Saturday, 8/26/01 - Monday, 9/10/01 - Heading East
On Saturday, I drove the RV to Woodside, California, meeting up with my California friend Elizabeth Carlassare at a brunch for women in tech called "Wild Women of Wonder." Afterward, I said goodbye to Elizabeth who had been my wonderful host in the Santa Cruz area, my writer friend and creative twin. She wants me to move to California, but I'm not sure. I'm drawn West to Montana and Wyoming.
The weather was beautiful at first, perfect for driving, but it quickly turned hot and cruel. We finally got onto I-80 after crossing over the San Mateo bridge over the San Francisco Bay, and then traffic began to crawl. The RV still doesn't do well in heat and even worse in bumper to bumper traffic, so even though our destination was the Tahoe area, we only made it as far as Auburn, California, staying at the KOA.
On Sunday morning, we were on the road by 7:30am and it was already warm outside. The goal was to reach Elko, Nevada by evening and then Salt Lake City by Monday. On Tuesday morning, I had a taping scheduled for a local TV morning show called "Utah Live" and soon realized that I had underestimated the distance from San Francisco to Salt Lake City. I should have left a day earlier to make the 669 mile trek. I needed to drive almost 400 miles today, with the sun soon blasting fire down on the wide, open road.
Along the way, we stopped at the Wal-Mart in Winnemucca, Nevada for lunch, then drove another few hours to arrive in Elko by dusk. After filling up the gas tank before crossing the Nevada state line to make it easily across the salt flats (I was ready for them this time with several new cassettes of music to distract me from the monotony), we made it to Salt Lake City the next day, staying at the KOA. That evening was scorchingly hot until the sun was completely gone from the sky.
I decided to light the hot water heater to wash the dishes I had piled up in the sink and then before turning in, I debated about turning it off or leaving it on overnight so I'd have hot water in the morning. I decided to turn it off, grabbed my flashlight, and went around the side of the RV to shut off the heater. I noticed a strange glow coming from the side of the RV and realized that...it was on fire!
I pried open the metal grate from the front of the hot water heater and saw a steady flame the size of my fist rising from the red control knob. My first instinct was to blow it out like a candle and to my surprise, the flame was snuffed out. Then I ran into the RV, got a cup of water, and ran back out to douse the heater and charred knob. The plastic and metal hissed and steamed.
In order to shut off the propane gas, I had to chip away at the black, burned plastic knob until I could turn it. Then I splashed more water on everything and hoped there were no propane leaks or flames anywhere else. I was so glad that I decided to shut it off that night. A few minutes later and the flame could have ignited the propane tank and send me and the Berts to the moon.
The next morning, after getting the wrong directions and getting lost on the snaking overpasses and highways around Salt Lake City, we made it to the TV station, did our taping, then continued east on I-80. Destination: Cheyenne.
We then had a full day of driving through the transforming terrain, crossing the state line midday, having lunch at a place called Little America (there are several of these travelers' oasis in Wyoming and Utah), and filling up the gas tank several times. We pulled into Cheyenne at nighttime, ready for dinner and bed.
The next week was spent in Cheyenne where I drove around the familiar town getting miscellaneous things done such as bringing the RV to Jolley Rogers RV Service Center to fix the hot water heater and check the propane tank for any leaks. I ate several times at a new restaurant called Zen's Bistro, Cheyenne's answer to "health food." Had my usual decaf latte at the Starbucks cafe in the Barnes and Noble. I liked knowing where everything was and having a familiar routine.
Later in the week, I did an interview on KJJL radio, then got ready to continue my trip East so I'd get to New York City by the following week, with another TV interview in Des Moines, Iowa scheduled along the way.
I get a comfortable feeling in Cheyenne. It isn't breaktakingly beautiful like Jackson, Wyoming or Bozeman, Montana, but it is easy to get around, has a small town feeling, is friendly, spacious and affordable. I like it here right now.