The alarm rang and I reached to silence it as we both rolled out of bed, with Kelsey squinting at me through her sleepy eyes. We hurriedly pulled on our clothes from the night before and stuffed a few last items in our bag. Then we whispered our goodbyes to the in-laws and ventured into the night. We were on our way west at 3:30 a.m., retracing the steps of the 19th-century pioneers—only we had air conditioning.
You may recall from our last post that I have taken a job at the University of Utah; we’ve since decided to move back to the Beehive State. And so it was, four hours into the drive we were watching the sun rise in the great state of Illinois. Kelsey was hungry, and she wanted breakfast pretty much right now. I, on the other hand, had planned on making it through until about 10 a.m. before stopping. Usually we are pretty darn good at communication—this time, however, we had epically failed, and it caused some friction. I like to think she saw the error of her ways, but she likes to think she lovingly acquiesced. Whatever the case, we eventually stopped at a McDonald’s shortly before 10. All was well in the Down car after a sausage biscuit, a sausage McMuffin and a hash brown.
Nevertheless, we attacked with vigor, and some six hours later we emerged into Colorado, proud victors of battle. Later that night, we rolled into Longmont, CO for some quick shuteye at the local Quality Inn—which, in my opinion, really needs a new name. As part of the Choice Hotels family, their motto should read something like, “Choice Hotels: you’d better choose somewhere else.”Apparently we had learned nothing from the day before. The alarm rang at 3:45 a.m., because we wanted to make it to Salt Lake City by midday. We eagerly jumped in the car and headed north on I-25 to Laramie, WY, where we would take I-80 down into the Salt Lake Valley.
My darling wife likes to gloat when I’m wrong. And every so often, it actually happens. In fact, I like to believe it happens so rarely that this is why she takes such great joy in pointing it out. About 30 miles west of Laramie I expressed my surprise at how small the town was. Kelsey then gently reminded me: “Babe, you’ve been here before. Don’t you remember it?” I, of course, with no memory of being there, adamantly denied ever passing through this part of Wyoming—and I continued to do so for some 100 miles.
Unfortunately for me, about 240 miles further west, we rapidly approached Little America, and it all came flooding back. I sheepishly turned my head and admitted that maybe I had been there before. Oops. What can you do?
We finally arrived in Salt Lake Valley around noon—furniture and grocery shopping occupied the rest of the afternoon!
On any long drive, there’s a lot of time to kill.
But after taking probably a dozen road trips together since before we were even dating, Kelsey and I have mastered the art of passing time.
The drive in numbers
First, the basics. Collect any and all relevant statistics so that you can brag to your friends about how far you drove and in how much time.
- Miles driven: 1647
- Travel Time: Day 1—19 hours
- Average speed: 68.5mph
- Average mileage: 34.6miles/gallon
- Total stops: 4
The license plate game
Keep a list of all the different state license plates you see during the drive. Of course we are both pretty competitive, so we also like to predict how many we’ll see.
- Alec guessed: 28 states
- Kelsey guessed: 20 states
- The result: 32 States, 1 Canada, 1 Special
- Winner: Alec
- New York
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- Washington State
- US Government **
Write down everything you learn
Okay, maybe this sounds boring, but it was fun for us. Over the course of two days stuck in the car with each other, your conversation can go a lot of weird places. Whenever a question comes up that you don’t know the answer to, pull out your smart phone and look it up. Or write the question down to look up later!
- Lightning moves from the ground up, not from the sky down.
- Use “thanks” instead of “thank you’s” or “thank-yous.”
- Crunchy Biscoff does exist.
- While 3D ultrasounds provide 3D images of babies, 4D ultrasounds provide a live video feed.
- Spiders do die when they get sucked up in vacuums; either from the trauma of ricocheting through the tube or, believe it or not, thirst.
- The population of Laramie WY is almost about the same as Hays KS. Provo’s population far exceeds both.
- Concrete roads have a lifespan of 40 years and are more durable than asphalt. But they are more expensive, and much to Utahn irony, are more slippery in the snow.
- The Great Continental divide separates the Western United States from the Central United States in that it drains its water into the Pacific Ocean instead of the Gulf of Mexico. This divide is largely owed to the separation caused by the Rocky Mountains. It is the largest divide on the American continent.
Rank each state you pass through
Keep an eye out for the upcoming post about our new apartment, courtesy of Kelsey’s Uncle Larry!