Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Final Miles

'Do you know what the speed limit through town is?' said the officer at 2am on the morning of April 3rd. Our second moment with the cops on the entire 18890 mile trip. What stung about this one is that we were only 2 miles from the end.

I sat and fumed in the car whilst the officer took my licence and registration to his car and did whatever cops do in this situation. He returned several minutes later and handed back the documents, and only those 2 documents. I consulted with Steff and scanned them again, but there was no ticket! Sweet! That's a few dollars saved so off we went, at the speed limit.

We had been a long way that day, all the way from DC where we spent a fun day kicking around the capital including the use of, what Londoners call 'Boris bikes'. These are bikes that are locked into one of many computer-controlled racks that will release a bike or 2 once you've shown your plastic.

It's a great way to get around. We parked the car about a mile from the centre of town and hit the road on our steeds and headed for the Smithsonian - air and space, of course. The queues were huge as it was a Saturday and the place was crawling. I was refused entry for carrying a Leatherman multitool into the airport style search. I have no idea what one could do to compromise security with a pair of pliers and an ineffectual wire-stripper, but there you go. I went and hid the weapons in a nearby bush and went back. The the place was great and full of interesting stuff. interesting to me, at least. I think Steff enjoyed me explaining the workings of a piston and jet engine, who wouldn't? but we couldn't spend a lot of time there as we wanted to get back to Maine sooner rather than later


_MG_9863Here’s a pic from the A and S museum. The sharp eyed among you will notice that the 2 larger aircraft in this shot were the ones that Indiana Jones travelled on in Raiders and Temple of Doom.  A Ford Tri-motor in the foreground and a Douglas DC-3.




Here’s Steff, cops, tourists and the white house. The white house is a lot smaller and old-fashioned looking in real life.





Steff riding down the Mall.

We were keen to get back to the house, start trying to earn some money and be grounded for a spell before we move on to something else. We still owe a few people in Boston and NYC a visit, but I hope to combine work with that trip which would make some sense.

We really pressed-on over the last few thousand miles of the trip. We went to Texas, and after 2 days of driving later we were still in Texas! That is one, big, big state and so very boring for a large part of it, flat, dry and a good part of it smells like petroleum. Dallas was nice as we drove through it and we passed the site of JFK's assassination.

Fort worth was nice too, we stopped briefly at the old cattle yards and had a look around there, crushed a penny and moved on. They have a simulated cattle drive there, but we weren't there at the right time.

We visited a few friends and family in Florida for a night or 2. We could have managed more, but it was good to be there and see them all. Then we were off to Atlanta

Atlanta, GA - Georgia in the spring can be a lovely place. We managed to time it when the weather was extra spring like and it was a pleasure to be able to wander around in shirts and shorts without suffering from one temperature extreme or another. Certainly no need to hide under 12 inches of feather blankets here.

We stayed with our friend Justin for a couple of weeks and really got a lot done Justin and I work together so we visited clients, did some IT work and hung out. To express our creativity and to masculinity we also took on a couple of simple construction projects, specifically we created a couple of decks.

west side story builders

Here’s me, Gio and Justin building our first deck. Just after this was taken the Jets showed up for a rumble.






Second project – Bigger





We also spent time talking about real estate. The prices there are very low so we’re after getting a fixer-upper in one of the cooler parts of town to turn into a rental.

After changing the brakes in car it was time to hit the road again. It was warming up nicely and as our air-conditioning’s broke, we figured we’d better get back to winter before too long.

Charleston, NC - This was only a quick stop, mainly so Steff could see a couple of publishing contacts including Skirt! magazine that have published some of her work. This town definitely deserves a repeat visit as it’s lovely. It’s got the old charm of an early settlement with clapboard houses, narrow streets and a long shopping street. It’s very British feeling, but I suppose it would be given who settled it.

Onwards north. We drove many long hours and weren’t keen to spend money on accommodation if we can help it. Quite often nights would develop like this: start thinking about a place to stay, look on the map and phone apps to find a place then find a place and then drive 25 miles to it only to discover that it’s $15 to use a barely open campsite with no showers or running water. At that point we’d curse and either pay it or set the alarm to leave so early that we duck any ranger-encounter.

With a schedule in mind we had not patience for such hassle and went to my favourite retail colossus – Walmart


My favourite camping fall-back. This one was in Virginia and after carefully selecting a spot among a handful of other cars we went to bed. I thought this was a good spot as it would mean the car wasn’t solitary in the enormous parking lot. It turned out, a couple of hours later, that those cars were parked there as they belonged to day-tripping coach passengers who showed up in their shockingly-loud bus just feet from our window and cleared out said cars leaving us isolated. Never mind, we had a visit to Walmart to look forward to the next day, even if it was just to use their bathrooms.

After DC we had to go around New York. That was a real pain in the ass, we should have gone a different way, even if the other way would have added 200miles it still would have been worth it. Having paid $1 in tolls in 18,000+ preceding miles we managed to pay nearer $40 in the 500 miles to and from NYC!  Not only that, but we had to sit in an hour long traffic jam at one of the booths for the pleasure of paying $8 just to cross the George Washington bridge over the Hudson. Great view from there but we were too pissed-off to appreciate it and I’d rather have spent the $8 on beer and looked at the view from Google.

The driving also sucks around NY. We saw someone in a Suburban undertake us so fast that they must have been drunk and nearly drive into the median between diverging lanes twice!

We’ve been back in vacation state for a few weeks. It was weird at first to be here and be doing relatively little. We’ve both been working or busying ourselves with hobbies but the first few days were very strange. This area is dead in the winter and after months of having something to do every day, and taking in new sights and sounds, the winter stasis of southern Maine was hard to take.

We’re up to speed now and enjoying being here. It’s nice to have a fridge, a solid bed, a cooker and freezer. We have a long list of things we want go back and have a better look at. Southern Utah, southern California, the many friends we’d like to see again being just a few. Steff is working and I’m doing part time IT work.

Even with the time we took to get around there is no way we could have done more than scratch the surface of this massive country. It was a great time and we’re very lucky that we had the chance to see as much as we did, lucky too that we now know enough to get us back out and see some more!


  1. Hi Steve and Steph,

    It's been a real pleasure sharing your adventures around the USA.

    Best wishes for the future and I hope the jobs, house and even rental house renovations (if it happens) work out well.

    Please stay in touch.

    Love from
    Midge, Den, Mark and Chris

  2. Hi Steve, have loved following your journey round the US from the comfort of my own desk! Much braver than me. Maybe one day I'll do something as fun and interesting. Come back and see us if you're ever back in town.