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Wrapping it up

September 21, 2010 7 comments

The completed journey. The black line starts in Georgia and marks the start of the trip. The red line marks the return trip home from Alaska

And there it is – the entire trip.  I began the trip on May 30, and it ended 112 days later on September 18.  Take a look at my original plan here.  I was pretty close to matching that.

On left: odometer just before heading out. On right: odometer at the end of the trip

The traveled a total of 25,821 miles.  To offer some perspective, note that the circumference of the Earth is 24,901 miles.  Another way to think of it is that’s almost five roundtrips from NYC to LA.  I’m proud that I was able to travel that distance without A) going crazy, and B) getting sick of driving.

You might recall I put up some trip stats back when I was in the state of Washington, before heading north into Canada.  Now that the roadtrip is over, I figure it’s time to see what’s different and what has stayed the same since late July.

Total miles: 25, 821

Total gas expenditures: ~$2,933

Most expensive gas (US): $4.59/gal – Big Sur, CA

Most expensive gas (Canada): USD equivalent of ~$7.60/gal – Swift River, Yukon Territory

Least expensive gas (US): $2.43 – Newport News, VA

Least expensive gas (Canada): USD equivalent of ~$3.64/gal – Calgary, Alberta

States traveled through: 39

Largest rest areas: Kansas

Nicest rest areas: Illinois/Kansas

Not-so-nice rest areas: California (takes the cake in the US), and Northern Canada (not much out there)

National Parks visited: US – 12, Canada – 2

Pulled over: 3 times.  One for speeding and rolling through a stop sign.  Two other times for a busted headlight.

Tickets received: 1.  $100 fine courtesy a cop in Guernsey, Wyoming

Tickets received in my 2005 cross-country trip: 3 – Virginia, California, and you guessed it…Wyoming

State that has it out for me, but I still like the place nonetheless: Wyoming

Total paid in tolls: $148.15

Most expensive toll: $11 – Verrazano Bridge, NYC

Total number of oil changes: 8.  In order:

– Gulfbreeze, FL

– Endwell, NY

– Mishiwaka, IN

– Midland, TX

– Hillsboro, OR

– Palmer, AK

– Westminster, CO

– Gaithersburg, MD

Total vehicle maintenance costs: $1,386.70

Largest single expenditure related to the car: $606.35 (oil change + new tires in Hillsboro, OR)

Money spent on washing the car: ~$65

Replaced windshields: 1 (fully covered by insurance, thankfully)

Replaced headlight bulbs: 3

AAA usage: 1 – battery jump

Flat tires: 0

Hotel/Motel/B&B stays: 7 (two for free – thanks Rachel and John)

Cheapest attraction/excursion: $4 – Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk, NC

Most expensive attraction/excursion: $77.33 – Wildlife boat tour in Alaska

Planetariums visited: 1 – Morehead Planetarium at UNC Chapel Hill (check it out…it’s amazing)

Darkest sky/most stars ever seen: Big Bend National Park, TX

Hidden gem in the middle of nowhere: Cosmosphere space museum – Hutchinson, KS

Camera accessories lost: 2 (lens cap and LCD cover).  No worries, purchased replacements

Ferry rides: 3 (2 in the state of Washington, 1 going from VT to NY)

Most expensive ferry: $17.50 – Lake Champlain ferry

Showers taken at truck stops: 4 (thank you, Flying J)

Haircuts: 5

Close bear encounters: 1 – Anchorage, AK

Friends that would readily abandon me in a bear attack: 1 (hahah… just playing, Matt)

Website hits, to date: 17,173

Some searches that brought people to this site: monumental walley; tempereate rainforest picture long ways; joe in carlsbad texas; 69 dreams; experience in taiwan; owners name + 14 lighthouse rd campobell; how did the religions spread; unique canadian flag; alaska and mara and andrew; day 26 break up

Friends I visited with/hiked with/ate with, etc: too many to count

Friends/friends of friends/family homes I’ve stayed in: 32

And once again, the important stats are the ones listed last. Thanks to all those who helped make this such a memorable trip. Not only did you let me “couchsurf,” but the mere fact of being able to hang out and spend time with all you guys is what was important to me.  And also thanks to the many who offered a place to stay, but we didn’t get the chance to link up because of timing or other logistics.  I’m very grateful.

