All riiiight. At this point we're closing in on the end of the trip, which is nothing to celebrate but for the inevitable passage of time. For the moment we're in Las Vegas, and we may have to make an excursion out to Black Rock for a certain annual festival. But not having settled on that quite yet, we're moving from Vegas to San Diego, CA, mostly south along Route 15. Attractions along the way of this five and a half hour trek include the Mojave National Preserve, lovely San Bernardino and, of course, Riverside (home to Archie and the gang), where I think a burger and a malt is in order. Otherwise, San Diego will be the start of a long journey up the West Coast, perhaps with a stop off in Tijuana, assuming all our passports are in order.
In this area, there is a big cluster of cities with names I've heard many times in California conversations, such as Newport Beach, Anaheim, Long Beach, and on and on. Frankly, I don't know how which of these places we're supposed to be visiting or for how long. We seem to have Newport Beach and some other city highlighted on the map as planned stops, but I'm not making any promises about this area until we're further along in our planning.
I do know, however, that we'll be making what I consider to be a mandatory visit to Los Angeles. Hollywood, baby, a place that everyone seems to have something bad to say about. And I mean everybody. But I've never seen it and I don't care to make any judgments until I do. Besides, it's the biggest city on the West Coast, as well as home to a few old schoolmates of mine, if I'm not mistaken.
Next we're traveling northwest along the coast. The quickest way is Route 101, but not by too much - and besides, taking this highway would eliminate beautiful vistas like Santa Monica from our itinerary. So we'll take Route 1 on our way to Santa Barbara. This college/beach town, closely neighboring the vast Fort Tejon State Historical Park, seems an unnecessary omission, especially in the waning summer days of, at this point, early September. The drive is two and a half hours (three with traffic), but bound to be one of the more beautiful we'll see.
From there, Google Maps wants us to save time and travel along Route 101 to our next destination - again, a foolish idea for our purposes. So we'll head up the coast along Route 1 again, adding a mere forty miles but over three hours of drive time to the trip. This lands us in San Francisco, a place where I'm thoroughly convinced I will never want to leave. I need time to soak in everything in this liberal and progressive capital of the United States. And visits to Palo Alto on the way in and (possibly) Oakland on the way out just may be on the list of things to do.
The Napa Valley lies north, where we will visit and frolic like we're getting married in a week. After this we'll head back to Route 1 and trek further north, and it looks like we marked somewhere to stop shortly thereafter. God only knows what that is supposed to indicate.
But here, things are winding down. We'll marvel at the long Pacific Coastal Highway, camping out for a night or two on our way to Eugene, Or. This whole big leg, from San Fran into the Napa Valley and up the coast, covers a whopping 715 miles and more than 15 hours behind the wheel. As I mentioned, We'll tackle it at a gradual rate, but Eugene seems an intelligent stop along the way, especially since school at the University of Oregon will be back in session at that point.
But it may not be necessary. After all, Eugene is a mere two hours and 105 miles north on Route 5 from our next, and final destination... Portland. Once we're here, our trip has been completed and it will be time to settle in. Ideally, we'll already know where we'll be living and where we'll be working. And thus, our fantastic voyage will be complete.
Sorry if these "Route" posts got a little tedious, but now that these are written, I'll be able to link back to them in future posts for reference. It's all in the name of convenience. And of course, writing these has helped me to identify areas where we need to brush up on planning.
But anyway, that's the route in its entirety. Leave comments if we're leaving any glaring omissions, which I'm certain we are.
Here's where things get a little shaky. As of right now, the route for this section of the trip looks more like a pulse during a heart attack than anything else. We have some trouble spots here, and that's simply because we haven't reached an extensive level of planning for these further-away spots, as well as for the fact that we need to make some adjustments.
But we can still talk about it. For now, the map has us leaving Minneapolis and heading south. This is no longer the case. For scenery's sake, we'll be lunging northwest and then plummeting south through the badlands of North and South Dakota, possibly coming close to Bismarck, Nd. But unless necessitated by the weather, I don't think we'll be seeing all that much civilization while we're in this neck of the woods.
Let's say we do stop in Bismarck. Our next realistic stop on our original route brings us through South Dakota, through Nebraska, to Wichita, Ks. (home of Jack Straw), after a stomach-curdling 13 1/2 hour drive on more roads and highways than I'd care to mention. Basically, this leg of the trip will be somewhat the converse of the previous, which involved a swing north and visits to a handful of major urban center. This plunge south will involve a lot more nature, and probably a lot more open road. And lord knows I don't know anyone in these parts. So I'll be pushing for camping, hiking, birdwatching and other such back-to-basics activities.
