14 Days. 3,700 Miles. 16 States.
The coast to coast road trip across America came about when my brother Sam received his honorable discharge from the Army. He had served 4 years in active duty including a "tour" in Afghanistan and was finally free! We had talked on the phone about his plan to drive across country in his Mitsubishi Montero stuffed full of his belongings to Oregon. He thought it would be more fun to have someone to travel with. My response...Heck Yes! I'm in!
It was originally going to be a 2-3 week adventure which later was reduced to 14 days to save some expense. I hopped a plane from the cloudy PDX and flew to the blue skies of Boston. Expedia hooked me up with a fantastic "red eye" flight with one layover in Newark but at $120 it was a steal. Sam met me at the Boston airport and we immediately began our road trip to The Big Apple - New York City. We came up with much more fitting names for NYC by the end of our stay. It has to be the biggest most dirty, trashy city in America. People literary pile trash bags all over the sidewalks! The first couple days were spent seeing all the big sites of the city: Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Ground Zero, Empire State Building, Central Park, Grand Central and more. We traveled by foot and subway. The subway network is massive and required the use of smart phone apps to navigate. We enjoyed excellent food and incredible sites but both of us had no remorse with leaving.
Our next stop was back to Boston. We were to spend a couple days exploring the city with our parents who had moved to Orange, MA about two years ago. Boston was one of my favorite cities. It is loaded with history and historic sites such as the house of Paul Revere and restored ships. The city was clean and public transit was easy to use. I had to limit the amount of walking after injuring my knee in New York which became a hindrance for the remainder of the trip.
Philadelphia was the next big destination and of course seeing the famous Liberty Bell. Although, Independence Hall was much more significant to me. It was incredible to stand in the room where George Washington worked and the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were written. It brought boring history books to life! Of course, we couldn't leave without eating the famous Philly Cheese Stake. Most museums were bypassed in favor of Sam's dream destination... The "Rocky Stairs". It was dusk when we arrived but nothing was going to stop him from running those famous stairs. Afterwards we sat in traffic for hours slowly making our way to Washington DC.
Washington DC is enormous! You would have to be insane to attempt walking all the sites. We chose to rent bikes instead and experience the city by two wheels which was the best decision ever! We saw everything in one day: US Capital, Supreme Court, White House, Library of Congress, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Old Post Office Tower, Arlington Cemetery gardens and many other monuments. By far my favorite destination was the Theodore Roosevelt Island. It is only accessible by foot or bike and was such a quiet space of the midst of the bustling city with "nature" trails and of course a monument to Roosevelt. I guess getting away from "pesky tourists" and finding the "hidden gem" was most appealing to me. We rode like madmen to return our rental bikes just before closing as the next day was Thanksgiving and all the shops would be closed. Quick note to travelers... site seeing on holidays is quite good as traffic is lower but many shops and restaurants are closed. We lucked out because our fancy hotel also included a restaurant serving a magnificent Thanksgiving dinner. Since it was the only place open to eat we thought it was an excellent choice minus the HUGE bill. Our second day was spent exploring the Smithsonian Museums and viewing the remainder of the city. Near the end of the day we created a street racing sport called "the line up" which proved rather entertaining.
The drive to Cleveland became an adventure when we ran out of fuel just minutes before reaching the city. And yes, the Montero has a fully functioning gas gauge and low fuel light. Here's how it happened... I was driving all day and we were closing in on Cleveland when the fuel light came on. I asked Sam, how many gallons are left when the light comes on. He figured there were "at least" 5 gallons remaining. With some quick math I figured we easily had 75-80 miles of range remaining. Our destination was only 50 miles away so no problem. Turns out either the gas mileage was horrible or there were not 5 gallons! We coasted off the highway, down an exit ramp and started walking. Thankfully, just around the corner was a gas station where we purchased a gallon of water to hold the gasoline and octane booster to function as the funnel. Our ingenuity paid off and we were back on the road in no time. We were incredibly blessed and fortunate because this was the only exit with gas for miles in either direction. We made a quick stop to explore the terminal tower, eat dinner and drive on.
Chicago is about 5 hours from Cleveland and with snow it takes closer to 6 hours but you cross the timezone which brings you back an hour. Unfortunately, we programmed the GPS to take us into downtown Chicago instead of the hotel. This took us 45 minutes in the wrong direction and added 1.5 hours additional driving making the 5 hour trip closer to 7.5 hours. Needless, to say it was a long day! The Sears Tower and "Sky Deck" were the primary attraction in Chicago. This is the tallest building in the US with 108 stories and souring 1,451 feet above the city. The elevators were the fastest I've ever been on. It traveled at nearly 2 floors per second. The Sky Deck experience is incredible and messes with your mind as you stand on glass and look straight down 108 stories. It was certainly worth the long lines and spendy admission to experience.
Our final destination was Mt Rushmore, South Dakota. On our way there we stayed at a fantastic hotel in Rapid City that included a HUGE indoor water park! We had the entire park to ourselves as it was in the middle of winter and near closing time. 5 story high water slides, huge hot tub, pools... And yes, $50 paid for the hotel, breakfast and park pass. Thank you Hotwire! I would highly recommend visiting Mt Rushmore in the winter! We were the only people there, literally. The sun was shining, melting snow and fresh air. Perfect.
The remainder of the journey was uneventful and included extended highway driving through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Beautiful scenery with tons of sun and blue sky well...until entering Washington and Oregon. The Montero was the most excellent road trip vehicle as it extremely comfortable, quiet, reliable and had no trouble cruising at 90+ through the flat lands. Sam and I had an exceptional adventure and are looking forward to future trips!
By : Peter Stewart