Where The Streets Have No Name
By Dwip August 30, 2006, 10:27 pm Comments Off on Where The Streets Have No Name RSS Feed for this post

So, that whole trip thing…

8/21 – Monroe, OR to Coeur D’Alene, ID (484 miles) Map

Got started at a ludicrously early hour, an hour not seen since…about a month beforehand when I was working. Oi.

Our listening for the morning was the BBC Lord of the Rings radio play, which if you haven’t heard it, you need to get your hands on a copy. I’ve read the books, I’ve seen the movies, and the radio version is still my favorite.

I’ll spare you the details of the drive up to Portland, because frankly the drive isn’t particularly exciting, and most of you have driven it. I will, however, say that it’s an entirely odd feeling driving through somewhere familiar, not knowing when you’ll see it again. Too, I’ve lived in my house for the better part of 25 years, and while I’ll visit and all, it’s pretty likely I’ll never live there again.

Anyway. Once you leap off I-5 onto I-84, the drive gets a whole lot nicer, almost instantly. There’s a whole lot of state parks along the Columbia Gorge, and there’s a reason for that. Allow me to demonstrate:

There’s a couple hundred miles of that sort of thing, and if you’re one of my OR readers, I strongly encourage you to make a trip out there if you haven’t, because it’s totally worthwhile.

That little chunk of the Gorge is at Starvation Creek State Park, where I stopped for a break about 11 or so. Here’s a couple more shots:

That waterfall was really neat. It runs down, and there’s a little wooded picnic area, and it was a really nice day out, and I cannot possibly describe to you all how utterly perfect it all was.

A little ways over the border in WA, and I stopped here because I was much too stupid to stop in OR, I stopped for gas in this little town. First time I’d pumped gas in my entire life. I can’t say I appreciate the experience. And before all you non-OR types jump on that, let me put it like this. I paid less for gas in OR than in any state until I hit CT, AND they I don’t even have to get out of my car in OR. It’s impossible to lose.

Anyway. We’re going to gloss over most of Eastern Washington, because it’s seriously the most boring place on the entire planet. Observe:

That’s a random rest stop somewhere in the approximate middle of nowhere on WA-395. Seriously, the whole drive is like. It’s like I was being punished for how awesome the Gorge was. And it didn’t really get better when I hit Spokane, either, because I got there right at rush hour, and there was road construction AND a wreck, plus I’d been driving all day and had a killer headache.

My memories of Eastern Washington are not fond. Seattle was cool, though.

Coeur D’Alene, ID was where I had planned to spend the night, and actually was (this was not so much the case later). My impressions? Sucky layout, and the longest traffic light in all of recorded human history right outside my motel. It took like 10 minutes to go 2 blocks to McDonald’s is how bad this light was. But there was a nice handy Walgreen’s nearby (first I’d seen since the 90s, at least), which hooked me up with Advil, so.

8/22 – Coeur D’Alene, ID to Miles City, MT (651 mi) Map

Here’s the thing about going east out of Coeur D’Alene at sunrise. Heading into the Rockies at that hour on a nice day is one of the most spectacular things you will ever see, ever.

Going down the very windy parts of I-90 at 70+ mph, with a cliff on one side, passing semis on a curve an hour after waking up is one of the most exciting things you will ever do. I want to grab the steering wheel with both hands just thinking about it.

But let’s talk about that whole scenery thing again:

First one’s from somewhere west of Missoula, second one’s from somewhere east. Those are the bad shots. I couldn’t take the good shots, because when you’re coming up over the mountain and the entire world opens up before you and it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen? Can’t stop and take pictures, because there’s definitely a semi behind you going 70 mph that wants over that mountain too.

So you’ll just need to make do. Just accept that I-90’s seriously worth driving.

And here’s some things about driving in Montana:

1. The scenery, as we’ve established, is awesome.
2. Speed limit? What speed limit? Go something comfortable.
3. Just watch for the road construction. There’s a lot. I probably spent 200 miles of Montana going through road construction.
4. One of the nicer features of most of the towns is they feel like rest stops. Drive in off the off-ramp, stop at the convenient gas station, get on the on-ramp, go. Very convenient.
5. Also, the drive is freaking awesome.

Eastern Montana’s not quite so awesome, but it still works:

That’s somewhere east of Bozeman. It was very windy at that rest stop. Many locusts. And suddenly, the people on the road turn into you and that one semi.

