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16-day x-country trip

Started by pderocco, November 17, 2023, 10:59:40 PM

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(This was a long drive, so it's a long post.)

In September, at home in San Diego, I purchased a brand new Subaru Forester Wilderness from a dealer friend in Massachusetts. In early October, I flew to Boston to pick it up. I hung around for a few days, going for rides and getting used to the vehicle, which has a lot of amazing technology. That may mean lots of things breaking when it has 300000 miles on it, but for now, it's a dream. Anyway, I bought the car there so I could spend a couple of weeks driving it back to San Diego. I did something similar in 2003, when I bought a car at the Manheim PA dealer auction and drove it back, and again in 2006 when I drove it back to MA to sell to a friend of mine. Given a week or so, I had no desire to drive across country if it meant driving both ways, as I'd have no time for exploration, so I had to either buy it or sell it at the far end.

This time, I'd be spending twice as long, but doing twice as much exploration. Clinching interstates looks good on paper, but it's about the least interesting driving experience. Give me high mountain roads, spectacular rivers through canyons, beautiful wide valleys, even the occasional interesting city. So I set out on October 6th ...

10/6: I started in Attleboro MA, close to Providence RI. I followed US-6 through RI and CT, clinching it in those states. Having grown up in Massachusetts, I have an affinity for quaint New England towns, of which there are many along the lesser highways. In New York, I went down US-9, over the Mario Cuomo Bridge (the new Tappan Zee), and then down US-9W, getting on I-95 right near the George Washington Bridge. Down the NJ Turnpike, I took the new piece that was once part of I-276, leaving me only a piece of I-95 in ME and a piece in FL to clinch. I continued up I-276 and clinched it when I got to Harrisburg PA. The only blemishes on the day were gray skies and frequent sprinkles.

10/7: Sunny. I drove I-83 to Baltimore, clinching it. I drove the stretch of US-40 west of downtown that was the beginning of a freeway that was aborted. It has that wonderful "old freeway" feel, and was worth the slight side trip. I exited the city on the little stub at the east end of I-70 with the park-n-ride, which was all I needed to clinch I-70. I drove into DC, and went through Rock Creek Park, and then exited via I-66, which I clinched when I reached I-81. I dropped down to Front Royal VA, and clinched Skyline Drive. It was pretty, but after taking pictures from about six viewpoints, I decided they all looked kind of the same. But it's less than 100 miles, so pretty easy to do. I ended up in Waynesboro VA.

10/8: I started out on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is definitely not as nice as Skyline Drive. It has far fewer viewpoints, and I got bored pretty quickly. It's almost 500 miles long, and I have no interest in ever finishing it. I dropped off at US-60 and switched to I-81. At some point it joins I-40, but I turned the other way on I-40, which goes through a narrow canyon shared with the Pigeon River (never heard of it). This is almost as impressive as I-70 in Glenwood Canyon CO. I-40 then turns east and gets less interesting. I ended up in Greensboro NC.

10/9: The beginning of the boring part of the trip. I continued on I-40 to I-95, filling in a long-standing gap in my travels on the former, went down I-95 to the east end of I-20, then drove it to Birmingham AL, clinching it when I got to Atlanta GA. I then drove I-22 to Memphis TN, which was also a clinch. There I picked up I-40 westbound again, and ended up in Tupelo MS.

10/10: Continued west on I-40 throught Memphis TN, across AR and OK, and ended up in Amarillo TX. I found this part of TX to be deadly dull during the day, and rather ugly due to the thousands of windmills blighting the landscape. A vast forest of randomly placed windmills might not look so bad, but when someone buys a chunk of land, and builds a line of six windmills, or twenty windmills, or five rows of fifty, you end up with arbitrary patches of geometrically spaced windmills, which look like bloody hell. Then, when nightfall comes, the final indignity: they all have red LED lights to warn off aircraft, and they all flash in unison, one second on, one second off. At times you can see hundreds of these things stretching as far as the eye can see, which is pretty far in that part of the world. It's a crime against the aesthetic environment that's probably larger than any other ever perpetrated by man, when you consider the thousands of square miles involved. Whey can't they flash independently, like twinkling Christmas lights? Or imagine Christmas lights all turning on and off together, how tacky that would look.

