Delivering Kirk From Cali To Omaha


Friend of BA Kirk Kenney continues his literal road to Omaha . . .

NO NAME, Colo.—I spend the night in Grand Junction, Colo., each year and not just because it is the midpoint of the 1,599-mile drive from San Diego to Omaha. It is because you don’t want to drive the 250-mile stretch to Denver in the dark. You want to see the surroundings. It is the most scenic section of the trip, with Interstate 70 snaking back and forth over the Colorado River. I can’t get over seeing some of the mountains here still topped with snow in mid-June. The highway construction through the mountains took 20-some years to complete and the process was so interesting it was featured in an episode of Modern Marvels on the History Channel.

There is a great hot springs resort in Glenwood Springs, 90 miles north of Grand Junction. Drive a bit more and there's an outstanding paved bike trail that goes for miles and miles. But what really captured my imagination when I first drove through nine years ago was the whitewater rafting on the Colorado. Eager to reach Omaha, I didn’t stop at the time, but I made a mental note. On the drive home, I wondered where to pull off the road. I had nowhere in particular in mind, so when I came across No Name (exit 119) it made perfect sense. I’ve enjoyed stopping there at Rock Gardens Rafting ever since.

I won’t be rafting today. I want to make it to Omaha by nightfall, so I’ll be fresh for tomorrow’s opening games. It is definitely on the agenda on the drive home, however. I usually pick up a T-shirt while I’m there. The last one I got says this on the back: “Paddle Faster, I Think I Hear Banjo Music.” (If you’re too young to get that, then rent Deliverance from Netflix).

Here’s a few other notes from the first 800 miles of the drive:

• In California, about 100 miles before you get to Las Vegas, there is a sign that says Zzyzx Road. It doesn’t go much of anywhere but does have its own Wikipedia reference. According to this entry, “The name Zzyzx was given to the area in 1944 by Curtis Howe Springer, claiming it to be the last word in the English language.” After countless trips past the road I finally pulled off once to see if there was anything befitting such a great name. I guess there was once, but it is little more now than a 4 1/2 miles long road, dead-ending in both directions. Big mistake taking an exit there. I should have stayed on the highway and always wondered/speculated instead of actually stopping. Roadtrip America provides better details about the road’s history and old “Doc” Springer. So there’s that.

• Another landmark along I-15 is the World’s Largest Thermometer, in Baker, Calif. The thermometer also has a Wikipedia reference. I drove past it once on the way to Omaha and the temperature read 112. The next day I was driving through the Colorado mountains near Glenwood Springs and the temperature gauge in my car read 44 degrees.

• Primm, Nev. is just past the California-Nevada border. I liked it better when it was named Stateline, but I guess there was some confusion because there’s a Stateline at the northern border, too. It is a good spot to stop when the urge strikes to ride a roller coaster or get a $5 steak at the Silver Spur Steakhouse. On a midseason trip to see San Diego State play UNLV last year, I was tempted to book a night’s stay at Buffalo Bill’s Casino. Cost: $9. Only problem is it’s 40 miles from Las Vegas. I opted for the Tuscany Suites & Casino, splurging for $30.

• Driving through Richfield, Utah, on Thursday I glanced down at some well-manicured ballfields with the grounds crew busy at work. One guy was mowing the outfield grass as another prepared to chalk the third-base line. I had to admire their dedication. It was 11 at night.