Sunday, March 23, 2014

Road Trip Factoids: Random observations from along the way

To pass the time as I drove, I jotted down random interesting factoids in my notebook. 

  • Most popular name: Casey. I passed Casey stores, Casey restaurants and several Casey towns. 
  • Favorite town names: Friend, Nebraska, Strawberry Wyoming, Ogallala (can't remember the state)
  • Favorite Billboard: "Bulls and Bull Semen for Sale. Turn right at next exit and follow signs." 
  • Most honest road sign, placed at the entrance of a tiny, one-horse town: "Welcome to Klysburn, Now Leaving Klysburn." 
  • Best NPR station: Wyoming (although it's strange to listen to Robert Siegel talking about world events while driving through the middle of nowhere, surprisingly enough Wyoming has a good, strong chain of NPR stations)
  • Speed limits: 65 (Wisconsin), 70 (Iowa) 75 (Nebraska) 80 (Wyoming). It didn't make any difference to me though: the top speed of my truck is 55 mph.
  • Number of McDonalds: +50 (I stopped counting after Kearny, Nebraska)
  • Cheapest gas: Wyoming. $3.39/gallon
  • McDonald's food consumed on trip to date: one milkshake, one McChicken, small fries
  • Cost: I took this trip, in part, to save money over flying but didn't properly calculate how much I'd spend on gas. After two days on the road, I'd already spent more on gas than the cost of a plane ticket.
  • Budget rental van vital statistics: 
    • Gas mileage: 10 mpg with the wind at my back.
    • Top speed: 55 mph
    • Top speed going up the Rockies: 10 mph
  • Truck drivers: the myths and stereotypes are not all true, but most of them are very large around the middle
  • Truck driver pay: very little. If they're lucky, truck drivers earn about $0.35-0.45 a mile. This means that for a 2,000 mile trip like the one I'm taking, they'd take home about $700 before taxes and other expenses. Such a trip takes four or five days and they're limited in how many hours in a day they can put in behind the wheel. You can do the math: it doesn't add up to very much.
  • Semi-truck cabs: very nice and high tech. A driver gave me a tour of his rig: computers, wifi, a fancy sleeping compartment that was like a small bedroom
  • Weigh stations: rental vans have to stop at these too. I found this out  the hard way when a trooper in Wyoming chased me down and made me turn around and drive back.
  • When a truck driver flashes his lights it has different meanings, depending on the context and number of flashes. One flash: switch lanes; two flashes: speed trap up ahead
  • Favorite truck stops: tie between Flying J in Wyoming (great bathrooms, good food, friendly people) and Little America near the Wyoming - Utah border (marble bathrooms, nice gas pumps, good cookies)
  • Least favorite state: Nebraska
  • Favorite state: Utah. Salt Lake city is beautiful, located in a valley with soaring mountains all around
  • Herbert Hoover's house looks like a miniature version of the White House
  • John Wayne's house does not look like the house of a cowboy but that of a farmer
  • Cutest truck drivers: in Nebraska, three incredibly beautiful women passed me driving pickup trucks, forcing me to rethink my stereotype of who drives those things
  • Moving van: when you are driving a Budget rental truck, you essentially become invisible to car drivers. They don't look when they pass, cut you off as if you don't exist and generally act as if you are not there. Truck drivers, on the other hand, adopt you into their fraternity: they wave when they pass and flash their lights to warn you of speed traps.
  • Car drivers are much worse than truck drivers
  • Favorite car: in Utah, I met someone driving a 1960-something MG across the country from CA to NY. The car had only broken down three times by that point.

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