Cross USA trip (late June to early August 2005)

Few people make driving trips across the US, let alone making a loop across and back. Iit's not so much a financial restriction issue since one can always be creative and travel with practically any budget. However, long distance driving, time commitment and encountering the unknown are typically bigger challenges. First, committing to a long time (4 weeks minimum) to be away from home would require a lot of support from the family, or whoever stays behind to look after the house. Second, enjoyment of driving on both on interstates as well as not-so-well-traveled roads is essential - just driving on interstates would be pretty boring. Third, it takes the willingness to keep the plan flexible based on real-time input - there is no amount of planning would get you to all the interesting places that you want to see. Staying on a preplanned itinerary would dictate excessive planning; as well prevent interesting detours as opportunities arise. If you are traveling with a companion, it's vital that you have common interests and compatible personality. It would be miserable if you get into constant debates about how far to go, whether to stop at some place, etc. And although not so much a requirement, being willing to take some risks to venture into the unknowns would add an exciting and fun element into the trip.

As far as we are concerned, my wife and I opted to do a minimal amount of planning, with only four destinations in the whole trip that we must be at, primarily to visit with families or friends, and the rest remaining up for consideration. We seldom knew more than 4 hours ahead of time where we'd stop, sleep or eat. We took detours at will, in fact starting on the second day into the trip, and often until we reached Florida . We relied heavily on AAA services - both for tour guides as well as state and local maps. I must say that re-signing up for AAA membership prior to the trip was one of the best investments I made, along with buying the annual national park pass. For this long trip, we were fortunate with the weather and with our vehicle. We somehow managed to be either ahead of a bad storm system, or were in a large city ( New Orleans in July!) when one hit. We did experience major regional weather pattern changes as we traversed the country. Starting with the pleasant temperature and low humidity of the Pacific coast, we got a quick dose of the extreme hot and dry weather of California deserts and Arizona . Following a brief relief at Sedona and Grand Canyon, the hot weather returned as we got to New Mexico desert, plus increasing humidity as we entered Texas and Louisiana , topping out in Florida . The funny thing is by the time we got to South Carolina , while our local friends kept referring to the hot and humid weather, we found it quite tolerable (with the exception of the zillions of mosquitoes that seem attracted mostly to new comers.) Everything is relative, I suppose. We did not have any major issue with our car even though parts of the trip were on substandard road condition such as unpaved or 4-wheel drive roads. The few times we got into an issue with our car's electrical system (which I later found out due to a trailer hitch attachment I added), folks at the Acura service center in El Paso and Honda . went out of their way to help us get back on our trip as quickly as possible.

An abbreviated itinerary of our trip follows: Our eastbound trip took us through Phoenix , Arizona to visit with my cousin's family. Prompted by their suggestion, we took our first detour off the planned route and spent a night in Sedona. We decided to drive a little further north to visit Grand Canyon National Park, which in turn led us to Glen Canyon Dam and Paria/Vermillion Cliff National Monument. We then drove to Bandelier National Monument to see ancient Indian cliff dwellings. The following day, we stopped by Santa Fe, then drove on to White Sands National Monument. After spending a night in Las Cruces, we went to Carlsbad Caverns National Park to see the huge underground Big Room. Moving on to Texas to visit with more relatives, we then visited Houston Space Center - a more recreational oriented place relative to the Kenedy Space Center. We then drove on to New Orleans for an extended stay. By coincidence, we got to enjoy the fireworks on the Mississippi River in New Orleans on the 4 th of July. Fast forward a few days, we reached Jacksonville after traveling the length of Interstate 10. We spent a long weekend with my nieces in Jacksonville before heading north to visit with my close friends in Georgetown, South Carolina . After three days catching up with my American family/friends, we drove on to Washington DC to visit with relatives and visit the nation capital. By the time we left Washington DC, we were a few days behind so we had to zip through Pennsylvania , West Virginia , Ohio and many other states, as well as skip most of the parks along the way. We managed to visit a few historical places such as Lincoln Boyhood Historical Park and Eisenhower Library. By the time we reached Colorado, we resumed our national park tour with stops at Rocky Mountain, Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde national parks. I also took my wife to see Arches and Zion national parks where I had been in June. Then we stopped by Hoover Dam on the way back to California.

By the time we got home, we had spent some five weeks on the road and covered just over ten thousand miles. We learned a lot from nature, history and people along the way. As I refreshed my knowledge of the country history and the principles set by the founding fathers, as well as learning more about the heroes of the World Wars, I found a renewed sense of respect for the past and optimism for the future.

Scattered through this summary are some random pictures during this trip. Picture sets are posted as time permits. Eventually, all the destinations below should have links to either a travelogue or a picture set.

  • Lincoln Boyhood Historical Park
  • Indiana
  • Eisenhower Library
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Hoover Dam