Saturday, September 24, 2011

US Hwy 50 "End-to-End" Part 3: St. Louis to Ocean City

Here's the video for "Part 3" of my US Highway 50 "End-to-End" road trip:

All of the images are from my DashCam, which shoots still photos once per minute whenever I'm driving and video whenever I want. The music is one of my favorite pieces by Jonathan Coulton which I've long wanted to use and finally have a video for which it kind of fits!

Note: Now that it's done, this series of DashCam videos doesn't seem as cool to me as it did in my mind when I started. I'm not sure it's worth the effort, and I'm ambivalent about doing it again on my next road trip. Let me know in the comments if you like it, if there's something else you would like instead, or if I should just skip it… Thanks!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

US Highway 50 -- "End-to-End" Officially Complete!

The last drive of my US Highway 50 "End-to-End" road trip began with a stint across the rolling hills of Virginia, and through a few quaint, really old villages. Despite the heavy overcast, it was lovely.

Because US 50 passes right through the heart of downtown Washington, DC -- right along Constitution Avenue and everything! -- I decided to leave my camper rig back in Winchester and make the drive in Darth unencumbered.

I am very glad I made that call, because I can't imagine having to drag my rig through the DC traffic!
With that mess behind me, I entered Maryland where the landscape really opened up and offered me an easy hour or so drive to the coast.

I arrived in Ocean City and have checked into a little beachfront Holiday Inn -- my other home! -- for the night. Before doing so, I stopped to find the sign I've been waiting to see since I saw it's reciprocal 3,073 miles ago in Sacramento!

With that, my US Highway 50 "End-to-End" road trip is officially complete! It's been a fantastic drive: Over the California mountains, across the desert on the Loneliest Road, over the Rockies, progressively across prairies, grasslands, farmlands, woodlands and, finally, over the Appalachians and on to the Atlantic Coast.

I've made the trip a lot faster than I originally planned -- for reasons that I promise to explain very soon! -- but that didn't really detract from my enjoyment of it. There's something fantastic about rolling so far across such vastly different regions that's hard to describe. Every time I do it, I am strongly reminded that America is quite probably the most varied country in the world, and that regional differences in the republic should be protected from the kind of "one size fits all" lawmaking that seems to be the vogue. Drive coast to coast sometime and see if you get what I mean.

I'm going to return to Winchester tomorrow and collect my rig, then head up to Pennsylvania to visit with family and friends for a couple of weeks. After that, I've got something pretty amazing lined up... Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Beauty and the Beast

It's really hard to describe my last drive, but the best that comes to mind is "Beauty and the Beast."

The first half of my drive across eastern Ohio and western West Virginia was simply beautiful. A fantastic, smooth, high-speed roadway rolled up and down the foothills of the Appalachians, each vista nicer than the one before. I dialed Darth into a perfect speed/gear combination and he just motored along. I had my current audiobook -- The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes! -- adding to the entertainment. Life was great!
When I crossed the river and entered West Virginia, I smiled at the sign which reads "Wild and Wonderful", not having a clue just how wild and not so wonderful the next portion of US Highway 50 was going to be.

Just past Clarksburg, the road changes from a great, four-lane affair to a truly miserable, barely two-lane ordeal!
For the next hundred miles, it's up 5 miles of 9% grade, down 5 miles of 9% grade, a moment of flat in the valley, then repeat about a dozen times!

When I say the road is barely two-lanes, I'm not kidding. Plus, there's no shoulder on either side, so when any of the many, many trucks that come the other way pass by it's a door-rattling experience.
To top it all off, I don't think the roadway has been paved in decades, and the patchwork is horribly uneven. So, poor Darth was constantly changing from low-gear churning up hill to motor-braking going down, getting rattled to death by the traffic and pavement, generally working himself like crazy. If I ever had any concerns about the durability of my road rig, I certainly don't anymore.

This stretch of road was easily one of the worst I've ever driven -- even worse than the Haul Road in Alaska! -- and while it might be fun-ish on a motorcycle or in a sports car, it was miserable in a 9,000 pound truck hauling a 7,000 pound trailer!

