Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bug Guts, Fire, Smoke and Hail

I was recently offered a position with my previous employer in Indianapolis. I decided to take advantage of some time during the trip from Tucson to Indy to see my parents. My father lives in Gering NE and my Mother in Enid OK. Going to Gering first was the shortest route and would also be the longest part of the trip to Indy.

I packed up the corvette with items for my office and enough clothing to last two weeks between washes. According to Google Maps this part of the trip was 1089 miles or 17 hours 19 minutes, and because I have always been more of night person I decided I would sleep a few hours and leave at 3am putting me into Gering around  9pm.

Of course my nerves only allowed for an hour of sleep before I left, but according to plan I was on the road pulling out of Tucson at 3am straight up. There is something about 85 degree weather, an open road, a full tank of gas, 80's rock on the stereo, clean corvette, that makes a trip like this exciting for me. Then two hours into the trip the I hit the "smell of money". That is what my grandfather called a feedlot, the side effect of which was my first exciting moment of the trip, the bug guts. I knew it would eventually happen over the course of hundreds of miles, I just was not expecting it to happen all in one moment to the extent I had to pull over to clean the windshield to see.

My next stop and first fill-up was in Albuquerque, the mileage on the calculator coming out to 28.4 mpg and after a quick stop I was back on the road heading north. One of my big goals during this trip was to make it to Colorado Springs before 4pm, I wanted to stop by Under Pressure Performance and check out the corvette twin turbo kit they sell. At this point of the trip I was right on schedule, but that was to quickly change.

As I headed further north I came across signs set up in the median of the interstate talking about road closures and detours for towns I was unfamiliar with. Because the scroll speed of the signs was so slow I was unable to read the full message of them, so I decided to stop at the next one to read it completely. About 70 miles from the Colorado New Mexico border I found out that I25 was closed between Raton and Trinadad. With no other real options than to press forward I started listening to the local radio stations as I drove to Raton. Just before I got off at Raton I took the following picture.

About the same time the local Raton radio station was talking about the detour set up for the 25 miles of closed interstate. They recommended that you purchase gas in Raton because the detour was nearly 150 miles over roads under construction with stop and go traffic and no real refueling points. After paying the north of $4.00 a gallon gouge pricing in Raton, I did the math for that part of the drive and came up with 29.8 mpg.

I found out the radio station was just being nice about the detour. It was over 127 miles of driving South East before I could head north again in Boise City, Oklahoma most of which was chewed up single lane 30-40 mph stop and go roads.

This put me on two lane state roads for the rest of the trip with 65 mph speed limits and tons of traffic trying to get around the same section of interstate I was. I made fairly good time with the corvette making passing of the hundreds of 18 wheelers a safe simple task. Doing the math it looked like I might still be able to get into Gering that night around 10pm. With the trip to UPP being out I had the hour I had planned for it. Unfortunately I ran into two more road construction areas in Northern Colorado both of which were nearly 14 miles of single lane road in which a pace car would allow one then the other direction traffic to follow it at 25 miles an hour. The first site took me 35 minutes to get through the second one almost an hour.

I finally made it into Brush Colorado just before 9pm that evening and was getting onto roads I was slightly familiar with and decided to fill up and grab a burger while I was there. The mileage for the detour and back road drive came out to an impressive 31.5 mpg with an average speed of 67mph.

At this point the day was really starting to wear on me but I knew I was close to my dads home and caught my second wind. Driving north from that point I was entertained by the lightening show covering the entire northern horizon, it was too dark to see how bad the storm was and there are virtually no radio stations in that area that would report on weather in that area.

Driving forward I hit some areas where the ground was wet and then small sections of light rain, then about 10 miles south of Kimball NE I hit the heaviest hail storm I had ever been in. It happened nearly instantly and I had no real choice but to keep going north, It was coming down so hard I could only drive about 25 mph and the ground was completely white like it had just snowed. My only hope was to try and make it to where SR71 which I was on passed under I-80 to get out of the hail. As my luck had been running that day as I passed out of the storm the overpass for I-80 was just over a quarter mile ahead of me and by the time I got to it the ground around it was completely dry with no rain at all.

I found the following video that was taken of the same storm about 40 miles from where I was at.

I stopped at the mega truckstop in Kimball looking under their bright lights and expecting the worse for corvette, much to my surprise there wasn't a single thing wrong with it. It appears the cell I drove through was composed of very soft hail and while it sounded like someone was throwing rocks at my car it was more like millions of tiny snowballs which were not bouncing off the car, they were just breaking on impact.

The last 42 miles were uneventful and I arrived at my dads house right around midnight the additional "detour" took the trip from 1089 miles 17 hours 19 minutes to 1206 miles and 20 hours.

Hopefully the rest of the trip is not as "fun".

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