1,250 Miles in the Slow Lane – Pt. 2: Billings, MT

I am writing from the air-conditioned comfort of a Super 8 in Billings, Montana. It’s roughly 1,000,000x better than the crappy Rodeway Inn we stayed at in Spokane last night. Funny story about this place: when I arrived in town exactly seven years ago, I walked into the Day’s Inn to make a reservation and when they quoted me a price, I told them there was no way in hell I wanted to pay that, so I walked across the street to this very Super 8. And they quoted me an even higher price, as did two other places I tried. So I ended up crawling back to the Day’s Inn with my tail tucked between my legs, humbled by the whole experience.

At least it makes for a humorous story.

Today was very long. We covered 540 miles over the course of 11 hours, including gas and rest stops. The first 75% of the drive was cold and rainy; it wasn’t until we hit Livingston that the clouds broke up a little and the sun shone through. This whole area has had an extremely wet spring – Rapid City included – and so everything is lush and green. It’s quite beautiful.

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We are both operating on very little sleep the past couple of nights and sore muscles from packing and loading the truck, so the drive these past two days has been rough. But we only have 316 miles to cover tomorrow, which should translate to about 6-7 hours max, so we don’t have to rush out the door in the morning. Hopefully we can sleep in a little.

One disappointment: the Pickle Barrel, the local sandwich shop we discovered on our road trip last October and had had our hearts set on for dinner, closed five minutes before we arrived. Total bummer. We ordered Chinese food instead; at least they’ll deliver that directly to our room. I can’t imagine sliding behind the wheel again after such a long day, at least not without a gun pointed at my head. Even then I might just tell ’em to go ahead and shoot me.

The walkie-talkies, by the way, have come in handy. We’ve used them frequently and they are working out great! No issues whatsoever. I’d share our “handles” but they’re too risque, knowing my mom is reading this.

Once again, Sydney handled the trip without any problems. The vet gave us a small supply of pheromone-scented wipes and instructed us to rub down the inside of her carrier; they’re supposed to calm cats down during long trips. I’m not sure if that’s what is doing the trick, but she is certainly behaving far better than any previous car trips we’ve taken her on.

Oh, one observation about all this driving in the slow lane: I actually like it. Call me crazy, but it’s a lot less stressful sticking to a steady 60 mph in the slow lane. You don’t have to worry about passing slow cars, moving over for fast ones, and there’s no dealing with annoying semi trucks. Also, no chance whatsoever of getting a speeding ticket. True, it takes you a little longer to reach your destination, but I almost think the lack of stress makes up for that.

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One other thing to point out, since I’ve had more than one comment about this on Facebook: yes, Tara is driving the U-Haul. I’m surprised that surprises anybody! She is, after all, a mini stock car track champion (2007) and has long driven big trucks, while I’ve got a Mazda 3. She wanted to drive the truck, and trust me, we are all better off for that. She knows how to handle it much better than I ever could.

So, here we are: heading for the home stretch tomorrow. We should reach Rapid City by mid-afternoon. I am so excited!

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1,250 Miles in the Slow Lane – Pt. 1: Spokane, WA

Greetings from Spokane, WA! It’s official: the Biggest Adventure of My Life® has commenced.

We were up bright and early this morning, out the door of my parents’ house at 6 a.m. We would have loved to linger, but there was still lots of work to be done – loading the vehicles, cleaning the apartment, and getting rid of more junk in the garage. We took a break at 9:00 and met Audrey for breakfast at Linda’s Homeplate, then I had to run to Comcast (always a joy) to return our cable equipment and deactivate our account. Once that business was taken care of, it was back to the apartment, where the three of us – Audrey included – were scrambling like crazy to get everything done before our final walk-through. That was originally scheduled for 11:00, but I managed to push it back to noon. We were still hauling things out of there four minutes before 12:00. It’s certainly been a stressful few days!

After that we had to pick up the U-Haul from my parents’ house, say goodbye to them and Audrey (ouch…yeah, there were a few tears shed), and then drive to the U-Haul rental center to hook up the trailer and load my car.

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There was a brief stop at McDonald’s for a bite to eat, and then we finally, finally hit the road. And promptly ran into bumper-to-bumper traffic once we crossed the bridge into Portland. And again a little while later in the Columbia Gorge; we actually came to a dead stop and sat there, not moving, for ten minutes. I have no idea why; there weren’t any accidents or road construction taking place. Suffice it to say, those delays cost us quite a bit of time, so we got into Spokane a couple of hours later than anticipated and had to scrap our plans to visit the cider tasting room Tara wanted to check out. Which explains why I am blogging at 11:40 after a very long day as we await a pizza delivery.

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But our trip is underway now, and the excitement is building. Tomorrow’s going to be a solid 10 hours, at least, as we drive through Idaho and Montana. Destination: Billings.

By the way, Sydney did remarkably well in the car. She didn’t let out a single peep the whole time, which makes me wonder if somebody swapped her for a lookalike when my back was turned.

Anyway. It’s late, and I should wrap this up. Long day ahead tomorrow. Mountain time zone, baby!