10/11: Continued west on I-40. NM is where things start looking vaguely interesting, with long plateaus on the horizon. I didn't stop in Albuquerque, as I've been there, but did drive through Gallup. Not "quaint" but fairly interesting. Then into AZ. When I reached the Petrified Forest National Park, I had clinched I-40. I ended up in Flagstaff AZ, and had the first moderately good meal of the trip. God, Americans tolerate such crappy food. Flagstaff hotels were full of leaf peepers, so I stayed in Williams.

10/12: I went to the Grand Canyon South Rim, where I've been a few times, but it was too crowded, so I went out to Cameron AZ, then north on US-89 and US-89A, over the Navajo Bridge. I clinched the roads from Fredonia AZ to Hurricane UT (AZ-389 and UT-59), and went up I-15 to Cedar City. I drove across the mountains on UT-14, which I had been on once years ago, but at night, so it felt like a fresh clinch. It almost reaches 10000 feet. (That's my idea of getting high.) I continued on familiar ground up US-89 to Panguitch UT.

10/13: I drove east on UT-12, skipping Bryce Canyon because I'd been there a couple of times. (Unfortunately, this was the day before the eclipse.) At Torrey, I went west on UT-24 to Loa, then up two new roads (to me), UT-72 and UT-10 to Price (two clinches). Quite pretty. I then followed US-6/US-191 up to I-15, which closed the last gap in US-6 for me, west of where it splits off I-70 between Idaho Springs and Denver CO. Not that I ever intend driving it across the midwest. Life is too short. I worked my way up to the beginning of UT-150 in Kamas, and followed it over the mountains, onto WY-150 (two more clinches). The part over the mountains is beautiful, and almost reaches 11000 feet. There was snow on the ground, but not the road, and the clouds turned everything monochrome. I ended up in Evanston WY at I-80.

10/14: I followed various routes along the UT/WY and ID/WY border, and took US-89 into Jackson WY. I drove through the Grand Tetons NP, but unfortunately the peaks were shrouded in clouds. I went into Yellowstone, where I've been before, but exited out the west side, and drove up to I-90, then west to Butte MT.

10/15: I drove up I-15 to the Canadian border, clinching it. I was feeling under the weather, so I drove back down to Great Falls MT for a meal, and then back up to Shelby MT to stay.

10/16: I drove east on US-2, then up US-89 to St Mary, headed into Glacier NP, but found that the high road was closed. Saint Mary Lake is quite beautiful, because all the mountains around it are the most dramatic shapes. There are other places with dramatic shapes: Yosemite, with El Capitan and Half Dome, or the Minarets in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, which are all rather similar to each other. But in Glacier, every peak looks strikingly different, as if each were made by a different god. Anyway, I turned around and picked up US-2 again, and took it to Kalispell, then up US-93 to the border. I drove BC-93 up to Cranbrook, then down BC-95, which wasn't very interesting, and it started to rain. I continued down US-95 to Coeur d'Alene ID.

10/17: Today I woke up to perhaps the best weather of the trip: pleasant temperatures, plenty of clouds, mostly puffy white, some gray, casting interesting shadows on the spacious landscape. I drove straight down US-95. Northern ID is really beautiful, with lots of very green farms (probably young wheat) on fairly hilly terrain, unlike the midwest. In Lewiston, the Clearwater River cuts a pretty deep canyon in the landscape, through which US-95 runs. The road down into the canyon has some spectacular views of the urban river. Later, US-95 encounters the Salmon River, and follows that canyon for a long time. Then, back out into the open for a while, and then along the Snake River into the Boise area, where I stayed.

