The setting is Chicago. Sunday afternoon. I’ve been in Chicago since Saturday morning and this city appeals to me in a way I didn’t expect. As much as I like it, I really need to go to Denver. I checked Craig’s List for anyone going towards Denver, anything going West, really. While I would have liked to stay a bit longer, I really needed to get my trip in gear and make my way towards Denver. I knew the road to Denver was to be the longest part of the trip. As luck would have it (I’m so lucky when it comes to traveling! [knock on wood]), I found a guy leaving from Chicago to Denver on Tuesday! For 80$! Amazing! I gave him a call, and set it all up. I was well on my way to be in Denver very early on Wednesday morning!
Dave (my driver) and I left the Chicago area at 7 am with a huge brand new RV in tow. Dave was unemployed. He used to be a depute sheriff in Colorado, but do to budget cuts, got laid off. He found a job hauling RVs from Illinois to Colorado for a local RV retailer. It was tough work, the drive takes anywhere between 20 to 26 hours, and he had to use his own truck, but he needed money. Dave is that kind of a guy. As tacky as it sounds, he’s a good old American man. With a wife, a boy and other one on the way, he had to keep bread on the table. I got to know Dave pretty well over the next 1 850 km (give or take) and I still believe that he’s a great man. Because the trip was his job, Dave insisted on doing all the driving.
I’d say the first few hours were the hardest. I hadn’t slept much the previous night and staying awake in truck, as the sun was rising, was a tough task. I ended up taking a little nap. I got woken up by terrible roads around Indianapolis. Because of our truck and trailer’s length, the terrible streets were causing the trailer to jump up and down, transferring that to the truck and making it jerk around like a mechanical bull. Anyway, that woke me up. It didn’t matter though, because I had gotten just the perfect amount of sleep to be the best co-pilot I could be.
And then we drove.
We had to stop by St. Louis (Troy to be more specific) to grab a reptile tank frame from a guy who sold it to someone in Denver. It was on the way and it gave Dave a couple extra buck. I helped Dave get the frame in the truck bed. This thing was way larger than we anticipated, but we managed to fit it snuggly on the truck. It was maybe 5 feet wide, 5 feet high and 2 feet deep. With 12 plastic trays. It was my first time in St. Louis, but from that visit, I know that St. Louis is hotter than anywhere I’ve ever been (this year at least). It’s surrounded by fields and nothingness, and it seems like the sun is a good 5 to 6 times hotter. To be fair though, I had just spent the morning in an AC truck, so I might have been a bit biased. Still, it was hot and I was glad when the rack was properly loaded.
And then we drove.
And then we crossed the Mississipi.
We were in Kansas at dusk. As it happened, we would be in Kansas for a good while. Kansas is like a rectangle and our highway (I-70) cut through it lengthwise. Kansas is flat and it goes on forever. I’ll also take this opportunity to get a bit preachy, but Kansas is also a great example of what happens to farmland if you subsidize corn. Corn everywhere! Funny to think that 40% of it isn’t going to feed anyone.
We kept on driving.
At around midnight, one of Dave’s mufflers broke. It sounded like a jet engine inside the truck. We stopped at a long haul garage to see if they could help us. After a bit of wire and skill, we were back on the road. It was still as loud, but the muffler wasn’t going to fall off on the highway anymore. It was an improvement and all thanks to the kindness of strangers.
And we drove some more.
We started seeing some lightening on the horizon. The lightening got more ominous as we drove towards it. We turned on the radio, blasted it (because of the noise in the cab) and tried to see if we were heading into trouble. Turns out we were. We were driving directly into a “severe” thunderstorm. Apparently, a “severe” thunderstorm in Kansas isn’t the same as a “severe” eastern Canadian thunderstorm. Back home, a severe storm involves lots of rain, strong winds, a few blown off shingles, toppled trees and broken power lines. In Kansas, a “severe” thunderstorm involves a storm that, and I swear this is how they put it on the radio, is a threat to life! We were actually driving towards something that could kill things. As we got closer, the spectacle grew more awe inspiring (maybe one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen). Nature’s destructive power was in full display. Obviously, we weren’t going to drive through the storm with a brand new RV. We decided to keep driving and wait it out, see if it would subside. Though we agreed that if it started raining, we’d find cover under a overpass. Severe thunderstorms in Kansas also come with hail, so we didn’t want to risk it.
We kept on driving West.
Call it what you will, but as we reached the town at the edge of the thunderstorm warning, the clouds parted and the warning was lifted. The truck got a bit wet, but it was practically a drizzle by the time we reached it.
And then we crossed into Colorado.
By the time we crossed into Colorado, we had been driving for about 23 hours. We were both electrified by being so close. But as it usually happens, from this point, time slowed down. Every second seemed to take a minute. Every mile lasted an eternity. But we were almost there!
Then we arrived to Denver.
Dave was exhausted. Driving for 26 hours will do that to anyone. I was exhausted, but more than that, I was nervous. We had agreed that if he was to be tired, we’d pull over for a nap. Dave was a responsible guy with too much to lose and a good head on his shoulders. Still, it was a bit nerve wracking. I started asking Dave questions. Anything. I was yelling them over the drone of the engine. My goal was to keep him engaged. Keep him awake, whether it was needed or not. We first dropped off the RV at the retailer and went towards my friend’s place. At 5:30am, on Wednesday, I finally arrived to my final destination. I shook Dave’s hand, wished him luck with employment and everything, earnestly thanked him, and claimed my couch for the next 10 days.
And that was the longest ride of my life. Little under 2000 km and little over 26 hours.
I called Dave a month after first meeting him to see if he had found a job and he had. I’m glad to know that good honest people like him get what they deserve.