Don’t they want to talk to me?


Last week we rented a car at the airport in Seattle.  On Sunday night, we drove back to Sea-Tac, found the rental center, drove over two sets of those tire-ripping security bars and left the car.  Not that I’m big on waiting around to get a receipt, but there wasn’t anyone there to check in with anyway.  I just left the keys on the console and we flew home.

Yesterday, we got a call on the home phone (although Thrifty has my cell number, and email address) wondering where the car is.  They said I needed to call IMMEDIATELY to avoid the car being reported stolen.

Today I called the magic number.  There was a long announcement, including a very long email address I could (if I always called companies prepared to write down very long email addresses) send a detailed email to with every fact of my life to solve their problem for them.  There was the standard announcement that I should listen carefully because their menu had changed–as if I was responsible for memorizing their menu all the other times I had called, which is none.

Then a person answered. He asked my name, and instantly decided we were friends so he could call me “Chris”.  We are not friends.

He asked why I was calling.  I told him Thrifty had called me. That seemed to confuse him.

Eventually, he figured out the situation, and handled it in classic bureaucratic style.  He told me I needed to call another number.

I refused.  They asked me to call, and I did.  If their purpose was that I should call only to be given another number, that plan doesn’t make a lick of sense, and it didn’t work, either.

I told the call center droid that I was making ONE call, and this was it.  If they wanted something from me, this was their chance.  He told me I needed to call some other number.

Is there some point to this exercise?  Thrifty wasn’t capable of checking in the car properly.  They seem to have lost it in their system.  They need my help, and instead of asking nicely they threaten to call the cops.  I call them at the number they left, and all they do is try to get me to make another call, to another bored call center drone, to get more runaround.

T’aint happening.  I called them, and have the phone records to prove it. Thrifty chose to make no use whatsoever of my help and now they have to sort it out for themselves.

Now,the next time I need to rent a car, will it be from Thrifty, or Hertz?

Home at last

Clouds this great don't happen often, especially on the high desert

Clouds this great don’t happen often, especially on the high desert.  The 


Home and dry. The dry part wasn’t easy–huge rains today both in Nevada and California, I’m very happy to say.

2,260 miles from Indianapolis to Napa. Roughly 225 gallons of gas, 28 diet Cokes, 3 packs of Hostess cupcakes, 8 packets of peanut butter crackers, cheap Mexican food, cheap Thai food, one Subway sandwich, one Burger King breakfast (English Muffins because they were out of biscuits at 9 am), no partridges in pear trees.

The drive was glorious, magestic and stirring. The vast expanses of the great plains and the high desert, so sparsely populated, are breathtakingly beautiful. So much of this is dismissively referred to as “flyover country”, but it’s also the heart of the nation.

It isn’t all perfect, of course.  The radio plays little but sermonizing preachers and Rush Limbaugh.  The food isn’t good, if you’ve been spoiled by the culinary excitement of the Bay Area.  Bridge games are few and far between.

My trip across the country was wonderful; I enjoyed every minute and would do it again.  And I’m glad to be home, sleeping in my own bed with my favorite blonde.

Heavey Rain At Summit

Yep, that’s what the electronic sign over the freeway on Kingvale Grade said this afternoon, “Heavey rain at summit.”

It was indeed exceptionally heavey rain, rain that we need every drop of, rain to celebrate. 

If only we could celebrate state employees who can spell. 

Almost home

Slow morning in Rawlins.  I went to the library to see if I could find any information on Gail’s father, and was happily surprised when they took all the information I had and promised to call within 72 hours after they search the microfiche and available databases.  Then I went to the Presbyterian church, hoping to find a wall with photos of pastors back to 1900.  That didn’t happen–I wanted a very old church building, but found a modern one and nobody home on a Thursday morming.  The building has tiny stained glass windows that may well be from an older building, but there was no way inside to check it out.

Driving out of town, I noticed this sign, and needed a picture to convey just how barren and desolate it is around southwestern Wyoming:

Not exactly Pebble Beach

Not exactly Pebble Beach

Near the western end of the state is Little America, quite possibly the best truck stop in the world.  A vast number of pumps fuel trucks of all shapes on one side and autos on the other.  The diner is good, and they offer 75¢ soft serve cones. The gift store is large and clean, stocked with books and tapes to keep the kids amused, souvenirs of every shape and color, and a case full of knives and brass knuckles.  I don’t understand everything…………

Naturally, I hit Salt Lake City at rush hour, got lucky by using Waze to find the fastest route through town and had no real issues.  Then the fun began.

Most people wouldn’t think it was fun to hurtle down a narrow causeway with water on both sides in a large rented truck as fast as it could possibly go in the middle of a huge thunderstorm with lightning all around.  I thought it was incredibly exhilarating. Rain pounding on the truck, the wipers on their highest setting, Meatloaf blaring on the sound system, the engine roaring with my foot on the floor, life doesn’t get any better than this.

