Driving across the United States was a desire since high school. The thought of being on the open road, driving through different states, seeing new places and meeting new people seemed exciting. I’ve spent more time than one should behind the wheel for previous employers and driving throughout New England to destinations for hiking, fishing and camping trips so making the effort didn’t faze me as long as I had good music or company.

The U.S. Tour with Detailed StopsOn July 22, 2009 I embarked on my longest and most distant road trip, a 10,000 mile tour lasting almost two months traveling from CT to North Carolina, Texas, and Montana then returning east. Spending two months traveling throughout Utah, Oregon and parts of Washington State a year earlier kept the trip from going as far as the west coast.

World's Largest GPSThe loosely thought out plan was to visit friends in Asheville, NC, Houston, TX and Boulder, CO, see areas I was interested moving to and visit national parks and forests. Instead of one hundred of AAA maps I used an application on my 17” laptop making the world’s biggest GPS (Which sat on the passenger’s seat.). I wanted to make this journey as free form as possible having the only schedule be the segment to Asheville. My career has been full of strict planning and promptness with executive teams and customers making this a relief to do what I wanted and when. The trip was like Forrest Gump on his run back and forth across the country. When I wanted to see something, I saw it. When I needed to eat, I ate. When I needed to sleep, I slept and when I needed to…., you know, I went!

Full LoadTo start off the road trip Mitzy the Montero was packed with a bike, camping and hiking gear, clothes and a small amount of food and water. With 176,000 miles, no air conditioning and a recent tune up I knew she would be fine although the thought of no air conditioning wasn’t pleasant.

The tour started in Connecticut with a short stop in Massachusetts to pick up a climbing and hiking friend. Chris made the trek to Asheville then flew back. From Asheville onward I’d be going soul”o”. My soul needed a break from my home area and was touched, tested, and poked more than a few times on this journey. (See the Emerson quote in the Peaceful Introduction.)

Making almost 90 noteworthy stops there are too many experiences to tell in this post and will follow with more. For now, I bring you the beginning of the trip, will introduce you to a few friends and tell you of places visited.

Hop in and enjoy the 10,000 mile ride….

Copperhead (Coiled) & Brown Water Snake

There’s a sense of freedom and increased adrenaline I experience being on the road knowing new places for adventure are in the near future. The early part of the trip was familiar territory from driving south more than a few times. We rested for the night in Winchester, NC before navigating the winding Skyline Drive of Shenandoah National Park the following day. Stops were made for a few short hikes to scenic overviews, entertainment for the afternoon being a few snakes, deer and watching people with cameras chase bears with cubs. Not wanting to use my wilderness medicine training Chris and I shook our heads and guided our way through the park. As much as we wanted to experience the Blue Ridge Parkway, which follows Skyline Drive, too many additional hours would have been added to meet our friend Tricia waiting for us in Asheville.

Tricia on Shining Rock Pisgah National ForestTricia, who moved to Asheville more than a few years ago to open a yoga studio, greeted us with good cold beer and welcomed us into her home where we chatted for the rest of the evening. The next day she gave us a tour of one of the coolest, eclectic small cities I’ve been to on the east coast. Asheville offers a welcoming atmosphere, great food, wine and microbrew beer with community activities taking place throughout the city on weekends. There are many similarities to Portland, Oregon. In a short ride you could be in Great Smokey Mountain National Park or Pisgah, Nantahala or Cherokee Mt. Mitchell Eastern U.S. HighpointNational Forests. In an hour’s drive Mt. Mitchell (6684 ft.), the highest point east of the Mississippi River, is an easy to moderate hike. The only likeness to New England’s highest point, Mt. Washington (6288 ft.), is an access road to the summit. Mt. Mitchell can’t boast of the world’s worst weather or the difficult terrain of Mt. Washington, although it provides excellent views of Pisgah National Forest. A trail I embarked on before leaving the area had signs of bear and the quietness of only a few late season campers.

After visiting Tricia, hiking and seeing the quaint, spunky city of Asheville Chris flew back to Massachusetts and I began a long, scorching drive southwest to Houston needing to stop in Lafayette, LA before falling asleep behind the wheel. The heat while driving was hardly bearable rising over 100 degrees causing the power supply for my laptop to melt.

LeoA business colleague and friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years was the reason for the Houston stop. Leo is a proud decorated Silver Star Purple Heart Vietnam Veteran fighting effects from Agent Orange exposure. He’s one of the most interesting and funny men you’ll ever meet. Leo “Gets” from Lethal Weapon is almost as entertaining.  If you have an interest in Vietnam War history, Leo fought in one of the most brutal engagements documented in The Lost Battalion of TET: Breakout of the 2/12 Cavalry at Hue. Time was well spent catching up, keeping company and visiting a few of his favorite restaurants. For “protection” he gave me a set of mounted steer horns you would see on a Cadillac at a big Texas ranch.

HOT and no A/C!Leaving Houston was the most sweltering drive yet. Outside temperature was 106 to 108 at times and hotter in the truck.  Mathew Broderick’s line in Biloxi Blues kept coming to mind “This is Africa hot!” when he disembarked the train in Mississippi. The hot wind blowing in the truck didn’t help and being stopped by a road worker made for a big white sauna on four wheels. Kudos to the workers doing road repairs in the sun and heat.

My plan was to camp after leaving Houston except a stop was needed before leaving Texas given the heat was physically draining and setting up a tent didn’t seem to be the best idea. Coming to the rescue was my brother Jamie, a traveler for work who has a million travel miles. I placed an SOS call and he made a reservation in Amarillo, TX offering his miles for the stay. Jamie, a savior for the evening, and I would meet later during the trip in Chicago.

The Hot Flatlands of TexasPsychologically it felt good heading north early the next morning after a refreshing stay and saying goodbye to the desert heat of Texas. In short time I was in New Mexico where mountains and appealing landscapes were coming into view. Boulder, CO was the next stop and while driving through New Mexico the thought of staying a few nights came to mind but I had Boulder in the sights. As fate would have it I would return to New Mexico a week and a half later because of a full house at my kind friend Pam’s place. Thoughts of climbing the highest peak in New Mexico and visiting the Taos Pueblo Indian Reservation also intrigued me, so back on the road I went driving 300 miles south where I recently driven….

Stay tuned for the next stops…..Taos and Colorado for hiking, camping and more.

– Greg

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”R.W. Emerson

Advertisements