They’ve been doing a lot of work on the Eisenhower Tunnel lately. We know this because the Supercharger Network heading east from Salt Lake City is on Interstate 70, and the ET is on I-70, fifty miles from Denver. That would be West from Denver. East from Denver is Kansas and in order for the engineers to put I-70 through a tunnel they’d have to build a mountain first. They might have been able to do it with the easy govment money from the stimulus, but I guess no one thought of it.
The Eisenhower Tunnel is the longest mountain tunnel (1.7 miles) and the highest part (2+ miles) of the Interstate Highway System. It takes I-70 underneath the Continental Divide, so they could have made the Interstate even higher there if they’d wanted to, but I think they decided that it would save the taxpayers money in the long run not to have to plow that part free of snow all Winter.
The construction on the tunnel causes the traffic to backup for 10’s of miles. Do they have to load the cars onto barges and ship them around the construction? Oh wait, Continental Divide. Barges are a no. Maybe they helicopter them over the mountain ridge?
Later: Laura is driving. I got bored and tried to take a nap and missed the ET entirely. I didn’t notice when we went through because there was no helicopter staging area, or anything else notably audible. No change in the traffic jam either, because it’s not the ET that’s having the work done on it, it’s a short tunnel 15 miles further along. Nice nap, though. But we’re back up to 75 mph and should be in New Jersey in no time. I like it when Laura drives, and she finds the Tesla a hoot in the mountains. Not so much on the Interstate which has boringly well-engineered curves, but coming south on 93 out of Missoula, she had a lot of fun with that. The S-curves heading up to and down from the pass on the way to Salmon, ID are real “Wahoooo!”. This is ‘cuz she’s a law abiding driver and the speed limit is 65. Sure, the signs ‘suggest’ 30 mph on a lot of the curves there but those are only suggestions and can be safely ignored in a Tesla. She goes 65, and Wahooo! I was trying to read The Sixth Extinction on the Kindle as we approached the really curvy bit, and, like other e-readers and thmart phones these days it has an auto-rotate feature that keeps the text vertical no matter how you hold it. It tells you something about the Wahoooo factor that every time she went around a turn the Kindle’s text turned sideways. Tricky to read with it going back and forth like that, and trying to keep the text from rotating by tilting it back and forth as the turns rolled by was too distracting for a satisfying reading experience, so eventually I just put it away and enjoyed looking at the pine trees.
I wrote briefly earlier on The South. The South is quite strange to someone from The West. I’d thought to get some digs in on The South before I got any followers from The South, but it turns out I’d already had one. He didn’t hate on me, though, since he’s originally from Australia or some place else that’s Not The South, and he said he agreed with everything I said. But now we’re in The East. We drove straight over from Idaho with the express purpose of visiting the lab at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, a facility doing cutting edge research on changing the world. Or perhaps taking it over. They do have a mad scientist working for them, but he seems harmless. We took him to lunch. Here’s a picture of the ‘device’. Can you guess which one is the mad scientist?
The Device is behind 3 foot thick concrete walls (“To stop the neutrons”) surfaced with copper mesh (“To stop the RF radiation”). LPP is rapidly becoming the leader in their field while working on a shoestring budget. So much shoestring that their device (One of only 45 on the planet) operates in what is essentially a garage. I asked him if his neighbors knew what he was doing and he said they did, they found out after hurricane Sandy when they’d had a “the power’s been out for 3 weeks” party and invited all the neighbors. He said they’re OK with the device, but one of the neighbors keeps filing complaints with the city council about his choice of planting wildflowers instead of lawn. People be crazy.
But to get into New Jersey (Did I mention the lab is in New Jersey?) we had to travel into The East, a part of the country we’d only ever had experience with in a Washington DC tourist sort of way. The first shocker was that they have to pay to drive on their interstates. Not every one of their interstates, to be sure, but certainly all of them that go from where you are to where you want to be. In The West they’re called ‘freeways’, and for a reason. They’re free. In The East they are called ‘Expressways’, ‘Tollways’, ‘Tollroads’, ‘Paypaves’, ‘Dollarsuckers’, or ‘Privatized Pothole Holders’. The first time we rolled towards a toll plaza I worried about having to give them quarters that I’d earmarked for doing laundry. How naive I was. It wasn’t quarters they were after, it was dollar bills. After the first day when we’d dropped 8 bucks on them and only gone 60 miles we got an EZ Pass. It’s one of those microchips you put in your dog, only for your car. Apparently the way it works is that every time you need to pay a toll the money is deducted automatically from a bank account somewhere. Now we roll right through the toll plazas and instead of being livid that we have to pay them 2 dollars and 60 cents, yet again, we get to be delighted that the chip worked and the little light turned green. *Kaching*
The other difference between an expressway and a freeway is that the expressways only have an exit every 15 miles. They also have an occasional travel plaza with, I swear to God, 30 people waiting in line for the Starbucks. But I’m used to an exit every 1 or 2 miles and my bladder and I can’t seem to plan ahead farther than that.
The East is also very damp. In The West things dry out if you take them outside, if they”d somehow gotten wet when they were inside. Here if you take something outside it gets damp. I don’t mean rain – all you westerners probably think I mean rain – but the weather has been delightful the whole time. Except that when I take a piece of paper out, after 30 minutes it has become clammy and you can’t write on it. I’m a bit worried that our tent will start to mold. Or our feet.
And you can’t see the mountains for the trees. And the parks have signs that say they have microscopic ticks that are known to carry disease so “tuck your pants into your socks and have a great visit”. And if you have a conversation with some random person when you part company they say, “Good Luck”. This does not build confidence.
The East also has funny names. We left the Expressway after entering New Jersey, the land of more people per square mile than anywhere else and they are all in their cars driving impatiently in the same direction I’m going and none of them seem to realize that I have a blindspot as big as an SUV when changing lanes to the right because I don’t check the mirror on that side until I hear the honk. I’ve taken to simply flooring it right before changing lanes because the car’s acceleration is so tremendous that I’m well in front of my blindspot by the time I move over. Now my wife just says “Wheee!” when I change lanes, which is way better for my ego than what she was saying before. (People say guys who buy powerful cars are compensating. I admit it. I am. I’m compensating for poor driving skills). Anyway, we got into NJ and there were 4 exits in a row for a place called Piscataway. *snort*. I mean, if there was a product called CatPisAway everyone who owned a cat would have some under their sink, and you think that’s a good name for your community? Wait, there’s more! We’re staying in a New Jersey State Park called….ready for this?…. “Cheesequake State Park”. *hhrnph!* No, really! Look it up! OK, I could see it if it was in Wisconsin but it’s not. You’re probably thinking the name’s funny because it sounds like ‘cheesecake’, right? But no, it’s funny because it sounds like ‘cheesequake‘! The ranger gave me some crazy story about how the Indian name for the place sounded like cheesequake, as if that explained it. If the Indian name sounded like ‘cheesecake’, a sane person would have named it ‘Egret State Park’.
Tomorrow – A day trip by train into Manhattan. Can’t be any stranger than The East, can it?
PS Laura tells me that she’s found a way to be a passenger in the Tesla on winding mountain roads and stay in the seat. She says she reaches down on both sides and grabs under the seat. She says this keeps her in place but she can’t look things up on her cell phone at the same time, so she wishes Tesla would install 5-point restraints. I didn’t realize until she said that that I drive the same way she does in the mountains. Wahooo!