Passing out of the line of the thunderstorms, the clouds were still beautiful.  I shot this out the window as I drove:

Fascinating cloud cofiguration

Fascinating cloud cofiguration

Then it happened–I saw something I’ve never seen before.



Probably that isn’t the mark a flying saucer leaves when it breaks through a cloud.  Probably. But a perfect circle of light in the middle of a huge cloud?  Glad I had the camera handy.

Elko is about as miserable a wide spot in the road as you can imagine. I walked into, and immediately out of, a Mexican restaurant and then a Chinese restaurant before giving up and buying a sandwich at Subway.  There is a Basque place that looked interesting, but they serve family style and I don’t have one with me.  I just wasn’t in the mood to join a communal table tonight.

Tomorrow I’ll get an early start and get this load to the store in Sonoma.  It will be good to be home.

Still on the road

Some days are more interesting than others. Today was mostly one of the others, but there were a few things worth notice.

First off, this is beautiful country.  People talk about Nebraska as “flyover country”, but driving it is breathtakingly gorgeous.  The scenery changes slowly, starting out in the semi-big city urbanism of Omaha, morphing into endless corn or wheat fields on broad flat prairie which then becomes hillier and less even ranch land with huge herds of cattle as the ground begins to climb towards the mountains of Wyoming.

The relentless winds across the plains keep the trees from growing tall–I don’t think I saw a tree more than 30 feet high all day, and most were half that size.   They only grow naturally near the rivers and lakes–but every homestead is surrounded by trees planted as a wind break and shade creator.  Thus do people affect the ecology of an area.

Lee’s Legendary Marble Museum

As with yesterday, I passed many museums and points of interest I wish I had time to investigate.  This is the one I most regret–Lee’s Legendary Marble Museum and Collectables. in York, Nebraska.  It’s sort of a tribute to eccentricity.  The bottom of their web page has a counter so you can see how many people have looked at it.  The counter goes to 12 digits, so they can represent hits into the quadrillions.  At the present, there have been 1661.  Hope springs eternal in the mid-western breast.

The driving is easy.  Nebraska has a speed limit of 75, Wyoming is posted at 80.  My truck will go 76 and no more, but I had it right at the top almost every inch of the day. Outside of the towns, there are very few cars on the road, just trucks.  The few cars I saw blew past me quickly, even the high speed limits are just a suggestion.

I know that this is the end of May, but it was snowing as I came through Cheyenne Wyoming today.  Not hard, but snowing nonetheless.  Rain had been falling off and on all day, but  Cheyenne is at 6000 feet and the rain turned white.

Clear roads and high speeds meant I was making great time, so I drove 100 miles further than planned, and have stopped for the night in Rawlins, Wy. After checking into the Hampton Inn, I found a Thai restaurant and had a mediocre dinner of steak salad and pad thai chicken. Some salad was desperately needed after subsisting on fat and sugar all day with truck stop junk food.

Gail and I played two hideous tournaments on Bridge Base–i zigged when i should have zagged every time.

In the morning I have to check out the town library and see if there is anything to be learned about Gail’s father’s family–he was born here about 1909.  Then on to Elko, and home on Friday.

Slow road to Omaha

Twelve and a half hours and 620 miles later, I’m in Omaha, safely ensconced in the Hampton Inn catching up on Game of Thrones.

The traffic stoppage in Indiana lasted 90 minutes this morning, and I never figured out what caused it.  I knew I was in a construction zone, but never saw an actual construction.  After an hour and a half of waiting, state troopers came driving the wrong way in the coned-off lane, blowing their horns to wake up the sleeping drivers and get the show on the road.

It was smooth sailing after that.  Long, but smooth. Traffic moves along smartly here, and I didn’t see a traffic cop all day.

I saw something interesting at at rest stop:

Your basic 34 wheeler

Your basic 34 wheeler

I’ve never seen anything like this.  A custom made trailer to haul one section of a wind turbine tower.  The driver told me he made the trailer himself and it still cost $90,000.  There is only 9″ of ground clearance at the front of the huge pipe, although he can raise it if need be.

The entire rig weighs 152,000 pounds, or about 50 regular cars.  It goes into the wind well, but a stiff crosswind brings the fuel mileage below 1 mile per gallon.  The driver does nothing else but deliver these turbine towers around the country, except California because his rig doesn’t pass our smog restrictions and he can’t drive in the state.  You learn the most interesting things if you just talk to people.

I’m ready to take this trip again, on a much slower timetable. Yesterday I passed by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which has an exhibition of Dream Cars, the one-off concept cars the auto manufactures design to see what interests people.  Today I passed the Iowa Museum of Aviation and the Danish Museum.  I need to come back and see all of them, and who knows what else I’m missing.

Dinner at Qdoba, a semi-mexican chain near the hotel.  After getting all set to order a burrito, I saw the enormous quesadilla somebody else was having and I had to try it.

Chicken quesadilla

Chicken quesadilla

The girl who made it asked if I wanted two sides, and I couldn’t imagine how I could have a one-sided tortilla, it was some kind of zen koan.  Turns out she meant did I want sour cream and guacamole.  Once again I was too hip for the room.

