Our Winter Road Trip Adventure
(
or From Boston to the Bay Area in 5 1/2 days)
1.  Boston, MA
2.  Bemus Point, NY and Jamestown, NY
3.  Erie, PA
4.  Denver, CO
5.  Las Vegas, NV
6.  San Jose, CA and San Francisco, CA     
Total Travel Time:
132 hours
or 5.5 days
Approximate Distance Travelled:
3,500 miles
A Little Background Info (okay, maybe a lot)

Lang and I have known each other for about four years.  He has always lived in Boston.  I have always been here in San Jose, CA.  Ever since he can remember, Lang has wanted to move to California.  He finally made the decision to move to San Francisco in February of 2002.  I thought Lang would be the perfect tour guide for Boston, so I wanted him to show me around before he moved.  I bought my round trip ticket to Boston for December 27-30, 2001.  I had mentioned to Lang how fun it would be to go on a road trip to transport his car to San Francisco in February.  He scoffed at the idea saying it would be a whole lot easier to ship it.  Well, when I sent him my flight info, he called me back a day later to ask me whether I wanted to go on a road trip with him to move his car.  Instead of moving in February, Lang decided to pack up all his stuff and move when I got there on the 27th of December.  We would be driving from Boston to the Bay Area hoping to make it to the Bay Area by January 3, 2002 so Lang could be in San Francisco to meet all his stuff being sent by UPS.
Lang and I back in 99
Car Specifics:
'92
Lexus SC400
Automatic Transmission
Power Everything
new $800 sport tires
Not your typical road trip vehicle
5 1/2 days in this... not too shabby...
Crash #1 (How Are We Going To Get Home Now?!?)

December 27, 2001
I board the plane at
SFO at 3:45 p.m.

December 28, 2001
I arrive in
Boston at midnight.  I am incredibly sick.  I was sick to begin with, but the five+ hour flight made it worse.  First thing I tell Lang when I see him:  I'm sick.  His response:  Can you still drive?  We head to his apartment.  Lang hasn't finished packing yet.  He also has to wait for the UPS man who usually arrives at 3 p.m. everyday.  Since I'm as sick as a dog, I am in and out of sleep up until we leave at 4 p.m.

4:30 p.m.:  We leave Boston.  Lang is in a hurry to leave.  The sun has already gone down.  My main reason for flying to Boston in the first place:  sightseeing.  Sightseeing done:  zilch.

8:00 p.m.-ish:  We make it to New York, no problem.  We are on the 90 heading West.  Lang is still driving, but he is getting tired.  We hit a small snowstorm.  This is the first time I've ever been in a snowstorm.  It looks like we're going warp speed in space.  Woohoo!  Roads are a bit slick, but Lang is handling his car well.  Lang mentions to me that his car is terrible in snow.  I tell him we need to get snow tires the next day.  He dismisses the idea (I figured out later that he didn't want to give up his new expensive tires.)

10:00 p.m.
:  My turn to drive!  We're still on the 90, but the electronic road signs are telling us that the 90 is closed between Rochester and Buffalo, NY.  We are wondering why.  (We found out later that Buffalo had been getting up to 7 feet of snowfall the past few days.)  We had to detour to the 86.  Lang is asleep now and I'm driving West on the 86 going through the "Southern Tier" of NY.  I'm making good time.

December 29, 2001
I'm still driving.  I start to notice plenty of snow on the sides of the road.  It's super early in the morning, but I'm not tired at all since I had slept all day.  My sickness has miraculously disappeared.  I guess the excitement of the trip has wiped it away.

2:30 a.m.:  It starts snowing.  Mind you, I've never driven in snow in my life.  I try to wake up Lang.  The roads are looking really slick.  I get my first warp speed feeling of my own, but not for long.  The road is pure ice.  The car starts spinning out and I lose control of it.  I go off the road into a ditch and slightly up the embankment.  The first thing that comes to our minds:  we're totally screwed.  AND it's snowing.

There's no way out of the ditch.  We keep the car running to keep ourselves warm.  It is extremely cold outside.  Thank goodness I have my cell phone.  We try calling
Triple A, but we're put on hold.  So we call 911.  The police show up fairly quickly to tell us that a wrecker will come to pull us out and in the meantime, we should turn off our engine because we're leaking a lot of antifreeze.  Now we know that we really are pretty much screwed.

3:00 a.m.:  Vern from Vern's Auto Repair arrives to pull us out of the ditch.  Vern tows us back to his shop in Bemus Point, NY pop. 340 because the police have kindly called a cab to meet us there to take us to a hotel for the night.  Vern entertains us for about half an hour.  He tells us that we can make it to Jamestown (the only "big" city nearby) to buy some "Stop Leak" to fix the antifreeze tank.  We ponder his advice until the cabbie shows up.  We believe Vern (actually, Lang believes him) and we turn the cabbie away (after giving him 10 bucks for his trouble) and we head on out to the great white yonder.

