Saturday, July 9, 2016

Thoughts on the Manifest Destiny trip



There is something about doing a long distance drive of trip across a country or continent that appeals to our sense of achievement. However you realize after a while that you are barely scratching the surface of each area you pass through. There is a bit too much emphasis on keeping moving on to the next state so that you get the trip completed in the allotted time.

If you really want to see more of a given area, you should just do one state at a time. For example, fly to Denver, rent a car and concentrate only on Colorado. Stay in bnb's for several days and see what is in the local area and then move to a different area. It's a bit like doing our house exchange where we stay in one place for a while.

BNB versus Motel

No question, the bnb experience is usually much better. However we did find a friendlier welcome from people more our own age who were happy to talk to us about our travels. The younger ones usually were just making money and were not interested in us.

Most of the houses we stayed in were lovely and you felt you could move in and enjoy living there.

Occasionally it is good to stay in a motel so that you have a night off from social interaction. Most bnb owners will adjust their social interaction to what you appear to need, but a break is good.

We get tired of eating out every night. It really helps if you can get access to a kitchen so that you can get some items from a nearby supermarket and cook something simple for yourself.

Multi night stays are better than single night stays.

We both noticed that most of the bnb owners appeared to be Democrats rather than Republicans. Some had Bernie or Hilary posters and we saw no Trump posters.

Car and GPS

Our Mini performed very well. Usually I bought fuel when the tank got a bit below half full, particularly in the deserted western regions. We did get pretty low once in eastern Missouri but there was no problem. It's easier to remind yourself to stop every two hours or so when driving in Australia because country towns tend to be about an hour apart. In the USA, it is very tempting to just keep driving because the spacing of towns is not so regular.

Even though I had not updated the maps in our TomTom GPS, it still got us where we needed to go. If you are stating at a bnb, you really need a GPS to find the house easily. The GPS really helps when you are not sure what the speed limit is. By the way, if you are tempted to do this drive across the country, obey the speed limits in all the little towns. Speeding fines are a necessary source of income for these poor towns.


Much of the restaurant food in rural America is as predictable as food in rural Australia. Here you find the burger joint, the pizza place, the Chinese and the Mexican. If you get a chance at another cuisine, take it when you can.

We saved a lot of $$ by bringing some bowls and spoons with us and eating a simple muesli made with traditional rolled oats and raisins for breakfast. We would just buy a small bottle of milk or some yogurt to go with it.

Since motel coffee is usually atrocious, we brought our Keurig along with us. We did not need it in the bnb's, but it was wonderful in the motels.


When I was doing the Coast to Coast walk across England, I found it beneficial to take a day off after three days of walking. We needed to do this for the drive as well. Your body gets very tired driving long hours every day and your mind tends to get overloaded by all the new things you are seeing.

I noticed that my breathing became a bit difficult at higher altitudes which is probably a result of the bypass operation. However there is no problem now we are home at sea level.

For the last couple of days of the drive, my body was really tired. Perhaps it could sense that the end of the drive was near. I now feel a lot better after a few days at home and some long naps.

12 Photos

Marianne has an idea to create a calendar for next year featuring 12 photos from the trip. I am doing my version now. They don't necessarily need to be great photos, just pictures of something that surprised me or defined something about the USA for me.

The matching family grave stones in Pittsburgh. There is 'stuff' everywhere in the USA.

Perhaps one of the most magical rooms in the world in the Frank Lloyd Wright house.

You meet helpful people everywhere in the world, including the Mississippi. That river is truly the American divide.

The Badlands. This is one of those places where I was not sure what to expect because usually when you read about a place you see only one or two photos. Until you get there and see it with your own two eyes, you really don't get an accurate impression of what it is really like.

A different view from the usual straight on viewpoint. No photo really gives you a sense of the true scale. How does somebody even come up with the concept that this group of carvings should be done.

Part of the Little Bighorn battlefield where men died 140 years ago. It all looks so beautiful and peaceful, yet it is the site of a violent battle.

The 'wow' boat ride in the Bighorn Gorge. Enough said.

I can only marvel at how nature is just so spectacular in the USA.

One of the unexpectedly fun moments in the trip.

Arriving at the Columbia River Gorge. It sometimes seems everything in America is super sized.

Mount St Helens suddenly revealed. Along with the sudden crack of thunder, the best reminder of how majestic yet dangerous this country can be.

The Pacific. Manifest Destiny completed.

And since that is twelve photos, you just have to imaging twelve from the return journey. I hope the blog has made you wonder if you could do this journey sometime.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Charlottesville to home in North East

After a good breakfast we headed off for the last leg of the journey.

