Monday, October 23, 2006

The Weekend: Super Writing Extravaganza

I'm back in the 5400 after a weekend in Laramie with Kathryn, Abbey, Dan, Jenn, Phil, Chris, Heather, the badgers, other old friends, and the god of Interstate travel.

It rained most of Friday, and knowing that I had to drive through 3 hours of weather to Laramie put me in an anxious mood. By the time I pulled out of the gas station around 4:00 the rain disintegrated into tiny ice crystals on the windshield. Five miles out of town it was true snow; the climb up to Beaver Rim required downshifting to a crawl through snowpack and passing a jack-knifed semi that couldn't handle the 6% grade. Even at the top I kept fishtailing and thought very hard about turning around, or at the very least, pulling over to put on chains. Near Sweetwater Station the road slowly improved, devolving from snowpack to tracked snowmelt to slush to dry.

That's a weird stretch of road, especially with low ragged clouds obscuring the local ranges and a white haze bringing the high plains horizon even closer.

I made the turn at Muddy Gap and headed for Rawlins. This stretch is usually treacherous because of traffic – people tend to open it up here, blazing past tourists and semis in the summer and slow locals and semis in the winter. I'm in that second group. My 2wd Tacoma simply doesn't have the gumption to go fast and as such is not cut out for Wyoming speed limits.

In fact, my truck isn't cut out for Wyoming driving, period. People who know me also know that I'm frustrated with my truck. I want to buy a Subaru next summer. I'm not at all convinced that a Subaru will be faster than my truck, necessarily – the Subaru will have a slightly larger engine and lower center of gravity but will still be 4 cylinders.

The Subaru would excel, however, in the general crappiness I encountered near Rawlins. Granted, horrible drivers will be just as horrible in a Toyota Tacoma as they will be in a Subaru Outback. But for those of us who aren't horrible drivers, the viscous locking AWD and boxer engine on the Subaru would provide a wee more agility and control on slush than my truck.

A few miles out, somewhere between Rawlins and Wolcott Junction, the snow started in again. At Elk Mountain it was clear I would not be making good time to Laramie: besides the obligatory wind gusts, snow drifted onto the road and splattered on my windshield. All traffic, with the exception of the occasional idiot, slowed from 80 to 60 to 40 within ten miles. Somewhere near Arlington I sidled in behind a semi, leaning into my steering wheel to see the tracks in hopes of keeping my truck in them.

By the time I got to Laramie I was a nervous wreck but managed to perk up by the time we all met up at Abbey's apartment. Driving through town felt eerie, and that feeling would resurface a few times over the weekend. I'd spent just over two years there and only left two months ago, but already it was no longer my town. At Appleby's, Kathryn and I agreed that it felt like we should have known more people. The same thing happened when I returned to Champaign the first few years after college. It was like someone had mugged my friends not just for their money or clothes but for their haunts as well. Strange.

Abbey turned 21 a few days ago but has been celebrating all week long, culminating in this weekend's bash. The plan was to head to Appleby's and see where the night took us, so from Appleby's we headed to the Library, a bar across the street from the residence halls and pretty much the only place I ever went for weeknight drinks. Kathryn and I have a few songs we have to play on the jukebox there, and after a few rounds of Long Island iced teas, pool, and foosball we all headed back to the apartment.

Pizza, Pabst Blue Ribbon. The first half hour of a movie.

Saturday was my friend Chris's birthday and also the UW football game vs. Colorado State. Jenn and Abbey dropped Phil, Chris, Kathryn and me off at the game and headed over to Heather's place to help with the badgers.

The game was a blowout and a great time, with the Pokes shutting out CSU in a frigid wind. We sat right behind the band in the student section, notorious for alcohol and verbal abuse, and it lived up to expectations.

After the game we headed to Chris and Heather's for a while, tried our luck at dinner but got laughed out of the overflowing wait area at the Mexican restaurant, and wound up back at the apartment. Kathryn and I then headed back over to Chris and Heather's place for some late-night Nintendo 64 action, the kind of fun we used to have 8 years ago.

Sunday morning came quick and so did the departures. I swung by Chris and Heather's again, drank some coffee, ate some bread pudding, watched the badgers tear into the bread pudding like, well, badgers, and hit the road.

I was really dreading the drive home, with reason. It was windy, of course, and the nasty stretch by Arlington and Elk Mountain was again treacherous – this time, snow blew across the road and froze in spots. The trouble was that you never knew when those slick spots would come up. You could risk it, or you could get stuck behind the occasional semi or R.V. doing fifty. And on more than one occasion I risked it and sped straight into a patch of iffy looking slush and water.

But I didn't die. The Interstate god must have been pleased with my offering of gas station coffee grounds and roadkilled deer hides, because by the time I got to Sweetwater Station and the Beaver Rim descent I'd put 100 miles of completely clear road behind me. I stopped to download some coffee at Sweetwater Station, where it was remarkably warm compared to the weekend's cold snap. From there it was a matter of plummeting down Beaver Rim, a few winding turns through red canyons, and the final turn and 8 meaningless miles into the 5400.

Back home last night safe and sound. This week is already rolling.


At 8:51 PM, Anonymous mary ann said...

It's hard to believe there's snow anywhere. It was 90 degrees and sunny here today...

At 7:21 PM, Blogger dirk.mancuso said...

Wow. The only thing missing from your weekend was drunk dialing some loser on a Friday night.

Oh wait...

Never mind.

At 6:45 AM, Blogger Leslie said...

Trucks, in general don't do well in bad weather, which is why my old Chevy S-10 remains consistently parked in front of my house this time of year. It is good for taking stuff to the dump, though . . .
New job, new car. Makes sense to me!

At 8:07 AM, Blogger dirk.mancuso said...

***drumming fingers, waiting for the return of Random Question Friday***


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