Tuesday March 17th, 2009
Cooper City FL to Olympia WA
I made it to Washington, yay! And it snowed at 3pm this afternoon. It was beautiful! Anyway, I arrived 11 days ago after a cross country trip in a Budget rental truck from Cooper City, Florida to Olympia, Washington. It was a 51-hour, 5-day truck ride spanning 3,419 miles and 12 states. It cost about $700 in gas. At first I was apprehensive about the whole thing as it was a lot of time on the road, but I was pleasantly surprised how enjoyable the trip was. Yes, I was tired at the end of the day and bored driving through some areas (Missouri), but with all my belongings in the truck, heading out west to start a new job in a new area, and driving through parts of the country I had never been, it was actually a lot of fun. Day one was a bit boring as I had driven the Florida turnpike and I-75 from Cooper City to Locust Grove, GA several times before. I picked up a quarter bushel of oranges in FL and a 3 lb bag of peanuts at Magnolia Plantation in GA for snack food, made my usual stop at Maui Teriyaki in Gainesville and rolled into my sister's house around 8pm after a late start in FL. The Arant's are doing great and it was nice to see everyone again, but I had to leave the next morning so I didn't get to visit long.

At the start of day two, I picked up my bike, computer, and other things I left at my sister's while I was in Costa Rica and set out on my way. I went through Chattanooga and Nashville, stopping at a Cracker Barrel for lunch/dinner, went through Kentucky and into Illinois where I called it quits for that day. Through the mountains in Tennessee, there were patches of snow on the ground, so I was getting hopeful that I'd see some snow on the trip. The weather called for sunny skies and highs in the 60s even through Montana. I had no idea how much snow I would be seeing when I got to the Rockies and the Cascades. Nonetheless, passing through the Appalachians was neat and Tennessee and Kentucky are two beautiful, although somewhat chilly, southern states.

I woke up early on day three to stop and see the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. I must say, it was more impressive than I was expecting, although my expectations were pretty low. I didn't have time to go up to the top, but some quick pics and running around the base of the arch was sufficient for me. It was a crisp, clear, beautiful Saturday morning with no hoards of tourist crowds or school kids around, so it was very pleasant. I then hopped back into my 12,500 GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) truck and headed for Kansas City. I had been to Kansas City before with Ed B ortoni from Motorola trying to resolve a last-minute issue that Sprint reported, thus, I had no reason to stop there, and there really isn't much to see anyway. I continued on what seemed to be an eternity in Missouri (KC was pretty cool but overall I'm not a big fan of Missouri...sorry Meredith), and finally entered Iowa. Iowa was pretty much what I expected. Not much there. A lot of yellow/brown fields, about the same color as macaroni and cheese. When I had 1/8 of a tank of gas, I took a look at my Navman GPS to find any gas stations but all the nearby ones were either behind me or 10 miles off the highway. I really didn't want to go backwards or waste 20 miles just to drive to a gas station so I figured there would be a gas station at one of the next exits. 1/8 of a tank was still about 3 or 4 gallons so I figured it would not be a problem. At the next exit (which was almost 20 miles away) there were no gas stations and my GPS didn't find any either. So on I went. My gas light came on and I was getting a little nervous as there was nothing around but yellow/brown fields. Thankfully, the next exit was coming up and my GPS detected a gas station about 5 miles off the road. The exit looked desolate but I put faith in my GPS that it knew beyond the macaroni and cheese-colored hills was a gas station waiting for me. So off I went, riding on full faith of my Navman. As I passed over the first hill, there was a spectacular site. Dozens of giant, pollution-free, electricity-producing wind turbines spinning away. It was wonderful. Engineering ingenuity and American innovation at its finest, which is what America is all about. I was surprised to find out that the U.S. is the world's leading producer of wind power. Hmmm...only if there was some way of converting that wind-power electricity to fuel my truck. Near the wind turbines was a small little town, straight out of the movies, with the wild-west building facades, dusty, old pickup trucks, and the wind picking up dirt into the air. No tumbleweeds though. This was Iowa, not Texas. As I drove into town I was very confident to find gas and sure enough I saw a sign. The gas pumps looked to be the old style from the 70s, but gas is gas. Unfortunately, as I drove up to the pumps, there was a big sign on the front door of the building that said "closed." Oh, crap. Surely there's another gas station in town. And to make an overly dramatic story come to a close, there was a gas station. Everything was fine. It even had a digital readout and accepted my credit card at the pump. Sweet. Anyway, the point being that Iowa turned out to be a pretty neat place and I was sure glad I had to drive off the highway or I would never have seen the wind turbines. They're pretty cool. The rest of Iowa was uneventful, passing just east of Warren Buffet's hometown of Omaha (technically, I never entered Nebraska on this trip and so it is not included in one of the 12 visited states), and then entering South Dakota. Day three came to a close after passing Sioux Falls and finding a hotel in Mitchell.