The route skirts Washington via the I-495 beltway.

This is most of our luggage fitting in the back of the Mini. In the white box is our Keurig for when we stayed in motels and didn't want to drink their horrible coffee. Essentially we just took what we would normally take on a house exchange or a trip to Sydney. We washed clothes at bnb's where we stayed two nights or more.

Our friends Jean and Mary Beth. Jean and Marianne met at college almost 50 years ago and have started a discussion about doing something for the 50 year anniversary next year.

It was raining. We realized that while we had been through some rain showers, mostly we had dry weather for the trip.

We have done this trip many times and did not feel the urge to take many pictures. Just take my word that Virginia is a very pretty state.

Since it was early morning on July 4th, traffic on the Washington Beltway was very light. Normally this stretch going down to the bridge over the Potomac River would be very crowded. We did not complain and rejoiced in the absence of big trucks.

An hour or so later as we drove up I-95 about 11 am, there was a lot more traffic as people headed out to the July 4th celebrations.

We arrive back in Maryland. Our route did not take us into DC.

The old tunnel under the Baltimore Harbor.

Crossing the Susquehanna River. The Amtrak bridge ( with train) in the foreground and way in the distance, the peninsula where we live.

Toll booths at the northern end of the road bridge. Because we live in Cecil County, we get a dispensation from paying the $8 toll when we use our EZPass. We actually pay $20 each year.

Back in Cecil County. It really felt good to be getting home.

We drove 9012 miles.

We staggered up the stairs and were home. By now, I was quite tired from all the driving.

Later in the day as we were drinking wine with our house sitters and this morning when I did my regular walk around the community, I realized that although we had seen many magnificent sights in the past six weeks, the area where we live is just as gorgeous. It was a great trip.

I will follow up with some overall thoughts in a day or so.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Charleston WV to Charlottesville VA

Marianne has known her friend Jean for almost 49 years. Since Jean lives in Charlottesville VA and it was not too far out of the way, we detoured a little through the wilds of West Virginia.

For the first half of the journey, we planned to stay off the freeway and travel on a two lane road.

The West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston. It's a very confusing city to get around with two rivers, freeways, train lines, bridges, mountains and valleys making a real jumble. It is also an industrial city with lots of factories.

Not all photos taken from a speeding car are successful.

One of the bridges.

Many of the factories are shut. West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the USA and has the highest level of unemployment.

The backbone of the economy is coal and logging which does not bode well for the future of the economy. The average level of education is low.

Many houses are run down.

Still, there are many nice buildings and plenty of homes we would all be proud to live in.

Rapids on the Kanawha River which we were following on route 60.

It was a very nice drive with not too much traffic and the overcast weather and lower temperatures made driving easy.

Now this is a gem.

We stopped to look at the view at Hawks Nest.

Mountain Laurel in bloom. In our area it usually blooms in May.

Marianne was gung-ho to get on another gondola but it was not in operation.

When you are out west, you barely notice what is happening on the other side of the country. While we were driving across Nevada, 8 to 10 inches of rain fell on parts of West Virginia causing massive flooding, a 1000 year event. By chance, we happened to drive through some of the affected areas.

All the buildings in the main street of this town were flooded and the ruined items from inside the buildings were piled outside waiting to be hauled away.

We came across one little town where the traffic was blocked. We waited and waited and gradually inched forward as cars ahead of us turned around.

ook at the left side of the house and you can see how high the water came with the brown mark on the wall.

At the best of times, this building would not have been a gem, but now presumably it will be demolished.

The bottom of the trailer house had collapsed. We had noticed many houses with a big X painted on which presumably meant the house would have to be demolished.

The Virginia National Guard was deployed helping with the cleanup. We eventually turned around and out GPS found us another route that took us on narrow roads over some mountains until we hit a freeway.

By chance we got off at White Sulphur Springs so that we could take a look at the famous Greenbriar Resort. We noticed immediately that this area had been hard hit by flooding as well.

Marianne went into the gas station where we stopped so that she could use a bathroom. There was no running water and she had to use a porta potty out the back.

The McDonalds was closed and clearly had been flooded.

Still, the community was working together to provide essential services.

We did not linger since we would only be getting in the way, so we got back on the freeway and soon we came to Virginia.

Petrol was cheap in Virginia.

I must admit that I was quite tired at the end of the day and looking forward to getting home the following day. However it was good to see our friends Jean and Mary Beth again and to have a good home cooked dinner.