This trip was one I won’t ever forget.  I got to see so many spectacular places and meet up with so many friendly people.  Just like I realized after my roadtrip in 2005, I gained a further appreciation for how beautiful this country is (as is Canada), and that the people living here is what helps make it so beautiful.  And like I commented back in 2005, nothing mushy happened like “finding myself” or any New Agey BS, but there’s some things I came to realize while being out on the road, and the biggest realization was how amazing it is to share these spectacular places with others.  Sometimes on the trip I’d find myself in a national park, or at a lake, or staring at mountains, and I’d wish I had a friend there to share the experience with.  Not that I was bummed to be there on my own, but there’s far too much beauty in this country to just enjoy it by yourself for an extended time.  Many have asked me, “Would you do it again?”  And I think the answer is “No.”  Others have to see what I’ve been able to see, so maybe if I can show off some of these places to a friend I would go, but to enjoy them all by myself once again might be a bit too selfish.  It’s a double-edged sword, though…someone would have to travel with me for an extended length of time – that might be a bit tough.  Maybe we decide to meet up at key locations so everybody keeps their sanity.

Others have asked me, “What was the highlight of the trip?”  I can never answer that question.  There were far too many “highlights” in my book.  Some just off the top of my head – seeing a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral, being at the St. Louis Gateway Arch on the Fourth of July, pulling up to the “Welcome to Alaska” sign at the Canada/AK border, taking pictures of the Milky Way in Big Bend National Park, meeting my nephews in Texas and Oregon, hiking Mt. Marathon in Alaska, visiting Crater Lake for the third time in my life, hanging with my friends in Maryland, seeing Oregon Trail wagon ruts in Wyoming, hiking the Angels Landing Trail at Zion National Park, watching the first rays of the morning sun hit the US….the list goes on and on.  I can never identify something as the “highlight” since I’ve experienced way too much to narrow it down. I’m pretty thrilled that’s the case.  Even before I set out on this trip and was in the planning phase, I didn’t expect I’d have such vivid memories when the trip ended.

Although it’s a little sad the trip is over, I now have new adventures in the works.  In less than a week I fly to Asia for a little personal trip.  I’ll be visiting Nepal and hanging with Lucky Monk, and then from there I head to Japan to meet up with a friend I made during my last trip to Asia.  I’ll be back in about a month, but then a few months later, in January, is my tentative leave date for my Peace Corps assignment.  I’m grateful I had the chance to explore a lot of the country before I leave it for two years.  I think my experience seeing miles and miles of the US will help make me a good ambassador, not to mention helping me appreciate what we have here while I work in the developing world.  So one adventure is over and done with…but many more to look forward to in the coming months.

Thanks to everybody out there who followed the website.  I didn’t expect so many people to be intereted in the journey, and it was a pleasure to share my time on the road with all of you.  Thanks to all of those who commented and gave me suggestions of things to see…some of the best finds across the country are not the ones in books or on a map, but the ones people share with you in casual conversation.

It’s been a thrill to be on the road for the entire summer.  When I left my job at the end of May, I had a strong feeling that it was the right choice, and it’s only been further confirmed here at the end of the trip.  This roadtrip has been long in the works.  In fact, in my old job in Bethesda, I made a rough route in GoogleMaps of what I planned to see.  I printed it out and hung it in my cubicle as an ‘escape’ from the daily drudgery (lesson learned, GoogleMaps only allows about 25 or so destinations in one route).  To go from that rough plan on a printout to adding 26,000 miles on my vehicle was, indeed, living a dream.

