America By Dashboard
By Dwip February 6, 2015, 12:07 am Comments (2) RSS Feed for this post

So, as most of you know, back in March 2011 I took a little trip across the country when I moved back to Oregon from Connecticut. As most of you are also aware, this was not a happy event, which is part of why I’ve sat on it for almost four years. The other part, of course, is that before the last redesign this blog wasn’t capable of displaying the pictures like I wanted, but that got fixed like two years ago so what am I waiting for.

Somewhat more to the point, however, I took a bunch of pictures on my way back, most of them one handed with no aiming from the dashboard of my car, which I assure you is a much less dangerous feat than you might imagine, about as involved as turning the radio on, which I also did a lot of. The BBC’s The Lord of the Rings radio play is like the best thing for this. Star Wars as well. Of course, given the reasons for the trip, you might be better off looping this and this over and over. One of them has an extreme amount of situational irony. I leave it to you to discover which.

Why my dashboard, you might ask. Well, here’s the thing. You see a lot of things driving. Most of them, it’s hard to just pull over and take a picture of the thing. You drive by, it’s over, there’s no going back. Hopefully you have a nice memory somewhere. I really wish I could show you pictures of going over the Rockies in the morning out of Cour d’Alene, Idaho back in 2006, but I can’t. So I wanted to do better this trip.

Hopefully I did.

For those of you with slow internet, there’s a lot of stuff past this jump – almost 60 pictures in one post, which represents the close to death march pace I set for myself here. Budget some time for this one.

The idea for my first day was to ride the Wilbur Cross/Merritt Parkway to I-684, then take I-84 as far as I could. The main idea was to avoid taking I-95 through New York City, which is a plan much akin to willingly throwing yourself into the gaping maw of Hell.

What actually ended up happening was miles and miles of road construction, forcing me to divert away from the 684 idea and fake it. That’s always a bit of a risky move in CT, but it ended up working out, and I skipped New York and had an adventure in the process.

I say all this to note that I took the above somewhere along the diversion route. Definitely beats driving through, say, Stamford.

This was taken somewhere along I-84, probably near the New York/Pennsylvania state line. This is early March, so you can still see snow on the ground – we’re only a week or so past some of the worst winter weather I saw in my time in Connecticut, and while there’s blue skies in a lot of these pictures, I was usually either chasing a storm, running from one, or in the tunnel between storms. Many weather sites were harmed in the making of this trip.

This is along I-81 near Scranton, Pennsylvania. I’ve always been greatly impressed by cuts like this – they were always a feature of our many trips to California and the Oregon Coast as a kid, and it was always neat to imagine the effort involved in moving the tons of rock it takes to create something like this.

Also they just look really cool.

On the first day of this trip, I only got 5ish hours of driving in, because it took me that long to pack and ship everything, about three solid weeks from deciding to leave the Monday of my breakup to when I actually left. Frantic, but what I needed at the time.

This was the first full day of being able to drive at something approaching the rate I knew I was capable of, about 10 or 11 hours full out with occasional stops for gas and food.

This is the Sideling Hill Service Plaza along I-76 past Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. One of the things that states like New York and Pennsylvania do better than most are their service plazas – 24 hour rest stops with gas and food and some other stuff. Most people just do little rest areas with some bathrooms, but these service plazas were pretty nice and I miss them when I’m traveling elsewhere.

This is some random stretch of I-76 between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Nothing special here, I just thought it was neat.

This is somewhere along I-70 coming out of Wheeling, West Virginia. I can now say I’ve been to West Virginia, if only for 10 or 15 miles of it. We’re also starting to come out of the Appalachians at long last, along with all the snow.

In this edition of Rest Stops of America, this is the rest stop just outside of Hebron, Ohio just east of Columbus. This thing is pretty nice as rest stops go, if perhaps a little too modern art for taste. It’s got nothing on that Pennsylvania service plaza, but not bad as these things go. Most importantly, it had a bathroom. Bathrooms are important.

