Square State Tour

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Day 14
Yreka! We sort of found it

Sat, Oct 13, 2007

8:30 am
3,542 miles from home

Tonopah, Arizona

Today is mostly about getting from Point A (where we are) to Point B (closer to home). As a result, there's not going to be very much interesting to write about, and we've used up all the adjectives we can think up to describe deserts.

So we figure we'll fill out this trip report with some "Robert & Laura FAQs."

As we leave Tonopah, we notice that it is the "Home of the Muckers." We're not sure what types of cheers the pep squad uses, but we're guessing it probably involves some variation on "Muck 'em, Muckers!"

Robert & Laura FAQ

Q: Who writes this thing?

A: I do.

And then I edit it.

You mean you mess it up and take out all the good parts!

No, I mean I correct your grammatical errors, remove unnecessary words, and jokes that don't work.


9:36 am
3,612 miles

Mina, NV

The map insists that Mina is a town, and there are buildings and such here. But there are no chains at all. Not a Burger King or a Chevron or even a Subway. We wonder if these people feel like they're living in America.

Robert & Laura FAQ

Q: Do you guys ever fight?

A: Yes. But our fights are not very interesting to write about. When we have a fun fight, we do write about it (like the time Robert almost left Laura on the Isle of Capri).

After 18 years of marriage, though, mostly we bicker to pass the time. And anyway we're both always right.

10:05 am
3,643 miles

Hawthorne, NV

We're noticing all kinds of little bumps in the landscape. Turns out they're bunkers, and the entire area around this town is an ammunition depot. The bunkers are camouflaged by desert earth and scrub to make them harder to see from the air.

We're guessing the ammo is in bunkers so that if one bunker blows up, it won't set off the rest of them. Still, it must be a little nerve- wracking to live here—especially given the signs that say "Explosives laden trucks may not park here."

Hawthorne also proudly proclaims that it is a Naval Undersea Training Facility, which we at first think is totally goofy until we notice nearby Walker Lake.

Robert & Laura FAQ

Q: Who does the driving?

A: We change drivers every hour so that we don't get tired or punchy or more reckless than we should. So we end up each doing about half the driving. Whoever's not driving is responsible for navigating and talking on the cell phone and taking pictures and advising whether or not it's safe to pass the three humongous RVs poking along at the speed limit.

All the driver does is drive.

11:32 am
3,719 miles

Fallon, NV

We're getting tired of looking at all the Grand Canyon dust on our car, and decide that it's time to rid ourselves of this souvenir at a car wash right behind the gas station we stop at.

There's still plenty of dust in the door wells, though, so we'll be remembering that dusty road for some time to come.

Robert & Laura FAQ

Q: Who's the better driver?

A: Robert is. His regular vehicle is a motorcycle, so he's very aware of what's going on around him. Plus he plays lots of first-person- shooter games, which enhance his spatial perception. He tends to push the vehicle envelope, though, and he HATES being stuck behind somebody, so he's got a scary tendency to pass vehicles at high speeds.

Laura is a more cautious driver; sticking to just a few miles per hour above the speed limit that Robert believes is only a suggestion. Still, Laura is the one who usually gets pulled over by the cops.

1:15 pm
3,797 miles


Here we are, in sunny California! Of course, it's been sunny all morning, so that's not much of a change. But we can no longer play the slots in gas stations, and the road suddenly got a lot worse. So we do notice a difference.

Robert & Laura FAQ

Q: How do you decide where to stay?

A: Robert uses hunting method—"Me find motel with good rate. Hunt down, kill, and sleep inside carcass." Robert looks up motels on the GPS software, trying to find ones that don't seem to belong to national chains. (Our experience is that independent motels charge less; plus we both teach classes helping people start small businesses, so where else would we stay?)

He'll write down the numbers and call to find out the rates (so we don't accidentally check into the one motel in town with outrageous rates).

