Sprint to St. Charles

A previous post mentioned that we recently completed a 6300-mile, 17-state road trip. Before our memories fade, here is the first of a series of post to describe the major segments of our trip. This allows you to see some aspects of the travel without having to buy the gas, load and unload luggage, or get “rough under the boards” (one of our historic family expressions) from sitting too long in one seat.

As you might guess, our first segment was a three-day drive from Livermore to St. Charles, Illinois to visit family. We were on Interstate 80 from Sacramento almost all the way to St. Charles (near Chicago), with overnight stops in Salt Lake City and Kearny, Nebraska. We crossed the Sierra Nevada mountains on Donner Pass, named for the ill-favored pioneer party that mostly perished in the dead of winter without ever reaching the summit on their route west. And we drove through about 50 miles of thick smoke (from the Mosquito Fire to our south) before reaching the pass and then dropping down into Nevada.

Historic marker at an I-80 rest area in Nevada.

As we crossed Nevada, I-80 followed the Humboldt River valley for much of the way. We passed gold mines and traversed a few mountain passes (or summits) as we threaded our way through the Basin and Range Province on our way to the Salt Lake Valley. It was a long day of driving, but the weather was beautiful once we were past the smokey Sierras.

Information sign at I-80 rest area in Wyoming.

Our second day involved driving from Salt Lake City to Kearney, Nebraska. We went mountain climbing in our Honda Odyssey and crossed the Continental Divide three times in Wyoming. Our route also ran near Sherman Hill on the Union Pacific mainline; this is the highest point on the original transcontinental railroad, and it still demands a lot from locomotives moving freight (or passengers) from Chicago to the West Coast. After leaving Wyoming we followed the North Platte River to Kearney, and were dismayed to see the effects of drought along the way. The river itself is very shallow, and appeared essentially dry in some places. Rough for the wheat, corn, and soybean crops!

I-80 bridge from Iowa to Illinois, crossing the Mississippi River.

Our third, somewhat shorter day involved only about nine hours of driving rather than 10-12 or more. As we left Nebraska and crossed Iowa we gradually left the drought behind and saw more and more green landscapes. They say that water sometimes falls from the sky in this part of the country, so maybe that is why everything was so green. We also noticed there was much less relief to the topography, except for hills and bluffs near the rivers, and we encountered a lot more traffic than we ever saw in the mountain states.

By the time we arrived in St. Charles we were ready to take a break from driving, and we very much enjoyed our down time with family and friends. A future post will outline the next segment of our roadtrip as we drove to Northeast Ohio by way of Michigan.

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