If most of you have not heard tomorrow Baltimore will be hosting it's first Grand Prix. This a big event for our small city and it is supposed to bring in an estimated 70 million dollars. There are many people unhappy with the event. Rightfully so as this is causing huge traffic congestion downtown. Consider though how much this means for a city like Baltimore. Our reputation has been marred by such shows as “The Wire” and “Homicide.” While there are many fans of these shows and I would include myself among fans of “The Wire” our city is plagued by many issues. It all really comes down to Baltimore being a poor city. Attracting a big racing event will mean continued commitment to keep money flowing into the city. Tens of thousands are expected to come out for the Baltimore Grand Prix. Baltimoreans should be excited! I know it can be difficult with terrible traffic, which I experienced today. Many communities are still without power. Racing is the last thing on their mind. Even if this is only around for 1-2 years, it will be a Boost for Baltimore. I look forward to covering it this weekend for the people of Baltimore.
On Monday I set out from Chicago around 9. The Windy City is great and I would have loved to stay longer. I had to get going back home for the Baltimore Grand Prix and a dog in Ohio that I am going to transport to Maryland. It was actually good to leave Chicago to get away from the ridiculous gas prices. The most expensive in the country! The average price seemed to be around $4.10. Luckily I did not drive much and did not have to fillup my car in Illinois.
Driving through Ohio was fairly uneventful. The only real events happening was stopping at tolls! They are a killer. I think I spent more on tolls driving through Illinois and Ohio in 1 day then I have ever in my whole life. It must have amounted to about $20 or more for the day. I will have to check all my receipts I got to see exactly how much. At least Ohio's rest areas are nice. Most are clean bathrooms and have some sort of convenience store or food court. Overall Ohio is not bad.
For some reason today I was not up for driving much. After about 4-5 hours of driving I got really tired. Driving by yourself can be difficult. I listened to Pimmsler's Speak and Read Russian tapes again trying to learn Russian. Don't ask me how to say anything in Russian because I can't even remember much if anything that from those tapes. To a certain extent trying to listen to make you mind think too much is not good for driving because you need to pay attention to the road. I found Audiobooks to be the best. So I put in “The Bourne Supremacy” by Robert Ludlum and listened to that for the majority of my driving. There are great movies and books. Especially listening to when you are by yourself in a car for long periods of time.
Originally I got a call from a very nice guy in Youngstown, OH named Andrew from Couchsurfing. He said I could stay at his place, but when I was getting closer and closer to Cleveland I realized driving another 2 and half hours to Youngstown from where I was would not be safe. Another girl from Couchsurfing, Alissa, called me back after confirming my request and said I could stay with her and her roommate in Cleveland. I decided to go with Alissa because I was too tired at this point to drive much more. Cleveland was only 1 hour away.
I got into Cleveland and was driving around. Man, Cleveland feels a lot like Baltimore. A lot of bad neighborhoods next to good neighborhoods. A city in change with lots of new construction going up. All it mainly geared toward gentrification, yuppies, and colleges. When I got into Cleveland I finally meetup with Alissa's roommate David. We started talking and were talking about where we are from. Turns out we are both from Newton, MA. Small world.
Today was pretty uneventful unlike my day in the Rockies. I was mostly driving along I-80 through Nebraska. What do I know about Nebraska? Nothing except the “Oracle of Omaha” is from this state, better known as Warren Buffett one of the richest men in the world. I doubt he drives along I-80 though.
I made one long stop at a gift shop called Ford Cody in North Palatte. It was a little tacky. I did find what I thought was the only cool item in the store. Belts! They had some great handmade belts with Buffalo and Wolves on them. They did not have the Wolf design in a 32, so I got the Buffalo one. I thought I should have one cool thing to remember about Nebraska and my road trip.
I drove a little over 500 miles from Greeley, CO to Lincoln, NE. Funny thing is I could have kept driving probably without a problem. I am really not that tired from driving today. I think I am used to it now and prepared for it. I listened to “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy” while driving. It's was much better than listening to “Cover Her Face” which I still have no idea what the story is about. The Bourne series had all background music and a good narrator to make the story exciting. Tomorrow I will listen to the third installment in the series “The Bourne Ultimatum.” I picked up these cassette tapes at a great place in Baltimore called the Bookthing. They give out free books and sometimes old cassettes are there. I did consider getting a better head unit to install in the Accord, but I don't mind using cassette taps. It's nostalgic to use them.
I stopped and I am staying in Lincoln, NE at the Staybridge Suites here. When I checked in I was talking with Sarah, the girl working the front desk, about my road trip. She was said, “I am taking a trip soon from LA to Minneapolis. I am looking for any tips.” I was quite proud that someone had recognized and asked me a master road tripper for advice. (Ok… that's a bit of a stretch.) I said “I would recommend getting a cooler and putting ice and drinks in there. That way you don't have to stop when you are thirsty. You can also put food and snacks in the cooler.” We also talked a little about… Warren Buffett. I asked “I guess Warren Buffett is popular in Nebraska?” Sarah, “Yeah we don't have many people to be proud of.” He definitely is an amazing guy to have built up such an immense amount of wealth. At least Baltimore has Micheal Phelps.
