Life became too hectic (and the home wireless connection too flakey) for me to write any more before leaving the mid-west. I've now been through a week at the new job back here on the left coast and am thoroughly enjoying myself. It doesn't hurt that I came back in time for the beautiful autumn weather. The company has me ensconced in a furnished apartment in the wilds of Foster City. Not only is there a cable modem but there's good wireless access as well. Life is good! Driving through the city as I arrived was kind of weird as I've been gone for long enough that my memory is a little hazy in places plus there's been some changes. No one told me that the Fell Street off ramp was shut! Two years ago, you say!
The journey over here was quite enjoyable although, thanks to a last minute appointment, much quicker than I would have liked. I had no time to detour through Yellowstone so it was I80 for most of the way. I started off on the tollway past O'Hare and then I88 southwest to pick up I80 near the Iowa border. I made a brief stop at the Herbert Hoover site in West Branch. This was a nice way of ending my stay in the mid west as they maintain a few acres of authentic tallgrass prairie next to the museum. Apart from the Hoover exhibits there was also a display on the Circus with a variety of acts being illustrated. The most bizarre was a series of pictures of JoJo the Dog-Faced Boy. I had heard him mentioned in Robert Rankin's books but had dismissed him as the author's creation [shudder]. I managed about 800 miles on the first day and finished up in Cozad, Nebraska. This will be memorable for me as I was woken up at 1:30 am by armed police and questioned (in a fairly polite way) before it was realised that I wasn't the person they were after. It just so happened that a serial rapist, wanted in 3 states, had checked in to the room opposite me and, coincidence of coincidences, had picked my surname as his alias. The night clerk, alerted by some dodgy looking i.d., had recognised him from one of those Most Wanted shows. I was allowed to snooze in another room until the SWAT team had been called in and the gentleman escorted away. Apparently there was $10k and at least one firearm in the room.
The next day I took a detour up US26, following the North Platte to Chimney Rock and then on to Scotts Bluff. The latter is simply stunning as you can drive to the top and look out over the plains beneath and glimpse the mountains further to the west. It is no surprise that this was a big landmark for the Oregon, Mormon and Californian trails. While I was this far from I80 I decided to make the most of it and stopped at Fort Laramie in the southeastern corner of Wyoming. This is very well preserved, much better than Fort Davis that I had visited in 1996. I then cut down I25 to Cheyenne and made it across the Continental Divide (twice) and as far as Rock Springs before it got too dark.
The next day I took another detour up US30 to Fossil Butte. Despite having taken geology at school I don't get that excited about fossils, no matter how large or well-preserved, but the setting is really beautiful, especially in the morning light. I took the hike on the Fossil Lake trail through the aspens and is was marvellously peaceful. I then looped south through Utah and back to Wyoming to rejoin I80 at Evanston. With my tank nearly empty I pulled off to refuel in Echo, Utah. This entailed stopping at the Echo Cafe to ask Frank to open the gas station down the road. Frank took off his hat and apron, locked the cafe and drove down to meet me. We chatted while he filled my tank and then I followed him back to the cafe where he cooked an excellent cheeseburger and dispensed the history of the town (he is the semi-official historian and has seen it all) and good coffee. This was just what I needed as I had been rushing far too much. Sitting waiting for the food and then sitting over the coffee and conversation was highly therapeutic. I headed through Salt Lake City, thus merging with the route I had taken migrating west in 1997, and onwards. I again stopped at the viewpoint for the Great Salt Lake and this time I also stopped for a look at Bonneville Salt Flats. I spent the night in the Scott Shady Court motel in Winnemucca (cheap and comfy). The next day it was over the Sierras, across the valley and back here. Woohoo!