[This is a backdated, edited version of the trip digest I emailed out to people last April]
After “retiring” from Swarmcast earlier this Spring, I decided that I had run completely out of steam, and I needed to take a break somewhat longer and different than a conventional “vacation”. It seemed like a road trip of undefined duration was exactly what the doctor ordered.
I hit the road at exactly 5pm of my last official day at SC. I had been deferring invites from some friends for some time; I decided to take them all up in one big loop, and try to hit as many sites of railroad and historical import as I could along the way.
Recognizing that nobody wants to read a lengthy, tiresome travelogue, I present instead a statistical digest of my trip – with one or two accompanying comments.
Total time: 28 days, 23 hours, 55 minutes. (Just five minutes shy of 29 days)
Miles driven: 8870
Gallons of gas burned: 352
Avg MPG: 25.19
Carbon released: 3.4 tons
This number uses the EPA’s estimate that 19.4 pounds of carbon is released for every gallon of gas burned. I’m sure that there are many tradeoffs related to this number; indeed, I wonder the effects of high-altitude air?
States traversed: 18: MN, WI, IL, KY, TN, GA, FL, AL, MI, LA, TX, NM, CO, WY, UT, ID, MT, SD – in that order (I could have hit more, but that wasn’t what the trip was about)
States carefully avoided: 4 (IN, AR, OK, KS)
Lowest Point: 0ft (Florida)
Highest Point: about 11800ft (the treeline on Pikes Peak) (I thought I had achieved a negative elevation, but the internet says that the French Quarter is actually three feet above sea level)
Mental Low Point: When I realized that the UP 844 (an engine I’ve never seen) and train had steamed out of Cheyenne on the morning of the day I arrived there, and I had NO IDEA. That burns!
Crossings of the Continental Divide: 9
Snow storms driven through: 3 (Winter Park is called Winter Park for a reason)
Bike rides: 5
On the last ride, all four elements were against me:
Earth: the steepness of the canyon road I was on
Air: the air was fairly thin
Water: the road was covered in snow that had almost turned to slush
Fire: the fire in my lungs and throat as I tried to breathe
The only true excuse is that I am ridiculously out of shape.
- Movies attended: 3
“Goldberg”, “Chloe”, and “Date Night”, only two of which I can recommend. As to the latter film: hey, there was nothing else to do in Sheridan, WY once the sun had gone down.
Photos taken: 3600+
Photos taken of complete strangers using their cameras: 3
Museums/Historic Sites visited: 15
The most interesting was the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, sited in the former Texas Book Depository, but I’d have to say that the most profound and moving site, for me anyway, was the location of the Golden Spike at Promontory, Utah.
Hotels slept at: 8
Shitty, roach infested dive hotels: do the math
The worst was in Pensacola: Broken door chain, fire alarm making low-battery chirp, heater partially disassembled with loose screws all over the floor, no pillows; on the other hand, hands down my cheapest hotel stay, implying that you do get what you pay for.
Nights spent sleeping in car: 7
Nights rousted while sleeping in car: 0
This is a testament to my nightly painstaking efforts to find a spot that’s out of the way, but not so far out of the way as to attract attention.
Number of trains ridden: 5
Waffle Houses observed: lost count after 50
Max number of Waffle Houses at a single exit: 3
Chik-Fil-As eaten: 7
This count would have been nine, except that, I realized only after driving 20 miles out of the way to find one – and finding it deserted – that the current day was Sunday, and, as you know, the Chik-Fil-A people have decreed that their sandwiches are not to be consumed on the Lord’s Day.
Fast food places patronized: 0 (Technically, Chik-Fil-A has tried to take on the “quick food” designation)
Number of honest-to-god “Poboys” eaten: 1
Chain restaurants patronized: 3
If I distinguish between national chain and local chain, that number drops to one: Applebees on Easter. All of the locally owned places were closed. And I do mean all – I checked the whole friggin’ town.
Number of newly restored, antique sailboats sailed on: 1
Number of newly restored, antique sailboats run aground due to my non-existent seamanship: 1
I’m so sorry, Chad! That’s another shining entry in my Lifetime Catalog of Embarrassments and Regrets – although, it was some help when you remarked that it was revenge for the cell phone call you make me take that one time.
Number of times car battery died: 2
Number of jumpstarts needed: 1
Number of new car batteries purchased: 1
I’ll leave this one to the imagination, although, I will say that it might have been a better idea to bring more blankets.
Number of postcards mailed: 13
Near-death experiences: only 3
These were all in traffic in two rather large metroplexes that both start with the letter “D”. Although, I can’t be sure that I was actually _awake _for all of those 8870 miles – there may have been other incidents that I am completely unaware of.
All in all, I’d have to say it was a great trip. Three weeks into it, I finally thought to myself that I’m starting to recover. If nothing else, it gave me a great introduction to many areas in the country that I’ve read about over the years but never seen with my own eyes. One or two of them don’t seem like they would be too terrible to live in!
I definitely want to go back to some of those places to investigate and photograph them in more detail. Everything around the Twin Cities suddenly now seems bland and uninteresting in comparison.
I also want to go back to the Black Hills and ride the Mickelson Trail. I criss-crossed over it several times while taking a “remote logging road shortcut” (suggested not by google, but by my topo map – and no, that’s not where my car died), and I bet there is some fantastic scenery back in those hills.
Here is a representative set of photos from the trip:
I might, if I find myself lacking on subjects to write about in the present, pick and choose some memories from the trip and write about them in more detail.