My departure from Denver was assuaged by the mountains along my left and the awesome radio stations I mentioned before.
I hopped on 25-N and headed straight up to Wyoming, where I would find I-80 and continue west.
After a few hours, I reached the Wyoming Welcome Center, which is more like a small museum. Down the hall from the standard restrooms and state maps were life-sized exhibits you could walk through and learn about the pioneers. The history and pride of Wyoming belong to the pioneers and the cowboys of the old west. Based on the terrains I’ve already encountered and the even more intense ones I’ll encounter later, I believe the pioneers were some of the toughest humans anywhere ever. I can barely get through this journey in a car with every modern advantage at my disposal, and they did it in the wilderness on wagons.
By the evening, I was in a part of Wyoming so remote that I almost ran out of gas and there was no sign of human life for miles.
I panicked and Googled the nearest gas station, as my usually-receptive phone struggled to scrape together enough data and signal to find an answer. Turns out I had to go BACKWARD 20 miles to get to the closest gas station. The whole time I was just coasting and praying to the cosmos I would make it. Luckily, I did, by a hair. This was just one of the places I learned never to go below a half tank of gas, because it could easily take that much to find the next exit with any services.
Then nightfall hit, and it was so dark I couldn’t see any of the landscape around me. For hours, it was just the stars, the lane markers, the music, and me. No traffic other than the scattered trucks that had become my neighbors on the road.
I’m pretty sure it was on this late-night drive that I had the following epiphany: One reason I stayed motivated to get through these long stretches was because each day brought a new place I’d never been to and a completely unplanned adventure. The reward was different every time. If I were driving toward the same reward every day, I don’t think I could do it. We do this in our regular lives all the time. We push through the repetitiveness of the workweek, and at the end, we give ourselves the same tried-and-true rewards as always. Eventually those rewards have don’t have the same effect they used to, and we get in such a rut that we have to go driving across the country alone for a month. I’ve been feeling re-inspired with ideas of how to make a new life when I go back home, and one key point is to build varied types of rewards into my free time so I stay interested in the daily grind.
I finally called it quits late at night and stopped at the only inn for dozens of miles in every direction. I was curious to wake up and see what the heck I’d been driving through for hours the night before.
Surprise! You’re in the Rocky Mountains. This was the view from my motel parking lot:
Let me tell you something about this area: The Rocky Mountains are aptly named. They could just as aptly be named the Mountainous Rocks. They could not, however, be aptly named anything else, though, because they are exactly two things: mountains/rocks. Every inch of land in between these mountains is FLAT. Even the mountaintops are FLAT. If this area were called Flat Between Mountains, that’d be okay too.
It stayed like this for a long time, well into Utah.
Next stop: Salt Lake City.