A Very Hokie Road Trip

Back in August of this year, Hokie & his lady Kelsey picked up and moved from Maine to California. You know I love road trips, so I made sure he let me repost his trip. Here it is, in tasty blog morsels. Enjoy!

What follows is a quick daily journal of the happenings during a five day road trip across the country. Starting in Maine, navigating mostly on Interstate 80, and ending in Concord, California, thirty miles northeast of San Francisco. I was joined by my lovely lady friend, Kelsey, and our fifteen-ish year old cat, Esmeralda (Ezie). My 2004 Volkswagen Golf was loaded with us, some food, travel clothing and houseplants. I hope you enjoy the trip!

Day 1 of the Hokie Cross Country TripDay One

Today we were off to a semi-late start, though, not really a huge surprise. Who thought that packing up the rest of the house, doing all final cleaning and packing a car would take more than one hour? Anywho, after a delicious breakfast at the Bayou Kitchen with Kelsey’s mom and a final stop at my parent‚Äôs house in Biddeford, we were on our way.

Our destination today was Ithaca, NY. Our good friends OD and Rhody were kind enough to offer their spare bedroom for our tired heads. We arrived after eight hours of travel and happily welcomed chilled beers and tasty cheeses.

After some amazing Thai food, an impromptu guitar lesson and great conversation, we retired to bed to prepare ourselves for tomorrow’s drive. We’re hoping to make it just south east of Chicago.

Mileage: 430
Map: http://bit.ly/aPYy4B
Ezie Status: Surprisingly Good!

Day 2 of the Hokie Cross Country TripDay Two

Today was started with a breakfast of eggs, cheese and fruit smoothies. After doing a bit of repacking, getting the cat in her newly engineered box and saying our goodbyes, we were off!

We were setting our aim on Portage, Indiana, a short ten hour jaunt. I took the wheel to start and enjoyed driving through the beautiful farm country of western New York. As we exited NY, we were graced with a beautiful view of Lake Erie. We cruised through a small sliver of Pennsylvania and soon found ourselves in Ohio. After Cleavland, Kelsey took the wheel and we kept cruising.

As the speed limit increased, the landscape flattened out and the size of the farms grew. Everything was still very lush and green, but instead of trees and grazing pastures, it was corn, tomatoes and beans. The transition from Ohio to Indiana didn’t provide much of a visual change, but eventually we gained an extra hour.

Once in Portage, we got the cat in the room, grabbed some dinner on the town and prepared for a good nights rest. Tomorrow promises to be a fairly flat run through a few middle western states. Next stop, somewhere around central Nebraska. Sweet!

Mileage: 635
Map: http://bit.ly/cw5f1G
Ezie Status: Very good. Only one box escape, as opposed to yesterday’s four! For a five pound, fifteen year old cat, she‚Äôs both strong and determined.

Day Three

With complimentary instant oatmeal, cornflakes, OJ and coffee in our systems, we were off and running, Portage, Indiana slowly shrinking in our rear view mirror. Today’s trip was a bit longer, at about eleven hours, as our goal was to get through both Illinois and Iowa.

To summarize today’s traveling I’ll offer you three words: Corn, Soybean and Windmill. Throw in the occasional truck stop and gentleman’s club and that just about sums it up. For anyone who’s traveled in these states, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Kelsey was continuously impressed with the sheer flatness of these states. While it doesn’t make for much variety, it does offer the occasional amazing vista with farmland and interstate stretching on until the horizon.

We settled on Kearney, Nebraska as our stopping point today. As we checked into our motel, we read a pretty cool fact:

Because of its location 1,733 miles from Boston and 1,733 miles from San Francisco, Kearney once was called “Midway City of the Nation”.

Of course, what this also means is we still have a ways to travel yet. We better get going!

Mileage: 672
Map: http://bit.ly/ceuS8X
Ezie Status: The longer days make for a less excited cat. Somehow she escaped from the box again. When we get to California, I’m having her tested for steroids.

Day 4 of the Hokie Cross Country TripDay Four

Awesome. This word has been unfortunately bastardized over the years. “Totally awesome dude!” And not that I haven’t been guilty of using it that way, but more recently I’ve been opting for the term, “Awesome, in the definitive sense.”

That out of the way, I can say, without doubt, that our drive through Wyoming and a part of Utah did truly “inspire awe or admiration or wonder”. For however expansive the Midwestern states felt, Wyoming had us continually saying, “Holy $h1t!” Every small hill the road took us over, a new impressive vista greeted us.

While most of Wyoming seemed to be used for cattle grazing, it switched from rolling plains to scrubby prairie to rugged, rocky, seemingly uninhabitable terrain. More than once Kelsey exclaimed, “How can there be so much land?!”

As we entered Utah, things began to get a bit more green again and before long we were driving through winding canyons. Considering we hadn’t had to turn the steering wheel for the last two days, this was quite the task. As we whizzed by the exit for Park City, we began to ascend. Once at the top, it was 5-6% grades down to Salt Lake City. The views on the decent were, again, awesome. Unfortunately, between locals passing me at eighty miles per hour on the left and eighteen wheelers using low gears on the right, it was Kelsey who got to see most of the canyon.

Once in SLC, we found an amazing vegetarian restaurant, dined, checked into our hotel and promptly fell asleep. Tomorrow is the last day of the cross-country trip and our final destination is Concord, California.

Mileage: 752
Map: http://bit.ly/blP8L5
Ezie Status: No breakouts from the box today, however, I’m not sure she entirely enjoyed the continual changing of altitudes. Other than that, she’s tip top.

Day 5 of the Hokie Cross Country TripDay Five

Another continental breakfast in our bellies and we were off and running. Today was our last day of driving. Concord, California or bust!

While the views entering Utah were stunning, they were a tad monotonous on the exit. Granted the first view of salt flats, the Great Salt Lake and huge mounds of raw salt were pretty amazing, but after about thirty minutes, we were ready for Nevada. One hundred and thirty-ish miles later, we got our wish.

Similar to the previous few states, but different enough to get our attention, Nevada became our mountainous friend. Most notably, rather than setting the cruise control and holding the wheel straight, Nevada was a continuous series of ups and downs, lefts and rights as we navigated our way through multiple mountain ranges.

Nevada said goodbye to us with a gorgeous [sarcasm] view of Sparks and Reno, before we ascended one last time into the Tahoe National Forest. After peaking out at about seven thousand and three hundred feet, we began a forty mile decent to almost sea level. You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that the downgrades we had to drive were pretty severe.

Coming out of the forest, we found ourselves on five to seven lane freeways zipping west. In no time we (finally) saw signs for Concord. We checked into our hotel, filled ourselves with Thai food and readied ourselves for the next step of our adventure.

Mileage: 717
Map: http://bit.ly/dwzWFA
Ezie Status: We suspect she knew today was the last as well, and had pretty much dealt with as much of this trip as she could handle. That said, she’s happily perched on the bed next to me as I type this. Let’s hope she likes California too!

Chris Cavallari

About Chris Cavallari

Chris is a longtime digital content producer based in Maine. Since 1999, he has been an early adopter and active participant in blogging, podcasting, and social media, and has been guiding small and mid-sized businesses in leveraging video, social media, and digital publishing to the fullest. With an avid love of travel and the outdoors, Chris started PartTimeVagabond.com in 2009 to give him a platform to showcase his outdoors and travel adventures, and to help educate others in doing the same.