Joe Versus the Volcano … of Road Trips

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Let me get this out there … I should have driven another 0.4 miles.

Let me get this out there too … I am Tired!!!

The drive today was not as long as yesterday, not as far, and pretty uneventful in comparison.  779.8 miles today took twelve and a half hours to get done today.  It was a simple run down I-70 from Dayton, through Indianapolis, through East St Louis (is there any other St Louis?), and Breaking South on I-35 in Kansas City for the run to Wichita.

The total mileage from my parking spot in Dorchester to the hotel in Wichita:  1599.6 Miles … yeah, should have taken the long route to the hotel, right?

The plan is to shut it down for a week, kinda.  I have work to do here in Wichita during the week – so I am in town until Saturday morning.  The pup and I are hanging at the hotel with a bar, if that tells you anything, and earning a paycheck.  After that, we wrap this thing up with the last 1400 miles over next weekend.

I feel alright, somewhat energized from the long run, but feeling the ache of early mornings, the stress of staying alert for hours, and (no I am not kidding) the intensity that comes from a pretty awesome audiobook.  I get pretty poetic during those runs and wrote and re-wrote this blog a hundred times over hundreds of miles.  All I got is one topic – a good one – but just the one.

It’s my ‘Joe Versus the Volcano’ of road trips.  See, I love the 80’s movie Joe Versus the Volcano – sure the story is clunky, some of the plot points are forced, and some of the acting could have used a good editor/director; but there are brilliant moments in there.  Anyone who actually knows the movie, may remember all the bad stuff – it was generally a flop with critics and box office.  But I name you my top 5 favorite movies, Joe v. Volcano is there.

At around mile 575, I got a call from Jeremy Phillips, and was pretty dogged.  He teased me about the road ahead of me, because I was facing the stretch of I-35 through the Flint Hills, pointing out it was likely going to be the worst part of the drive.  I disagreed, madly disagreed.  After snow blowing over the only mountain range I got to see and instead was left with hours and hours of … well .. Ohio-Indiana-Illinois-Missouri; the Flint Hills were going to be nice.  In FACT, I’ve always loved the Flint Hills.  Sure it’s flat treeless landscape, but it is wide rolling hills with little rocky buttes of flat treeless landscape.  When I thought about how many people don’t like the Flint Hills, I realized … well … you get it .. Joe Versus the Volcano.

So in my tired state let me give you this:

Mitch’s Top 5 Stretch of Roads in the USA:

#5 – I-35 in Kansas thru the Flint Hills – Joe v. Volcano
#4 – Parks Highway North of the Talkeetna Junction in Alaska – running along the south side of the Alaskan Mountain Range complete with (on a good day) Denali staring right back at you.
#3 –  I-70 Colorado – West of Eisenhower Tunnel – winding your way through the Rocky Mountain Canyons
#2 – I-76/ Pennsylvania Turnpike from Murrysville (Pittsburgh Exit) to Breezeville (Gettysburg Exit) — and then the run down the Lincoln Highway (US30) to Gettysburg … but that is more for sentimental reason.
#1 – Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm Heading South of Anchorage, AK.  I dare you to think of something that can beat Turnagain Arm. You try I will throw back something more awesome in return, from glaciers to mountains, from ghost towns to whales.  I DARE YOU!

Alright, I am getting room service and going to bed.

Days of Road Trips Past

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I pulled into my hotel today in Huber Heights, Ohio as my odometer showed I covered 819.4 miles.  The pup and I left the house at 6:45am and it was 9:00pm when we rolled to a stop.    There was snow for most the first 150 miles, but with a major reroute that took me straight out of Mass to follow I-90 across New York I basically saved an additional 100 miles of snow. The snow wasn’t too bad – light & wet – so overall the conditions were good for the drive today.  About the only moment of concern was when I was crossing the Berkshire Mountains in Western Mass, crossed a high river bridge, and felt a crosswind question if the road froze over under my tires.  From there on out, it was a safe trip.

That being said, it was probably the hardest, longest day drive I have done in at least 10 years.  That’s really saying alot for me. I’ve loved the ‘Road Trip’, the longer the better.  Not so much the driving, or more to the point, the hard driving – but the fact that you get to see so much of the world go by.  I enjoy flying, but it always seems kinda goofy that I start a day in one place, and after spending hours in a can, you show up somewhere else.  With a road trip, you see it all.  The towns, the cities, the rivers, the canals, the big plants, the burnt out buildings, the purple mountains majesty, the amber waves of grains.  It’s all there to see, even if they go by at 65 miles per hour.

One of the ironies of this trip is the newness of the roads I am traveling – or more specifically, the lack of newness.  As long as there is not another major reroute, there are two portions of this trip that is on road that I HAVEN’T driven on; and I won’t see those until next weekend.  Today’s drive was smothered in past trips.  With them came memories of those trips.  It was like what kept me on the road was the remembrance of days long gone:

– I driving along the Mass Turnpike in an early morning after a Drum Corps season finale in Boston with (among others) Mary (Tracy) Glerum.  We were carrying a chest full of live lobsters – and as the rest of the van slept, I was kept awake by the ‘click click click’ of the Lobsters fighting their rubber bands.

– I remember being in a bus full of MTU Huskie Pep Band idiots, hung over from a weekend at the Div II Womens Final Four; and we standing out in a cold service center outside of Albany getting ready for overnight bus ride through Canada.

– There’s the time I ditched a vacation to Buffalo and instead drove across the NY Turnpike to visit Lake Placid, Vermont, and Maine for the first time.

– How when Rusty Johnson and I had an audit to do in Buffalo, and we fought lake effect snow to be in … the city that shall not be named (here’s a hint, their river catches fire).

