Warning: This is a very long post.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, July 27th, my friend and I embarked on our cross-country adventure.Day 1: California & Nevada
Driving along the 80 out of San Francisco, through the Central Valley, and into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada felt familiar. We made it to the Nevada border in about four hours. Shortly after passing Reno, we switched to Highway 50, aka “The Loneliest Road in America.” It lives up to its name. We passed maybe 7 vehicles on the drive through Nevada. We stopped for gas in Eureka – a sad little town with big bug problem. According the grizzled gas station attended, Mormon Crickets were the town’s biggest worry. We were encouraged to kill as many of them as we could because, “They destroy the crops.” My friend and I found this statement odd. As far as we could tell, the town was in the middle of the desert. We continued on through Nevada at night. We opened the sunroof so that we could enjoy the view of the sky. I have never seen so many stars. It was truly breath-taking. After thirty minutes of feeling as though I were in a Volkswagen commercial, an enormous beetle dropped in through the sunroof and landed in the car with a thud. This insect must have been as big as my head. And it looked hungry. When it comes to giant insects, I’m flight (no fight). So what do I do? At 90 mph, I start to open the car door. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking clearly. I don’t know if I intended to jump or if I hoped that opening the car door would create the suction necessary to tear the beetle from its dashboard perch and send it flying into the ether. In any case, my friend (who was driving, thank God), managed to slow down the vehicle and bring it to a complete stop before calmly removing the beetle from the car. I truly admire her bravery. My friend spent the rest of the trip trying to convince me that the beetle was not only much smaller than I remember, but harmless as well. I disagree. It looked like it was big enough to hold a fork and a knife. It wanted to eat us. In any case, we continued on through Nevada and arrived in Ely, a town on the eastern end of Nevada, at around 1 a.m. We found a motel with a vacancy and slept the rest of the night. Total miles traveled: 540.
California mountains and stream.
Nevada desert and mountains.Day 2: Nevada, Utah, & Colorado
We were back on the road at 9:30 a.m. the following morning. In no time at all, we were in Utah. The western third of the drive was mostly desert – not very inspiring. But the middle third was incredible. Beautiful red mountains and rocks. We decided to swing by Arches National Park, near Moab. It’s very impressive – this nature stuff. Unfortunately, I once again found myself under attack. This time, by mosquitoes. I fought them off as best I could, but a few of the lucky ones managed to bite. We left Arches after about an hour and were in Colorado by dusk. Most of our journey through the western half of Colorado happened at night, so I missed the scenic part of the state. We arrived in Boulder at 11 p.m. and pulled into our friend’s driveway. We left immediately for a nearby restaurant and finished the night with a couple of beers at a bar before returning to our friend’s place to crash. Total miles traveled: 700.
Arches National Park 1.
Arches National Park 2.
Arches National Park 3.Day 3: Colorado, Kansas, & Missouri
I started off the morning by going to a gym in Boulder called Rally. Very nice facilities. We didn’t leave the city until noon. Boulder was very charming and almost all of the people there were very athletic and tanned. It was like being in L.A., only the people in Boulder had a more natural beauty to them. Driving out of Boulder, through Denver, and into eastern Colorado was depressing. That half of the state was flat and appeared to be reserved for the raising cattle. I’m sure you can imagine the smell. We were very relieved when we crossed the border into Kansas a few hours later.
