Monday, October 1, 2012

On the big road

We are at Little America, a travel stop on I-80 in western Wyoming, between Lyman and Green River (map).  The place has been here since the 30s, named for Byrd's 1929 Antarctic base camp.  A stuffed emperor penguin, brought back by the expedition, sits in the lobby of the motel.  Over the decades, the facility has expanded to include a large truck stop, two c-stores, showers, laundry, post office, motel, bar, and restaurant.  Alas, they seem to have eliminated their long-time logo mascot penguin, who adorned billboards for hundreds of miles in either direction beckoning travelers here.

We parked in the most remote corner of the truck lot, which was fairly quiet and gave us a nice view of the hills in the distance.  In addition to availing ourselves of the laundry facilities as well as the post office, we had a passable dinner at the restaurant.  The place is a bit shop-worn now, bypassed by much of the traveling public who prefer to stay in places with a choice of chain motels and chain restaurants, whereas all of Little America comprises just a single business enterprise (not counting the lone post office employee).  Travel was much more difficult when it first opened, and it was a welcome sight in this very remote place then.  I think the choice of Byrd's outpost as namesake would have made more sense to travelers of the day, as well.

Yesterday's drive was scenic and easy, and we also made stops in Rawlins for diesel oil and in Rock Springs to put air in one of the tag tires.  Over the course of three hours en route to Rock Springs, we discussed the travel times and other factors, and ultimately decided to just remain on I-80 all the way to the bay area.  That cuts two and a half hours off the overall travel time, over ten percent of what we have left, and we'd rather have the extra margin of safety at the end of the drive.  On top of that, other than a small stretch in Pennsylvania, the full width of California, and a very short segment just west of here, Odyssey has not done I-80, and it is the lone route through some scenic sections of Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada.

By contrast, we've already been across Nevada on US-50, and through Flaming Gorge on the west side.  In fact, we posted a photo seven years ago, and that excursion involved the short section of I-80 from Lyman, WY to the junction of I-84 in Utah.

In a few minutes we will continue west.  Having made the decision to remain on the Interstate, I expect to be on the west side of Utah tonight, perhaps as far as the state line.  Today's drive will take us over several mountain passes, so translating miles to travel time is less straightforward.


  1. hi sean,

    i do enjoy reading your adventures. i thought i was a do it yourselfer till i have followed you.

    your coach in the pictures looks so incredibly tall. you mention it is 13' in a description of it. do you know the exact height/. my coach is 13'4" and sure doesnt look as tall as yours in the pictures.

    what system do you use to prevent going to a bridge that is too short for your bus?



    1. Tom, "exact" height is, well, an inexact science. That's because small variations in suspension settings, brand of tire, pressure in the aux air system, etc. all impact it. Under "normal" conditions at ride-ready suspension, we are just a hair under 13'. If I dump all the air out of the suspension I can lower that to just under 12'9", which I once had to do for several miles (read here -- yes, that sign says 12'3").

      As for the system I use, I have an LLH-1963. When properly calibrated and set up next to the console, this emits a loud noise when approaching a low clearance.

      Seriously, though, whichever one of us is not driving is responsible for calling out the clearances. It helps to know what the statutory height is in whatever state you are in, as unmarked clearances will generally be above this height. You can get this from the Rand McNally Motor Carrier's Road Atlas, available in most truck stops. This will also list all the low clearances, but only on official truck routes -- we are often driving on routes not so designated. Louise discussed this atlas in her excellent compendium of route planning guides, here.

      Lastly, mindful that many clearances are understated (read, for example, here and here), I now carry a 13' long pole, made from three sections of PVC pipe that snap together, so I can double-check any questionable clearances before we proceed.


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!