s drive is going to have to be a good 700-mile leap to Laramie, Wyoming. We are looking at least 10 hours on the road plus breaks and an ETA after 9 pm to some hotel with no reservations. Just swell.

Not going well, folks. Not at all. I’m off to a bad start.

Fortunately, this is normal for me so I am comfortable with it. I mean, what else is new? Par for the course. It always works out in the end, so why should this be any different.

If you are breathing, it is a good day.

Any day above ground is a good day. It will all work out. Wait and see…
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