Columbus was my third major city of the day, after Harrisburg and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. Major cities are the worst part of any interstate drive, because there are always going to be insanely annoying merges and a bunch of jackasses in semis. As I note in my tweet, however, it was way less bad than Hartford, Connecticut, which is some sort of badly signed, overcrowded version of Hell.

This is the rest area on I-70 in Preble County, Ohio. We’re just short of the Indiana border by about two miles. We’re also well into the plains states so to speak. I’ve always assumed this bunker-like construction was for protection in case of apocalypse and/or tornado. It’s definitely unique.

I actually spent a bit of time here stretching my legs. There’s a nice little park area here, with a little bit more going on than just hiding from the wrath of an angry God.

And this is the Ohio/Indiana border. I stopped for the night just over the border in Richmond, because if I had actually kept going like I wanted to I would have wound up in Indianapolis, and that would have been bad.

I hate big cities.

Day 3 was a bit seat of my pants – the original idea had been to go south via St. Louis and go west that way, but as it so happened there was flooding, so I decided to not attempt to ford the river there. Fording the river never works out well.

This is part of the Lizton, Indiana rest area on I-74 just west of Indianapolis. Indianapolis made major city #4 that I went straight through, and like all of the other ones it sucked, especially at 9:30 in the morning.

Sometimes I have flashbacks about merging.

This is just outside Ogden, Illinois in the eastern half of the state. This is roughly what the next 8 hours of my day is going to look like. Flat, but the speed limits are nice.

And here we have some random farm buildings west of Champaign, Illinois almost smack in the middle of the state. This whole area is like every stereotype of Midwest geography came true.

This is the rest stop on I-80 in Tiffin, Iowa just west of Iowa City. I came over the Mississippi at Davenport, and I’m now in western Iowa.

Why I would be so excited about this particular rest stop of all of them I leave as an exercise for the reader.

This is the landscape near the rest stop. Flat, flat, and a little more flat broken up by the odd hill or small forest. It is also still very much winter and still very much brown.

I’ve still got another hundred miles or so of Iowa to go through here, but I think you get the idea.

Having committed myself to taking a northerly route through the plains states, I basically spent all day going west on I-80, almost all of it through Nebraska. Nebraska is a very long state. And a very flat state. They don’t call them the Great Plains because they’re small.

This is the sunrise over the Super 8 at Stuart, Iowa where I ended my previous day’s travels, a bit west of Des Moines smack in the middle of Iowa. I pretty much stayed in Super 8s the entire way across country, since they were cheap enough and did what I needed them to do.

This is I-80 near Avoca, Iowa, just before I split off south to cross the Nebraska border at Omaha. This is pretty typical Iowa.

This is shot from the Kearney I-80 rest area, about halfway through Nebraska. You may recall Kearny from Fort Kearny from Oregon Trail. I’ve been following said Oregon Trail roughly since Omaha. Which is fitting, of course.

This is the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, among other things a museum commemorating all that western expansion stuff I was talking about. I had no idea at the time, and there was no real way to turn off and see the thing, so this is what there is.

That is to say, I did not stop, nor did I hunt for buffalo. On the other hand, nobody died of dysentary either.

This is the Brady rest area west of Brady, Nebraska, sort of vaguely in the western half of the state. It looks like a nice place from the images I’ve seen of it in the summer, when all those trees actually have leaves. Still, they look kind of neat here at the tail end of winter nonetheless.

This is just a random shot of the sky somewhere around the Nebraska/Wyoming state line. This was a beautiful day, with temperatures in the low 70s, which was amazing for mid-March and made for a very enjoyable drive, especially considering the 75 mph speed limits and almost complete lack of traffic. Me and that one semi like the entire way. It was great.

Also, while Nebraska is very very flat, the effect of a sky like this over complete flat land as far as the eye can see is rather breathtaking in its way. I do a lot of pictures of mountains and trees and things, but this too has its own stark beauty.

As opposed to Stark beauty, of course. That’s supposed to be Sansa.

This is the outskirts of Cheyenne, Wyoming. The glare kind of killed the effect I was going for here, but I had a headache and really needed to eat, get gas, and pee, so what you see is what you get of Cheyenne. Mainly I got lost looking for a gas station here.