Laura then applies the gathering method: "Let's look around for motels with pleasant exteriors!" We'll cruise past the motels that Robert has hunted down and frequently decide "No, looks like there could be a fighting in the parking lot there!"

Sometimes, though, we'll get totally suckered by a sign that says "In-room coffee" and immediately stop and check in.

2:32 pm
3,868 miles

Susanville, CA

We seem to finally be done with the desert. (As it turns out, we really could have called this the "God-Forsaken Desert Tour" as we have spent most of our time driving through one desert or another. At first, it's fun and different and interesting. After 3,868 miles of mostly desert, it loses its appeal.)

There are tall evergreens everywhere. No deciduous trees at this elevation, just evergreens. But lots and lots of them. Yay!

Robert & Laura FAQ

Q: You mostly take back roads. How do you keep from getting lost?

A: Robert uses advanced GPS technology, which occasionally works. It does have its drawbacks, though. Today it insisted that we were driving through the middle of the forest when we were in fact five miles away on an actual road.

Also, sometimes Windows refuses to recognize the GPS unit and needs several reboots. But it mostly does a good job of plotting out a route and letting us know where we are and how to get from here to there.

Laura prefers to use large-scale maps to figure out where we are ("Okay, here's New York. Where are we relative to New York?") and our routes ("Which mountain is that?")

So depending on who's navigating, the directions to the driver might be "Turn right at the Chevron station and go 432 feet and turn left" or "Turn right at Las Vegas and go straight for a while."

4:30 pm
3,986 miles

McCloud, CA

We've driven through about 80 miles of national forest, with the occasional stunning views of Mts. Lassen and Shasta. Now we're out of the forest and it's time to gas up, so we stopped at the first opportunity in McCloud.

Our credit cards are whining at us again and we have to go inside and assure the gas station attendant that we haven't stolen our own cards.

Robert & Laura FAQ

Q: Do you ever make stuff up?

A: Nope. We don't need to. We experience enough weird stuff as it is. Everything we write about actually happened.

5:30 pm
4,036 miles

Yreka, CA

We decide to stop in Yreka, because we're worried that Ashland (the next logical stopping place) might be a tad spendy. Robert wants to eat at a place that uses metal silverware for a change ("It's our last dinner out on this trip; we deserve utensils that aren't wrapped in a napkin!").

So we cruise around town and find a place called "The Silver Spoon" (that Robert says will be just the thing). Then we locate the nearest motel, which turns out to be a Best Western. Even though it's a chain, it's reliably provided free WiFi for us when war-driving, so we decide we should give them a few bucks.

And our room is fit for a king! Not only is there a coffee maker AND a TV that works—there's also a hair dryer and an iron! AND free mouthwash! On top of which, there's a shelf for our suitcases. And plenty of space—some of the rooms we've stayed in, we had to step over our luggage to get to the bathroom.

After checking in and enjoying a double-alien rum-and-coke (we've been using our souvenir alien shot glass every night since Roswell), we head up to The Silver Spoon. It is, of course, totally crowded, and we should have made reservations, but—oh look!—there's a table for two that's open and they can fit us in.

It's lovely fussy food—well prepared and tasty (we have chicken vindaloo and marionberry chipotle chicken). For insisting on a fine meal tonight, Robert gets the rare "You're the bestest husband a gal could want!" rating from Laura.

Robert & Laura FAQ

Q: How do you decide what attractions to visit?

A: We do some research ahead of time to try and identify cool places to visit. Some of the things we plan to see turn out to be out of the way (who knew Texas was that big?). Others are closed.

Sometimes we'll look at a map and recall that somebody told us the place was worth a look. Or we'll remember an article we read somewhere about it.

We also keep our eyeballs peeled while we're traveling for interesting places along the way.

On this trip, Robert's sisters were good sources of places to visit. Sharing the same genetic propensity for weirdness, they had a list of oddball attractions.

Tomorrow: The End is Near

Robert & Laura
Square State Tour

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