Adventure Time

Posted on May 29, 2016 | 0 comments

Every year I head to DC to run in the Race for Hope to benefit brain cancer. This was our second year running in memory rather than celebration. It was a rainy day and a lot of folks had conflicts, but we were still out in force and will continue to be so. On the running front, I’d injured myself on my bike a month or so prior and was walking with a limp – no sub-19 (the usual goal) this year – was a nice walk, though.

Prior to the race, Dad informed me that he’d like to get rid of Mom’s car. He was no longer using it, but couldn’t bring himself to sell it. As my first cross-country trip was a bit abbreviated due to weather and park closures (NPS strike), I was eager to cross the country again. We only had a single car and I sometimes disappear for weekends for biking things. While I drive maybe once a week, it couldn’t hurt to have a second vehicle so I committed to taking it.

The nature of my work allows me to be just about anywhere in the world as long as I have a laptop, a handful of devices, and internet. The original goal was to camp the whole way to save a few bucks and work in coffee shops. Due to the work and traveling necessary, and camping rates, that didn’t really work out too well. I’d get to campsites by dark, which is no fun – part of the camping experience is to enjoy the place. Setting up in the dark, eating in the dark, etc., and then waking up to work and figure out your day… It was less than ideal. Besides, campsites in the western half of the country are mostly still closed for the season. It simply wasn’t meant to be. Instead, with hotels.com I was able to find enclosed spaces with internet everywhere I wanted to be for roughly $55/night. Versus the $20-$40 to tent camp? It was a no-brainer.

Before leaving, I made a rough plan of where I wanted to go. That gave me a route, which I built on roadtrippers.com. I followed that for the most part, but the real planning was done day by day as I figured out how tired I was, how much work I had, when that work had to be completed by, what there was to see, and what I could realistically drive without killing myself. The site was super awesome, works on computers and mobile, and integrates with Waze. I couldn’t have asked for much more from a free service.

I won’t bore you with the details of each stop, but you’re welcome to browse the daily schedules.

Day 1 – DC to Baltimore – Race for Hope, spending night w/ Dad and Sis on business trip.
Day 2 – Baltimore to Pittsburgh – Breakfast w/ Dad and Sis, Washington Monument (MD), Giant Quarter, Log Church, Fort Ligonier, Keystone State Park.
Day 3 – Pittsburgh to Cleveland – Primanti Brothers and Heinz History Museum.
Day 4 – Cleveland to Detroit – Cuyahoga Valley National Park, A Christmas Story House, Lake View Cemetery, and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.
Day 5 – Detroit to “Chicago” – Heidelberg Project, Belle Isle, Elmwood Cemetery, Eastern Market, Shinola, Indiana Dunes.
Day 6 – “Chicago” to Minneapolis – Michael Jackson Home, Robie House, Cloud Gate, Lakefront Trail, The Old Fashioned, WI Capitol, Babcock Hall Dairy, Pink Elephant, Orange Moose.
Day 7 – Minneapolis (rest day) – Grand Rounds Trail, Minnehaha Falls.
Day 8 – Minneapolis to Badlands – Jolly Green Giant, Sioux Falls, Corn Palace, Al’s Oasis.
Day 9 – Badlands to Custer – Minuteman Visitor Center, Badlands National Park, Minuteman Missile Silo, Wall Drug, Chapel in the Hills, Mount Rushmore.
Day 10 – Custer to Greybull – Black Hills National Forest, Devil’s Tower, Bighorn National Forest.
Day 11 – Greybull to West Yellowstone – Buffalo Bill Dam, Yellowstone National Park.
Day 12 – West Yellowstone to Portland – USS Hawkbill, Craters of the Moon, Mural of Pennies.

The car itself was a trooper. It didn’t drink any fluids, did pop on O2 sensor around 1/3 of the way (can be ignored, but since fixed), the oil looks perfectly clean, and I got about 22mpg. I was expecting better, but I did have luggage, a bike on the roof (I did bike a lot of places), the O2 sensor could have hurt efficiency a bit, and let’s face it, the car had 135k miles.

It was an awesome trip, I’m so thankful that I was able to do it, and I can’t wait to do more.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Maryland is the worst. East coast mentality is so east coast. Seems to altogether disappear once you hit Western PA.
  • Pittsburgh is a pretty cool place. Lots of history, a tough demeanor, but everyone was really pleasant. Was surprised to see how much was invented there and how responsible the city was for the growth of our nation.
  • Cleveland had nothing going for it. It was cheap so that was cool. Had lunch and a pretty serious bike repair done for a combined $8.50.
  • Detroit is a very cool town. I know we all joked about buying blocks back when they were for sale for nothing, but we really should have. It’s still mostly a ghost town, but the infrastructure is there, those blocks are now all gone, the people were super friendly (folks in “the hood” would say hello to me from their stoops as I passed, clad in spandex). Young people are flocking. I’m not sure the jobs are there yet, but for someone who telecommutes it’s got a lot of draw if they could do something about those winters.
  • Indiana could go away. My second time passing through it and it’s really got nothing going on.
  • Chicago is always a nice stop. I think I’ve seen the Cloud Gate a half dozen times now. Never gets old. And that lake shore… So nice.
  • There might not be a more friendly place than Wisconsin. It’s almost painful. Mmm cheese and ice cream.
  • I’d been to Minneapolis before, but this was my first time actually seeing it. It’s got a lot going for it. No wonder it ranks really high on all those internet lists, but similar to Detroit – that winter.
  • Not much to say about South Dakota. The woman were all oddly attractive. Young and old.
  • Wyoming is cold. Unexpected. Apparently it’s the second highest state so that makes sense. I’m talking 20 degrees at night. I stayed in a super cool historic hotel in Greybull. Basically had a full apartment for like $50.
  • Idaho is amazingly beautiful no matter where you cross it, but so darned empty. I didn’t know they had volcanic fields there and didn’t expect to see the backside of the Tetons.
  • Oregon is home so I blasted through it in the dark. I’ve got plenty of time to see all it offers.
  • You can make it from Yellowstone to Portland in a day.
  • REI is the bomb. Apparently they used a faulty glue on my 10 year old tent for a totally unimportant piece. I took it in to see if they could reglue it, but instead they gave me a brand new tent. Not what I was looking for, but that’s their policy and why they deserve all your camping business.
  • This country is large. There’s so damned much to see. I’ve now crossed it twice. One of the more difficult things in planning is making those choices that eliminate other possibilities. You simply can’t hit it all. I could easily see needing maybe another six crossings to see all I’d want to see. Time to get planning!
  • I’ve now seen where Trump supporters live.