Last weekend I drove 1000 miles from Hamilton, Montana to the San Francisco Bay Area to work the weekend at the Monterey and San Francisco Bubba Gump Shrimp Co restaurants. In the 3+ years since completing my move to Montana, I have been flying to and from for my obligations there. For this venture, I decided to drive it once again, as a reminder of the many trips I took back and forth 3 or 4 years ago, and as a way of doing something different. I know a change of scenery does wonders for my psyche.
Would I do it again? Probably, but not any time soon … it’s a long drive. But during the 17 hours of driving each way, you get to do lots of uninterrupted thinking and see some very beautiful scenes. Fortunately, during my 34 hours of driving, 30+ hours were during the daylight. I’d like to share with you some of what I saw, and some of what I learned …
What I saw …
- Tumbleweeds cartwheeling across the road propelled by 40+ mile per hour wind gusts in southern Idaho. No wonder they call them wind witches.
- Deciduous trees and shrubs so full of energy their branches were a luminous yellow-orange color that highlighted my drive.
- Hardly any traffic for 780 miles from Hamilton to Reno. Too much traffic for 300 miles from Reno to the Bay Area.
- Not enough of the road during heavy fog and rain as I climbed the Sierras from Sacramento to Donner Summit. Safe driving speed was reduced to 25 or 30 miles per hour for a time.
- Seven Mountain range crossings; mountain passes are a part of life when you travel in the West, and each one has its own unique quirks and character.
- Sun, wind, rain, snow, fog … Fortunately sun was what I saw most, but the rapidly changing weather as I travelled through Western states in the springtime was challenging and exciting.
- Clerks in small towns that worked the same counters for years.
- Clerks in large towns that serve more people in 1 hour then the small town clerks serve in 1 day.
- An abundance of fishermen in the Salmon River, braving the cold in the ‘River of No Return’, most likely seeking steelhead in their waders and little boats.
What I learned (again) …
- It’s faster driving a car than driving a truck pulling a trailer. Not to mention, easier to find a parking spot.
- Listening to books on tape is much more entertaining and informative than spanning the radio dial in the hope of a clear signal.
- Spring comes to different parts of the country at different times. Seeing it change within a few miles highlights this point.
- It’s best for both body and mind to stop and stretch every 2 to 3 hours … even if it’s only for a few minutes.
- Fog and rain and NOT being able to see the road is more energizing than a clear road with sunshine or a shot of caffeine.
- California has a lot of people and a lot of cars.
- Nevada is a stretch of mountainous desert with towns that seem to just pop up out of nowhere.
- Idaho has little towns, big farms, gorgeous mountains, and one of the most remote sections of the country I’ve ever experienced … Arco to Salmon.
During an isolated stretch of Highway 93 about 40 miles north of Arco, ID there is a road sign for Old Chilly Road. Each time I’ve driven past this sign something about it propels me to shout aloud, “OLD CHILLY ROAD!”. Most likely it’s from too much seat time, the barren mountainous landscape and remoteness of the area that triggers my outburst. I smile inwardly as it’s strangely humorous each and every time, and the sign is like a familiar old friend on my journey.
When I began my move to Montana from the Bay Area of Northern California 4 years ago, I drove this route 8 times over the course of 1 year. At that time, I choose to move myself as a means of making the transition. I rationalized that driving back and forth the 1000 miles would be time for my mind to transform between the breakneck speed of the Silicon Valley that I called home for 25+ years and the relaxed lifestyle of the Bitterroot Valley of SW Montana. It took me the 8 trips to completely move my household and the shop goodies I accumulated over the years.
Last weekend I recreated that year of moving in a single trip. Maybe it was about completing my move from CA to MT? Maybe it was about giving myself a chance to see and newly appreciate a part of the country that most people don’t see? Maybe it was just a chance to spend some quiet time away from my routine?
I would have to say that the most important thing I learned (again) on this long drive, was that I love this country!
Next Blog Title: 14 Years as Forrest Gump!
Next Blog Date: Monday, April 5, 2010