Driving Across America

Friday, September 1, 2000

A VERY Long drive: I left Centralia, WA at 11:30 pm. I made good time at night, so I figured I'd do it again tonight.

I drove for about 28 hours non-stop on this leg of the trip. Well ... I did take two 1-hour naps, and stop at rest-stops, scenic overlooks and stop to eat. I ended up driving thru 4 states! WA to OR to CA to NV. I ended up in this Casino Hotel near the NV/CA border. Rooms were only $25/night. The TV had only one channel, but luckily it was HBO and it was playing movies I liked. There was no phone, no remote for the TV (you didn't need one, obviously), no soap or shampoo. There was also no "No Smoking" rooms. All of the rooms stunk of cigarettes.

When you drive as much as I did that day, you start to see the same cars over and over. They stop at the same rest stops, you pass them, they pass you. It was comforting to know that others were making long journeys along with me.

Driving that long is really hard on the body. My Cousin Athena warned me that my butt would be very sore after driving a lot but I'm finding my back is what's getting sore. But I've figured out how to do back stretching exercises while I drive. To avoid getting stiff, I thought I would stop by at each and every rest-stop and stretch, but I'm finding there are too many and I'm just don't need to stop. On I-5, you'll find a rest-stop about every 30 miles. I like to stop every 4th rest-stop.

My truck does not handle deep road ruts very well. It likes to pull hard to the left or right without warning. There is this stretch along I-90 near my house that has these deep ruts. I always drive in the commuter lane to avoid them, even though I'm the only one in the truck.

About 50 miles south of Tacoma on I-5, you'll find some deep ruts, which cannot be avoided. I maneuver my truck so that there is nobody next to me and I grab the wheel and hang on. In the past, I've had the truck jerk to one side where I've almost hit another car. I've also seen other cars jerk towards me and almost hit me as well.

I love it when the speed limit is 70 mph! I make great time. When I hit Portland, OR, the speed limit dropped to 50 mph ... and for good reason. The highway there is very narrow and windy, with lots of pot-holes and construction. There was no traffic until I hit Portland at 12:30 am and then suddenly traffic got very dense. I was amazed.


I spotted this UFO! It turned out to be a plane coming in for a landing, but the headlights shining thru the thick fog sure made it look like a UFO. It made me laugh and think about all of the UFO spottings. It's nice to think that we're being visited by aliens from space, but I doubt that's the case. I believe there is a rational explanation for all UFO spottings.

I saw a UFO while I was at Lehigh. I was doing a 50 mile bike ride with my friend Linda and we were way out away from main city and we stopped for a minute and I looked up and saw the sun light reflecting off this metallic object. I turned to Linda and said "Check this out!" and I pointed up to the sky, but it was gone. I don't know what I saw, but that's OK. Maybe dehydration caused me to hallucinate, or maybe it was the sun reflecting off a weather balloon, or maybe it was a high flying air-plane the reflected the sun just right for a few seconds, allowing me to see it. Whatever I saw, I don't think it was visitors from another world. I don't need to explain everything in my life. This is just one of those things I can't explain, and it's OK.


I filled my tank 4 times during this leg of the trip and each time it cost me about $30. It occurred to me that this gas would be my biggest expense. I did a quick calculation: If I fill my tank 3 times per day, that would cost me $90 per day. If this trip lasts 4 weeks, then gas will cost me $2520. That's the worst-case scenario. In reality, gas will cost a lot less. I was at Burning Man for 3 days and didn't use any gas.

I should start tracking my gas mileage. I figure I get about six hours of driving on one 18 gallon tank. I brought along spare motor oil, anti-freeze and wind-shield wiper fluid. I need to check the oil and wiper fluid to make sure they're good.


I'm using my cigarette lighter to power my laptop but the dang plug keeps popping out and my laptop keeps shutting down. I gotta get into the habit of making sure its always plugged in. I was hoping to be on the Internet during the whole trip so people could instant message me but unfortunately, once I leave the main cities, my phone switches from a Digital signal to Analog and my computer can't go online in Analog mode. Most of the time I'm out of cel-phone range anyway, so it wouldn't matter.

It's nice when the screen saver kicks in because the glare of my laptop monitor at night is annoying. For some weird reason, the screen saver turns off when I hit a bump sometimes. I don't know how this is possible since my laptop has no mouse and I didn't touch the keyboard. So where and how is it getting input to kill the screen saver?


As I'm driving through CA and NV at night, I get the feeling that I'm surrounded by beauty, but I just can't see it. When I awoke the next day, I was right. I had definitely entered another world.