– Or when I used to run hard from Milwaukee to Gettysburg over a weekend to save myself, and I would wake up in a travel plaza in Ohio to my most memorable sunrises ever.

In someways, this day was a let down.  The mountainous views that really get my travelling blood pumping were non-existant, in part because the only real range was the Berkshires and they were clouded in snow this morning.  Instead I was reminded how long it takes to cross New York, how just when you think you crossed it, they throw a 55 mph speed limit, and the countryside east of Buffalo is one continuous paintball arena.  Yet I remembered the days gone by, the people I rode this road with, and that made the trip go all that more smoothly.

Speaking of which, the pup survived the first day as well.  He was concerned most the morning, even nervous & shaking.  Truthfully, he has been off the last couple of days.  I metioned earlier today, I don’t know if I should be worried for him, or impressed that he figured out something big was happening.  He ended up being my armrest for long periods of time, and napped most the afternoon in the backseat.  Now he is happy to be in the hotel, excited for all the new people in the halls, and giving me the look that says ‘lets go to bed daddy’.  So that’s what we’ll do.

Tomorrow is another long day – 730 miles – but probably an hour or more shorter thanks to more reasonable speed limits.  We end in Wichita, down roads I drove nearly continuously for 10 years.  Weather looks good, wind will be at our back, and then we will have a week to shake the road off our coats.  But that’s tomorrow.

The Drive – The Plan

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Well, I am sitting in Dorchester just a scant 15 hours before the pup and I hit the road for a pretty crazy next two weeks followed by some interesting months ahead.  Before I head to bed, I want to have the car packed up to have as little to do in the morning.  That means that between now and bed time, I need to finish laundry, pack three suitcases (two for me, one for the pup .. no, its for his food, you jackass), pack a couple of laptops, finish printing off seven audit checklists for work, get the trash out, the dishes washed, and the house as ready to be locked down as possible.  OH … and I have to do my taxes too.  I’ve spent some time planning the route, trying to be smart while respecting the distance I need to cover.  With that, here is the plan:

Tomorrow is a heavy drive day, usually not a good thing for a first day, but I am racing the weather too.  My goal is to be up at 5am, shower, feed the pup, and be on the road by 6am.  Which means I can accept getting out by 7am, which really means I won’t be on the road until 8 or 9.  The route will take me straight west out of Boston on I-90, before hopping on I-84.  I’ll be on that for a while: thru Connecticut past Hartford, a short cut across southern New York, and to Scranton.  I catch I-81 there but only long enough to find I-80 and the LONG run across Pennsylvania.  No sooner do I get to Ohio, then I move to I-76 in Youngstown, hop onto I-71 south of the C word, then find I-70 in Columbus.  End of Day 1 – a scheduled 13 hours later – is in Dayton, OH.  If I can get to Pennsylvania by Noon, I think I will be doing pretty good, but there is nothing easy about the day.

Sunday then is a little less grueling, but not by much.  It’s a 12 hour drive.  After getting onto I-70 in Columbus, I will stay on it until Kansas City – that’s including Indiana (around Indianapolis), Illinois (thru Vandalia, which the last time I visited there I replaced the battery in the same car I am driving on this trip), and St. Louis (by which I mean, East St Louis).  Then its down the old flint hills road on I-35 until I reach Wichita.

I am working in Wichita all next week, something I had planned to do anyway, just planned on flying there and flying back before this plan came up.  So you could say it is my down time too.

We hit the road again the following Saturday to work through the last two days of a drive.  That part is going to be a bit easier – and pretty straight forward.  9+hours to Albuquerque along US-54 (which is as interstate-y as highways get), then 10 hours into LA.

Yes it’s a lot of driving, yes its insane, but as my inspiration for all things stupid (Jeremy Phillips) once said (then said all the time) … It’s Time to Take Stupid to a Whole New Level.

Where Do You Live These Days?

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When someone asks me “Where do you live these days?”

My current answer is: “Good Question, I don’t know.”

In the last three months, I’ve been away from the condo that I own A LOT.  Ok, maybe you haven’t noticed … I’ve STUNK at keeping up with the blog recently and I know it.  Not that things in my life haven’t been ‘blog worthy’.  Some things have been, but the trouble is that it’s been traveling ALOT, and when I get home, I really don’t want to do anything.  I mean, did you really want me to update you every time snow made it impossible to get around in Boston?  Or for that matter, every time I stuck in Connecticut?  Or clocking time back in Wichita (Ok, that really was Blog Worthy since it was the first time being there since I moved out – and even started this blog two and a half years ago, but we’ll get to that).  The problem was, I was short of any kind of ‘down time’.  I could be writing the blog, but there is just times you want to shut the brain down for a while – and I have had lots of those times.  The problem also was — I just wasn’t home.  I was traveling alot.

As it turns all, all that travel is going to stop, immediately.  No, I’m not kidding.  I am going to spend the forseeable future supporting one plant …

Just one plant …

(Here Comes the Punchline)

… in Los Angeles.

Sometime this weekend, the pup and I will climb into the car and head west.  We are going to stop off for a few days in Wichita to get some work done, the continue on to the LA Basin.  There, we will be housed temporarily until the plant I am supporting fills at least one if not up to three positions we recently lost.

I actually just found out about the move an hour or two ago, and I have reached the ‘this is so insane it is funny’ point.  I had just got done with a good conversation with my boss on Monday how I was hoping that I could slow down my time away from home – and he thought that meant he would have to convince me to go.  It’s a need, it’s the right thing to do, and … it’s a road trip.  Two actually.

And the pup comes with!
— On a professional point, if you know someone interested in a Quality Manager or Metallurgist Position in the LA Area (or General Manager, we have a spots open there too) let me know.