A Solo Cross Country Drive
Moving across the country is an adventure in itself, but I decided to make it more of one. Taking only what would fit in my little Hyundai Accent (which I packed tight!), I took a quick nearly 3,000 mile drive across US-40 making a few stops along the way. The original trek took me from Nashville to Memphis, Dallas, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, LA. As I got started and definitely towards the end, I shortened my trip a little bit, skipping Dallas, Las Vegas, and Joshua Tree on the last day. You can see these photos and more in their high resolution glory over on flickr
Day 1 -- April 1st, 2016
Destination: Nashville, TN
I started my trek at my parents' home, in Hanover, PA, where I had been visiting the week before my trip; Hanging out, saying "see you later" to friends, and hours of packing and stuffing my car full. I set out around 8:30am with hopes of getting to Nashville before sun went down despite Friday traffic.
Today was the first day, when I'd be most excited and prepared to drive non-stop for miles and miles. I took advantage of that by making the first day a nearly 12 hour day; the longest straight drive of the whole trip. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of traffic the whole way down with the exception of around Knoxville where I hit rush hour traffic but still got to Nashville just as the sun was setting.
I was staying with a good friend of mine, Alexa, who I hadn't seen in over a year so it was a nice little reunion over some Cook Out. It was my last chance to stop at this wonderful chain before hitting 40-West. I love hush puppies.
Day 2 -- April 2nd, 2016
Destination: Memphis, TN
I woke up early to explore Nashville a bit before making the short trek west to Memphis. I wandered around deciding on a place to grab some coffee and a quick breakfast sandwich, stopping by the Parthenon on the way. An exact, built to scale replica of the original.
I rolled into Memphis around 5pm, got checked into my hotel, took a nice shower, and walked a few blocks over to Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous. It had been recommended to me by multiple friends and food blogs so it was a mandatory stop.
Day 3 -- April 3rd, 2016
Destination: Dallas, TXOklahoma City, OK
After waking up, I walked around a bit more poking my head into several crowded breakfast spots before finding one that didn't have a long wait. Memphis apparently loves their Sunday morning breakfasts! After grabbing an iced coffee for the road and waiting for the valet at the hotel to find my lost car with everything I own jammed into it... I was back on the road. Today wasn't much of a photo day but more so an I need to get past these mountains and rough Oklahoma roads. US-40 is rough in Oklahoma.
Tonight I had a burger. I've been trying to watch my red meat intake more and eat a little healthier. I'm not in California yet, but all who told me I'd eat healthier after moving can start saying, "I told you so." But tonight, I'm eating a burger in Bricktown.
Day 4 -- April 4th, 2016
Destination: Albuquerque, NM
Today was beautiful. The sky was Toy Story blue, there was zero traffic, and I stopped several times taking in the open land of Texas on my way to ABQ. The gradation from green grassy hills to dry and flat land was an experience. As was the stop I made along US-40 at an old and abandoned area of the original Route 66. I couldn't help but imagine what it'd be like to take that broken down and worn out path for thousands of miles. And how the same path I'm taking the whole way across today could look identical generations from now when it too gets marked obsolete.
Tonight I parked the car in Albuquerque. Elaine and Becky greeted me with open arms, gave me a place to stay for the night, took me out for dinner, and made me some of the best coffee I had on my entire trip. I met these two in Santa Fe a little under a year ago while volunteering at their Motion Conferencethey put on annually. It was at this conference that I first got inspired to make some changes professionally; Listening and talking to the speakers who are rock stars to me. I wasn't sure what, when, or where it would be, but it got me thinking. We talked for hours about cycling, politics, animation, work, life, and everything in between.
Day 5 -- April 5th, 2016
Destination: Las Vegas, NV Flagstaff, AZ
Today I changed my original course a bit, and decided to budget more time at the Grand Canyon, hopefully catching golden hour there, and parking in Flagstaff for the night. Those plans changed after I got to the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert.
I can't describe how small I felt near the edge of some of the look outs around the park. There was one place where, if you looked in the distance, you could see the peaks of mountains in San Francisco, hundreds of miles away. Coming here on a weekday was a smart move since the park had less action than it would on a weekend, but there were usually at least one or two other cars within view at any given time.
