Saturday, September 05, 2009

Parting Shots and Closing Thoughts

A few thoughts to wrap up a road trip.

As originally envisioned, I was going to be on the road for 3 weeks, traveling about 5500 miles. As you can see, the trip ballooned a little bit. The final count was 33 days and just under 7900 miles. I was not driving every single day, having breaks in Chicago, Saint Paul, Seattle, and Portland, but I did all of the driving of those miles. And outside of those four cities, I did all of the driving by myself.

I've been asked since I got home if I would have done anything differently. For one thing, I would have done a little more planning, especially in and around Yellowstone. The problem was that I did not know how far I was going to get on any given day, which made planning difficult. On the obvious question, that being of actually going with someone on this trip, I'm not so sure. Especially on the first leg (Route 66 to Chicago), it was very important for me to get away from everything and everyone, and just have the time on the road to myself. And once you start on the road, not knowing where and when you are going to land, it is difficult to plan on bringing someone in for a later leg.

What did I learn (or confirm what I already knew)? Humidity is a killer, a lot more than just high temperatures. When spread out over a few miles, thousands of feet in elevation can be picked up all but unnoticed. People want to hear your stories. People want to tell you their stories. People want to help each other, especially once they know each others' stories. 600 miles on one road is easier driving than 150 miles changing highways. I will always get pulled over on the first day of a road trip (but I might not get a ticket). There is no more helpless a feeling on a road trip than seeing your car up on a lift with the hood open. The most annoying and panic-inducing idiot light on the dashboard is the Check Engine light. The most fun idiot light on the dashboard is the windshield washer fluid light. One of the most complicated mechanical devices that we have (an internal combustion engine), can be brought back seemingly from the brink of death by a few rounds of electrical tape. South Dakota Public Radio is always available in South Dakota, but they know the borders of the state and the range of their towers (the second I left SD, the signal disappeared). People give you funny looks if you don't take the shortest possible route to wherever you are going, but will still give you directions that will get you there the way you want to go.

Now I'm back home, looking for a job and a place to live. Out of fantasyland and back into realityland. I can't shake the feeling that I should be driving again. I'm sure that feeling will fade after a few days or a week. Or maybe I'll have to do this again (on a MUCH smaller scale). Motels, diners, and the open road are fun for a while, but it is good to be back on solid ground with static scenery.

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