Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bar Trip Review

It has now been more than a week since the end of the Great American Post-Bar Road Trip, and I'm here now to provide some review. We'll go according to topics as they occur to me.

When the trip was just a thought in my head, gas prices were shooting up all over the country. I had thought that, at about 10,000 miles, the cost of gas would end up being about $2000, assuming $5.00 per gallon, and about 25 miles per gallon. As it was, we got closer to 28 miles per gallon, at about $4.00 per gallon, across 9791 miles, for a total of about $1400 in gas. The least expensive average tended to be in Houston. The Pacific Time Zone seemed the most expensive, as was New York City and Ontario Province. The single most expensive fuel stop was in Eureka, CA, where we refueled for $4.499 per gallon.

At any rate, fuel turned out, as expected, to be the most expensive portion of the trip.

Food was the second highest expense (less than $1000), but was still significantly less expensive than fuel. This, even though we were often treated to meals by our hosts, and even once by a cousin in Chicago (thanks, Jannet!). Among the reasons why the costs stayed high include the facts that we would get really sick of McDonald's and eat well once in a while; and the fact that we would often buy beef jerky, Pepsi, and Monster, to break up the boredom of long stretches of Interstate. We also spent some money on water, although no tray of bottled water was ever more expensive than an average 3.5-ounce bag of beef jerky.

Lodging was the third highest expense. Fortunately, we had the gracious help of friends and family, and we also roughed it twice. On Days Four and Five, we stayed with Uncle Thomas; on Day Eight, we stayed with Hraesvelg; on Day Twelve, we slept in the car at a bright, 24-hour shop in Connecticut on the border with Rhode Island; on Day Fourteen, we stayed with Aunt Nancy; on Day Sixteen, we stayed with Uncle JT; on Day Seventeen, we stayed with Nuki06FireZ; on Day Twenty, we slept in the car in two different rest stops in western Montana; on Day Twenty-Two, we stayed with Derek; and on Day Twenty-Three, we were home.

In connection with this, we noticed that the rest stops in the Southeast were probably the most attractive; they had plentiful vending machines and were clean. Montana's rest stops were mostly under renovation, but the last one along Interstate 90 was something else: it had eight single-capacity bathrooms, and the ones for men each had both a urinal and a toilet. There was no vending machine, though.

As for hotels, the worst one was Regency Inn, in Jacksonville, FL. Sure, it was not very expensive, but it was in a terrible part of town (the Denny's there closes, and the McDonald's stores shut off their lights), the carpets were sticky, and the non-smoking room reeked of cigarette smoke.

The best deal had to be the Route 66 Hotel and Casino. There were no taxes, whether sales, service, or room. The interior was comparable to a four-star hotel in any major city. We really didn't want to leave!

The most important thing, however, is thank you, to those friends and family that put us up. We really appreciated it, and hope to be able to return the favor one day!

We often came across road construction on the Interstates, as well as on some of the national and local highways. Fortunately, we tended to avoid major cities during rush hours; even so, sometimes road construction would significantly reduce our pace. Easily one in ten miles was under construction. Even at a more conservative estimate of one in every twenty miles, that still meant nearly five hundred miles of road construction encountered along the way.

The worst roads were probably those in downtown Manhattan, with its numerous potholes. The worst highways, however, were easily rural Québec, which felt a lot worse than Manhattan. Further, we drove that highway at night, so it was impossible to see the potholes to avoid them, although I strongly doubt I could have avoided them even had I been able to see them.

Urban vs. Rural
Because we did not stay in any one place (or have enough money) to do all that much, most cities to me did not stand out all that much. The ones that seemed to have a more particular character were Houston (the humidity!), New Orleans (goes without saying), Washington, D.C. (monuments galore), New York City (goes without saying), Montréal (the Frenchness!), Chicago (the traffic), Seattle (like a clean version of San Francisco), and Berkeley (the tree sitters). There are of course other cities that have plenty of character, such as San Francisco (which I know because I've been there for much longer periods of time on other occasions), or even Boston, but we really did not explore these cities long enough to savor their character.

The countryside was likewise rather plain, particularly the corn fields of Iowa and Minnesota. However, we did get to watch some pretty spectacular sunsets (we never woke up early enough for a sunrise). Also, the family farms of northern Ohio and Indiana were very picturesque; since they are not far from large cities, they are worth visiting without having to abandon "civilization".

As for wilderness areas and protected areas, the ones that left the deepest impressions were: the Grand Canyon in Arizona; the White Mountains in New Hampshire; Niagara Falls in Ontario and New York; Mount Rushmore in South Dakota; Yellowstone in Wyoming; and the Redwoods in northern California.

This is a huge country, and to do real justice to everything there is to see and do would require a lot more time than we spent on this trip. Nevertheless, we are very happy to have had this opportunity to get a glimpse of so much.

The Soundtrack
We listened primarily to three CDs, two of which were compilations burned by yours truly a long time ago. (There were no newly-burned compilation CDs on this trip.) The third was a live recording of the Three Tenors, with Zubin Mehta conducting. The other two CDs included:

  • Queen - "Bohemian Rhapsody"
  • UB40 - "Kingston Town"
  • Big Mountain - "Baby I Love Your Way"
  • OMD - "If You Leave"
  • Cause & Effect - "You Think You Know Her"
  • Alizée - "Moi Lolita"
  • New Order - "Bizarre Love Triangle"
  • Paola e Chiara - "Vamos a Bailar"
  • Lightning Seeds - "Pure"
  • Yaz - "Only You"
  • Andrea Bocelli - "O Sole Mio" and "Nessun Dorma"
  • Colm Wilkinson - "This Is the Moment"
  • Frank Sinatra - "Strangers in the Night", "It Had to Be You", and "Blue Skies"
  • Louis Armstrong - "What a Wonderful World" and "Moon River"
  • Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole - "Unforgettable"
  • and many others that I don't recall right now

Summary All in all, it's been a very tiring experience, and fairly expensive, at about $3700. However, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bond with dad, and I will never regret having done this. Hopefully, if you try this, too, you will have the benefit of our experience.


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