Kansas was surprising. I was sure it would be flat and dull, with corn and wheat fields for miles and miles. Actually, southern Illinois looked more like the Kansas of my imagination than Kansas did. Kansas is rolling hills and grass. On the side of the highway, I saw an enormous billboard that read, “Stop Abortion. Save a life.” Not surprising for a state that went to Bush in 2004. However, several miles down the same highway I saw another sign with similar colors and lettering that read, “Keep abortion. Save a beating.” It seemed kind of odd to me that this sort of debate would be taken up on billboards along a major interstate highway, but it was refreshing to see that both sides of this issue were being debated at all, especially in the more conservative western half of the state. Eventually, we had to stop for gas, so we pulled into gas station. I walked into the bathroom and straight to the urinal. I guess the guy who was giving himself a paper-towel bath at the sink decided that he didn’t like me very much because on his way out the door, he said, “You have a lot of never coming in here looking like that. I ought to kick your ass.” He then slammed the door behind him. I was the only one in the bathroom, so I assumed he was talking to me. People, I was wearing a pair of Levi’s, a t-shirt, and sneakers. I could have been anyone’s next door neighbor in any state in the country. Was he upset that I didn’t say, “Hi”? Or did the standard-issue plain white tee just really piss him off. I think he was just looking for a fight. We left the gas station and drove to Topeka. Being close to the end of the month, we passed a number of ticket-happy state patrol officers looking to meet their quota. Once in Topeka, we pulled off the highway and into a Denny’s, where everyone was very friendly. After dinner, we drove through Kansas City, which has a beautiful skyline, to Columbia, Missouri, where we pulled in around 1:30 a.m. We found a motel and crashed at 2:00 p.m. Total miles traveled: 750.
The mighty Mississippi.Day 4: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, & Pennsylvania
About a hundred miles west of the Missouri River was where the hot, humid weather began. It stayed with us through rest of the trip. We spent Day 4 going through the eastern half of Missouri, southern Illinois, central Indiana, northern Ohio, and eastern Pennsylvania. The Indianapolis skyline wasn’t terribly impressive, but it was nice to see my mom’s home state and to see the exit sign for her home town. I took a picture of it to send to her. In Ohio, we began to encounter a lot of road work. And, near Akron, a lot of drunk drivers. It was a Saturday night. I guess we should have expected it? There was also a lot of road work in Pennsylvania. We wanted to get through as much of it as possible, so we drove until we reached Danville. (I’m kind of sorry that we did. I hear Pennsylvania is beautiful. We traveled through the Appalachians in the wee hours of the morning, which means that we probably missed some great scenery.) We found a motel and went to sleep at 3 a.m. Total miles traveled: 950.
A field in Indiana.
Pennsylvania countryside.Day 5: Pennsylvania, New York, & Connecticut
We got up at 10 a.m. and went to breakfast. We were on the road by 11:30. We crossed the rest of Pennsylvania, drove just north of New York City, and into Connecticut. Upon reaching Connecticut, we were in desperate need of a restroom, so we kept stopping at food stores and gas stations – mom-and-pop outfits that didn’t have public restrooms. Finally, we spotted a Dunkin’ Donuts and stopped there. It was while standing outside of this establishment that I realized just how terrible the weather was. The humidity in the eastern half of the country smothers you. The short walk from the car to the entrance of the Dunkin’ Donuts was enough to make my clothes stick to me. Once ready, we carried on toward New Haven. We got a little lost on the way to the apartment and wound up in some not-so-safe neighborhoods. We found our way quickly enough and were soon pulling into the driveway adjacent to my new home. The time was 4:30 p.m. Total miles traveled: 250.
A New York farm.
Overall, the trip was a lot of fun. Would I do it again? Probably not. I got to visit states that I would most likely never travel to again (like Kansas and Missouri); but the Plains aren’t very exciting, and there isn’t any way to avoid them on a cross country trip.
Moving was the real hassle. Packing boxes, dealing with movers, fitting all remaining items inside the car – these were frustrating. I, of course, waited until the last minute to pack my belongings. Denial, I suppose. I worked for two full days on three hours of sleep with two friends helping me to make my deadline. It was insane. I had so much stuff, and every time I thought I was finished with a room (especially the kitchen), I would find more items that needed packing.
My advice for anyone planning a similar journey:
- Do not wait until the last minute to start packing.
- Bring a friend who enjoys driving.
- Make sure your friend is unafraid of giant, man-eating bugs.
- If heading East during the summer, be mentally prepared for the heat and humidity.
- Take lots of pictures.
- Enjoy the ride.