At the end of Part 1 of our journey for Oregon to Virginia, Jenny and I had just arrived in Canon City, Colorado. I used to live in Canon City, if you can remember back that far. I lived next door to the Knepp family, distant relatives and old family friends, and of course that’s who we originally intended to stay with when we arrived.
However, the Knepps then had to deal with an unexpected life complication, so I told them I’d find other lodging. I then reached out to my friend Sherri, who I’d met in Alaska exactly two years ago and who is also from Canon City. “Can we stay with you?” Only, she wasn’t going to be in town that night, but she said we could stay with her parents. I barely knew Sherri’s parents, but Jenny and I went to bed so early and got up so early there was no time to socialize anyway.
Thursday morning, our first stop was the mechanic shop. Dallas Knepp had agreed to screw the muffler back on for us, so I guess we did see one familiar face before we left. Then we pulled out of town around 6:30 AM, determined that today we were going to make good time.
With no more mountains to cross, we did make slightly better time. Mileage wise it was our longest day yet, but we managed to do it in thirteen hours. That was an hour longer than the Google maps estimate, but hey, previously we’d been adding two hours every day. So it felt like improvement.
This time, Jenny planned out exactly which gas stations we’d stop at. When we started getting hungry, She noticed a Subway next to the gas station she’d added to our route, and we ordered ahead so we could just pick it up.
Now, I should mention that my car does have a small oil leak, so we’d periodically check the oil and make sure it was doing okay. This time when we checked, it was much lower than we expected it to be. We had to run inside and buy more oil, and after that I was super paranoid about the oil, checking it almost every time we stopped. So that did add some time. But it never really became an issue. I think it just used more oil going through the Colorado mountain passes?
We continued to add to our list of weird things. At one rest area, all the trash cans had legs, making them look rather like R2D2. We saw a house that looked like it belonged in a Candy Land game, painted like neapolitan ice cream, with gables and fancy candy-like trim.
We were well into Kansas by now. “You know what I didn’t anticipate about Kansas?” Jenny asked.
“What?” I said.
“I didn’t realize there was so much, ‘woohoo, Jesus!!! No abortions!!'”
Indeed, there were a great deal of pro-Jesus and anti-abortion signs and billboards. There was a popular “Jesus I trust in you!” poster we saw over and over bopped in various fields. The weirdest of all was this bizarre painting of a very white Jesus standing with some wheat. Later I googled it and found out it’s the most famous billboard in Kansas.
Our second gas stop of the day was in town, which is not my favorite. Google maps does great on Interstates and highways, but in town it always seems a bit behind, and I often get turned around and mixed up. You know. Too many times when you can accidentally turn right instead of veering right.
Jenny was driving and I was navigating, although the Voice of Google Maps was also talking to us through the speakers. He re-routed us around the block after we turned right instead of veering right.
“By the way, I farted, sorry,” said Jenny.
“Oh, I can smell it,” I said, hastily rolling down the window.
“AT THE NEXT STOP LIGHT, TURN LEFT ONTO 6TH AVENUE,” yelled Google.
“I’m going to close the window cause I don’t want everyone to know that we don’t know where we’re going…very loudly,” said Jenny.
Thankfully the gas station was just around the corner. I started filling the tank while Jenny went in to use the bathroom, and then she checked the oil. We finished up about the same time, and as she came back around the car, suddenly her face went white with horror. “Emily!” she said, “you just put diesel in the car!”
“What?” I said.
“The green one is diesel!” Jenny said.
I looked at the buttons in front of me, trying to see which one was green. “I’m pretty sure I pushed the correct button,” I said.
“No, the handle,” said Jenny. “You used the green handle! The green handle is always diesel!”
Now I need to point out that being from Oregon, where it is illegal to pump your own gas, I always have some sort of weird issue at the gas pumps in other states. I know pumping gas is not difficult, but it’s like the Oregon curse or something. But putting diesel in my car instead of gas…that was a whole ‘nother level. I mean. What the bunnyslipper.
Because while it looked like I’d pushed the correct button, I had most definitely used the green handle.
“What do I do?” I moaned.
