G’day Reader Creatures,
I am sticking to the persona of my blog and am keeping it ‘Themeless.’ After a few Cheat Day journals, which I very much enjoyed, I am here to report on a recent, life-changing journey.
I moved from Southeast Georgia to San Francisco (“SF”) for a new job and a new chapter. Having longed to experience the city life as a young/getting older professional, I finally got the opportunity to do so when I least expected it. Having practiced law for 3.5 years in my idyllic, but small, hometown, I took a sabbatical and then set my sights on a few of the great American cities. SF had always topped my list, but I took a pragmatic approach by searching for a job in places that I knew people (not SF). I had only dreamed of living in SF, but had no idea how to get here.
Somehow, someway, I got a call from an interested employer in SF and was on my way there 2 weeks later. Shortly after accepting the job, I wrestled with whether to drive or fly and ended up driving as it was the easiest way to get my dwindling amount of belongings from the East to the West Coast.
By now, you may have deduced that I drove across the middle of the USA by myself. I am fortunate to have done it twice before with a travel companion. This one was uniquely memorable. My first segment was short. I drove from Coastal Georgia to Atlanta when both the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Classic college football season opener and Dragon Con converged on the city at once. It was a spectacle of various characters.
After Atlanta, I started on a more direct path toward SF. Other stops included Fayetteville, AR; Denver, CO; Reno, NV; before arriving in SF. I am enjoying being here in SF, but the journey at least equals getting to live here.
My observations and realizations from driving across the country are too numerous to post. I have not fully grasped some of these observations and realizations and some of the others I cannot fully articulate. If traveling is super-food for the soul, my cross-country trip was a Kale smoothie.
Here are some of the things I saw and learned in no particular order:
Arkansas is underrated: Being arbitrarily grouped in with other southeastern states, Arkansas’ appeal was previously unbeknownst to me. I ignorantly thought it was most similar to Northern Alabama and Mississippi. Boy, was I wrong. Middle Arkansas to Fayetteville up through Bentonville (home of Wal-Mart) and all the way to the Missouri border are all as pleasant of suburban-rural places as there are anywhere else in the United States. The state is covered with lakes and rivers that are on display during the mountainous drive through the major highways of the states.
Fayetteville, having caught the eye of publications that have placed it atop their versions of ‘America’s Most Livable Cities’ lists, is Mayberry in the Mountains. Southeastern Conference college towns have an advantage in my book, but this one has the natural beauty going along with everything else most similar college towns do. Arkansans who I know commonly tout the attractiveness of their state, but are not always paid attention to. It is out of the way most for most of my trips. I should have listened to them earlier. It is so scenic and I plan on going back.
Continuing up the Walton corridor, the cleanliness of the area gives you a sense that Wal-Mart’s money trickled into Bentonville’s public areasand surrounding areas. It is so nice.
Simply stated, the Fayetteville through Bentonville to Missouri corridor is mountainous, forested, clean, scenic and worth checking out if you have any liking of the outdoors. Few people advised me to go there, but now I am advising you. Go there.
Still in the dark about Kansas
I-70 intersects the less populated parts of Kansas. This is the only part I saw and it made me want to drive through it faster. I credit Kansas for supporting our country’s agriculture, but I cannot say much more about it. Some people may like pretending to live on the moon by living in Kansas, but I found little stimulation there. One positive trait I gleaned was the catchiness of University of Kansas’s ‘Rock-Chalk Jayhawk’ battle cry. That sounds cool.
To sum up what I learned about Kansas: there are sunny days; you can drive fast there; the University has a cool mascot; and a disproportionate amount of food is grown there. I need to go back and learn more about it.
Colorado, let me count the ways
After enduring Kansas on I-70 West, I was rewarded by a noticeable improvement in scenery and plant life (I don’t mean marijuana) immediately after crossing into Colorado. You reach the Eastern Colorado border and start the gradual climb to Denver. It feels like you go from a moderate altitude to a mile above sea-level over the course of an hour drive. It is like God built a gradually inclining ramp from the Eastern Colorado border to the Mile High City.
The trip to Denver from the East is only outdone by the trip leaving Denver to head west. Vail Pass gets the reward for my favorite part of this segment, but surrounding areas are a close second. The views overtake your senses on this part of the drive. Green, forested mountains with rivers winding around and through the highway make it too much to take in on a single drive. It made me consider where I might go should I have good business fortune one day. I nearly stopped my trip there.
To try and fully articulate the scenery in this part of the country is to trivialize it. You cannot grasp the allure of this landscape without seeing it in person when it is not covered in snow. Continuing on I-70 toward and through Utah holds its own distinguished beauty, but there are few places in the lower-48 that compare to Vail Pass in the summer.
Lonely, Lovely Stretches
Traveling from one side of Utah to the other is scenic for sure, but it is also a lonely stretch of road. I reached Utah, drove a few hours, exited the highway, turned left and then turned right in East Jesus toward Utah. Then, I drove and drove and drove and drove until I saw another house, gas station, store, person or any other sign of modern civilization. I started thinking I’d see more broken down cars on the road as people are bound to overestimate their fuel, food, water, and sustenance supply for this arduous section. It was like a modern day Oregon Trail in a car minus the cholera and dysentery. If you plan on driving through Utah, get gas every time you pass a station and you might not run out.
Nevada, that is all
I covered 80% of the way through Nevada in the dark, which may explain why I took little note of it. I was too tired to think about much during this section other than how fast I could drive. I didn’t go through Vegas so that should tell you about all I experienced in Nevada.
Arriving in California came with a jolt of adrenaline not unlike Tom Joad’s final leg of his journey out here. As soon as I reached Cali, I was enthralled with the steeply sloping, grayish mountains on either side of the highway. The trek through Northern California from Reno to SF is breathtaking. The height and vastness of the mountains that crowd the road make you feel insulated. It is awesome.
Arriving in SF was the best part as it is truly a magical place. You take everything from every other great American city and put it in one place and you have a fraction of the allure of this place. Food aside, SF has mountains, water, weather (seldom too hot or cold), culture, music, surfing, skiing, high-tech commerce and on and on. SF is awesome.
Near Vail Pass
Utah (no people or cars)
Near Vail pass again