Friday, December 18, 2015

Driving on I-80

Yesterday I drove halfway across the state on I-80.  It was the first time I've been on that highway.  It rained quite a bit of the time but here are a few impressions:

Trucks.  Lots of trucks.  If it weren't for the trucks I would have gone for miles without seeing another vehicle.

There aren't a lot of exits.  There also aren't rest stops like the rest stops on the Turnpike.  These rest stops just have bathrooms (men on one side of the building, women on the other) and vending machines (in the middle), no restaurants, no stores, no seating, no gas pumps.  I stopped at one rest area, and as I was leaving I noticed that there was a height strip on the door, like the ones in convenience stores and banks.  It marks feet and half feet (4' 4 1/2', 5' 5 1/2', 6', etc) so it is easier to give a good description of suspicious characters you see standing near the door.  This was not reassuring.  I paused inside to check my phone for accumulated emails.  I was the only person in the rest stop until a man stepped in.  He looked startled to see me and I could see his eyes dart to the height strip behind me.  Five feet, two and a half inches, big guy, and perhaps less dangerous than you seem to think.  I left so he could have the place to himself.

At the Turnpike rest stops there are usually opportunities to stretch your legs.  If nothing else you can walk around the parking lot. On I-80 the parking lots aren't large enough for that.  The one I was at was surrounded by woods, with no visible walking paths.  The indoor rest stops weren't large enough to do anything but a tight circle around the vending machines.

It might have been the weather but the landscape looked desolate, sort of like the English moors but with more trees.  The mountains are impressive but intimidating.  Perhaps at other times of the year the landscape is more inviting but this December, in rain and fog, with alternating stretches of empty road and herds of big trucks, it was not.

This might also have been a function of the rain, but it was hard to find radio stations.  For quite a while the clearest station I could find was talk radio.  The host was outraged over a proposed regulation mandating paid sick leave.  He would rant for a bit, then open the phone lines.  All the callers were in favor of paid sick leave.  Then he would rant a bit more and open the phones, and all the callers would be in favor of paid sick leave.  It was mildly entertaining but I was glad when I could find a station with Christmas songs.

It was an interesting experience.  I'm not sure I'd want to make that trip on a regular basis, though.

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