Monday, 4 February 2019

Reflections on Road Trips

Reflections on Road Trips
Road Tripping without Richard - it’ll never be the same…

***I must apologize for the awful formatting of this post.  Photos don't sit well on this platform, and the result looks NOTHING like the even, neatly-laid-out columns I painstakingly created.  :)  ***

I took a road trip in January - the first road trip without Richard as my co-pilot.
I had intended to post this on my return, but realized that if I waited for (today), it would be exactly 2 years since we set off for Louisiana to see his brother Adam.  I thought it fitting to post this today, as you'll see shortly.

My mother just turned 75. 
Naturally, she being halfway across country, I planned to make the trek to be there for her birthday.
The question was; do I just fly back or take a road trip/vacation?  Richard and I had spoken of driving down there for the birthday - they'd spoken a couple of times on the phone - with a live-in caregiver aboard, taking half the driving off my shoulders, it would have been a nice trip, for the both (or maybe, all) of us.
I didn’t want to reach out to friends for a road trip, during which I’d be taking off on my own for several days; and besides, I got a new car just a few weeks before - it was a good opportunity to run it in & see how it travels.
So with a little Travelocity searching, I found reasonable airfare to Toronto from (of all places) Boise, Idaho the day before her birthday, and worked out a road plan to get there just in time.
It’s somewhat bittersweet that the route I chose would take me almost entirely over roads that Richard and I had driven in the past - we scoured the western US in August of 2014, and much of the western third of the US in February of 2017 (this is the trip we began 2 years ago today); and this trip would cover just a few new roads for me.
But part of this decision was to reflect on the good times, and good drives, that Richard and I had done before.  Memories of stops we made then, coupled with some new memories of stops I could now make on my own, gave me both familiarity and comfort, and new discoveries. 
So on a Saturday morning, I loaded up the RAV4 and set off on a (only-slightly-new) adventure, wearing the sweatshirt Richard bought at Trinity College, Dublin when we went there in June of 2017.  I thought it fitting to wear something that would keep his memory close.
Just across the border that afternoon, I detoured to Cut Bank to see the “Coldest Spot in the Nation” - a claim hotly (or coldly?) disputed by at least a few other US towns - but none of them have a talking penguin, so I found this a two-for-one stop to make!
Richard wouldn’t have cared for a Penguin selfie, but I would have driven the vehicle around to get him beside it, like it or not!

Further south, into Bozeman, MT towards day’s end, I found (we both WOULD have agreed) the brewery district where we could get a sampler flight of good craft beer and a really bad burger.

Regrettably, they offered none of this serving size once you got inside the door.

The Lewis and Clark Motel would have thrilled Richard’s sense of history - being along their Trail and all - and he’d have enjoyed the sizeable rooms & quaint lobby area.

We never made it to the Computer Museum in Bozeman, MT during our prior trips, so I made that a priority this time, as it’s hyped as one of the best little museums of computer culture in the country - and I must agree.  It’s actually the American Computer and Robotics Museum, which is why I have a photo of me with an original Robbie the Robot!  

Here, Richard would have loved the various sci-fi icons around the walls, and technology on display.



Nearby, a Mexican restaurant's mascot, the Red Iguana "doesn’t care for selfies" as he glowers disapprovingly from the parking lot.  But he was behind a fence, so I felt safe enough.

Then on to Salt Lake City, UT - where we had spent a couple of days previously - I spent some time at the Mormon’s Family History Library doing some family history research - and the rest just driving around as a restful do-nothing-specific kind of stop.
Finding the very first Kentucky Fried Chicken was a surprise - but fortunately, they’ve updated their original menu to keep up with the times.  A quick shot of me, the Colonel and the actual secret-herbs-and-spices inventor Mr.Harman, and I was ready to move on.

At an ungodly hour for a vacation day, I rose to drive the nearly-2-hours to Bonneville to get a sunrise  photo at the Salt Flats, before testing the upper limits of the RAV4.  Regrettably, the big winter blizzard that tore down the region several days before had left enough water to make them un-driveable, and I couldn’t* test the performance - although we did so with Richard's truck last time.
(*Mom was quite content to have just the sunrise pics and not any speed-running video this time!)
The sunrise was un-spectacular in photos, but the 10-minutes before shots seem to have turned out quite nicely.


North from Bonneville, through the NE corner of Nevada and into Idaho, to Twin Falls - home of Evel Knievel’s Snake River Canyon Jump attempt.  Unfortunately, the road down to the actual location seems closed in winter, as we didn’t make it 2 years ago, and I couldn’t get there this time either.  Perhaps the next summer trip.
This time, I made do with a quick stop at the Visitor's Centre, next to the Snake River Bridge, where I saw the last couple of a group of base-jumpers tempting fate by dropping off a perfectly good iron railing & into thin air with nothing but a strip of fabric, string & a lot of hope, to keep them safe.

One last trek for this leg - to Boise for the night, then an uneventful morning flight to Chicago, where the next leg saw a jet fuel spill on the gateway next to us, delaying our departure by an hour.   It looked like a scene straight out of Die Hard 2! 
David's delay in Chicago
Die Hard 2: Die Harder

However, I got home just fine - and thanks to a silly time-zone mis-calculation, arrived exactly when I had intended, stayed with a friend that night, got to Mom’s the next morning, and a good weekend was had by all.
It's very different driving alone than with a friend - I suppose I expected as much - and it will never be the same with anyone else.  

It's not, of course, just the drive time.  I'd done much of the driving 2 years ago, and all of it on the summer trip to the UK.  It's the quiet, the lack of conversation, that got to me this time.
Richard always had something to say - sometimes useful, sometimes not, sometimes entertaining, but I was never really aware of how quiet it could be until I told myself (sometimes out loud!) "Oh, right, this is where so-and-so got scalped" or "I remember this plain from that trip" or even "Oh, yeah, that place had good french fries" because I recalled these Richard had said or done, from the last trip down here.

One unexpected smile was when I passed this sign in Idaho on the last leg home - Richard had nicknamed the wheelchair van "Lucille" in a nod to B.B. King's guitar (the story of the name here -, so happening across a roadsign, I had to stop, turn around & get a pic!  Richard WOULD have loved it.

A world away from New York, I also happened across Lady Liberty (of the Lake) in Idaho; an impractical rush for a wheelchair across a frigid park & out on a concrete pier though, but he would have wanted me to go, so I did.

On the final stretch, back in Canada, in Sparwood, B.C., I discovered something I doubt either of us knew about (else we'd definitely have stopped on one of the several Vancouver trips) - the "World's Largest Truck" (I think its record been superseded since it was parked, though).


I'm glad we had the times we did - good and bad - and that we did the things & went the places we did - this trip is dedicated to Richard and his great sense of humour.  I hope you enjoyed reading about it, as I enjoyed writing about it.
You can reminisce on Richard's musing about our Louisiana road trip by starting on Day One here -