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Moving to California

Road trips are fun. You get in a vehicle, hit the gas pedal and it is like you entered a movie theater. The images zip by and you even get to choose your sound track. This trip is different though. Having spent a third of my life in Colorado, saying good bye was never going to be easy. It is only good that there has not been much time to think about it. I have been busy saying good bye to the mountains and all the great people I met, and then organizing, packing, loading. Now it is finally time to hit the road. Keeping me company is Henri, a colleague of mine struck by the same California fate.

Two hours later we are on a nice road through prairies and foothills between Fort Collins and Laramie and it looks like this truck wanted to stay in Colorado. A high pitch whine from the engine is never a good sign, but a loss of power going uphill is what really got my attention. Radka had a transmission rebuilt last year and this seems strangely similar. But there is no help here in the middle of nowhere, so we hobble on, fortunately mostly downhill in neutral, the remaining thirty miles left to Laramie.

One 1-800 call and only another five minutes later, a local mechanic, whom Penske contracts, arrives to take a look. He looks unconvinced by my description of the problem and wants to take the truck for a spin. Onto the interstate we go. It is OK, he says. We exit and get back on in the opposite direction. The whine kicks in louder now. The truck will not upshift. It is definitely not OK. Another exit and let us go back to the shop. This baby is going nowhere. But first we have to get to the shop. The truck slips out of gear on the freeway entrance ramp just where one is supposed to merge. There is not many worse places to get stuck. Fortunately, after a couple of minutes the transmission cools down and we make it to the shop, which, as it turns out, is just across the street from where I called.

The mechanic, Steve, is an owner of a towing and wrecking company. His office features an impressive collection of pictures of jack-knifed semis, mangled SUVs and such. I-80 through Wyoming can be a nasty place despite its mellow summer appearance. Steve calls Penske and they are sending a replacement truck. So far, so good. The catch? It will be here in about four hours as it is coming in from Denver. Why Denver of all places when Cheyenne is only an hour away? So we kill time, listen to Steve's brother telling stories about playing with fire. He has survived a propane explosion, a gasoline flare up, and more. The replacement truck finally arrives and our old one will be going back to a shop in Denver. It is dark and we await the inevitable - everything has to be unloaded and loaded onto the new truck. My body aches just thinking about it. The tow truck driver says he has a bad back and will not touch it. Good attitude. Before driving off to tow a broken tractor trailer to Des Moines some 600 miles away, Steve hires two college students who will be reloading our stuff, courtesy of Penske. It goes more smoothly than I thought. It is 11pm, and we finally continue on our way - one hundred yards to a motel.

All starts well the next day. This part of Wyoming is like an endless sea of grass dotted by cows. The big sky and wind emphasize the beautiful emptiness. Our new truck does not have a speed governor that would limit us to 70mph, and we are making good progress. The gas gauge is showing a bit less than a quarter tank and it is time for lunch. After the yesterday diet of burgers, we are ready for something else. There must be a Chinese restaurant in Evanston, some thirty miles away according to my navigator, Henri. Sure we will make it that far. The gas gauge is plummeting toward zero. All of a sudden, the truck seems hard to steer. Darn, I think to myself, a flat tire of all things. So I continue downhill to an exit. As I slow down, I notice the brakes are stiff. The battery light comes on. An alternator? I get out and see there is no flat tire. With the gas gauge at zero, we figure we probably just ran out of gasoline. There are no services at this exit. In fact there is nothing at this exit, and the next one is at Evanston, fifteen miles down the road.

While we contemplate our luck, I see a police car go by. I run after it. It is a local sheriff and he will give me a ride to Evanston, and if the duty does not call, back to the truck too. Wahoo. The duty does not call and a surprisingly good Chinese restaurant in Evanston is our reward.

The terrain gets a bit more mountainous going into Salt Lake City. Once past it, there is not much except for salty lakes and flats through the rest of Utah. I get to enjoy a sunset on the mountains near Elko, Nevada and it is dark from then on. We reach Reno at midnight. We have to pass through an agricultural inspection on the California border. Apparently my plants look OK in the weak light of a flashlight and so do we, coming from the city of Boulder and not having touched manure recently. We leave I-80 in Sacramento having driven more than 1000 miles on it and at three decide to save a bit of the trip for tomorrow.

Bad freeways, heavy traffic and sticky humidity greets us approaching the Bay Area. That is my new home now.


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Thrown in the towel Reflections 'These colors won't run' Hub cap Tow truck resting I-80 in Wyoming
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Rumble on I-80 through salty Utah Sprinkle in the desert Nevada sunset impression from a truck Into the darkness on I-80 in Nevada Finally, California - surfing on the bay

Last updated: November 14, 2004
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