As I jumped in my car in the west of the United States I knew that I was likely in for a lot of hours behind the wheel. I was driving from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas and then all the way across the country to Miami. Oh, and I only had 2 weeks to do it all.
I finally pulled into Miami drained, tired, broke, behind on my work, and mind-numb from all the driving. However, I feel like the long hours at the wheel, the nights sleeping in my car or camping, and the costs incurred were all worth it at the end of the day. I can walk away with not only a great experience under my belt but a greater understanding of a region I knew little about before hand.
I have split this long post into three sections: 1. Stats, 2. Observations, and 3. Tips for having a great American roadtrip.
- Days: 15
- Miles: 3,657 (5,885km)
- Fuel: 125 gallons (462 litres)
- Hitchers picked up: 3
- Total hours of driving: 71 hours
- Redbulls: 10
- Rednecks met who had just gotten out of jail: 1
- Beautiful Southern Girls: Too many to count
- New Orleans Drinks: Also too many to count
- Near accidents: 2
- Times I flipped the bird at other drivers: 5
- Times I was flipped the bird: 2
- Poverty: I was shocked by the amount of poverty in the south of America, especially West Texas. I expected to see poverty in places like the New Orleans region, but not in so many other places. I was amazed by the amount of rough housing dwellings. I was equally amazed at the conditions people lived in while at the same time driving a brand new truck.
- Going Green: Say what you want about America for being an industrial machine with no regard for the environment. There are more “green” projects going on in the US than most countries in the world. I was impressed by the windmill fields in West Texas and the availability of at home recycling pickup even in the rural areas of the country. In fact, my “home and native land” could probably learn a thing or two from the US in this regard.
- Division: You could cut the tension in the United States with a knife. It seems that everyone is on a “team”. Of course everyone says they are American first but beyond that the divisions are stark. Rich vs. Poor, Republican vs. Democratic, Minority vs. White, Gay vs. Anti-Gay, and so many others. It’s almost like an unhealthy sexual tension between sides, each wary of the others. Maybe that’s why there are so many flags in America, so people remember that they are all on the same team.
- Sport: One thing I love about the US is their involvement in sports. Despite the image of the United States seen by the world as overweight I think you’d be hard pressed to find a country more intuned with sport. Sure some just show this love for sport by drinking beer and watching the games on the tube, but a large preportion get out and play and that’s a great thing in my opinion.
- Take the Scenic Routes: The US is a country that seems to be built for cars. The entire purpose of the highway structure is to be able to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. However, that it not the “point” of a roadtrip. Personally, I only took the Interstate highways when I needed to. Stick to the roads designated with US, as in US Route 66, and you’ll have a much nicer time.
- Go Camping: Obviously you can’t camp year ’round in parts of America, but there are definitely some places to camp if the season is right. I found that the best website for camping was recreation.gov which gave a list of nearby sites that suited your need. You could book online, see the availability and even see a photo of your site in some cases.
- Get a fuel efficient vehicle: The prices of fuel in the United States are so low it might have you shaking your head. In most cases the prices are the equivalent of between 0.85-0.95 cents a litre. However, the cheap cost of fuel is mitigated by the fact that distances between places is so great. Get a nice little car that pulls its weight without costing you a fortune
- Good music: If you don’t have some sort of music playing device to hook up to the car you will go crazy. The majority of the radio stations only play a loop of a dozen or so songs. If you listen to the radio the entire time, as I did, you will go crazy and you will know the words to every Katie Perry song whether you like it or not.
- Grocery Shop: It is easy in America to simply eat cheap fast food everyday, however you’re likely to put on about 10 pounds in a month like I did. Pack a cooler your trunk and go to the grocery stores to pick up snacks and sandwich making materials. It will save your waist and you’ll have the luxury to stop anywhere you want for a picnic lunch.
- Stop and Smell the Roses: On a road trip it is so easy to focus on the destination and simply drive. However, the best part of the road trip is usually the interesting things that you find along the way. If you see something interesting road side that’s not on your plans don’t be afraid to stop and check it out.
- Become a AAA member: Roadside assistance is going to get you through any challenges. If you’re a member of AAA or one of its affiliates getting roadside assistance because much easier and cheaper than otherwise.