Road Trip 1 – Chicago to ATL

Here’s the thing about doing road trips from CA. You can travel 3 directions. East, South, and North. That is all. West is not an option unless you have a boat or a plane, then it really stops being a road trip. I’m a huge fan of the road trip actually, and there are some pretty awesome places you can get to on the west coast in just a day’s drive. I usually count that as 10-12 hours, but I’m kind of hard core about my trips, and I know a lot of people who can’t hang on the road for that amount of time.

The difference between amount of area you can cover in each trip, well..here’s a little image for ya to check out, well, two of them.

12 Hour driving range from SF

12 Hour driving range from Chicago

From SF, you can get to a lot of awesome places; Portland, OR, Twin Falls, ID, Salt Lake City, UT, Las Vegas, NV, Los Angeles, CA, San Diego, CA, Tijuana, Mexico, Phoenix, AZ. Not bad right? I mean, all pretty destination and tourist friendly locations. Which is great, lots of stuff to do.

What do you get when you leave Chicago and drive, well, in any directly really; Minneapolis, MN, Madison, WI, Milwaukee, WI, Omaha, NE, Memphis, TN, Atlanta, GA, Detroit, MI, Toronto, Canada, Niagara Falls, NY, Nashville, TN, St. Louis, MO, and more! I mean, granted, Kentucky and Tennessee are not states I ever thought i’d want to visit, but they’re actually very pretty to drive through and everyone was really nice (Indiana was a totally different story, I’ll be avoiding that state at all costs in the future).

The point is, there is a hell of a lot of cool stuff accessible from Chicago within a day’s drive. I never really thought about how central Chicago was in relation to, oh, our country. I’ve found that a lot of people from Chicago are very well traveled (yes, I was surprised) and know their way around. Not to say that Californians aren’t well traveled, but when you drive 12 hours through California, you’re not getting a whole lot of historical perspective on how the nation was formed. No one is reenacting battle scenes in Fresno, CA. You’re not seeing museums that are dedicated to former presidents’ birthplaces along I-5 traveling through Oregon. Yes, you might see big-foot, but you’re not going to be able to stop in a town square in BFE Nebraska and read the history of the Pony Express.

That being said, I still love my trips in CA, there is nothing like them. In California, the scenery is always changing, there are mountains, oceans, flat lands, forests, rivers, cities, valleys. When you leave Chicago, you’re driving across what is basically stretches of road that are as flat as a pool table and straight as the rows of corn you’re driving past in Iowa. It can be mind numbing. Speaking of mind numbing, that brings me to my next point: Indiana.

I realize it may make some people upset, but Indiana is officially my least favorite state of the 20 states I have visited. I understand why the girls who I used to work with at Costanoa up and left with no jobs and landed as far west as their Pontiac Sunfire would take them. Quick recap of the state from what I saw (which was almost all of it, as I drove from one end all the way to the other): Flat. Grey. Bad roads. I got stared at when I walked into a McDonalds for breakfast. Not really sure if it was because I had color in my skin, or because I had all my teeth, but it got very awkward very quickly and I didn’t stay long (Did stay long enough for the girl who took my order to mistake my name as Rose, cause that makes sense, and then be totally surprised when she called out Rose and I came to get it. Hello, you JUST took my order, wipe that look off your face please, kthxbi). On the way back home from Atlanta, I stopped for dinner on sunday night, at Burger King (yes, I eat very poorly on road trips) and walked in on a restaurant full of families fresh from a full day of church and dressed in their finest poly-cotton blend, who all stopped eating and stared when I walked in. WTF dude, seriously!? What is with the staring? I’ve never been so uncomfortable someplace probably ever. And yes, I’m lumping the ENTIRE state into that category, and yes, it may be bad, but that’s how I feel. I mean, I felt more at home in the middle of Mormon country in Utah.

My entire road trip wasn’t like that. Chicago to Atlanta was actually quite pleasant for the most part (except Indiana). I didn’t realize that Kentucky and Tennessee were so picturesque and mountainous. Sweeping views of rivers, valleys, lakes, the whole shebang. It was pretty awesome. I got a lot of photos from my car, while I sped along. I was in a time crunch after all. I did stop for gas in Kentucky, where I came across a Rastafarian bubba with dreads who sold me 5-hour energy. Um…yeah, that was interesting, quite nice and was chatting up a storm with the other locals with fresh mud on their trucks.

So while I don’t feel the need to do that drive anytime again soon. I do feel the need to spend more time in some of the areas I drove through. Great cities, music, bourbon trail, horse racing, corvette museum, national parks, there is SO MUCH (and yes, being from the west coast, I had no idea, I figured it was all fields and banjos). Little did I know.

I’m finding I know less and less than I thought I did. Ugh, so hard to be a smart ass all the time when you feel generally dumb because your impressions of a place were totally wrong from the start. Ugh, I hate being wrong, but love learning, which is why I love road trips!

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