Sunday, October 24, 2010

1996 Cross-Country Road Trip

[Preamble: To set the context a bit: in 1995, at a family function, Denis' cousin Paul asked him to come out west to pursue a career in Silicon Valley ("It is amazing here! You have experience, you've taught it, you can get get paid to get trained while you work in the field", rather than the previous plan of going to grad school in Savanna, Georgia (at a price tag of potentially $100,000.) Paul suggested it at the family function. Then called a couple weeks later and said "I'm serious, come out to Cali with 30 days worth of clothes, and if you hate it, you can leave." So that cemented it. A trip was planned.
...We were driving across the country... Denis for a potential job in computer graphics, and Lee to see a girl in L.A.. Sharing the driving, doing the low-budget road trip in Denis' red and white two-tone 1960 Ford Fairlane 500. Denis installed one seat belt for the driver in prep for the trip... more were purchased but..]

Trip from Bloomsburg, PA to Palo Alto, CA
Denis Sweeney and Lee Kukola

Tues 5/7
4:30PM Car was in the shop (Hack's garage in Jerseytown) a day-and-a-half longer than expected. We had hoped to leave Monday early and then Tuesday early... but waited for the garage to call (waited until 3 when I got it. I picked it up w/ Lee and we ate and left Bloomsburg around 4:30. We were pretty wound...
We drove and drove. I had hope to get at least to Ohio, but since Lee had napped in the car, he took over driving after I got tired. We drove until around 4:30 AM and slept in a rest area parking lot.


Wed 5/8 9AM, still in Eastern time zone, I think.
We are making good progress by trading of the driving. We hit the Central time zone shortly after starting today, which was helpful in avoiding Chicago rush hour. It started raining after Chicago and kept at it for about four hours --yuk, and it is chilly. Rain stopped and it is much warmer. We are in Iowa. Lee says NJ is flatter than this! (Lee's first drive 'cross country.) I think both of our stomachs are grumbling about the junk food.
Today is my 31st birthday.
I wish we could get to (my sister) Katya's to spend it with her. I have yet to call her and check in w/ either coast.
Called Mom from Brooklyn
Well it is 7:40PM and central Standard time. We are back on the road after our dinner at a diner. We are both pretty beat and feel grimy and gross.
We are trying to get past Lincoln, Nebraska so that the prices will drop. The road here is very patterned with small dips that none of us appreciate; Lee, me, or the Fairlane. The Fairlane is 36 years old and have had a couple of inquiries about whether or not it is for sale.
   We figure that if we get a room tonight, we can make Boulder (Katya's place) tomorrow. (That would be) two nights in a bed, in a row. There are flash flood warnings on the radio and possible thunderstorms forecast for tonight and Thursday, so we feel okay about it (staying in the hotel.) I think a real bed will be blissful.
  I have to buy postcards to send around to everyone.. Pass signs for "Friend", and "Beaver Crossing" (he he he!). No motels, alas.
  It is getting hilly and dark in the sky on the western horizon. Well, as we approached York, NE, Lee realized that a second wind has hit him, so we ignored the eight motels and continued westward it is 8:40 CST and getting dark. Lots of plowed and maybe planted fields. Elaborate irrigation.
Seward East hill Motel--Scary sign ragged. We passed the exit without stopping.
We stayed at the Wood River Motel at exit 300 in Nebraska.
As we were approaching the exit, the generator light went on, so we lucked out because the motel at that exit was economical... only $30/night for a double (2 bed) room. We got some beers (from the truck stop across the street) and had some birthday beers and a mini-celebration.

Thurs 5/9
I refilled the radiator and re-attached a belt for the generator. so we had pulled the car across the street and parked at the Truckstop and saw the coolant still leaking out. We called AAA and got breakfast.
The towtruck wanted to drive us back to Grand Island, which was east and slightly north of interstate 80. The guy had trouble getting the car on the flatbed. It (Fairlane) is so long it started to scrape, so he stopped and after another unsuccessful attempt called for more help. The helper brought about six pieces of 2x4 studs about 1.5' long so they used them to ease the transition (and expand the length of the flatbed.) It worked.

The tow was $35, even with AAA [i guess, at the time I thought that was too much.]
The mechanic said it was the water pump [adding some detail here. the mechanic here made me REALLY nervous! He was wearing a white lab coat! --what auto mechanic wears a white lab coat?! --I saw that and assumed that it was going to be REALLY expensive... which would've been a death-blow a this point in my life.] and he told us he could get it by Friday morning. So we found a room at the Courtesy Court Motel, which Lee described as a welfare motel, and in fact, was quoting us weekly prices ($100.00 per week!) but offered us one for $25/night. It was okay but a bit rundown, with a TV and cable but no phone, except a payphone by the office. At one time it must have been a road traveler's nice lodge, circa 1950s. So we spent the day drinking and watching TV and napping. We had breakfast at an elaborately decorated diner (not so much well decorated, but elaborately; not cheaply.) Then we went next door to the garage. The guy was working on the car... the other guy, Paul owned the Sinclair station. It looked like the 1950s really held on. There was a coffee setup with a donation can, stuff for sale on the counter, a TV mounted height on the wall, and an old Formica-topped table w/ 2 matching chairs. But the decor was really just part of it.
The locals really do come and hang out with Paul. They gossip and watch traffic and shoot the breeze. They asked about our destination and where we were from. We told them we were neighbors from 'just down 80.' Then told them how far down 80. They were pretty friendly, and happy to hang out with us. The car bill was only $145.00, so we got on the road at about 11:30am. We are now in Rosoe, NE, and about to change to Rt 76 to Denver and Boulder is another hour from there!

[end of journal]

filled in from memory fourteen years later    23, October, 2010.
We made it to my sister Katya's house and had a great visit with her, and my nephew Zeke. I think we got to see Zeke at one of his soccer games this trip. Next memory is of driving past Salt Lake City, Utah, and parking off the side of the road on the salt flats, to get some sleep... waking up to the heat. Of course the Fairlane had no air conditioning, or anything. we each took a bench seat to stretch out on and slept. I remember driving the car in states with no speed limits (Wyoming and possibly Nevada?) and getting the car going up over 100 miles an hour. That car liked to go straight and fast. Driving through Nevada was brutally hot. California was a blur and we, if memory serves, we drove from Nevada, through San Francisco, to Palo Alto in the same day. I'm honestly not sure how long it took us to do the whole trip... but I'd guess a little over a week? My cousin Paul, who was expecting us in Palo Alto, helped Lee out with a plane ticket to L.A. rather than the bus he had planned.
I wound up staying in California, and it turned out to be the beginning of my career in Computer Graphics, Web, and Interaction Design. I've said it before but I am thankful to my cousin Paul for suggesting/insisting that I come out to California. I was hesitant to make such a big move, but am so glad, in retrospect, that I did.