After Wichita, the next stop brings us to the big city of Dallas, Tx. Paired with its sister city, Ft. Worth, this large cultural destination awaits us after a carefully executed drive through outrageous Oklahoma, five and a half hours and 350 miles on Route 35. This is primarily to fulfill the Texas obligation, because frankly, we don't know where else to go besides Houston or San Antonio. I'd love to have my mind changed before we go, not because I don't want to go to Dallas, but because none of us really know the best things to see or where they are. We're trying to learn as much as we can, as quickly as possible, about the country through TV documentaries, books, internet sources and so on. The more feedback I have, the better decisions we can make when the time comes.
Anyway, after Dallas comes a drive north to Amarillo, Tx., a six and a half hour drive, mostly on Route 287. This is more of a stop in the middle than a destination in and of itself, but a good place to stop and rest our feet.
After Amarillo comes a big deal for all of us in Denver, Co. The mile high city is seven and a half hours away from Amarillo, mostly on routes 87 and 25, and is home to a handful of wanderlusting classmates of mine from high school, with whom I'll have to get back in touch before we arrive. Denver lies in the Rocky Mountains, and is surrounded by a handful of other smaller, interesting locales like Boulder and Ft. Collins, which we plan on exploring as well.
Now, the map is inaccurate once again at this particular juncture, as we will not be doing any backtracking on the same road, unless something so irresistible draws us back south to Denver. Our plan from here is a general drive south through the Rockies, however we have to do it. This may lead us to miss Albuquerque, Nm., or it may not. Or maybe someone will fill me in on the Albuquerque scene to the point that we simply won't be able to skip it. A lot can happen between now and then.
Either way, there doesn't seem to be any reason for us to miss Flagstaff, Az. I'd like to experience some of the southwest, and I've been told that Flagstaff is a perfect place to do just that. Joey insists that we're going to a rodeo during this trip at some point, so this might be an opportune moment to do just that. And I want nothing more than to spend the night underneath an Arizona sky. Hopefully more than one.
We'll hit the Grand Canyon, and wherever Bryce and Zion Canyons are, I've been duly informed of their magnificence as well, so count them in. But our next major city in the itinerary is none other than Las Vegas, Nv. We'll get there after just over four hours of driving on routes 40 and 93. I can say for a fact that nobody I know lives out here, and we'll be visiting the casinos but definitely not sleeping in them, for finances' sake.
Wherever we sleep (Death Valley, anyone?), we're at the home stretch. The last leg brings up the West Coast.
So here we are on the middle leg of the trip. This part is going to take more driving than we've had to tolerate thus far, but that's nothing that scares any of us. But we start it off with a drive from Key West to Tampa, Fl. on a whopping 7 1/2 hour drive, mostly on routes 1 and 75. This will leave us plum-tuckered and looking for a place to stay - however, Tampa being such a temperate locale, we might just have to camp out for the night.
Up next is a long, monotonous drive from Tampa to Macon, Ga. This is more of a symbolic stop than any, having been the site of the deaths of two members of the Allman Brothers Band in two seperate motorcycle accidents. The drive requires nearly six hours, nearly all of which is on Rt. 75 North. I'm pushing for a stop off in central Florida's Ocala National Forest during this long, arduous drive, perhaps for a proper picnic lunch.
Our next destination is a stone's throw away in Atlanta, a mere hour and a half drive up route 75 again. This further necessitates a stop in Macon immediately prior, because eight hours at a time to get to one big, urban center is a little extreme. This is a big place with a lot pf people, and will probably require a two day visit.
Up next we bumped into another dilemma. We're getting close to a pretty big deal of a trip stop is a few hundred miles, and to get there,we have two forseeable routes. I'd originally wanted to head nearly due west to Birmingham, Al., a city rich with history (mainly due to the civil rights movement).We could go that route, our we could head the more scenic direction, southeast through Montgomery to Pensacola, Fl. Personally, I have no problems dipping back into Florida for a spell, nor do I have any qualms with picking beaches over historical landmarks. So we'll head to Pensacola, followed closely by Mobile, Al. (just because of the Bob Dylan song) after five and half hours on routes 85 and 65 to Pensacola and another hour on Route 10 to Mobile.
