Photo above is of me drinking coffee & writing post cards in
Chicken, Alaska located on a dirt road called "Top of the
World Highway". It was raining buckets! The road &
bridge washed out later that day. I got out just in time or I
would have had to pitch my tent in the rain.
4/8/00 and 7/9/00 I drove 21,000 miles alone in my Kia Sephia.
It was a journey that I will never forget, and a journey that begs
to be shared!
alone in my car gave me the freedom and opportunity to explore
places where I had never been, meet people who I would otherwise
never have met, and most of all to gain the knowledge that I did
indeed have the inner strength and perserverance to accomplish this
enomous undertaking on my own!
idea of driving across the US first struck me in February
2000. February 8th to be exact. I'm not sure what the
catalyst was...but on that day I made the decision to actually do
toyed with the idea a couple of times in the past--thinking that
"someday" I'm going to drive across the country.
Someday. But in the back of my mind I never thought that I'd
really be able to do it. I was going on 46 years old,
and "someday" had never come--and it looked as though "someday"
come. I'd known friends & relatives my age, younger &
older who were ill or who had suddenly "passed away". Life is
short and you never know when your number is up.
would never come unless I took steps to make it a reality. I
didn't want to look back "someday" and say, "Gee, I wish I had made
that road trip across country." There are a few things in my
past that I wish I could change, but that's impossible. And
I'm sure there will be things in my future that I have no control
over, but I can do something
about "now". It's now or maybe never--I'm goin' for it !!!!
realization spurred me to make the commitment to actually do it--it
was now or never! And so I set the date of my departure--April
8th. That would give me 2 months to prepare and to do research
for the trip.
planning was just as interesting and fun as the actual trip!
I thought about driving from the Atlantic to the Pacific--straight
across the country--about 3,000 miles each way. Not bad.
But then I started thinking about places I wanted to visit, like Key
West, Florida. But Key West was so far south--that would take
me a couple thousand miles out of my way. I had to make some
decisions. Where did I really want to go? What did I
really want to see? And how far was I willing to go?
There would be a lot of factors to take into consideration, like
mileage and the cost of gas, the cost of food, where could I afford
to stay (finances would be extremely tight), and how long would this
trip take? I also had to be realistic about the possible
dangers of driving such a long distance alone.
started scouring the Internet & studying atlasses researching
each state that I would be crossing--looking for points of interest,
noting weather conditions, even checking out plant & animal
life. I was especially interested in learning all I could
about the deserts of the Southwest. Since I would be setting
up my tent in those areas it would be nice to know what "critters"
might be crawling around outside (hopefully outside)
my tent at night.
next step in planning was to buy a large 4' x 5' map of the
continental United States, and tack it up on the wall in my hallway.
back, I realize that I should have bought a map showing the whole of
North America, but at the time I had no idea that I would later
extend my journey to include British Columbia, the Yukon, and
that point in the planning, just standing in front of and looking at
a map of the continental US really gave me a whole new perspective
on the magnitude of the adventure upon which I was about to
embark. (Had I seen a map showing
the distance between Washington State & Alaska, I might not
have attempted that spur of the moment, unplanned, "little
side trip"! But I'm more than glad I did!)
What a big country! I mean, I always knew that it was a big
country--but seeing the map there in front of me, and knowing that I
was going to drive across the entire expanse before me, made it seem
all the bigger. This trip was going to be fantastic!
I want to drive across Canada too!)
that Yeeee Haaaa!
Notebook was an important addition to
my planning stratagy. It started out as a 3 ringed binder
filled only with clear plastic sleeves. As I continued my
quest for information on the Internet, I printed out any & all
interesting and pertinent information such as State & Federal
Parks, campgrounds, seasonal weather conditions, flora & fauna,
mileages between majoy cities, etc., and compiled it into my travel
notebook. Every day of research was a day of discovery--there
are so many interesting places to see all over the country!
And I wanted to fit in as many as I could.
"stuff" on planning...hey, I can't help it, I'm a stickler for
I found a
couple of small, out-dated (cheap) US road atlasses. They were
perfect because each little page contained a map of an entire
state. I tore out the pages, and with a black magic marker
plotted my "tentative" travel route through each of the
states. Then I slipped each completed map page into a clear
plastic sleeve in my travel notebook in it's appropriate place.
in front of the notebook I placed a small map of the US with my
entire "tentative" route clearly marked. I say "tentative"
because the purpose of the notebook was to give me a basic guide to
follow, a safety net of sorts to "ground" me should I get halfway
across the country and start to freak out! The idea of driving
so far alone away from home, having never done it before, can be
unnerving at times. I thought it best to at least try
to be prepared for just about anything.
roughly mapped route was also tentative because I knew that I would
be taking a few unscheduled 'side trips' along the way. If I
saw a sign pointing to someplace that sounded interesting--I went
there. I wanted my plans to be flexible. An example of
an unplanned side trip was my visit to Los Alamos. After
leaving Santa Fe on my way to Taos, I saw a highway sign for Los
Alamos--it was only 50 miles or so out of my way, and I knew I'd
never get a chance to go there again--so I went. On my way I
could see smoke rising from that direction. I remember
thinking, "With my luck Los Alamos is on fire." Well,
unfortunately I was right. More about that later.
to the Travel Notebook: It often
came in handy because most of the information that I needed was
always right there beside me in one place--nice and neat and
organized. Not like the rest of the stuff in the car...After 5
or 6 thousand miles of driving, my car was getting pretty messy with
numerous scattered pamphlets, literature, big, half crumpled up road
maps, etc..(ok, I admit it, I am a slob most of the time.) But
at least the notebook remained almost fully intact during the entire
trip and was always there when I desparately needed it.
to Los Alamos, New Mexico
course, in addition to the small state maps in my notebook, I also
had a couple large up-to-date road atlasses (with metal, spiral
binders--so they are easy to open) and about 35 full sized state
maps that I had ordered from my Shell Motorist Club. I've been
a member of that club for years, but never traveled so I never had
the opportunity to use their services. It was about time that
I finally got something back from all those years of membership
during the trip, whenever I entered a new state I tried to make sure
to stop at the "Visitors Center" to rest and get their free maps and
information. You can never have too many maps. They are
all a little bit different.
to keep in mind when traveling is that most Visitor's Centers close
early, around 4 or 5 pm. And most don't open until 8 or 9
am.. I learned it's always wise to stop in the centers for
information everytime you enter a new state. You don't want to