The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

April 9, 2009

Random Notes from the Side of the Road

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Brian Lutz @ 11:55 pm

Ah, the call of the open road.  Miles and miles of endless blacktop, winding curves, and a bunch of semis in the way so you have a hard time getting much past 60 on any of it.  Given the fact that I drive something that’s red and European, I find it especially difficult to resist the temptation at times to just leave everything behind and head for the great wide open, but it usually doesn’t take long to realize why it was that I don’t do it more often:  It’s a long freakin’ drive to get down to Provo from Redmond.  I am actually posting this from a hotel at the side of I-84 in Meridian Idaho, and although i gave some consideration to just driving through and getting there at some ridiculous hour of the night, I’m actually glad I booked a hotel because by the time I got here this evening I was getting pretty sick of driving after spending pretty much all day in the car, and there would have still been 400 miles to go to get there.  If there was someone else to take over driving duties somewhere along the way it wouldn’t be so bad, but since I’m on my own it’s a bit tough. 

Fortunately, the remainder of the drive from Boise to the salt Lake Valley is a lot easier and faster than the slog through Oregon, with its 65 MPH freeway speed limits (the Washington part of the drive is 70 MPH, and Idaho and Utah outside of the cities have 75MPH speed limits.)  The drive through Oregon is actually quite scenic, and I-84 features some of  the sharpest curves in the entire Interstate highway system on Cabbage Hill outside of Pendleton. This is probably a pain to deal with if you’re trying to drive a semi up a big long hill, but if you’re driving a nimble little hatchback it can be a fun little section of road to drive up.   For some reason, when I travel with my family the goal is always to try to make it through Oregon without stopping, and especially to avoid stopping for gas.  I managed to make it through with just one bathroom break, but I never have quite figured out the whole rationale behind the whole “no stopping in Oregon” rule, although I usually don’t need to stop there if I fill up before leaving Washington (that part can be a little tricky.  There’s an unassuming Shell station on I-82 around Kennewick that’s about 30 miles from the state line which doesn’t look like anything special, but if you miss it you won’t be able to find any other gas on I-82 until you cross the border. 

It’s a bit tricky, because it’s only about half a tank away from Issaquah (where i usually make the initial fill-up before hitting I-90) but unless you’ve got something with ridiculous fuel economy, there’ s no way you’re making it all the way through Oregon on a tank of gas from the Seattle area.  On the other hand, the last time I drove my car down to Utah I missed the last-chance Shell station and ended up filling up in Pendleton, and actually managed to make it all the way to Burley Idaho (about 382 miles) from there before I needed to stop for gas.  I probably could have even gone farther, but beyond Burley there’s a couple hundred miles of the Middle of Nowhere to deal with, which would be a really bad place to run out of gas.  All things considered, the whole thing is pretty silly if you think about it, but the more I think about it, the more that I realize the whole thing is a bit trickier than it seems.  If I fill up my car here in Meridian, it is unlikely I’ll be able to get all the way to Provo on a full tank, but since the availability of gas stations on I-84 through Idaho can be a bit spotty, I need to figure out where I’d need to get to in order to get there on one more fill-up.  But I digress.

Speaking of “here”, I’m currently at a hotel on the side of I-82 in Meridian (this one, if anyone is curious.)  It’s certainly not as nice as the last hotel I stayed at (and the little amusement center place nearby is hardly a substitute for being next to Disney World,)  but it’s decent, and it was the cheapest non-fleabag place I could find on Expedia.  On one hand, the room is clean and quiet, but on the other hand they lost my reservation (not a big deal, it probably hadn’t had time to get into the system,) and I think I’ve been in porta-potties less claustrophobic than the bathroom in here.  I also think the shower’s got just about enough pressure to strip paint off of siding.  It doesn’t seem to matter where I go, the obligatory hotel plumbing gremlins will always find a way. 

This place also happens to be right next to the Shell station we usually stop at when the family drives down.  It’s also got a JB’s in the parking lot, which is one of those places I remember from my childhood when we used to go to the one in Santa Fe every so often for the all-you-can-eat Breakfast Bar.  I know the place isn’t really anything special, but I was kind of looking forward to eating there, although I knew I’d probably end up disappointed.  When I walked in, I noticed that there was an all-you-can-eat seafood special on the menu for $9.99, and in a moment of weakness I forgot about the standard “don’t eat seafood more than 100 miles from the sea” rule and ordered it.  It came with the soup and salad bar, so I grabbed a plate of salad and waited for what I was certain to be a relatively modest plate of fish and shrimp.  What I wasn’t expecting what I got:


Um… yeah, that’s a lot of food there.  I think that one’s all I can eat, and then some.  I think I needed to double-check the menu and make sure I didn’t accidentally order the Kobayashi special by mistake.  And I think that thing of veggies on the side is just there for decoration or something like that (I did go for at least a couple of bites of it though.)  To be honest, the actual meal didn’t look nearly as unappetizing as this bad photo makes it out to be, but I think the only way I could have eaten everything on this plate would have required someone wielding a plunger to shove the stuff down.  Of course, by the time I reached my limit, only a moderately sized dent was made in the pile, and this was in addition to the salad and dessert bar, at which point the waitress politely asked if I was going to want seconds.  Why sure, that sounds great!  Now would you be so kind as to direct me to the nearest unoccupied corner so i can go explode in peace?

Either way, for someone that has another 400 miles of driving to go tomorrow, I am probably up way too late right now (the time zone change probably isn’t helping much.)  More on this later on when I arrive in Provo sometime tomorrow.



  1. ha ha, this post made me laugh a little bit because I am from Pendleton, Oregon and I know exactly what you are saying about cabbage hill. So many people are scared of driving that piece of highway but I think it is kinda fun. My mom constantly yells at me to slow down whenever she is with me. I personally do like driving through Oregon more than Idaho when going between Pendleton and Provo (I am a BYU student) because the scenery is so much nicer than Idaho. Idaho is so boring. No joke.

    Comment by robinawallace — April 10, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

  2. I always think when it rains, chances of house break-ins or robbery would be lesser. Don’t you think so? Who wants to rob in the rain? So I guess it would be good to be raining all the time to reduce chances of theft and robberies. Just my thought.

    Comment by utah plumbing — April 13, 2009 @ 12:13 am

  3. I would guess the reluctance to stop in Oregon for gas is the culture shock of having the attendent pump gas? I’ve always wondered – do I tip? Do I say thanks for pumping my gas? Do I feel guilty for not tipping? If no attendent comes out, can I go ahead and pump gas myself? I’d rather just not deal with the whole situation :)

    Comment by Tim — April 13, 2009 @ 12:23 am

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