Tuesday, July 31, 2012

US Hwy 30 -- Detour: Southern Repositioning

I was up and out in proper order this morning to drive south out of Door county. The road mostly passes by tidy, prosperous looking farms and through a number of inviting lakeside towns which -- I will admit -- strengthened my interest in returning for an extended stay sometime in the future.

I had hoped to drive far enough south to rejoin US Hwy 30 today, but a three hour traffic jam in Milwaukee pretty much scuttled that plan. My experience of Wisconsin's roads is that they're generally pretty crummy, and that combined with extensive construction throughout Milwaukee to make a complete mess.

Past that debacle and into northern Illinois the roads were not much better, still cruising past relatively prosperous looking farms but trading pretty shoreline villages for post-industrial, broken down little towns. Taken as a whole, I'd have to call it a wash: A necessary "repositioning" day on the road to set myself up to rejoin US Hwy 30 west tomorrow… Stay tuned!

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

Monday, July 30, 2012

US Hwy 30 -- Detour: Door County Update

This past week has really flown by here at my friends' Wagon Trail Campground -- A truly lovely facility with large campsites set far apart and deep in the woods. It's a lot more like a national park than a typical RV park, and I've had a really nice few days to hang out, catch up with myself and visit with my friends. I've also done a little bit of exploring in the area, but besides saying it is a beautiful part of the world I don't have much to report.

To be completely honest, it would be very easy for me to stay here for an extended period of time, maybe even for an entire season. Right now, however, it's been too short a time since my previous "long stay" in Pennsylvania and I'm feeling the pull of being on the road. Plus, I've got some stuff to do out in the Pacific Northwest that I can't keep putting off. So, I've added a season in Door County to the list for the future and am packing up my gear to hit the road tomorrow… Stay tuned!

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

Monday, July 23, 2012

US Hwy 30 -- Detour: Lake Michigan Marine Highway

After a couple of fun days with Jake at Interlochen, I hit the road very early yesterday morning to make my way to Door County, Wisconsin. I really didn't want to have to drive the long way around Lake Michigan -- especially not through Chicago -- so I was very happy to find a ferry service across the lake from Ludington to Manitowoc.

The SS Badger is a 1950's era coal-fired ferry, the last of fourteen ships from the original car ferry fleet. It remains a very active crossing vessel, carrying lots of cargo in addition to tourists and other various passengers. Darth and the rest of my road rig looked pretty good -- and got the usual number of intrigued looks -- as he was driven off the ferry by a member of the ship's crew.

One of the most interesting aspects of the ferry is that it is still officially part of US Hwy 10, as you can see by the Google map routing. The US10 symbol is also painted on the ship. Pretty cool!

My slightly indirect route north through Appleton was for the purpose of picking up my niece Jennifer, who took a bus from Chicago to join me for a couple of days. We are now at the Wagon Trail Campground -- without doubt one of the very best campgrounds anywhere -- and being very well looked after by the owners, my good friends Dick & Cheri.

Jennifer has taken my bike to go exploring while I catch up with myself. I trust our combined shenanigans will continue apace this evening… Stay tuned!

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

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Amazing Mister Jake!

Every once in a while -- if you're lucky -- you find yourself at the convergence of irresistible creative resources! (Many thanks to my very talented young friend Jake Goldwasser, to my supremely imaginative friends at Archie McPhee and to my fabulous MacBook Pro for making this delightful bit of creative horseplay possible!)

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

Saturday, July 21, 2012

US Hwy 30 -- Detour: Buckley Days Truck Show

In my travels, I've become quite fond of big events in small towns. Accordingly, the truck show that is part of a nearby town's "Buckley Days" was simply irresistible.

I knew practically nothing about big trucks, so I was very happy to find a couple of truckers who were willing to tell me about their rigs in terms I could understand. I still don't know much, but it's very clear that they are big, powerful, expensive and highly customized -- even specialized -- for every use. Poor Darth, the whole thing was enough to give him a slight case of Peter(bilt) envy!

In addition to consuming the customary grilled meat sandwich, I also treated myself to the requisite t-shirt... Further expanding my already extensive and quite eclectic collection!

