The Fell Clutch of Circumstance

A blog detailing a road trip by two brothers from Seattle to Albuquerque. There will be beer!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Albuquerque can't get rid of me that easily

So, I am still in Albuquerque, taking up space in John's rental home because of "mechanical issues" with a Southwest Airline flight this morning. Let's just be nice and say I now know the ABQ airport really well, and I am the least ticked-off of their passengers for flight 2115. We'll leave it at that, and move on with the opportunity to provide some more random pictures from our trip. Let's take them in chronological order, shall we? (Type A personalities unite for 2015!)

So, remember how I started my trip: with my brave wife driving me through some very fresh snow in the Twin Cities. Luckily we gave ourselves plenty of time.
Not surprisingly, this would not be the first snow I would see on the trip. However, it was much less scenic than what I would see over the next few days.

Driving from Seattle to Oregon was very cool. The mountains in Washington were scenic, as were the billboards advising young Washing-stone-ians about driving under the influence. The last time I made the trip from Longview to Astoria, I was in a small bus that smelled of denture cream and stale farts. I think it goes without saying that the tipsy-turvy drive was a lot more fun this time around. We did get a bit lost in Cannon Beach, but that led to some really cool views in Ecola State Park. I thought this hipster in particular deserved a photograph:

I was glad that John and I drove Highway 26 back to Portland (a new route for me), but it wasn't very scenic, because by that time it was dark and still raining. However, random comments were still inspired, such as "That gas station sported a hand-painted sign", and we discovered the blessing of the comedy channels on satellite radio. Plus, given what scenery we could see, I think I understand a lot more Northwest-bred grunge band lyrics now.

We visited two breweries in Portland: Burnside and Basecamp. This included a surprising flight of 12 beers at Burnside. I was expecting 6, but I didn't complain:

The next morning included a stop at Voodoo Donuts. I love how this place really embraces their theme, right down to the seating. Yes, that's a coffin:

The drive south from Portland to Sacramento was long, but insanely beautiful. Really, I can't remember any interstate driving that is more scenic than that one. I tried to capture the majestic way the mist drifts through the mountains, but pictures through the car window just don't do it justice, particularly with my phone. So, you'll have to settle for this dorky attempt at forced-perspective at Mt. Shasta:
The next day's drive to South Lake Tahoe, then Las Vegas, was equal parts scenic and interesting from a "city folk don't git it" vibe in the very sparsely populated areas. And they're right, I really don't get it. But it's fun to try to speculate; I suppose at one time in my life I contemplated living someplace that isolated. Plus, there WAS an "Aliens" cafe near Area 51, so it's not like the region is completely devoid of entertainment. Anyway, here's a scenic overlook on the way to Lake Tahoe:

Between Tahoe and Vegas, you've already seen our really awesome video on Highway 120 (if not, see our earlier post), but there was also a lot of fun seeing the insane wind blow snow off the Mammoth (?) mountains:
We won't mention how many vehicles we passed on this particular leg of the journey.

That about wraps up the random pictures from the trip. John and I (mostly John) have stimulated several local economies, listened to a LOT of satellite radio, sampled many many beers (only AFTER driving!), and accomplished our goal. I'm not sure if my original Google Map had our precise route, but it was close, and it said: 1,981 mi, 1 Day, 7 Hours, 9 Minutes. Obviously we didn't drive straight so it took us longer than that, but it gives you an idea of how much time was spent in the car. Almost 2,000 miles through the western part of the country is definitely an experience I would recommend.

Thanks for following along, all four of you!

P.S. This is my third time in Albuquerque, and given my inability to make an escape, I have a feeling this might be a future retirement community for me. Maybe I can find a few Korean places...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tired but safe

As I write this, John and I are chilling in his Albuquerque dwelling for the second half of his sabbatical. We drove 8 hours today from Las Vegas, a trip that included great views of Lake Mead as well as long stretches of flat desert.

Enjoy the contrast above...and that's all for now, as I am dead tired and composing this post on my phone.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Escape Is Never The Safest Plan

Where were we this morning?  Oh that's right - in Sacramento.

Sunday night we grabbed some beers and grub at some kind of chain restaurant near the hotel.  It might have been called Chotchkie's, but I don't remember much bling.  Anyway, the food and beer were both decent enough.  We caught the rest of the Steelers game and then crashed.

Something strange woke me up pretty early in the morning.  It might have been a text from Mom asking if we were tired, I'm not sure.  It's all a blur.  We had the obligatory breakfast in the hotel, and kept it light.  We hit the road around 8AM, heading for South Lake Tahoe.

We hit a little bit of Monday morning traffic getting out of Sacramento.  Then Mike and I noticed we could actually drive in the commuter lane, since we had... two people.  Score!  That seemed like cheating but whatever.