Speaking of my car, I owe much of my positive experience on the road to having a reliable vehicle that never gave me any grief, despite the fact we covered about two years’ worth of driving in just a matter of months.  The only money I spent on the vehicle during this trip was for regular wear-and-tear items, in addition to regular maintenance.  I was an advocate for Mazda before this trip, and I’ll remain that way for the rest of my life.  This week will be my last few days with the car as I’m selling it to my sister.  The Mazda6 has been great to me this past four years, and I finished my last summer with the car in style.

I feel very lucky that the roadtrip was even more successful than I imagined it could be.  The stars aligned for a great experience, and I’m so very grateful I’ll have this as a memory to last me the rest of my life.

Thanks for joining me on this ride.

joe

P.S.  Stay tuned to this site over the next few days as I’ll be putting together a roadtrip slideshow to visually recap the experience.

Day 112: This is it

September 19, 2010 7 comments

Location: Endwell, NY (HOME)

Miles Driven: 236

Total Miles: 25,821

112 days.  Wow.  Originally when I set off from Atlanta the day before Memorial Day, I figured the trip would be about 90 days in total.  I’m glad I had a flexible schedule and could extend it, for no roadtrip should end in haste, especially one where I’ve been lucky to see so many incredible places and meet up with so many friends.

But let’s not talk about the end too much, I still have at least one or two more posts after this to recap the trip.  So now, let’s pick up where I left off, in New Jersey.  The prior night was Sam’s party for successfully becoming an attorney, and I woke up at his place early to get my stuff together (and play some video games) before I hit the road one last time.  Around 10AM I left Sam’s and met up with my buddy Nachiket for breakfast in Mt. Holly.  Always good to see this great friend I’ve had since grad school (2006), and he’s been pretty helpful getting me prepped for the upcoming trip to Nepal.  We had a good breakfast (I ate way too much) at a Cracker Barrel.  By the way, their fried apples are amazing.  Thanks again, Nachiket!

From there, I headed towards Philly to meet a friend I hadn’t seen since some point in 2009, I think.  I made plans to meet up with Jen at a Starbucks near her home in downtown Philly.  I had never been to that section of Philly; in fact, I’ve been to few places in Philly.  But it turned out she lives in a very historic area.  I was surprised to see the “Betsy Ross House” a block away from where I parked my car, and directly across the street from the Starbucks.

After catching up a bit, Jen and I went to walk around some of the nearby historic sites.  I had only seen these places in the movie “National Treasure” before, so needless to say it was great to experience them up close.

Ben Franklin's grave

Independence Hall

Tomb for unknown soldiers who fought in the Revolution

After a good bit of walking we meandered back towards my car. Glad I got to meet up with Jen.  When I return from Peace Corps, I think I’m going to hire Jen as my physics tutor if I decide to go study astronomy.

I left Philly on a course direct for home. I only had about three hours to go, total.  My final arrival time was pushed back a bit, as I encountered some traffic and needed to stop for a nap.  I then realized that was probably the last nap ever I’d take in the Mazda.  Ahh, it’s been so comfortable for me.  It wasn’t too long before I saw some signs pointing me home…

I’ve always enjoyed the drive through Pennsylvania, and it was especially nice this time as I had good weather and the leaves were starting to change on the trees.

The drive went by fairly quickly.  Before I knew it, I crossed the PA/NY border and was soon in Binghamton.  Only 15 minutes later I’d arrive at my home where I’ll stay through the end of the year.

Home sweet home

And with that, I pulled into the driveway.  Definitely a mix of emotions putting the car in park, but it’s certainly a comforting feeling to be home.

What a ride.

joe

Days 108-110: Back in Bethesda (again)

September 17, 2010 2 comments

Location: Bethesda, MD

Time really flies by when there’s a limited amount of time to catch up with friends.  Here it is, Friday morning.  I’ve been here since Monday afternoon and I can’t believe how quickly the week went by.