The roads are super slick.  Lang wants to find some coffee to warm himself up and we see a scary looking donut shop.  We head over cautiously in our car and a big man comes out of the donut shop and starts heading over to us.  We are terrified, but the car is slipping and sliding in the parking lot so we can't drive off quickly.  The man comes up and starts yelling and pointing at us.  Lang rolls down the window and we notice that it's the cabbie we turned away earlier!  The cabbie starts talking to us and we can tell right away that either he's not all there, or he's drunk.  The cabbie tells us that the front of our car looks pretty messed up.  Lang doesn't believe him.  We start heading off slowly and the cabbie bows to us!

We end up at a
Sunoco gas station/Sammy's Pit Stop.  We find some "Stop Leak" for the radiator, as well as coffee for Lang, and a very talkative cashier.  The cashier tells us about all the clubs he goes to in Fredonia and how we should check the area out.  (Yeah, right.)  He also tells us about his friend who has all these awesome cars with superman paint (paint that changes color at different angles), fingerprint and voice recognition, and driver seats in the middle of the car with passenger seats on either side.  Lang and I listen in disbelief.

4:00 a.m.: We leave the gas station and get lost in downtown Jamestown for a little while.  It starts snowing really badly.  We decide to stop under a highway overpass before getting on the 86 again.  We want to wait until morning for the plow guys to plow a way for us to get on the highway.  We try to sleep in the car, but it's freezing cold (10 degrees.)  We're very glad Lang brought his blanket with him.

6 or 7 a.m.: We wake up and the sun isn't even up yet.  Lang starts the car and it doesn't budge.  The engine is smoking.  Lang goes out and puts more antifreeze in.  He starts the car again and this time it moves, but only a few feet to the next overpass.  The car won't move an inch now.  We try calling Triple A but Lang's membership is expired (though Lang insists that he paid his bill.)  The first name that comes to our minds?  Vern!  We want him to tow us to his friend's shop that he mentioned earlier in the morning.  I dial up information and get Vern's number.  We call him up and he's still sleeping and he says he can't do it..  So we call up William's Towing instead.  The only problem:  we don't know where we are.  Lang and I have to go out and walk in the snow to find a street name.  We decide to split up and go in opposite directions.  It is freezing cold.  I walk for about half a mile to no avail.  Not a street sign in sight.  And my feet are wet.  I head back hoping Lang will have more luck.  Thank goodness he does. We call up William's Towing again and William shows up in 15 minutes.  We ask him to tow us to Vern's friend's shop (Martin's Service Center.) 

8:30 a.m.:   The people (Ed and D.D.) at Martin's Service Center are awesome!  When we explained our situation, they dropped all their jobs (they were booked solid) to help fix Lang's car so we could get moving on our road trip.  We get into Ed's car so he can drive us to the Comfort Inn to get a room to rest.  Just as we are about to leave the shop, guess who comes and taps on the car window?  Vern!  He had tracked us down so we could pay him $90 for towing us that morning.  We pay him and he wishes us luck.  We head over to the Comfort Inn (with no problems because Ed has snow tires.)  Luckily we are able to get a room at 9 a.m. in the morning.  I take  a shower and go to sleep.  Lang goes to Bob Evans to get some food, but I don't have an appetite.  It's snowing like crazy outside.

3:00 p.m.: We get a call from D.D.  The car is done!  Ed comes back to pick us up.  They had fixed the entire car!  Even the front end that went into the ditch!  (They had tied the bottom bumper up with a plastic tie and it looked like new!)  Such excellent service and they only charge us 240 dollars!  D.D. tells us to leave Jamestown A.S.A.P. to avoid the big snowstorm they are expecting in the evening.  I ask D.D. whether we need to get snow tires.  He tells us that as long as we drive really slowly, we shouldn't have any problems on the road.  We take his advice and check out of the hotel (stayed 7 hours for $90.)

Crash #2 (Thank Goodness For Guard Rails!)


4:00 p.m.: We say goodbye to Jamestown hoping we won't see it again.  We slip and slide all the way onto the 86 to start the most intense, nerve-wracking 2 hours of our lives.  We are trying to get out of the storm to get on the 90 to be safe.  We are riding the car with hands gripped tight and our nerves on end.  There is a line of cars all going 5 mph trying to avoid the storm and we are right smack in the middle of it.  Lang is trying hard to keep the car from spinning out on the ice.  We go over a bridge and traffic stops... but we can't!  Lang tries hard not to press on the brake (or we would spin out for sure!) but he can't do it.  The car's back end starts turning and we're heading right for the edge of the bridge.  All I see at the edge of the bridge is a foot-tall guard rail. Lang starts screaming.  We hit the guard rail, bounce off, spin around, and hit the rail again!  After the second impact, the car stops.  People are yelling out of their car windows to ask if we're okay.  We tell them we are.  We sit there for a while to catch our breath.  We are so glad the guard rail was there.  And we are glad it held!

