Snow, Snow, Snow

Updated January 2, 2008, 08:30 EST.

New stores visited: 76 photos
Coffee consumed: (X -12) * 4 + 36 = 292 oz drip coffee + 4 shot + 9 DoubleShot (includes 2 from stores where I was last customer)
Miles driven: 9064 - 914 (Albany tournament) = 8150
Spent on coffee: $49.37
Spent on gas: $420.35
Spent on tolls/parking: $25.20
Spent on accomodations: $48.41
Medications: 14 fake Excedrin + 2 fake benadryl (to sleep) + 2 fake Nyquill gelcaps

December 31, 2008

Up at 7:15 so I could visit three Philly-area stores, get breakfast, and hopefully pick up some cases of my precious Tradewinds tea exactly at 9:00 AM before rushing to Albany for Scrabble.

St. Joseph's Panic

December 30, 2008

At 7:40 I had only slept seven hours, so I tried to go back to sleep again. I'd learned from experience that getting up to early on that final day or two of the drive often meant I'd be more aggressive about what detours I could make, and that would often end up with me not driving as far as I expected on the final night. Couldn't do it, though,

Took 18 minutes to get in and out of Chick-fil-a and then Whole Foods, and then I was on the freeway with at leat 862 miles to Albany. I was no longer worried about forfeiting tournament games, but rather about my precious Tradewinds tea. The distributor in Marylnand

667 miles to Bensalem

Oh man, you know what sucks? When you put a sugar packet in your coffee but don't stir it right away to save time. When you finally start driving you forget to stir before taking a sip, and you immediately taste the strong unsugared coffee and grimace. Not wanting to swallow, you let the coffee drip back into the coffee, spitting a bit

Then when you finally get around to drinking it you

coffee back eye spalsh

That fear, that fear, that fear that the Goldboro store would close prompted me to go ahead and make that 90-mile detour. Halfway there I started to feel serious fatigue, and I had to down one of my DoubleShots. That's exactly why I had wanted to sleep as much as possible, so I wouldn't overcommit myself to too many detours.

My fatigue abated and was replaced with a jones for caffeine. It's not like I hadn't had any--at least 8 or 12 oz, plus a DoubleShot, but compared to what I'd had in NoCal and SoCal, plus Phoenix, that was a lot. I would have to manage my intake during the tournament in order to avoid severe headache.

I took a new route up around the DC area this time exiting I-95 not far north of Richmond to pick up US-301 to La Plata. Ordinarily I would have grumbled about having to take that route at night (since I'd have to return to reshoot the store in daylight), but I suspect I avoided heavy DC area traffic that I would otherwise have seen if I had visited the Manassas store instead. Just hope that Manassas store doesn't close down.

Despite not hitting much traffic anywhere, the day's driving still look longer than I'd hoped. Even at very high speeds from La Plata to Linthicum Heights, I barely made it from there to the Ellicott City (or Columbia) store before it closed, in large part because of bad directions. The upshot of my delays were twofold--first, I was forced to patronize the Yuck for a second time that day. Second, I was too late to make a tenative appointment with my favorite area massage therapist. After so many days of hard driving, I really wanted that massage.

My rushing hadn't ended, because by the time I got my Yuck sandwich

December 29, 2008

6:54, must sleep more

8:00, de3cide which route

chick fil

8;44, have yuntil iu-30 to decide

1663, 51 hrs, maybe 52 avoids forfeiting assuming late start, 15 hrs sqleep = 37 driving ,

but when do atlanta stores close

another factotr , when atlanta stores close? 10 pm, a little over 10 hrs to derive 809 miles, dicey with gas stops

if i astop in atlanta , wthen i drive 1000 miles on tuesday and wed monring

fuck forgot to vcheck whetahter

11:00 AM (EST), 712 miles to go

12:03, 628 miles, LA state line, stiill following red/burgundy pickup

13:00, 552, but despite my Fit's MPG, my gas tank could not keep up with the red pickup. I had to stop and let him go. Dang. Five or six minutes for gas--MUCH TOO LONG!!!

14:00, 473, pretty good considering the gas stop

14:32, Mississippi line

15:00, Jackson, 402 miles left

16:00, 327 left

14:34, Alabama line, 281 miles left

16:49, had to gas up again. Could have gone another 30 miles, but map didn't show anything with good food options 'til Tuscaloosa, and that was too far. So I had to do the yuck, yuck, yucky thing and go for Burger King. Ugh.