My time here was mostly dedicated to getting together with friends, though I did accomplish a few things outside of that.  Staying with Matt, I was able to catch up on some laundry (last load of laundry for this trip).  Also, I went to my old regular place in Gaithersburg and got my oil changed.  Now that was a bit sad…I think that was oil change #7 for the trip, and definitely the last one I’ll need before I sell the car to Colleen. Crazy.  As part of the oil change, this place does a standard check on the vehicle for other issues.  I ended up replacing the transmission fluid, as it was due for that again, but everything else was in great shape.  I’m so happy with how well the Mazda6 has performed on this trip.  Over two year’s worth of driving…the near equivalent of driving the circumference of the earth (thanks for that tip, Stephen)…and no issues.

Let’s get to the photos. 

On Tuesday evening, I got together with my buddy Vincent for some pizza in Arlington.  Haven’t seen Vincent since I orginally moved out of the area back in January, so it was great to get together once again.  Vincent is someone I can commisserate with when the Washington Wizards lose…a good friend, and we’re both hoping for some redemption this year now that we have the #1 draft pick, John Wall.

hanging with Vincent at Pupatella

Early evening on Wednesday, I went with Matt and our friend Sean to Great Falls State Park (MD side).  Although it wasn’t that far from my old home here, I’ve only been there once before, but remembered our time there fondly.  We hiked the “Billy Goat Trail” which takes you across a number of boulders along the water.  The hike can be a little challenging at times, as you leap from boulder to boulder, but definitely one of the more fun hikes I’ve ever been on.  Below are some photos from our time there (some photos are courtesy Matt – thanks buddy).

Great Falls State Park

Matt taking a break from the boulder hopping

Great views from the rocks

Sean gets ready to jump

Will I make it??

Made it!

climbing up the steep rock wall

Sean makes it across the log bridge

Matt works his way across

I came pretty close to biting it and falling in the water

A nice day ends out by the water

Matt's pic - a nice shot of the moon and it's reflection rippling in the water

finishing up the hike along the dirt road

Nevermind the KState affliation. Sean is an all right guy

Great hike!  Last hike for this roadtrip is in the books, and it was a lot of fun out there.

That evening I headed over to my friend Christelle’s house to hang out.  Thanks to Christelle for cooking up some plantains and sweet potatoes for me.  Share that recipe some time, Christelle.

Thursday was a very lazy day for me.  Having completed the majority of my to-dos for the week, I spent the day inside playing Starcraft II on Matt’s computer.  Awesome game, by the way. I figure it’s been a while since I spent a day just playing video games, and given that it was raining outside, it worked out well.  The only other thing I accomplished that afternoon was getting some laundry done, as well as doing some pull-ups on Matt’s pull-up bar.  A productive day.

That night I went to my friend Bea’s house for dinner.  Her husband Mike cooked up some authentic Chinese food and I had a great meal.  I also got to spend time playing with Bea’s cute daughter, Haile.  Thanks for a great time, Bea and Mike!

hot rice pudding for dessert. very tasty

A bunch of us met up that night at a bar in Rockville and I got to see some faces I haven’t seen in a long time.  Ashley (who you may recall from a prior visit to Maryland, as well as my return to Atlanta), was in town, too.

Matt enjoys an egg roll

Stephen enthralled by Ashley's story

Not sure what is going on here

hanging with Amelia and Mike

good buddies

group shot

me and Ash

As always, I had a great time back in Maryland.  Went by way too fast.  This probably will be my last visit to the area for a long time, and I’m grateful I had so many friends around to visit with.

On Friday, I make my way north towards New Jersey, where a party is being held for my buddy Sam for passing the bar exam.  Along the way, I’ll visit a friend and a cousin in Baltimore.  This is the penultimate drive of the trip…the next drive after this one will be the drive home.

joe

Little respite

September 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Location: Raleigh, NC

As much as I would like to keep the blog updated each day with some exciting and scenic pictures, I’ve taken the past few days here in Raleigh to relax and unwind for a bit.  Hanging with Sam, Mrs. T, Jen, Saba, and Aaron, watching movies, prepping for future trips, and napping is how I’ve spent the majority of my time here.  And I’ve been quite content in that routine.

