Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

Getting to the Loneliest Highway in America

It's about 1500 miles from Longmont to Ashland, so most of today was just spent getting as far as we could.

We started in Vernal, UT, and headed west across Utah on 40. 191 went south through a canyon, and then 6 got us to I-15, which took us South and got off on 6 further south to Delta. There we picked up US 50, the loneliest highway in the US, and that took us to Eureka, Nevada.

Breakfast at the Super 8 as supplimented by our own supplies, vast experience with hotel breakfasts made it easy for us to bring along our own whole milk yogurt (none of that sucrulous laced non-fat stuff), PG Tips for Jet's morning tea, and my own instant espresso instead of the local coffee. This particular hotel had the waffle machines, which do hot, fresh waffles that are tasty enough, even with Aunt Jamima syrup instead of the real thing.

I had some trouble waking up when John's alarm went off at 7, and I pretty much slept for a chunk of the morning drive, too. I still got some shots along the way of Utah's incredible landscapes. The high desert terrain was softened by the spring rains and, as always, the West in May and early June often surprises me with how green it can be. There was a lot of verga as well, the rain from the clouds that doesn't hit the ground because it evaporates before it can.

Lunch was right at the juncture of 6 and I-15, right before a freeway stretch, so we were able to find our first Taco Time.

It's a chain that doesn't exist in most of northern Colorado, and started in the Pacific Northwest, so whenever we find one, John and I have to get Crispy Bean Burritos to Jet's tolerant sighs. This time, at least, we had plenty of crackers, cheese, salami, and real fruit in the car, so Jet ate his fill while we munched our treats and got some real food into us as well.

I took over the wheel for about an hour and a half, and then Jet got his chance on two-lane highways. He's had his learners permit since he was 15, and has been driving around town, but this was a really excellent chance for him to try out something new for an extended period of time. Most of his driving practice is on errands around town, so this was the first time he got to drive for more than thirty minutes at a time, and he liked it enough to do several hours.

I slept for the more fraught parts of it, as John was sitting with him in the passenger seat, and I didn't want to be yelling at Jet on the mountain roads, as Jet didn't have enough experience to anticipate the curves nor did he really have a great feel, yet, for the speed he could take things at. John was patient enough to explain it all to him. I just slept. *laughs*

I am still exhausted. It's an odd thing to have to really come to grips with this way, but I'm still so tired, I slept nine hours last night and couldn't get up at 7 (Jet also slept solidly through the alarm, so I wasn't the only one, but he'd had a pretty packed solid school schedule at the end with AP tests, band concert, and finals), slept that extra hour, and then slept another four or maybe five hours in the car. Admittedly, car sleep is more like short naps between the car jerking about as Jet compensated for mild mistakes made, but it was still sleep.

The strenuous hike yesterday also made it pretty clear that I'm not as strong as I was two years ago. I'm going to have to lift again to regain some of the core and leg strength I used to have. My right knee giving out was not a lot of fun, but ever since the ACL broke and was replaced, it's always been weaker. I just used to do a lot more PT and lifting to keep it stable longer when I was doing stuff like hiking and climbing.

But vacations are the kinds of breaks that are needed for me to change old habits. I actually went to sleep before midnight for the second time for all of May, and the first night was the night before we left. So if I can get myself phase shifted back toward daylight hours, it can only help. LA was a good blip for me, of changes, but the fundamental change of getting off the team hadn't happened, yet, and if there's anything I've learned about addiction, it's that the people around me help to keep me on the ways I've been going as much as whatever it is that I am doing about it. So making that break was important for me.

It's easy to go cold turkey when I'm completely away from my rig, my headset, and my friends, what's hard is going back and trying to moderate. But without the break, I don't have a good way to compare what it is that I'm supposed to be doing, rather than just what I shouldn't.

I have one huge problem in that I often feel like what I'm doing isn't worth doing because it's not worthy enough. Yes, that is a circular definition. That's part of the problem. The other part is that I don't see the worth of what I'm doing, nearly at all. Like when I was doing fanfiction, I would get all this praise from the people who were courageous enough to tell me that my stories got them through stuff, or what it was that they loved of what I was doing, even people who are now professional writers loved what I was doing; but I didn't to a certain extent. My art is a lot like that, too. It's just me playing with paint and the concepts of plants, flowers, and birds or insects. It's not "real art" to me.

But then I get juried into a show. Or someone pays me cash for a three hundred dollar painting and says that it takes their breath away.

