Saturday, July 12, 2008

and the wheels go round and round

We just completed an unplanned cross-country road trip (it is still cross-country if you went diagonal instead of across?). I travel a fair amount, but it’s usually at 32K feet and I only get to see airport – hotel - conference room – hotel - airport.

Top 10 observations:

1) This is an incredibly beautiful country once you escape the suburbs, fast-food joints and strip malls. It’s easy to get locked into the day-to-day grind and forget just how pretty and varied this country really is. At points I found myself driving through virtual postcards, if you could Photoshop out the 4 lane highway. Seriously – we live in a beautiful country.

2) Gas prices haven’t cut back on the number of vehicles on the road all that much. Simply based on the number of people at the rest stops (the statistical epicenter of all travelers) I would say it’s down maybe 5-7%.

Related: Stumbled into gas somewhere in Arkansas for $3.84 and realized it was pathetic that I thought it was such a great deal. A year ago I would have pushed the minivan to another station. We need to invade a country with a bunch of oil….. damnit.

3) The average speed on any major freeway is no less than 80mph. Go less than that and be prepared to be a speed bump.

Related: Seemed to be many who’s gas saving strategy has been borrowed from NASCAR – drafting 3ft off your bumper, it’s not just for the 1.3 mile track anymore.

4) Whoever is maintaining the freeways in Tennessee gets a gold star. I think it’s because they still have prison chain gangs guarded by guys on horses with shotguns on their hips and a toothpick. If that’s the case, keep doing that.

5) Travel isn’t what it used to be. We had several people in the minivan – no less than 14 electronic devices including 2 GPS units, satellite radio, laptops, blackberry’s, cell phones, portable game systems, iPods, DVD player and a game boy hooked up to a AC/DC converter. Good thing both legs of the trip were during the day or the van would have glowed like a public bus in Chernobyl.

6) The environmental top-of-mind movement over the past couple of years is having some effect. Virtually no trash along any road (notable exceptions were the carcasses of truck tires every few miles, part of a couch; followed by the rest of the couch .5 miles after that and a bag of onions that appeared to have made a high speed landing).

7) Never considered the career choice of being an oversized load pilot (those cars and trucks ahead of and behind oversized loads with the flashing lights). Three questions there – 1) is there a course I have to take for that? 2) If you are the lead car and you have to pull over to pee does the whole caravan follow you? 3) I noticed one caravan (unsure of the ‘official’ term) with 2 pilot cars following it. Was that part of the training program? “You just follow us for 600 miles and do what we do… “

8) Kentucky has an above average number of military convoys on its freeways. Something new here were the American flags flying on the lead vehicle which I appreciated and thought was a nice touch. God bless and thank you all! Women - If you are hot and you happen to pass these convoys please consider it a patriotic duty to flash them as you go by. I for one would have appreciated that when I was in.

9) Why do all the ‘odd’ people stay in roadside hotels? You know the type… I’m sure there’s a story behind each one that would blow your mind.

10) Traveling across the country is good for the soul. There are no red/blue states; regardless of where we live we are basically cut from the same cloth. When you are on a road trip there are no political battle lines, no racism, no bigotry, no Al-Qaeda, no gang violence or idiot bosses. It’s just miles and miles to remind you how lucky you are to be living in the greatest country on earth.

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