It’s so great to get comments and email from people who find this blog interesting, informative, and/or entertaining. I realized from one such message this morning that I provided no context for this road trip other than conversations with local friends and family. Sorry ’bout that. Here’s the belated explanation.
I start A-100 (essentially diplomatic boot camp) in Washington, DC (actually Arlington, VA) next Monday, October 26th. State provides extensive arrangements via individualized Travel Orders. Typically, this includes moving the candidates stuff via ground transport (up to 18,000 lbs.), storage for most of it, delivery of a small air shipment to the candidate’s temporary address in the DC area (necessities for the 4-12 months of training), and plane tickets. For those of us who cling to some romantic notion of a cross-country road-trip (i.e., masochists), State will also reimburse mileage plus expenses to drive one’s own car to DC.
I wanted to have my car in DC for a variety of reasons: easier commute, easier to visit my two sons in Philadelphia, PA and College Park, MD, allows me to bring more stuff to DC, and I didn’t have time to sell my car before departing. I love to drive and have never had the opportunity to do a true cross-country drive. One more thing to check off the bucket list.
With all the other things I had to do this past week, I didn’t get to pre-plan the trip as meticulously as I typically would. My family would be shocked to see there is no folder with details of each day’s expected progress, reservations for hotels, etc. That said, I did spend some time looking at a map and did a little research about routes. State uses Mapquest (didn’t know anyone still used Mapquest as opposed to Google Maps) to determine the reimbursable mileage: 2,884 miles from Palo Alto, CA to Washington, DC. In all of its bureaucratic wisdom, State determined that the trip should take 6-1/2 days assuming the government mandated 440 miles of progress per day.
I chose to take I-80 as it appears to be the most direct route and affords me the opportunity to see a few states I’ve never before visited. After leaving California over the Sierra-Nevada mountains (see yesterday’s entry), the route takes me through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and then down to Maryland, DC, and Virginia. So far, so good. After two days, I’m just shy of 1,100 miles down.
Today’s driving took me past Salt Lake City and into Wyoming. The Utah Salt Flats leading up to the Great Salt Lake look very similar to Death Valley. Must be tough to maintain cars in this area with all the salt flying around.
The weather was mostly sunny with a little rain toward the end of the day that turned to snow just as I pulled into the hotel in Rawlins, WY. Wyoming has been, as expected, wide open spaces and canyons that look like Wile E. Coyote and his rocket sled will fly by around each turn. This was the main route for both the Pony Express and the Mormon Pioneer Trail.
I have to say, I-80 has been fantastic. I’m used to Northern California freeway driving: three or four lanes in each direction with way too much traffic and drivers who refuse to follow basic etiquette: if you are not passing the lane immediately to your right, you are in the wrong lane. Traffic on I-80 East has been really moderate. It’s been mostly big trucks and RVs. So far, it has been a completely divided highway (you can see the parallel Westbound I-80, but it’s a good 40 yards+ away separated by walls and usually a lot of scrub land). The posted speed limit in Nevada and Wyoming has been 75 mph which means I can drive very safely between 80 and 90. Best of all, what traffic there is tends to stay in the right hand lane unless passing. I have yet to see a Highway Patrol car or speed trap. I’m making good time as it is so I don’t feel the need to push it into triple-digit speeds. At least not very often.
Keep the messages and comments coming…