I’m in Wells, Nevada. It was a long day on the road. I left Yakima this morning, drove through Oregon, part of Idaho, and went just far enough into Nevada to find a place to sleep. I chose the Super 8.
I’ve always taken the interstate system for granted. When you just need to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, the interstates are the default starting point. They’re usually not charming, but they’re practical. The Loves truckers’ gas stations are the modern equivalent of caravanserais. You can still find some charming, though, usually in the form of friendly, hard-working people helping to ensure that travelers are fed, fueled, and caffeinated.
I started the day with the hotel’s buffet breakfast. Let’s call it functional. If you’ve taken road trips, it’s the same buffet breakfast you’ve had dozens of times. One exception. There weren’t any runny, strange looking scrambled eggs sitting out. You ordered your eggs. I was excited. Sadly, they were still disappointing, but they weren’t a goopy mess. There must be one company that has a death grip monopoly on buffet breakfast biscuits. I get one every time.
The people working the breakfast shift were very friendly, and that makes all the difference. The waiter offered a to go cup of coffee. The tip went up accordingly. It’s great having some more coffee while finishing the packing.
This was my first time in eastern Washington. Beautiful. Reminded me of Arizona’s high desert. It might not even be high desert, but it reminded me of it. It’s also wine country.
When I turned south, I wasn’t entirely sure how far east in Oregon I’d be. Not very far. Oregon and Washington are big ass western states.
I stop a lot for coffee. And orange tic tacs. On planes I get tomato juice. On the road I throw back the orange tic tacs. Cue the Stones’ Mother’s Little Helper. At each stop I saw Americans who I thought might also be Latinos, layered in dirt splattered work wear that screamed of a long day. This next part is going to be tricky. It’s late, I’m tired, and it might sound like a tourist’s romanticization of the locals. It’s romanticization, of course, but it stems from envy, my craving for analog and community. Read on.
It must have been the end of their day. They were getting some fried chicken, taquitos, or coffee. They had a good give and take with the gas station employees. They all obviously knew one other. They were talking about a previous bet and negotiating terms for a double or nothing. Community. I was trying to figure out the circumstances when one of the gas station employees saw me and asked, “Just the coffee?”
“Ahh, ok, that’s on us. Have a good one.” I missed a step. Earlier he walked out from around the counter fo stop me from pouring from one of the coffee containers. “That one’s past its prime, these ones are fresh.” (paraphrased despite the direct quotes) I’ve always liked road trip gas stations. But they don’t always deliver good news. It was in a string of cross-country gas stations in 2016 that I first thought Trump might win. I wrote that silly notion off after the pussy grabbing came out. Silly indeed. People rationalized Trump’s creepiness as locker room talk.
I’m fading fast here. I stopped in North Powder to get out of the car. The parking lot for the North Powder Cafe (and lounge?) was packed. I love those kind of places. I wasn’t all that hungry, but I knew I needed to eat. There were a few folks inside. Lots of Merry Christmases on departure. No, I’m not waging an asymmetrical internet war on people who say Merry Christmas. For what it’s worth, though, Happy Holidays or thanks, good night aren’t coded oppression grenades, either.
I sat at the counter next to a gentleman who ordered the salmon entree. “You’d better stand back, this is about to get messy.” I envied his selection. Salmon filets, peas, and mashed potatoes. I wanted that. I have a good friend who would have reached across the counter and took a bite of those mashed potatoes. But something like that would put me right to sleep. He was a driver/trucker, pushing on to Twin Falls. He had to have been in his 60s. I ordered the bean and spinach soup and 1/2 a sandwich. The word emasculated sprang to mind. I looked up and saw 3 rows of Trump hats for sale. I liked the restaurant and the people. I think they’re championing a terrible president.
I breezed by Boise. Like the trucker above, I made it to Twin Falls. I turned south onto 93 and left the interstate system. That was daunting at 2300. Single lane. I figured I’d rack out in Jackpot, but before I knew it, I’d blown right through Jackpot. Onto Wells. I drove to 3 different motels before settling on the Super 8. I can recommend it. A little off the beaten path (seriously, just a little).
I rolled into the lobby at about 0100. The woman at the desk had an Indian accent. It surprised me to hear an Indian accent in Wells, Nevada. She may have spent her entire life in Wells, but hearing the accent reminded me of one of the many things I love about this country – people still come here from all over hell bent on finding better opportunities. I hope that continues. I’m not optimistic.