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Day 1 - Wednesday, 18 June 2003
Starting Location:  The Compound Ending Location:  Cheyenne, Wyoming
Weather There:  Cool, overcast, 61°F

Weather Here: 

Overcast, 58°F
Starting Time:  4:07am Pacific Time Ending Time:  11:12pm Mountain Time
Starting Mileage:  61,534 miles Ending Mileage:  62,700 miles
Miles Today:  1,166 miles Rest areas seen:  18 in four states
Drive Time Today:  16 hours, 36 minutes Average Speed:  70.2 MPH

Much to my surprise, we actually started our little journey ahead of schedule, sort of. We escaped from The Compound, er, the house, at 3:57am. Of course, someone who remains nameless and predominately hairless, figured it would "not make a lick of sense" to fill up the gas tank last night, so we lost 10 minutes to fueling The Unnamed Expedition. And we hit the highway at 4:07am.

We swung by The Residenz to collect Rachel (my Medial Services provider), as she is an integral part of this little holiday of mine. Which I suppose requires some explanation. There is a family reunion taking place in Lake Andes, South Dakota on Saturday, 21, June 2003. Owing to several factors, noted below, I was invited to attend, and I chose to go. Why?

  • Rarely am I invited to go places that aren't for me... it's nice to be invited, isn't it?
  • I don't really have any family to speak of beyond the Lard Lad, so it'd be interesting to see a real family in action.
  • Market research shows there is virtually no Frank presence in the Midwest... so I thought the Lake Andes area could serve as a Mid-West branch of Frank Productions, if all goes well.
  • I get to meet lots of new people, which I so enjoy (quite unlike the Bald Wonder)
  • I'm still single and looking, and I was led to believe there would be some chicks there

With Rachel in tow, and rotating between myself and Tubby, at the helm, we set off for the first leg of this Fantastic Flight of Fowl (by car). Our destination today: Cheyenne, Wyoming, a mere 1,100 miles across three different states of nothingness (the Nevada desert, the Utah salt flats, and Wyoming's expansive tracks of unspoiled soil).

We popped into Jack-in-the-Box for Rachel snacks, and managed to escape with the sleepy-eyed window dood (pronounced "dude") only asking us if we needed ketchup twice. (Yes, traditionally, once is enough, but I suspect this poor lad hasn't had the change to enjoy slumber in a fortnight.)

As we near summer solstice and the longest day of the year (also on Saturday the 21st), sunrise comes earlier, and sunset later. As such, we were just passing through Sacramento as the sun began peeking out over the distant mountain, hills, whatever.

About 6am, we began the first in an extensive series of stops. Again, an explanation. I spend a fair amount of time on the highways of this country. (Some may argue lots of time this way, but by my math, I only spent perhaps 50 calendar days on road trips, which is nothing... that's only 20% of the year... okay, so maybe I do travel more than I think.)

But I digress. The point is, I've found there is a host of travel information about places to go and things to see, but I've yet to find a decent listing of rest areas. If you travel with children, or with balding, unimaginative sorts who drink more Pepsi than a fish does water, you'd like to know when you'll see the next rest area, what's available there, and what you should expect in the restrooms. Hence, the work-in-progress Rest Areas of Interstate 80 was born. Depending on how this works out, heck, I may set out to chart all of the interstate roads. (I think we've well established I have that much free time, by virtue of working at home and being my own boss.)

We popped into Reno about 7:50am to fuel our little guzzler SUV, and then Tubby (he and the Bacon, Egg and Cheese biscuit at McDonald's share some sort of weird, Shining-esque relationship, I've found). We then headed off along -- surprise, I-80 -- toward the next checkpoint: Elko, Nevada.

Between Reno and Elko stand about 290 miles of roadway, and five rest areas (six if you're traveling west bound... but we're not, today). And we managed to experience every one of those miles and areas. At we approached the rest area at mile 187, Tubby discovered almost too late that the navy blue Ford Explorer in the #2 lane was a member of Nevada's fine Highway Patrol. (To count lanes, you should count from the left, so that's the slow lane, since I-80 is two lanes wide in most places... thus, when I say we were in the #1 lane, that's the fast lane, since it's the left-most lane).

Anyway, we're locked on cruise control at 90 MPH, the limit is 75 MPH, and the troopers are going perhaps 80-85 MPH. Slowing to their pace, Tubby maneuvers in behind them. Then we find ourselves going slower and slower... it seems that Ponch and Jon in the Explorer have slowed their car, and by extension, us, down to 60 MPH. Figuring we're busted, but the rest stop was less than a mile off (where a stop was going to occur), he signaled the turn, as though to indicate we weren't going to pass at the speed limit due to our turning. The highway patrol SUV also exited. We signaled a right turn to the rest stop, as did they... but once on the short road to the rest stop, they stopped and turned around, returning to the highway. Hurrah!

