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wow, it’s really been a long time

Graduation – an emotional yet exciting day. The family really enjoyed the trip to Columbia from NJ via Kansas City, and I’m glad they got a good taste of where I’d spent 4 years of my life. I won’t lie – I shed quite a few tears the day before my departure. Saying goodbye to my parents and siblings in a Break Time gas station parking lot on Providence Road, they drove off not knowing when we’ll see each other again. As I returned to my apartment and continued to pack, eventually bringing most of my worldly possessions to a storage unit south of town, it hit me that I was out of there. Done. Not living in Columbia again – incredibly daunting and scary. The whole notion of leaving…being done…moving on to a new challenge, new area, and completely new [cliche alert] chapter in my life was so much to handle in one day, on top of worrying about moving all my stuff out of my apartment. Plus, knowing I’d be leaving friends I’ve spent so much time with over the past few years behind, I’m not gonna lie, I was really an emotional wreck.

But I pulled it together and managed to hit the road bright and early on Monday morning. I was essentially on I-70 the entire day. I stopped for lunch and gas in Salina, KS – a surprisingly very nice town. I did not expect it, but apparently there’s a thriving arts and tourism community there. I couldn’t figure out what else was a big economic engine in the area – shipping? Air/rail freight? I vaguely recall hearing Salina is a big stop-off for that stuff, but whatever. Roughly a 45 minutes to an hour from Manhattan, and longer from Wichita, I couldn’t figure it out. But I digress.

I continued west on I-70 through famed western Kansas, which is, indeed, flat and boring. Eastern and Central Kansas are mildly interesting since there’s stuff to look at, for the most part i.e. Lawrence, Topeka, enormous wind farms, the Flint Hills, etc. But as you get further and further from KC, everything becomes far more spread out. It stays that way almost the whole way through eastern Colorado and up to Denver. I stayed overnight in Denver, and absolutely loved it. It seemed like a beautiful, well-designed, well-integrated (compared to St. Louis or Kansas City) city with tons of stuff to do outdoors and around town. I stayed close to Invesco Field and downtown, so it was easy to get cool views of the city at night. In the morning, I hit the road and headed west again into the mountains on I-70. This was an absolutely incredible ride – I’d never seen the Rocky Mountains before, and to experience them in their full glory was amazing. Ascending and descending the various mountain passes was literally quite breathtaking. Upon reaching the summit of the Eisenhower Tunnel, you really begin to feel the elevation. I definitely got a headache and felt the altitude…but it could have been from all the coffee I’d been guzzling along the way. After that, you slowly descend from the Rockies and cut through some incredible scenery – in particular, the Glenwood Canyon, which is perhaps one of the coolest, most spectacular stretches I’ve ever driven. Check it out here –

After that, you slowly get out of the Rockies into Utah, but it stays just as majestic. The weather was annoying – spitting rain and somewhat chilly – so it was irritating to have to use my wipers. It’s between Green River, Utah, and Salina, Utah, where you see an ominous “No Services Next 110 Miles” – which makes the drive seem even more adventurous and exciting. The road snakes and cuts through numerous passes, eventually taking you to The Fishlake National Forest –  pretty wild to pass through because there was still snow on the ground along the mountains. As you continue through and along the mountains, you pass through miles and miles of ranching and seemingly-old-country-western land. I stopped in  Cedar City, Utah, for gas and an adapter to charge my camera so I could continue to take pictures of the ride. After Cedar City, you start to enter the outskirts of the desert. The mountains become more barren, and the vegetation becomes less lush. By the time you reach St. George, Utah, you’re in the desert. St. George, a growing town home to Southern Utah University and what appears to be plenty of retirement-home driven sprawl. You then enter the northwest corner of Arizona and the Virgin River Canyon, another insanely majestic swath of road. Instead of the gray and green colors everywhere in the Glenwood Canyon, the Virgin River Canyon is red, orange, and Mars-like. You exit the canyon into a desert valley. It was here that a tumbleweed flew across the road in front of me! From there it was about a little over an hour to Las Vegas, which looms on the horizon as it does in most movies or TV shows that depict it from afar. My first time ever in the Las Vegas area, I was weirded out by the notion of living in the desert. Bizarre. I checked into my hotel in Henderson (20 minutes from downtown) and chilled.

The next day, I got up early and went down to visit the Hoover Dam. That was wild. The drive down into the canyon is amazing. I really enjoyed the trip there and took a bunch of pictures. After that, I drove back to Vegas and visited the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop – famous for the “Pawn Stars” TV show of which I enjoy. Unfortunately, the guys from the show weren’t in the shop that day, but I did see a ton of the goodies they buy/sell on the show inside the shop. It’s definitely worth going there to check out all the cool antiques and rare items they have – all of which the shop prides on being authentic. From there, I drove down “The Strip” and saw all of Vegas in its pathetic glory. What a dump. I checked out 2 casinos, and made futures college football bets for fun in Caesers – $5 on Mizzou to win the national championship at 150/1 odds – so if somehow they do win, I’ll be up about $700 🙂 I also figured I’d throw down $5 for Boise State and Ohio State to win it all, at 12/1 and 8/1 each. After that, I headed back to Henderson, worked out in its majestic fitness center, and ventured out again to get In & Out Burger for dinner – totally worth it and legit as people claim it to be.

The next morning I departed the hotel headed for Palm Springs/Indio. I drove south via US-95 to US-62 through the heart of the Mojave Desert. More than half the drive was 1 lane in each direction with about 30 miles between tiny desert hamlets – pretty wild. Thankfully the Acura was running very well, so I didn’t have any problems. I had the Phillies/Cubs game on my XM Radio to keep me company! Eventually, I arrived in Indio and met the Zeiles – awesome people, unpacked, and headed out to Palm Springs, and here I am about 2 and a half weeks later.

After a 1,800 mile trip from Columbia, MO, to Palm Springs/Indio, CA, I’ve been hard at work for the Palm Springs Power. It hasn’t been what I expected, but I’m not too concerned about that. I’m just glad the season has started.

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  1. Latest blog posts | Brian Mortensen on Sunday, June 6, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    […] wow, it’s really been a long time Graduation – an emotional yet exciting day. The family really enjoyed the trip to Columbia from NJ via Kansas City, and I’m glad they got a good taste of where I’d spent 4 years of my life. I won’t lie – I shed quite a few tears the day before my departure. Saying goodbye to […] […]

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