Sunday, December 22, 2013

The big drive

The first full official day of the road trip was the one I was most worried about.  I was planning on crossing both Iowa and Nebraska.  About 12 hours of driving...solo.  Well, not really solo, I did have "The Dude" with me.  Who I will defend as a critical part of this road trip for several reasons that I will get into later.

As a fall back position, I didn't book a hotel at my destination.  I planned a couple of alternatives.  Pet friendly hotels, campgrounds along the way, truck stops and finally parking on the side of the road.  Thankfully there were a couple of diversions along the way that I hadn't planned for.

The first of which, a few hours into Iowa is the I-80 Truck stop.  The self proclaimed "World's Largest truck stop".   I could not dispute it, and in fact I fully endorse it as THE place to visit when traveling through Iowa.

I don't have an estimate of the actual size of the I-80 Truck stop, but it is huge.  The photo to the left is only about a third of the place.  It contains a wendy's, a Caribu coffee, a buffett that rivals anythig I have seen in Vegas or Atlantic city, a truck accessory shop, a larger DVD selection than netflix and a gift / apparel shop that will leave you slack jawed at the selection of unique merchandize that needs to be experienced to be believed.

 Most impressive was the selection of "Lone Wolf" Tshirts.  As cyclists, we are all familiar with the NYC Bike snob's meme of the importance of te Lone wolf.  If you are not familiar, these are tshirts, usually of an Acid washed* variety, with a image of an animal on the front that has been lovingly rendered with a nod to native american mythology and an air of classyness that can only be rivaled by a custom work by an accomplished airbrush artist.  From the photo, you can see that there is a solid 70 feet of display area dedicated to this uniquely american art form.  As you can imagine, the variety is unparralled! and the quality?  well, just take a gander of this next photo:   As you can see, the artist has taken the interpretation of this genre to the next level.  I dare not even touch this piece as i feared that it might burn my skin if I was deemed "Unworthy".   It perfectly encapsulates the free spirit of the wild that female cyclocross phenom and fellow Velvet Elvis: Amy "The Wolf" Meldrum, lives every moment of her life.  I wanted to purchase it for her, but unfortunately it was only available in men's sizes north of 3XL.  (Not the 'Ladies cut bare midriff w/ fringe as I was hoping)   I will add that there was at least another half dozen free standing displays of "Lone Wolf" shirts that were not included in the photo.

In addition the I-80 has a Truck accessory shop that contained no less than three full size semi trucks... One with a trailer.  (The trailer is painted with a mural that is evry bit as important to the logistics industry as the Diego Rivera mural in the Detroit Institute of arts is to the industrial revolution.  
Again, the variety of 'roo bars, cow catchers, accessories lights, mud flaps, custom wheels and chrome everything led me to believe that I had stumbled upon the valhalla of transportation personalization. 

I pondered getting the element fitted with some 5" chrome exhaust tips. (you know, for improved performance) but thought that the increased noise from open headers would draw the wrong type of attention from local law enforcement.  

What about gifts?  Surely the man on the move has difficulty finding that unique gifts for their loved ones.  Again, the World's largest truck stop did not disappoint.

Besides a complete selection of everything Hummel ever created, the git shop has an expansive selection of anything deemed collectable with an emphasis on the absolutely tasteless.  Need a broadswoard?  Need a spiked mace?  Need a Klingon Bat Leth of authentic proportions? (had to google that one)  no problem.  They have them in stock (and presumably available on lay-a-way) 

Satisfied that I have seen everything that needed to be seen, I hit the road, with a renewed sense of adventure, and a suvineer magnet, memorializing the 50th anniversary that I will proudly display on my fridge next to the wedding "Save the date" postcards from friends and my famous Crepe recipe.

I did a curory lap around the parking lot, just to see if I could see any "Lot Lizzards" (aka: truck stop prostitutes) .  They proved elusive, especially considering that it was about 8am.

Further down the road, I discovered another Iowas Institution dedicated to the transportation industry,  Specifically the "Kum & Go"  chain of gas stations.  (I'm not making this up) 
After refueling at a couple of these establishements, I am convinced that the owner purposely named the business with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.  It was the variety of logo T-shirts, hats, cups, etc.. that convinced me.  For the record, I couldn't resist and picked up a t-shirt for under $10 (buying me an additional day before I have to do laundry).

I found Iowa to be very pleasant.  the drivers are courteous and respect the left lane. (unlike the asshats that have infected the Southfield Freeway) The roads are pristine and the tiered farms located on the west of the state were quite picturesque. 

In Nebraska, I had planned a stop at a truly sacred place.  Just as Catholics will visit the Vatican when visiting Rome, or Muslims making a pilgrimage to Mecca.  It seemed only appropriate that as an american who came of age in the 80's that I visit a location of equal or greater spiritual magnatude.

The University of Nebraska, Memorial Football Stadium.

Lincoln Nebraska was exactly at the halfway point of the day's planned travels.  So Lebowski took an hour or so to walk the campus, visit the gift shop to pick up some Merch from their national powerhouse volleyball program (for a very special girl in California) and seek out the inevetable shrine to College football deity: Tom Osborne.

 The UofN campus is littered with bad art... embarrassingly bad art from the Miami Vice era of bad 80's art.  I submit to you the example to the left.  Unlike the "Lone Wolf" art of Iowa truck stop t-shirts, the bad art of the UofN campus lacks soul (which I guess encapsulates the cocaine fueled lack of creativity of the 1980s... especially the music... more on that in a separate post) 

I could go into a full critique of the scrap metal sculptural pile of feces, but Lebowski and I were on a spiritual mission.  

We were not disappointed, there is a spot adjacent to the football stadium, memorializing the greatness of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne.   The plaque is surrounded by pillars, as you would expect if in a temple dedicated to an deity as significant as Zeus or Odin.  I am sure that during that during the construction, gas lines were pre-run for the inevetable eternal flame that will be installed when Coach Osborne decides to leave this world for the great gridiron in the sky.  
Lebowski proudly posed for a photo, before attending to a group of affectionate fans of coeds outside the UofN bookstore.  

Back on the road, we stumbled upon an unusual museum that spans both directions of the highway.  This confused me as it stuck out of the ladscape like a monolith.

More significant, was the obscured view of a cold front that was pushing aside the front that caused Ice storms and havoc in my home state.  Blue skies were ahead.  We had avoided the bad weather unscathed.

At exactly mile 1000, we were greeted by a breathtaking sunset.  This brought a tears to my eyes as it provided further validation for the journey.

Eventually, we made it to our goal.  Eastern Colorado.  We booked a lovely room at the Days Inn, located downwind of a Paper processing plant.  The hotel was tired at best.  Once we arrived, Lebowski hopped into bed next to me, following his breed instincts as a St. Bernard to comfort and warm weary travelers as they passed the treacherous Swiss alps in the 1600's.  He sighed a heavy sigh, and snuggled up closer, making me feel as cozy as I've ever felt not sleeping in my own bed.

Tomorrow, I'll write about venturing into the Rockies, navigating 7% slopes in a snowstorm and our first day of recreation in the beautiful town of Breckenridge.  We'll leave in the morning for southern Utah, Moab and our first night of camping.


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  2. Hmm your tour pics is good very inserting pics .I am very happy after seeing your tour pics ..Metro Airport Taxi