Mexican restaurant clsoed

But I still felt dirty.

it was so bad--chicken, if that's what it was, tasted absolutely awful

Even if it hadn't been five days since I showered, I would have really needed one after that sandwich.

Only saving grace was that I could still make Marietta before 9:00 and hopefully get some decent food

5:03, back on freeway, 267 miles left

18:00, 190 miles left

19:00, 119

20:0, 42 MILES LEFT

Dang!!! Looked like I was going to hit the Perimeter well before 8:30, which would have given me plenty of time to detour to teh

bland beans and rice

third pass

960 miles, want to hit 100 but start to fade fast,

Murphy USA by itself, Wal-Mart far away, at least 15 minutes, probably should have gone for the $30 Motel Six room


December 28, 2008

Up at 6:37, in and out of the Fry's as quickly as I could manage, then rush to the Oracle store, but not too quickly beccause of all the cops I had seen on Ina the night before. Barista a bit rude--she rang me up for a tall instead of a short. I pointed this out, and she quickl;y and curtly replied "No I didn't." Then she caught her error but did not apologize.

took me a long time to get onto the interstate

because they had about 5 miles worth of on-ramps onto I-10 closed

didn't hit until 7:25 (9:25 eastern). That left me about 3 days, 3 hours to drive 2800 miles, my preferred route to

coud shave miles off, but locked in thur El Paso

Kept plotting different routes from El Paso to Albany that hit different Starbucks, calculating drive times,

About 40 miles from Las Cruces

Uh-oh... what's wrong with me? I usually shun Asian food, except by necessity. But I guess my three months in Twin Lakes, WI, with egg drop soup and rice as my only convenient quick dinner option has changed my tastes. I actually chose Uncle Bao's, Schezuan cuisine, over the Mexican restaurant across the street.

No matter how many times I experience it, it is always surprising how much my perception is affected when I pull off the freeway after driving 90-100 MPH for a good distance. For a few moments everything my sense of motion seems distorted.

About 10 miles outside Avilne I sneezed... twice. NO NO NO NO NO!!! I CAN NOT GET SICK

with more than 5 minutes to spare

too much time finding Wal-Mart

9360 miles

December 27, 2008

Couldn't sleep past 5:30, and decided ten minutes later to go ahead and start driving. I knew it was going to be a problem, because I couldn't run a sleep deficit for four days straight.

Morning went pretty smooth except for when I got downtown, to the store in some shopping/entertainment complex called L.A. Live which, by coincidence, I'd heard mentioned on the radio as part of a revitalization of downtown Los Angeles. Anyway, parking was a pain in the ass. First task was to figure out what part of the complex housed the Starbucks so I could minimize walking (jogging) time. I then tried to risk parking illegally, but upon crossing the street I saw a parking enforcement officer pass by

What the fuck, yo??? A few blocks from L.A. Live is the offending 12th & Hill store that frustrates me so. I go to photo it anyway just in case it closes before I get to visit. I'll still lose a piece of my soul if that happens, but I'll be able to take some comfort from knowing I have a photo. Hmm... perhaps I should have licked the sidewalk in front of the store on the presumption that there's gotta be spilled coffee there.

Anyway, just as I was about to shoot a man, carrying a grocery or shopping bag, perhaps homeless, perhaps not, walked up to the door and pulled on the door. Unsuccessful, he started to walk off, but then he abruptly turned around and walked back to the door. He did not pull on it again, but he instead stood there and stared at something. For a good long time. All the while I was thinking "Yo homes, the store is closed already--what the hell you looking at, yo??? WILL YOU FUCKING MOVE!!!"

View from the street in front of the Vineyard & Holt store

Whew, close call!!! I almost visited an older store in Norco, at the Hidden Valley exit off the I-15. I had a feeling there might be another store nearby, so I tried to confirm the address. I couldn't see it on the building or door, so I made a note of the phone # instead.

no new OC

Idiots, idiots, idiots!!! I cruised from Mecca to the Phoenix metro, so fast that I had hopes of shooting a couple of new stores in daylight. Unfortunately traffic slowed to a crawl about nine miles from my exit. It was a construction zone, but there was no constructions. There was no reason for the slowdown except that drivers are idiots! AARRGHH!!! Now I have to go back to those two Starbucks I could have day shot.

rush Tucson


Give up EB

December 26, 2008

So it began, t 5:30 AM, what I expected to be four grueling days of driving, 3500 miles, at least, if I hit all the Starbucks I wanted to. I should note that even if I wanted to take a direct route, just 2900 miles, that would have been a problem because a lot of snow had been dumped on I-80 in the Sierras nd chains were required. Even if I got past without chnins, which was likely later in the day, I would lose time. Just made sense to take the sourthern and safer route.

