Surprises on the road

17 09 2010

We just got back from another epic journey in the American west. Jetlag has attacked with a vengeance (I am having more and more trouble with him as I get older, it seems), and I am up at all sorts of ungodly hours, writing. But I have to say that we had a grand time – as expected. It was also a learning experience, my second such educational tour in the western part of my own country. There is so much to discover out there and I am sure I haven’t learned nearly all I want to know.

So I decided to compile a list of things I didn’t know before I went, as well as vignettes and facts that surprised me during the 12 days we traveled through northern California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Nevada. Maybe you were ignorant of these as well (but probably not).

If only I could put all my cool experiences in a box and take them with me everywhere, to open and enjoy whenever I want to.

Here is my list of interesting & fun stuff (in no particular order):

  • There is a lot of desert in Oregon.
  • There is a sign at the side of the road whenever you cross into a new time zone.
  • Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park blows every 93 minutes, like clockwork. Almost.
  • San Franciscans have thoroughly embraced the Smart car.
  • Bison can swim?

"Yes we can!"

  • Buffalo wings have nothing to do with these buffalo because they come from Buffalo, New York.
  • The LDS-church temple in downtown Salt Lake City (from which non-LDS-believers are banned) is pretty small. And downright insignificant when you compare it to many European cathedrals built 600 (or more) years ago.
  • A Jeep Grand Cherokee is also called a “Laredo.”
  • New quarters will be minted with motifs of the national parks, in the order in which they were established. Yellowstone (founded in 1872) is the first to be commemorated on the back of a quarter – and I have one.
  • Coast Redwoods can get to be 2,400 years old.
  • While looking for change in my wallet at a Starbucks in Bend, Oregon, the Barista told me, “Sorry, we don’t take Euros.”
  • There is actually a place called “Jackpot” in Nevada.
  • There are many onions in Idaho.
  • Sarah Palin was born in Idaho.
  • West Yellowstone, Montana is the self-declared “Snowmobile Capital of the World.”
  • It takes eight hours to drive from Salt Lake City to Reno, Nevada (520 miles / 800 km), across a whole lot of nothing.
  • If you come to live in San Francisco, you will never leave. As a friend put it so aptly: “How can you be miserable in such a beautiful place?”

She's right, you know.

A car named “Boinky”

18 07 2010

When I was telling a friend about starting this blog, and about all the stuff I wanted to write about, he blurted: “Sorry, Evelynn, a super action heroine does NOT drive ‘A car named Boinky’!”

Mais non! I beg to differ! Boinky is not just some car. It’s one of the coolest cars on the road.

This love story goes way back and it goes deep.

I first saw a Boinky long before George W. Bush stole his first presidential election. It was the autumn of 1997, in Hambach, France, when “smartville”, the factory that would produce the smart, as the vehicle is officially known, was opened to great fanfare. And I was there to write about it.

At the time, the new funny-looking 2-seater “city-coupé” came in four primary colors: red, yellow, blue and black. The majority of the hundred or so journalists in attendance (including this SAAB-driving pseudo-intellectual) scoffed at the piece of plastic, some of us already taking notes for the stories we planned to write when the car bombed.

Boinky I –  In early 2001, less than four years later, I was eating my words. One winter morning my beloved 13-year-old SAAB decided to leave this earth for the great junkyard in the sky. Life-sustaining measures would have cost me more than a month’s salary, with no guarantees. Suddenly and traumatically, I was wheel-less. Ok, admittedly, it’s easier to be wheel-less in Europe than in, say, Kansas, but still. A friend dragged me to my local smart dealer to take a look… I guess I was intrigued primarily because the car hadn’t bombed (yet), parking space in Berlin was at a premium and gas prices were going through the roof. The best thing about the little black number I found on the lot: it was cheap and they accepted debit cards. Within minutes, she was all mine and all paid for.

Boinky I.

After my big brother saw my new “car” for the first time, he said it needed a name.

“A name?” I asked.

“Yes, a name,” he said. “I think it looks like a Boinky. Why don’t you call it Boinky?”

And with a piccolo of cheap Italian sparkling wine, Bonky was christened. (And sent through the car wash shortly thereafter.)

Boinky, the first, accompanied me through a miserable relationship and a traumatic breakup, and earned its most impressive stripes on an epic journey from Berlin to London and back – about 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) each way.

Boinky II – December 2002. Okay, I admit, I wanted some color in my life. So I moved from black to “bay gray metallic”. Traded in number one and paid the difference on number two – again an amount so small that my debit card could handle it. The second generation had a slightly larger gas tank and cooler headlights. Boinky II’s seven-year reign in my life also saw a couple of significant life-changing events: I quit three jobs, moved to Switzerland, escaped a stalker and met the man who would become my husband, not necessarily in that order.

Boinky II.

Boinky III – April 2010. It was simply time. A bit larger, the redesigned car is now more “grown up”. (Just like me, hee hee.) She was 11 months (and 4,260 kilometers) old when I found her, very slightly used, a sleek, silver number, with a glass roof and 84 horses under the hood (or rather the trunk…a smart’s engine is under the trunk). I’ve taken a step up in luxury, finally indulging in an air conditioner. The requisite cupholder is under the dashboard, where it’s always been, and there’s even a jack for my Ipod (for whenever I figure out how to use it).

Boinky III.

So ladies and gentlemen, when you are sitting in traffic on your throne of an SUV, or in that loser-cruiser of a Minivan, don’t you even dare to snicker at that smart car you see below. We own the coolness factor if not the road. And as soon as BP’s oil hits a shore near you, you might think 40 miles per gallon might be a pretty innovative idea after all.