7:47 AM MDT
Our morning began at 5:00 AM sharp with the alarm clock. Well, not really /sharp/--it actually began about 15 minutes and two snoozes later. We reviewed our Last Minute checklist, checked our blogs and news sites and comics, said goodbye to Suede, packed up the car, and headed out.
This is the point where I should probably mention my newfound level of adoration for Microsoft OneNote. It is now, along with Money and Streets & Trips, part of my holy trinity of Microsoft products that not only don't suck, but rock like Ronnie James Dio. It is, at its heart, a glorified Notepad--but the ways in which it is glorified rise beyond the level of gimmick and transcend into incredible usefulness. It is trivially simple to take meeting notes, flag them any way you like for follow-up or organization, create to-do lists on the fly, and turn those to-do lists into Outlook tasks. This program was what allowed us to organize this trip as well as we did. It is made of win.
We've made a few stops this morning, one for a restroom break and one for food, and I'm consistently amazed at how ubiquitous WiFi is--and how very, very bad most of it is. As soon as we pulled into a random rest stop near Cle Elum, the laptop immediately picked up more than one available wireless networks. I meant to do something with it then, but we were to busy attending to nature. We picked up wireless networks at various gas stations, but they were all either secured or extremely low-quality. None of them along the way that we tried were usable. When we finally stopped for the night--and I'll get to that later--the hotel we had a reservation at which boasted WiFi only had it in certain rooms, and although we supposedly got a room with it, the signal strength was so awful that after five minutes of waving it around the room and holding it up in the air, the laptop only detected it twice, and was never able to establish a healthy connection. I did manage to connect to the network for a Realty company thatmust be next door, but it too was poor quality, and only managed to render the LJ main page once--when I tried to login, it just kept timing out.
So, not impressed so far with our wired nation. Then again, we've been going through fucking Montana and Wyoming, so I'm not sure what I expected. With that said, the WiFi in the hotel was not their fault--according to the manager, someone took out their repeater with their trailer.
Another thing that never ceases to amaze me is how very different Washington State is once you get east of the Cascades. As soon as you start coming down from Snoqualmie Pass, it's like you've been transported into Little House on the Prairie with paved roads. Among the many sights seen this morning were a crop duster doing acrobatics over what looked like a cornfield, going into steep turns and coming around for strafing runs. I had to fight to keep my attention on the road.
As mentioned before, I've been on lots of road trips, but having a laptop along is a really strikingly different experience. In addition to the net access at hotspots, I am endlessly entertained by watching our GPS marker move across the map and seeing what we're driving by. The route planner in Streets & Trips is surprisingly accurate, and occasionally amusing--when we pull into a rest stop or take an exit to get food, the laptop insists on petulantly reminding us that we're "Off Route" every few minutes until we get back on the highway.
I started the day driving, and we switched off at Moses Lake. We stopped at Spokane for gas before continuing onward, where we switched again so that Jess can write her post.
As we were passing through Montana, we got a bit of a scare. I'd forgotten that there were major wildfires going on in the state, and we're fortunate that all of them were north and south of our highway. Nevertheless, the air was filled with a haze that limited visibility considerably, and when we broke out into the clear, you could really see the immense cloud of smoke reaching across the sky, obscuring the sunset. It was spectacular, if unnerving, and I got a picture--we'll see how well it comes out.
Aside from stopping at a Cracker Barrel for dinner, much of the rest of the day was a blur. At some point we realized that rather than being ahead of schedule as we thought, we were actually behind due to the time zone changes. After dinner it quickly became obvious that we were not going to make a 10:00 check-in at our hotel in Buffalo, WY. We probably would have been fine, except that there were no less than ten different places between Bellevue and Buffalo where major road construction was ongoing, reducing the highway to one lane and making the going very hazardous at anything above 45 MPH. I can't even count how much time this lost us. We tried calling ahead to the hotel, since they said to call if we were going to check in late, and nobody there answered the phone for over an hour.
To make matters more fun, we ran into a thunderstorm shortly after crossing the border into Wyoming. A really, really spectacular one. I was loving it. Jess was terrified. The funny thing about this is that I was the one driving. Terror and delays aside though, it was probably one of the more beautiful things I've ever seen, and I've been through quite a few thunderstorms.
Finally, around 12:30 CT we pulled in to the Rodeway Inn in Buffalo, and checked in. We didn't bother bringing much of anything up except the laptop, we just crashed--into one of the hardest and most uncomfortable beds I've ever slept in. Prison beds are more comfortable than the ones in this hotel room.
Attempting to login to LJ in the room failed about half a dozen times, but the reception in the office is much better. I'm going to put this post up, check one or two things, then hand it over to Jess for her turn. We're getting started about two hours later than we intended, and we won't make the Ranger Walk at Devils Tower at 9:30, but based on yesterday's travel time we should arrive at my mother's in Charlottesville on the 14th.
Edit: Wow, the new LJ post interface is a total piece of shit.