OMG! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!! For the second time I was going to miss the 12th & Hill store in Los Angeles. First time was on Saturday and they were closed. Now it was Friday, but they were closing at 2:00!!! AARRGHH!!! I swear they better not close that store down before I get to it!!!

Wow, even if I had chosen to shave distance by taking the I-40 route eastward, I would have been out of luck. A lot of snow was falling

Dang, just when I thought I was done with snoww for a while, I get on US-50 westbound and pull behind a white SUV that proceeds to dump snow from its roof all over the road. I want to get ahead of it, but the fucker is speeding like a madman.

Felt a serious coffee buzz for the first time, thanks to a redeye. I'd had no need to order any solo espressos because I had not visited that many stores in a single day (and thus my stomach was not full of liquid). But at a Sac-area store the coffee ran out, and since I was in a hurry I asked for a solo (and got it free). I mixed it with a sample from another store to form the redeye (extra strong since it had just 4 oz drip. I purposefully waited until after finding lunch (a burrito) before downing the concoction, but I still felt a caffeine rush.

Oh, curse the Implosion and its ramifications, the primary of which is that I can no longer dismiss out of the way stores and assume that they will be there during my next trip. California weas particulartly

It was a little past 9:00 when I hit the second new store in Bakersfield. The next store down near L.A. was about 107 miles away. I could do that in 90 minutes, no problem, but I was really exhausted. I didn't know if I would be able to manage the wind gusts along I-5 along with the curves and hills. Nevertheless when I saw the rest area I passed it up, and I found a second wind to push on to North Hollywood. After getting a shot to add to the two samples I had in the car, I found a parking spot just a block away. Convenient, because I could then reshoot the store in daylight... if I managed to sleep that long.

December 25, 2008

The rain continued throughout the night. When I woke up around 5:30 I felt perhaps okay to drive, but it was still raining, so I went bck to sleep. I finally started up again at 6:25, and I cursed myself because I was going to waste some daylight. I was so focused on San Francisco that I had forgotten about reshoots north of the city. Fortunately I realized this in the nick of time and discovered I needed to reshoot the Windsor stores, just about 10 miles down the 101. By the time I arrived, light was just barely adequate, so as it turned out I had gotten up at the exact right time.

Damn! Just what I feared. Lots of stores open on Christmas. Seemed like more and more every year. Good thing I had learned, and I was calling stores before driving there so I wouldn't waste precious Christmas daylight.

Got into San Francisco just before 10:00, and with the sun just barely wanting to push through the cloud cover. Come on, Mr. Sun, I shouted--you can do it!!!

Interesting moment at Grant & Bush, which is adjacent to Chinatown. There were people on all four corners, many photographing the street leading into the Chinese shops, another photographing a a fancy storefront. I was the only one photographing the Starbucks.

Ooookay. Someone wasn't having a merry Chrristmas. As I shot the Sansome store I could hear a presumably homeless man yelling as he walked down the alley. There was, of course, nobody the there, but the man continued yelling nonetheless. He would walk a bit, then stop, turn around, and yell at imaginary foes.

Despite my slow start, I managed to reshoot enough San Francisco stores that I was hopeful I'd reach 50 before the light faded. I lost about 15 minutes waiting for breakfast from some place called Sparky's, but that was the least of my worries. No, my day, and my trip, was almost shot down in Palo Alto, at my first new store of the day. As I took my laptop, water, and coffee back to the car, some coffee spilled, but just on the touchpad. I didn't think it was a problem, but when I put the laptop back in the car it was turned off... and it wouldn't come back on. My heart stopped. If the problem would not go away by itself, when the liquid dried, I was fucked. Dammit! Shoulda brought the spare laptop and shoulda had regular backups of files.

