One of the most enjoyable things I have ever done was to drive across the country with my son, going from Sacramento to Philadelphia. He was moving as part of his post-college life, and I offered to help drive and to pay for everything. I couldn’t think of a better college graduation present. To a greater of lessor degree, I want to do this again.
We drove over the Sierras during a blizzard in a ’09 Beetle pulling a u-haul. We left Reno for SLC in an icy clear late winter morning, then dropped down to Albuquerque on our longest day, only to eat McD’s for dinner. We usually dined at small roadside cafes and motel steakhouses, while staying at cheapish hotels and were only grossed out once. He played his music (he had been the music director at his college radio station for three years, and had an impressive playlist) while I would go into deep tracks on long-forgotten albums from the ’80s and ’90s. BBQ in Tennessee, back roads in Maryland, we saw the country. We didn’t talk that much, but we didn’t need to. Just spending eight days in each other’s company was pleasant enough. In the end, he didn’t stay in Philly and moved on to Brooklyn, looking to get into the music promotion world. Sadly, with COVIDicy, he is struggling a bit professionally. So, I would love to go and see him, cheer him up a little. Not that he really needs it, but it is a parent’s duty. Plus, I haven’t been in that city in over twenty years, and it would be nice to check it out again.
But there is a catch. I don’t fly very well. I have MS and the physical issues that come with the disease make being tucked into a seat for 6-8 hours while wearing a mask… Fuck that noise. So, while talking to my wife about this, she suggested taking the train in one of the small sleeping compartments, called a roomette. This is a small, two seats facing each other which pull out to a bed, with a second bed that drops from above. The best part, it’s private, screened off from the rest of the passengers. So, no other passengers in my space. And if you are wondering about the aforementioned wife, this trip would be just me. See, she isn’t my son’s mother, and while she loves the boy, she is an only child who grew up in the Northern California countryside. In other words, she loves time to herself. That would be her vacation.
Taking the train across the country would involve two major routes; the Empire Builder and the Lake Shore Limited. This would take me across the top of the country, from Portland, Oregon, and dropping down into Chicago, Illinois for the first one, and from Chicago to New York City on the second route, running alongside lake Eire. Another option would be to drop down to the Bay Area on the Amtrak Coast Starlight and take the route called the California Zephyr out to Chicago. A day longer, it could have better scenery. All told, a journey of about five days, which should be very relaxing. Food, drinks, a club car along with a skyline viewing car, this should be a romantic trip, in the old-fashioned sense, a journey into and through the past. With WiFi.
So, after a week on the train, a week with my son. Along with hitting bars and restaurants, The Strand bookstore, and various other things such as sneaking into Dead Horse Bay, who knows what we will see and do. But one thing we will do is to go to a car dealer so I can buy a new set of wheels to drive home in. As I mentioned earlier in this piece, I have MS, and I currently drive a stick and while I love it, I have what is called drop foot on my left side, and working a clutch is often hard on me physically, and is just getting more difficult in general. So, I will have to give up my beloved shifting and go back to an automatic. That, and I love a good road trip, so I will buy a car in NY or Jersey or somewhere around there, and drive home.
The tentative plan is to head west through Cleavland, then head up through Michigan and go over the Mighty Mac into the land of the Yuppers. Drop down from there somewhere in the Minnesota/Wisconsin area, before heading west again, shooting across the great plains. I plan to make a day-long rest stop in Colorado and then head over the continental divide, the Rockies. At that point, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to my home in Oregon. And by this point, the wife and I should have missed each other just enough.
The plan is for either late winter, or early spring, and to stop at every decent used book store and antique mall I can reasonably find. Also, to see anyone across the country who might be interested and live somewhere along that route. But I would ask all of the Glibertariat, what along that route should I look for? I am thinking of things that would be off the beaten path, not real tourist destinations, and fairly free of people.
So, please, throw some ideas at me. Names of places to eat, cheap but funky hotels. Roadside attractions, good used bookstores, and antique shops. Fun roads as I hate the interstates. I want this to be fun, and I think everyone here can help and add to this.