This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Drummer Column, Gibbs, 799 words
What a trip
What a trip. Just got back from a drive across America. My wife, Susan, and I rode along with our friend Gino in his new Toyota Tundra as he carted his tools and textiles back home to Philadelphia after living five years in brutal California. We made three stops along the way -- a Colorado cemetery, Kansas City and Ridgway, PA -- and flew home a month later. I will attempt a multi-episode narrative of our journey. There¶s no way to blend it all together, though it¶s a blur in my mind. There are too many pieces and parts, too many eye-openers, surprises, and coincidences, too many strange happenings. They¶re darting about like Pennsylvania fireflies. I will build this story in public like a sidewalk chalk painter, starting with a collage of facts, distances, and timetables. We drove 3,008 miles. That¶s 45 hours, 45 minutes of solid driving. It took seven days to cross the country, stopping two nights in Kansas City for jazz and barbecue. Our longest drive was 661 miles from Cheyenne to Topeka. Gino drove 90-percent of the time. ³My truck.´ We stopped in Ridgway to swap out my mother¶s bathtub for a tiled shower -- estimated job time: seven days -- then we were to be onward to Philadelphia to romp, play and celebrate Gino¶s homecoming with his family for a week. We were to fly home by late June and be watching July 4 fireworks in Benicia. The bathroom gig, however, had a different timetable for us. It took 17 days. In there we visited a specialty sawmill, the Rainbow People, and the Gates of Hell. We spent three nights in Philly and flew home exhausted on the 4th of July. The Drive Chronologically speaking, we left Benicia on Tuesday, June 8th, after voting, and made it as far as Wendover, Nevada, on the western fringe of the Utah border. It¶s where the Salt Lake crowds come to drink and gamble. It was our first time and we were duly impressed. Wendover doesn¶t have the dreary time-worn gloom that Reno offers. The Rainbow Hotel is a blazing tribute to neon. Colored tubes of light streak across every wall and ceiling in the sprawling complex. The casino is dazzling and clean and upbeat, everything shiny and new. The $45 rooms are expansive. I counted nine lamps. A shuttle took us to the Peppermill and Montego Bay, the town¶s other two well-kept resorts. Too bad there were no crowds. Gino¶s big, new truck rides like a cloud. The seats are broad and soft, the leg room spacious. The next day we drove 560 miles across Wyoming to Cheyenne at the southeastern edge. By sunset, all the highway hotels were sold out. Travelers were out in great numbers. We ended up at a Microtel with a groaning elevator at twice the price for half the room size.
The next day we left I-80 and drove south into Colorado. Susan wanted to stop in Longmont because that is where her grandparents on both sides are buried. Smack in the center of Longmont sits the enormous Mountain View Cemetery. Colorado takes good care of their dead. Bring the kids. Fresh mown grass and the shady canopy of broad-limbed trees made strolling through their tombstones on a warm summer day feel like a park. White wisps of pollen floated haphazardly through the still air. We walked for an hour, admiring names and dates, hoping to find her relatives by chance. No luck. Too many dead Coloradoans. Finally, I walked to the curator¶s stone hutch, got a map, and we found Cora Kingery, born 1882, Maude Wagerman, born 1896, and Arthur Wagerman, born 1894, all safe and sound. Then off we drove straight through the center of Kansas on I-70, riders on the storm with dark elephant skies of impending storms all around us. We drove in rain, jumped at lightning, and ducked at thunder all day long. We made only one stop -- Wamego, Kansas, the Land of OZ. We toured the Dorothy museum and sipped and spat out sweet wine at the OZ Winery. We hoped to make Kansas City by nightfall, but came up 40 miles short at a Super 8 outside Topeka. We used a computer to reach hotels.com and booked two nights at the Marriott on the Missouri side of Kansas City -- the party side. We drove straight there the next morning to begin our two day exploration of this musically famous city that marks the geographic center of the continental United States. We dropped our gear in our room -- the three of us always room together -- and stepped outside into a torrential downpour of warm rain. Two mile walk to downtown. Not a problem. Kansas City, here we come.