Archive for the 'The Trip' Category

So long, and thanks for all the fun times…

The time has come for my Atom to move on to a new owner. As some of you may know, I’ve been looking to sell my Atom for some time. I didn’t really use it at all in 2012 or 2013 – the last big trip was cross-country in 2011. Overall, it has been a wonderful 7.5 years, but now it’s time to move on. I’m keeping all of my memorabilia and will keep this site active as a historical record – I just won’t be regaling you with stories about cross-country drives. I’ll still provide whatever technical knowledge I can about these wonderful cars – it’s just that Brammo cars are becoming more and more rare as time goes by, and a lot of what I know doesn’t apply to the TMI cars.

The buyer is coming to pick it up in a few weeks. I’ll post some final pictures here when it leaves for the last time. I’ll also post some trip recaps, along with a map of all the places my Atom has been, in the near future.

I’ll always cherish my memories of the times I’ve had and the people I’ve met, both in person on the road / track, on this site, and on the Atom forums.

I’m going to be closing this site to new registrations, as I don’t expect making many additional posts and for the last few years, the only signups have been spammers. If you need to get a hold of me for some reason, the relevant info is in the “Contact Info” on the right side of every page on the site.

Things I didn’t get to see

As always, there were things along my route that I didn’t get to see – whether they were planned, big parts of my trip like Yellowstone, or smaller things I thought would be cool to visit. Each night, if I wasn’t too tired, I’d look through the “Area Attractions” display at the hotels and see if there was anything nearby that would be fun to see – that’s how I found the Pioneer Auto Show, for example.

There is always a bunch of other literature in those racks as well. There’s usually one for every “factory outlet” within 500 miles, as well as for the more oddball attractions, like “World’s largest ball of paint“. Sometimes I’d grab a couple of those for humor value. Here’s one attraction I decided to pass on – the official SPAM Museum:

Spam Museum Brochure

Back in the New York Groove

I got into New York a little after 7 PM. Weather was great the whole way, though it got a bit chilly as the sun was setting. Total mileage now stands at 33,411. I haven’t unpacked the car yet, just parked it in the garage. I got a lot of comments from Tiger about going away and having my friend HJ take care of her for nearly a month.

Stay tuned for a surprise announcement in the next week or two…

Belle Vernon, PA

Today was a beautiful, warm day in Dayton, Ohio. Still no sign of Nastassja Kinski, though the black leopard sightings continue…

As I drove through the center of Ohio, it got colder and darker, with lots of clouds overhead. By the time I got to eastern Ohio, I was driving through a light rain mist, and there was standing water on the shoulder of the highway. As I crossed through West Virginia and into Pennsylvania, the skies got even darker – everybody was driving with their headlights on – and lightning was visible in the clouds a few miles to the north.

So I decided to stop a little sooner than I had planned, in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania. Of course, by the time I’d checked into the hotel, schlepped all of my luggage up to the room, and parked the Atom and got the cover on it, the clouds were parting and the sun was peeking out. It figures…

Anyway, this leaves me with 350 miles to go to New York City, and I’m going to try to do all of that on Wednesday – it’d be silly to stay somewhere when I’m only 50 miles from home or so. It is supposed to be sunny and in the 70’s the whole way to New York, so that should be good.

Dayton, OH (Still)

I decided to stay in Dayton another night, since the weather to the east is still poor. There’s a 40% chance of rain in western Pennsylvania on Tuesday, but that’s down from 100% today.

I spent the day wandering around in Mendelson’s. Unfortunately, while that is a great place to wander around and discover stuff, it is a lot less useful if you’re looking for something in particular. The pricing is also rather odd – some things are incredibly inexpensive, while others are way overpriced.

On the TV news tonight, the lead story was that there is another black leopard loose in the woods north of Dayton. It was spotted today about a mile south of the hotel I’m staying at. I can’t find a news story about today’s sighting, but here and here are some articles about previous sightings. According to one article, “…the leopard could have been among the leopard cubs sold at an uncredited zoo and rescue facility in Mount Hope, Ohio, about five or six years ago”. It probably won’t turn back into Nastassja Kinski, though.

