Commentary, Travel

Isn’t it nice to be home again?

09.25.06 | 1 Comment

Rolled in yesterday from Vegas, 9 hours including stops for the trip covering some 570 miles. Uneventful day from a travel perspective though the massive solar array at the intersection of CA58 and US395 was interesting to see as was the growth in the wind farm (nearly 5,000 turbines now) at Tehachapi. Amazing how powerful smells are, crisp salt air, eucalyptus trees, and wet dog all welcomed me home and more to the point, made me feel at home.

The family was in the midst of the afternoon nap when I arrived, so I got a chance to unload and clean up a little bit before spending some much needed and wanted time with the girls.

Many people have asked for an overview of the trip, so here it is:

By the numbers…

  • Total distance traveled: 9,240 kilometers (5,742 miles)
  • 18 states touched (California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.)
  • 1,563 animal carcasses (I contributed one bird to the count)
  • Live animal type enumeration: Jack rabbit, deer, elk, antelope, mountain goat, coyote, buffalo, duck, goose, swan, hawk, cow, horse, sheep, numerous non-identified small bird species, and pigs
  • 942 liters (249 gallons) of fuel consumed (10% E85)
  • Cheapest fuel, $2.09/gallon Fairborn, Ohio ($2.39/gallon E85 in Sturgis, South Dakota – plain unleaded $2.89/gallon in the same spot.)
  • Average velocity – engine-on time, 98 kilometers per hour (59 miles per hour)
  • Average velocity – total travel time, 28 kilometers per hour (17 miles per hour)

Worst of….

  • Roads. They are in pitiful shape. Award for worst roads is a tie between Illinois and Nevada (with California a close third.) The truth is, none of the states had even good roads. Our infrastructure is literally crumbling.
  • Smoking. Those who are familiar with me know I am an avid individualist. I don’t like regulations imposed against personal liberty. But, smoking imposes on other’s rights in a deadly way. A non-smoking area in an enclosed space is like a non-chlorinated section of a swimming pool, it’s a fallacy. Smoking should be outlawed period except in situations where only the smoker is in range: outside, in a personal car (with only the smoker,) or in a personal home (with only the smoker.) Worst offender: Las Vegas. Prediction: one or more of the large casino corporations taken down in the next few years by a lawsuit from employees with lung cancer for failure to provide a safe workplace.
  • Toll roads. At the conference I attended, Robin Chase predicted within 10 years nearly all roads will be pay roads. Well, if that’s the case, let’s make sure we have a national toll transponder system. This regional stuff sucks for a traveler. Low light: $.80 every 3 miles on the Illinios Tollway (which I might add is slower, in worse condition, and more crowded than 99.9% of the free roads over which I traveled.) It’s awful, I don’t know how the citizens of Illinois tolerate it.
  • The homogenization of America. It’s getting tough to know where you are in this country because all the businesses and choices are the same. The same 50 or so franchises dominate, with some small regional differences. Finding unique character is becoming more and more difficult. It’s depressing and it’s almost complete, with very few exceptions, Main Street is dead.
  • Lack of E85. You’d think that a country that produces as much agricultural output as we do and has the energy dependence we do would prefer to send our dollars to the middle west of our country instead of the middle east to fund terrorism and non-friendly regimes. Oh well, I guess I was mistaken. E85 (85% ethanol fuel) was only available in one place, Sturgis, South Dakota (yes, of Black Hills Rally fame.)
  • Food. It’s uniformly mediocre to bad. In the franchises, it’s at least consistently that way. I guess that’s why they’re proliferating the way they are.

Best of….

  • Freedom. Of movement and of constraint. It’s never more clear than when you travel long distances that the barriers found in other places in the world simply do not exist. One can move about in virtually any direction over all sorts of terrain at a whim with very little interference.
  • Space. Our country is empty. I’ll have more to say about this later, but that is a big asset. Particularly west of the Mississippi River.
  • 75 mph speed limit. Those states who have it, it’s a very good thing. It’s fast enough one doesn’t need to speed. (States that don’t have this are missing the boat – although I suspect it’s revenue via ticket they’re after vs. traveler convenience.)
  • Food. The Smoke Shack Bar-B-Q in Arkansas gets my vote for best food of the trip with their pork ribs. Best ice cream, Young’s Jersey Dairy in Ohio. Best tourist trap, Wall Drug in South Dakota. Best dinner, Bozeman Trail Steakhouse in Wyoming. Best overall experience, Blues City Cafe in Tennessee (blues, ribs, football, and beer.)
  • Lodging. Setting aside the nice time spent with my various family members, the winner hands down is the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.
  • Emergence of alternative energy production facilities. I saw more solar, hydro, and wind power than I expected. Encouraging.
  • Point of Interest. Hoover Dam, hands down.
  • Entertainment. (unless one believes in counting animal carcasses as entertainment) Penn & Teller. Great show, highly recommended.
  • Travel accessory. Garmin’s Street Pilot 2720, it’s not perfect, but is very, very good. Invaluable in finding off the beaten path food, lodging, and points of interest.
  • Natural spot. The Badlands in South Dakota. I’ve been there a couple of times and I never fail to be amazed by the place. One of the lovliest places on the earth, and perhaps the lovliest place not proximate to an ocean.
  • My family. All my friends and family were great hosts during my visit taking time out from their busy lives to spend time with me. Not to mention my immediate family who were tolerant enough to allow me this time to sort stuff out.

Queued up for next time…

  • Whitefish, Montana.
  • Al-Can highway.
  • Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.
  • The entire eastern seaboard.

It was a great trip. I accomplished what I needed to accomplish, which was to clear my mind and get to a place I could make decisions. That I’ve done. In an earlier entry, I indicated there were a few simple decisions I needed to make. The net of this trip is, I want to work for myself (large equity stake in whatever that is) and instead of the simple lifestyle vs. technopreneur standard startup, I want to find a way to combine the two leading to an outcome that helps make the world a better place. John Perry Barlow made a statement that really resonated with me, that I intend to adopt it as my own, he states his mission is “to be a good ancestor.” That’s a very good place to start. Stay tuned for more information as the mission takes on more specific form going forward.

Meatspace coordinates: N37.324 W122.309
Ohio State’s 2006 record: 4-0 Next up: @Iowa 9/30
Tune: I left my heart in San Francisco by Tony Bennett
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