20 days, 12042 km, 16 States in the United States
I always used to go to places based on my friends' experiences or after discussing with my fellow riding mates. This was the first time an idea of a trip was seeded in my thoughts by a travelogue in Team-BHP, Trip of a life time. I was new to this country and this travelogue gave me a vague idea of going to California for three weeks winter break. Most of my fellow Indians studying here had already made plans. Some had planned to go back to India whereas others had plans to visit their friends or relatives here. A close friend of mine had also moved to a relatively nearby city along with me. I pitched him the idea about a road trip in the US as he was the only sane person in this new land who would at least consider my impractical plans. I also learned my roommate had plans to go to California. Added two and two together and came up with a plan of doing a road trip from Columbus, Ohio to California and then to Boston and back to Columbus. In this way, I can cover east coast to west coast in one trip and also cover the POI of my friends.
Then came Thanksgiving and a couple of my friends flew down here and we went for a drive to the Smoky Mountains. A couple of pics of that trip below.
I was quite surprised as my plans were working perfectly and that’s when my friend decided to prove me wrong. He said that the “Road trip will consume a lot of time and pitched in an idea of flying to California and hire a car there.” I immediately pitched in the most cliched dialogue to convince friends for road trip, “Journey is more important than the destination” but he didn’t buy it. I definitely have to improve on my diction to convince these guys. Once returned from the trip, I started looking for volunteers for this trip. Luckily roped in one more guy by selling him the idea of California. Just two weeks before the trip, two more of my friends came to know about the plan and they wanted to join us until Colorado. After briefing them of the entire plan, and the price of flight tickets back home they extended their leg to Las Vegas.
Coming to the actual plan, I had not zeroed in on the actual route till the day I started. I just had a couple of places which I wanted to visit en route California. I had read about Monument Valley in a travelogue of Team-BHP and added that to my list which included Rock Mountains and Death Valley which formed the skeleton of my onward journey. As for my return trip, I wanted to try out a different route but was clueless about it. Luckily a few weeks before the trip I was watching an interview with a movie director and saw a poster of Route 66 in the background. Upon researching (In google) I decided that this will be the route taken for my return journey owing to its importance in the history of US, more on it later.
I would be getting my rental car today and I was pretty excited as I was clueless about the car I would be getting for the trip. I had noticed that airport is the place with the lowest fares in a city here. Reached airport by 7 pm and I was lucky to get an upgrade. I had been given three choices Chevy Impala, Chrysler 300 and some SUV. I chose Impala for a couple of reasons which I will state below but will let you decide your choice by taking a look at the pics below.
The first and most obvious reason is the looks. It has some design cues from the Corvette and also looks like a modern muscle car from some angles. It also has a history and I thought it would be better to do this trip across the country in a car which has been here for quite some while. The second reason is the power, 305 bhp in Impala vs 250 bhp in Chrysler. The third one may not seem that significant but it did influence my choice. It was the interface, I had already driven a Chevy Malibu for my previous trip I was already used to their interface and I liked it.
I got the car home and then went to my friend's place to have a small party with friends as everyone was done with the semester. I thought of getting somethings done before starting the next day. But later I came to know that others had similar thoughts and we decided to start post noon next day.
Route Map for Phase I
Columbus – St Louis – 445 miles (712 km)
Time: 7.5 hrs.
Avg Speed: 60 mph
Avg moving speed: 69 mph
By the time we were done with the tasks for the day and clean our house, it was well past 3 pm. I and my roommate picked others and we started the journey when the time in the car read 3:35 pm. We shortened the destination to St Louis from Kansas City as I didn’t want to drive a lot on my first day. 5 minutes into the trip, two of my friends remembered that their passport was still in the home. Since we hadn’t covered a lot, we decided to head back and get the passports. So, officially we started the trip at 4 pm and we were just 4 hours behind the schedule.
We made good progress and crossed three states to arrive at St Louis within St Louis within 7.5 hours with the breaks included. We had also crossed a time zone and that added to our time and we reached there @9.30 pm. Played poker and called it a night by 12
Mandatory Pic before starting the trip.
Elephant race en-route Cincinnati
St Louis – Denver – 946 miles (1514 km)
Time: 14.75 hrs.
Avg speed: 64.13 mph
Avg moving speed: 78.83 mph
Today would be the longest day of our trip which isn’t the worst part of the deal. The worst part is we would be driving through the breadth of Kansas which we may not see as a big state, but trust me it feels like you have taken an eternity to pass it. I personally feel that this section of the road is one of the most boring road to drive in the entire world. Miles and miles of arrow-straight road and nature have nothing to offer. I woke up by 6 and went to meet my father’s friend and had a sumptuous Indian breakfast at his place. Returned back from there to pick my friends and started the journey at 9 am which was 1 hr. behind the planned schedule, but its pretty small when compared to 4hrs. delay on the previous day. We passed through Kansas City and took a wrong exit, thanks to the confusing tone of google maps. They still have a lot of scope for improvement. Once we reached the highway, Google stated that we have to travel for 526 miles straight. It took rest of the day and even night to cover this distance and finally reached Denver by 11:45. Since Denver is in a different time zone, we saved one more hour and the local time was 10:45. We went to the nearest store for getting some taste of the famous thing in Colorado and ended the day.