6:00 p.m.: We make it to Erie, PA (which is 45 miles away from Jamestown) in two hours, slipping and sliding the whole way.  But we aren't in the clear.  It starts snowing heavily and we look desparately for a place to stay for the night.  We take the closest possible exit in Erie (Exit 29, Old Exit 8) and barely make our way to the Ramada Inn.  (We got stuck in an intersection covered in snow and the nice people behind us had to push us through.)  The Ramada Inn looks horrible.  Lang keeps repeating "REDRUM."  Quite scary.  But we have no choice.  It's $60 a night, the toilet doesn't work, the heater is loud, and snow is piled high outside.

7:00 p.m.: We decide we need to eat.  We hadn't eaten a normal meal in 24 hours.  The only restaurant in the hotel is called "Anna's Carrot."  Our view outside the restaurant is quite entertaining:  people are digging their cars out of the snow.  We aren't realizing that we'll be doing the same thing with Lang's car the next morning.

December 30, 2001

We sleep soundly and wake up at 11:00 a.m.  We are planning on staying another night, but when Lang looks out the window, he sees cars flying on the 90.  So he decides to leave.  I am reluctant, but we check out at 12:10 p.m. anyway.

12:30 p.m.: Lang is trying desparately to dig his car out of the snow with a borrowed shovel from the Ramada.  He comes back with frozen fingers and a sour disposition.  I go out to help him.  Tip for the future:  Do not ever go out in 10 degree weather with wet hair.  We have a hard time getting his car out of the parking space.  The tires are slipping on the black ice.  We heed the help of two snow-mobilers to push us out of our space.  We are on our way.  And we have left the borrowed shovel in the snow.  (Sorry, Ramada.)

We know we need to go south to avoid any more snow troubles.  We immediately go on the 79 when we have the chance and we see the SUN for the first time in two days.  No more snow on the roads!  No more slipping and sliding!  Yay!

Pennsylvania: There isn't much to see here.  But we do spot a water tower with Lang's name on it and a really cool looking bridge.  These two things are the first of many missed photo opportunities.  I cannot take photos because Lang is in such a hurry.  Blah.

West Virginia: We are in this state for only ten to fifteen minutes.

Ohio: We actually see snow on the sides of the road here.  But most importantly, there is no snow ON the roads themselves.  The car seems to be running fine.  We just need to be aware of the antifreeze/coolant level.  We're okay for now.
               
Columbus, Ohio:  NO SNOW ON THE SIDE OF THE ROADS!  NO SNOW IN SIGHT!  WOOHOO!
7:00 p.m.: Brookville, Ohio:  My turn to drive!

Indiana: The "Crossroads of America."  We pass by Richmond, the "All American City"  and "Covered Bridge Country"  (hehe).  Indianapolis is a pretty big city.  Too bad we can't stop and take a look around.

December 31, 2001

Illinois: There isn't much here.  We get gas in Effingham.  It's effing BORING.

Missouri: Wow!  St. Louis is awesome!  I wish we could stick around and explore.  OH WELL.  Since I am driving, I ask Lang to take my camera to snap a few pictures of the famous arch as we drive by.  Here is a sample of the pictures he took:
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Um, yeah.  Either he's an awful picture taker or he was angry that I woke him up from his nap.  Anyway, we pass through St. Louis with very little fanfare.  Useless info:  The 70 is called the "Mark McGwire Highway."
               
Kansas City, Missouri:  Lang takes the wheel here.  He says he is rested up.  I don't believe him though.  I can't sleep
                                                  because I'm worried about his driving. 

4:10 a.m.: We are tired.  And we're still driving.
Kansas: We are in tornado country now.  We are trying to reach Denver and we're ahead of schedule.  I can see the stars in the sky.  This is a good sign.  Seeing stars = no clouds = no snow.  But Kansas turns out to be the most grueling 300+ miles of our lives.  Driving from 4-7 a.m. in the morning with nothing to look at but flat lands and darkness is absolutely horrific.  We stop constantly to look for a place to sleep with no luck (everything here is so boonie-townish.)  "Thank you for coming to Kansas. Please come again."  We don't think so.

Colorado: We're ALMOST there.  We are extremely tired.  We need to sleep but Lang wants to keep going onto Reno.  He's CRAZY.

9:00 a.m.: We arrive in Denver a day ahead of schedule.  The La Quinta hotel is kind enough to let us move our reservation back a day.  Awesome.  We have a place to finally sleep and shower.  After freshening ourselves up and taking a much needed nap, we order "Fast and the Furious" in our room.  We laugh as we watch cars spinning out and crashing in the movie.

