I am dying to take a road trip! I have, like, crazy wanderlust. I need to be out on the open road, roaming across the plains of our great United States of America, checking out every road side attraction that we can find, with no time-table, no real destination. Then I want to drive through the Rockies, top to bottom, and do some off-road adventures. To top it off, I want to ride up the west coast, up Rt. 1 and 101, all the way to Canada.
Buying a new car does this to me. I'm the proud owner of a brand new Jeep Wrangler, and I'm so anxious to test it out on a big trip. Driving is one of my passions. I discovered when I was a kid the appeal of traveling by car, and it has stayed with me to this day. When I was old enough to take a trip by myself (according to my parents), my first trip was to visit my grandfather, Pap, who lived in Uniontown, PA, about 4 hours from the DC area. I came to love the trip as much as the destination, and I the more I took that trip, which at one time I averaged once every 2 months, I started experimenting with back roads, alternate routes, historic routes, etc., which was great since US 40/Alt. 40/Scenic 40/Rt. 144, the National Road, pretty much paralleled the interstate all the way to Uniontown. I loved imagining what it must have seemed like to drive the old route back in the road's heyday.
Then I discovered Route 66. I read a guidebook for 66 I received as a Christmas gift that ignited a passion to drive the old route, or what was left of it, across the country. I did a ton of research, pouring over guides and maps and atlases, and I planned a big trip for the Fall of 1997. Then I headed west.
This became a life-changing trip for me. I hit the road in my 1994 Pontiac Grand Am GT, and drove out to St. Louis, where I jumped on Route 66. I was feeling the nostalgia of the era, when the old road was the primary route between Chicago and Los Angeles, before the interstates came about. I stopped at many roadside attractions, from museums, restaurants, and gas stations, to caverns, caves, rocks, and tourist traps. I drove across Missouri to the southeastern corner of Kansas, across Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, New Mexico, Arizona (including the Grand Canyon!), and into California. It was an incredible drive! I wish I had more time, but I knew as soon as I reached California, I'd have to start driving back east again in order to get home in my two week window.
I had originally planned to drive all the way to the west coast, but I determined, if I drove north from Needles, CA, to Las Vegas, I could extend my trip north from Denver and hit Wyoming and South Dakota, instead of driving due east across Kansas. Las Vegas was a spectacle, but driving into Utah was a treat. I drove through several National Parks, including Zion and Arches, and then into Colorado, which was gorgeous. It was mid-October, and it turned out I beat the first snow storm of the season by about a week. Then I headed north into Wyoming, which was starkly beautiful for it's barren-ness, and then east into the Black Hills. Here, I fell in love. The entire Black Hills region is so gorgeous. I could live there. I love the Native American culture that permeates the area, but I also loved seeing Mt. Rushmore, and the town of Deadwood was like an old west town should be.
The rest of the trip was anti-climactic, though still very cool, but it was obvious I was winding down and ready to go home. I had spent just over 2 weeks on the road, and driven through 21 states. I had driven the whole way by myself, with my only passenger my true guide, The Big Guy Upstairs. I spent a lot of the trip talking to Him, and He talked to me, providing a direction for my life that led to me finding the woman I ended up marrying six short months later. I enjoyed it all so much that I ended up taking my wife on a similar trip, only in reverse, in 2000.
So I want to take a big trip in our new Jeep. I just need to come up with a destination. Or do I? I think just being out on the open road might be enough. I'm so anxious to share this wonderful country with my daughter, so she can see all of the sites that I and her mom saw. The wanderlust is too hard to ignore....crazy wanderlust!
Have a great evening, everyone!