Crossing river Mississippi.
We took an alternate slower route for some while owing to the monotonous highway.
Back into I-70W
View point along the route
We planned to have a relaxed day today after two days of just driving. Today’s plan was to just visit the Rocky Mountains and head back to Denver. But we woke up pretty late and just netflixed and had some good food in Denver. We postponed the Rocky Mountains to next day.
Denver – Rocky Mountains – Mack – 399 miles (638)
Time: 13 hrs
Avg speed: 30.69 mph
Avg moving speed: 46.28 mph
Since we got the Rocky Mountains into the itinerary, we had to change the destination of the day from Vegas to Grand Junction in Colorado. Thought of taking it slowly as we also planned to cover Monument Valley in daylight which would have been pretty hard as per our original plan. Started at 8 am and passed through Boulder to reach Rocky Mountain, National Park. I had shortlisted a couple of places after browsing through the net on the previous day. The first place in the list was Bear Lake. After we left the Boulder, the mountains greeted us with great views and awesome weather. As we were nearing Bear Lake we saw one more lake on the map beside the lake by the name Sprague Lake. We thought of visiting the place as we had ample time for the day. This turned out to be a good decision as we got the same view as Bear Lake which we had checked online minus the people. I will let the pictures talk about it.
After spending around 45 mins we started towards Bear Lake and reached there in 15 mins. This turned out to be a bit of disappointment as there were way too many people for my liking. We just spend a couple of minutes there and started towards Mt Evans, which has got the highest paved road in North America at an altitude of 14,130ft. To reach Mt Evans, I had to drive to Trail Ridge road which was one more reason to choose Mt Evans. Started around 12 pm from Bear Lake and I immediately fell in love with the road. Smooth tarmac, lack of vehicles, snow-capped mountains, green vegetation around was a perfect scenario to ask for. Even the weather was great but I wasn’t completely enjoying it. Only after some time did I realize that I was missing my two wheels. I do agree that going in a vehicle with four wheels is more comfortable than motorcycles, but you can never see a place completely in a car. You can’t breathe the air, feel the wind, smell the place which makes the journey incomplete. After a couple of hours, I reached the I70 near Idaho Springs passing through a town which goes by the name Central City. It is the most beautiful town I have seen in the USA. It gave me a feeling of a European town which I must confess, I have just watched in movies. I took the diversion for Mt Evans and was soon disappointed as there was a board stating that the road has been closed for the rest of the winter. Facing disappointment for the first time in the trip, we moved ahead and stopped for a late lunch at 5. Took an hour break as I planned to stop only at the destination which was close to 4hours from the place where we stopped.
Little did I expect what was in store for me next. I rejoined the interstate(word for National Highways here) and immediately felt that I was the slowest moving soul for miles. I came to realize the reason for 5 minutes when I saw the board reading speed limit. It said Maximum 75mph, Minimum 55 mph. I checked the speedo and realized I’m doing 65 which is the usual speed to maintain when you join an Interstate and don’t know the speed limit. There is also an unsaid rule about traveling 5mph above speed limit which made the other cars go at 80mph. That translates to close to 130 kmph, which definitely is a good speed. I immediately joined the wagon and maintained the same. It soon became dark and I started going through well-lit tunnels. I immediately shifter to manual to hear the grunt of an American muscle car and the Impala didn’t disappoint here at all though it was V6 and not the traditional V8. All of a sudden it felt like an I was part of a Top Gear Special episode in the middle of Alps. It was fun and engaging, especially after riding for 1500 miles on the flatlands of mid-west.
Then came to the surprise in store. I read a board which said, Caution: 8% gradient for the next 8 miles at the start of a tunnel. As soon as the tunnel ended the fun started. It was pretty steep and I was doing close to 80mph. It felt like playing a video game, the only con being there is no restart button if you crash. It continued for mile after mile. There used to be steep gradient followed by a town on a flat land and again a gradient. After some time, my car lit a portion of land next to the road and we immediately realized that we were driving on the edge of a canyon with the river Colorado, the same river which created Grand Canyon passing next to us. It was a surreal feeling and I wished we had driven this stretch in the day. After close to two hours and the road became completely flat and we have a final stop to pack some dinner as there was the owner of the place informed us that there are no restaurants in the town. We reached there close to 11 pm after Google Maps took us for a ride on its own and meeting some scary people. That experience can itself form a separate chapter and will not dwell on the details. We entered a spooky house which was not locked in the middle of anywhere. After checking all the rooms to feel safe, we decided to sleep in a single room to “remain alive till the next day”. This was the best day of the trip. We played poker for some time and then called it a day.
