So, about a month ago, my wife and stepson took her mom on a trip down Route 66. Mom’s 75, so this is probably her last big vacation. I could only get a week off, but I wanted a cross country trip.
So I flew out to San Francisco to meet them after they spent two days in Santa Monica, the end of Route 66. San Fran included obligatory trips to Haight-Ashbury (where I bought vinyl I could have bought here in Cincinnati), Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Ferry Building. So then what?
My stepson and I rented a Ford Fusion and drove back to Cincinnati.
For five days and 2900 miles.
An Uber passenger told me I was a beast since I did all the driving. So how was it?
San Fran was an adventure leaving. SFO is not the best laid-out airport, and yes, I say that having flown into Newark, JFK, and Atlanta. It never occurred to airport officials that yes, some people picking up rental cars did not fly in. Once we were out, though, we spent the afternoon driving to Reno. The Sierra Nevadas are most definitely not the Pacific Coast. The mountain town where we stopped was overrun with peacocks! Yeah, peacocks. And then there’s the border crossing into Nevada. Ladies and gentlemen, we drove through snow. On Memorial Day!
My one big mistake with Nevada was underestimating the distance from Reno to Las Vegas. I expected it to take about six hours. It took nine, which meant we were on the road for 13 hours that day.
It was my first time ever in the desert. It also was the first time I ever had to go 200 miles between gas stations. The towns were even different as we drove down Route 95. Sparks was dominated by a large Army base that likely was the northern end of Area 51 (or the restricted area around the test facility. No UFO stuff here.) Some places like Tonopah existed because of mines, many of which have closed. Goldfields, I’m sorry to say, make your average Midwest farm town look like a Westchester suburb in New York state. Nonetheless, the scenery was gorgeous, and in Beatty, we had to stop to let wild donkeys cross the road. Yeah. Wild donkeys.
Speaking of Area 51, we were disappointed in the diner, basically a glorified truckstop selling overpriced alien trinkets. However, we stayed in Vegas at the Tropicana (Thanks, rewards points!), where they spoiled us beginning with handing us warm cookies as we arrived at 11:30 that night.
Thursday was the Hoover Dam. Awesome views. Great history. An impressive piece of engineering. And I’m never going again. My acrophobia kicked in big time. Still, we got some great pics.
We also visited the Rock House in the Venetian. Actually, getting lost in the Venetian was an adventure. There’s a canal with gondolas inside the mall! And the ceiling looks like Tuscany at midnight. We went to get the guitar drink cups for my wife and a friend of ours. Food wasn’t bad and reasonably priced.
We just passed through Arizona on our way to Utah, but my God, was the Virgin River Gorge absolutely beautiful! My stepson, who is probably better traveled than I am, had never seen landscapes like this. Multicolored rock in layers flanked I-15 between the Nevada and Utah borders. We didn’t need to stop. The drive through was the destination!
Utah is a positively beautiful state. Between mountains, rolling farmland, and red rock formations, the landscape changes every five minutes. We stayed in Salt Lake that night and in the morning…
The Mormon Tabernacle is an underrated treasure of a building. You can’t help but photograph the soaring spires from its courtyard. However, I learned quickly that Mormons, nortoriously down on caffeine, do not appreciate the humor in standing before the Tabernacle with a cup of Starbucks raised. We left quickly.
And I gotta give props to the Moose Cafe just north of Salt Lake City on I-80. Gorgeous views and great breakfast. Glad we stopped.
Wyoming is also a beautiful state. There’s just a lot of it. We spend most of the day climbing toward the top of the Continental Divide. The last sign for it read 7000 feet, but we kept going up. Turning off in Laramie to head for Denver, we still climbed higher. At 10,000 feet up, we were driving through snow even deeper than we had outside of Reno. But Wyoming is hardly a wasteland. Devoted to farming, half the exits on I-80 are there to service ranches and oil fields. I half wish we’d have made a detour to see Yellowstone, but maybe next road trip.
Colorado was another scenic state. We didn’t do much there as we got to Denver about 8 local time. Still, seeing Denver sitting beneath the Rockies is a sight worth the trip.
And no, we did not have any “brownies.”
Kansas is long and flat and we will not speak anymore of it. Except that Kansas City barbecue, which we had in Overland Park, is delicious.
Missouri is a scenic state, but more like the rolling hills we’re accustomed to in Ohio. It’s also a schizophrenic state with religious and anti-abortion signs between billboards for strip clubs and adult superstores. We speculated that less of both might alleviate the need for such signs.
Missouri is also where we started to feel like we were going home. It was our final day of the trip with nine hours between Kansas City and Cincinnati.
Illinois and Indiana
Not much to say here. We were just trying to get home. Illinois is Springfield (home of Lincoln) and Chicago, neither of which were on our drive home. Indiana is where I-64 hugs the Ohio River before it passes into…
This is where I could tell you all about Louisville. And Lousiville is a fun city to visit. But we were tired, and I owed Avis the 2019 Fusion we’d driven for five days at that point. So my stop in Kentucky was actually CVG, better known as Greater Cincinnati – Northern Kentucky Airport. We had come all the way across the United States with only a speeding ticket in Nevada (I found the one cop on duty some 90 miles outside of Beaty.) Twenty miles out of Louisville, we ended up in a traffic jam as a semi hit an SUV, clogging both lanes of I-71. To add insult to injury, less than four miles from the airport and rental car return, a panicked driver in a Jeep Liberty cut us off on the exit to the 275 Loop. It was there I discovered that 1.) Ford still makes really good brakes, and 2.) the 2019 Fusion has a rather aggressive collision assist system. So after over 2800 miles, we get stuck in traffic 60 miles from home and are nearly clipped in sight of the airport.
Home. Home again. I like to be here when I can. In my pool and on my back deck. Fortunately, we came home on a Friday. I needed the weekend to recover.
And two weeks later, I traded in my venerable VW Jetta for a Ford Fusion. How’s that for a souvenir?