It was around 3/4 through my forest and desert trek when I noticed a lot of cars speeding in the opposite direction and I started to get more and more alone. It was completely silent when I parked my car to take in some of the Painted Desert. It was now that I had an irrational thought of, "What time is it? What time does the park close? Are there gates that will lock me in? Is that why everyone was speeding the opposite direction?" I snapped the next three photos, hopped in my car, and drove a little faster than I had been previously whilst taking in the views.
Eventually I found myself back on a road heading towards US-40 and Flagstaff where I'd be parking for the night. I laughed at myself at how anxious I got about being stranded in the park. Even if that would've happened I had a healthy car, lots of snacks, and the ability to sleep anywhere. Even a full tank of gas, which I was happy to have while driving on this endless road that seemed to go nowhere.
The sun was setting as I arrived at my hotel for the night. It's my last night. Tomorrow I'll be in my new "home" in LA. I had no clue the struggle the next day would bring.
Day 6 -- April 6th, 2016
Destination: Los Angeles, CA // The finish line
This morning I woke up, hopped in the car, and started it up only to notice for the third day in a row, since Oklahoma City, my dashboard told me my tire pressure was low. Temperatures were dropping drastically every night in the desert so I thought nothing of it. Stopping for gas, I took my tire pressure in all four tires but found that only one had lost air. It was at 10psi. Down from 40psi where it was the night before.
Taking a big gulp, I filled it back up, and decided to drive on with a potential slow leak. I really wanted to get to the Grand Canyon and home today so I figured I'd monitor it to see how slow of a leak it was. I kept an eye on my dashboard the entire drive up to the Canyon, along the trail, and back to US-40. Trying to go continue my trip without worrying about it.
After getting back to US-40, I made a quick stop for gas and to check that tire pressure. It was down another 10psi from just a few hours of driving. I knew I had some huge deserts to get through today and definitely didn't want to find myself in the middle of a Steinbeck novel, hiking to a service station with a broken down car. I managed finding a service station somewhere in the middle of Arizona with a couple of Yelp reviews. After giving them a call I made my way back a few dirt roads to a shop surrounded by the desert. There was no open door other than a half cracked garage door that I ducked under to get in. When I looked up I saw four guys who looked like they were on an old western movie set with all their hands in an old engine, wild eyes, white handle bar moustaches, cigarettes, and grease stained skin. They took a look at my tire after getting my low-riding, loaded car jacked up, found a giant screw, and said with certainty, "Yeah! 'course we can fix 'at! you'll be out on'a road real soon"
They were right – I was back on the road in what seemed like no time. Next stop: Gas. I hadn't eaten all day so I just settled with some quick Subway before heading into the desert. It was somewhere between Kingman and the Mojave Desert when I started noticing I wasn't feeling well. My glands in my neck were swelling, I felt nauseous, and thousands of other things seemed to be off. I had irrational thoughts like, "Am I diabetic? Is this a diabetic seizure? Am I dehydrated? What's going on? Where's the nearest hospital, just in case?"
Somewhere in the Mojave Desert I started driving a little faster, trying to get back to civilization. I saw a rest stop ahead followed by a "Next service, 50+ miles." I pulled off in the rest stop and sat on the curb for a minute as I felt my arms and face go numb. I was slurring my words and unaware of my location. A trucker called 9-1-1 since I didn't know what was going on. A family on vacation from LA on their way back onto the highway recognized it right away, came over with a banana, some powerade, and conversation. I just had my first panic attack.
Nothing quite teaches you to breathe and chill like a panic attack in the middle of the Mojave Desert. I chatted on the phone for the remaining three hours as I got over the mountains to see the lights of the city in the distance. There's a part of Grapes of Wrath that I'll never read the same way again.
And 66 goes on over the terrible desert, where the distance shimmers and
the black centre mountains hang unbearably in the distance. At last there's Barstow, and more desert until at last the mountains rise up again, the good mountains, and 66 winds through them. Then suddenly a pass, and below the beautiful valley, below orchards and vineyards and little houses, and in the distance a city. And, oh, my God, it's over...
I slept well that night. 2,921 miles later I was able to unload my car into a storage unit while I found an apartment, and relaxed over my Birthday weekend.