For some odd reason, there are a lot of trucks pulling trailers with moto-cross bikes and quads. For a few hours it was nothing but these large trucks and me. Some of them had this sign on back that said "long load". They were these trucks pulling 3 trailers!


I'm really enjoying listening to songs from the 20 CDs randomly off my laptop. I gave myself a wide variety of music to listen to but if you get some amazing back-to-back songs with weird contrast. Imagine listening to Bjork followed by The Pixies followed by Rent followed by Lenny Kravits. At least it keeps me awake!

There were two weird coincidences involving the music. A song from Rent ended with the lyrics: "before slitting her wrists in the bathroom" followed by a Pixies song that started "Gouge away!"

The second coincidence was that a Rush song came on right as I was passing Rush St. I'm not a superstitious person so I don't place much meaning on these. I just think these types of coincidences are fun when they happen.

Bad Service:

I pulled off the road somewhere deep into Oregon to fill up my gas. It was full-service which was weird since I'm no longer used to that. The service at this station was horrible. The guy who was filling my tank was the less than happy to see me. I asked him what type of motor oil is best for a long trip and his reply was "How should I know?" When the total came to $31.50, he was pretty annoyed that I didn't have the exact change.

I went into the store to buy some munchies for the road and was delighted to see that Butterscotch Krimpets are making a come back. I used to love those as a kid but it seems like they disappeared. Maybe they just sell them in Oregon now.

Anyway, when I went to pay for my food, the cashier seem annoyed that I was bothering her, taking her away from her conversation with her friend. Actually she kept talking to her friend and didn't even make eye contact with me, or say hello or anything. She didn't even tell me what the total was. All she did was rang up my stuff, took my money and gave me change, and didn't even say "thanks" or "have a nice night". It was like I was this annoying person who she just wanted to get rid of as soon as possible.

Between the gas attendant and the cashier, I have to say that that was the worst customer service I have ever received. At least I got my Krimpets!

One last note about that area. It seemed like every car owned by a local was covered in a think layer of dust. I figured that this was farm country and there is probably a lot of blowing dirt. Another thing I noticed is that all of the local cars had tons of crap on their dash-boards and back seats. It's almost as though they all lived out of their cars. This was obviously a poor area and I was seen as some snobby rich guy just passing thru.

That reminds of something my roommate Brennon said when he forgot to remove his truck from our garage before they started doing construction outside of it. He got them to move their trucks and stop construction so he could leave. Later he said "It's a good thing I look like white-trash, otherwise they would have told me to go to hell." It occurred to me that there might be some truth to this.

If I had pulled up to that gas station in a dusty car with crap on it dressed like a local, they might have treated me real good. I guess it works in reverse too. It's no secret that when a really poor person enters a rich neighborhood, they are looked down upon.

Close Call:

I had this close-call going 65 up a hill in the left lane. The big trucks were going 45 in right lane. I came up to this one truck in the left lane. I tried to drive around him in the right lane, but as I'm passing him, the guy decides to get out of my way and nearly runs me off the road. I just hit the brakes and get behind him and get back into the left lane and pass him.

After thoughts:

I bought these cool-dude glasses with a prescription insert for snowboarding. Unfortunately I found that the glasses distort distances and this makes it very dangerous when trying to judge how far away that tree is. So I don't use them for sports but I found them OK for driving during the day. I tried to wear them at night, but they're too dark, so I pulled out the prescription inserts and stuck them on my face and to my surprise, the actually stayed! So now I've got glasses for the road at night. I just can't look down, since they're basically resting on my nose.

I forgot to mention this earlier but I didn't bring my bike. I tried to install my Yakima roof-rack but couldn't figure it out in the dark, so I gave up. There wasn't enough room inside my truck for the bike so I gave up and left it home. The Burning Man web page says you really a need a bike there because it's so large. I guess I'm going to be doing a lot of walking! Its a shame because I had someone build me a junk bike for $200 just for Burning Man.

I never knew this, but the rest-stops are clogged with tourists sleeping in their cars overnight. Apparently it's OK to park there for 8 hours at a time. I made the mistake of stopping at a rest-stop that doesn't allow "sleep overs". This was one of my 1-hour naps that would have been a lot longer had a guy from the clean-up crew not banged on my window and informed that I was allowed to sleep at this rest-stop.

Some interesting town names I saw were Talent OR and Yreka CA.

I really regret not bringing my keyboard. Typing on this laptop keyboard is painful and slow.

Date Created September 15, 2000
Last Updated April 12, 2006
Contact: patcoston@gmail.com