I went back into the store and asked a customer with a laptop to look something up for me--got the names of the two stores that were supposed to be open 'til 5:00 PM. With everything closed, nothing else I could do but proceed to the next reshoot--I remembered that one at least. Tried the laptop again--no dice. Had to stop a gas station and buy a nap so I could find Bollinger & De Anza. Went over there, and it was... closed!!! Damn! They had said 5:00 PM! Nothing to do but continue on to I-880 & Mowry. On the way, I tried the laptop again, and blessed saints, IT WORKED!!! Believe you me, I felt more relieved at that moment than when I managed to regain control of the car on I-5 south of Portland.

December 24, 2008

Woke up at 6:05 and quickly felt it was going to be hard to fall asleep again quickly. Good thing I started driving though, because I managed to clear mile 39 probably minutes before a truck rolled over.

I was also lucky that there was no enforcement of the order requiring chains on all vehicles in the Portland metro area. I wasn't about to waste precious time trying to find chains, especially not when most of the other cars driving into Portland didn't have them. And when I crossed over the border it became apparent Oregon DOT was just being overly cautious. The roadway from the bridge through the central part of Portland was perfectly fine and mostly dry. Chains were completely unnecessary.

Conditions did get back south of Portland, but chains would not have helped. The problem was accumulated ice and snow, perhaps mixed with dirt, that formed an extremely bumpy surface on most lanes. It was like driving on rocks much of the time, and I had no choice but to stick to the lanes, usually just one, that was smoothest. Most of the time it was the left lane, but sometimes it was the middle lane. Every time I changed I had to angle the car sharply and hold the wheel firmly because there was a fairly high accumulation forming a divider between the lanes. I actually lost control once when changing lanes and began to slide, first one way and then another. There was an SUV behind me in the lane I was changing to, and I was sure it was going to hit me, but I got lucky and was able to regain control of the car. It would be many more miles before I deemed it safe to attempt to change lanes again.

Incidentally, there were no new stores for me to visit in Portland. This made sense given the implosion, but I was still surprised because most metropolitan areas had picked up at least one new store in the 6 months since the implosion was announced.

It seemed like all the heavens were bound to conspire against me for the entire trip. I had finally made it past the snow, and down to Crescent City, and I hoped that I could make it 242 miles further to the Ukiah store before it closed at 8:00 PM. Make that drive in 4 1/2 hours along winding US-101 would have been iffy under the best of conditions, but what I got was far from ideal. Rain, then wind, then heavy rain made the 65 MPH speed limit irrelevant.

As I neared Fortuna and got phone reception I called Ukiah to see if the manager was their and could save me a coffee in case I was late, but I learned my efforts were for naught. Whoever had told me they closed at 8:00 was wrong--they were actually closing at 6:00. I had no chance whatsoever, and I would have to skip the store for a second time.

I had assumed I was going to reach San Francisco and sleep there, but the rain got heavier and heavier, in spots, and made the driving relly difficult. The rest area was 145 miles from SF, and I had really wanted to drive farther, but my head was hurting and I needed a break from the curves nd hills and rain.

December 23, 2008

6:15. Dang. I'd hoped for a full 9 hours of sleep in a bed, but I couldn't sleep past 6:15 (7:15 Mountain, 8:15 Central).

Oh wow, the coffee from that last store was frozen!!! Well, of course, given the temperature, but that had never happened before, in all the times I'd left coffee overnight to drink in the morning. I guess it was because I was not in the car and did not run the heat. Didn't really matter, because thawed-out coffee couldn't really taste much worse than cold overnight coffee, but I wanted to drink it ASAP so I could get that boost.

Oh, man, this is not good. Not good at all. I hadn't even been driving for 30 minutes when the pain in my left leg resumed. I figured it took several hours of driving for the pain to start, but I guess the effect was cumulative and required more time to wear off than just a night's sleep.

What the heck??? A group of fat birds just stood there in the middle of the road as I approached. With the road icy, there was nothing I could do--I had to take out two, three, maybe four of them. Stupid birds. I had thought them smart enough to get out of the way. From that pont on I started blowing my horn as I approached birds.

Bleak vistas almost all the way to Chelan.