After Mobile comes a big, big place for us to see - New Orleans. We'll get there via Route 10 after about two and a half hours and 130 miles. A cultural center of the South and the United States altogether, this place is chock full of things to see, meals to eat and a few people to visit. We'll probably stretch this visit into three days of fun and frolicking.
Next, we're getting into the "real" America with a six-hour drive north on Route 55 to Memphis, Tn. This place is unmissable in my opinion, but also has a possibly convenient stop in Jackson, Ms. a few hours before. We might stop for gas. Otherwise, we'll have nobody to stay with in Memphis and will definately need to break out the campground guide for our stay.
Further north we'll encounter St. Louis, after 275 freakin' miles and four freakin' hours on Route 55 again. Can't miss this place, the city of blues, but we'll be on our own again in terms of sleeping conditions. Look for us in another campground near town.
At this point in our planning, we paused and deliberated for a moment. Is Indianapolis worth the gas? Well, we decided that yes, it might very well be, and who are we to pass judgement without seeing it firsthand? So we've decided to trek the 220 miles on Route 20 to exactly there, Indianapolis, In. My mom's old boyfriend, Dale, lives in this area and boasts an alcohol tolerance that would make Castro cower in fear. So we're gonna have to get some drinks with ol' Dale, and beg him to use his shower.
Next we'll bounce north-northwest to Chicago, Il., the hometown of our new president. This'll take about a three-hour drive, mostly on I-65 North. Our friend Adrienne from college lives there, as does deep dish pizza. So we'll weasel our way into staying with her and eating that pizza.
Not too far north is where the beer is brewed, and we'll be drinking a few. Milwaukee, Wi., home of the Brewers, is our next destination, 80 miles north along Lake Michigan on Route 94. You might have noticed that we've completely skipped Michigan. Give me a few good reasons to change my mind, because we've got none so far. I don't know that we have anyone out in Milwaukee, so hopefully it won't be too cold outdoors.
We're driving through Madison, Wi., which we believed to be the home of the beautiful bridges of Madison County. We made that up, they're in Iowa, I believe. So we might just mow through and head straight to our next stop, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Mn. I'm positive we'll be on our own at this point, but by now we're past the halfway point (at least in terms of my preemptive coverage here), so we should be able to take care of ourselves pretty well. Assuming no one has perished yet.
Keep your fingers crossed.
Image courtesy Google Maps
At this point, we've visited nearly a dozen different cities, depending on how many places we decide to visit in upstate New York. I spoke to a good friend from college earlier today who trashed Syracuse and Buffalo, saying they were places that nobody wants to be, in kinder words than he chose to use. While he's often someone whose opinions I take with a grain of salt, his thoughts on these destinations will not be merely discarded. We have seven and a half months before we leave, and in that time I'm striving to be a sponge for raves, rants and other such opinions from anyone who cares to offer them. So I'll continue to examine these places from afar before we hit the road.
Right now we're in Buffalo, having assumedly visited nearby Niagara Falls for some photo ops. From here we're planning a drive southwest for three hours on I-90 to Cleveland. This is fundamentally to get Ohio into the mix - we could theoretically do it on the way back up (which you'll hear about in the next post), but then we'd be going to Cincinnati instead. Perhaps we'll have to indulge in a Cleveland vs. Cincinnati debate somewhere in the future. That could be fun, and boy oh boy, do we encourage comments. Please leave them as plentifully as you desire.
If we decide to go to Cleveland, we still have to tuck back into Pennsylvania to visit Joey's dad in Pittsburgh, after two and a half hours on routes 80 and 76. Depending on who you talk to, Pittsburgh is either a really cool city or a garbage heap. But we do have Joey's dad to stay with. So we'll see how long we're in town.
Our next stop was originally going to be Lynchburg, Va., because I was misinformed and thought that this was the Lynchburg where Jack Daniels' bourbon is made. I found out that not only was I wrong, but Jack is made in (duh) Tennessee inside a dry county. So the next place we have to go after Pittsburgh is Charlotte, NC. This is a seven hour drive with Roanoke in between, as well as the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, which sounds like a can't-freakin-wait-to-see-it destination. But once we're in Charlotte, our friend Greg from school is very high on our list of people to see.
Three hours and 200 miles along routes 77 and 26 will bring us down into Charleston, SC, where we'll spend all day gloriously bathing in the sun and, preferably, sleeping on the beach or in the woods somewhere.
This first southern beach stop will be immediately followed by another, with a two hour drive southwest to beautiful Savannah, Ga. This place comes highly recommended by anybody who has ever set foot there, and provides us with a fantastic sight to see on our way further south.