I'm going to meet Jake again this evening and enjoy some time with him. Early tomorrow morning, I'll be heading part way back down the peninsula to catch a ferry across Lake Michigan. From there I have some shenanigans lined up for the second half of my detour in Wisconsin… Stay tuned!

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

US Hwy 30 -- Detour: Interlochen

My young friend Jake -- Kenny's younger son -- is at Interlochen Arts Camp for two weeks to develop his musical craft, and visiting him was the impetus for my detour up the Michigan peninsula. When I picked him up after his classes this afternoon and asked him how he was enjoying the camp, he said "It's all really good, except for the food!" So, our first order of business was to get him a proper meal, which turned out to be a 20 ounce steak dinner with all the trimmings. He was about half-way through it when I told him to hold it up to share with you folks at home. Happy boy!

After dinner we returned to Interlochen for this evening's concert. Although Jake is in the Jazz program, one of the groups in the Rock program asked him to play a number with them. I think it's safe to say that they -- and the audience -- are very glad he did. Here's a minute of Jake really rocking the sax… Wow!"

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

US Hwy 30: O-hot-io & Indi-sauna-na

It was already pretty hot when I got up yesterday morning, so I started my "off" day by getting my chores done early. After that, I drove into town to get some supplies, do a little goofing around and catch a movie (Theater good and cool… Movie "Ted" not so much!). Back at my rig, I sought shelter in a breezy shade and enjoyed the view.

Back on the road this morning, US Hwy 30 was excellent across the rest of western Ohio and remained pretty good clear across Indiana. The only problem was that the temperature was sweltering and the humidity was unbearable. I hated to do it to Darth, but I just had to run the air conditioner. In fact, I had to run it on "recirculate" because the outside air was so moist it caused fog to blow into the relatively cool cabin!

This afternoon I drove to the outskirts of Chicago, then turned north to begin a week-long detour I have planned in Michigan and Wisconsin. First up tomorrow, I will drive pretty far north to visit my young friend Jake for a couple of days at his music camp in Interlochen. Jake is an outstanding young musician, and I hope to be able to "catch him in the act" and share some video with you… Stay tuned!

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

Monday, July 16, 2012

US Hwy 30: Into Ohio

While driving through Pittsburgh this morning, I have to admit I had a few second-thoughts about the whole "driving all of US 30" thing. Right on the heels of yesterday's challenging drive across the western PA mountains, it took almost two hours to cross Pittsburgh in a mix of stop-start suburban traffic and white knuckle urban thruways.

West of Pittsburgh, the road settled down a bit and eventually became a nice-ish rural road. It wasn't in the best shape, but the hills and turns were quite manageable which gave me and Darth a bit of a break. Upon entering Ohio, US Hwy 30 becomes an excellent, smooth, wide affair that was downright peaceful to drive by comparison to what has been offered so far.

In places, the road narrows to a two lane country road that passes through pleasant little towns and offers some remnants of Americana, especially barns painted with advertisements.

I drove this part of US Hwy 30 in the opposite direction near the beginning of my first Voyage of Macgellan, and today found myself generally remembering it. That actually surprised me, especially considering just how many places I've been and how many roads I've driven since then!

Toward the middle of the state, US Hwy 30 opens up again to be a fast, wide, rolling road. Virtually everywhere, you can find various acknowledgements of the road's famous namesake and history. The only problem with this part of the drive was the heat, which I have to admit got to be pretty wearing on both me and Darth.

I've stopped for the day in the vicinity of Mansfield, and plan to stay here tomorrow. In addition to some exploring I want to do, I've got some chores on the list to take care of. Plus, after two straight days of hard driving I'm ready for a bit of a break before I push west through Indiana and on toward Chicago… Stay tuned!

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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

US Hwy 30: Western Pennsylvania

I pulled out of my long-term, winter/spring headquarters this morning and drove down to York -- where I left US Hwy 30 last week -- and had a farewell breakfast with my good friend John. After that, it was down to business on the continuation of my coast-to-coast expedition. It turned out to be a much harder day than I expected, and both Darth and I got a real workout to get us back in "road mode" shape in a hurry!

