Wasteland America Road Trip: Montana To California And Back In 2020

Jacob:
Last week we drove. A lot.

The Drive There

Lo had a medical appointment in San Francisco, and normally we’d fly there (sometimes there are even direct flights) and stay with friends, but these are not normal times. As if a global pandemic weren’t enough, the whole west coast has apocalyptic forest fires and apocalyptic air quality, so we brought along our whole-house air filter in the back seat:

Lo:
At least I got to take some pretty pictures while we drove and take advantage of my love of photography and composition as a type of story telling.

Here’s Red Rock, Montana in a drive-by black and white.

Jacob:
Heading south on I-15 we passed something that looked like a dozen McMansions jammed together. Turns out it’s the headquarters of a shady multi-level-marketing company.

Lo:
Except they claim to not be that shady. That’s the fun part about all of these. Every one always claims to be better than the other. Every poison less toxic. Every one ignoring the rules around dosage dependency.

Jacob: This was the last blue sky we’d see for a long while.

Jacob: The charger we stopped at in Twin Falls was right next to the Snake River bridge and visitor center. It was incredibly smoky. The landscape here is beautiful, but felt so alien under an orange sky.

Lo: When we made it to Twin Falls we decided to stop and actually look at the Snake River. It’s this beautiful green color slithering its way through a deep gorge in the Idaho plateau.

Lo’s mom and her siblings lived here as children. She told us upon seeing this picture that this is not the original Perrine bridge. She remembered, even though it has been over 50 years. Human memory is amazing.

This is the eighth highest bridge in the United States with an elevation above sea level of around 3,600 ft (1,100 m), and an approximate height of 500 ft (150 m) above the Snake River. Idaho is an optical illusion – it’s flat because it’s the top of the plateau.

Yeah, that little dot is the sun.

We passed by this strange fence facade again. We’ve drive by it a few times – before on our way to Rigby for the solar eclipse. Lo was happy to grab a picture of some of the more unique features of the drive.

Jacob: This was one of the longer and more desolate stretches of drive – US 93 from Twin Falls to Elko. Most of the drive was on interstates, but sometimes you just can’t get there from here…

On the second day the road out of Elko felt like it could have been endless.

Power lines stretch across the desert and yet traces of agricultural activity and taps into aquifers are still obvious amongst the windblown landscape.

We pulled off the highway in the Nevada desert and drove around a little. This is the smallest underpass I’ve ever seen, barely wide enough for one car at a time.

Jacob: I have to wonder if they put up the sign just in case, or in response to someone escaping…

This was just a few doors down from the charger in Lovelock, NV. It was very convenient to access, just off the highway, but the town has seen better days. This yard and garden must have been beautiful once. The house itself was once a lovely, small two story.

I guess this exit just doesn’t have any capacity right now.

We missed the sign, but apparently there had been a rock slide?

For those that know Lo, there’s a hidden message she’s been trying to catch a picture of for years and finally succeeded.

At the Truckee charger a dog lounged and slept in the parking lot while his owner sat and picnicked nearby. Would not be moved for cars – nope, nope.

The Donner Summit rest area picture has no filters. That’s the color of the light filtering through the smoke.

So of course we looked up what in the world was going on. And… Oh. That makes sense.

There were *a lot* of portapotties along I-80. We suspect this might be due to all of the rest stops in Nevada along I-80 having been closed.

We got to Vallejo and wandered around the parking lot while the car charged. Here Lo managed to snag a few pictures.

We saw no shortage of interesting vehicles on our journey. Some chose unique intimidation tactics to keep other cars out from in front of them on the highway.

Our AirBnB in Richmond, California had the unpleasant surprise of a broken window. We managed to create somewhat of a seal and set up the air filter. It had the lovely benefit of a garden with citrus trees hanging over the fence.

Even the caution signs have opinions in California.

While in Richmond we did see a pack of wild turkeys taking over an Arco. Perhaps all of the humans staying home has lead to wildlife reclaiming its territory.

The sun continued on its tangerine and purple haze way.

And Back Again…

After the UCSF appointment we drove through the Castro. This was once our neighborhood.