Immediately upon reaching Chelan I spotted the Apple Cup Cafe. I didn't want the hash browns so waitress gave me an extra biscuit. As soon as I opened up the container I knew the it was going ot go to waste, because those biscuits were huge! Mighty tasty, too--only problem was it got hard a little two quickly. Part of the reason might have been that I had to reheat the breakfast after visiting the Starbucks. Can't say much for the eggs or bacon though. I didn't like the way the eggs were scrambled, and the bacon, though flavorful, was a little hard.

Finally sunlight and a pretty vista.

Spent the near three hour drive from Omak to Snohomish calculating and debating whether to visit stores in Oak Harbor, Burlington, and Lynden. I expected the trip to take at least 3 hours, perhaps more with traffic and weather, and I had to consider this and several other factors. The most important was Christmas Day, because I needed to be either in the Bay Area or in SoCal in order to take the most number of photos with stores closed and free of people and cars. Since Christmas comes just once a year, that had to be the priority. However, I had noticed that every year there seemed to be more and more stores open on Christmas, and I wondered if I should forgo my Christmas reshoots this year and instead get up to Vancouver. Another factor was my desire to make it to a several California and Arizona stores that I had to skip over the summer. But the determining factor turned out to be... the weather. Despite two straight storms, yet more snow was predicted, for late Tuesday, and I simply could not risk further delays.

Oh blessed angel!!! I was finally able to squirt wiper fluid for the first time since Friday night!

Snow hadn't even started yet, and traffic was unbelievably awful. As much time as I was losing, I was thinking I almost should have gone to those other stores north of Seattle. At least by the time I returned the traffic would have lightened up. Stupid snow screwing up my trip all the way across the country.

As I crawled along it occurred to me that I might not even make it to all five of the new stores south of Seattle. I called one to see when it closed, and I was dismayed to learn it closed at 7:30. I might have made it if I headed straight there, but then I called the Bonney Lake store and learned they closed at 8:00. Given the snow, I wasn't going to be able to make it to both. Even worse, it didn't look like I was going to make it to both Steilacoom and Olympia.

Ach!!! Garn it! Having decided to skip the Lacey store in order to get as far south as possible before the snow came, I ended up feeling too fatigued to drive just 10 miles south of the exit!!! I could have just stayed in Lacey and visited the store in the morning.

December 22, 2008

7:15, not quite 8 hours, but hopefully I'd banked a few hours the last two nights.

Ouch. Running with all windows up for so long was having an effect. Went into Starbucks to shave and get oatmeal, and when I returned to the car the pungent odor was distinct.

Crap!!! For the second time I noticed water dripping from the ceiling of the car, towards the front, from a hole in the thingie that holds the rearview mirror in place. Each time it happened when the car had warmed up a bit and started moving, so I'm thinking there was ice in there that melted.

I was greatly relieved to finally reach Missoula, but I was at the same time worried about the pain in my left leg that seemed to be increasing as the trip progressed. Every time I got out of the car I felt a pain shoot through that leg, and I limped around a bit.

MOTHERFUCKERS!!! After a grueling 3-hr drive, I reached Cour d'Alene with just the tiniest hint of light in the sky for a photo. The Starbucks was about a mile or two from the freeway exit, but I sat there for at least five light cycles!!! AARRGHH!!!

At a new store in Spokane I learned the area had received a record amount of snowfall. Ah, that explained why I had gotten stuck... twice! First, trying to exit the parking lot in Coeud d'Alene, and then trying to get into the parking lot in Spokane. Both times a couple of guys came over and pushed my car while I felt stupid. From that point I had to be more careful in driveways and take them with a bit more speed to avoid getting stuck. Stupid Fit--rides too damn low!

With no passes shown on the Washington DOT map between Spokane and Chelan, I decided it was safe to take US-2 west. The site reported compact ice and snow, but the route west was mostly clear. Oddly enough, the eastbound lane was covered with snow. I guess I got lucky.

One my worries about US-2 was where I would sleep. I did pass a rest area, but it was too early yet, and I pushed on to Davenport. I passed up the first motel because it was still too early, but I changed my mind when I saw the second and decided to inquire about a room. Davenport Motel was closed, though, so I kept driving. Nothing in Creston, but Wilbur had a couple of motels. It was almost 10:00, and the room was just $48, so I decided it was a good idea to stop for the night. Near as I could remember, that was the first time I'd rented a motel during Starbucking, when I had my own car, excluding in June when I returned from Beirut sick and my mother really encouraged me not to sleep in the car.

