Cross This! (T-Minus 18 Months)

Sixth post in this prelude to the big trip; we’re up to Spring of 2012, and the planning begins.



Say you’ve always wanted to cross this. I mean drive across it. A road trip across this great country. Deliberately, with a plan to see things you’ve always wanted to see, and maybe some things you did not know you wanted to see. And you wanted to hear the accents and drink the coffee and ask for brochures and maps. And maybe you’d camp in some places, get a hotel in others, and maybe see a show in New York or a baseball game in Boston. How would you do it?

In our case the first step in bringing a dream out of the clouds is to commit a first draft plan to a napkin. The frail paper on a cafe table, a pen and a couple cups of coffee are all we need to start on a path to the realization of our dream. We make the pen strokes tentative to preserve the flimsy paper from tearing. That’s OK, we’re just supposing here.

We have a tradition of napkin plans over the years with schools, credentials, houses, careers, marriage. And for crossing the country by car a napkin was our first route map, recalling maps I marked up as a kid, now giving me more confidence that this could happen. I have a sabbatical from work coming up in 18 months. Yes, this can happen. Destinations as dots, routes as straight-line connectors–yes this can happen!!!


Historic document! Ancient map in the original napkin!

So… let’s see … Across the north early in the Fall, back home across the south as the season cools.  We want to see the Fall colors in New England, but what to see on the way there?  I’ve always wanted to see the town my ancestor founded–Mount Pleasant, IA, but we don’t want to just do Interstates on the way there (see earlier post on Interstate highways).  So we will wind our way to favorites like Yellowstone/Tetons and the Black Hills.  Then Lincoln country, Niagara and upstate New York.

We will greet the Atlantic at Acadia National Park in Maine. From there we will angle Southwest across the big cities of the East. We had earlier projected visits to the Outer Banks and New Orleans, now dropped from the route, then to the Ozarks and home across the Southwest.

We swag some numbers of the days between each destination, and the days we’d stay in some places. We do not want to drive every day, in fact we want to drive only half the days. First guess is a 47 day trip. Pretty close to the final plan.


Creative gift from daughter Amy, to show pictures of Kirk Creek and Acadia, and to preserve some sand, pebbles, shells and water from each shore.

But is this really going to be coast-to-coast? Touch the Pacific, touch the Atlantic? That was my dream as a kid (see first post), so it simply has to be. We live near Sacramento, almost but not quite the west coast. Starting from home is almost a cheater’s head start.  So should we back up to the true starting line at the coast? For the symbolism of it, and the bragging rights, it’s worth it to run out to the Pacific first, on a short pre-trip, and touch the waves there.


Salt Point State Park north of Bodega Bay could have been a good Pacific Coast Mile Zero.

Any of our prior weekend trips to the coast could qualify, like the one earlier in 2013 to Salt Point State Park north of Bodega Bay. Yet there are plans for a family reunion on the central coast on a weekend closer to the big trip, so let’s use that. We will camp at Kirk Creek near Big Sur and some of the kids with us.  On July 31 when we drive back home, we will mark that day’s beginning as Mile Zero. When the road trip resumes on September 2, leaving on the main trip from our home, it will actually be a sort of “day 2” in the coast-to-coast adventure.

They say half the fun of a trip is planning it.  The fun of that half, then, started with a crude dot-and-line drawing that resembled more the outline of a goldfish cracker than a real map.  More accurate maps will be needed, yes, but they will not have half the whimsy and imagination of the coffee shop cartography that first made us believe the trip could really happen.



About Cal Stevens

Learning professional, a training manager, speaker, writer; two careers in helping others succeed. Travel writer for the common road trip.
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2 Responses to Cross This! (T-Minus 18 Months)

  1. Garry Moses says:

    It’s probably too late to change your route now, but I would have really encouraged you, after your stop in Iowa, to head north through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and over the Mackinaw Bridge and on down to Ohio. Or maybe after Illinois.
    The Mackinaw Island area is simply spectacular. A day on the Island would have been a highlight of your trip, I’m sure.

    • Cal Stevens says:

      Yeah we agonized over that, really want to see the UP one day. But we wanted to travel briskly to the east, then do more days in New England. So much good to see across this beautiful country! Hmm, we did say we’d alter our plans and not be so bound to them… Maybe we’ll change it up! Or should I say “change it UP” 🙂

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