Wednesday, November 03, 2010

My Routes Across America and Back

The subtle shift in light and changing colors make late October the perfect time for a road trip.  It was also a good time to escape the bombardment of the ultra negative, misleading, disturbing and disguised campaign ads.  More later on some interesting content gleaned from satellite radio and many conversations with people as I crossed the country.

Logistically, the 6,000 mile round trip took me across 18 different states beginning with a run across the Piedmont of North Carolina, then a sharp north at Winston-Salem and a turn at Sheriff Andy’s hometown of Mount Airy into the mountains of southwest Virginia, settled by one of my ancestors and up the spectacular spine of West Virginia. pony_express_trail_Par_99355_Image_-1_-1_1

Then Mugs and I cut east again across the breadth of Kentucky, crossing the Ohio River and the southern tips of Indiana and Illinois and across the Mississippi River into Missouri concluding the first day halfway across that state in Columbia.

The next morning we crossed the rest of Missouri to Kansas City.  When diverted by road construction, I decided to reroute north along the river to St. Joseph then across the Missouri River to follow along the route of the Pony Express, US Hwy 36 across Kansas and up intro Nebraska to intersect near a portion of the Oregon and Mormon pioneer trails west along the Platte River. We stopped for the night in Cheyenne, Wyoming before climbing the next morning  to elevations of nearly 9,000 feet above sea level at Sherman Pass (4 times higher than Asheville, North Carolina and nearly 35% higher than the highest point in North Carolina) while  continuing across Wyoming and then dropping down into Utah and Salt Lake City the next day.

By the way, this completes my traverse of the old Pony Express route.  In the mid-1980s I had already traveled the other half across Utah and Nevada on US Hwy 50, which had just been named “The Loneliest Road In America” by Life Magazine.  The name is well earned and it provides a very scenic and unique perspective on the Old West.

Resuming the trip after a few days with my daughter and two grandsons  (more on that later,) Mugs and I headed north through Utah and into Idaho, crossing the mighty Snake River near Burley and then following it across the state until cutting north and west across the northeast corner of Oregon.  We then cut sharply north across the Columbia River into Washington, traveling up through that state’s wine country then up Snoqualmie Pass through the Cascade Mountains and down into the Puget Sound area where we stopped for a few days to visit family who had gathered at my sister’s home in Mill Creek, Washington.

After a few days, we began our return one afternoon,  heading back over the mountains but then due east and across Washington through Spokane and into the Rockies, across several passes in Northern Idaho and down into Montana traveling back over the Continental Divide through Missoula, Butte, Bozeman and Billings before cutting southeast through Little Bighorn country and across northwest Wyoming and into South Dakota at the famed motorcycle rally town  of Sturgis, across the Black Hills and the Badlands and back across the Missouri River cutting south at Sioux Falls down to overnight finally in Sioux City, Iowa.

The final leg home took Mugs and me across Iowa, down across the middle this time of Illinois and Indiana and across southern Ohio before cutting south across the Ohio River again and into northern Kentucky, cutting back east at Lexington up into West Virginia, then back down through that state, across southwest Virginia and into North Carolina arriving back in Durham in the wee hours.

This was my first visit to 8 of the 18 states, my first trip overland through 10 of them and my first trip through new parts of three others.  More in another blog about the states that were a surprise and some things I observed about billboards and some things that brought my adopted home state into clearer perspective.

We had bright, clear, crisp, sunny days the entire trip, except for storms in Salt Lake City and brief showers as we descended into the Puget Sound area.  I highly recommend this route for a cross country road trip, but remember, this was my first.  Previously, I’ve also taken road trips though through the length of California, most of Arizona and Nevada, a portion of New Mexico, Texas and most of Colorado.

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