Pleasanton Weekly

Column - July 8, 2011

One last trip in a Penske

by Jeb Bing

Over the years, I've written a few columns about trips I've made to help my children move -- to college dorms, to far-away jobs, to new homes and even across town. Perhaps the most emotional was about the trip my wife Jan and I made to take our daughter Jenny to college, only to come back to Pleasanton realizing that we had become empty nesters like so many other parents that fall.

Later, and again with Jenny, I shared the driving as we made our way to her new job in Nashville, pulling a U-Haul trailer behind her Saturn hatchback, a trip I repeated about a year later when she found a better job back here in the Bay Area. Not long after, it was our son Chris I joined in a U-Haul truck, moving him from UC San Diego to New York City where his wife Mary had already started her residency work as a doctor at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Those trips gave us a chance to visit places we might not otherwise have gone, including the memorial for those killed in the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, President Clinton's library on opening day in Little Rock, Old Faithful at Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Two weeks ago, I helped again, joining Chris in a very large, noisy (and uncomfortable) rented 26-foot Penske truck equipped with air brakes, and a 3,400-pound car being towed behind, for his family's move back to California.

Certainly, more remarkable than the long drive was the process of moving the contents out of a 33rd floor apartment down to the street to be loaded in a truck that was parked on the sidewalk. The logistics of positioning this truck involved two policeman stopping traffic, family and friends guiding a U-turn on a narrow one-way street, and a cacophony of horns from impatient New York City drivers, along with amused pedestrians watching this circus set up its tent. Someone had to be posted at the truck at all times just to watch the contents as well as be ready to move the truck if those in authority decided enough was enough. Fortunately, that didn't happen, but we did feel the pressure of another building resident staking out our sidewalk space, ready to call in his waiting U-Haul.

Chris and I left their apartment building at 70th and York at 3 p.m. Tuesday, arriving at his new home in Roseville six days later at 8 p.m. Sunday. This 2,935-mile trip, almost all of it on hardly-scenic Interstate 80, took us through 11 states and consumed some 500 gallons in diesel fuel.

Without doubt, I-80 offers a non-stop drive across the country, although except for majestic mountain passes, fertile fields and lots of corn, motorists don't really see much at all. The biggest cities we went through were Omaha, Salt Lake City and Reno besides skirting the far southern suburbs of Chicago. It sure lacks the nostalgia I remember of old Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. No Burma Shave signs; no roadside reptile stands; I don't think there's ever been a song about getting your kicks on route I-80.

Much of the way during this trip across country, I found the rapidly changing milepost signs one of the few reliefs from hundreds of miles of crops, cattle and farms. At times, particularly during that long 37-mile drive across the salt flats from Salt Lake City to the Nevada state line, it was downright monotonous, with roadside signs warning drivers to "Stay Awake." Sometimes, especially in Nebraska where the first milepost showed us there were another 441 miles to cross the state, we found it best not to look.

For those who enjoy trivia, here's more about I-80 I learned along the way: Pennsylvania operates a large fireworks store at its border with New Jersey, which it was promoting heavily in this pre-Independence Day timeframe. Available only to non-Pennsylvania customers, the store's receipts go to pay down the state's budget deficit. West of Omaha, the next 72-mile section of I-80 is the country's longest stretch without a curve. Although we found road work under way across the Plains and most of I-80 in good shape, the worst stretch in terms of road width and pavement conditions was coming into California from Reno, adding even more bounce and steering challenges for the Penske.

Now back in Pleasanton, I'm getting the word out now that if there are any more relocations ahead, I'm busy.

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