Tractors- title

Illinois tractor sales.

Interstate 80 has always been to me an impediment, something to be endured, before I can get on to what I really want to do. During my Wheaton College years, I made more than half a dozen trips westbound from the Chicago area, sometimes to my classmate, Keith's, farm in Iowa, sometimes to visit Ralph's family in Idaho, and to do summer work variously in California and Oregon. Semester vacations were short, just a week, and time spent going down a long, straight freeway, simply took time available for other priorities. We always did the drive as quickly as possible, with two or three in the car, one sleeping in the back seat, and driving without stop, except for gas.. Half the time we were driving at night and saw nothing. The daytime view we did not consider more interesting; six hundred miles of corn followed by 1,200 miles of desert.

My subsequent career as a pilot took me over that San Francisco to Chicago freeway more times than I can count and my stereotype of the world's most boring road was not quickly changed. However, I did eventually start writing down the Lat-Longs of places I thought I would like to visit on a motorcycle. Indeed, there were at least some places that captured my curiosity.

So, with Eric and Irene, my son and daughter-in-law, faced with moving from Chicago to San Francisco, I volunteered to help Eric drive the truck. It would be a good chance to visit with my son, even it the drive would be tedious. A difference would be that unlike the 36 non-stop hours I had allowed before, we would do it in four days. A loaded truck pulling a car would not make the kind of time I did in my youth.

I arrived in Chicago to find my "kids" totally packed, with boxes carefully labeled and "fragile" stickers on all the ones containing dishes and glassware. Irene gets the credit for planning everything to the last detail and doing most of the packing. The other smart thing they did was to go on Craig's List and hire a crew of two men to load the truck. In less than two hours all the stuff on the 10th floor apartment was in the truck, and packed so expertly that not a thing had moved when we unloaded 2,000 miles later. And, it was not expensive to take that back breaking role out of the move. Eric hired two more for the other end.

To get out of Chicago more quickly, we took the toll road, Interstate 88, through most of Illinois, and then dropped down to Interstate 80. We left right at rush hour, so we had about 40 minutes of slow going until we got past Naperville, and that was our last bad traffic of the whole trip. Soon we were amidst the corn fields and grasslands of Illinois, and it seemed refreshingly peaceful and green after downtown Chicago. The time went quickly as we caught up on one another's news. Eric had just finished up grad school, so we discussed where his friends were going and specifics of the last quarter.

We approached Iowa, and realized that we were hungry, not having eaten since breakfast. I got on and found the simple Bare Bones BBQ restaurant with decent write-ups. It was just off an east-west freeway in Moline, IA, but I didn't notice that it was 280 and not 80. Eric's GPS took us through most of the back streets of Moline until we finally got there. Eric's brisket was good, my chicken a bit chewy, and the service friendly. We were off again with the evening destination set for Des Moines.

I had previously researched moderate hotels in Des Moines and we went to one. It turned out to be quite devoid of amenities and the whole floor was scented with cigarettes. Amenities weren't important, but one does not expect to deal with stale smoke these days.


Truck and Trailer

Our rig in the hotel parking lot, starting Day 2. We used Google earth to make sure that the hotels we picked could accommodate our parking needs.


Manuvering the truck in the hotel parking lot.

Eric navigates the close fit to get out.


Des Moines

Heading out of Des Moines.


Looking out the window, the scenery changed as we went along, but we were clearly in the mid-west. Most of the towns sported new, architecturally generic shopping malls. As we got to western Iowa, the terrain became more hilly, and by western Nebraska, we were doing a slow rise up the Continental Divide in even hillier country.

There was a lot of "shovel ready" construction going on, no doubt stimulated by Tarp payments. Nebraska and Nevada were the most obvious recipients. In Nebraska, they had actually jack hammered the thick concrete of whole sections of Interstate 80 and hauled it to places where chunks of rebar infused concrete formed hills so large they broke the horizon. For miles we would share one side of the freeway with oncoming traffic.



Collage of pictures of farmland.




Wind Turbines


We frequently came on wind turbines. Sometimes just three or four supplied power to a small community. In other locations, large wind farms supplied power to a grid to be taken to some city or cities farther away. These turbines were large, and we were later to find out just how large they are.


Railroad 1


The first Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, a 1756 mile track between Sacramento and Omaha. Interstate 80 essentially follows that route, and the importance of the railroad between Chicago and San Francisco is repeatedly made evident as one passes numerous railroad yards along the way.


Railroad 3


The Mid-west has long been breadbasket to the world, and these huge silos are just a small example of the grain that moves from these fertile flatlands.


Railroad 2


A more recent development is that much of the tonnage is of imported goods, not exported goods, and most of it is from China.


Big Boy locomotive


The Union Pacific "Big Boy" locomotive was the only 4-8-8-4 articulated engine, built to pull trains eastward from Ogden, Utah, over the Wasatch Range and the Continental Divide. When I was in sixth grade, we passed through Tokyo on our way to Taiwan, and my father bought me an H.O. model train layout at the Tenshodo Train Store. I remember then, seeing the incredibly detailed Big Boy model locomotive they had for a staggering $250. Seven years ago, I was flying to Tokyo, and the first officer mentioned that the Tenshodo Train Store still exists in Tokyo and he had been there. The next day, we took the train into Tokyo, and once again I admired their delicate Big Boy model. It's price then was $2,500. So, as we drove our truck into Omaha, I was pleased to see one of the original 25 Big Boys, sitting on display, over the freeway.

Link: Tenshodo Model



Pioneer Wagon


We pulled off the road for a mocha, and the truck stop had a pioneer display. It seemed suitable to highlight how people move across country, then and now.

Eric with wagon


Eric gives scale to just how small a covered wagon was.


Buffalo art


Buffalo hunt, done in wrought iron.


Sod house memorial


A Sod House memorial.


Storm collage


In western Nebraska we drove under a towering storm cell. Soon, the pounding rain and some hail reduced visibility substantially. Just as fast, it was over.

We passed from Nebraska into Wyoming, and almost immediately, the scenery changed. We were climbing up the Continental Divide, not steeply but steadily. The exception was that we climbed onto plateaus, slowing our progress in the climb, and then finding relatively level going on top. The terrain was much more arid; the lush grass lands and corn farms were long gone. Here were cattle and horse ranches, and as the land grew more dry, the number of animals per acre diminished. We passed Cheyenne and decided to continue on to Laramie for the night. The climbing became steeper, and we were clearly in the foothills of the Rockies. Evergreen trees were dominant as we gained altitude. Eventually we descended steeply off a pass and the sun turned a violent red ahead. After many sweeping turns in this descent, we opened to a wide, flat valley, and in front of us was the town of Laramie, home to the University of Wyoming. Here we pulled of and had a well earned sleep.


Laramie Sunset


As we descended into Laramie, Wyoming, we were treated to this sunset.