It’s been cold until recently, which could be seen as good news, especially considering it’s winter. There have been some moments in the last few days where I was reminded of Spring. Nay, I forgot it was winter. One time I even went without the third, down jacket layer and took a walk wearing just a medium weight sweater.
Late February. Early March. A good time to head north (sarcasm). The great white north.
For the last few days of February and the beginning of March I laid down about 3,000 road miles. I raced through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Oregon and braved snow showers, snow flurries, blowing and drifting snow, icing bridges, mist and occasional ground blizzards. Now I’m back to the crisp air of the Colorado Rockies. It is snowing as I write this but it’s unseasonably warm.
My traveling companion, 25 pounds of shelter dog joy named “Chooch,” hangs in there for some pretty long days on the road. He lets me know through restless behavior when he’s had enough and I almost always agree with him.
We got lucky in Wyoming when after gassing up we spied an abandoned real estate office where the electric hookup was still alive and heaven sent. It was gathering dark and time to stop. Me and Chooch stayed cozy as the little space heater kept our small RV “Escape Pod” comfy. We awoke at dawn to five inches of fresh. A nearby plow reminded us that it was time to move on.
The next night just before moonrise we scouted an abandoned grocery store. The outlets were still hot so we hooked up for another night of survival of the fittest. At night we walked the streets of a tough little Idaho town with lots of Dodge Rams, their tailpipes as big around as medium pumpkins. There was a small group of local roughnecks just cruising back and forth through town. Not much else to do.
That night at the grocery store we ignored the “WE TOW” warning sign and hunkered down in our heated capsule.
Then it was on to the coast of Oregon. Getting down to sea level after months of acclimation at 7,500 feet is like swimming in honey. The air is thick and warm down there. And without getting too intimate, I don’t feel so dry and itchy. The air is, in a word, “moist.” Some people hate the word moist. But I like it and not just because it rhymes with hoist.
Of course the moist ruins an open box of Cap’n Crunch but other than that, it feels good. Climbing back up the mountain to a cold, dry perch is a lot harder than going down where there’s so much wet, wonderful, moist atmosphere.
I’m always hearing about America’s crumbling infrastructure but I’m here to tell you that there is some fabulous infrastructure out there and most of it is in pretty good shape. If all you drive is US-40 and Interstate 70, then yes, the infrastructure is crumbling. Colorado roads are under siege because of shifting temperatures, a squeezed infrastructure budget, a soaring population, delivery trucks, semis and lots of weed.
Everyone now knows that Texas has some lousy infrastructure. A cold storm hit and everything exploded and burst as the juice went off because the energy grid was unprotected, unregulated and underfunded. Ted Cruz hit the road to Mexico because that’s what you do.
According to my recent research, the nicest roads in the West are in Oregon. The highways are smooth, beautifully painted and free of litter and potholes. Signs are there to gently remind you that handheld device use is prohibited. Very civilized. The whole state is nicely groomed and is an appealing place to drive around.
The grid in Oregon? It looks very solid. High tension wires cling to the latest pole designs. Beautiful, cancer-causing windmills gently and inexpensively churn away in the winds and breezes, plugged into a well designed grid. Despite the cold temperatures and snowy conditions, the mills keep turning out low-cost, carbon-free, renewable energy. It’s like Europe or something. In the Columbia River Gorge, dams provide green energy that cause problems for fish populations.
Looking around Hot Sulphur Springs I notice a lot of open space. There is plenty of free wind around here, too. We couldn’t really do much with hydro as our locals rivers have already been depleted and diverted for use on the Front Range. Short sighted planning. We still have room to improve.
Steve Skinner urges you to go north. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.