We rolled into Elko at high noon (almost... it was 11:58am). While I'm always ready to get medieval on some fool, I chose instead to chill, hunny bunny, top off the car with fuel, and engage in the consumption of some food substance that wasn't McDonald's (it's important to mix it up a little, eh)? We dined at Wendy's (well, it *is* a road trip, after all), and gave our order to an older gentleman standing near the order box with a notepad, a change thing, a handful of cash, and the standard issue headset communication device.

I'd like to thank the good people at Continental Paper, our corporate sponsor, for their ongoing support of all things Frank. Props to Robin, Sue, Cynthia, and of course, the Colonel turned Pope. (And worry not -- I didn't go crazy all Broadway style, either.)

Fatso giggled with glee when the song he's been looking to find since August of 2001 has been found. (This while he went to Atlanta for a work thing, and I traveled with Julia to Burning Man... and I think it goes without saying that I had more fun that did he that week, because (a) I got to hang out with Julia at Burning Man, and (b) I didn't get saddled to El Baldo for days on end. The song in question is on Nelly's 2000 album, "Country Grammar", which includes track 7, Ride With Me.

For those of you wondering, yes, I'm riding through the desert on an [iron] horse with no name, and yes, it feels good to be out on the range. Or something... I'm not of a musical people. But the temps are running in the low 90s, and that's just not comfy. Oh, stop disagreeing... you wrap yourself up in a down comforter and then try it... then you've walked a mile in my webbed shoes.

Yawn. Sorry, I know... it's mostly a driving day. We crossed into Utah at 1:36pm Pacific time, which is 2:36pm Mountain Time, since we crossed those magical little lines. Two rest stops later (at mile 8 and 57... the rest stop at 8 Mile, silly), we passed through Salt Lake City, and watched the temps drop into the high 70s. And an accident being cleared up. Because I'm a bit of a non-Halloween ghoul, you're looking at this, and a tenth of a mile later, this... nice trucks, eh?

We crossed into Wyoming at 5:35pm (yes, everything is now in Mountain time... it's a coping mechanism). I'm still at the wheel, but the shadows are getting longer, but that aside, it's still very much day light. We popped into Evanston, Wyoming for gas, and a quick walk down memory lane. I was a bit amused to see the police car I saw parked in front of someone's house is still there... just confirming my theory that in this little hamlet, the cops take the cars home at night. As we left town, we checked out Exit 6's rumor of a rest area, but it was really a state park that is using the name of "rest area" in vain... it's little more than a ranger station with bathrooms. (It was noted on the list, but I refuse to recognize it as a valid, state-maintained facility established as a rest area.)

The sun finally ducked behind the Rocky Mountains around 8:30pm or so, and by 9pm, it was getting close to what the ancient Aztecs would call "dark." The most notable rest area doubled as both a summit market (the rest area is the highest on Interstate 80, at 8,640 feet), a tribute to Lincoln (there stands a bronze bust of Abe, where the bust alone is 12 1/2 feet (about 3.5 meters), and weighs 3.5 tons (I don't do metric weights, sorry... whatever 7,000 pounds would be; call it 4,375Kg, and we'll move on). The restrooms were also the nicest that we encountered to date, for whatever that's worth.

We rolled into Cheyenne proper, about 11:12pm Mountain Time. After locating the motel options, we sought out food, but when you're not keen on sitting down at a diner place (preferred sleep to a long, drawn-out meal experience), you're quite limited. So, surprise, we ended up at Wendy's once more. That went quickly enough (the eating, I mean... it took 'em nearly 10 minutes to have the order ready), and we were off to the beloved Motel 6.

Or so we thought. Navigation there was easy enough, but once we arrived, now nearing midnight, there was a line in the lobby that was four people deep. Nuts to that, we thought. We went next door, where a very professional-looking note (drawn on scratch paper in black ballpoint pen) announced, "No vacancy." Well, Mary and Joseph, is there no room at the inn? A quick check of the Super 8 around the corner had a similarly crappy sign, except their message included 'sorry' before the "no vacancy" sign.

We landed next at the Lincoln Court motel, where Brian informed us that he had one room left. Tubby indicated he did not, as we would be occupying it. We did the paperwork and such, the Bald Wonder was bold enough to ask a question, as to why everyone was booked up... after all, this is a Wednesday, in Cheyenne. His best guess was all the road construction crews in town. Although, he went on, he's heard motel availability is this limited as far back as Salt Lake City. Tubby, of course, had already lost interest, so he muttered a "a-ha" (the sound, although it does sound like the 80s band name), and we retired to room 115 for the evening. The room was huge, by the way. Older place, but slightly beats out the Motel 6 (at least in Cheyenne) as far as a value for the money. Night-night.

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