Return to VA: Part 1

My wife got up around 3:30am to pack her bags. I slept until about 10 minutes before we needed to leave. The hotel was just five minutes from the departure terminal; so, I had the luxury of kicking her out the door and then going back to the hotel to pack. We said our goodbyes and I returned to the hotel. Traveling with her, even for just a weekend, often results in A LOT of extra stuff in the car. She loves to pack plenty of snacks and drinks. My back seat had just a jacket and a suitcase for my outbound trip. I buy food and drinks as I travel. Here’s the car after a weekend with my wife and for the trip home…

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but I had packed ten days worth of clothing. I was on “Day 11” of the trip and wearing clothes that I had hand-washed the previous day. I needed to find a laundromat, something I thought I’d have time to do after my first visit to Sequoia National Park. My next destination was St. George, UT and I had already scouted a few laundromats to visit. I wasn’t messing around with photos along the way… I had a mission! I did take just one photo along the way. It was incredibly windy around Barstow. I stopped for fuel and noticed that someone had lost a meal… HAHA!

I got to St. George around 3pm, plenty of time to do laundry. My clothes are synthetic, “Cotton is Rotten!” 😉  So, none of my colors will bleed. I only needed to do one load.  However, there was a problem: I’ve done my own laundry for decades, but I hadn’t been in a laundromat in nearly 30 years. I had LOTS of quarters, but there were no slots in the machines. There aren’t any card readers on the machines, either. Damn! I needed help. I was the only man in the place. Certainly, there’s some sort of stigma, perhaps even a delight, in a man asking a woman how to use a laundry machine. 😀  This was an “eye-roll” moment. I still had a week of travel ahead of me; so, I wasn’t letting a little pride stop me. Luckily, there was an attendant who was not shy at all. She showed me how to load the machine, almost as if I had never done laundry before, go across the facility to the high-tech touchscreen to enter the machine number, what I wanted done, and then pay. It was super-easy once I saw what to do, but a bit strange after so many years. Everything was washed and dried in just over an hour. My dried stuff went straight into my suitcase. I hang-dry my pants since I don’t need them to shrink around my variable waistline.

St. George appeared to be a college town. Even with that crowd, I was surprised to conclude that it might be the largest city with the most terrible LTE coverage that I had ever visited. I expect this in tiny towns. But HERE? Even the WiFi at the hotel was slow. I guess I needed to pay extra for usability. No worries – I was going to bed early and hitting the road before sunrise. I also wanted an early look at road conditions in the morning. I awoke before dawn and didn’t like what I saw. But I still had time before I needed to make a decision. My soft plan was to either head east on I-70, continue north to I-80 east, or bug-out to return to I-40 if the northern roads were snowy. Of course, that assumed that Flagstaff wasn’t a winter wonderland again!

I had two potential plans: The first was to drive east along I-70 and mimic “The Fast Lane Truck’s” towing torture test near Eisenhower Tunnel. They test truck and commercial van towing capacities by climbing the eight-mile grade between Dillon, CO and the entrance to the tunnel, then assess speed control during the descent. They climb flat-out and time the run to see if the test truck can maintain the speed limit of 60 mph while towing its max load. My trailer is not the GTI’s “max load” and I’m sure that the car could easily blast up most grades. So, I had some ideas for a spoof of some sort. My other option was to take I-80 east and see if I could duplicate this viral “Highway to Heaven” photo near Fort Bridger, WY. I read that it took special atmospheric circumstances to create this optical illusion. Is it even possible to see this again? I could find out, depending on the weather. Which way would I go? Or would I have to take I-40 again?

Much to my surprise, I-15 north from St. George is a steady, 50-mile climb with an 80-mph speed limit. There’s no way I’d pull a trailer at 80 mph up a grade, especially in the darkness of the early morning. Sure, the GTI can do it; I have no doubt that I could blast beyond 100-mph up the mountain with that trailer. But my trailer’s tires are rated for just 81 mph. The greater concern is that I could actually watch my fuel gauge’s needle move. The car was sucking-down premium unleaded faster than I can guzzle a large hot chocolate! I set the cruise control for 70 and made plans to stop at 1/2-tank. That point came at less than 100 miles! I knew the economy for this tank would be in the toilet. I refueled at 111 miles with 7.1 gallons for (drum roll, please) FIFTEEN MILES PER GALLON! It was 15.6, if I’m precise. The next tank was 20.6… so, there was some recovery once my elevation was leveled a bit. Speaking of fuel economy, my average economy in California was 25 mpg, due in large part to their 55-mph speed limit for all towed trailers.

Anyway, the time came to have another look at Google’s road conditions map. As much as I would have liked to go over that pass and perhaps see Moab along the way, there was no way that I was going to risk a repeat of what happened in Sequoia National Park. I-80 was clear at that moment and the forecasts for Evanston and Laramie looked good. So, away I went with a new destination of Rock Springs, WY. Would I see the “Highway to Heaven?” I didn’t know, but I began to formulate a plan to maximize my odds of getting that photo! It was time for another fuel stop. There was a closed petting zoo next door that surprised me with some “zonkeys.” I’ve shared a photo in the album below.

I mentioned Moab above. I’m not sure why I thought Utah’s landscape was filled with red buttes, but I was disappointed to not see any of those iconic formations. I guess I gave those up when I aborted I-70. I eventually saw this formation and decided it was “close enough.” 😉  I was also looking for a Utah “Been There” mug from Starbucks for my wife. St. George’s Starbucks didn’t have any. I called ahead to a few stores in Provo and found a place that had them. “Destination Set!” As I approached, I saw a temple from the highway. I decided to exit and take a photo (shown below). I like to photograph old churches. This certainly did not qualify as “old,” but the church vibe was the basis for my stop. I think that’s my first car photo with a temple.

With a “Been There” mug in-hand, I left Utah and crossed into Wyoming. I was very pleased to see this sign not flashing. I made it to Rock Springs very early… too early to quit. I decided to continue to Rawlins, for a total of 570 miles of driving. It was cold and windy… VERY windy! The hotel wasn’t even half-full. That meant plenty of easy parking for the trailer. After I was settled-in and ready for bed, I realized something important: Remember the snacks that my wife tends to over-pack? Some of those snacks were in the form of canned alcoholic beverages. It was supposed to chill to 17 degrees that night. I had no desire to go out to the car the next morning to find the cans exploded all over the interior. “Damn! Gotta get dressed and bring them in!” It was cold! Once I was ready for bed again, I remembered something else… the EGGS in the refrigerator. Reefers are nice for keeping things cold; but, when outside, they don’t stop anything from freezing in cold weather. I got dressed AGAIN and went to save the eggs. “Oh, look! More canned cider in the fridge!”

I just had to hope that the mountain passes along I-80 would stay clear for one more day. I’ll share more in an upcoming post.

Clean Clothes!


About Scott

I grew up near Houston, TX and served in the U. S. Coast Guard for over 30 years. I have an electronics background and continue to work in the electronics engineering field. I taught myself the basics about automotive systems as well as how to perform some of my own maintenance (cars and bicycles). I became involved with Amateur Radio and computers in 1995. The explosion of technology has made my job and several of my hobbies quite interesting. My hobbies include Volkswagens, bicycling, photography, electronics, amateur radio, web management, and reptiles. Visit my websites to learn more.
This entry was posted in Road Trips. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply