Sep 29, 2011

Last Leg of Return Trip

Started out from Evanston, Wyoming this morning at 7:30 am.  Reached Utah shortly thereafter and stopped to take a few photos at this rest area.    It was a brisk, clear morning with lovely views.

Reached the California state line around 6:30 pm, and am still unpacking.  It was a long, tiring drive back, but have arrived safe and sound.    Lots of magnificent scenery the entire way...

Sep 27, 2011

Second Look at Wyoming

Yesterday I traveled through Iowa and most of Nebraska.  Today I left Nebraska and traveled across Wyoming.  I'm about 10 miles from the state line and will head into Utah, Nevada, and will hopefully finish up in California by late evening.  Wanted to do a little sightseeing, but I've got too many things pending at home and need to get back ASAP.  Another job interview awaits as well.  Wisconsin didn't work out for that.  My nephew got married, though, and I was able to be there for the big event so all is not lost.  Wishing Andy and Tara the very best!

I know Yellowstone National Park is partially in Wyoming, and wish I could have visited.  It will have to wait for another time.  But I drove though parts of Mountain Bow park and snapped a few photos.  There doesn't seem to be a lot here,  but the vast open spaces and ability to see for hundreds of miles is awe inspiring.  Wish my camera could have captured some of the distance views, but alas!

Californians---Try to identify this!

This may seem like such a trivial issue to midwesterners, but I just had to document my astonishment at the building I photographed above.    Most Californians try to stay away from rest stops and rest areas along the state highways.  At best they are questionably clean, cement,  camp-like structures that frequently lack hygiene supplies.  At worst, they are sleazy, dirty, dubiously secure spots to be reckoned with only in the most dire of circumstances.  When they are open, that is to say.

So I was absolutely amazed when I ventured into this one in Iowa today.  (On the first leg of my return to California...)  I was so impressed I took multiple photos while the locals looked at me as though I were some country hick who never got away from the farm.  Only a fellow Californian from the Sacramento area understood what I was doing and why. 

There were complimentary state maps on the walls for travelers to pick up if needed.  They were vending machines with every type of snack and healthy or unhealthy drink a person could want.  Including water with vitamins!  There were public phones, and areas to use a laptop, if one were so inclined.  The bathrooms were spotless, and there was even a separate and easily accessible handicap bathroom off the main hall.  There were picnic areas, and viewing areas, and........sigh!

The lady from Sacramento told me she had visited several rest stops in Iowa, and in Ohio, as well.  "They are all nice, " she told me,  "but they get worse the further west you head."   

I don't get it....

Sep 22, 2011

Wisconsin--end of the line for now

Arrived safe and sound on Tuesday evening as planned.  Not much to say at this point.  The drive in from Iowa was green and scenic...I'm relaxing and catching up on much-needed sleep.   Cats survived and seem to like the cooler weather.  More later.

Sep 19, 2011

Cruising through Nebraska

Didn't make it to Lincoln today.  Couldn't fall asleep last night.  At 3:00 am I  finally took a  Lunesta, then didn't wake up til a few minutes shy of check out time.  UGH!  Now I'm 200 miles west of Lincoln and hoping for an early launch tomorrow.  According to Mapquest, there's another 800 miles to go.    The last leg of the journey is tricky and has a million turn-offs. 

Planning to travel all day and night to get there.  Can't take another night in a motel.  I'm driving with two cats.  One is 20 years old.   The vet convinced me his heart couldn't tolerate a plane trip.    Simba's heart has been just fine, but my nerves are frayed.   He's developed a nasty case of cabin fever and is taking it out on me.  It has to end tomorrow or one of us won't survive.  

Still haven't been able to communicate via phone with family.   Would be nice if just one of them had the consideration to answer my emails!   Eveyone wants me to report in, but the effort doesn't seem to be reciprocal.  The national T-Mobile roaming plan I've paid into for 5 years isn't any good out here.  When there's signal, the network doesn't recognize me.   And most of the time there's no signal. 

I'm in another motel where I can't make a  long distance call.   At least that's what I've been told.  Sounds fishy to me.....No rooms with DSL or broadband internet anymore, so the Vonage device I brought is useless as well.   Barb, I guess you'll know I made it when I land on your doorstep.   Don't go to bed too early tomorrow.   I just may drag in at some late hour...

Wyoming---another third world country?

From the moment I entered Wyoming things started getting fumbled.  Don't know if it's the terrain or the technologically-challenged inhabitants of this land....Crossing the border into Evanston, I stopped for gas at the Chevron station that services all the weary travelers along I-80.  Went to two pumps.  The first one didn't work, the second one had a sign across it stating the pumps "on this side" of the station were functioning oddly.  Further instructions directed that one either pay inside first, or wait to see if a characteristic set of beeps sounded,  and then try fueling without benefit of seeing what the pump was doing or saying.  Having now twice parked the car at a pump and gotten out to fill the tank, I climbed back in again and drove to the other side of the gas station to one of the pumps on the "good" side.   I again parked the car, climbed out, and started to insert my gas card for the 3rd time.  There was another small, typewritten note on this pump stating the LED screen didn't work.  I got into the car again, moved it to the last pump, and was fortunately able to start fueling.  But the hose pushed in more air than gas, and wouldn't stay flowing when employing the lazy lever.  I had to hand pump the gas from the hose, which kept shutting off every 10 seconds.    As I was finally finishing up, another car drove up to the pump that had the small sign about the LED screen.  An irritated young man got out,  then quickly crawled back into his car and drove up behind mine.  No words were exchanged, but I felt his pain.

Several miles down the road, at the next small town, I pulled off the exit and got a room for the night.  It had quickly turned dark and I was too sleepy and night blind to take on the unlighted, barren terrain and roadway.  Although the motel boasted internet and cable TV, I learned too late the channels didn't match the channel list, the times and the programs were all off schedule, and there were two CBS stations, but neither showed the standard Sunday night line up.  Go figure.  Tried to use the lodge's phone to make a long distance call to Wisconsin, but it wouldn't work.  When I called the desk to inquire about it,  I was told they had been having problems with their long distance service and it wasn't working at the present time.  The internet service was WiFi, so I couldn't even use my Vonage box or Magic Jack to make the phone call.  Apparently,  broadband internet hasn't hit this town yet.  They do have Cable TV, but not internet.  Sound familiar?  For all intents and purposes I could be in Caldera or La Colorada, Panama with this scenario.   My first attempt to make the call was with my cell phone, but there was no network signal, either.   I don't ever want to hear another U.S. midwesterner in Boquete make derogatory remarks about the quality of Panamanian services!

Other than the technological challenges, the trip has gone well.  On cruise control at 75 mph the entire way.  Wide open spaces stretched for hundreds of miles and offered time to contemplate and relax while drifting along.  Was not impressed with the Great Salt Lake, in Utah.  It stank much worse than a poorly maintained seaside marina, and the view reminded me of low tide in Casco Viejo.  Didn't take many photos, but see for yourself.  Be glad you are being spared the smell. 

Hoping to make it as far as Lincoln, Nebraska tomorrow.  I've been pushing it to get to my destination ASAP, but on the way back I'm hoping to be able to sightsee a little more.   Can't say I miss the congested freeways and crowded towns of the Bay Area.  I imagine I'll be putting all that back on as I get closer to home. 

Sep 18, 2011

High Desert Harmony

Although I love the lush, tropical forests of the Chiriqui highlands in Panama, I'm also drawn to the arid, sparse, high deserts in the western United States.  There's something about the vast, harshly serene, windswept scenery that soothes the soul and puts a person in awe of our Creator. 

The pictures below were taken en route to Winnemucca, Nevada.  For me, they are reminiscent of Arizona, however the scale is so much grander. 

Tomorrow I should pass through Salt Lake City, Utah and into Wyoming.  Haven't been that way since early childhood and remember nothing. Hopefully there will be photo opportunities for posting!  Two thousand miles still to go....

Sep 16, 2011

Lots of Changes, But Nothing New

Arrived back in California two weeks ago and have been hustling to try and get affairs in order.  Have gone on several job interviews for positions that are suboptimal.  Despite my qualifications and vast experience, I've received a lot of praise and encouragement, but no job offers.  Being only 9 months from retirement doesn't exactly help.  Prospective employers get around the age discrimination angle by asking me where I hope to be in 5 years.  My conscience has never allowed me to lie with any competence, and  vague responses about taking things one day at a time doesn't close corporate interviews very well.   Moreover, after having worked from home for the last 10 years, I lack  sufficient office attire for the 5-day/wk cubicle existance.  Salaries being offered hardly justify the required clothing investment, and although I'm not eliminating opportunities based on this realization,  it does help me feel better about the lack of offers. 
I'm heading out to Wisconsin this weekend.  Am scheduled for a job interview the end of next week.   I'm actually considering Wisconsin because my sister lives there and we could share expenses while working until retirement.  But the job has to be super special to get me to move there...  I often wonder if the small savings that corporations glean from displacing long term, loyal employees in lean times truly warrants the havoc wreaked on families and human lives.  Those remaining at work have to pick up the slack.   The stress and fatigue must manifest somewhere....

 Handling business transactions since my return to California has been  a rude awakening.  It's a struggle reaching live people when calling most large businesses.  If one goes through phone trees and remains patiently on hold for next to an eternity,  the eventual success of contact with a real person seems anything but.  Generally they are disinterested and admittedly unable to help.  Their "broken record" skills have been perfectly honed.  At some point the removal of humans from human resources has got to backfire and deplete interest in services and products, no?   

A little off the subject, but I was at Safeway two days ago and they no longer carry Fresca as part of their canned beverage stock. They have a few major brands; Coke, Pepsi, etc.  but now carry primarily the cheap, unknown brands.  Perhaps a reflection of the economy and struggle to survive as people get poorer and poorer.  But chasing the profit in voluminous cheap sales versus maintaining the satisfaction and loyalty of more discriminating customers can only lead to more of the same, with eventual loss of those customers who DO have the money to spend, would it not?  Safeway carries less and less of the items I routinely buy at a supermarket.  I now avoid shopping there as much as possible, despite living only a block away.  I seek out the small grocers, who have to charge a little more, but still have my old stand-bys.  Maybe we'll go full circle back to the way things used to be.  Wouldn't that be nice?  Unfeeling, callous corporate America might actually reap what it sows and orchestrate it's own demise. 

Or maybe everyone will leave...That certainly seems to be a lot of the sentiment these days.  Should be interesting to see what I observe as I drive across the midwest into Wisconsin.   Or not.  Que sera, sera.