Starting in Seattle with clear weather we got to experience the cascades in the winter with all its beauty, without having to write up a last will and testament before hitting the passes.
It was dark by the time we got to the Rockies, which only makes things more exciting. The passes in Montana make those of the cascades look like a kid’s game. I don’t know what Montana’s budget looks like but I’d suggest investing in some salt and snowplows. We’d climb up a 60 degree incline only to have an ice-covered, hairpin-riddled descent waiting on the other side. Surprisingly I only saw one overturned SUV.
Once you get past the Rockies, it’s time to insert the caffeine IV. Unless you enjoy monotony and consistent deja vu. Rest stop, wheat field, wind farm, abandoned farm, repeat. But really I did quite enjoy the gentle landscape. It had an old-timey feel that us city-slickers just can’t get in populous areas. The setting sun hit the landscape just right.
The Badlands are something to behold. See it if you ever get the chance. But hurry up because acid rain is actually washing away all of the formations, and the park with be completely gone, nonexistent, in the near future.
More of the same until you hit Ohio where, surprisingly enough, more signs of civilization start to show up. Factories, billboards, housing developments and increased travelers were tell-tale signs that we were getting close to the east coast. At this point I found myself wishing I were back in South Dakota, since it was nice and desolate. As soon as we hit Pennsylvania I saw my first police car clocking people. Traffic volume doubled, but still didn’t slow things down. Crossing the Allegheny and Appalachian mountains was great. I’ll always have an affinity for the rolling hills and dense deciduous forests of the Appalachians. We crossed the AT and I remembered that section from my 2003 hike. It is the flattest, longest section of the whole trail. So we didn’t stop to climb a mountain since there weren’t any. As we bore down on Philly, the traffic doubled and as soon as we got on the Schuylkill Expressway it stopped. Dead cold stopped. Welcome home. I’ve written about NJ traffic before, but it never ceases to amaze me how insane it is. I was passed on the right (a.k.a. the shoulder since I was in the rightmost lane) because I was only going 15 mph over the speed limit. Cars come at you from every imaginable angle at incredible speeds, and no one cares about anyone but themselves. I’ll take rocky mountain passes any day.
But I made it to the AC Expressway alive, and here I am back in NJ once again. I’d like to do it again with M. and a few more days to really see what’s out there. But when your copilot is a bronchitis infested mouth-breather who hasn’t bathed or changed clothes in several days, you go as fast as you can.