This was an epic road trip.
In this 17-day (Mar 04 to Mar 20, 2009), 9,237-mile road-trip, we passed through 21 states and, but for north, nearly touched the other three geographical corners of U.S.
(With snow slowing us down and with limited time on hand (we had to report back to the school), we gave up our plan to touch the northern border in Montana.)
The trip was all about fun and exploring a new country – right from ghost town of Jerome to Hollywood, unpaved roads of Perkinsville to 26-lane I-10 near Houston, bustling highways outside LA and D.C. to U.S. 50, the loneliest road in America.
The trip left me with four lessons.
Here is a story of another road trip:
1. Experience/ expertise may make you complacent
Sixth day of the trip.
After having Mexican lunch at San Antonio River Walk, we left for our next destination – El Paso or Tucson (we were undecided when we left, but eventually halted at Willcox (AZ), a place between the two).
Few hours on I-10W, a cop overtook us and signalled to stop.
J was at the driver’s seat, and he had accelerated a bit too far.
Now, of the four of us – all classmates at University of Pennsylvania, J had driven the most in U.S. and was most well versed with the driving rules here.
And yet he got a $ 140 ticket (or penalty).
Not any of the inexperienced guys.
Experience can, sometimes, make us complacent, and inexperience, guarded.
2. If the journey is long, uncertain, too much planning is often unnecessary
When we started this epic journey, our rough itinerary looked something like this:
And what actually panned out?
Out of these 14 places (excluding Philly – the start and end point) where we had planned to spend the night(s), we stopped at only one place (LA), and that too 50 miles outside the city.
On several occasions, our overzealous adventure instinct forced detours, some as long as 300 miles, rendering our hours of planning and research of little use.
Sometimes, unanticipated elements played a part. For example, we had to drop Graceland, home of Elvis Presley, because, laughingly, we wasted too much time just to decide what places to see in and around Memphis. And we had to drop Yellowstone National Park at the last hour because the part of the park closest to us was closed for clearing snow.
However, plans going awry wasn’t limited to itinerary.
On day 11, concerned by our expense overshooting budget, we had a long deliberation on austerity measures at Blue Agave, a Mexican restaurant in Tahoe city. Over lunch, we pulled out a laptop and re-planned rest of the trip to the last detail, pulling down, at least on excel, the per-day expense. (And we showed our intent by having a Spartan lunch!)
What happens next?
At Reno, the same evening, we splurged, and made Mar 14 the most expensive day of the trip.
In a long journey (or any other pursuit) full of uncertainties, unknown variables, it’s better not to waste too much time in preparing a detailed plan. A basic one to start off is often sufficient, which you can tweak as you progress and discover new things, new variables.
3. It’s never too late to do something meaningful
Mount Rushmore National Memorial, one of the most popular monuments in U.S.
It’s a sculpture of heads of four past U.S. presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, each 60-feet tall, carved into granite rocks of Black Hills, Keystone, South Dakota.
Gutzon Borglum, the main sculptor, started working on this project at the age of 60, when most people think of retiring or have already retired. He worked on it from 1927 to 1941, and produced his most popular work.
You’re never too late to start something.
4. Unplanned detours are often the most memorable
Two of ours turned out to be.
The first was nearly 300 miles to meteor crater near the city of Winslow, Arizona. The crater, 1,200 m in diameter and 170 m in depth, was created 50,000 years ago by the impact of a 50-m wide meteorite.
Till now, we had only read about meteorite impacts, but never seen one, and certainly never thought we would see something this big.
The second was just few miles when we lost our way while circumnavigating Lake Tahoe and came over to river Truckee. With snow and pine trees on both the flanks, the river looked picture-perfect, one of the best natural scenes we had seen.
It’s often an unplanned detour – deliberate or accidental – we remember long after the journey is over.