But soon the trip will continue, as I’ll slowly make my way into Virginia and Maryland.  The plan is to visit some of the same people I got to see earlier in the summer (some in different areas), and hopefully some new landmarks as I’ll try to take some new routes into these areas.  That will begin Saturday, and I’ll be sure to get a new post up before then as I wrap up my time in North Carolina.

Until then, thanks to everyone for the nice comments as the roadtrip winds down.  It’s kind of sad, after spending over 100 incredible days seeing some of the sights and the people that make this country (and our neighbor to the north) beautiful.  But it couldn’t last forever…especially given my unemployed status.  How lucky I am, though, to have seen all I’ve seen.

Keep on truckin’

joe

The journey so far…

August 30, 2010 1 comment

 

Black line = trip starting in GA to Alaska. Red line = return trip

I decided it was a good time to update the map showing where I’ve traveled.  Although I’ve driven close to 23k miles, it doesn’t feel like it’s been that much until I start drawing squiggly lines throughout the entire country.  Phase Four of the trip kicked off when I left Palmer, Alaska, and began the long, indirect journey home to NY.  Thanks to Travis in Vancouver for the suggestion to color the lines red going home (“red for return”), otherwise some lines would’ve started intersecting and may have been confusing to read.

The Mazda is holding up remarkably well, and I’ve had zero mechanical problems (knock on wood).  Unfortunately, there is a slight crack in my windshield on the passenger side.  I will take this over a mechanical problem anytime, and I suppose I am lucky to escape with just a crack after some of the tough roads I’ve encountered on this trip.  Assuming the crack doesn’t get any bigger, I’ll look to get that fixed/replaced while I am back in Georgia.

Looking at the map, you’d think it won’t be long before I arrive back home, but I am going to take my time in stops along the east coast (as long as the budget is still on track).  My rough plan is to arrive back in NY sometime around Sept. 18, which would bring this trip to a total of approximately 110 days.  Outstanding!

Day 83: Big Sky Country

August 21, 2010 10 comments

Location: Missoula, Montana

Miles Driven: 428

Total Miles: 20,628

I think it was around 6AM when I started driving this morning, and I didn’t feel tired at all.  I was excited that I would be crossing the border later that day.  My initial plan was to first hit Waterton Lakes National Park, just north of the border, and connected to America’s Glacier National Park.  However, I changed my mind after seeing the haze in the western skies.

So I was a bit worried that my views at Glacier would be obstructed by the haze.  But as I made my way towards the border, the skies started to clear up.

I thought I might be able to pass Customs relatively easily, given that I didn’t think I was on a major route that goes into Montana.  I was wrong.  There was a long queue of cars, and it took me about 40 minutes to get to the window.  But I was able to take advantage of that waiting period.  I reorganized my junk in the back seat, cleaned up the front a bit, and washed the windows.  While washing the windshield, I discovered a giant bug caught in one of my wiper blades.

R.I.P. big dragonfly

For the third (and last) time on this roadtrip, I crossed into American territory.  I was sped right through once again, and actually had a nice chat with the officer about my trip and future plans.

Soon I arrived at the eastern entrance to Glacier National Park.  The Going-to-the-Sun Road spans across the park about 50 miles, and I was going to take it the full way to the western side.  The last time I was here, I drove west->east, so it was cool to get another perspective of the park.  It wasn’t long before I was smiling, windows down, recognizing some of the most beautiful country in the U.S.