Though there are many things we don’t miss about San Francisco, there are many things we do miss. There’s a sense of membership to a community here that is lacking in other places we’ve lived. This is where Jacob and I joined NERT. This is where we attended neighborhood watch meetings. A part of us will always be here.

It wouldn’t be the Bay Area without ridiculous and impractical, yet eye-catchingly hilarious furniture design. Seriously.

We saw a variety of interesting vehicles. This one might be an M1117? Someone that knows these better than we do, please confirm.

We ended up getting right behind the vehicle. These weren’t the only military vehicles we saw on the road being shipped places. Who knows where they’re going *shrug*.

By Tuesday afternoon, the air in San Francisco had finally started to clear up, just in time for us to leave. We had originally planned to head back Wednesday morning, but we both were itching to get home, and hitting the road Tuesday night let us get home a full day earlier. So off we went.

On I-80 on the way out of the San Francisco area, there was a brief traffic slowdown caused by, uh, this. Batteries can be scary if they catch fire, but not as scary as a gas tank…

As night was falling, we stopped to charge at a mall in Roseville, CA.

Lo got out and walked around. There are huge differences between the levels of permanency in the signage and overall social compliance to mask wearing and social distancing between California and Montana.

All around the stores were reminders to social distance, including Xs on the ground like one may mark up a stage for rehearsal.

Lo: An installation that struck me reminded me of The Freedom Of Speech Wall in Charlottesville, VA near where I went to undergrad.

What I Missed The Most:

  • Family
  • Late Night Movies
  • The Bars 😦
  • Baby
  • Shopping! 😦
  • My Wedding 6/6/20 😦
  • Football Games
  • Jorge Angel-a (?)
  • Friends
  • Fresh Air
  • andar con los compas
  • school and friends
  • the movies
  • CC and Damien
  • Tarrgh (?)
  • Human Kindness
  • Movies
  • Cierra </3
  • Play Outside
  • I miss go school

By midnight we were in Reno. The charger here was in a casino parking lot, so we had to maneuver through the disorienting maze that every casino town seems to be. So much neon…

Reno was a ghost town compared to its usual self. Admittedly, we’ve only been through a handful of times now, and we try to avoid stopping because of the crowds and traffic. Even the parking garages have the gates removed and no longer cost money. It’s surreal.

Near the charger was a giant piece of LED art that it turns out our friend Matt had worked on building.

Our final stop for the night was at the Town House Motel in Winnemucca. It seemed to be straight out of a time capsule from the 1950s:

Lo: More like 1960s/70s with strong elements of preserved mid century Americana at its best in my opinion. The rooms were very clean (though we also did a surface/touch-point disinfecting for our own sanity). This place would be great to use for photoshoots and as a filming location. I should have taken pictures of the swimming pool!

We saw this truck in Nevada. Thanks to my trucker friends and those that are familiar with Cyrillic languages, it means “drivers wanted” or “drive for us.”

At one of our charging stops in Idaho the car hit its peak charge rate of 250 kilowatts – about the same as the average power usage of 200 houses.

It being September, the tunnel was not icy.

Lo: I find Nevada beautiful. I know the American desert isn’t exactly what most people think of as magical, but I’ve seen rainbows from thunderstorms over this desert. Extreme weather creates gorgeous landscapes. I’m not experienced enough at photography to capture lightning yet.

Into Idaho from Nevada farming gets interesting. The suspicion is that Lo really wanted a picture of that horse.

Idaho has a booming dairy industry that ships across the western US via trains.

We’re welcomed back into Montana by this mansion of a fixer upper off of I-15. Lo keeps joking that she wants to move in.

Finally home! The smoke had followed us the whole way back, so we got the air filter back into the house in a hurry.

Jacob: After we got home I added up all the statistics for the drive. In just four and a half days, the total was:

  • 2,449 miles driven
  • 39 hours, 47 minutes on the road
  • 705 kWh of electricity used by the car – as much energy as in less than 20 gallons of gasoline
  • 20 charging stops at an average of 19 minutes each
We hope you enjoyed this whirlwind travel adventure post about driving to and from San Francisco in an electric car for a doctor’s appointment at UCSF. Road tripping during global pandemics is ill advised and we recommend anyone considering repeating this to take all necessary precautions to protect your own health and well being, as well as the well being of others.

