Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Day 1: We left Marlborough and drove to about 50 miles shy of Elkhart, Indiana. I always forget how ugly that stretch of Ohio and Indiana is: So depressing and industrial, yet miserably run-down. People really will live anywhere. That night we stayed at a place called the Budgeteer Motor Inn. The best thing I can say about it is that it had a bed, although I wasn’t the only occupant, apparently — the next day I found half a dozen bites around my legs and waist. So I guess in addition to the harmless ladybug in the sink, I also spent time with at least one bedbug. We stayed there out of desperation, and I will say: It was cheap and it was there. But I sure wish we’d found the Comfort Inn after all. In addition to bedbugs, the shower control was installed wrong, so turning it to “hot” gave icy cold water, but eventually turning it to “cold” produced moderately warm water. It was difficult to wash in that diffuse spray that comes from the cheapest possible nozzle, and I spent the entire time justifiably anxious about putting my bare feet on the floor.
We left understandably early on Saturday, and that got us to Chicago about 9:00 am their time. Even so, traffic was heavy enough to be exciting, but happily not so heavy as to cause real difficulties. I navigated us through unscathed and breathed a deep sigh of relief as the expressway opened up again. I can’t say “freeway,” since we paid tolls consistently from the instant we got on I-90 in Massachusetts all the way through to when we left Illinois. Most horrifying was the one $25 toll we paid in New York — and they didn’t take credit cards. We scrounged up enough cash but I had to get more for later tolls. Eventually I think I paid close to $50 (maybe more, but some places didn’t give receipts) in tolls. I got to be a pro at it by the end, though, and I have to say: I really like the rest plazas they have on toll roads. Really nice facilities, gas and food and bathrooms all right there, and fairly well spaced along the road so you never worry about being running out of gas in the middle of nowhere.
That became more of a concern towards the end of Saturday and through Sunday. Saturday we ended in Chamberlain, South Dakota, home of Al’s Oasis and Al’s Restaurant. Al’s Oasis was much nicer than the Budgeteer — well, honestly, the cab of the U-Haul was much nicer than the Budgeteer, too — but when I looked for a salad at Al’s Restaurant my option was “lettuce salad.” No description. Hmm. I passed on the innumerable beef dishes and fried-food dishes, and eventually had a chicken sandwich that seemed to be a hamburger with the patty replaced with a slab of chicken. Good enough. Getting to Chamberlain was actually quite nice, although Gary wrote most of the states off because there were no Starbucks stores there. Minnesota and Wisconsin are beautiful states, full of rolling pastoral land, and the sunset over the South Dakota plains was awe-inspiring. I kept aching to take pictures, but I knew none would turn out. It didn’t feel as long and boring as I remembered from previous trips, presumably because of the excellent company.
We left Chamberlain early again after I topped off the the tank. Oh, did I not mention the gas situation? The U-Haul guzzles gas like there’s no tomorrow. It easily used 1/4 of the 30-gallon tank in an hour; I think the truck averaged 12.5 mpg or so. We filled it up every 3 hours or when we knew there would be a long empty stretch. At first paying $50 to $60 every 3 hours to keep driving horrified me, but eventually I just became numb and paid it. Prices ranged from $2.89 a gallon to $2.52 a gallon, but generally I had no real choice in what I paid: Most stops had one gas station, or if there were two, they were the same price. Also gas on the toll roads was more expensive than gas in the towns surrounding the toll road, but we couldn’t get to that cheaper gas without paying a toll. I’m trying not to actually calculate how much we paid to various gas stations across the country, but I’m confident it was more than we spend on gas in a year normally.
Sunday we went from Chamberlain, SD to Missoula, MT with service to Gillette, Billings, and not much else. It started getting very mountainous fairly quickly on Sunday and we saw snow on the sides of the road here and there. Fortunately, although it rain a bit intermittently, we had no actual snow. Actually, it rained 3 of the 4 days, and Friday night it poured buckets, causing me some anxiety as I recalled the U-Haul guy telling us the truck was water-resistant not waterproof. Eep. I just hope everything stayed dry. I really enjoyed the mountainous portion of the drive, though; the Rockies are overwhelmingly huge, rugged, and beautiful. I had the crazy desire to ride my bike through the mountains. It would be an amazing experience. Sadly, we had no time to stop and enjoy the scenery, but kept pushing on until about 8:00 pm mountain time. Because we were heading west, we got an extra hour of driving time each day even though we stopped around 8:00 pm local time. Also, the clock in the car became increasingly wrong as we moved time zones and then “fell behind” for daylight savings.
We finished up by leaving Missoula about 7:00 am mountain time and rolled right through, with one long stop for me to talk to the Massachusetts Unemployment Insurance people (we stopped so I didn’t lose the cell signal; even so, it was bad). The Rockies continued to be gorgeous and rugged, and I continued to have a hankering to ride my bike through them. I slept through a good portion of Washington while Gary drove, and in general the day felt very short — only about 7 hours of driving compared to 13 hours the previous days. I was so glad to get out of that truck and know that I only had short trips remaining with that beast.