Between an NSF fellowship application that I submitted this week and a blog post for Unidata that’s in the works, I’ve been writing pretty much non-stop recently. However, the more I write, the more I realize how therapeutic it is for me, so I’m going to try and spend some time writing for my own personal self – in the form of this blog.

But, as I sit here writing this, it strikes me that I don’t really have anything to talk about. I’d love to share the exciting adventures that I embark upon or the cool new ideas that I’ve been working on, but there just isn’t much to talk about (at least for now).

I suppose something I could remark upon is my experience to moving across the country. When I first knew that I was moving to California, I was ecstatic. I had been to the state once previously (quite a few years ago in a family trip to San Francisco), and what struck me most was the laid-back atmosphere and genuine nice-ness of the people I met there.

 All loaded up - barely enough room for two All loaded up – barely enough room for two

But the closer I got to the departure date, the more nervous I became. This isn’t new for me (I tend to get very anxious about any leap into the unknown) but this is by far the biggest decision I’ve ever made. But, once I loaded up the car and hit the road with my father (I’d go crazy driving for 3 days without human contact), all those fears vanished. I was doing this, one way or another.

The first leg of the trip was from Minneapolis to Rapid City, SD. Nothing worth seeing here, just lots and lots and lots of corn. And the corn palace. And Wall Drug. Day two started well. After a quick Perkins breakfast, we hit the road – next stop, Salt Lake City, UT.  The meant crossing all of Wyoming. Diagonally. And to top it off, there’s no good way to do this on the Interstate without adding hundreds of miles to the trip. So you have to go on a bunch of 2-lane hold highways.

And, of course, 1,000,000 miles from any sort of civilization, my car decides to start falling apart.

And so it was, while pulling into Guernsey, Wyoming (Population 1,171), the car’s engine started misfiring. Bad. It was manageable when driving at speed, but the moment it started idling it would start rocking back and forth, almost dying a few times. Not good.

As there was nothing in Guernsey for us, we proceeded to the nearby (by Wyoming standards, about 25 miles) town of Wheatland. Wheatland was a veritable metropolis by comparison, with a population of a whopping 3,606. There was a Ford dealership there, but they would not look at a Volkswagen. They recommended the only mechanic in town. The mechanic, however, said that he was booked for two weeks straight and wouldn’t be able to look at the car either. He did, however, recommend that I take it to the nearest Volkswagen dealership in Fort Collins, CO. 112 miles away. At this point, the car could barely survive going highway speeds for more than 10 minutes. That wouldn’t work.

After pondering whether or not we should just give up and live in Wheatland for the rest of our lives, my dad (who’s very good with cars) decided that he would try and figure things out on his own. After consulting with a mechanic friend of ours by phone, we had a couple ideas. There was a recall for the ignition coil pack a while back, and we had got those replaced. While initially skeptical (since the new coils were supposed to fix the issue), we bought the only two remaining coils from O’Reilly’s. Popped the two coils into the cylinders that were misfiring, fingers crosses.

It worked.

I honestly couldn’t believe it. We went on our way, and while I spend the rest of the day worried that the problem would resurface, it didn’t. While the Wyoming did take quite a while to drive through, and my anxiety was high, we were greeted with some pretty amazing scenery.

 The Salt Lake Mormon Temple - quite an impressive structure lit up at night The Salt Lake Mormon Temple – quite an impressive structure lit up at night

We made it to Salt Lake City just after nightfall. Burgers and beer were the #1 priority. We walked around the city for a few minutes after dinner, but were too exhausted to do much of anything. We slept well, and continued onwards the next morning.

 Bonneville Salt Flats - (Photo Credit: Paul Sterzinger) Bonneville Salt Flats – (Photo Credit: Paul Sterzinger)

Then came what I can only describe as the most awe-inspiringly boring section of road that I’ve ever encountered. For those who don’t know, just west of Salt Lake City are the Bonneville Salt Flats. This is (and this is coming from someone who endured 5 years in North Dakota) the flattest terrain I’ve ever seen. It was flat salt in every direction for as far as the eye can see. For about 40 miles, the road did not have a single dip or turn in it.

On the other side of the flats is the town of West Wendover, Nevada. West Wendover welcomes its visitors by putting a sign on the freeway with “Starbuck, exit here”, neglecting to tell you that the coffee you so desire is buried deep within one of the many casinos in town. On a side note, if you ever have the chance to spend time in a casino in West Wendover at 9am on a Friday morning, you should take it. It’s quite an interesting experience.

 We did it! We did it!

After spending what seemed like an eternity driving through Nevada (I never realized how big this state was), we were greeted with best possible sight (no, not Reno): the Sierra Nevada mountains. All of a sudden instead of vast, empty desert, I was surrounded by trees and granite cliff faces. And the best sign in the world after 3 days of driving: “Welcome to California”.

From there, it was a 2-3 hour descent from the mountains into the Sacramento valley. We arrived at our AirBnB a little bit before dinnertime, walked to the nearest store for some beer, ordered some delivery, and relaxed. Later that night my mother and brother arrived into Sacramento International Airport, and we spend a very nice week exploring the various locations that are within a few hours drive of Sacramento. At the end of the week, it was time to move in to the new apartment and start a whole new adventure.

Post Author: lsterzinger

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