Lo: If you want Jacob to author more posts, please drop a comment and leave a like. Let him know what kinds of posts you’d like to see. Your feedback is valuable ❤

If you see these photos posted elsewhere, please let us know. At this time a few are posted on Lo’s instagram, but mostly they are on this page only. Lo is still developing a unique watermark and is dealing with photo-stealing. If you would like to use any of these photos:

  • For unpaid projects, simply credit Lo and link back to this website.
  • For paid projects please send Lo an e-mail and we can exchange a fair use contract with more details.

The Castro We Knew – A Poem

Yesterday, Jacob and I drove through our old neighborhood in San Francisco after my UCSF appointment before we started our drive back to Montana to quarantine for 2 weeks. While we couldn’t see anyone in person, I wanted to see the city that stole a part of me. What we saw? My heart breaks for the communities I love.


The Castro We Knew

Rainbow crosswalks sleep
Beneath COVID covered streets.
Storefronts beg we stand together
While standing six feet apart

What happened to our promised land?
These parklets – empty squatters
Where free STD clinic vans once sat
The city lost interest – no tourists; no hands

Our silent ghost town of glitter —
Toxic smoke settling
Into a matte finish over
All we once thought was gold


You can help support The Castro of San Francisco and help it survive by shopping Castro Merchants, supporting the San Francisco LGBT Center, and donating money to keep the GLBT Historical Society (operating the Harvey Milk Memorial) operating during the COVID-19 shutdowns. If you can’t donate, you can start conversations about this special place needing assistance and share these websites with friends and family. Every little bit helps.

End Of The Rainbow

Photo by Lo Potter

A personal essay written while living in San Francisco.


Growing up in rural America, I imagined San Francisco as a far off fairytale land with sacred Meccas such as the City Lights bookstore, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Castro – all as mythical as the television show, “Full House.” In college, my girlfriends and I fantasized about a pilgrimage to a place where our futures didn’t depend on hiding our identities. But, when I arrived in 2014, my image of a Gay Promise Land shattered.

I first noticed not the architecture, nor the blending of cultures I envisioned in collegiate daydreams. In all directions, advertisements or billboards smacked me upside the brain with some internet meme derived slogan or, yet another iPhone advertisement. Then, the overwhelming smell of burning marijuana stole a close second, with the thousands of homeless, suffering daily from police brutality visible through the smoke. 

Now here, I watch humans drown in advertisements screaming memes from once-trending YouTube videos specific to the ages of the targeted audiences. Municipal transit lives and breathes what once resided within the confines of magazines and television. To survive, I wear my indifference like scuba gear. Yet, the materialism and the artificial state of California seeps through my protective barriers. Classic business attire implies age because physical appearance cannot be trusted here. Saving money exists as a hobby-like pastime for those wealthy enough to have any part of their paycheck left after paying the costs of living. At the ripe old age of 24, someone assumes I’m in my 30s because I wear east coast style business attire when instructed to dress “business casual” instead of seasonal fast fashion trends business-appropriate enough to pass.

In San Francisco, I learn that to be a member of my community I have to choose: be a walking advertisement and suffer the professional consequences, or be myself and exist just under the calibrated range for Gay-dar. San Francisco redefines Pride for me as between two communities, unable to belong to either – hated by both.

While trying to eat my lunch at work, I listen to a group of San Franciscans talk about how they “totally judge” every single person they meet by their shoes. I try to tune out, but their voices echo in the open floor plan. Tevas, Chacos, Vibram 5-fingers, and Birkenstocks are on their “this person is not worth my time” list – each person shares their particular nuances. I try not to listen and shove my face with Safeway Alaska Roll, hoping the chewing will drown them out. It doesn’t.

According to these white, San Franciscan women, the first offense by anyone wearing these shoes is their lack of fashion sense. Mortal sin if they combine these shoes with socks. The second offense? The price paid for these shoes. Why? Don’t worry. They share that too. Apparently, “anyone choosing to wear any of these brands should be spending their money on much nicer looking shoes” that don’t make them look like “wanna-be outdoorsy people who can’t stand to be in the office.” 

