CT To CA — Flat First, Then The Mountains

Google Location history

We are in Avon, Colorado. Only one of us is awake. Why does driving, literally sitting in a chair, make you so tired?

The day started 581 miles ago in Lincoln, Nebraska. We picked up I-70 and turned west. The speed limit is 75 mph. I drove at 81 mph. That seemed the consensus speed. You don’t want to stick out when the police are looking.

Nebraska is flat! Really flat. Swamp flat.

Early on we saw corn fields, then more cattle than corn.

Even from the highway cattle stink! Someone needs to invent cow cologne.

I’ve learned a bunch of things through observation on this trip. One has to do with farmers.

I can’t tell you how cash flow is, but most of the farms I saw are big businesses with a great deal of capital at work. Usually the farmhouse is surrounded by other buildings used to accomplish the work of farming. That’s not done on the cheap.

Neither is the equipment you see, including motorized irrigation rigs that roll through the fields on tires. Some were at least 150 yards long and pivot around a center point, producing an irrigated circle of growth.

It was hot, gusty and humid today in Nebraska. Even our loaded SUV moved around in response to the crosswind.

I-80 in Nebraska has one highway artifact that’s extra weird. There are gates that can be lowered to close the road.

During snowstorms, when the wind comes sweeping down the plain, whiteout conditions make the interstate impassable. The road is shut often enough that permanently installed gates make sense.

The farther west we drove into Nebraska, the more sparse the population became and the drier the conditions. Once we turned southwest on I-76 and crossed into Colorado the landscape turned even drier… and uglier

Northeastern Colorado is just not pretty. The population is sparse. Many of the exits from the highway seemed to lead nowhere.

We stopped for gas at a tiny outpost straight out of a B-movie. The restaurant section had a large closed sign in front of it. The sign was not new!

The pumps dispensed Sinclair gasoline–a brand I haven’t seen in decades. There was a Sinclair dinosaur in the parking lot.

About a half hour after we left, the Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for that area. It warned of:


Glad we were gone. There was no place to hide.

By that time we were farther south, driving past the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility, aka Supermax. It’s home to Zacarias Moussaoui, Richard Reid, Theodore Kaczynski, Terry Nichols and a bunch of other sweethearts. It is wisely in the middle of nowhere.

A timelapse video as we drove south on I-76 is at the bottom of this entry.

As we approached Denver, the Rockies appeared! Seriously, one moment there was nothing, the next moment they were there. Some even had snow capped peaks. Colorado quickly turned gorgeous.

I-76 ends at I-70 and again we turned west. This time we were climbing the Rockies, heading toward the Colorado ski resorts (which can often be seen from the highway) of Vail and Breckenridge. The area is as upscale as it’s beautiful. How anyone who works here can afford to live here is beyond me.

I-70 twists and turns in ways unexpected on the Interstate Highway System, often while climbing or descending at a 7% pitch. It’s a beautiful road, through a spectacular area. It’s also quite scary!

Roadside signs warn truckers to stay in low gear and point the way to “Runaway Truck Ramps.” Farther down the road one sign advises drivers of out-of-control 18 wheelers not to exit, but to merge left and wait for a convenient hill a mile away.

While climbing hills, cars going 75 mph pass trucks doing 40! With lots of blind curves you come up on the slow traffic in a hurry. I-70 is not for the faint of heart.

I shot a timelapse of this part of the journey which is also below.

Tonight we’re staying in Avon, part of the Vail area.

We’re over halfway to our destination, Irvine, CA. To accommodate Las Vegas weekend traffic we’re stopping Saturday night in St. George, Utah, then cutting through a tiny sliver of Arizona before transiting Nevada and California Sunday.

CT To CA — Before We Head Out

So tired last night I forgot to mention, we are officially homeless. Don’t worry. It’s all good. Our house in Hamden closed Thursday afternoon. We don’t close in California until next Friday.

Until yesterday that had been a nagging worry. It was always in the background, but always there.

Even after the California sale is complete we won’t move in immediately. Our stuff from Connecticut doesn’t arrive until early July. Furniture we ordered won’t be available on day one either.

Helaine, the organized one, set it up so we could use the time to do all those things that are tough to do after a house is furnished! Time is a luxury.

We’re getting closet systems to better use our space. The same goes for the garage. We won’t have a basement or attic so this is like creating new space from thin air.

Our new home comes freshly painted, but the developer only paints one color for all the rooms. That problem gets solved too.