December 21, 2008


The roads were clear, but the wind seemed even stronger. Besides the increased level of attention needed to make sure the car didn't drift too far, I had to be extra careful on the overpasses. Not because of ice, but because with my arms continuously turning the wheel against the wind, when the barriers abruptly blocked it, the car tended to jerk to the right.

150 miles from Rapid City was the first point at which I felt a sense of satisfaction and relief about finally being able to travel again. I usually get that feeling immediately upon leaving, but all I was feeling this time was dread and worry about the weather. With clear roads and a sunny sky though, I finally started enjoying myself.

Holy wow!!! Over thirty-seven hours from leaving Chicagoland to reaching the new store in Rapid City. As far as I could remember, that was the longest amount of time that had ever passed between leaving on a Starbucks trip and reaching the first store. One exception might have been my very first road trip in 1998, but for that one I actually missed a store in Tucson because I didn't know about it.

I'll say one thing about driving 900 miles... after those 37 hours, the 220 detour to Casper, WY, along clear highway, did not see daunting in the slightest. Though I preferred not to detour that far, but rather to wait until my route took me through an area, I could not reasonable expect that my route would take me thru Casper anytime soon. Better to get the stores out of the way now than to worry about whether they would close.

Heh. "Crazy Woman Creek", I-90 mile 73 in Wyoming.

Besides the relative shortness of the 220 mile detour to (and from) Casper, another factor that made me brush off the drive was the price of gas. Regular was $1.29, but since my car needed 87 octane I had pay $1.40. Can you believe that's about $3.00 less than what I was paying in some places during my summer trip!!!

With predicting snow moving from Washington eastward towards the mountains, I wanted to drive as far as possible in the hopes the storm would pass over me during the night. I got as far as Billings and found one of the Wal-Marts. Sleep was easier for what I imagine are several reasons. First, I had discovered that quite a bit of cold air was coming in through the passenger door, and when I opened and shut it more firmly I noticed a big difference. Second, the sheet underneath me was not as cold, and I realized that the reason was it wasn't wet. I had forgotten that much of the ice I had scraped from that window the day before had fallen on the sheet, and that's probably why it was so cold. Third, there was hardly any wind.

December 20, 2008

Woke up just before 8:00, but I lost some time in the Wal-Mart looking for my wool cap that had fallen out of my pocket. It was 9:00 by the time got oatmeal from Starbucks and hit the freeway. Not that it mattered--I wouldn't have been able to reach Rapid City before nightfall under ideal conditions, and the weather was far from ideal. I soon saw snow that got progressively worse. I was careful and only had briefs skids a few times, but I had a constant problem with visibility. The car's wiper fluid mechanism was frozen, and it was a struggle to keep the windshield clear enough to see. I had to pull off the freeway no fewer than three times simply to clean the windshield.

Not a great burrito, but halfway decent at least, from B.A. Burrito Co. in Lacrosse.

As the day progressed I found it harder and hard to keep my windows defrosted. Occasionally I would lower and raise them to wipe off the condensation, and after a while it became difficult to make the windows lower. I discovered something shocking--that wasn't just condensation on the windows--it was ice!!! Yes, actual ice was forming on the inside of my windows, and it was getting thicker the longer I let it go. By the time I pulled over for gas I could not wipe it off--I had to use a scraper. This was a completely new experience for me. Ice inside my car--whoda thunk it?

I was greatly relieved when I finally saw the sun peeking through the cloud cover, just west of Albert Lea. Unfortunately it was already late in the day, and the sunlight wouldn't last long.

Dammit, that's not fair!!! In Jackson, MN, I ran my credit card and pumped my gas. I would have left except for being hungry and going inside to pick up a hot dog and chips. When the cashier rang me up she charged me for the gas, and when I inquired I learned the card had not been authorized!!! The cashier said the same thing had had earlier, and what they had done was to call the sheriff to track down the driver for payment. That's bullshit. That sheriff could just as easily have arrested the other driver, but since she was a woman that seems doubtful. I, on the other hand, could easily see myself being arrested by some racist cop for something that was not my fault.

In South Dakota the roads finally became clear of wet snow, but that hazard was replaced by another--blowing snow! The wind was extremely strong and blowing snow across the roadway, sometimes leading to near whiteout conditions.