Jacksonville, Fl. is next, two hours south on I-95. Joey is intent on hitting Daytona Beach immediately thereafter, as it's the tourist capital of the world, to paraphrase Joey. We might also go to Orlando while we're nearby, but I've been there before and spent a lot of money (mainly buying drinks at Universal Studios on the way to one of the most hilarious blackout drunks I've ever had). So we'll see about all this.
Further south, we'll make our way to the city where the heat is on, Miami, Will Smith's favorite place to rap about after Philly. This is a five hour drive on routes 95 and 91, with a whole lot of Florida stuff between cities, and we may yet again get sidetracked. We don't have big plans for Miami, and remember that we're on a tight budget, so the extent of our stay is questionable for now.
The last stop on this leg will be Key West, because as long as we're that close, why the hell not.
And from there, it's on to the Midwest.
Image courtesy Google Maps
So here's an idea of what the trip is shaping up to look like. Basically, we sat down with a map of the United States and selected all the places between Philadelphia and Portland that we'd like to enjoy during our great adventure. And this is what we came up with, broken down into five segments for easier blogging. We begin in the far-too-familiar Northeast.
Now, as I've mentioned under the ever-growing "Where We're Going" section, the three of us live just on the outskirts of Philadelphia but will not begin our official journey there. Based on cities to both our immediate north and south that are must-visit places, we're zipping just a bit south, for a logistically sensible and pleasantly patriotic start in Washington, D.C. This begins our trip with only a two hour drive, mostly along I-95, and will land us here where my sister (as of now) takes up residence. Hers will be an ideal place to crash for a night or two, as long as she's still living there in seven months or so. We'll spend one, maybe two days here looking around.
Just 55 minutes and 40 miles later, we'll find ourselves in Baltimore. Again, this could be a one-day or two-day visit, we haven't quite decided. I've got a few friends from college down there, but this could be the first time we have to break out the campground guide. We got our hands on a "best campsites in the country" book, and will hopefully utilize it on numerous occasions. This actually has a lot to do with why we're going in the thick of the summertime, with the explicit intention of camping out whenever we can't find a friendly place to crash.
Next stop, we'll be back in Philadelphia, driving only two hours north on 95 before galavanting around this familiar locale. Here we have plenty of friends, and I have most of my immediate family, who would be happy to set us down for a night. It would make sense (in terms of how awesome Philly is) to spend two days here, but we might cut it to one due to our (my) eagerness to get a move on.
From here, we'll have to drop by my grandparents' place in Plainfield, NJ. Notice I didn't put that word in boldface because this doesn't not count as one of our destinations. Nothing there, I promise you, except for my grandparents. But we'll be on our way to New York, after a total drive time of 2 1/2 hours and most of our trip on the ol' Jersey Turnpike. New York is a tremendous city with plenty to explore and experience, and we've got plenty of friends therein, so I'll be pushing for a three-day stay here.
Next comes Boston, after four hours of driving via routes 95, 91, 84 and 90. This is a city filled with culture and home to a handful of friends of ours from college, so we'll hopefully have a two-day visit here with plenty of good people to see. And now that I'm thinking about it, Sarah's parents live in nearby South Hadley, so we'll probably be visiting them.
After Boston, we're darting north on 95 for two hours for a brief visit to Portland, Me., the namesake of our final destination on the other side of the country. We might stay a night here, or might not in lieu of our friend Kimmy's house in Lewiston, Me. I know it gets cold up there, so maybe a warm house would be of some value.
Joey messed up the map here somehow, but I'm pretty sure he did the whole map at the same time, so he was bound to mess up a little. We're spending four hours on more roads than I'd care to mention on our way to Burlington, Vt. This place has come highly recommended from friends as a must-see, so we'll do a night here, maybe two if something extraordinary compels us to do so.
From here we'll go barreling through upstate New York, going 87 S to 90 W for 5 1/2 hours on our way to Syracuse. We know this is a college town with a lot of fun to be had, and we're not that old that we couldn't find something to do. We'll also drive through Albany, Utica and Adirondack Park, so we might get a little sidetracked.
Immediately after Syracuse we'll get to Buffalo, driving 2 1/2 hours on 90 W, directly past Rochester (which might require a visit). We're coming here for the wings, and will seek to experience the 'originals' of them for a night or two.
That's our start. Next time, we venture south.
Images courtesy Google Maps