Las Vegas, NV
Kansas City, KS
St. Louis, MO
About halfway through this crazy cross-country road trip, and here's what I've learned so far...
Sacramento is nice, not spectacular or anything. Prolly wouldn't be my first pick if I moved to Cali. The drive from there to L.A. reminds me a lot of Ohio, except Ohio's grass is actually green, not brown.
I could easily do without about half the geography of California, namely the desert. Can't we just carve off areas we have no use for and drop them on other countries? If not for Pennsylvania, driving from home to New York would only take 3 or 4 hours.
Nevada is....bleak. Somewhere between Redlands and Las Vegas I made a few references to WoW. For instance, I swear we drove through the real world equivalents of Mulgore and The Barrens, and Laura assures me that not too far away are regions that reek of Thousands Needles (apologies to non-WoW players, as you must be lost now).
Anyway, Nevada reminded me of a circus that doesn't shut down, and the attractions are the only thing keeping the state going. Vegas itself is kind of like living in a caricature of a caricature of reality. Sure, there are live human beings there, but with that level of tourist mentality, it must warp the locals' sense of what a well-rounded person is like anymore. It might just fry my brain to live there, what with all the cardboard and illusions. But it is the best place to catch Broadway and other live acts outside of a more congested major city.
Vegas to Springdale was largely forgettable (Mesquite was nice), save for the giant thermometer. Drive up on Rte. 15 and you can't miss is. It read 90F when we got there, and 100F about 20 minutes later when we left, loaded up with Burger King and gasoline.
I also don't want to hear about "overcrowding" problems anymore. There's PLENTY of real estate out here just begging for a town or at least a truck stop to emerge on it. When you can go 200 miles without seeing any signs of life, it makes the insanely compressed life of NYC seem ridiculous. NYC is all stone and little vegetation anyway. It would do just fine if it woke up one day in place of Ute, NV.
Springdale and the greater Zion National Park area in general was quite nice. Not too hot yet this time of year, nice enough that my bro and his wife sleep outside on their deck. No screen. No tent. Just out there with the bugs and the iguanas and the bats. I admire the outdoors, sure, but I still like sleeping with four walls and a ceiling around me. The view of the stars was second to none, though. Even saw a shooting one.
Springdale to Denver was the best looking yet worst overall day for me, and the most recent. I had some ear adjustment problems on the initial flight out to Sacramento (i.e., my left ear simply does NOT adjust), but I thought it might play more nicely with a gradual ascent through the Rockies. Sorry to say that's not the case. For...I dunno, 10-20 miles straight (?) my eardrum wracked me with agonizing pain, so much so that if I were driving, I wouldn't have been able to make it through. Hooray for being the co-pilot on this trip. Somewhere past Vail it finally popped (or ruptured, I don't know which), and I was able to let go of my head and wipe away the tears. Not fun. This rules out traveling or living in the mountains for me (unless I somehow get the ear fixed), since the pain starts at about 5000 feet and gets worse from there on up. Around 9000 feet elevation in Frisco, CO, we stopped for gas, I felt headachey, went to take a piss, and almost blacked out standing in the bathroom. Thin air + an already tore-up me = 1 step shy of the emergency room.
We descended into Denver some 9.5 hours after we left Springdale, I was miserable, and temporarily deaf in my left ear. It was all I could to do mutter out the words "room for the night?" when we got off 70. Tried to get some food, but most of the stuff in west Denver closes at 10pm, and wouldn't you know it, we arrived at 10:15pm. Annoying.
I slept a few hours and started having nightmares (nothing trip-related; more inspired by seeing 28 Weeks Later recently methinks), but luckily Laura's rumbling sinuses woke me up before it got too unsettling in dreamland. I'm sitting before you now in the hopes of clearing my mind before going back to sleep.
I decided we should break up our remaining days into shorter drives, even if it means we don't stay the night in the most scenic of places or have to be gone a day longer. About 6-7 hours driving/riding in a day is my limit for now. 9.5 was simply too damn much. Makes me wonder how I made it from Tallahassee, FL to NYC in one day. Must have been something that happened the night before. ;)
And where the ear is concerned, I never thought I'd say this, but I'm really looking forward to being in Kansas.
More as it develops...