'Nuff said... The road improved upon entering Virginia, and I am spending a couple of days here in Winchester before making one more push to the end of US Highway 50 on the coast!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What's high in the middle and round on both ends?

My drive today was really nice. All the way through eastern Indiana and western Ohio, the scenery was mostly a mix of wooded, rolling hills and lush, tidy farmland. Every few miles I passed through quaint old towns or crossed lovely little rivers.

The road itself has been pretty good, and I've enjoyed driving around twists and turns for a change!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Into Indiana Territory

I had a very nice couple of days with friends in St. Louis, and hit the road again this morning. After getting through the traffic in St. Louis -- which isn't bad compared to some cities but still bad enough to vividly remind me I'm not a city guy -- the drive was very nice across south-central Illinois.

Upon entering Indiana, the landscape became a lovely mix of rich farmlands and wooded hills. I've stopped in Bedford and plan to take the day here tomorrow before continuing east on Saturday.

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Monday, September 12, 2011

US Hwy 50 "End-to-End" Part 2: Pueblo to St. Louis

Here's the video for "Part 2" of my US Highway 50 "End-to-End" road trip:

All of the images are from my DashCam, which shoots still photos once per minute whenever I'm driving and video whenever I want. The music is a little piece by Hobo Jim which seemed to fit not only the timing of the movie but also the overall feeling!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hills and Trees!

Yesterday's drive was almost entirely flat and straight as I traversed the rest of Kansas. The road was really good, and I enjoyed the drive. Despite the lack of things to see -- and even fewer to photograph -- there's something very peaceful and rewarding about rolling across the prairies.

I started today's drive in at the western border of Missouri and have crossed the entire state to approach of St. Louis. Rolling hills, bends in the road and lush green landscape -- with trees! -- were quite a novelty!

I'm going to spend a few days here in St. Louis to visit with friends, then continue east later in the week… Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Hutchinson Happenings

The famous Kansas State Fair started this morning here in Hutchinson. So, of course, I just had to go check it out.

There were very large exhibition halls for each type of large animal -- horses, cows, sheep, goats, swine, etc. -- surprisingly large buildings for each type of small animal -- bunnies, birds, etc. -- and several buildings just for produce, one of which housed the season's largest pumpkin weighing in at 366 pounds! It took me a couple of hours just to walk around the place.

I especially enjoyed watching the kids work with their animals, leading them around, getting them checked out and preparing for the big show. I laughed out loud when I saw some of the fancy clothes they put on their animals to keep them clean! (Click on the photos below to embiggen.)

Agriculture is the main point of the fair, of course, and it's big business. Besides the animals, there were farm machines of all kinds. I did my best to find out what all they were used for, and worked up a pretty good appetite for a retrospectively disgusting variety and quantity of food!

The state fair was great fun, but what really surprised me here in Hutchinson is the Cosmosphere and Space Center!

I'm a pretty big aerospace junkie, and I've been to what I thought are all the great air/space museums around the world. I had no idea that Hutchinson not only has a space center, but that it is easily one of the best anywhere. They've got everything from actual V-1 and V-2 rockets to an Apollo LM and rover, an SR-71 and even a space shuttle! The exhibits are extremely informative and I am surprised at how much I learned.

If you're ever anywhere near Hutchinson you've got to see it, even if you're not a space junkie!

To top off my day I tracked down the world's largest grain elevator, which was harder than you might think in an area that has so many of them. I was invited by my RV park neighbors to go to the local high school football game -- which probably would have been a blast -- but there's only so much a guy can do in one day!

I'll be back on the road heading east in the morning… Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Middle of Everywhere, Middle of Nowhere...

It's hard to believe that you can be in the middle of everywhere and the middle of nowhere at the same time, but it's true! Just go to Kinsley, KS, for lunch then stop in nearby Belpre for fuel.

It's been a good day's drive across the flatland and past the fields, farms and feedlots. I really wanted to stop and get a photo of a feedlot -- it'll make you consider becoming vegetarian -- but there was just no place to pull over on this working road. I did grab the photo above as I was driving, which pretty well shows the rest of the story: fields, railroads and oil wells.