About an hour later, the road really started to change from the highway to mountain roads into Tahoe.  This was a lot of fun.  With the active rear sports differential on, the car just bends around the turns.  There was a bit of ice and I think I made Mike a little nervous in some of those turns.  We went over the mountain, passing lots of skiers on the way.  On the downslope we started to see Lake Tahoe:

We got into South Lake Tahoe around 10 and stopped to look around.  Very cool place.  Lake Tahoe is huge:

It was too early for lunch so we decided to keep driving.  There was basically nothing but a lot of one horse towns here and there.  So we pressed on.  We passed Mono Lake which both Mike and I had been to before many years ago.  At some point we cut onto CA 120, where we made the following video:

There were a couple of long, straight stretches on this route as well.  It really opened up into the plains area.  For stretches it seemed we were the only people on the road.   It's possible that some speed laws were broken.  Repeatedly.

We refueled in several godforsaken, hole-in-the-wall towns.  Thankfully much of the driving was pretty fun.  We got into Vegas around 5:30pm.  Now we're headed to the Chicago Brewing Company for beer, of course, and some pizza.  We may be taking a taxi both ways.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Driving through the mountains of southern Oregon

Today's drive was long - about 9 hours between Portland and Sacramento. We started out the day looking for some Voodoo Doughnuts, and luckily we were close to their "Too" location on the east side near our motel. John had the maple bacon and I had my go-to chocolate frosted. The bummer about Voodoo is that they don't sell coffee, but again we were in luck and in walking distance to a coffee shop that is based on a motorcycle theme.

It was raining lightly when we hit the road (not surprising in Portland), and we got on the freeway about 8:15 AM. Even though there was a lot of off-and-on rain, we were rewarded with a lot of spectacular mountain views as we wound our way down I-5 to California. At one point we were over 4,000 feet and the rain turned to snow - but not accumulating. I'm sure the skiers we passed by at Mt. Ashland would have loved even more powder, but we were happy to get through it without a lot of slippage.

This is where I'll insert the obligatory comment about how well John's car performs in these conditions. Let's just say that at certain points I felt like I was in a video game, and that was a good thing.

Once we got into California, we were rewarded not only with some sunshine, but brilliant views of Mt. Shasta:
Here's one without James Bond in the way:

Shortly after Mt. Shasta was a great rest stop near the town of Weed. The unintentional comedy of this town name was clearly lost on the Caltrans folks. Don't worry, Californians, it's only a matter of time...
Now we're kicking back in the hotel. We thought about driving into downtown "Sacto" for a restaurant but then saw that there was a place within walking distance of the Inn. I'm pretty sure we'll be over there by halftime.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Day one (mostly) in the books

This morning when I woke up, there was like 5 inches of snow on the ground in Minnesota:

So, needless to say I was glad to get on an airplane heading out of town. Of course, I was less enthusiastic sitting on the tarmac of MSP for 45 minutes while they de-iced the plane. Oh well, that's one job you don't want them skimping on. Other than that, the flight was pretty easy.

I landed to a rainy Seattle (big surprise), but it didn't take long for John to pull up and find me. When you pack light, it's easy to make a quick exit. After a few minutes in the car, I was surprised to look down and see that the stick shift had SIX gears on it. That doesn't include reverse. John mentioned something about an anatomy-related joke that his significant other had cracked recently.

We drove down I-5, then west from Longview, Washington to Cannon Beach, OR. It was rainy, but still a fun drive. We got lost in Cannon Beach but then ended up at Ecola State Park. A $5 entrance fee was worth the stunning views of the ocean. It was still rainy, but nevertheless very scenic.

Now, after about 90 minutes of wet and dark driving up and down hills on US-26, we're in a 2-star dive motel on Burnside Avenue. But the upside is we're only a few blocks away from Burnside Brewery, which is our true final destination for the night.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Dangit, I'm stll packing

It's 7 pm the night before the trip, and I'm still puttin' stuff together. I know I'm going to forget something, especially since I'm trying to pack light: everything in one backpack. Don't worry, cologne is included, since otherwise it might start gettin' pretty smelly. But I'm sure your new car smell will overpower any BO that might invade the cabin.

I don't really care what we do for lunch on that first day. Will I be allowed to eat in the car? If so, then those prepacked sandwiches are fine. I'll eat pretty much anything after a few hours on a plane. If not, perhaps we can find a Nirvana-themed lunch spot near Kurt Cobain's hometown, Aberdeen, which is about an hour or so from Seattle.

I'm highly motivated to get my packing done so I can sample from my beer fridge before leaving Mom and Dad alone with it for a day. I fully expect it to be empty when I return. Signing off, and hoping I won't forget anything for the trip.