Day four was the best day of the trip. Although the east part of South Dakota looked just like Iowa and Missouri, there were a few more patches of snow, which made it a bit more exciting. However, the western, hilly part of the state is where it's at. While driving down I-90 there was a big sign for the state road 290 scenic loop through the Badlands. Hmmm. I was hesitant on taking a scenic tour of the Badlands as it would probably cost me over an hour in driving time. I looked at pictures on the web just a few days prior to the trip and it didn't seem very impressive. Nonetheless, I decided to do it, and boy was I glad I did. The Badlands were amazing. The closest similarity is probably Bryce Canyon in Utah. It was yet another beautiful day, bright sunny skies, highs in the 60s, and no tourists, as it was winter in South Dakota. It was so warm, that I had to take off my sweater. Who'd of thought I'd be walking around with just a t-shirt and jeans in South Dakota during the winter. Besides the multi-colored wonder of the rock formations, I saw buffalo and prairie dogs. It was a diversion from my cross-country trip well worth it. After all the stopping and the additional distance by taking the scenic route, I must have lost 2-3 hours. But that didn't stop me from taking another diversion at Rapid City to head south and see Mount Rushmore. Like the Badlands, I saw pictures of Mount Rushmore on the web and didn't think the real-life mountain would be much different than the pictures. Unfortunately, in this instance, I was right and Mount Rushmore was, in my mind, less than spectacular. It's a shame that the monument went unfinished due to lack of funds. However, the redeeming thing about Mount Rushmore is the surrounding area, the Black Hills. The thick Ponderosa Pine trees give the hills their name and it was yet another beautiful area of the country. I'm usually not a big fan of the scenic routes, but I was pleasantly surprised by these two. After the Black Hills, I passed through the town of Custer and entered Wyoming on highway 16. Got back to I-90 and after passing Gillette was surprised to see a sign indicating no exits for the next 65 miles. It's not as long as Alligator Alley in Florida (85 miles), but there's a gas station in the middle of Alligator Alley. Wyoming was looking to be as desolate as Iowa. And it was, but with mountains off in the distance, it was a bit more scenic. Even with all the tourist stops, I made it to Hardin, Montana, a trip that would normally take eight hours. As such, I was 3 hours behind schedule and had 13 hours left to Olympia.

Day five, my "final" day, turned out to be my penultimate travel day. Went through Billings, then Bozeman, and noted some flashing signals indicating inclement weather conditions on the road ahead. I tuned to the said AM station to see what was up. Apparently there was snowfall and conditions were hazardous, chains recommended, but no restrictions were issued. So, onward I went, excited to see some snow. Sure enough, the snow started falling and the pass through the mountains just east of Butte was a bit hazardous, but slowing down sufficiently the road seemed quite safe. I passed by a snowplow cleaning off the road (although not exciting, it was yet another new thing I had never seen in real life) and when I crossed over the mountain pass and started heading down into Butte, it was like a snow-covered town made for Christmastime. However, that's just passing through it. Butte has a city-wide open container law, probably looks a lot different on St. Patrick's Day and has quite an interesting history. For lunch/dinner, I stopped in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, a popular tourist and ski destination, and finally made it into Washington state. As I was driving through Spokane, some dark clouds started dropping some light rain, then it turned into light snow, and all of a sudden, it just dumped buckets of snow. The black road turned completely white in a second and I could not see a thing. Thankfully, it didn't last long and I was able to continue on my way, but what a dangerous incident! It reminded me of the freak thunderstorms in central Florida that basically blind you as a driver no matter how fast your windshield wipers are going. Day five came to a close as I pulled into Cle Elum, just east of the Cascade mountain range and about 2 hours away from Olympia. Just before Cle Elum, another inclement weather advisory was flashing its signals and the AM station indicated heavy snow through the Snoqualmie pass and chains required for vehicles greater than 10,000 GWVR. It's a good thing I had already planned on stopping as I didn't want to go through that during the night.

Unfortunately, the next morning, the weather was still bad and the chain requirement was still in effect. My truck was over 10,000 GWVR so to abide by the law I would either have to wait or go buy some chains. I'm impatient so I decided to go buy some chains. As I approached the Snoqualmie pass, I pulled over at the chain up area along the interstate and started to put on the chains. What a pain! Without the right tools putting chains on truck tires sucks. It took me about an hour to get the stupid chains on and it was absurdly cold outside. In a sense it was a new experience and kind of neat, but overall it sucked. To make matters worse, as soon as I was chained up and rolling again, the chain requirement was lifted. What a waste. Anyway, as I was coming down the west side of the mountain, the snow dissipated, the sun came out, and as soon as I rolled into Bellevue, the snow was gone, everything was green again, and it all happened within just a few miles. Crazy. Anyway, I finally passed through Tacoma and made it into Olympia. Yay!

I have lots more to talk about but I'll do that in another blog. Just a quick summary: I'm all moved into an apartment, I bought a torch red Ford Escape, and I finished my first week at work and it's great, I am really liking the job so far.
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Sunday March 29th, 2009

Leslie says:

Wow!!! Can't wait to hear more Wade, am so envious, you're doing all the things I'm not brave enough to do!

Wednesday August 03rd, 2011

Carol Mangum, Keller Wms Realtor says:

Hey there Wade!
Is your dad Ronald Wade Cherry? If you can reach him, will you get him to call his Realtor in Austin? Tell him I've been trying to reach him. 512-587-0208 Aug 3rd, 2011.