Sunday, May 27, 2012

the scary drive - Vancouver to Portland to Reno to Vegas

I've driven from Vancouver to Las Vegas seven times in my life, five of those for the WSOP. The most direct (and easy) route is the one pictured below, although a couple of times I've visited friends in southern California, so I've gone south down the I-5, then driven north to Vegas along the I-15.

This time, however, I was invited to stay with friends in Portland (and Portland is a great city I'm always happy to spend time in), so my trip looked a little different:

It's actually a fairly similar length, but the drive is much more treacherous.  I suppose I should have done my homework on this, but this drive takes me through a part of Cascade Mountains where the elevation is over 5000 feet and I was hit by sub-zero temperatures, snow, and winding, icy roads. Keep in mind that I drive a Porsche Boxster with racing tires, which is not exactly ideal. Most of the cars that were driving along with me were SUVs and light trucks, many of them with ski racks. It was very very scary. I spun the tires exactly once on an uphill, and it was at that point that I decided to go into old-lady driving mode and hope for the best. At one point I pulled over at a gas station to call a friend and have him check the weather and elevation going forward. Luckily at that point I had gotten the worst of it already and the rest of the drive was much less dangerous.

I wouldn't have dared taking a picture at the most dangerous parts, but once the traffic cleared up and the road got a little more manageable, I still managed to quickly get this one off.

After traversing the Cascades, one would think that things would be getting a lot less dangerous, but that wouldn't be the case. While driving through northeast California, I started getting some cold/flu symptoms. Now, driving isn't exactly a strenuous physical activity, but I was worried because I was getting very tired and sleepy. I pulled over a couple of times to recover and noticed I was getting the chills. A 10-hour driving day will give my body aches under the best of circumstances, but I was definitely feeling much more achy than usual. I could also tell my mental acuity and physical coordination was off: when I did actually arrive at my stop for the night in Reno, I noticed that I was fumbling objects when I went to pick them up, bumping into things, and just generally out of it.

I left Reno for Las Vegas early Saturday morning, but a little over an hour into my drive I pulled into a Walmart parking lot and slept in my car for an hour. Feeling sick, I didn't really feel like coffee, but the nap helped a bit and I continued onwards. I would end up stopping on nearly an hourly basis, including a second nap at a rest stop about four hours outside of Vegas. I now had a new problem that concerned me: my vision was getting blurry. I have laser-corrected and thus pretty much perfect vision, but my eyes were really fatigued. Signs that I would easily be able to read normally at 400 metres were unreadable to me at 100 metres. Especially when I shifted my eyes to look at something else (the rear-view mirror, for example) then went back to look at the road, my vision would become totally blurry.  I would often see cars off in the distance to find that there was in fact, no car; that what I was seeing was just a signpost or something. The road from Reno to Las Vegas is pretty much all monotonous desert and that didn't help things. It was very scary to be driving along at 75mph in such a compromised physical state. I think I will definitely look harder for a co-pilot on the trip back to Vancouver.

The good news is that I've finally made it safely to Las Vegas. Still running a slight fever, still not feeling great, but hopefully good enough to play the $1500 tomorrow. That first event is always awesome and it would suck to miss it.

Good luck, everyone!


  1. Your problems sound more like dangerously low blood sugar than flu.

    1. That would be surprising, but plausible -- I had very little appetite and the only thing I ate on Sunday up until arriving in Vegas was a pack of beef jerky and a couple handfuls of dried fruit from a gas station.

    2. Another possibility: dehydration. I don't know how well you stayed hydrated, but I had similar symptoms on a road trip before, but simply didn't feel thirsty. Someone suggested that maybe I was dehydrated (they noticed I didn't get water with my sandwich several hours ago).

      I started drinking water from a fountain and realized I could happily drink quite a few liters (maybe 3L in 15 minutes, by my guesstimate). I got the chills in a few minutes, most likely from quite a bit of fluid entering my bloodstream, and 20 minutes later felt completely better.

  2. Going through Salt Lake City is a way easier drive.