For the past 22 years, I've been a resident of Washington. For the past 5, I've been living in Seattle. But that all changed when the wife got a job at Yale, over in New Haven, Connecticut. So, once my disastrous stint as a Microsoft Employee ended (Suffice to say, it was a life-changing experience. Mostly anyway), I packed up everything I owned, hired an incredibly sketchy moving service, and left my beloved West Coast for the East.
I drove my trusty 1999 Mazda Protege, the trunk and backseat stuff full of… man I don't know what the hell I put in there but it was a lot of stuff. I think there were a few lamps in there, my tennis rackets, and a bunch of stuff I literally threw out once I arrived in Connecticut. My starting provisions were two bags of Tim's Cascade Jalapeno Potato Chips, and two bottles of Wilcox Farms Strawberry Milk. This seems like as good a place for a break as any:
The trip took 4 days. I was all by myself, as the wife went to Hawaii for a last extended girl's night out with her work friends. I'd usually complain about that, but since she also bribed me with an Xbox 360 and a Nintendo Wii, I kept my mouth shut and got in the car. You might wonder what a guy does when he's driving across country for 12 hours at a time. Well, I'm about to tell you so quit asking stupid questions.
DAY ONE: Seattle, WA -Butte, MT
Probably the easiest leg of the trip, and the most poignant. As I left Seattle, I had the radio set on KEXP. I cannot confirm nor deny I saluted the Space Needle as I passed it on I-5. I won't deny it though, I was sad. I love Seattle. Growing up, I always wanted to live there. And here I was, leaving it. For what? WHAT I ASK YOU? Oh right, wife. Sorry Seattle, but last I checked you had no power over whether I would or would not have sex night to night.
Once you get past the Cascades, the scenery changes from Mountains and miles of Evergreen forest to miles and miles of flat landscape. And fairly strong winds. And farmland. Lots of farmland. I grew up here in Eastern Washington. Imagine your typical Seattle resident. Flannel shirt, kahki's and sandals. Maybe a army surplus shoulder bag with Che's picture on it. Venti Triple Extra-hot Soy Latte in one hand, a laptop in the other. Maybe he's wearing a black jacket with those doofy black plastic emo-intellectual glasses. Now just scrap all of that because morons like that get their beat up out east (and I should know, I had to replace my glasses TWICE).
After the paradise that is Eastern Washington, and meeting a friend for lunch in Spokane (aka Spokompton, Spokanistan, and God Damn It I'm in Spokane), I went over the panhandle (or chimney I suppose) of Idaho, which had some utterly devastating beautiful scenery. Huge mountain vistas, crawling with Evergreens and brilliant lakes. Go google images yourself, I'm not going to do your work for you. It's perfect for all you reclusive racists out there.
Montana was next. To answer your immediate question, they got rid of that whole "no speed limit" thing a while ago. However, since the speed limit at this juncture was 75 mph, it didn't really make that much of a difference. The landscape here is flat, with very large mountains in the background. Also very purty. I would have stopped to take a picture but I was making a straight beeline to Missoula, home of Big Sky Brewery (we make water fun!). After a few free samples of their always excellent Moose Drool, it was off to Butte, where I spent the night. I watched Law and Order: Special Victims Unit while eating leftover chips and lunch. Episode Summary: Someone got raped but it wasn't who you thought it was! Also, cops have personal problems too.
DAY 2 – Butte, MT – Sioux Falls, SD
This was easily the worst part of the trip. The absolute pits. I got up at 6am, and after some free donuts, horrific coffee, and a last trip to Safeway to reload on Cascade chips and strawberry milk, the epic journey continued.
I decided to play a game as I was traveling. I called it "Oh my God, what kind of Talk Radio Hell Have I Driven Myself into Now?" It's really simple to play:
A) Try to find an NPR station.
B) Try to find as many conservative talk radio programs as you can.
C) Watch out for deer.
Washington was easy. Seattle easily had an NPR station, there were some conservative talk radio, but not all that much. Which is natural I suppose. Eastern Washington had an NPR easily located (And I even found two separate shaky signals in that big space of nothing between Ellensberg and Spokane), as well as four conservative talk shows, and a Hispanic language channel that was either a conservative talk show, or a really good one-man soap opera. I didn't count Idaho, as I-90 goes through the mountains and I couldn't get ANY radio stations. So I spent it listening to Gnarls Barkley, because nothing goes better with mountainous forest than some trippy cutting edge hip-hop.
Montana was also really spotty. Once I hit a proper city (Missoula, Bozeman, Butte), I got a strong NPR signal. I could always find at least ONE conservative talk radio show in between. And MAN, they were really upset about illegal immigration. And people that don't speak English, apparently. And I mean REALLY UPSET. Oh, and the 60's. They didn't like the 60's. Or the 70's.
Anyway, this game is important because it illustrates why it was absolutely the worst leg of my trip.
I like Montana, the people were friendly, the scenery is awesome, and the political scene is relatively libertarian (I think). Plus I knew this guy from Montana, and that gives me enough authority to make any judgements on the state as a whole. Montana, you rock.
Wyoming, you're okay. I only hit the top Northeast corner, though Sheridan. I stopped there to gas up and go to potty. At a truck stop. A PROPER one. With a ton of trucks parked there, and brochures advertising trucking companies. I'm a 140-lb, skinny half-asian kid who wearing doofy black plastic emo-dipshit glasses. So I think it could be understandable if I felt a little uncomfortable. I probably shouldn't have asked the cashier if she had any "doofy trucker hats with some ribald statement on it". But damn it, they should have.
South Dakota, you suck. There. This state is what made Day 2 of my cross-country trek so horrific. I meant to stop at Grand Rapids, on the Eastern side. It was 6-7pm. I made a quick stop to stretch my legs. And was assaulted. Not by people. But by humidity. And the smell of cow manure. It was 110 degrees, and smelled of cow manure. Now, I'm not being a douchebag here. I grew up in Eastern Washington, the smell of cow manure doesn't bother me. I don't go seeking it out or anything, but it's no big deal. But combine that with incredibly thick air and it's like trying to breathe in socks. Socks dipped in cow crap. I said to myself, "No fucking way."
I got in my car, and drove across the state, stopping in Sioux Falls on the other side of the state. I passed by Wall Drug, which is a cool place to visit, but it was closed when I buzzed it, so I couldn't go get a pressed penny or question if they had any Trucker Hats with a Ribald Statement on it. About this time I decide it's time to find an NPR station. After some searching I found one. It was a show concentrating on "mood music"
Oh God no.
A road warning came on, saying that heavy thunderstorms were in the area and it was advised not to be on the road. Like hell.
Suffice to say, I made it into Sioux Falls at 11pm. It was a brutal drive to say the least. Nothing but flat. Boring boring flat. I couldn't find any radio stations at all. I was bone tired. Before I hit the sack, I misplaced my Jade Buddha and freaked out about how I had to leave it here in this hellhole of a state (One good thing. It had the cheapest gas on the trip, and it had a lot of ethanol in it. Nice. Actually, I was probably too hard on SD as a whole. I was really tired from driving through Montana.). I found it. I watched Law and Order: Special Victims Unit while eating the last of my chips before going to sleep. Episode Summary: A Child is in Trouble! As it turns out, the Parents aren't Involved! Also, cops have personal problems too.
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