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All Night Long

Posted 05-09-2021 at 02:30 PM by Igor Blevin
Updated 05-09-2021 at 02:47 PM by Igor Blevin

Day 3, leaving Laramie on my drive from my old home in Sacramento, California to my new apartment in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Yet another 10:00 am start. It is hard to make good time when you keep leaving late.

The Best Western Laramie was very nice for $80, free breakfast appreciated. The gentlemen I joined recommend Idaho as the best state to live. One lives there. The other is moving there from California, and coincidentally worked where I used to work. I said I was on my way to live amid the green hills of Tennessee, which met with their approval, as did my decision to leave California.

The sprint from Salt Lake City was uneventful once the Utah Highway Patrol stopped trying to mount me from behind. What can you say about Utah? It is barren, arid, and desolate. Even the Mormon wouldn’t have stayed if they could have settled anywhere else without being murdered.

Utah is ugly, outside of several noteworthy national parks. Wyoming is better.

It is fascinating to cross America and see where one state stopped and said, “no thanks, we are done. Y’all can have that spot over yonder we don’t want.” Crossing states gives a rough idea why each state ends where it does and didn’t want what lies further to the west. At least, most states daisy-chained from east to west.

Geography and geology dominate the boundaries. Water is paramount.

Time flies like nothing at 75- or 80-mph. By 4:30 pm, I am in Lexington, Nebraska. Nebraska is not quite as flat as most people think. It is not Florida.

My planned ETA for the night is somewhere beyond Kansas City, Missouri. I need to make tracks if I am going to have a full day to lay out the paper furniture in my apartment. I don’t want to hotel in high-crime KC, so I am aiming for Odessa, just beyond.

While planning this, I keep thinking about that $200/hour penalty if I am not there when the movers are. If they are ready to unload Thursday morning at 8 am and I’m not ready to go, then I incur a $200/hour charge for every hour I am late. 10 hours = $2,000.

Panic begins to set in. No, not panic. Deep concern. I don’t want the bother. I want to guarantee I am at my apartment on time and have set up the paper furniture to my satisfaction. I am taking no chances. It is time to admit defeat.

And I am already out of shirts.

I only brought 3 shirts on this trip. The plan was to stop at the occasional Harley-Davidson dealer for a new souvenir t-shirt as I crossed the plains. As my drive became a race, I didn't have time to seek out dealerships, or driving at night they had already closed. They don't have good shirts until the summer anyway. This time of year, it is all smalls and 3XL and not much in between.

OK. I don’t want to do this, but it has come down to it.

I am 63 years old and in no condition for all night driving, but necessity is the mother of invention. Drive, I shall. No stopping to sleep in Missouri as originally planned. It is Knoxville or Bust! Bring on the hot coffee, in large quantities. Sugar too. Coffee and candy. The breakfast of champions.

C’mon, tell me you haven’t been here before.

Crossing America by night is so much different than during the day. Not only does the ugliness of the desert go away, but lights come out where you would never expect people to be living. That ranch house or trailer or little store that you would have never seen tucked away hidden in some nondescript arroyo during the daytime is suddenly betrayed by its shining lights at night, and you become aware of all of these people living in absolute Nowheresville Nevada, Utah or Wyoming. Isolated. With nothing but a TV satellite dish. They all have one.

The other thing about burning across America by night is that it feels a lot like island hopping.

In World War II, the US navy would attack key Japanese held islands, hopping over the rest of the ones that were insignificant. Driving through the serene, empty dark of night almost mimics sailing on the high seas. You see nothing, and mostly there is nothing to see. Lights are few and far between over the empty miles.

Then you spot a glow on the horizon. It grows and brightens as you approach a city, eventually taking recognizable shape. You are bathed in light for the few minutes it takes to cross town. Before you know it, the city is just a diminishing glow in your rear-view mirror, as darkness envelops you once again, for as far as you can see in every direction.

It is an eerie experience. The long, still stretches driving in almost complete darkness. Spotting a dim glow on the horizon, sometimes a mirage. Watching the city grow brighter and better defined as you approach. And then all too soon, seeing this brief burst of light disappearing far behind you, returning to still darkness.

The occasional random truck stop is like a refueling ship you find along your voyage.

Island hopping is really the only term I can think of to describe it.

One correction. That really only applies to the west. West of the Rockies or west of the Mississippi River. Towns are plentiful and close together in the east. You don’t go hours and hours between lighted cities in the east. Since I am driving from California to east Tennesee, I don’t pass through much of the east.

Somehow, I keep driving but I have to pee by the time I get to St. Joseph, Missouri around 11 pm. Saved by a Love’s Truck stop. Thank goodness for truck stops. They are a boon to long distance drivers. Safe, accessible, and always open. Truck stops are so superior to roadside Rest Areas with their cold toilets and vending machines. Truck stops are so much better. Out goes the old coffee. In comes the new, and it’s on the road again.

GPS is either a godsend or a hot mess. It is hard to tell.

Navigating my way around Kansas City toward Tennessee, the GPS sends me on through a maze of connections over city streets, doing its best impression of an Origami pretzel. If this is the best route around Kansas City, then thank the Lord for GPS, as I would never have found my way using paper maps alone or just relying on road signs. The tortured route is circuitous and maze like.

On the other hand, if my GPS has sent me over all these local streets and numerous connections because it calculated a route 1 mile shorter than a direct, relaxing drive on the interstate would have been, then I am pissed.