West of Cheyenne we start making out way up into the Rockies, with this weird and very sudden line between no snow and all the snow. I got a little nervous about here, since as great as snow is to look at, driving through it is a miserable experience.

I think we’re somewhere past Laramie at this point. Again, Oregon Trail fans should recognize this.

Fortunately, my snow worries were unfounded. It stayed off the road, and the day stayed very very nice. So I got to have all the beauty with none of the hassle and only a little of the cold. I approve.

We’re a little late in the day now, as you can see by the sun. I just think this is a really neat picture, gunk on my windshield and all.

And one last artistic shot as the day ends of some clouds that look very airbrushed. I love the Rockies. They’ve been very good to me scenerywise.

This was the longest single day of the entire trip, with the most varied scenery of the whole trip. So we’re going to have a lot of pictures this time around, and because I love mountains and love snow we’re going to be a little self indulgent about it.

This is early morning over Rawlins, Wyoming. We’re about halfway through the state.

The thing about Wyoming that was weird was that, unlike most places that have a fairly organic transition between countryside and urban buildup, in Wyoming it’s either one or the other, and the whole thing ends up looking like a game of Sim City that hasn’t made it very far. It’s a unique look.

This is a truck loaded up with what I’m fairly certain are M577s, the command vehicle conversion of the M113 APC. If I can read bumpers correctly, these are from Headquarters and Support Company, 507th Engineer Battalion.

This is I-80, somewhere near Rock Springs, Wyoming. We’re about 3/4 of the way through the state now.

And here we’re coming into Rock Springs. I really like shots like this.

Also, note the clouds. This will become important.

This is one of many, many tunnels I went through. I’m somewhat confused as to how I only have this one picture – I went through around ten of the things.

This is somewhere near Evanston, Wyoming, near the Utah border. We’re slowly but surely coming over the other side of the Rockies now.

Have I mentioned I really like mountains and snow?

This too is somewhere in the Evanston area. Notice that it’s getting a little grimmer out, but still pretty clear. Might be an ok day after all, though not as amazing as the previous day.

We’re now over the Utah state line, somewhere east of Morgan. And by “east of Morgan” I mean there’s about a 20 mile stretch where this could have been taken – towns are a bit thin on the ground over there.

This is from the same general area. Very interesting how it went from snow to not snow in a short time span.

We’re really near Morgan now. There’s a valley in between where I am and that vast snow covered ridgeline in the distance.

There’s a very sudden dropoff where I-84 comes out of the Rockies into Ogden, which is right next to the Great Salt Lake. There are mountains to the one side, then very flat valley to the other. This is near Brigham City, Utah, the last major bastion of civilization before you hit the Idaho border.

And now we’re in northern Utah, near the Idaho border, and it’s looking pretty ominous. But if I’m lucky, it won’t rain too hard.

…or not. This happened almost literally as soon as I crossed the Idaho border, and lasted about 50 miles all the way to Twin Falls.

And this is I-84 outside Twin Falls, Idaho. Rainstorms are miserable to drive through, but they do create nice dramatic scenery once they pass. Although this one’s not entirely done with me yet – Idaho is going to be mostly rain, unfortunately.

That sign says “Welcome to Oregon”. At last, after almost 5 years, I am coming home. It’s hard to relate to you precisely what my feelings were here, but I’ve often described my time in Connecticut as my time in exile – I spent years longing to return home, and once I crossed that state line, I was home. Never mind that it’s still going to take another day of driving to get home for real, now I am home and the sense of relief and joy and elation I felt at this moment was palpable.

Seeing this sign was a big moment in my life.

These two are somewhere in the long stretch of I-84 north of Ontario, Oregon, which is where the sign is at. Like Idaho, there’s not much out here in Eastern Oregon, and mostly we’re all just trying to get somewhere else.

Of note, it’s getting kind of late in the day here, and the glare is worse than you think it is – I almost ran off the road once before deciding that yeah, maybe I’d better pack it in for the night. The spirit was willing to continue, but the flesh was weak. And the eyes hurt.

