Sunday, December 9, 2012

Day 87 - And So It Ends

The whale seemed suitably frosty after her night in the parking lot, we were suitably rested and it seemed like a good idea to just go home.  The scenery seemed unremarkable to me.  What I once saw as a mountain range looked like a little bump on the horizon.
 The Hudson River looked pretty in the morning sunshine.  This was the first toll that we had seen for quite a while.  After more than 11,000 miles of roads I still do not understand what needs to be a toll road and why.  What makes a bridge I have to pay $12 to cross any better than the bridge I crossed for free?
It is cold again.  The sky looks a kind of weak blue, the leaves are gone and there were patches of snow off the road.  I'm back to taking pictures through the windshield because it is just too cold to open the window.  But I'm not very interested in documenting this part of the journey so we aren't likely to freeze.  It isn't that I've lost my enthusiasm but rather the route has lost that allure of the unexplored and I just can't think of anything to say about it (therefore I need no photos to illustrate my point).

Years ago I was given the job of family navigator (a job which I take seriously).  We've taken many road trips and on some of those I did some driving so Brett was forced to navigate.  On one trip during his stint as direction giver he suddenly asked "is this Hartford?".  The answer was a firm "no" (we were somewhere like Worcester by that time) and that question has been asked on many a drive since then  (much to Brett's chagrin).  So as not to lose another opportunity I would like to say once and for all "Brett, THIS is Hartford!".

While driving along and pretty much ignoring New England, I was doing some list making.  One of the most fun, useful things that I took along on this journey (other than Brett) was my iPhone.  Of course it is always good to be able to make a phone call when  you need to (the reception was super almost everywhere - only a small area in the big trees in northern California was without ATandT reception).  It was also fun to just be able to think of a question (I wonder what that thing is?) and look up the answer right then (oh, it is the Mississippi River).  So often, I've had questions intending to ask somebody when we stopped and never getting around to it.  Far and away the best feature was "the little camera that could".  I took my big boy Canon with me and got it out to take photos at several locations but I was never without the iPhone and had it with me for all those goofy moments when I just had to have a picture (and those sneaky moments when the Canon would have given me away).  I didn't intend to document the trip using it but I'm very happy with the results.  I even remembered the video mode from time to time.
Apps that I am really glad I had:
  • Blogger:  I took my laptop and it has a broadband receiver but I didn't always have a signal.  I was able to fill in the gaps using the iPhone.  Those days featured shorter entries (because I can't type for beans on that little screen) but they did get an entry.
  • Facebook:  I love being able to keep up with family and friends even while we were away.  And it was so much fun posting random entries as we made our way around.
  • Mail:  Love being able to keep up with family and friends while we were away.
  • BofA:  I didn't worry about being able to pay the bills while we were traveling.  We ran out of cash long before we thought we would and I didn't have to worry about where to find an ATM either.
  • Maps:  I didn't update to iOS6 because I love Google maps.  We've got a GPS that does most of the heavy lifting but this app is great for just locating yourself.
  • GasBuddy:  The truck runs on diesel.  When we aren't on the interstate it isn't always apparent where the diesel is.  GasBuddy took care of that.  It also lists prices, distance to the station and a picture of the place so you can figure out if you can get the whale in or not.  I did learn that if you are in farming country, you will be able to find diesel because farm equipment runs on diesel.
  • Allstays Camp and RV:  Enter a place name and up comes a map showing all the camping places around there (and rest areas, and gas stations, and Camping Worlds, etc.) or just bring up the map and watch your progress down the road as well as see what camping type places are nearby.  When you've picked the name of a place, click to get user reviews.   
  • Roadside Attractions:  Because you need to know that the world's smallest post office is 10 miles down the road.
  • Yelp:  We didn't eat out every day but it did help me find interesting places or make a quick check for reviews when we were near a spot and wondered what the popular opinion of it was.
  • Snapseed:  This is a dandy piece of photo editing software.  For me, a big part of the fun of taking pics is messing with them afterwards.  I can mess with them to my heart's content.
  • Photosynth:  I love panoramas.  This software lets me do panos with my iPhone.  I did a lot of them.
  • iBird PRO: The most expensive software on my phone.  We used this quite often to identify the birds we were admiring.  If you like to bird watch and need help with the names, I highly recommend this.  It is worth the cost.

Crossing this bridge is like crossing the drawbridge over the moat and entering the castle once more.  We are home (even if we have several more hours to drive before we reach the house).  It has taken me an extra week to finish up the blog for this trip because I needed to have a little time to think about how I felt about it ending.  My heart didn't give me as much leeway.  We stopped at the New Hampshire Welcome Center once we got to I95.  I intended to just hop out of the truck and go in.  Instead I sat there and cried.  And I am still not sure why.  Maybe I knew that I would miss being the "hero" of a driving day; getting that high five from Brett when we managed to arrive exactly where we intended to go (he knows how to get home from here).  Or that I would miss having him tell me "you found us another great place to visit".  Or miss having him excitedly say "picture, picture now" as we drove by something interesting.  Or miss having him say "I liked your blog today".  This trip was a way to shine and now I know I will feel less lustrous as we go about the daily business of living our lives.  That's it - I will miss having each day be exceptional.

But there were 87 exceptional days all in a row where I did and saw and laughed and learned.  This is a land of contrasts.
  • Wet and dry:  It rained as we left home, it rained overnight a couple of times and then for over 80 days it was dry. Fire danger = high, no water in the rivers.
  • Hot and cold:  18 degrees at Yellowstone where we learned to unhook the water hose or else have to deal with a 25 foot icicle.  100+ degrees in the Mojave where we had to hang a bath towel over the front door window so that the air conditioning would keep it almost comfortable.
  • Green and brown:  Amber waves of grain indeed (at least corn) to absolute nothing in some of the deserts
  • High and low:  8,000ft in Yellowstone and 6 ft in Florida
  • Exclusive and inclusive:  From "Keep Out" "Private" "No Beach Access" to all the glorious state and national parks open to all.
  • Rich and poor:  A beautiful, private home in Naples, FL and the very modest dwellings on tribal lands
  • Love and hate:  A billboard that suggested "Forgive" and one that demanded "Vote for the Mormon, not the moron"
  • City and country:  Please don't make me have to go through Chicago ever again but please let me spend another day admiring Yellowstone
 The trip is over but the journey is not.  The past 3 months featured the new and exciting.  The next 3 months will feature the more familiar.

There is one question I will ask - when can we go again?

There is one thing that I learned (though I think I knew it and it was simply reinforced).

It's a wonderful world.


  1. Your travelogue was enjoyed throughout the country. I visited much of the country vicariously through your blogs. Welcome back to Maine. It is the center of the Universe.

    1. Thanks David. It was fun knowing that a few of you were traveling along with me.

  2. Don't know if you are still reading these comments. I thoroughly enjoyed this. We are leaving for a trip from upstate NY around the country, following a similar route as yours. We plan 6 to 8 wks. Not going South into Florida etc though. I have picked up so many tips from your blog. We are not camping, but we do have a big truck. Your observations on high traffic areas and things like that will be helpful to us. You and your husband seem about our age and have similar interests. I want to do a website or a blog so our friends can keep up with where we are. I'm investigating the best way to do that. Again, I really enjoyed this.