During September of 2000, DCSki’s Editor loaded his car up and headed west, with no fixed agenda - just a yearning for some adventure and fun.
Last summer, I began to daydream about dropping everything I was doing and heading west for an extended road trip. This wouldn’t be a first for me; I took a couple months off following college graduation to take a similar trip. But this time, I had a few more restraints, such as work, a mortgage, graduate studies - the usual burdens of (sigh!) being an adult. Until I was able to find some free time, the trip would have to wait.
This summer, it gradually became clear that there was a narrow window of opportunity in September to take three weeks off. At the same time, I was exhausted from work and desperately needed a vacation. I blocked off the calendar and began to make some firm plans.
Or, rather, I made a firm plan: head west. Beyond that, I didn’t know what I would do - nor did I care - because for this trip, I didn’t want to be tied down with an itinerary. I wanted to wake up each morning and do whatever felt right. Some days that would mean sleeping in. Other days it might mean spending a day (or two or three) mountain biking. Although I didn’t know exactly where I would end up, I knew my travels would probably take me to Colorado and Utah.
Fast forward: I am now on I-70 heading across the Heartland of America.
The problem with driving out west is that you have to drive through everything from the east coast westward until that magic moment when you arrive west.
I know there are people who will rave about the endless opportunities for excitement in states such as Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas.
I am not one of those people. (If you are one of those people, and are particularly sensitive about your beliefs, you might wish to skip the next paragraph.)
It takes a good 2-3 days of solid driving on I-70 (allowing time for such necessities as sleeping and eating) before the Rocky Mountains rise majestically out of the Great Plains. Until that point, things are pretty much the same: mostly flat, mostly cornfields. Not much to do, unless you’re campaigning for President.
On that note, here’s a fun fact. More presidents (eight in total) came from Ohio than any other state.
That’s the most exciting fact I have to report so far.
During this long drive, I have also scientifically confirmed a long-held assumption: within two minutes of cleaning your windshield, a bird flying overhead will spot the crystal-clear windshield and immediately, uh, relieve you of your clean windshield.
That is particularly true in Missouri. I am now convinced that migrating birds fly at night (when many of these occurrences happened) and use the car lights from interstate highways far below as a navigational system. This would explain why my windshield was pelted with hundreds of bird droppings in a short period of time, while in person, the top of my head has only been pelted by a bird dropping once in a tragic seagull encounter at Atlantic City that I’d rather not go into now. (I now harbor a healthy and rational fear of seagulls.)
There is a different problem in Kansas: bugs. I drove through Kansas as the sun set (and for a good period of time before and after the sun set, because Kansas is a very wide state), and after the sun went down, there were literally thousands of moths lining the highway. As I drove down I-70, these moths would continually fly up off the road and, in moth-speak, remark to each other with glee “hey, wow, check out the beautiful lights!” and fly directly at my car, where they would meet an unfortunate fate.
No amount of windshield wiper fluid could clean the continuing barrage of bugs splatting against my windshield. Any attempt would result in an unpleasant smear across the entire windshield. By the time I exited Kansas, my car looked like it had been driven through a war zone.
But, alas, squinting through the bug-stained windshield, I see the peaks of the Rockies rising out of the ground. And with that, I promise the next journal entry will be bug-free.
Next stop: Rocky Mountain National Park.
In the meantime, here are some tips for surviving the long trip west:
M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.