6:00 p.m.: We decide to go out in freezing Denver weather for dinner.  We find the Del Mar Crab House in quaint downtown Denver.  Dinner is only okay.

January 1, 2002

New Year's is a total waste.  Lang is asleep and I'm in the bathroom, extremely sick.  We both miss the ball drop.

8:00 a.m.: We wake up to find a half an inch of snow covering everything in Denver.  Uh oh.  We decide to leave quickly.

Crash #3  (Almost.  Phew!)

We're driving through the Rocky Mountains.  The roads are icy and slippery.  It is snowing.  Traffic is going very slowly and we keep going through tunnels.  Traffic does seem to speed up a bit in the tunnels.  Lang, however, is taking it to the extreme.  He is driving super fast through the tunnels to make up for lost time.  I am trying to discourage him from doing this, but he won't listen.  We are going through our third tunnel now.  Lang is going 60 mph.  I tell him to slow down.  He won't.  We can see at the end of the tunnel that it is PURE ice outside.  I yell for Lang to slow down.  He says he's trying but he can't.  We exit the tunnel with a big semi truck in front of us, a pickup truck behind us, a guard rail to the left and the mountain-side to the right.  That's when we start spinning out.  We do three 360 degree turns on the road after hitting a particularly slippery piece of road at 50 mph.  The only thing running through our minds:  Please don't let us hit anything!  Miraculously, we do not hit a single object!  (If we had, I probably wouldn't be here to write about it.)  We do kick up a lot of snow though.  We breathe a sigh of relief and wait until our hearts calm down.  That is when we realize that we are EXTREMELY lucky.  And it is a unanimous decision to ditch our trip to Reno and head towards Vegas before our luck runs out (and to avoid the snow in the Sierras.).

Las Vegas (Pushing Our Luck)

Grand Junction, Colorado:  I start driving here, but I stop when it starts snowing in Utah.  Lang is annoyed because he wants to rest. I don't care.  I'm not going to drive in snow ever again.  I promise him that I will drive all the way back home from Vegas.

Utah:  Utah is absolutely gorgeous.  There are lots of beautiful views in this state.  Everything is totally picture-worthy.  Too bad I can't take any.

Arizona:  I start driving again.  We are in Arizona for a little over 25 minutes.  It is dark but it's still neat-looking regardless.

8:00 p.m.-ishNevadaVegas!  Finally!  We make it in one piece.  We are starving.  We decide to eat at Bally's because of its Prime Rib and Alaskan King Crab Special.  It's more like Alaskan Miniature Crab.  I had a 9 dollar shrimp cocktail complete with (count 'em) 4 shrimp.  Woohoo!

We find a cheap-ass motel called
Wild Wild West Gambling Hall and Hotel for 20 bucks a night.  Definitely lives up to its price.  The sink knob falls off and it smells awful.  But it's dirt cheap, so we tolerate it.  We are tired as heck so we sleep through the night.

January 2, 2002

We wake up early in the morning to gamble.  We have the best luck at the blackjack tables and nickel slots.  We come away with an extra 100 bucks in our pockets... each!.
Hotels we frequented:
Flamingo Hilton
Barbary Coast
Bellagio (Awesome lunch buffet.  You have to try the hazel nut chocolate mousse dessert.  Yummmmm.)
Monte Carlo
Aladdin
MGM

4:00 p.m.-ish:  We leave Vegas to hit traffic on the 15 South.  I start driving in Primm, Nevada after we fill up on gas.
8:00 p.m.-ish:  We finally reach Los Angeles.  It is raining heavily here, especially in Pasadena

January 3, 2002

2:00 a.m.-ish:  Fog is heavy along the 5, 152, and 156 and I am fighting off sleep.  It doesn't help that Lang is sound asleep in the passenger seat.  I drive cautiously.

3:00 a.m.-ish:  I make it to my house in San Jose.  Lang eventually makes it to SF on his own.  We are home.  Finally.

Lessons We've Learned

1.  Don't go on road trips in the winter.
2.  Rent a car next time.
3.  Make sure the car has chains or snow tires if it's absolutely necessary to go in the winter.
4.  Don't ever drive through Kansas.  (Just kidding!)

Final Notes

We had the best luck ever on this trip.  We were fortunate not to get into any serious accidents (though we were close.)  We were also lucky that we got along.  I don't know how we got through it all without wringing each other's necks, but we didn't have any arguments or tiffs, thankfully.  We also noticed that most of the people we encountered were very friendly and genuinely willing to help.  We are very grateful for all the aid  we received from strangers we came across along our road trip.

Lang told me that he will never forget this trip.  I know for sure that I won't either.  It is definitely something to tell the grandkids when I'm older.  Well, even though this page is super long, I hope you enjoyed reading it.  Thanks for visiting.  =)
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