Got the car exchanged as the present car was due for General Service. Bid adieu to the old car
Welcome New car
Estes National Park
Semi-frozen Sprague lake en route Bear Lake in Rocky Mountains National Park
Heading back to the highway
Air BnB for the night
Mack – Monument Valley – Las Vegas – 672 miles (1075)
Time: 15 hrs.
Avg speed: 44.8 mph
Avg moving speed: 56.06 mph
When I woke up and found myself alive, I felt grateful and went outside. The views of Snow capped mountains of Rocky Mountain range on one side and the desert land of Utah on other. We got ready for the next one hour and started the drive. We had a long day ahead and had to cover quite a good amount of it during the daytime as the journey was equally if not more interesting than the destination today. We took a detour from the I70 for the last time to take the road towards Arches National Park. This interstate had accompanied us all the way from the Columbus till here. There was nothing for miles, not even shrubs and this is when we realized that if anything happens to us or the car we are doomed. We then entered Arches National Park and landscape turned pretty interesting. We stopped for a brunch and I made some calls to California as I was confident of reaching there now. We then continued towards Monument Valley through Arches. We spotted Wilson’s Arch on the way and then spotted something even more interesting nearby. We had to go offroad to reach the spot to realize that this is the famous Mexican Hat. This is when I realized Clarkson’s statement that the fastest car in the world is a rented car. We didn’t care much for the car and had some fun around before joining the tarmac again. We continued for an hour before spotting something more interesting near the horizon. It looked like Monument Valley but I couldn’t believe it as the navigation system showed still 40 miles. I could see the bloody thing away from 40 miles. This is when we realized that we were in the famous Navajo Nation. We started driving towards the destination and felt a sense of accomplishment as this is was the final place I wanted to cover before California and I made it. It was approx. 20 miles to the destination when I saw the Monument Valley in the background and the road as one straight line extending all the way till there. I will let the pictures take the front seat now.
After reaching Monument Valley and spending an hour there we proceeded towards our destination Las Vegas. I took the backseat and allowed my friend to take the wheel for some time. I took a nap and then took over the wheel after 4 hours of starting from Monument Valley. We still had close to 3 hours to reach the destination and just when we thought everything was fine, a snowstorm started. I slowed down as this was my first drive in the snow storm on an Interstate. The winds created havoc moving a 2-ton muscle car with five occupants and boot filled with luggage across lanes. I wondered how our lightweight boxes from India would fare here. It was scary for all but I must confess that I enjoyed this part as it was a test of my skill. This is also the time when I realized why my friends had taken such a long time to cover the distance they covered. After two hours, I saw Las Vegas in the distance and the view was great. This is a thing about all the cities in the desert. They look really bright with all the lights as there is nothing but desert all around. We finally made it to Vegas at 10.45pm and I drove through the Strip to see famous casinos which I had watched in movies till now. It was a man-made wonder, I must say. After this, we went to our apartment for the night and I crashed. My friends spent the night running across the casinos in joy. As the saying goes, What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas and no further detailing is needed about the night.
Breakfast at Denny's.
Wilson'a Arch, Arches National Park
Famous Mexican Hat. This marks the entrance of Navajo Nations from Arches National park direction.
Monument Valley can be spotted in the background, 20 more miles to go
Behold Monument Valley
re: 20 days, 12042 km, 16 States in the United States
Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
Re: 20 days, 12042 km, 16 States in the United States
Nice travelogue. Great photos. Small correction though: Wilson's Arch is off highway 191, not in Arches National park. Seems like you passed Arches on your left while going to Mexican Hat / Monument Valley.
Re: 20 days, 12042 km, 16 States in the United States
Getting a little nostalgic here but one day I really want to go back in the company of friends with no time constraints and a Camaro rental car fleet and just enjoy driving around in Utah/Nevada/California/Colorado/Texas etc. The midwest is mostly plains with never ending highways but the real fun starts when you hit Colorado.
Re: 20 days, 12042 km, 16 States in the United States
That was well done and very interesting. I am driving from New York to Juneau Alaska, next month and plan to cover the Badlands, Yelowstone, Glacier national park and Banff, Canada and hit the Alaskan highway, Plan to take abut 24 days.
So informatin like this is useful .Hope I can write as well as this
Re: 20 days, 12042 km, 16 States in the United States
[/quote]Getting a little nostalgic here but one day I really want to go back in the company of friends with no time constraints and a Camaro rental car fleet and just enjoy driving around in Utah/Nevada/California/Colorado/Texas etc. The midwest is mostly plains with never ending highways but the real fun starts when you hit Colorado.[/quote]
True that, unofficially, Colorado is where the journey began for us. I think Colorado, California, Arizona and Utah is where I enjoyed the most in that order.
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