Some 15 miles or so out in the middle of nowhere south of Baker City, Oregon is this cement plant. And I’m seriously not kidding – there is nothing here for miles in any direction except this cement plant. Why is it here? Where are the people? No idea.

What I do know is it’s another 50 miles to Pendleton and the sun is in my face and I can’t see a damn thing.

This is I-84 outside Pendleton, Oregon. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, I will be home today, and everything is ok with the world again. This picture pretty much matches my mood for the day. I was in a pretty bad place for weeks prior to this point, but now it’s gonna be ok again.

This is my first glimpse of the Columbia River gorge. I’m a big fan of this place, and I’ve snapped tons of pictures of it and will doubtless do so again, but this was kind of a moment I’d been looking forward to.

And that’s why I stopped the first spot I could and took pictures. This is the gorge from Quesna County Park near Boardman, Oregon. The day is fabulous.

Same spot, looking slightly off the side. I have a few more from here I’m keeping to myself, because we’re already almost 50 pictures into this post and it’s enormous.

This is a cut along the gorge near Arlington, Oregon. We’re not quite to the green parts of Oregon yet, but there’s a whole hell of a lot less brown than I’ve seen in quite a while.

This is I-84 along the gorge several miles east of The Dalles looking at Miller Island. I thought the train tunnel was neat. There was a train, too.

This is I-84 near Hood River, Oregon. We’re very close to Portland now, and this is essentially the Oregon I know. Evergreens and mist. All the evergreens and mist. I’m kinda starting to think maybe I’m home again.

There’s a sign in this picture, kind of small, past the semi in the distance. That’s the sign for the Enchanted Forest, a theme park I went to many a time when I was young and Ronald Reagan was a going concern. I’m showing you this because this is the first really familiar landmark I’ve seen. I’m now just south of Salem on I-5.

Near Tangent, south of Albany, Highway 34 splits off from I-5. This is just after I’ve turned off I-5. I’ve left the interstates behind after thousands of miles, and I will not travel them again on this trip.

We’re close now.

This is downtown Corvallis, on 4th Street between Jackson and Van Buren. This was a strange moment for me. I’ve been to Corvallis many times in my life, had lived there for four years at that point, and I’d driven this street hundreds or thousands of times. And yet I didn’t recognize it. It took me a while to mentally rewire myself so I could recognize familiar places again. It was a very strange feeling.

This is Highway 99 south of Corvallis. For those of you familiar with previous photoblogging those blue barns in the distance should look familiar. They looked pretty familiar to me, too, now that my brain was finally kicking into gear again.

The excitement of being less than a half hour from home was palpable.

This is Highway 99 coming into Monroe. My high school is on the left towards the rear – that white building is the cafeteria/gym.

I’m pretty much cheering in the car now. I am home. This is home. This is my place.

This is the turn from Highway 99 onto Orchard Street in Monroe. I am now two left turns from my house. The Methodist Church on the left there and the apartments on the right have looked like that as long as I can recall, and if you go down the path through those yellow pillars, you’ll come out at the grade school. I came down this street almost every day of my life for 14 years and more.

I’ve been away for too long but I could drive this part of the trip in my sleep. I have driven this in my sleep, or close enough.

This is the turn onto Cherry Creek Road. That sign has been there, hand painted, longer than I have been alive. I will make this left turn, and then I will make another in a couple of minutes into my driveway.

I am home again. Our long national nightmare is over.

Unfortunately, so are the pictures.


Connecticut, Oregon, Photoblogging, Trips Comments (2) Trackback URL for this post RSS Feed for this post
Comments on America By Dashboard
avatar Comment by Hana #1
February 6, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Wow, that was super awesome! I felt like I was on the trip with you!

For random snapshots while whizzing along an interstate, some of them are quite spectacular. Especially in the Rockies.

Yay! Bunny is home! o/

avatar Comment by Samson #2
February 9, 2015 at 9:16 pm

As Dwip discovers the literal meaning of “snow line” :P

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