10/18: I did a loop in the mountains NE of Boise, going up ID-21, across through Grimes Pass, and back down ID-55, which had lots of nice scenery. Then, I worked my way back to where I left US-95, and headed south to Fallon NV, which got less and less pleasant as I went south. That part of NV has lots of flat fields covered with salt and patches of dry grass. Ugh. When I reached Fallon, though, I had clinched US-95, which means I now have two Mexico-to-Canada clinches, the other being I-5. I stayed in Fallon.

10/19: I set out from Fallon NV, drove through Fernley and up to Nixon on NV-447. I had already gone up the west side of Pyramid Lake, so this time, I continued on NV-447 all the way to Gerlach (home of Burning Man), then continued on county route 447. This keeps going NW until it crosses into CA on Surprise Valley Rd, which goes up to Cedarville CA, in Surprise Valley, the most isolated corner of the state. There, I picked up CA-299 and drove it all the way back to Redding. That route covers some very pretty farming country in a wide flat valley ringed by small mountains. It also keeps pretty close company with the Pit River, a major Sacramento River tributary. I headed down I-5, CA-99, and CA-70 to Oroville, and stayed there.

10/20: In the morning, I visited the Oroville Dam to see the new huge strange looking overflow spillway. The lake was quite low. I then drove down CA-70 and CA-65 to Roseville, and then followed the historic US-40 routing northeast as far as it went. After driving a few exits on I-80, I picked up the Donner Pass section of the old US-40 and drove it into Truckee. CA-267, CA-28, NV-28, and US-50 took me to South Lake Tahoe, and then CA-89 took me over Monitor Pass and all the way down to US-395. The aspens were particularly brilliant this year, and I found a small photography class using large view cameras and sheet film cartridges to capture the scene just north of Conway Summit. I felt thankful for my DSLRs. Before Mono Lake, there was a major one-lane-road blockage due to construction, which had traffic backed up for a couple of miles. After waiting in line for 10 minutes, I noticed the sign a short distance ahead for Crowley Ranch Rd, pulled out of the line, drove down the wrong side (no one had come that way during the entire wait), and turned left on it. It's a well graded road which goes down to CA-167 which rejoined CA-395 just on the other side of the blockage. No one followed my example, poor schmucks. Anyway, I dined in Mammoth, and stayed in Bishop.

10/21: Just a familiar drive down US-395, and eventually home. No exploration; I've done about all the exploration you could dream up along that route, and I was ready to get home, show off my new car (covered with bugs from 26 states, DC, and British Columbia, and with over 9000 miles on it), play with the doggies, and have some good food for the first time in over two weeks.

Clinched roads: (full means I drove entire length this trip, old means I had already clinched it in the past):
I-22 (full)
I-115 MT (full)
I-276 PA (full)
I-283 PA (full)
I-66 (full)
I-83 (full)
I-95 in NJ
US-6 in CT
US-6 in RI
US-6 in UT
US-89 in WY (full)
US-95 (full in ID, OR)
Skyline Dr (full)
CA CR-B2 (full)
CA CR-E1 (full)
AZ-64 (full, old)
AZ-389 (full)
NV-28 (full, old)
NV-447 (full)
UT-12 (full, old)
UT-17 (full, old)
UT-59 (full)
UT-72 (full)
UT-10 (full)
UT-150 (full)
UT-16 (full)
WY-89 (full)
WY-150 (full)


QuoteDown the NJ Turnpike, I took the new piece that was once part of I-276, leaving me only a piece of I-95 in ME and a piece in FL to clinch. I continued up I-276 and clinched it when I got to Harrisburg PA. The only blemishes on the day were gray skies and frequent sprinkles.

I did not know that I-276 had an 80 mile concurrency with I-76.   :-D  In all seriousness, I am pretty sure that I-276 always ended at the PA/NJ Line.
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My bad. I clinched it when I got through King of Prussia.

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