Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sunday, July 02, 2006

the road trip from hell

Posted by Hippo Bean at 10:35 PM
hell began when we discovered a crack on the rental van's windshield. We were on upper Market, heading towards the Bay Bridge. We decided to call Hertz and were told to return to the rental office for a van exchange, so we went back to SFO. I already got used to the brand new KIA, roomy, clean and smooth riding. The new one, although the same model but older, seemed less roomy, and a bit beaten up. The brakes, we found out later, were a bit worn and squeaked when pressed and caused the van to shake. It was already 3:30 when we finally got out of SFO. The Saturday afternoon traffic on I80 was, as usual, bad, so by the time we got to South Lake Tahoe and checked in at the Forest Suites, it was already dark. We did a quick walk around the casinos (Caesar's Palace is no more, it's now called Bluemont!) and returned to our shabby 1br suite with damp carpet and no dishwasher. It's been a little over a year since we were at South Lake Tahoe. Last year, we discovered the new Heavenly gondola, the new village, and Embassy Suites. This time we stayed at the place I've sworn never to return. Nothing much was changed.

Hell continued with an early morning phone call. Saffy's group was leaving and we got to pick him up at Squaw Valley right away. We frantically packed and I went without breakfast. I was sorely pissed. The drive along the west shore was gorgeous in the morning and we got to the north shore after 10AM but Saffy's group was still there. I've never been to the Olympic Village before. It has nice shops and condos. Wonderful mountain backdrop. We had breakfast at the Starbucks and then we were ready to head to Truckee and then to Reno to take HI95 to Vegas when M discovered she left her laptop at the Forest Suites. So it was double back to the South shores and by the time we recovered the laptop and were ready to head down south it was already 2:30p.

hell did not leave us when we made the bad decision to cut throw 120 from 395. The road was curvy with lots of ups and downs, 2000ft apart. We were almost out of gas and completely out of water in the middle of the desert in high summer. So we decided to cut south to Bishop and continued down 395. It was 8p when we finally entered Death Valley. The road was long but paved, flat and smooth and spectacularly scenic. By 9p we stopped at Stovepipes for gas. The furnace heat was still there even when it was pitch dark. Saffy took over the wheels and drove like mad on 95. I was stuck at the back of the van with Giant Snowie and looking out the window to black nothing except a few stars and a half moon in the dark sky. Not much in terms of civilization, just desert outside the window. It felt lonely and abandoned. My iPod was in my bag behind the seat. Nothing to do, nothing to look at, and nothing came to imagination, nothing to daydream about. We finally made it to Vegas at 11:30p when Saffy made a wrong turn and went the opposite direction of the strip. It was midnight when we finally pulled up in front of the Hilton Resort. Mad house all around, with crowds still checking in. The parking lot was completely full. The only self parking alternative was on a dirt road. Or vallet parking. M got upset because she didnt want to park the rental on dirt. But the first night vallet parking was free so we went for it. We were all exhausted from being on the road for an entire day and I was hoping hell would finally end. A road trip to Vegas has never taken this long!

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