More random musings from the road

The last few days, I’ve gotten stuck in huge construction traffic jams caused by “Oversize Load” trucks getting stuck in spots they have no place being in the first place.

Each state requires an Oversize/Overweight Load Permit for excessively wide and/or heavy vehicles to travel on that state’s part of the Interstate Highway System. Normally the permit will spell out the route being permitted, along with requirements for pilot vehicles. You’ve almost certainly seen those – usually pickup trucks with a huge “Oversize Load” banner, flashing lights, and a 14-foot (or taller) pole they use to detect undeclared low bridges. So much for the background…

The other day, it was in Peoria, just before the Illinois River bridge. Construction had traffic down to a single lane where the Interstate dipped down under an overpass. Which was all well and good, until an Oversize Load truck carrying a 120-foot-long wind turbine blade got stuck under the overpass. The truck made it down into the dip just fine, but when the road began to rise on the other side of the overpass, things came to a screeching halt with loads of sparks and pieces of overpass as both ends of the blade tried to achieve an elevation higher than the overpass.

Today, also on I-74, there was construction west of Indianapolis as they’ve decided to move Interstate 465 (the loop around Indianapolis) somewhere else. This apparently is a further refinement of the moving of the airport that they were doing last year.

This was well-marked for miles ahead of time, with many signs that said “Loads over 10′ 6″ must use next exit” and so forth. As traffic crawled for several miles, I saw what I thought was causing the delay – a tractor trailer with an “Oversize Load” banner stopped in the left (only) lane, with people milling around in confusion. It seemed to be some sort of air handler device for cooling an office building, and was signed as 12′ wide. As traffic slowly drove around it, there was another one stopped a few hundred yards ahead of it. That wasn’t it either – as traffic split left for I-465 north and right for I-465 south, there was a third one, wedged tightly between the concrete barriers of the I-465 north ramp.

First truck

Note the completely useless pilot vehicle between the first and second trucks:

Second truck

Here is the third truck, wedged between the concrete barriers:

Stuck truck

Now, Microsoft Streets & Trips (which I use to pre-plan my driving for the following day) lists these construction areas. In fact, the Indianapolis one has been listed in the S&T construction database since before the start of 2011. Presumably, both the truck drivers and the permit-assigning people have access to at least that level of construction information. And it isn’t like there were no signs in either case… Given that the cost of a single wind turbine blade of this size starts at a quarter million dollars and goes up from there, you’d think they’d take more care with the things.

Other random observations, mostly from out West:

It seems that something like 20% of the vehicles have cracked windshields, ranging from a simple diagonal crack to ones resembling spiderwebs. Being low down in an Atom gives me a unique viewpoint, and the cracks are very noticeable.

A surprisingly large number of passengers ride with their feet up on the dashboard. That doesn’t seem like a particularly wise thing to do, given the possibility of an accident. Either the leg bones are going to go through their torsos if the vehicle accordions, or they’re going to wind up with an ankle embedded in their skull if the airbag deploys.

From Oregon through South Dakota, there were a fair number of hitchhikers on the sides of roads. I thought that went out of favor in the early 80’s? Perhaps it has something to do with the economy… Once I got into Iowa, I didn’t see any more. There was a “Picking up hitchhikers prohibited” sign in Iowa that may have something to do with it. That doesn’t compare to the “Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates” sign that I saw in Kansas last year, though.

Dayton, OH

This morning at 5 AM at the Danville Hampton from Hell, I was awakened by the conga line starting up again upstairs and doors slamming across the hall, just like last night. Bleary-eyed, I wandered down to the front desk to complain. They just said they’d refund my stay if I wanted. Maybe it helped that at the same time I was dealing with the front desk, several young children were running around un-supervised. One yanked the house phone out of the wall while another was prying signs off the walls, while several more were running amok in the breakfast area, knocking stuff over, while the staff was trying to set up for breakfast. The hotel must be really desperate for guests if they’re willing to put up with all that. Anyway, this was the first time I’ve ever asked for my money back at a Hampton Inn, and I’ve been using them for years and am a Gold rewards member.

