Approaching Idaho
Copyright © Erik Pennebaker, All rights reserved

The morning starts with me finishing "American Psycho", heading out of Butte. It's a nice morning. "Disintegration: I'm taking it in stride."

The roads are wet but not icy. The jeep is on snow tires, and with its primitive suspension it really doesn't lend itself to really aggressive driving - not a great idea anyway on the wet roads. Still, it stays relaxed enough to do twenty or so over the limit if I keep it very smooth. Getting into the Idaho mountains, I'm flying past people, the majority of whom are doing ten under.

On the open stretches I tone it down. It's too easy to get a ticket, and too tiring to scan the horizon so far ahead for police cars. That's when the pacers come out.

I approach the Pacer at a modest clip. I'm doing 8 over, but without cruise control it isn't entirely consistent. I approach them at perhaps 3 or 4 miles per hour. As I pull out to pass, I find them speeding up. I gain ground when they stop looking in their mirrors, a few feet at a time. Are they consciously trying to not let me pass, or is it just not thinking about it?

Eventually I give it some gas to get around them, and then sometimes they just fall behind, but other times they follow me, three or four car lengths back. Now they are the Pacer.

This drives me mad.

We are in the middle of nowhere. There is so much space, we can have a half mile between us. With them three or four car lengths back, they are sure to plow into me if I have to brake for a deer. The fact that they haven't considered this means they aren't really thinking about things, and probably aren't paying much attention.

I can speed up but they are attached, as with elastic. The only way to really lose them is to speed up greatly, to 90 or 95, enough that they won't follow. Once I get some distance from them their zombie brains will find something else to do and they'll recede back to the speed the meant to be traveling. I wish everyone thought about the traffic around them more.

In the mountains I ponder who the tallest person ever was to climb Everest, and what you would call that record.

Idaho's small stretch is mountainous and beautiful, and the flat rollingness of Oregon is the only long boring section of 94 from Chicago. It is by far the best way to get west.

Approaching Portland, the interstate goes into the Gorge, a broad canyon with a series of damns and reservoirs. There are trains and a few small barges. Everything becomes bustle of boxes going to and from Portland. Trains moving next to trains not moving, behind oncoming traffic and my traffic. It's all boxes moving horizontally along one channel. Sometimes the west has a certain energy - people still come here to start something new, and you can't get here without passing the emptiness of the center of the country. Of course now you can do it in three days with a lot of fast food. Its tamed but in this age three days of solitude is about what passes for an eyebrow raising journey.

[ tags: E-P2 gorge idaho montana mountains oregon portland road roadtrip snow trip ]

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