Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pony Express: Return Run & Completion!

With Sam and Charlie safely -- and very happily! -- united in Fort Collins, the primary objective of the Pony Express was successfully completed. All that remained of the expedition was for Kelsie and me to drive Darth and the empty trailer back to Pennsylvania.

We hit the road yesterday morning at 8am for the expect 30+ hour return run. Rather than exactly retracing our outbound route by taking I-25 south to Denver and then I-70 east through Kansas, etc., we decided to continue north on I-25 to Cheyenne, WY, and take I-80 east through Nebraska, etc. We're both very glad we did!

There is much debate about which cross country route is better, with most people saying they prefer I-70. We found I-80 to be a better road in general, with much more appealing scenery. Nebraska is far greener and prettier to look at than Kansas, and we really enjoyed our day-long drive through it.

We generally drove in three hours stints, taking each break to stretch our legs, get food and refreshments, etc. At every other stop, we gave Darth a drink of the diesel fuel he just loves to gulp down. Although our plan was to drive "non-stop" we took a bit of time at each break to enjoy a little of the local flavor. At our stop in Gothenburg, NE, we discovered an original Pony Express station and found it to be both irresistible in the context of our expedition and charming in its own right.

Our long, long drive was very happily uneventful, with hour after hour of Darth just cranking out the horsepower. I've always been impressed with him, but he really showed his stuff on this expedition. We simply set his cruise control and 65 mph and let him power down the road, taking each hill climb easily in stride. I think he really enjoyed this fast, long-haul drive, because he sounds as good as I've ever heard him. I guess it's true what they say, diesel motors just love long grinds!

Two little highlights of our return leg include being passed by a few racing team trucks (which Kelsie could name on sight!) and finding a McDonalds that offers "saddle seating" (which Kelsie found to be quite entertaining!) It's the little things that really make a road trip so special.

We mostly just enjoyed our time on the road together: Having lively conversations on broad-ranging topics, listening to music and audiobooks, watching the countryside roll by, etc. Kelsie is an outstanding road trip partner, and she will be first on our list the next time Darth and I need a hand!

We drove through the night and well into today, arriving back here in Pennsylvania late this afternoon. We dropped off the trailer, segregated our belongings from the mess we'd made out of them in Darth, had a hearty high five and a solid fist bump, then declared the Pony Express a full, final and complete success. It was a truly excellent expedition and I'm so glad we did it.

I'm going to take the evening to sort myself out, then head down to Annapolis for the induction of my young friend Max into the US Naval Academy. From there, his father Kenny and I will drive up to Watkins Glen for a weekend with his racing teams. After that… Stay tuned!

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