We’ll also take care of pavers and a gas grill for the “California Room” (not actually a room, but more like a patio), ceiling fans and some additional lighting. I’m hoping to get my friend Dennis (neighbors from age three) to come down from San Francisco to consult on planting our tiny open space.

So, lots to do once we get there. But first the drive!

I just checked the weather. A slight chance of thunderstorms as we approach Colorado this afternoon. We’ve been lucky so far.

CT To CA — All The Way To Nebraska

Google Location history

I’m writing tonight from Lincoln, Nebraska, continuing our trip to California.

This was a good day on the road. The goal was 600 miles and we did 627… though Google informs me it’s only 563 miles as the crow flies.

Next time we’re going by crow!

Overall we’ve driven 1,384 miles since we left Connecticut. That’s 48% of the way.

Lots of folks have been asking about Doppler. I can’t overstate how good a traveler she’s been, laying on Helaine’s lap with her head resting on the center console. Most of the time she’s dozing. She’s never a bother.

The trip has affected her appetite. She has refused to eat her normal food. We spent an hour or so going to Petsmart in Mishawaka, IN&#185. The dry food we got made no difference!

We’re told she will eat when she’s hungry. She’s still eating treats.

Google’s navigation app is how we find our way. Leaving Petsmart it took us to a road closed for construction!

Google knew the road was closed. It said so on my screen!

We tried to find another route, but Google kept asking us to u-turn and go back.

We ad libbed our own route, skirting around the Notre Dame campus in South Bend. This shopping trip/detour (and stops for gas and the bathroom) is why we only averaged 57 mph today.

Traffic was moderate on the Indiana Tollway. We stayed mostly at the speed limit with little opportunity to go faster. Things slowed down as we drove into Illinois, staying south of Chicago. Speeds finally picked as we moved into rural Western Illinois.

It’s easy to think of the Mississippi River as the center of the country. Not so! We’re 400 miles west of the Mississippi and just approaching the middle.

Next up was Iowa. I expected boring. It’s actually quite pretty. Both Helaine and I were pleasantly surprised.

We passed hundreds of farms along the way. It’s early in the season. The corn is as high as an elephant’s ankle.

What is tall (and huge) are the dozens of power generating windmills we saw. I’m all for clean energy and wind power, but the truth is, they’re a blight on the landscape.

If the folks here don’t mind, I don’t mind. I’m a definite NIMBY on wind power.

Around 6:00 PM CDT, 20 miles short of Council Bluffs IA, we pulled into a rest area to make hotel reservations. Iowa provides free WiFi at the rest areas. I plopped the laptop on the hood and pecked away. Thank you Hawkeyes.

We’re staying across the road from the Nebraska State Penitentiary!

The goal is another 600 mile day tomorrow which would bring us past Denver and through the Rockies. With Nebraska’s speed limit set at 75 mph (meaning a cruising speed around 83 mph) it’s easily doable.

&#185 – Mishawaka is best known as the home of Ann Nyberg’s sister.

Dan In Real Life

Helaine got to choose the movie Saturday night. This responsibility used to rotate, but she’s so much better than I am at picking – why bother!

We went to North Haven to see the ‘sneak preview’ of “Dan in Real Life,” starring Steve Carell.

Years ago, a sneak preview was really that – a sneak. You didn’t know what you were seeing until you got there. Not so now.

By and large movie studios ‘sneak’ movies they expect will produce strong word-of-mouth. That’s a good selling point for seeing a movie none of your friends have seen.

Helaine worried the theater might be sold out, so on my way back from Yale, I stopped in to purchase tickets. It was less than half full. She’s better at picking flicks than guessing the gate.

“Dan in Real Life” is an emotional movie. We were primed before it even began. The coming attractions featured a trailer for “The Bucket List,” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

We both cried like babies!

It was only a two and a half minute trailer. I’m bringing a box of Kleenex if I see the full film!

“Dan in Real Life” is the story of Dan Burns, (Steve Carell) a widower, raising three daughters. Family Affair, Courtship of Eddie’s Father, My Three Sons, Andy Griffith, The Rifleman, Bonanza… I’ve seen widowers and their children before.

It seemed like a plot device in those TV shows. It rang true here.

While at a family reunion in Rhode Island&#185, Dan meets Marie (Juliette Binoche). It’s a chance meeting at a bookstore, but there’s an immediate connection.

