Thursday, January 30, 2014

10 Things I Learned Driving Across the Country

1.       ALWAYS use a Garmin.

I have spent most of my life using hand written directions and maps.  My daddy taught me how to read a map when I was ten (thank goodness for that!) But having that handy-dandy Garmin to use on trip was AMAZING. 

Garmins will tell you directions (quite literally they speak to you and you can set the type of accent they use…so much fun!) Garmins will show you maps, can re-route you for anything in under 60 seconds and can save your locations.  But that is not why I think you should use a Garmin over Google or Tom Tom.

My mom told me this story, just before we left on our cross country adventure, of when she and my dad went to the D.C. area for work.  She had a rental car and was crossing state lines (you do that a lot here…I know crazy for you Californians).  She was pulled over almost immediately for speeding.  Here is the kicker – the speed limit change had NOT been posted.  When she asked the officer when the speed limit had changed, his answer (in East Coast fashion) was, “About 60 years ago!”  Needless to say she paid the ticket and we got a free lesson. 

On EVERY state line we crossed the speed limit changed by 10 mph every time…without a change posted.  How did we know this valuable bit of information?  The Garmin.  It tells you when and to how much the speed limit changes…AT the change!  Saved us multiple times!

You have to get one:

2.       NEVER eat at a fast food restaurant on base.

About the second or third day, after a ten hour drive, we pulled onto a base (I won’t say which one) exhausted.  It was by far the most friendly base we have ever stayed on…and we have stayed at a lot! It was about 9:00 p.m. and we were hungry! So we stopped by the McDonalds on the way to lodging.  Now neither of us like McDonalds, but it was what was open.  We order a chicken wrap, and because it was almost Christmas and it is a Black Family tradition to have Egg Nog, I ordered an Egg Nog shake (first one ever).  It tasted great too!  Until about 1:00 a.m.  Then for the next 24 hours my body expelled it and anything else I tried to put in it.  Needless to say, our two days with my Austin family was quickly shortened to one.  So bummed!!!

3.       Certain states (at least part of them) don’t want you to flush soiled toilet paper…GROSS!

Because I got so sick, I used a lot of bathrooms as we traversed across New Mexico and into Texas .  A couple caught me off guard.  One was the Pizza Hut (I can’t remember if it was in New Mexico or Texas) but I can remember that we will NEVER eat Pizza Hut again.  We didn’t even eat there, but the smell from outside all the way in was VOMIT.  Awful!  So we let the dog out to pee and we headed on.  In Texas, however, we stopped at a Dairy Queen (only thing open on Christmas Eve).  If you are ever as ill as I was, their toast was a perfect thing to keep down…that was all I ate.  But, they don’t want you to put spoiled paper tissue in the toilet.  I found that icky and strange, but I bet it has something to do with their pipes.  Anyway, it made me pity the trash guy.

4.       Take a driving buddy.

I cannot tell you how helpful a driving buddy is!  Of course a trip like this is only half as much fun if you go alone, but with the driving buddy it is wonderful! Robert and I were able to take turns often, which made us always fresh…except on day one when I drove 11 hours from Yuba City, CA to Phoeniz, AZ.  Robert had just spent 24 hours flying to Georgia and back so he was in no condition to drive.  By the time we got into our hotel at near 1:00 a.m. I could not say it was too soon.  That was also the nicest place we stayed at the whole time…so bummed it was only for 10 hours. But, the rest of the trip was made much easier because there were two of us.  It also meant we could keep making progress even when I was decommissioned for a day. Aside from banter and shared experiences, the help driving is a MUST!

5.       See as much family and friends as possible!

I cannot stress this one enough! Especially when you traveling across country for a move, this one is essential.  Half way through our trip I got to see my Austin family.  Oh how I miss them! It was a blessing to be with them on Christmas Day and more to just hang out with my little buddies.  When you think you are done driving and know family is on the other side, that is what keeps you going.  Two days later, we got to see Robert’s family in Georgia.  It was a nice  connection before we headed on to our new home in Maryland.  That is a great way to keep you driving across deserts and no-wheres-villes. 

6.       Don’t drive through the country during the holidays.

NOTHING IS OPEN THE WEEK OF CHRISTMAS OR NEW YEARS!!!!!  Just so you know.  That made it hard to do anything fun anywhere.  But, we did come across the biggest trading post I have EVER seen in Texas (they really do all things bigger).  This post was quite literaly in the middle of nowhere, but it was boasted easily 600 square feet of wall to wall product – blankets, carvings, purses, etc.  And they really are super friendly! We also stumbled across a General Paton Museum we had no idea exisited (though it was closed).


7.       The state of Florida is on TWO DIFFERENT time zones.

When you spend a week plus on the road you find little ways to keep entertained as you drive across nothing.  One of those ways is to check changes in time zones.  If you are from California, like I am, you have spent your entire life believing Florida is on East Coast time.  And you would be right…for half of the state!  Half the state is on central time and the other half is eastern.  It blew our minds! Especially because we expected it to change at or near the state line. 

8.       Georgia believes in killing its drivers…especially in the rain!

Ok, that really isn’t fair to say.  I cannot say with definitely that the entire state of Georgia believes in killing its drivers, but I can make a fair guess.  I drove the entire state of Georgia, in the rain and in both night and day.  In my experience, a state that does not believe in lighting even their highways, does not use reflectors on the road and doesn’t bother to re-painted their very, very faded lane lines, wants to kill drivers.  You can barely see in the dark for all the forests and swamps in Georgia, and you can barely see in the day for their lack of road repair.  But, add in torrential rain and you can see for anything.  I was never so happy to cross into a new state as I was to cross into South Carolina!

9.       South Carolina is beautiful in architecture and nature.

South Carolina gets a bad rap because they made some decisions way back to hundred years ago and are still paying for it.  But I will say this, it is BEAUTIFUL!  It is by far one the most beautiful states I have ever driven through.  We even stopped off in Camden as an unscheduled stop to see some history.  They have painstakingly incorporated modern with historical.  Everything is well taken care of and planned out. The drivers are wonderful too!  Nowhere else will you find drivers getting to the slow lane so quickly when you are going faster than them, no one cuts you off, everyone uses their blinker, it is wonderful (and the complete opposite of Maryland). I cannot wait to spend more time there!

10.   It would take a life time to get all the history out of the colonial states.

We were lucky to spend a day in Yorktown, VA (another not planned trip).  We spent one day at one of its historical sites and still had not taken in all that little town has been through.  It is part of a historical triangle (Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown) and we could easily have stopped at each.  But time just didn’t allow it.  It was our first introduction to the rich history here on the East Coast, and gave many plans for future visits (those towns are only 3 hours away from us!) So come visit!