SITREP – Day 5 – Wonderland


I am sitting in St. George, Utah – half awake – hoping to have enough pushed through in this blog to let those getting up tomorrow morning know I am not dead.  Yup, survived another day on the road to California.  With the 600 miles today planned through the roughest of the Rockies, one should think that today would be the toughest of the whole trip.

Hate to disappoint you, but it was the best.  Like, not even in the same league.

Really it started 28-ish hours ago.  After arriving in Denver, getting the pup settled in, and cranking out the Day 4 blog post, I met up with Jason Lindgren, a fellow ex-Colt from my drum corps days and my current major rival in Fantasy Football … seriously, part of the conversation was about how Jason was supposed to dive bomb his team so I can make it into the Superbowl.  He ended up taking me to a couple of the Westminster, CO microbreweries where I had some mighty fine beers and pizza cooked out a wood burning stove on a trailer (like, think food truck, but with a wood burning pizza oven).  Also checked out a micro-distiller (like a small batch spirit maker) where I learned to love true Hot Buttered Rum!  But it wasn’t just the drinking, it was a great night of catching up with an old friend and sharing the stories that cover 25 years.

Tonight was something similar.  I spent the evening with Bob Lehnan, who is in the most basic sense the gentleman who retired from my old employer leaving the vacancy for me to join them.  But that is like saying ‘Brett Farve retired from the Green Bay Packers and was replaced with Uncle Rico from Napolian Dynamite’ (or for those of you who didn’t get the references … Bob is a legend, and I am some shmoo).  A few beers, stories about the state of the company, and lots of discussions on pets made for a great night in St George.

In between, I was faced with a true winter wonderland.  The drive today stated in Denver at the crack of stupid.  Jason recommended a 5 to 6AM start to beat those folks heading to the ski slopes for the weekend.  I took his advice, but also took a bunch of coffee.  Out of Denver, I-70 climbs to over 11,000 feet and runs through a long tunnel before it starts to hit the winding roads of the Rockies.  By the time I hit the tunnel, the sun was up, and I was hit by the tall mountains and peaks snow covered and white.  I have driven this route before at least three or four times; but it was always in the summer.  In fact, it was always heading East.  So this was so new, so different, and so interesting.  The roads were a little spotty at times, but the snow was mainly up in the mountains, hills sides, across the wide lakes, and etched into the rocky surfaces.  My favorite stretch always is in Glenwood Canyon, and seeing it from the higher West Bound lanes with the icy river and snowy walls made the views extraordinary.

Of course, if you ever have driven this route, you know the views just keep coming at you like that.  From the tree covered peaks, to the crested buttes of Utah, to the wide rivers, to the open plains.  The boring of Days 1 thru 5 was replaced overwhelmingly by the splendor of today.

Like I said, I drove this route before, and part of the trip included a stop in a town etched well in my memory.   Little Rifle, Colorado, at a point still 70 miles east of Grand Junction.  It’s not so impressive of a town, compared to the resort like Vail or busy Grand Junction, but it is still nicely nestled along the rivers at the end of the canyon country.  Why is it so memorable?  Well, it was here in 1995 I had an revelation.  I was on my first great solo road trip, a 21 day adventure from the midwest to visit my brother in Vegas.  I just ended what was going to be my last year of touring Drum Corps, was looking at the last 3 months before I graduated from college, and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life.  I pulled into this town, and got a room in a crappy little hotel (though the room ended up to be the nicest they had).  Wandering around the town in the car, I was flipping radio channels and came across some talk show.  The guy on it was setting up his day and started talking about his job – the main comment he made was blunt and direct: ‘If you love what you do, your life will be happier because it is so’.  The guy then continued on with his show (which turned out to be a closed minded religious call-in show where he chastised a kid for allowing himself to be tempted by Dungeons & Dragons).  It seemed in some way shape or form, however, I chased that guy’s them — to find a job that you love to do.  While I followed paths that I don’t really think were the best I could do, I seriously love the job that I am going to be doing at JPL.  So in a way, stopping here was a chance to think that voice for leading me on a path, and letting me see what the world could be.

So tomorrow is the last day of the drive, Day 6.  On paper it is the shortest day – 380 miles.  On another recommendation, it will be another early start – this time to beat the ‘Vegas Losers’ heading back to LA following their weekend.  But I also want to get an early start so I can get into our hotel, settle in, and let what the day after means.  Day 6 has to be the end because the following day is really Day 1 … my first day at JPL … Day 1 of the rest of my life.

As a recap on the route:

I-90 across NY and Northern OH & IN; — DONE
I-80 at Chicago, across IL, IA & NE.DONE
I-76 in Western NE into CO —  DONE
I-70 at Denver then across CO into UT — DONE
I-15 through UT, NV, through Las Vegas, and then into CA — Started Today
CA-210 to Burbank.

Next stop … California.


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