My Army son returned from a five-year tour to Okinawa, Japan. On the way to his next station in Ft. Detrick, Maryland, he stopped in California to spend time with his parents (love this kid). He bought a phone (one that worked in America rather than only Japan) and a 2022 Audi Quattro. Then, he and I set out on a cross country road trip to my daughter’s home in Fulton, MD (she’s with the Navy there), about 45 minutes from his new station. We took a week driving, a week finding his apartment and buying furnishings, and then I returned to California to see what craziness my husband wrought in my absence.
The green pin is where we started, the red where we ended. The yellow pins were touristy stops along the way.
Here are my observations and lessons from our cross country journey:
- A sad farewell from my dog, Casey.
- Rather than the freeway, we took the iconic Route 66 as far as it would take us. It was two lanes each direction but well-traveled and rarely backed up. The only issue was the many many trucks–hundreds of miles of them. For some reason, this seemed to be their preferred route. Except for when it rained (and it sure did), they were good partners on our excursion.
- Gas was most expensive in California (close to $5 a gallon) and cheapest in the middle of the country. Interestingly, the Audi Quaatro takes regular gas, not premium, which saved a lot of money.
- Everywhere we went on both coasts, there were lots of empty shelves. I’ve never seen that before. Maybe because of insufficient trucks to bring goods from warehouses (though Route 66 was filled with eighteen wheelers), container ships stuck offshore, or the lack of workers to restock the shelves. Or all three.
- It started raining in Memphis, Tennessee, and didn’t stop for two-three days. Blinding rain–sheets of it–and in heavy rain, trucks send up a wash of water that drenches any car around it. We were deluged with this spray which made seeing in the sheeting rain almost impossible. I’ve never driven in such horrid conditions. The Audi Quattro has sensors in the front to assist driving–slow the car when you get close to traffic ahead–but the rain was so bad, the sensors couldn’t see through it and turned off. Yikes!
- Usually I watch some TV each day but not on this trip. We drove all day, stopped to play tourist where relevant (like the Grand Canyon), ate dinner, and read until bedtime. Then, started over the next day. There didn’t seem to be any time for TV.
- Across the country, we saw a plethora of proud American flags. Don’t know if this was normal or because of all the craziness going on. Whatever the reason, I loved it.
- Even Dallas-Fort Worth airport was decked out–I suspect for Veteran’s Day:
- Getting vaccinated wasn’t a problem there, either:
- We passed over a hundred miles of windmill farms in Oklahoma, Texas, and surrounding areas. They filled the landscape. And no surprise, the wind was crazy, buffeted us and the trucks around us all over.
- As we drove across the wide open spaces of the American fly-over states, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the ancient cliffs, the rolling hills, the open savanna, the grassland, the scrub-filled gullies. I imagined how the first people to inhabit North America (17,000 ya, depending upon which scientists you listen to) would have viewed this landscape as they sought food and shelter.
- We visited the Grand Canyon on the way. It is an amazing landmark though this I found rather odd:
Freedom of speech is part of the US Constitution. I didn’t get why they posted this sign.
- During our trip, Tesla surpassed $1 trillion in market cap, only the fourth company to do that. It is now (or was then) bigger than all other American car companies combined and Elon Musk was worth more than Exxon Mobil. Yikes!
Tips for road trips:
- Use the (free) Waze app to find accidents and driving issues. It’s much better than Google or Apple maps.
- Use the (free) Fox Weather app to maneuver through big storms–either avoid them or wait until they’re gone (or in our case, cry a little bit). The blue dot on the maps below is us in the middle of the storm, trying to get through it.
- Have Sirius, Apple Music, Pandora, or another music app without commercials. With that much driving, the sales pitches would have driven us nuts. We had Sirius as well as Pandora (the commercial-free option) through the installed Apple CarPlay.
- Have Apple CarPlay or similar so you can listen to podcasts, the audio on YouTube, and other options when music becomes tiresome.
- Have lots of charging stations in your car. Maps programs eat through phone battery. We had three and used all of them for phones, headphones, and more.
- Hotels cost more than I remember from my last cross-country road trip but we discovered the Marriot offered discounted rates for active service members. They charged only what a soldier’s housing allowance was, usually about 25% under the posted price. Whenever possible, we stayed at Marriot.
- Be a good guest if you impose on family/friends for meals for beds. Sean and I did our best to make my daughter happy we were there during our week in her condo. We fixed her ice maker, her printer, and her dryer (all broken for at least several months), and did constant vacuuming (she has a Dyson stick that made it easy) and light cleaning. Thanks to that, she pretty much forgave our mistakes during the week.
Any tips from your travels?
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Winter 2022.