And thus brings an end to, as someone put it, the mother of all road trips. In total, I travelled 7,896.3 miles. That is more than I usually put on a car in a year! The drive back was fairly speedy, but felt very tiring. Maybe it is because driving East feels like stepping back (is it a coincidence that people tend to say “back East?”), versus the feeling of liberation heading to the wide open spaces of the West. Driving into fog, cold sleet, and rain did not help alleviate this feeling.
I thought skiing at Snowbird in the morning would be a good way to jolt me awake for the first leg of the drive back to Cambridge, MA. Overnight and continuing snowfall cemented this decision. At least that was the plan. And as we see from this trip, plans inevitably get thwarted.
Conditions were a stark contrast to my warm, bluebird day at Snowbird, but the fresh snow was great.
Yet again, outrigger issues cut my day almost the moment it got started. Snow/water kept getting into the spring mechanism that allows me to flip the outrigger blade up and down. I went into the cafeteria to get hot water to temporarily fix the issue, but it came back as soon as I did a run. I was pissed because I had gone through the trouble of getting up very early to get first tram and spent the money on a lift ticket, only to have equipment failure ruin the day.
However, I had learned the previous day that my new job’s start date had been delayed till March 1st. This immediately made me want to use this opportunity to travel to Colorado to ski at the places I had intended to go to on this trip, but had to forgo because of the delays caused by all the mishaps. So it was easier to roll with the situation knowing that I had an opportunity to get more skiing in later in February.
I knew that I wanted/needed to get back to Cambridge by Sunday evening, but I was not entirely sure where I was aiming for this first day. Lincoln and Omaha, NE were certainly too far. I re-entered probably one of my favourite states, Wyoming, driving through and reminiscing fondly about all the times I have spent in this state. Interestingly, I crossed the Continental Divide on two occasions as I drove East on Interstate-80. I had never driven through Nebraska; there was a similar peace to it that I experienced when I was driving West through Saskatchewan. Seeing large drilling and mining equipment, and a wind-turbine blade transported is really cool, too. I made pretty good progress and decided to bed down for the evening in North Platte, NE, which was a fairly sizable town. Most importantly, the town had places to get coffee for the next morning. I’m normally not a big Starbucks fan, but I will be the first to admit that their in-store and packet Pike’s Place coffee has gotten me through many a cold morning and drive on this trip.
Like the drive westward, the second day is the toughest driving day by far for me. It was a combination of poor sleep, very boring terrain and scenery, the toll of the first day of driving, and accumulation of all the days of driving on this trip. I had to make numerous stops at gas stations/rest-stops to nap, and buy horrible snacks to eat to keep me away on the drive. I don’t think I can look at Chex-Mix or Muddy Buddies for quite awhile. Though both are very flat states, Nebraska felt wide open and peaceful, while Iowa just felt bleak. Illinois was a fairly brief interlude between Iowa and Ohio. The nice thing about driving on a weekend was avoiding traffic around metropolitan areas, like Chicago.
I became more alert at around 2.30pm and found myself going strong for the Toledo, OH area, which would put me in a good position for the third and last day of driving. It’s funny how the relative density of the East Coast becomes so apparent as you travel farther East.
The final push. I woke up very early on this third day feeling very alert. Again, it could be knowing this would be my final day of driving and that it would not be a marathon driving day. It is somewhat amusing that a driving day of under 12 hours now feels on the shorter side! While it was dreary and wet, temperatures were far above freezing, which made for quick travel. Having such closely spaced rest areas across New York and Massachusetts is both weird (like, why the need?) and quite nice, knowing my next bathroom/soft drink/gasoline refuel opportunity is coming up soon.
It was hard not to let anxieties about unpacking and unloading the car, and washing and packing for my next trips (Martinique and Chamonix) creep in. It would have been nice to have trips spaced out a bit more, but I felt the need to jam in as much fun during this time I have of not working.
So would I do this again? I got to ski in some really awesome places with great conditions; I got to experience familiar places in new ways (e.g. Alberta, Idaho, and Wyoming in the winter); I got to see totally new places, like inner British Columbia, America’s Heartland (Nebraska, Iowa), Saskatchewan, North Dakota; drive across the continent and back; experience extended periods of deep cold like I had never done so before and travel/deal with it; learn how my body and equipment responds to extended skiing road trips (the good, the bad, and the ugly); and all this solo. My main complaint was the abysmal skiing/driving ratio. Driving was a great way to see Canada and the US, lug all my shit around, and have the freedom to drive wherever, whenever, depending on conditions and circumstances. But that time spent driving could have been spent skiing or climbing. Granted, I was operating under a very compressed timeline. If I had another month or two on the road, I might consider driving again. But, more likely, I would choose to take two trips and fly (one city in Canada for one trip e.g. Calgary, the other city being Salt Lake City or Denver) rent a car for a month or a few weeks each time, and do a loop. What I certainly will do next time is:
- At the very least, carry plenty of spare outrigger parts. I had some spare parts with me on this trip, but they were the wrong parts; not the ones that kept failing. Now I am much more aware of the parts of the outriggers that are most likely to fail for me. Transporting a second spare pair of outriggers would not be possible with air travel.
- Now I know what the causes are for my lower right leg pain that was bad enough to stop me from skiing for awhile, I can get on a foot, leg, and hip strengthening program months in advance of the start of ski season.
- Perhaps be less ambitious in how many places I wanted to go to. Driving from place to place was very tiring and made things not as relaxing/restful as they could have been. But again, I was operating under a very compressed schedule and eager to “make the most” of my time.
Now it is time for some R&R in Martinique this week, a welcome change to the rain, sleet, and 50 mph winds in Boston last night/today.