First of all, US Hwy 30 is very congested west of York and the road goes through many towns, each of which has its own version of a central park with a roundabout that must be navigated. The congestion in Gettysburg was increased today by a large Harley-Davidson event that was going on, and I was happy to get through town and glimpse the famous battlefield (which I've already visited so many times and know so well that I drove right through!)

The congestion continues right through Chambersburg, then the road becomes quite nasty. Crossing western Pennsylvania means crossing a significant set of mountains, during which the steep climbs and descents are also quite winding. There's a reason why the modern interstates use long tunnels dug through the mountains, and though Darth faithfully did his thing as always, I could tell he didn't really care for the exertion in 90 degree heat!

I was treated to some nice views at times, as well as occasional artwork to signify that I was driving on the famous Lincoln Highway. I was also treated to a few very heavy thunderstorms, which didn't do anything to make the day's drive any easier!

I've stopped for the day just short of Pittsburgh, which I plan to push through tomorrow and well into Ohio.... Stay tuned!

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

Saturday, July 14, 2012

US Hwy 30: Atlantic City, NJ - York, PA

Note: Part of the reason I returned to York via Atlantic City from Watkins Glen last week was to "cover" the first part of US Hwy 30 without having to drive to the coast and back this weekend. Here's a quick recap of that first, short leg!)

US Hwy 30 begins at the Virginia Avenue intersection of Absecon Boulevard in Atlantic City, without any kind of signage to that effect. It isn't until a couple of blocks later that the first "official" sign appears. This is quite different from most other US Hwy termini which prominently display a "Start" sign, and often a "distance to the other end" marker.

In researching this oddity, I discovered that US 30 used to have such signs, but they were torn down during a recent urban renovation. I guess that noting the beginning of a major US Hwy isn't nearly as important as pointing to the parking lot of a casino... Go figure!

The first hour of driving takes you across a pretty flat and uninspiring terrain, punctuated by some rather odd little towns. It's not a bad drive, just not particularly interesting. Soon enough, you cross the Ben Franklin bridge into Philadelphia and begin the trek across the long state of Pennsylvania.

The road continues as a major, divided highway for the next hour or so, with an increase in foliage and a clear sense of rolling hills. This move into "farm country" is both relaxing and reassuring, offering pleasant views and hope for a more enjoyable drive. I pulled off US Hwy 30 at PA Route 74 in York, where I will re-start this coast-to-coast expedition as soon as I reconfigure my road rig for the long-haul drive ahead!

Note: I'm on track to re-start the drive tomorrow morning... Stay tuned!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

US Hwy 30: "Coast-to-Coast" Preview

I've had a good, productive six months here in south-central Pennsylvania, but it's time to hit the road and get moving again!

For my next expedition, I have decided to do a coast-to-coast road trip on US Highway 30, starting in Atlantic City, NJ, and ending in Astoria, OR. The highway is one of the main US routes across the country -- much like US2 and US50 which I have already driven end-to-end -- but relatively unique in that it actually runs from coast-to-coast.

US30 goes through many, many small towns and tons of great Americana, but relatively few large cities. That's just the way I like it! You may recall that I drove some of the "Lincoln Highway" portion of US30 eastbound back in 2006 during my first Voyage of Macgellan, and I'm looking forward to experiencing the whole route this time.

Along the way, I will certainly take time for many stops, excursions and exploration of all kinds. I have no set timeframe for this road trip, but expect I will arrive in the Pacific Northwest sometime around September 1st.

Right now, I'm doing some final preparation for a long road trip. Darth has spent a day at the spa, receiving a complete servicing and a perfect check up. He's also got a brand new set of shoes, so he is ready to roll. The rest of my road rig has been serviced and inspected, also good to go.

I've got some sorting out to do, mostly converting my camper from "base camp mode" -- with a bunch of stuff scattered around and unsecured -- and into "road mode" -- with everything leaned out, locked down and ready to roll.

If all goes well, I'll hit the road on Sunday… Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Village of Horseheads

Driving back from Watkins Glen, Kenny and I passed through the Village of Horseheads. We both did a double-take, so I pulled off the road. Some photo ops are too perfect to pass up!