“I guess we’ll have to go ask the people inside,” Jenny said.
Jenny maintains that she meant, “let’s ask them which handle pumps gas and which handle pumps diesel.” But I took it to mean, “let’s admit to them that I just ruined my car like an idiot and ask them to call a tow truck.” This was not a very pleasing prospect, and I ran my eyes over the gas pump once again, trying to make sense of it. I had pushed the right button. I was sure of it. It was lit up with a price, while the other buttons showed only dashes.
“Wait, Jenny…” I said. Because just then I noticed that the green handle had “10% ethanol” written above it. They don’t put ethanol in diesel, right? Then I peered closer at the black handle. “It says diesel!” I said. “See? The black handle says diesel. So the green handle was correct!”
Befuddled, Jenny googled it. Apparently at BP gas stations they switch things up, putting a green-handled pump on the regular gasoline and a black-handled pump on the diesel.
I had not put any diesel in my car after all!
All was well!
We laughed about that one for a while.
In Missouri, we stopped for the night at the home of Darlene Miller. We were friends with Darlene’s sons when they did VS work in Oregon, and then Mom became friends with Darlene, and then I stayed at Darlene’s house when her son Travis got married, so it seemed a logical place to stop. Despite our better-than-usual time, we were still dealing with a time change, so it was 8:30 PM when we arrived. Still, she had an amazing home-cooked meal waiting for us.
Oh and she had not one, but two guest rooms. I love Jenny dearly but I’m also deeply introverted and that room-to-myself was everything.
Thus ended the third day of our trip. Originally we’d planned to go straight to Blacksburg from Darlene’s house, but the idea of arriving late at night to an empty apartment with no beds was daunting. So I got an Airbnb in Huntington West Virginia, where we’d spend Friday night before getting to Blacksburg on Saturday.
This meant that Friday morning, we actually had some time to relax before starting off on the day’s drive. I made myself a mug of Earl Grey tea and sat on the porch with Darlene’s curious pets and my own thoughts.
So Friday was the last full day of driving. It was our shortest day so far, and it felt even shorter because the states started flying by. Driving east feels like playing that little dinosaur game that pops up whenever a website isn’t loading. It starts off so slow…for the first 8 hours of our journey to Virginia we were still in Oregon. Then it gets faster and faster and faster, until at the end you’re flying through five states in one day.
“We could hit six states if we take a tiny detour,” I said. “Ohio is just across the river from Huntington.”
But in the end we didn’t bother. Five states in one day was enough for us.
We continued to collect state license plate sightings, and by “we” I mean mostly Jenny.
“Mayor,” said Jenny, reading a vanity license plate out loud. “I wonder if that guy is the mayor. Wait. He’s passing me on the right. Did I just get passed on the right by the mayor?!?”
We put that on our list of weird things.
Also on the list: a small forest where someone had nailed a “Trump” poster on about every third tree.
And, later, a sign that said “Flea Amish Markets.” Which seemed to us to be the wrong adjective order. And of course I imagined someone wildly running away from an Amish market.
Our Airbnb wasn’t like most Airbnb’s…it was an actual factual bed and breakfast. A fancy house with fancy floral wallpaper. And breakfast in the morning. Well, breakfast bars and coffee, if that counts.
Our hosts were very sweet. “Are you doing anything this evening?” they asked.
“We’ll probably go get something to eat,” we said.
“Oh, well we could give you some recommendations!” They said. “Here, we have some information on the sideboard about good restaurants in the area.”
Later, while we were on our way to Taco Bell, I turned to Jenny and said, “what will we say if they ask us where we went to eat? Are we gonna admit that we just went to Taco Bell?”
“I don’t know,” Jenny said.
“We could say we got tacos,” I said, “but then maybe they’d want to know where we got tacos.”
We came up with a whole plan for what we were going to say if they asked us where we went to eat, but they never asked, so we never had to use it.
We went back to the fancy house, climbed into the fancy bed, and went to sleep. One more night and four more hours of driving, and we’d arrive at our new home. But for that story, you’ll have to come back tomorrow for Part 3.