Chicago to the Mountains of Colorado
It wasn’t until 6:00pm-ish that I directed Ronnie’s wheels to start moving away from Chicago towards the westernlands. It just so happened that the area had been experiencing a snow storm most of the day too, so leaving the city was a bit slow you can imagine. I had tunes to get me going though…
I never did get up to full cruising speed, but after an hour driving, things did seem to get better and I was moving along at a decent pace. My GPS had me take I-88 rather than the probably more typical I-80 for this stretch.
My goal for the night was to reach Davenport, Iowa. Why there you ask? Well, in my brief planning I’d discovered that extremely cold temperatures were sweeping the country and if I went any further this night I’d find myself smack in the polar vortex of sorts. It was strange to me… the expected low in Davenport, IA was about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, but Iowa City, just another 55 miles west, was supposed to get down to -15 degrees Fahrenheit! I looked for a more southerly route and even northerly too, wondering if I could bypass, but it really seemed to cover a wide expanse. Thus, I’d have to endure a cold night.
I decided that I would try out stealth camping in a Walmart parking lot. You may have heard rumors of this possibility. Yes, it’s true, people do it. I’m still not sure if all stores allow it, but I found a website that provided me with a map of different Walmart’s and had comments describing what people’s experience had been like. The one I found had good reviews haha. I pulled in about 10:00pm (CT) or so and parked off to the side near the garden center.
I survived the night and slept just ok I’d say. Definitely not great. I had my SmartWool base layer, an extra layer of down long underwear pants, new sleep liner to go inside my sleeping bag, and two blankets over top, but still my upper body got chilled. My problem is always the air coming in from the top around my head and for some reason, I stupidly didn’t wear my hat or my puffy to bed. I was a bit rusty in my cold sleeping techniques apparently.
Here’s my cozy setup…
I ended up waking around 5:00am due to some snow plows that had started clearing the parking area around me! So a successful, yet not ideal first sleep on the road. The early start wasn’t bad though, this gave me a chance at getting to my destination (Glenwood Springs, Colorado) the same day. That is, if my van would start…
If you’ve been reading my van posts, you may remember that the Saturday after buying my van, it had about a 10-hour period where it didn’t want to start. Well, here in the Walmart parking lot in Davenport, IA at 5:10am as I tried starting it, I heard the same dreadful short “click” that I heard on that first Saturday! I tried again, nothing. I shut my eyes, cringing, but somehow my still sleepy brain didn’t seem to think too much of it. I remember thinking, I’ll just go inside, not really comprehending that last time I never figured out a solution, it just sort of started working. It mattered not folks…the third try was the charm and Ronnie started right up, humming gloriously.
Doesn’t it just look cold though!
Once on the highway, I had about 20 minutes where the roads still had some snowyness to them, but after that, I was cruising right along on the open road! After about 2 hours I stopped for gas. As the sun was popping up over the horizon, I took a picture and using the fancy Instagram technology it would later tell me that it was -18 degrees! Thus, it was a quick stop.
Not much to report of the drive really. Those of you who have driven this route know that it’s not the most exciting, lots and lots of fields. I filled my time listening to several cassette tapes, the audio book of The Twenty Ninth Day by Alex Messenger, a podcast or two, and an occasional bluetooth speaker utilizing Spotify.
It was a glorious feeling seeing mountains again on the horizon. I got to see about an hour of them as the sun was going down. Then, it was darkness and a return to some snowyness in the high ountain passes. It slowed me down, but luckily wasn’t too bad. I was just a nervous driver since mountain driving in the dark with a bit of glare in my glasses was a bit scary for me. I will say Ronnie stepped it up in the mountains. I felt as though she were truly coming alive and I was seeing a whole new side of her!
Around 8:45pm-ish I made it to my cousins house and was warmly greeted. After a brief bit of chit chatting, we all felt a bit tired and went for an early crash. Planning for the days ahead could wait.