I suspect it is the latter. I think my GPS has outsmarted itself and screwed me over yet again. For all they offer, we are still in our computer dark ages. Things just don’t work as advertised or as imagined. Why do software writers always chose power over simplicity and ease of use? I doubt 10% of people use that power.

How about making tech easier to use for the other 90% of us? Or sell 2 versions so us numbskulls can have the idiot proof one. Nah, what would be the fun of that? You wouldn’t need armies of IT staff in the work place, or need the Geek Squad to help little old ladies read their email.

The all-night drive is relaxed and uneventful, as all-night drives tend to be.

Then around dawn, I am suddenly drawn into the vortex of an early morning stock car race. Suddenly, it is the Daytona 500 and I find myself caught in 90-mph traffic, with cars weaving and changing lanes with a fury that would make Richard Petty look like a piker. We are talking about truck drivers tossing their 18-wheel semi-trucks around from lane to lane like they were Porsche sports cars. This is freaking insane.

Fearlessly, I guide Believer through the mess of lane drops, lane additions, lane shifts and traffic merging from adjacent ramps, all while trying to follow the constantly changing directions of my in-car Navigation. This is no ordinary commute like I am used to seeing in Sacramento.

Nearly out of gas and frazzled from partaking in the 90-mph demolition derby, I plunge Believer down a random off-ramp and pull into a Pilot gas station for a splash and dash. Checking my iPhone reveals that I am in midtown St. Louis, Missouri. Isn’t this the murder capital of America or something?

The herd of cars milling through the Pilot parking lot are old, dumpy, dented, and run down. Something is amiss here.

I love my crime app called “Crime and Place” and rely on it to avoid being where I shouldn’t and do not want to be. I pull up the app and read the crime rate where I am sitting here in the Pilot gas station parking lot.

Violent crime = 7.8 out of 10
Property crime = 7.4 out of 10

These are the highest crime rates I have ever seen from my app. Even Point West and Del Paso Park back in Sacramento don’t have crime this high. Time to get out of Dodge! I mean, “anywhere but here”. Gas will just have to wait.

I blast down the freeway and out of town. Look kids, there is the St. Louis arch.

I cross the river into East St. Louis, IL and consult “Crime and Place” once again.

Violent crime = 8.4
Personal crime = 7.9

Sacre bleu, it is worse! Run away. Run awaaayyyyy!

I am really in danger? No. I am well aware that most violent crime takes place at night, among parties that typically know each other. Drugs and alcohol are often involved. Crime between strangers in the light of day is few and far between, even in the worst of neighborhoods. I know that much of theft is retail theft against businesses, not against individuals. Things like auto theft typically occur when cars are parked overnight, often with the keys left in the car, not just left for an hour while having dinner, let alone stopping for gas.

I could have filled up the tank in St. Louis had I wanted to. It is not as if I would have been carjacked right there in the Pilot parking lot. It is a matter of peace of mind. If you can eliminate even a small risk, and you have the means to do so, then why not? So, when my internal radar goes off, since I have my “Crime and Place” app to guide me, I have developed a habit of avoiding loitering in high crime areas. I seek out low crime areas to conduct my business. I mean, if you can then why not? Why would you intentionally choose to shop, eat, or fill the gas tank in a known area of high violent and property crime? It is not prudent.

I’m not paranoid, just being careful.

Merely 15 miles down the road, O’Fallon, IL has no crime to speak of. I pull off to fill the tank with gas and fill myself with a large Starbucks Americano with cream. I am treated to seeing my first Bronco Sport in the wild, a light blue-grey Outer Banks. The Bronco Sport is a small SUV with capable off-road ability, that I am interested in as a dog hauler for when I finally get my German Shepherd puppy. Believer doesn’t do dog hair. Nope. So I am looking for an SUV to buy for my future dog.

How many dogs can say they are in the market for an SUV? Yep, all of them. We sure spoil our dogs. What a hard life they lead. Eat, sleep, get their belly scratched. Tough life, Fido.

After 2 days of highway only travel, my car is now showing a range of over 450 miles with every fill-up. The gas tank holds 16 gallons plus reserve. When I was doing nothing but driving locally around Sacramento, my car never displayed more than 225 miles for range. Now that I have been doing continuous freeway driving at speed, the range is showing 460 and even 470 miles. So cool.

Fact: you can never have too much range. Take that, Tesla.

So far, I am averaging a solid 25 mpg over the 2,000 miles I have driven so far, much of it at speeds of 80 mph. Not too shabby for a 400 HP muscle car that weighs 4,150 lbs empty but now hauling 300 lbs of lead. I have to admit, if it weren’t for the environmentalist wackos, our gas hogs would probably still be delivering 8 mpg highway. I guess the Sierra Club is good for something after all.

The rest of the morning drive to Tennessee is a blur of fighting exhaustion and sleep deprivation. I vaguely remember seeing amazing beauty and thinking I was in Tennessee, but it turns out I had crossed over into the SW corner of Kentucky. Beautiful, just beautiful scenery. I get a sudden urge to live in Kentucky.

And then finally, after 2,197 miles, 200 gallons of gas, 24-cups of coffee, 21 pee breaks, 4 days driving with one all-nighter, several missed meals, 2 hotel stays, and 1 tire pressure refill -- it was finally in my sights. The sovereign state of Tennessee.
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