I do have the music picked out and packed. Don't worry, it doesn't include any ABBA.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Looking Ahead to Leg One: Seattle to Portland

You get in around 11 or so.  We'll go right from the airport to Cannon Beach, in Oregon.  It should take us about 3 hours, give or take.  It will be the Saturday after Christmas so who knows what we're looking at for traffic.  Unfortunately it looks like the weather in Seattle will be pretty lousy - the current forecast is for rain, which we've had plenty of out here this week so far.

Some people might be wondering why we're routing through Cannon Beach, in Oregon, instead of just heading straight for Portland.  Well Cannon Beach looks like a pretty cool place if you believe the interwebs:

Of course, the forecast there for Saturday is for plenty of rain as well, so who knows what we'll be able to see.  We'll drive a bit down highway 101 in Oregon, which is supposed to be a very cool road before tucking back in to Portland.  It should take us another hour and a half, give or take, to go from Cannon Beach to Portland.

So we should get into Portland around 5pm or perhaps earlier, depending on traffic, etc.  Then the plan is to go and find a brewery or restaurant with wifi, and map out the details of the remaining legs.

I'll plan to get the usual assortment of trail mix and candies, like Werthers.  I'll get the originals and not the sugar-free crap Dad buys.

One thing we haven't talked about is lunch on the first day.  We can try to grab something in Seattle right after you get in, or I can get us some bag lunches from Whole Paycheck.  They have a huge one close to us with a pretty good selection of pre-made sandwiches.  

Monday, December 22, 2014

Well, if you really NEED my help

You know, every once in a while your fellow man reaches out to you, in desperation, seeking assistance that only you can provide. In these moments, an ordinary average guy has to ask himself, "Am I an animal? A neanderthal? Or am I a compassionate, considerate member of an advanced species?" Really, the very fact that we struggle with these existential questions are what separates us from less elevated primates, right?

Or, maybe we just wanna drive a really freakin' cool car.

 I must admit I'm less of a gearhead than my older sibling. Heck, I don't even drive to work every day. But, at some level, I can appreciate precision machinery and fine craftsmanship. And, since I never get to drive a manual transmission, I can definitely appreciate how fun that is, especially with a car that is meant to be driven. Cue up the Ferris Bueller Ferrari music. As usual, I'm in charge of the maps. Below is a screen grab of the tentative itinerary. Now, if I can just get John to change the description of the blog. (This trip will definitely be more scenic than the last one.)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

West Coast Trip 2014: Background

It all starts with the car...

This is kind of a long story, but I feel like it's critical background for the two people who actually follow this blog.  (Side note - are the followers actually... the two of us?  No matter!)

In the summer of 2014, I turned in my lease.  It was a very practical car, but nothing to get too excited about.  I think in the back of my mind I knew I would be up for something with a little more zip after three years.

Then sabbatical came upon us.  It worked out pretty well, timing wise.  I turned in the leased car sometime mid-summer, and then we headed off  to Okinawa.   Alice and I talked about what we would do for cars when we got back to the US and into Albuquerque.  Last time we were there, we managed with one car and I hitched a ride every day (in a Boxster, no less) into the lab.  But this time we would have two kids, instead of one, and Alice and I had talked about the possibility of getting something new for me in Albuquerque once we got there.

So I started doing some research online.  After reading some reviews and watching some YouTube videos, I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for.    These  are basically the other end of the spectrum from what I should be driving, in a rational world - they're fairly impractical, but a lot of fun.  What the heck - you only live once, right?

 I started looking at what was available in ABQ, and... there was almost nothing.  I think one car came up in my search.  I expanded the radius another hundred miles and... nothing.  I maybe could have transferred something to CarMax, or bought one brand new, but I didn't actually like the new designs.  Audi had dropped the V8 in favor of a supercharged V6, and they had redone the front end.  I liked the slightly older models, and they were much more affordable on the used market.

Then I had a crazy idea.  We were planning on spending the holidays in Seattle, and so I checked the market there.   It was great!   There were about a dozen cars matching my search criteria in the Seattle area.  But it's crazy to think about buying a car in Seattle, and driving it four days to ABQ on your own.  I pitched it to Alice, and... she had legit concerns.   I would need to find someone to make the trek with me, to share the driving.

On a lark I emailed Mike and said, hey - any chance you'd be able to do another road trip?  Who else would I want to make this trip with?  Nobody.  Or rather, who else could put up with me for four days?  Probably nobody else.  I pitched it to Mike: four days after Christmas from Seattle to Albuquerque (I might have mentioned the possibility of a stick shift.)  Mike got back to me right away and was like, you know what - this might be possible!  We were off and running.