This nearly had a longer title, but I was reminded of a certain publisher that recently gave us a beautiful game with a title that's approximately ninety words wrapped around a box, so I shortened. This, though, is The Last Legend of John and Tim, an Epic Road Trip Journey. If you were cool enough to be at GAMA you were hopefully fortunate enough to meet Tim, my best friend of a decade and a half, the man who keeps me grounded when I want to do something crazy to our business, and according to most reports, the far more pleasant human being in our relationship. I'm okay with him wearing that label, it seems burdensome to me. Tim and I have been on many road trips, we have traveled tens of thousands of miles behind the wheel of various automotive contraptions, but having just returned from Reno we are now ready to hang up our keys. It is time to let someone else do the driving, and hopefully they will always be driving. Before I dig into this last road trip, some highlights from the past. We once drove to Pittsburgh without a hotel room booked for a Grand Prix. We left here with about $100 between us and a binder full of Magic cards. We didn't even play in that event, but that was the first event I ever did any kind of event coverage for Wizards of the Coast at. That eventually led to me working for Upper Deck for a while, and then for TCGPlayer for a few years. Random aside, watching the success Chedy has built there makes my heart happy. He's one of the good guys in this industry. Tim was in the car for a trip to San Diego and US Nationals. I'm not allowed to type about that trip, and Tim isn't allowed to tell the really good stories because they're not appropriate for public consumption. If you get a bottle of wine in me you might here about some of the things Tim dealt with in Pittsburgh and San Diego. There have been a couple dozen of these trips, but after Reno we're hanging it up. No more road trips. Why? Here we go! Let's start with a map of the area in question. :) You can see I-80 on the top of that map. It's a long interstate with a good speed limit. The old route to Vegas starts in the middle of the right side of the map and follows a meandering route from I-70 to I-15 down to Las Vegas.
You'll need to open that full screen on something to see what we're talking about. Denver is, from a geographic standpoint, pretty much directly east of Reno. It's an 804 mile flight according to the FAA. The shortest driving route would be north on I-25 to I-80 west outside of Cheyenne, which clocks in at 1033 miles. I didn't want to go that way. Tim wasn't consulted, or this might not have been the route we took, but here ya go.
That blue line is I-70 west to US Highway 50, which bills itself as the loneliest road in America. They're not kidding. They refer to 50 as the loneliest road in America only in Nevada, but here are some fun facts. Tim and I drove from Grand Junction to Nevada without seeing a stop light. I'm not joking. That's a serious statement about the desolate nature of driving across Utah on Highway 50.
In Nevada we stayed in a hotel that was built in the 1800s, in a town that was 600 and some people back at the last census. We then drove out of that thriving metropolis because it had no open restaurants on a Sunday morning. We found a town of 192 (Austin), where they knew how to make eggs on a Sunday morning. I've seen more people in my store some days than in those two towns put together. Didn't matter though, the eggs were perfect, and it was on to Reno! (There's a GAMA Trade Show in the middle of this story, but I'm leaving that part of it out.) The Thursday of the show there is great concern. The snow starts little flurries in Reno, and then the report rolls in that they're expecting a storm that closes Donner Pass (west of Reno), and then will eventually close eastbound I-80 as well. I'm supposed to do some Friday morning events and then hit the road around 1:00 PM, but it doesn't look like people will be leaving Reno by 1:00 PM on Friday. Left with a brutally tough decision we leave early, hopping in the car and driving east out of Reno at about 7:00 PM Thursday night. We pass out from exhaustion at a hotel in Elko, one gas tank east of Reno. We got some snow higher up early in the drive, but it appears we've outrun the snow. So, with plans to sleep for six hours, we check into a hotel. Everything is still going according to the new plan when we awaken to a cold and clear morning. The weather hasn't caught us, and maybe it won't. We eat breakfast, grab some really bad gas station coffee, and continue east.
I'm checking weather, and unconcerned about anything, so we take it easy in a few places. We actually go for a little hike at one point, and it's beautiful.
In Salt Lake we stop for food, really darn good sandwich, and hit the road again. Things are still good. As I-80 strikes the great state of Wyoming there is a giant flashing sign telling us that I-80 is closed at Rock Springs. There is no weather to be seen, it's actually warmed up. Rock Springs is 111 miles from the Wyoming border, so we press on hoping things will change. Suffice it to say...they did not. At Rock Springs we get turned around by State Patrol who won't let us travel east on ANY road. Turns out a major accident between Cheyenne and Laramie had traffic backed up into Laramie until hotel spaces ran out, and they slowly started trapping motorists in towns in a fashion that allowed them to have enough beds for them if needed. Laramie is the earliest spot west on I-80 where I become familiar with the back roads. It's easy, you can just take 287 all the way to my house at that point. Stuck in Rock Springs? I had no idea how to get home. So I asked at a gas station, and I asked Siri. We came up with a route...
You can't really see everything on that map, but Rock Springs is the upper left corner there. Heading right you can see I-80, which eventually goes up off the page, and then back down onto it towards Cheyenne, where I would have originally turned south on I-25 and gone home. With I-80 closed the plan changed. That first southbound stretch is Wyoming Highway 430. It was nice, a little two lane state highway that was taking me south, and home was south. A funny thing happened right at the Colorado border though. As you're clearly smart enough to know a Wyoming Highway doesn't stay a Wyoming Highway in Colorado. Wyoming 430 becomes County Road 10 in Moffat County, CO. County Road 10 features the two worst words in road-tripping right at the Colorado/Wyoming border.
PAVEMENT ENDS Well damn. :( So we drove about 45 miles or so on a packed red dirt road. You know what make red dirt roads more fun? Semis...
He seemed exceptionally uncomfortable driving that thing on this road. He was struggling up hills, and careening down them, so I passed him the first time I could when he was headed up a hill and I could see oncoming traffic. (There actually was some, I was shocked.) How desolate is Moffat County? Well, the county is home to fewer than 14,000 people, spread across 4,751 square miles. Of course, 9,000 of those people live in a 5 square mile area called Craig, which is the county seat. There were times during this drive I was unsure if the world had ended, or the zombies had come. I didn't really have cell service, so I couldn't ask anyone. From 10 we grabbed Colorado 318 eastbound, and right where 10 and 318 met we discovered two amazing things. First, a paved road, and second, this beautiful canyon.
318 got us swiftly and harmlessly to Colorado 40 which we took through Steamboat Springs and Kremmling. It's a miserable stretch of road to be on for a Friday night. There is a procession of terrified morons trying to drive up the mountain with their brights on, and they don't care at all if you can't see where you're going as you drive down the mountain. In Kremmling we grabbed CO 9 Southbound to Silverthorne, which finally got us back on an interstate, the one we started this journey on a week earlier, I-70. The original route from Rock Springs to Denver was scheduled for 397 miles, and about six and a half hours (at the speed limit). I suspect it was going to be closer to six, or five and three quarters. The new route was 349 miles, but scheduled time was 6 hours and 27 minutes. It was much harder to make up time and our original goal of arriving in Denver by 8:30 PM was never going to happen after we needed time to find a new route, and more frequent breaks in order to stay sane. I finally arrived at home at 11:30 PM, and had long before that decided that Tim and I were never going to road trip again...never. This is the Last Legend...because I'm too old for this stuff now. No more road trips. I'm booking my plane tickets for GAMA on June 1st... One more photo from GAMA, my favorite one I've seen, courtesy of my friend Josh.