Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Iowa and South Dakota and Wyoming and Idaho and Oregon

August 1st has arrived, which means 12-month housing leases in college towns across the country have reached an end. If you are lucky enough to be finished with college like me (or unlucky, looking at it from the job market angle), then you are faced with a decision.

Option 1: Stay put.

Option 2: Sell all of the possessions you have that won't fit into your tiny 2-door car, steal your sister's trunk-mounted bike rack, and hit all of those interstates you've never seen on a 2 day Iowa to Portland road trip filled with 17 hours of driving each day, a mostly unsuccessful night of sleep in the parking lot of a truck stop, and all the food you could scrounge up from your parent's house before you left.

I went with option 2.

The trip really began with South Dakota. As far as I can tell, the whole state of South Dakota exists between Mt. Rushmore and Wall Drug, which, geographically, covers a very small portion of the total state. The rest of the space is spent trying to convince drivers that they will get to the good stuff eventually.

Originally, I had planned on making the trip in 3 days, stopping to sleep in Rapid City, South Dakota and Missoula, Montana. I had found some couches to sleep on through CouchSurfing.net. However, the trip quickly turned into a 2 day driving fest when I hit Rapid City on the first night at 7:30 P.M. and decided I had at least 6 more hours of driving in my system.

After a quick map-on-the-car-hood route change, I decided to pass on Montana and head south through Wyoming instead.

Wyoming is South Dakota with a little more John Wayne and a little less Wild Bill Hickock. The main difference is that Wyoming assumes you are there for Yellowstone National Park, so they don't destroy all of their landscape views with billboards reminding you it is there.

Fifteen hours after leaving Iowa, at about 2 AM. I parked my little Honda Prelude between 2 huge semi trucks at a truck stop in Casper, Wyoming, reclined my seat back as far as all of the stuff in my backseat would allow me to, and attempted to get some sleep. I woke up 5 hours later, chugged a cup of terrible gas station coffee, and sped my way across the vast Wyoming desert-like landscape, assuming by the look of things that I didn't really need to worry about running into a cop to bust me for speeding.

I've heard the wrist area on the raised arm that is northern Idaho is beautiful, but after changing my route to go through Wyoming, I saw more of what would probably be called the shoulder. Idaho is only a little less flat than Iowa. The whole state hides all of its civilization behind rolling hills. Each hill I would climb held the unfulfilled promise that something other than more hills would reveal itself once I reached the top. It wasn't until I began seeing vineyards and wineries along the western border that I knew I was getting close to Oregon.

Perhaps I'm just biased toward my new home state, but Oregon seemed to take the best parts of all the states I had traveled to get to it and rolled them into one wonderful place where the view never disappoints. The feeling of being out of middle-America settled in and my destination finally felt within reach. Unfortunately, my luck in avoiding the police had finally run out, and I was stuck with an unusually pricey speeding ticket (by Iowa standards) within 20 minutes of crossing the state line.

With my willingness to speed gone, I came to the realization that I still had about 5 hours of driving ahead of me. The Google maps estimation of 1800 miles was about 300 miles short, but, at this point, it was Portland or bust. With nothing but my cat passenger and podcasts of Mysterious Universe to keep me company, I powered through the rest of the drive to arrive at my new house in Portland at 1 A.M.

With no bed to sleep on, I passed out on the floor, laying on my stomach because my butt hurt to bad from sitting on it for 17 hours straight. I woke up the next morning to an overcast sky and light rain.


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