There was a big part of me that wanted to just keep going from Bozeman on down to Yellowstone, and if I had given myself a bit more time, I totally would have.

I was going to stop in Billings for the night, but that whole speed limit thing, you understand, so I ended up stopping 140 miles down the road in Miles City. Nice town, if a little middle of nowhereish.

8/23 – Miles City, MT to St. Joseph, MN (624 miles) Map

It was a pretty unmemorable day. Pretty much it was me and that one semi, 70 mph, all day through terrain that looked like this:

Yeah. I kinda liked Minnesota, though. The people were all very nice, though they, and the whole Midwest, have this bizzare thing going on…

Look, guys. County highways, here. What the hell? Name your roads like reasonable people. Unless they’re state or interestate highways, roads have no business having numbers. Seriously. You’ve got to have more than enough dead people to name them after, so get to it. Get going.

8/24 – St. Joseph, MN to Iron Mountain, MI (362 miles) Map 1 Map 2

The previous night, having failed to make contact with Marechal to meet up with him in Minneapolis, I pretty much just drove through Minneapolis. Slowly. That town, much like Spokane, just totally sucks to drive through. I did finally get off on Highway 8 where I wanted to, though, and it was off through the wilds of MN, WI, and MI.

You can take that as looking like most of MN, WI, MI, and also Canada and NY and MA. They were often much of a sameness.

Here’s the thing about WI. After driving for days on interstates, Highway 8 at 55-60 mph with stop signs was seriously slow. The little towns were convenient, though, until they stopped, suddenly (I was lucky I got gas when I did).

And seriously, people. This numbered road thing has got to stop. Also, there’s these things, that people invented to put on roads. They call them signs, and they tell you where you’re supposed to go. Give directions, things like that. They’re pretty handy, I hear. Might give them a try some time.

Yeah, I got lost in Rhinelander for like half an hour. Why do you ask?

Also, guys, you might consider maintaining your rest stops. Just a little bit. Something a bit more than a toilet stuck over a hole in the ground. Just saying.

Going into Iron Mountain was a bit trippy, because I sort of remembered being there two years ago when I spent the month at Whir’s. His directions were pretty much “Go down the highway until you see a big Sound North sign. Can’t miss it.” Actually, I remembered the sign. We had been there all of once, and I remembered the sign.

I have no idea how he survives each day at work, because that place is pretty boring. On the plus side, however, we watched anime on a big screen TV, which was worthwhile. Then Tim showed up, we caravaned over to Whir’s place, dropped down to one vehicle, and went and played some D&D with various other folks. It was pretty fun, and as Tim said in previous comments, walking through rubble means a piloting skill check no matter what game it is.

…yes, my heavily armored paladin fell down trying to get to a seriously bad, nasty, evil dude. Because, no matter what the game is, I don’t make the piloting rolls. Ever.

There was some interesting morality debating about what two paladins were doing with this particular crew. I think it was the goblins, but I may be remembering wrong.

I do know that it was pouring down rain, and I mean buckets and buckets of it, when we left at whatever ungodly hour it was.

8/25 – Iron Mountain, MI

What did we do for the whole day? Well, slept mostly. But then we got up, went on a KFC/alcohol/pop run, got Matt (I forget, at the moment, who he was on Shard, not that anybody but Whir and I care), and went to Bartoletti’s for the best steak ever. Seriously, that’s some damn good steak. I can taste that steak right now.

And then? Then we went back to Whir’s, got the LAN fired up, and got drunk and played a lot of Battlefield 2. Well, Matt played WoW. But we got drunk. And it turns out that Grey Goose is really good, with or without the Dr. Pepper.

“Tree there.”

8/26 – Iron Mountain, MI to Grayling, MI (281 miles) Map

It was a short day, because I don’t think anybody woke up before noon, because we’re all totally like that. No hangover, which was slightly amazing, but I was rather reluctant to get back on the road for another exciting day of driving. One of these days, we need to reprise that whole month of gaming and going with bands to bars thing.

So I guess US 2 runs along this lake thing (I guess some people even think it’s a Great Lake. Lake Michigan, maybe) for a while:

Mostly just another day driving, except for the annoying mist the whole way. The kind you can’t really wipe away with the wipers – it smears across the windshield and makes it hard to see. So that sucked. On the other hand, I got to drive across Mackinac Bridge, which is cool. Alas, no pictures, since I was kind of trying to drive at the time, but it was a neat view.