So, I'm clearly not the right judge for my work. *laughs* And overall "worth" isn't the answer. It's the small stuff, the every day doing, the playing with scenes, with words, with paint, with the nature of a particular paper, or the head tilt of a curious sparrow. Or the slant of virga falling over windmills planted on a plain at the feet of mountains. And the laughter of my son when he says, "And the electrical engineer says that there's nothing wrong with the bulb, you need to change the filament."

I'm enjoying the traveling, and that may well be enough.

Of course, it's giving me a little too much time to think... especially when I'm not driving. But that is also helping me to process this stuff as it goes through my head.

One of the things I did notice as we went along was that with all the rain all of the West has been getting, that everything was greener than I've seen it for a long time. Everyone hears about California coming out of its drought, but not everyone tells the story about how everything east of there is also gaining the benefits of the slow, long, drenching rains.

Here, on the right of this particular valley, was a meandering waterway that was actually full. Not only was the water bringing all the plants to life, but there were so many birds, bugs, and butterflies, it seemed amazing out there in what seems to mostly be rocky desert.

Usually, when it rains, this is what we see...

No, not windmills. *laughs* But if you look closely at the precipitation from the clouds above the windmills, you'll see that it isn't reaching the ground. We weren't getting a drop of rain from all of that virga. It was, however, generating a lot of air movement due to the evaporation and sudden cooling of the air, and the windmills were all turning at a pretty good rate.

That's another thing we've seen a lot of on our road trips, these days, windmills all over the place. The generation of energy from renewable resource is pretty big; but out here in Utah and Nevada, oil drilling is still a really big thing, and we went through the town of Gusher, where they had lawn models of oil rigs with a propane tank to light a fire coming out of the top of it. That was pretty amusing, but oil and energy was big money out here, but then the price of oil dropped.

At the end of the drive, we were in Eureka, NV, a little town that is gradually giving up the ghost. Half the store fronts are empty, and some of those are in the midst of demolition. They have cracked glass, empty shelves, and broken walls. The ones that are left have a few people, a friendly attitude toward the tourists and a bit of resignation. The neon tube lit signs all hang dark at night, and three of the six restaurants have barred and padlocked front doors. The main market's shelves are empty and hanging limp and dusty, and one of the two gas stations is completely boarded up.

It reminded me of the town in Cars, but without a Lightening McQueen to draw people back to it even in the summers. Half the businesses and hotels are still going, but it's clear that the other half is probably never coming back, especially along the loneliest Highway in America.

We'd stumbled on I-50 a few summers ago, and John is fascinated by it. I am intrigued as well, but it does make for fewer facilities along the way. It's a whole stretch of highway that actually advertises itself as the Loneliest Highway. The lack of traffic is a draw for us, and the little towns are few and far between.

The advertising bemuses me, sometimes, and it takes it all along the Route 66 nostalgia route, but without the history, stories, romance and draws of that other route. Instead, it's all about the fact that this is not well-travelled, without the same kinds of sparkle, and none of the draws for tourists that 66 has. It's just dusty, Western America without the frills.

Loneliest Highway
Which may be why we like it... and the diners along it, which almost all go along the burger, shake, and fry variety of foods, with a few spendy, locally butchered steaks or smokehouse meats. Places like DJ's Diner, which had about a dozen customers, both for the food and the soft serve ice cream, were plain and straightforward, but they took care to cook and serve what they had really well.

Truth in Advertising
My patty melt had grilled, sweet red onions, plenty of cheese, a beautifully charred beef patty, and a marbled rye with good caraway seeds. John's Ortega burger was slathered generously with cheese and green chilies. Jet's BLT had thick cut beautifully chewy crisp bacon, slabs of real ripe tomato, and crisp lettuce on toast. The fries were hot, and the "Piccadilly" fries that Jet had were hunks of potato sealed in a beer batter and fried crisp.

They were so good I kept stealing them from him.

Snow Cones
But we left just enough room for dessert, and Jet and I got snow cones at the Snow Cone Shack, set up there by the side of the road, a new little place with two girls lounging on the steps up to the counter. She got up and made Jet a Tiger's Blood snow cone, and I got a White Coconut one. The flavors were all the flavors of a shave ice place, but the ice crusher was a big, cast iron thing with a motor that beat up the ice from her ice chest with great vigor. It wasn't shaved ice, and still had a few big chunks in it, but it was finer than your usual snow cone.

It was refreshing, and a good drink on the walk back to the hotel. We went all the way to the other end of town, just to stretch our legs after the long car ride, and John found a Nutty Buddy at a gas station. And we meandered back to the room to play a little, write a little, and find our sleep.
Tags: travel

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