Day three: February 13, 2004
I woke up the next morning like a man with a mission. The goal was to make it to Las Vegas today. I knew that would be a tall order, but looking at the map led me to believe that it would be possible. The weather forecast looked good, so I was up bright and early to give it a shot.
Just like the morning before in York, Nebraska, it was cold this morning in Vail. It was so cold that my Celica made a horrible grinding noise upon startup – a sound that I’ve never heard from this car, and not a very reassuring one at that. I put it out of my head and found my way to I-70 west.
The drive across western Colorado was beautiful. Again, I’m dumbfounded as to why I didn’t take pictures! But it was a very pleasant morning of driving, and I even made a quick stop to give the car a quick wash – it wasn’t horribly dirty, but I really wanted to get all of the residual road salt of it. I was thinking that this may be the last road salt this car was ever going to see, so I was anxious to cleanse it of that toxic crap.
Along the way, I started to notice cars with license plates from the east coast that had been making the journey west with me. Sometimes I would pass them, sometimes they would pass me. This went on all day, and sometimes I would lose them only to catch up to them hours later.
Things got interesting once I hit Green River, Utah. There I saw a sign that said “no services for the next 110 miles” – which is a scary thing to encounter when you aren’t expecting it. Yeah, I made sure to stop and top off with gas even though I didn’t need to. I wasn’t going to take any chances! This truly was the open west.
It was a long and lonely drive to Salina, but I’m happy to report that I made it without incident. I can only imagine breaking down or having any other sort of car trouble along that stretch. I’m sure it happens all the time, but wow…that can’t be fun.
After a quick lunch at Arby’s (I know, I know) I eventually connected onto 15 west, which was a pretty significant moment for me. Why? The 15 goes all the way to San Diego, that’s why. I finally felt like I was making progress, and it renewed my spirits to push on into the afternoon. I was feeling good, and the scenery helped pushed me along. The late afternoon sun hitting the rugged red landscape was like nothing I’ve seen before and it was a moving experience. Again…where the heck was my camera??
One hour west of Las Vegas was another important moment for me. It was there I made a stop for gas, and I was thrilled to feel the warm desert air as I stepped out of the car. I had finally made it through the cold! Also, there were palm trees. I cannot even begin to put into words how awesome it was to see those.
It was a typical late Friday afternoon drive into Vegas. Traffic was getting thick, and the passing Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s were becoming more frequent. I was actually starting to get into the Vegas spirit at this point, and I was starting to plan where I wanted to stay. I wanted a hotel somewhere on the strip, and that’s what I had fully intended to do – until traffic started getting really bad. By the time I reached the city limits, we were crawling along at a snail’s pace and I was getting frustrated. I had been in a car for two and a half days, and I was in no mood to fight traffic. I could see the hotels on the strip off in the distance, but I was too frustrated to continue deal with the crowds. I decided to give up my Vegas plans and continue further west. I was even thinking that I could make it all the way to San Diego that night.
Pushing on and crossing the California / Nevada border shortly thereafter gave me another boost of energy. I made it to California! However, I was 30 minutes west of Barstow when I realized that I had to get off the road for the night. I was becoming severely fatigued, and it just wasn’t safe to continue in my current state. I decided to stop for dinner first, and made a very poor choice with El Polo Loco – it was probably one of the most disappointing fast-food meals I’ve ever had. It’s not like I was expecting a fine dining experience, but it was really bad. Now feeling worse, I set off to find a hotel for the night. I eventually found one further down the road in Barstow.