Published: August 20th 2009August 20th 2009
Well, my roadtrip thus far has been as grand an adventure as one can expect 4,000 miles to be. Our first stop was Chicago to visit Doug, where he humored my Pad Thai craving and took us to a Thai restaurant up the street called "dib." The food was pretty inexpensive, but it was beautiful. Never have I eaten such aesthetically pleasing food, and I was not expecting it from a place that sells $7 Pad Thai (though the inside was decorated quite well, so I shouldn't have been surprised). I forgot my camera when we went to dib, but Doug took pictures with his iPhone (thanks Doug!), so I'll post them. Then, we went to the grocery store to pick up a few things and picked up some gelato at the gelato counter in his schmancy grocery store up the street. I opted for the non-dairy option of watermelon Italian ice and was pleased I did because it was excellent. (As you can probably already tell, this will probably be a journal just as much about the food I eat as what I did, haha.) Then, we grabbed stuff for breakfast in the morning, dropped it off, and walked to the lake. It wasn't as close as I expected it to be, but it wasn't far either. We walked far enough so we could see the city lights from the lake (my camera wouldn't take pics good enough to post though because the light wasn't right). The park closes at eleven so we only stayed a bit because soon a cop was driving through the park annoyingly blaring his/her sirens in order to get everyone out of the park. The next morning we ate the bagels and English muffins Doug had got for breakfast (and had the very necessary diet soda of course), showered, and said our goodbyes. It was definitely a great first stop.
We didn't get too far past Chicago when we heard a clang and pulled over to check it out. The car was making a really loud noise and it was obvious it was from the exhaust. We pulled off the highway and went in search of open car repair places. We asked at gas stations and Auto Zone, but nobody thought anything would be open because it was Sunday. The jerky guy at Auto Zone tried to say that it was just a hole in the exhaust and that we could drive it as long as we want, it would just be loud. Well, that was not a good enough answer for me seeing as we had to go 4,000 miles and I did not want to go on the word of this employee who may or may not know anything about cars. Then we stopped at Wal-Mart to see if their Tire and Lube people did any exhaust work, but to no avail. A nice mechanic there said that we could drive it a ways but that eventually we would need it fixed (meaning we should not drive it to Topeka, KS). So we made reservations for a hotel in Bloomington, figuring it was a little over a hundred miles out and that we could make it there and see what we should do next. But alas, as we were driving to the highway in the next town from where we were originally, we came upon a car repair shop that was open. (I will not name the name of this establishment for reasons that will soon be unfolded to you.) We went in, ask if they do exhaust work, and the guy said they did some. He asked what the problem was, what car it was, and where we were going. After telling him the story, he agreed to look at it, even though he was pretty sure he wouldn't be able to get the parts that day. He looked at it, said that it was indeed a hole in one of the exhaust pipes, and that in order to fix it, we'd have to replace the hole system. Or he gave us another option, to go pick up some muffler tape, which would make the exhaust system last for a few months longer. He said that if we picked it up, he'd throw it on there, but that he couldn't charge me because his corporate business would only support the replacement of the entire system and that if he were to charge us, he could lose his job. No problem with us of course, as muffler tape is about $4 and a new system would have been $600 with labor. So we picked up the tape (at a different Auto Zone), he threw it on, and we were on our way by 5 p.m. We decided to cancel our Bloomington reservation and take the risk of driving eight hours to Topeka. And that we did.
However, driving to Topeka was not a simple task. There may not have been a tornado, but let me tell you, the Wizard of Oz is not joking. The weather in Kansas was absolutely INSANE. It started with what we thought was probably heat lightening because it was just constant and not accompanied by thunder. In some parts, however, it must not have been heat lightening because all of a sudden the lightening was green and we were experiencing torrential downpour. You might ask why we didn't just pull over, and the answer is because it was so frightening that it seemed to make more sense to me to drive through it as quickly and safely as I could because pulling over did not seem any safer. We would not have gotten to a hotel until much later and in my mind, could have been struck by green lightening. It didn't rain the whole way, but when it rained...well, it poured. Finally we made it to Topeka sometime between two and three, causing us to sleep so late that we missed check out at noon! That totally foiled my plan of checking out at eleven and going to eat some bbq before we got on the road, so we decided to shower and check out at one, and then get bbq takeout. We could not just go to the land of bbq and leave without bbq, that would be terrible. So we did just that, and got our takeout from a place called Pat's Pig. Not knowing what we were doing, we ordered two half racks of the long ends. We picked up our food and it was nearly $30! I wasn't mad because I knew I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and as our food required a large handle bag, I had a premonition that maybe we had gotten ourselves in over our heads, haha. And indeed, we got in the car, opened the first carryout box (which probably weighed like eight pounds), and to our amazement, we had more ribs than we ever could have imagined ordering! Obviously, I took pictures and will post them. Multiply that giant box by two and that is how much we had. Also, we somehow managed to eat bbq in the car without spilling on ourselves (the first time). We couldn't even get through one box between the two of us, and were glad we had a cooler full of ice and large ziplock bags in which we could put the leftovers. So, with a cooler full of delicious ribs, we were on our way to Gunnison, CO.
We arrived in Gunnison around midnightish (a reasonable time in comparison with the night before), but not without scores of effort. We were driving along, taking our directions from Shaniqua (the name we have given the GPS voice), and all of a sudden we were on a winding road with no street lights. My eyes adjusted and I thought that would be the end of it, when all of a sudden we were surrounded by mountains on both sides (mountains that were less than ten feet from my car). We could barely even see these mountains because the only light was the light from my car (apparently native Coloradoins must be smart enough to stay off these mountainous roads at night), and the "falling rock" signs every two miles were really kind of freaking us out because, again, we had no idea what to expect. But alas, we made it safely, particularly after stopping at a 7-11 that was like two feet from a mountain and picking up some diet sodas for their caffeine content. The hostel was cute and clean; it was a house that the owner (who was seemingly just older than college age) had turned into a hostel. The owner doesn't stay there and nobody else had it booked for the night, so we had a whole house to ourselves. Not that there was anything to do but sleep since it was midnight and our nerves were shot from the mountains, haha. There was a cute cat there named Porkchop who was quite the meower. Then we woke up, got ready, and were out the door by 10:30. The owner said that we would be going past Black Canyon on our way to Utah, so we decided we had enough time to stop and check it out. It was amazing! We hiked through it a little bit and stopped for a picnic lunch of cold leftover ribs. It was probably one of the most surprising and breath-taking experiences of our trip because we had no idea it was there, that we were going to see it, nor what it looked like (all the other places I had seen pictures of online). So I took lots of pics, and we were on our way by 1:15 to Bryce Canyon, UT.