I'm in Hutchinson, KS, and have learned that the Kansas State Fair starts tomorrow. I've long heard about state fairs and always wanted to go to one, so I'm going to check it out tomorrow!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Greetings From Kansas!

I rejoined US Highway 50 heading east from Pueblo this morning, thus beginning Part 2 of my "End-to-End" road trip. The roadway was excellent, almost entirely flat, straight, smooth and fast. The scenery started out dry and bleak, but has actually gotten quite green as I've moved into Kansas.

I've already driven past endless farmland, immense stockyards, massive railroad hubs and even a few oil derricks.

The sky was heavily overcast all day so the lighting wasn't good for photos, but I'll try to capture some of it tomorrow.

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Flashback: US Highway 2 -- "End-to-End"

I've just completed catching up on the postings from my 2009 US Highway 2 -- "End-to-End" -- road trip!

This is all new content that's been sitting on my Mac just waiting for a place to be posted, and now it's here!

You can access it all by clicking here.

There are some amazing similarities between my US Hwy 2 road trip and the US Hwy 50 drive I'm on now... Check it out!

Fort Collins Farewell

I've had a really good time in Fort Collins this weekend. After our farewell lunch today, Sam went to the archery range to practice with her bow and I tagged along. She says she's just a beginner, but from what I saw she's pretty well advanced, even from 40 yards which is the farthest distance available at the range. I told her that if she keeps going like this, she'll easily embarrass her father the next time they go hunting!

I'm heading back down to the Pueblo area tomorrow, and plan to continue east on Wednesday... Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Fort Collins Saturday Night

I'm in Fort Collins, CO, visiting with my young friend Samantha, whom you may recall from when Darth went to the rodeo. She is the elder daughter of "my other brother" Marty -- whom you may also recall from our adventures on the Kenai Peninsula -- and she is finishing college here.

It was Saturday night, so I asked Sam (far right) to pick her favorite place for dinner and to invite a few of her friends -- (left to right) Erin, Jackie and Meagan -- to join us.

In addition to being charming and delightful company, the ladies are all "horse women" and they were very gracious about explaining many things I have long wondered about horses. For example, the bond they describe having with their horses is very similar to the bond I have experienced with dogs. Also, there are many, many more breeds of horses than I ever imagined, and there is at least as much controversy about horse racing as there is about dog racing.

Besides my equine inquiries, our lively conversation ran the gamut and we had a lot of laughs. I'm sure it must be a little weird to go out to dinner with some old geezer you don't know, but I very much appreciate their courage and company… Thank you, ladies!

I'm going to hang out here for a couple more days, to catch up on chores, restock my road rig, and enjoy a little time in one place for a change. I expect to be back on US 50 headed east by mid-week… Stay tuned!

Friday, September 02, 2011

US Hwy 50 "End-to-End" Part 1: Sacramento to Pueblo

In my last post, I wrote that I'm calling Sacramento to Pueblo "Part 1" of my US Highway 50 "End-to-End" road trip. Here's a little video to give you a recap so far!

All of the images are from my DashCam, which shoots still photos once per minute whenever I'm driving and video whenever I want. The music is by Stephen Jacob, a truly extraordinary composer, pianist and friend.

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Arkansas River & Royal Gorge

The road along the Arkansas River east of Monarch Pass is a bit twisty in places, but it's quite pretty and almost entirely down hill. So, Darth and I both had a nice morning's drive.

I stopped at the famous Royal Gorge for lunch and a bit of a look-see. The place is basically a mini-theme-park, focused around "one of the world's highest" bridge, tramway, funicular, etc. It's all pretty "bigged up" but still worth a walk out on the bridge for the spectacular view. The photo doesn't really show the depth, but the river is a thousand feet below.

I continued east to Pueblo where I have temporarily turned off US Hwy 50 and am headed north on I-25. I'm going to visit with friends in Fort Collins and Denver for the long weekend, then swing back down and pick up US 50 where I left it. I'm almost exactly one-third of the way across the country, so I'm calling this "the end of Part 1"… Stay tuned!

Click here to see exactly where I am posting this from on Google Maps.