Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Roaming Through Wyoming

After a fairly intense cross-country drive that took much less time than thought, and after getting internet service set up on the second day out here on the West Coast, it looks like PP posting can resume after one week. This may bring an added 45 seconds of happiness per day to the 37.42 readers, or, for some, this may produce quite the opposite emotion!

Highlights of the drive from somebody who confined himself to Interstate-80 for the entire trip:

(1) Illinois and Iowa. These states were lush and green. The jokes about Illinois being Chicago plus a bunch of cornfields seem based in part on fact, if one extrapolates the scenery along I-80 to the rest of these two states. There were plenty of small- and medium-sized towns that looked like pleasant places to live. I estimate that home prices couldn't be much over $120,000 per year if that much. Also, a pleasant surprise was that motels, no matter how low-brow [don't ask], had internet access. This means that for the last week or so I was able to see what is happening out there in the tiny corner of the blogosphere that is my home.

Let's now turn to the biggest cornfield in America:

(2) Nebraska. Coming from the suburbs of Chicago, it was rather funny to drive past Omaha in five minutes or so, but, when you live in one of the big three metropolitan areas of the country, you get used to cities and sprawl going on forever. Omaha seemed rather small by comparison, probably because it is. It is part funny, part sad when one sees those new home billboard ads along the freeway that offer seemingly nice new homes for $130,000. The funniness comes from the fact that my suburb of Chicago was part of the housing bubble, where junker homes were going for $500,000+; the sad part was that I was going to a state [California] where only some small percentage of people can afford the median home price. [And, I'm in the large percentage category presently!]

One of the beautiful and scenic treasures of the U.S., a great secret [?], upon exiting Nebraska, is:

(3) Wyoming. I believe this is the least populated state in the union. I think I drove for about 200 miles or so without seeing a human soul working in the fields and such. The mountains and hills are lovely, and Cheyenne was a blink-or-you-miss-it affair. Wyoming is a Marlboro Man sort of state or a Brawny Man sort of state. While warm in the summer, it looks like it gets pretty snowy and cold in the winter, and it doesn't look like convenient suburban living is much of an option here!

The austere beauty of Wyoming is rather striking. The eastern portion of Wyoming is full of rolling hills and such, and, as one gets into the heart and western part of Wyoming features lots of hills or minor mountains. At least from the driver's side of the car, it is wonderful postcard material. At the same time, I don't know how happy I'd be out here. My guess is that those who live in Wyoming prefer that the secret not get out about how lovely the state is, at least in the summer.

One minor comment: Rock Springs seemed like the perfect sort of place to live. Rock Springs is in the western portion of the state, and, for whatever reason whether true or not, seems bigger than Cheyenne. Perhaps it is more compact than Cheyenne. But this had all of the trappings of civilization: an Applebee's, Target, etc. And, it even featured a "China King" Buffet place. Home sweet home then? Nope. one must push along back to California.

After staying at a cheap motel complete with shag carpeting from the early 70's, I began to an urge to wear black pants, a white shirt, and pedal a bicycle [not to mention adopt polytheism!] because I-80 led me into:

(4) Utah. This state gets the shortest shrift because the only thing really experienced was a "Flying J" breakfast buffet about 20 minutes west of Salt Lake City that warded off the hunger for about 24 hours. Eastern Utah was a rather difficult drive due to the mountains and such, but third gear eliminated most of the problems. After Salt Lake City, you just have desert and the rather austere salt flats, along with some mountains. There isn't that much in western Utah. The beauty, methinks, is strictly the sort that comes from a driver who never has to live in such an area. Imagining people crossing in wagon trains and such really blew the mind.

After that uninspired paragraph, we get to one of the more fun states:

(5) Nevada. Nature called, so a stop was made in Elko to do one's business. Elko is a small town, but it has casinos and such. In fact, a casino was where the pit stop was made. Walking by the poker room, I felt that the cash in my wallet was burning a hole, but, perhaps some other time. At the same time, from looking at the players, I felt as if I could've made some money! Of course, the people at the poker tables were probably thinking the same about me! That is the allure of a casino --- they make you feel like you are the Chosen One to beat the odds.

Nevada is just one big desert, and upon heading west from Elko, one doesn't really see much other than desert. You have a few gas stations here-n-there, and, I learned that even gas stations in Nevada have gambling machines in them. While I have no moral problems with gambling and such, it seems as if the state encourages people to gamble. Now gambling can be fun, and, people need to realize that they're going to lose if they play the house, setting and upper and lower limit for monies gained and lost before calling it quits, but the excitement of gambling can become rather addictive, so I wonder about the whole enterprise of putting slot machines in gas stations, shopping markets, etc. Now the libertarian side in me says that people have to be responsbile, and I agree. However, I don't have a problem with gambling and such. Perhaps, if gas stations and supermarkets had Chinese Buffets, I might exhibit a Prohibitionistic streak!

It was a long drive from Elko to Reno, but Reno was finally reached. The smart thing to do was to eat at a casino, where the food was cheap. Of course, the food is cheap because the casino is betting that you'll go lose a bunch of money elsewhere, but we fooled them! Actually, nobody got fooled. I was still full from that "Flying J" breakfast buffet outside of Salt Lake, so I merely had a Diet Pepsi to drink, while my driving companion ended up getting a salad.

The highlight of the meal was having an overzealous waitress refill my Diet Pepsi glass some four or five times. The glass had so much ice in it that after five or six good sips, one was running low. The dedicated waitress must've filled the glass back up six or seven times, and by the time the meal was over, California took a second priority to finding a men's room.

Anyway, we walked out of the casino, and again I had the urge to try to make some quick cash at the poker tables [an urge that has no justification, since I'm not that good], but we merely drove out of Reno, and headed to our final goal.

Upon entering the Sierras, at long last, after seven years of being away, I entered:

(6)Koleeforneeya. Welcome to crowding, illegal immigration, high taxes, a housing bubble for which I'm on the outside looking in, gun control, left-wing collectivism, and, finally, an anti-business climate that views business and productivity as a cash pot for the Democrats and Republicans [but to a lesser degree] to extract needed cash to buy off whatever voting bloc decides that they have a right to have other people subsidize them!

But, it is home. And let me say that 100+ degree days and the sunny heat are the sorts of things that make me happy. When our cold winter days hit 50 degrees, don't think I won't be rubbing it in everybody's face! A tennis club has been joined, work is about to begin, a new flat panel 19" monitor has been purchased.....life seems good, for now.

And that concludes the PP travelogue. Please wake up [at least nod your head] and pretend you were interested!


Anonymous Diane said...

I finally had the time to read your travelogue. You do realize that even in the Chicago area (well, at least Bolingbrook and Plainfield) you can find homes starting at $130,000.

Thursday, July 14, 2005 8:39:00 AM  

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