Non-Traditional

Wandering across the country!

My oldest daughter is away at college.  She currently lives on campus and doesn’t need a car to get around, but all of that changes next month when she moves off campus for her summer internship.

We debated the best option to get her a car.  Do we ship her car back to her? Do we drive it back? Do we just buy a beater locally? Do we buy her a newer car either here or there? Plenty of options, but in the end, we decided that I would drive her current car back to her – 2,200 miles away and over 33 hours of drive time.

I left the house at about 6am on Monday as the sun was rising.

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I carved my way through Arizona’s Rim Country, up through Payson and Heber and up into Holbrook along I-40 in northern Arizona. After 3-1/2 hours and a quick refuel, I would be on the highway that would take me through New Mexico, Texas and into Oklahoma.

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It didn’t take long to see some interesting roadkill. A crow eating a snake in Arizona, a coyote in New Mexico, armadillos in Texas, a turkey in Oklahoma and countless other poor animals who met their fate by a passing vehicle.

In northern Arizona, you pass by the Petrified Forest and a prerequisite teepee trading post before entering New Mexico.

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By noon (1pm local), I was in Albuquerque. I pulled in to refuel the car and my stomach on the east side of the city.  Let’s just say, I was happy to be moving out of there safely.

After several hours of driving 80+ MPH in New Mexico, the scenery hadn’t changed much. Now I know what a hamster must feel like on that wheel.

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Of course, in the middle of nowhere, there has to be an Indian Casino, right?

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Outside of Albuquerque and Tucumcari, there aren’t many towns or sites in this state.  Just outside of Albuquerque is Santa Rosa, home of “The Blue Hole”, a diving site that is supposedly one of the most popular diving sites in the US. About 40 minutes south of Santa Rosa is Fort Sumner, which is known for being the gravesite of Billy the Kid.

Around 3:00pm (4pm local), I entered Texas.  And again, not much change in the way of scenery – but there was a change in the air.  As you get closer to Amarillo, you can start to smell the dairy cows. One thing I noticed was that the dairy cows were all tightly confined, while the cattle roamed free on wide open acres of land.

This is the second time I’ve driven through Amarillo and I still haven’t seen signs for Cadillac Ranch.  That’s definitely something I want to stop and see next time through.

Amarillo is also the home of “The Big Texan”, famous for their “free” 72oz steak, but I didn’t have the time or the stomach to test them on it so I passed on it – literally and figuratively.

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In Groom, Texas, I noticed an enormous cross on the horizon – and saw it coming towards me for miles.

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And not much further past that, Texas’ own leaning tower of water.

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Another interesting site was this rest stop.  Later, I found out it’s the Gray County Rest Stop and it’s pretty impressive for a rest stop.

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The plan was to stay in Shamrock, Texas at a local motel along famed Route 66. With the early start, I was ahead of schedule and wanted to press on, so I passed on the Shamrock Inn and dinner at Big Vern’s as I made my way into Oklahoma.

I pulled into Elk City, Oklahoma at 8:30pm after driving 850 miles. After a quick bite at Billy Sim’s BBQ, it was time to get some rest.

Tuesday morning, I started out again at 6:30am.

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From here, I’d make my way through the rolling hills of Oklahoma’s western side, passing Garth Brooks Blvd and then skirt Oklahoma City by taking their loop around the city. I connected to I-44 and started to head north towards Tulsa.  After a quick refuel, I was on my way to Joplin, Missouri on Oklahoma’s awesome roads!

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Around lunch, I stopped in St. Robert, Missouri and before long, I was back on the road.  A couple of miles up the road, I passed, are you ready for this, Uranus, Missouri.  One of the earlier billboards I saw promoted the Uranus Fudge Factory. Clearly, some marketing genius (or idiot) came up with this. While I’m talking about it, I can hardly see myself eating Uranus Fudge.

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And a little further up the road, I passed signs for the world’s largest rocking chair. Route 66 is loaded with these oddities and I’d like to be able to experience them at some point, but I powered on.

I made it into St Louis at rush hour. It certainly slowed me down, but it was nothing compared to other cities. Before long, I was across the mighty Mississippi and into Illinois with the “Gateway to the West” at my back.

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It was immediately clear to me that Illinois is broke.  The road conditions to this point, through five states, had been perfect. No potholes and clear sailing. Illinois’ I-70 presented something different and it was felt through the steering wheel and seat.

Along the way, I spotted yet another giant cross in Effingham, Illinois.  They say everything is bigger in Texas, but not their cross.  This beauty in southern Illinois is larger than the one in Groom.

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I entered into Indiana around Terre Haute at around 6:30pm, and the road conditions didn’t change. With a few hours of daylight still left, I wanted to make my way to the east side of Indianapolis so I wouldn’t have to deal with morning rush hour getting through town.

As sunset was closing in, I passed the airport and prepared to exit onto the south loop around the city.  Just then, I hit a pothole that felt like it blew up my car. The sound was so loud, it was as if I was in an accident. I was surprised (and happy) the airbag didn’t deploy. Immediately, the car and I started shaking.

I limped the last 20 miles to get to my hotel by 8:30pm. Another 830 miles of driving, I staggered into the hotel and quickly learned that Indiana has a massive pothole problem with many people trying to sue the state for damages.  Wonderful.  I prepared to be at Discount Tire before they opened at 8am.

At 7:30am, I was second in line. Just after the doors opened, I received the diagnosis. Bent rim and the tire needed to be replaced.  The guy told me that he didn’t have any rims in stock, but he could get one by tomorrow. No go.  I shared my situation and he searched his used inventory and found and a rim that would work.  After a quick 30 minute minutes, I was back on the road!

The potholes in Indiana continued until I got to the far outskirts of Indianapolis.  When I entered into Ohio at about 9:30, it was clear sailing once again with wide open, pristine highways, with a little exception around Columbus.

Once I got to the east side of Columbus, the scenery changed into more rolling hills and after another couple of hours, I was crossing the Ohio River and into Wheeling, West Virginia.

IMG_5665A short stint through West Virginia and I entered the home stretch of Pennsylvania!

I stayed to the south of Pittsburgh and made my way over to New Stanton staying on I-70. From there, I connected to the relatively new and under-used PA66 that connects the PA Turnpike to US22 outside of Pittsburgh on the way toward Altoona.

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Another quick pitstop and I was on the final leg, arriving in State College and Mount Nittany at 4pm!

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Overall, an amazing trip across the country.  2,205 miles and about 33 hours on the road with nothing but me and Spotify.

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