We spent the night in Park City, UT, where part of the 2002 Winter Olympics were held. From where we slept we could see the ski jump. Everything in Park City seemed just a little classier than it should be. There were fancy faucets and a fireplace in the McDonalds, the facade for the Walmart was actually attractive, and matched the surrounding buildings. If you didn’t know better, many of these massive corporations could have been mistaken for local stores. Maybe it was all of the people and money that poured into Park City during the Olympics that raised the bar for these stores, or maybe it was the view of the mountains ringing the city that could be seen from anywhere in town. When nature sets the bar so high, you can’t help but try and compete. Just as an example, this was the view from the fuel station we stopped at on our way out of town:
In Park City, we were already up in the mountains a little bit, but we still had the rest of the Rockies ahead of us. I had been pretty worried about the Rockies – some truckers we had spoken to in Sparks, NV had said that it got as steep as 7% grade. I was not very confident in the bus’ ability to make it up something that steep, but the new fuel pump seemed to be working wonders. We were chugging up hills (of a much smaller grade) at 60 mph. We still had a long trail of smoke behind us, but Mark assured me it was just unburned fuel because of the elevation, and nothing sinister. Since our engine is mechanically injected, it doesn’t compensate for the altitude, and runs rich.
We kept climbing hills, and then coasting down a little downhill, then climbing and coasting again, repeat, repeat, repeat. After a while, the hills started to get even more gradual, and we started to think, “Maybe that was it. Maybe the worst is behind us, that wasn’t so bad.” We pulled into a truck stop to fill up, and struck up a conversation with a trucker pulling a trailer-full of cattle. “Are those lucky cows or unlucky cows?” Mark asked him. “Unlucky cows.”
We asked him about the Rockies, and if there was anything worse coming up. “Oh, you’re through most of it,” he said. “You’ve just got one little hill and then it’s flat until Pennsylvania!” Excellent! At the beginning of the day we had been seriously wondering if we would need to be towed over the mountains. The trucker next to us was adding some fuel additive to his tank, and offered us some. Soon we had a water bottle full of fuel additive and a tank full of diesel, and we set off again.
That one little hill turned out to be the biggest we had hit so far. Or at least the longest. At one point we were down in second gear trying to keep speed going up the hill, but we made it, and entered the low rolling hills of Nebraska. We didn’t stop until we hit Omaha, and actually slept on the other side of the state line in Council Bluffs, IA.