The meal was,let’s say, sufficient. Not really good, not bad.  Difficult to eat with plastic utensils and it sticks to the paper it is served on.  Qdoba is better than McDonalds, but that’s not saying much.

Omaha is much colder than Indy was, and it was starting to rain as I got here. Tomorrow will be another adventure.

Live from I74 in Indiana 

  Traffic isn’t just in the bay area. I am at a dead stop on the freeway for some reason that will be revealed. I hope.

After an excellent breakfast in the hotel, I hit the road about 9:30 this morning.

So far the trip is beautiful. The Indiana farmlands are mile after mile of gently rolling fields. The buildings are beautifully maintained and freshly painted on almost every farm. Freeways are wide with a large center divide but no guard rails or oleander bushes to separate the traffic.

The truck I am driving is comfortable with power steering, automatic transmission, air conditioning, a radio that plays largely Christian radio stations and a broken left side mirror.  It rides well and has a governor so I cannot drive more than 75. That may be a good idea.
Google maps kept trying to get me to exit the freeway, which I ignored. Now I realize they may have been trying to reroute me around this roadwork. But if I didn’t stop, when would  I dictate a blog post? Everything works out for the best.
I’m planning to drive as far as Omaha Nebraska today. This should fairly easily work out for a 4 day drive, stopping in Omaha, Laramie Wyoming, and Elko Nevada.  I am looking forward to all of it, just as soon as this roadwork clears and we can start driving again.

I like it and I lump it

A lumper is a day laborer who loads and unloads trucks, typically a man with a strong back and weak mind.  The work is hard but the pay is reasonable and you don’t have to worry about anything, just lift that barge and tote that bale.  I did a fair amount of lumping in the daytime while I went to graduate school at night, but I thought I was long finished with that part of my career.

I was wrong.

Landing in Indianapolis this afternoon, Dave picked me up in big white Budget truck with a 16 foot box on the back.  I thought we would just drop him off at this hotel to fly home in the morning and I could hit the road, clocking a couple of hundred miles before calling it a day.

Dave had other ideas–he was meeting a couple of guys who had some copper he wanted, and we had to get there, cut the deal, make some room in the back of the truck and load all the new goods before re-loading the items he had already purchased.

Copper? you ask.  Me too.  I thought maybe antique pots and pans, perhaps an old sink or maybe a bathtub.  This is what they had:

All this stuff used to be a cathedral

All this stuff used to be a cathedral

Someone is demolishing a local cathedral, and this is all salvage roofing, siding, gutters and drain pipes.  Dave wants it because it has a beautiful patina and the designers he sells to will re-purpose it into mirrors and decor, turning $4/lb scrap into thousands of dollars worth  of high class home goods.

I thought I was through with this work.

Chris the working man


Before we could get to the lifting and toting, the deal had to be made.  The sellers were not exactly the most hot shot businessmen–one is a cop, the other is PC repairman, and they both like to talk more than they like to get to the point, so the process took far longer than it should have.  By the time we were finished it was after 7, I was sweaty, dirty and tired and had no desire to start off on the open road.

We checked into  the Crowne Plaza in downtown, a very nice hotel built right into the old Union Station. There are even a few rail cars still in the building, now converted into specialty hotel rooms.

Indianapolis is at the far western edge of the Eastern time zone, so the sun comes up late and goes down late.  It was 9 pm when we walked out to dinner, and this was the spectacular sunset:

Sunset in Indy

Sunset in Indy

Looking in the other direction

Looking in the other direction

We had an excellent dinner, then walked around the area in the delightful 70º evening air.  In the morning, I’ll head out, planning on getting to Omaha.  Stay tuned.

Look at this crowd!

      I’m changing planes in Phoenix. The number of people here is stunning. I think it is busier than Dallas.

Coming here first class was a treat. I inquired if there was the possibility of an upgrade for the next leg, to Indianapolis. I am number 15 on the list for an upgrade. There are 12 seats in first class. I am not hopeful.

Airports are always good for people watching. Here is my entry for the snappy dresser of the day, waiting for the same plane I am.
    The next flight is already 30 minutes late. Travel is an adventure.

An Auspicious Beginning

I am off on an adventure. I get to fly to Indianapolis and drive a truck home for our friend Dave Allen, owner of Artefact Design in Sonoma. 

As I was squeezing into my seat a few minutes ago, the cabin steward came up and told me to move from my cramped pew in steerage to seat 1A in the front of the plane.   All those frequent flyer miles are paying off. 

Some people would hate the idea of driving for 4 days. I am not one of those people. I love travel and always like to see new places. I haven’t taken a long road trip since Carl Oeser and I toured the country in 10 days in 1971. 

We got home from Tacoma last night after midnight. We had been there to watch grand daughter Chloe graduate from college. I was back in the airport at 5:30 this morning. Life in the fast lane has a few drawbacks but who can complain about a new adventure and a surprise upgrade to first class?

Life is good. 


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