Anyway, after a very cold day I made it to Dayton, Ohio. That’s only a little over 200 miles from where I started in Danville, but it was a grueling drive. Even with a sweatshirt, knit wool sweater, a jacket and a winter coat on top of that, it was bitterly cold. The sky was overcast and the air was damp, which just made the chill worse. When I arrived in Dayton, the temperature had made it up to a whopping 48 degrees. I got a room for 2 nights (at another Hampton Inn, presumably much more civilized).

Sunday is supposed to be 56 degrees here in Dayton, but Monday should be 65. The weather forecasts to the east are currently quite bad – Washington, PA (western edge of PA) is supposed to be rainy and cold through Tuesday night, and so on. I’ll have to decide what I’m going to do, as driving the last 600 miles to New York in cold rain is not my idea of fun.

Danville, IL

As expected, I’m in Danville, Illinois tonight. That’s just on the border with Indiana. For those of you who know the area, I’m just past the hump in the Interstate where the potash plant (not to be confused with a potato plant) is. There’s an ambitious “Danville Convention Center” marked on the map, but it doesn’t seem to have happened. If you know Danville, you’ll understand why.

I’m in the Hampton Inn, but I had to go the front desk repeatedly to ask them to tell people to pipe down. They say there’s 3 family reunions and 2 weddings here. It sounds more like a cross between a cattle auction and a gang fight, however. I was willing to cope with the people across the hall slamming their doors into the security latches (they were using them to keep the rooms unlocked), but the drum solo that was apparently going on above my head was just too much. Things seem to have settled down now – hopefully I’ll get a good night’s sleep. If not, I’ll take them up on their “100% satisfaction guarantee” and get a refund.

Saturday I’m going to try to make it to Columbus, Ohio. Rain is forecast for the middle of Ohio, though, so I may have to stop earlier, or worse stay here at the rodeo for another day.

Coralville (Iowa City), IA

Last night and tonight I’m in Coralville, Iowa just south of Iowa City. That’s about 60 miles or so from the Illinois state border. Once I hit the Illinois border, I’ll head down I-55 / I-74 to the eastern edge of Illinois in Danville.

I’m staying over another night in Coralville tonight because weather to my east was bad today, with thunderstorms across most of Illinois. Also, it was quite cold and windy here this morning, with the wind actually partially pulling the cover off the Atom. There’s no rain forecast for Friday, with a high of 65 / low of 36 here in Coralville, and a high (if you can call it that) of 61 in Danville. Saturday morning will be even colder in Danville, high of 58. Looks like fall is finally arriving. I hope to make it to Columbus, Ohio on Saturday night; Bedford, PA (high of 52) on Sunday night, and get home to New York on Monday. That all depends on whether I run into rain, or a forecast of rain, along the way. Right now, the extended forcasts look Ok through western Pennsylvania, but there is a possibility of rain in central Pennsylvania, through New Jersey, and into New York.

Random musings from the road

I thought I’d add a post with some random observations I’ve made in the last few days:

There are a lot more “road gators” (blown treads from retread tires) on the road this year. I don’t know if it is due to cuts in road cleanup funding, or truckers trying to get every last mile out of worn-out tires. I think it is a bit of both, as I encountered fresh ones in the road, with a truck pulled over a few 10th’s of mile further on with a blown tire. These things are really dangerous in a regular car, and could be fatal in an Atom.

There aren’t as many vehicles (trucks or passenger vehicles) on the road this year. There do seem to be a large number of RV’s on the road. Some of these rival Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge in both size and decrepitude. In particular, the nicer the RV is, the crummier the vehicle being towed is. In one case, there was a brand-new 40′ RV pulling a rusted-out pickup truck. In the bed of the pickup truck was an ATV. Towed behind the pickup truck was a plank-floor trailer (obviously home-made) with a golf cart on it. I wasn’t sure what I expected to see in the golf cart – a unicycle? a pogo stick? Anyway, this string of stuff was fishtailing madly down the highway at over 70 MPH.

It is really amazing that the pioneers got out here in wagons, on horseback, and sometimes on foot, with only a rutted dirt trail to go by, and sometimes not even that.