They part, only to run into each other again almost immediately. She is Dan’s brother’s girlfriend, also invited to the family weekend!

This is a story without a lot of surprises. The kids are cute and witty. His parents are level headed and supportive. Dan’s life, already in emotional upheaval from the death of his wife, is put on a spit over an open flame and turned.

There is little that doesn’t unfold as you expect.

A movie doesn’t have to be surprising to be good. Satisfying is enough. “Dan in Real Life” satisfies.

Carell’s Dan is a man worthy of empathy. Binoche’s Marie was worldly, attractive and cast as a love interest in a movie, without being fifteen years younger than the man the man she’s attracted to. For the record, Carell is 45, Binoche is 43!

Also in the cast, Dane Cook (annoying in this film, as I find him in real life), John Mahoney and Dianne Wiest. It’s a large supporting cast and mainly peripheral to Dan and Marie.

The concentration of sobs per minute was greater in the pre-show trailer for “The Bucket List,” but there was plenty of crying here too. There were lots of funny moments as well.

Good choice by Helaine again. I hereby forfeit my next turn as the Fox Family decider.

&#185 – Amazingly, no one spoke with a Rhode Island accent. In my opinion, it is the harshest accent in America, making Bostonians sound as if they’re from Nebraska.

The Climatic Skeptic In Me

Wednesday morning on CNN, Miles O’Brien and meteorologist Chad Myers, chatting.

O’BRIEN: Let’s check the forecast now. Chad Myers, you’re a little bit of a skeptic on global warming, I know.

MYERS: No, I absolutely believe that CO2 is heating the atmosphere, but also, some of these thermometers that we’ve had out in the plains for years or in the cities for years are getting surrounded by more buildings. So you get more buildings, you get more asphalt, you get more heat, so the thermometers are different. The whole — metro areas are getting warmer, where, in fact, maybe you just see — if you put that same thermometer out in the middle of a cornfield in Nebraska, maybe it wouldn’t be too much different. We’ll have to see. You know, I know that this is happening; it’s just a matter of how much it is, that’s all.

O’BRIEN: So, there’s a little bit of global paving, too, along with global warming?

MYERS: Well, there you go.

Myers comments got a quick rebuke on Mediamatters.org and spilled over to a weathercaster bulletin board I often read.

Like Chad Myers, I’m “a little bit of a skeptic on global warming.”

Here’s what I posted in the conversation after someone said, “This is a scientific issue, not a political one.”:

That one sentence cuts to the core of this controversy. Of course it’s a political issue. If it were a scientific discussion, we’d be hearing positive as well as negative implications to warming. Even in dire global warming scenarios, there are many beneficiaries.

If this were a scientific discussion, not political, graphs of CO2 levels would start at 0 ppm, not 310 ppm&#185. Starting high on the graph makes the increase look much more severe.

It seems, based on my limited contact with colleagues, that operational forecasters tend to be skeptics on the long range implications of additional CO2 in the atmosphere. I first noticed it at the “Million Meteorologist March,” when many of us were invited to the White House (excellent baked goods) to hear Al Gore speak about global warming. Most of the operational mets I spoke with that day were skeptical.

If you forecast the weather on a daily basis, you’re likely skeptical about the worst of the global warming predictions, because you’ve been burned by models and then chastised by viewers. Research mets don’t get that dose of forecast reality.

Last year I flew to Florida to see my folks. The plane stopped in Tampa on the way to PBI. As I looked out the window, I noticed the sky covered in cirrus clouds. As I looked closer, I realized they were contrails which had become diaphanous. They just hadn’t mixed out under the very weak upper flow.

I picked up my cellphone and called a friend – my expert on NWP. How, I asked, are these man made clouds taken into account in the models? They aren’t.

In fact all our short range models and certainly the multidecadal climate models, make assumptions, guesses and estimates. There’s just not enough data to properly initialize everything.

Tonight, based on the 12z runs, the models will have over predicted much of Connecticut’s temperatures by 5-10 degrees. And that’s just a 24 hour forecast!

In the meantime, I’m sure tonight many people in Fairbanks are saying of global warming, “Bring it on.”

PAFA 270653Z 00000KT 1/4SM R01L/3500V4500FT FZFG FEW001 BKN004 M43/ A2981 RMK A02 SLP123 T1433

That’s -45f with .25 mile visibility in freezing fog.

&#185 – Here’s the graph I was talking about.