Finally pulled over at a rest area about 200 miles from Rapid City. Had to run the heat the entire night, and still I could not get completely warm. The biggest problem was beneath me. The sheet on which I was sleeping seemed to be transmitting cold right into me. I wasn't sure why, but I needed to get yet another blanket, beaneat me, to see if that made a difference.

Around 6:30 the air felt warm so I turned off the engine to see if I could let it rest for a while. Nope. Less than 30 minutes later the air was once again cold. Damn, that was fast.

December 19, 2008

The good news was that I didn't have any trouble taking two weeks off for the holidays. With the manager out the week of Christmas, and the lead programmer leaving that Tuesday until after the New Year, my taking an extra couple of days did not seem like a big deal.

The bad news was the weather. The whole reason I needed the time off was so I would have time to make it out to the Pacific Northwest to visit several outstanding stores in Washington plus Rapid City, Missoula, and Kalispell. And, while out West, it made sense to give myself the time to head down to California. Despite the implosion and reduction in new store openings, there were still at least 36 new stores that had opened since I left in July. That represented at least three days, maybe four, and if I could get those out of the way now, I would be freer to focus on an overseas trip once I finished my Wisconsin job.

Anyway, the weather was promising to be an issue. A storm had dropped serious snow in Chicagoland on Thursday night, and while I was relieved the snow had come Thursday and not Friday night, I still had to assume my travel time to South Dakota was going to be affected. I also had to worry about a possible storm hitting the west before I reached Washington state. Actually, before I reached Seattle. I'd already had one scary experience crossing the mountains in central Washington, and I hoped never to repeat that.

As urgent as it was for me to reach Seattle before bad weather returned, another factor came into play. Not one, but two, Starbucks were closing down for good in Chicagoland on Friday, at 9:00 PM. Traveling down there would add over a hundred miles to my route to South Dakota, but I had been wanting to be the last customer at a store for months. This was my best shot, so I left work about as late as I could, 6:45, and headed down towards River Forest.

I thought two hours and fifteen minutes would be plenty of time, so I stopped at the new store in Lake Zurich, stopped for food, and stopped for gas, but once I realized I was moving much slower than I expected, I began to worry. It would have really sucked to detour over 100 miles only to reach the store just after it closed. Fortunately I was able to hit speeds close to 80 MPH once I reached the freeway, and the seeming ever-present delays on North Avenue did not last the whole way. I finally reached the store about 5 minutes to 9:00 to find, surprisingly, not a single customer! The article I'd read on Thursday had led me to expect that there would be a vigil of some sort. If not actually candles, at least some customers milling about. But nope, there was nobody but me, and thus becoming the final customer was easy as pie.

No 10-minute rule--the barista was, if not exactly "eager", at least anxious to lock the door and be done with it. Upon returning to my car I decided to go ahead and call the other closing store, in Elmwood Park. When I called earlier that afternoon I'd been told they would close at 9:00. The staff at River Forest confirmed this. Nevertheless, when I called again I was told 10:00. Cool! After waiting nearly six months to be the last customer at a store, I was going to get a twofer.

RATS!!! When I could not access the Internet via the AT&T wi-fi at the River Forest store I wondered if access had been turned off, but I couldn't see why anybody would do that. But Internet access was not working Elmwood Park either, and that didn't seem to be a coincidence. Thing was, when I had stopped at a Kalamazoo store back in September the day after it closed, I had no problem accessing the Internet. Strange.

Before I remembered the Starbucks closings my plan was to drive at least four hours toward South Dakota on Friday night, maybe even hit the Minnesota line. Once I decided to head down to River Forest I figured I could sstill drive until midnight. Then, when I learned that Elmwood Park closed at 10:00 I revised my hopes--I would be satisfied with Janesville. No such luck. I'm just too old now, and I started to feel fatigue before I even reached Wisconsin. I decided to just stop at the Wal-Mart in Beloit, but when I saw the rest area I just parked there.

I should have continued on to Beloit, because in the middle of the night I remembered I needed to park near the Starbucks for a few hours and finish downloading podcasts and some shows. I drove there from the rest area without having had proper time to wake up, and I spent the durationg of the five-minute drive trying not to lose conciousness. Sleep inertia is a killer. Driving without being properly awake is probably the most dangerous activity I undertake short of those times I've tried to break into a zoo to have sex with a polar bear.

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