Monday, January 17, 2011

Driving from Spokane to Salt Lake

The drive from Spokane down to Salt Lake City is about 12 hours, a little longer if you hit bad weather conditions or make extra stops. Typically I start my drive first thing in the morning, so I can make it all the way into Salt Lake in one day. This time I tried a different strategy. The weather was bad all week in the mountains East of Spokane, and no forecast for improvement any time soon.

The worst section in the winter is the mountains between Spokane and Missoula, Montana. Instead of leaving early and driving that section in the wee cold hours of the morning, I opted to leave in the afternoon and drive that section at peak warmth for the day instead. That way if I hit bad weather, at least it would be rain, or snowfall, but not ice and sleet.

I took my car to Jiffy Lube and got an oil change and all my fluids checked before I left, then I finished packing and loaded up my car. I stopped by campus to see a friend briefly on my way out. (When you've been kind of dating somebody, you don't just disappear, you take time to say goodbye.) From there, it was open road.

I like to stop for gas in Post Falls on my way out, because it's a cheaper place to top off for the drive than Spokane is. Then I usually fuel in Missoula and Idaho Falls. At 30 mpg, with a fourteen gallon tank, that's all the stops I need to make.

I did hit some heavy rainfall on the first leg of the drive into Missoula, and a few places where I found myself downshifting suddenly to decrease my speed without the loss of control that sudden braking gives you. Sometimes you come up on a curve a little suddenly, and don't like how fast you're about to take it.

By the time I made it to Missoula, it was already dark, and I'd made one time zone change already, losing an hour. I left Spokane around 3, drove for three hours, and arrived in Missoula around 7:15. Those are not precise times, but you get the idea. I stopped at Subway for dinner, filled up my gas tank, found my hands-free headset so I could make some phone calls, and hit the road again.

I talked to a now previous roommate about things I left for the thrift store, my mom about housing arrangements in Salt Lake, and later my brother about Belize and what exactly I was doing.

The best part about long drives is the music. You just can't make that kind of trip without the accompaniment of a good CD or MP3 collection. My music highlights were Lily Allen on the stretch between Dillon, MT and the Idaho border, and then ... more on the second in a bit, I don't want to spoil it.

Lily Allen is my current favorite female vocalist. Her accent is absolutely gorgeous, her songs are lyrically brilliant, and she has such attitude! I highly recommend giving her a listen. I have the Alright, Still album, and my favorite songs are Smile and Alfie.

I parked at a rest stop in Southern Montana and took a 15 minute catnap before setting out again. The worst road conditions were an hour north of Idaho Falls, where there are wind gusts that blow snow across the road. I slowed down to about 55, to maintain better control of the car through the wind gusts. My line was clear, but the other lane wasn't, and I didn't want the wind to force me into it.

I arrived in Idaho Falls about 2 am, and it was there that I planned to stay the night. I was more hungry than tired though, so I stopped at Shari's, and all-night diner for some food. After a terrific omelet with hash browns and toast, I was feeling great, so I gassed up the car and hit the road again.

As I drove through the wasteland of Southern Idaho, the weather could only be described as "not fog." The humidity was high, and definitely affected visibility, but it wasn't exactly fog. Fog reflects your high beams back to you, creating a decrease in visibility, rather than an increase. I was still seeing improved visibility from high-beams, rather than reduced visibility. With the lesser amounts of traffic in the wee hours of the morning, and the not fog decreasing visibility, it felt like driving through the twilight zone for miles.

It was the perfect opportunity for some Blitzen Trapper. I only have three songs on my MP3 player, and I like them all, but I have never previously listened to all three together. It was a surreal experience. Each of the three songs had a distinctly different mood and feel, with only the recognizable voice connected the three songs together.

The first song, Furr, is a bluesy folk song about a man who joins a wolf pack and become a wolf for several years, until meeting a beautiful girl and settling down on a farm. The second song, Heaven and Earth, is haunting lullaby with deeply insightful lyrics that reach down into your soul and give a good tug. In contrast to Furr's light bluesy feel, it is deeply touching. The third song, Sci-Fi Kid is a typical Indie rock melody, jaunty, light, good energy - a great song, but not one that reaches deep into your soul. Listening to all three, back to back, in the Southern Idaho frosty wasteland was beautiful.

The roads were clear the rest of the way in, and I arrived at my parents' old house in Magna at five a.m. They moved to Iowa, so I had to spend some time turning up the heat, turning on the water and water heater, etc., and got to bed about 5:30. I slept for two hours and started my first day in Salt Lake.

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