One woman, her Brazilian blowout blonde hair quivering, charges into a rant about a man she sat next to at a conference in Seattle. He wore Vibram 5-finger toes that, without saying anything, conveyed the message, “I shouldn’t be here. I’m too good to be here.” 

I look down at my feet. Having owned a nice pair of black nylon-strap Teva sandals, I listen as these women continue voicing their prejudices against those that prefer durable, comfortable footwear. But this is normal. In San Francisco, I don’t know if the consistency helps. Perhaps I should take comfort in knowing that I can expect strangers will always be judging me based on the appearance of my feet and not on any other qualities of my existence – they are literally looking down on me even when I’m at a shared eye level.

On the train home, I gaze out at this fallen Mecca with its urine-soaked streets and drug numbed population. How did I get it so wrong? “That’s just wrong,” someone echoes. Finding a spot along the seawall overlooking the Bay Bridge, I sit at the Embarcadero. The bay glistens, dancing blues absent of humans. Others find happiness here. Why not me?


Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post today. If it speaks to you, please let me know by liking, commenting, or sharing this post. This helps me know which posts my readers like best.

Recovery: If 1 million Americans get coronavirus, what will the recovery look like?

Success With Flattening the Curve

I posted this on twitter last night after the briefing.

Remember how we were projected to have 2.5 Million cases? We have reduced the projected number of infected Americans by 1.5 Million to only 1 Million. 1 Million is not great, but that’s a big change. That is called flattening the curve and everyone should be thinking that is really amazing (I know I am). They did not mention the number in the briefing (frustratingly). But forecasting has gotten a bad rep in the past.

For those who are math nerds – that’s a linear fit to 1,000,000 (switch from exponential), which some dude in the early 20th century proposed was when the growth in the number of reported influenza cases was hitting it’s predictable rounded peak forecasted the maximum cumulative cases (the limit). I’ve been trying to go through my notes to remember more about how this all works because I don’t remember the name of who came up with all of this and I’m trying to find the paper. I will update this and replace this rambling text when I do.

Recovery in the US

Recovery is not a guarantee that you will not get SARS-CoV-2 again. There are recorded cases of reinfection internationally. We do not have enough data to know if this is reactivation of latent virus or if this is true reinfection. That said, we are finally looking for asymptomatic, both recovered and not, individuals.

A vaccine would be able to address this by using adjuvants designed to induce helper T cell immunity in addition to antibody based immunity. Vaccines take time. Realistically a good vaccine will be on the market in March 2021 at the absolute earliest. Anything before that and I will be floored if it has sufficient efficacy to help.

In New York City, 40-50% of patients experiencing severe acute respiratory distress will be placed on a ventilator. If recovery required a ventilator, the testimonies from survivors do not suggest a population able to return to the workforce tomorrow. Shortness of breath, weakness, and other long term effects of hypoxia threaten the be permanent disabilities in this portion of the population.

But what if you do have immunity? You’ll be able to test that. What if you’re one of the lucky ones? I guess that’s up to you.

We’re in this together.

source:https://coronavirus.1point3acres.com/en

At each of these state clusters there is at least one urban center that has the dominant reservoir population. Once movement between urban centers (New York -> Chicago -> Houston -> Miami -> Atlanta -> Boston -> Dallas -> L.A. -> San Francisco -> Chicago -> Orlando -> Pittsburgh -> (etc. etc. etc.)) stops then there will no longer be additions of infected individuals into the populations. This is why non-essential planes need to be grounded.

I live in Montana. I am so blessed. I want to make it clear that we still need to behave. It only takes 1 person to infect 10.

My family and people I love live in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, California, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Arizona and Maine. I’m terrified for everyone.

We’re going to gradually come to a new normal. Ask me questions and I’ll eventually address them in updates on these original posts.

As a change of pace, I’m going to stop writing about the coronavirus for a while unless there’s something people specifically think of graphs or other things that would be useful questions to be answered in something new instead of an update. I still have a backlog of a couple posts that will still get done though.

I will be starting to write short stories and weird little memoir style posts so people can enjoy my writing separate from the reviews.

Thank you for reading. Without you this is a shout into the void.