The rooms at Staybridge are very nice, comfortable, and well-appointed. I like the suite concept where you have a kitchenette with a fridge, dishwaher, and microwave. It's more inviting experience when you stay in a hotel.
Yesterday I got started off better due to a proper night's sleep in a Comfort Inn in Green River, Utah. The room though was a little overpriced I thought. Usually they are better than what I experienced. A quick look on TripAdvisor confirmed my feelings even more.
I drove along I-70 East through the Rocky Mountains into Colorado. Forget Utah… this was incredible. All the mountains were really beautiful. Driving was a little nerve racking. Most people don't know how to downshift, since I saw most cars excessively using their brakes. All you need to do is put your car into a lower gear if it's manual or “L” if it's an automatic. I could feel the cars power diminishing in Utah when elevation was at 5000 feet but at 9000 feet going alone I-70 the 4-cylinder was truly being tested. I was pushing down the accelerator pedal, “What is something broken? Oh yeah my car has lost power from the elevation!” Cars will lose about 3% of power for every 1000 feet. For a little Accord, that makes a difference. I did not mind going slow since I got to see the scenery more.
For music and to keep myself alert I hooked up my iPod and listened to CarTalk, The Rolling Stones, and the comedian Dane Cook. Rolling Stones is great for a road trip and so is CarTalk. Yeah I know I said NPR was bad and will make you fall asleep, but CarTalk is great for road trips. It's so funnty and entertaining to listen to people's relationships with their cars. CarTalk is the only NPR program I listen to. What other shows are on NPR? Who knows?
Driving by yourself is nice because you stop and get on the road quickly again. I tend to stop for a few minutes giving myself and the car a break. Cars are working hard too! I seem to be able to make good time and distance on my own. Having the cooler helps with nice cold Gatorades too.
When I got into Denver I walked around the 16th Street Pavilion. It's basically an open mall with all sorts of shops. Shuttles run up and down the street so you can get to shops easily. I stopped in at Pinkberry for the first time and got a chocolate Yogurt with a waffle piece. The Yogurt was really good comparable to YogurtLand. They had some interesting things in the Pavillion like decorated upright pianos for anyone to play. You heard music all up and down the street. I thought, “If they had pianos on the streets in Baltimore they would all have graffitti on them.” To my surprise I did not see any pianos that had been vandalized in the Pavilion. Most seemed to be out-of-tune though.
After that I made my way up to Greeley to stay with a relative. Colorado is a great state.
Yesterday I go started off later than I wanted to around 11:30 am. It's hard saying goodbye to your family and making yourself actually leave. I went to the supermarket got some ice, bananas, sandwich bread, and turkey meat. I put ice in the cooler with Gatorade bottles I had gotten from before and put meat in there. Having the cooler came in handy later in the day when I stopped for lunch around 2. Most people would have gone to a fast-food place, but I did not. Well… I did get some fries at In-N-Out for $1.51 when I stopped in to use the bathroom. My lunch expenses though were minimal compared to buying a meal. Having the cooler was also great for keeping myself hydrated. I drank several of the Gatorade bottles from the cooler. If you are taking a roadtrip, buy a cooler! It's a great investment.
I was able to drive just over 400 miles today up I-15. I was quite pleased with myself and my progress. I made only 3 short stops. I saw some beautiful mountains and scenery driving. Especially the sunset coming into Utah. I drove up Las Vegas Blvd. Better known as the “The Strip” in… Las Vegas. It's quite an interesting and strange town. Everything is over the top and gaudy. I would have liked to stop, look around, and try my hand at poker. I did not want to get tempted though and make a stupid decision. For a young single guy in Vegas with no support team, it could happen. That would have been baaaad!
I passed through Vegas and kept driving. Driving on I-15 with barren dessert, makes you think it would have been a good idea to stop in Vegas for some fun. Funny thing is you get really tired and then all of a sudden you perk up. Might have been from my blaring radio. Don't know how anyone could drive so far and long without one. The best music to keep you up is pop, classic rock, and rap. If you want to fall asleep listen to C-SPAN, NPR, or Classical Music. Not to say those don't have there place and value, but to keep you alert while driving it is not the best. Tomorrow I will most likely hookup my iPod and listen to Podcasts.
I stopped in St. George, Utah. I used this great website called Couchsurfing.org. It's a website where people who need a place to stay can find peoples couches who offer them. I sent out a few couch requests for people in Utah, but came up empty. Then a great guy named Lex who works for a regional was nice enough to offer his place to a traveling writer. He was really cool and told me all about the differences in airline industry, which I found very interesting.
Denver is almost 10 hours away from St. George. I don't think I can do that in 1 day. I think tomorrow I will stop in at a motel. I will stop at a Zion National Park since it's close and right off I-15. Check back for some great pictures of that.