This was the first day I didn’t actually make it as far as I had planned – Port Huron was the goal, but I fell, oh, 200 miles short and ended up in Grayling instead. In reterospect, I’m not sure what I was thinking. Like, we got drunk and played videogames all night. Who saw THAT coming?

8/27 – Grayling, MI to Utica, NY (613 miles) Map 1 Map 2

Canadian customs was surprisingly easy. The Canadian customs officer was this hot blonde, and was pretty nice, though it’s pretty hard to relax and be yourself when you’re being asked if you have any weapons in the vehicle. Alas, I didn’t get so much as a passport stamp.

Now, the thing about driving in Ontario is, it’s not so much that you’re driving in the land of km/h, but it’s 100 km/h, which translates to being about 60 mph, which is really freaking slow after 5 states of 70 mph interstates. The other thing about that is that there were Ontario Provincial Police EVERYWHERE, and my license plate wasn’t only out of state, it was out of country, so I felt sort of obliged to follow the limit. It also turns out that the whole 401/403/QEW corridor is a VERY busy one, which gets kind of exciting at times, and boring at others. I spent, oh, a good hour in line at Niagra Falls waiting to get through customs. Which was fine on the one hand, because, well, Niagra Falls is cool (didn’t get a good picture opportunity though, sorry), but seriously, an hour. With every car in the world trying to fit into this tiny little customs thing.

US Customs Guy: “Wow, you’re from Oregon? You drive the whole way?”
Me: “Why yes, yes I did.”
US Customs Guy: “That must have been some drive!”
Me: “Why yes, yes it was.”

Now, ok. New York. Let’s talk about New York, and let’s talk specifically about the New York Thruway, which in other states is a nice free road known as I-90 (you may remember it from WA, ID, and MT, where I took a slight detour from it – it’s a long road). In New York, however, I-90 is, well, not so free, to the tune of I spent about $20 in tolls getting from Niagra Falls to Massechusetts. I’m still more than a little bitter about that. Seriously, guys. What the hell?

The nice thing about the New York Thruway, and this also applies to the also-not-free-but-much-less-expensive Mass. Turnpike (aka I-90, which intersects I-5 in Seattle and ends up in Boston), is the service areas, which are kind of like rest stops on ‘roids, with big buildings with restauraunts and gas stations, which is astonishingly convenient for me, though I imagine if I was one of the towns along the route, I’d be annoyed.

I ended up in Utica, which was about 100 miles short of Albany, which was where I was supposed to be.

8/28 – Utica, NY to New Haven, CT (245 miles) Map

This was a nice short drive to end things off with. Or it would have been nice if I hadn’t driven through Hartford. Hartford sucks in a way I thought no city but Portland did, and does it worse than any city I ever imagined. Guys? We don’t randomly stick exit only lanes in places with solid traffic. We just don’t. Or else you end up halfway to Waterbury, like me. Which was less than fun, believe me, in that “Oh, hey, am I on the wrong interstate? Oh I am. Shit.” sort of way.

But eventually I wound up in West Haven, supposedly close to the motel I wanted to stay at, not that I could find it. In fact, it took me days to find that place. What I did find, after a lot of driving around lost with no map, was Southern CT State, which was right exactly where I needed to be, because I had graduate orientation that very night. So I got to relax, kick it for a while wandering campus (it’s a nice campus – I promise pics later when I talk about New Haven), and then go to my orientation, where I was presented with a variety of SCSU Graduate School swag, met some people, and generally enjoyed myself.

I’d like to take the opportunity here to thank Dr. Kim, who went out of his way to see that I got fed, tried to find me a place to sleep for the night, and tried to help me fix my totally execrable class situation in days to come (see later entries). And he’s not alone in doing so. Moreso than any other place I’ve been, SCSU’s faculty have gone totally out of their way to really help me out. I love ’em all for it.

At any rate, I stayed my first night in New Haven at the Marriott near Yale. Vastly expensive, but what the hell, I earned it. And besides, I then spent the next week living in that Super 8 down in West Haven I was talking about. Once I found it. It was hard. That road doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not many roads here do.

(I’d like to plug Super 8, by the by. Uniformly decent rooms, free internet, and reasonably priced, in all the locations I needed them in. I stayed Super 8 the whole trip, and never had a problem.)

Wow that was long.

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