St. Mary Lake and Goose Island

It was a couple hours before I made my way to the other side.  There was a good amount of road construction, but those waits allowed more time to take in the views.  Here are a few more pictures from the drive:

Jackson Glacier

In Glacier, there a lot of waterfalls just coming down the mountains near the road

The familiar U-shape of glacially-formed valleys

Lake MacDonald

By early afternoon I had exited the park, and being a bit tired, I stopped at a cafe not far from Kalispell.  It was there I realized how very dirty the car was.  The Mazda hadn’t received a wash since Alaska, and over a week’s worth of dirt, bugs, and grime had taken their toll.  I was able to find one of those coin-operated car washes and spent a lot of extra quarters working to get the dead bugs off the front.  Here you can see the before and after:

Looking good as new, once again

Speaking of bugs, I’m not sure if it’s something about the northern U.S., but I don’t have to squeegee my windshield as often as I did in Canada.  In Canada, it seemed every 50 miles or so, the windshield would be covered with dead bugs.  I have witnessed the demise of so many of those little guys (and some big ones…ugh).  My brother Jon bought me a new squeegee when I was in Houston, and already it’s pretty filthy.  Here’s hoping the run-ins with the bugs continue to be limited.

Also, it seems bees are strongly attracted to bug guts.  In Canada, whenever I parked my car, within a few minutes I’d have near a dozen bees milling about the front of the vehicle, and behind the rear view mirrors where bug guts were plenty.  So washing the car offers more than just aesthetic values, I also reduce my chance of getting stung.

I was hoping I could find a park in Kalispell where I could get exercise.  As luck would have it, the first park I found had an empty basketball court.  I haven’t had a chance to play since I left Georgia, so I grabbed the ball from my trunk and got to it.  Since I had my camera, I figured I’d make a video and see how many shots in a row I could make:

Needless to say, I stopped filming video shortly after.  But it was good to get some exercise.

Around 9PM or so it started to get dark (what one might consider “normal” compared to Alaska sunsets), and it was a clear night, so I thought it might be a good night to pull out the camera and tripod.  But then I realized my old nemesis, the Moon, shone bright in the western sky.  It wasn’t full, but near full, and it would seriously hamper my night vision.  The moon wouldn’t set until after 3AM, so I decided I’d have to wait until another time to take some astrophotos.

I slept for a little bit, and then woke up around 3AM Saturday morning.  Not able to fall back asleep, I figured I make my way further south.  It was on this drive I realized the skies were still dark, and now moonless, so I took advantage of that and found a dirt road away from Hwy 93.

It's not often you see Orion in the summer night sky. But around 4AM in the summer, sure

Clouds came in fast, but they helped create some cool effects for the photos.

Eventually the cloud cover took over, and I packed up my equipment.  Great to take in some stars once again, especially against the backdrop of some Montanian mountains.

I made my way to Missoula, a place I’ve spent a night once before, but I won’t linger too long today.  I’d like to get close to the Billings area today, and from there I’ll head south towards Eastern Wyoming.  The over-arching goal is to arrive in Boulder, Colorado on Monday, where my friend John has kindly set me up at a hotel.  That will be a real nice treat after all this car-sleeping.

joe

20,000 miles and still going strong

August 19, 2010 15 comments

I thought hitting 20,000 miles on this trip was a fairly significant milestone that earned its own post. And now that I sit here writing this, I have little to say.

I did initially expect to drive in the neighborhood of 20,000 miles by the time this trip was over, but to actually sit behind the odometer and see the distance I’ve gone is pretty cool.  A bit tiring to think about, but very rewarding at the same time.  That being said, there’s still a lot of driving yet to do, but I haven’t gotten sick of it.

So I figured this was a good opportunity to posit a question to the readers of joesroadtrip.com.  See, I’ve been asked many times the past few months, “Joe, what’s been the highlight of your roadtrip?”  I can never name one thing.  I usually end up rattling off about 10 things or so, and that’s before I even start really thinking about it.

So, dear readers – What has been your favorite part of the trip?

I’m actually very curious what others might see as the highlights, and I wonder if responses will jive with mine or be totally different.  There’s now about 80 or so posts on this website, so feel free to review the archives (on the right hand side) if you need a refresher.  If you have time, leave your response in the comment section and let me know.

Thanks,

joe