For want of 18 miles we’d have made it an even 10K.
The odometer tally for all miles topped out at 9982 as we pulled into our street on the last day. We were happy for almost every mile, and too road-weary to consider even one more. And no love of rounding up to a 5-digit total could have persuaded us to drive even one more, much less 18.
It’s done. And now, 10 days hence, we are summarizing the experience. Yes, there is an interesting statistical part of the story; the numbers show the trip’s infrastructure and how it was even possible. But the more satisfying part is to reflect personally, even emotionally, on its meaning for us.
But let’s do the numbers first. The trip took 49 days—seven weeks—which can roughly be chunked this way: Two weeks to get to the east coast, three weeks going southwestward down the eastern seaboard, and two final weeks across a more southern tier to get home.
Just the route—the distance we took pulling the pop-up—was 8835 miles, covered in 26 travel days (averaging 340). The other 23 days, interspersed in 1- to 4-day stops along the itinerary, were devoted to visiting locally. We would stay in camp those days and venture out for local sightseeing. The sum of those unhitched touring miles amounted to 1147.
Our shortest travel day was 120 miles, the longest 495. Nine travel days racked up less than 300 miles each, ten days were over 400.
We stopped at 15 campgrounds, 8 hotels and 3 friends’ houses. Of the campgrounds, only three were for one-night-stays, the rest were for longer durations of 2, 3 or 4 nights. The occasional hotel for one night gave us the chance for a decent shower; the six evenings with friends provided that
also, but more: some extended time to catch up with some dear souls.
The plan held up well, and gave us the freedom to stay late on the road and not have to fuss with where we would stay. And we were not completely bound by our plan either. Ten of the days were changed from the original (about 20%). We changed six of the days to gain more time with friends. The government shutdown moved our plans for 3 nights, and one was altered due to a blown tire. (Previous blog post about whether it’s better to plan or just be spontaneous).
Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken.
Trip Top Five
- The people we met along the way, both incidentally and intentionally: The incidental people included clerks, servers, rangers and campers. The intentional visits were
- Natural Wonders: We saw desert and high ranges, caves and waterfalls, lakes and trees. Our wheels traced the lay of the land, which was at first vacant, then sharply escarped, then ramped down to forest and river, then notched into the sea or balancing a metropolis on a small island.
- That it happened: that we dreamed it, planned it
and did it. That we saw 36 states through a windshield and the steam off our morning coffees; that we recorded it in our hearts and cameras; that we arrived where we intended (mostly); that we would say from a desert in Utah “can you believe we were in Times Square a couple weeks ago? And we drove there!”
- History, culture, and geography: This was a 49-day trip to a living, breathing outdoor museum. It was a tableau upon which we could picture our history—Lewis and Clark paddling the Missouri; patriots dying at the Boston Massacre site, now a busy intersection; a field of battle in our Civil War, now closed to us by a battle in Congress. We experienced real-time how the east is scrunched, the south is gracious and the west is spacious.
- Going in the off-season: We were alone in upstate NY, barely dodging smallish crowds in Acadia, getting into the Empire State Building with barely a wait; with advance planning, able to get into Dave Letterman, a Broadway show, and a ballgame at Fenway.
OK, that was a pretty general list. Can you get more specific? Sure:
- Where we got the best site in the campground: Colter Bay in the Tetons
- Where the whole campground has stunning views: Kirk Creek, CA
- We camped nearly alone
on the grounds: Paradox Lake, NY
- Trim, orderly, organized campground: Four Mile, NY (by Niagara)
- Best unplanned surprise: The gracious and restful experience at Moccasin Creek State Park, GA
- Best State Park system: Virginia (we were in Pocahontas by Richmond)
- Best private campground: Newburgh KOA, NY (north of New York City)
- Favorite National Park camp: Watchman in Zion, UT (Tetons and Acadia were great, too)
- Most stunning natural feature: Niagara Falls
- Best entertainment: Pippin on Broadway
The Bottom Five
- Tires in NY / VA / AL:
One of our friends called this our kryptonite. Truly it tested our attitude and enjoyment, but we didn’t let it get us down. Improper pressure led to a need for two new tires (problem discovered in NY, tires replaced in VA). Then, about 1000 miles later, one of those new tires fell apart on an Alabama highway. The story of how we quickly recovered and kept our date with the Ozarks is near miraculous.
- Government shutdown: This was another test of our flexibility. The barricades went up in time to turn us toward state, local and private parks and museums; they came down in time to allow us to keep our camping reservation in Zion, UT.
- Water in car: I left the sunroof open overnight during torrential rains in Georgia. The blog about my idiocy, and my wet behind, is a fun read.
- Trailer water supply, intake tube failure: First noticed in WY, and first repair attempt was with tape. A good new pipe was bought in Casper and installed by Cal the handyman in Springfield, IL.
- 1-night stops (Wells, Niobrara, Mancos): These were not all bad, they just rate ho-hum because they were simply necessary, and a lot of work to set up/take down just for one night. The campsites were mostly forgettable, but that’s OK.
I reflect a bit on having actually completed the cross-country dream, written shortly after this was achieved in Maine. Recommended reading.