Travel Thoughts

Rand McNally Large Print Road Atlas
Road Atlas- a good back-up to GPS.
The past two weeks I drove from the heartland of America to an Eastern Seaboard state. And back. So, I plan to share some of my travel thoughts now that I am once again ensconced in cold winter weather. My trip to Florida was to celebrate a family milestone and to deliver some canned goods, a quilt and other items.

Airlines don’t particularly like canned liquids as carry-on items. Shipping overland can work for the food items if they are processed correctly, but I just don’t trust anybody to deliver my quilts. I consider them works of love as well as art. A bonus this trip was returning with two very old quilts from my mom’s side of the family. Both need some TLC. (Tender Loving Care)

The Southern Route

Travelling thousands of miles across country by car during winter requires flexibility for me. I dislike driving in snow and am finally wise enough not to drive on ice. (Age does have benefits, and experience is one of them.) Thus, a February trip dictated a southern route.

There are multiple paths to cross the country when the Sunshine State is the destination. Much of the time I opt for a 45 degree angle. The tangent cuts out some of the mileage. But the first of my travel thoughts was to reach the deep south as quickly as possible. This took me via Interstate 10, a route I had not traveled in many years.

This highway runs from Jacksonville, Florida to Santa Monica, California. While I have not traversed the far western parts, I am very familiar with the Eastern half. But, I did forget just how much of that is bridges and causeways. Unless you have a fear of heights or driving across long expanses of water, this is a pleasant drive in good weather. However heavy rain can create a negative experience.

The second of my travel thoughts revolved around Travel Safety issues. Since I was travelling alone, I wanted to stop each night before dark. This meant dividing the drive as equally as possible. I tend to drive at the speed limit so the complete drive takes about 26 hours, give or take an hour. This equidistant concern meant by-passing relatives and staying in hotels. During the summer, the longer days allow me to drive longer and further. Thus, no need for the equal legs.

Flexibility

The key component of the winter trip is flexibility. While I did have a specific date to celebrate, my arrival and departure around that date was flexible. Since I consult weather maps and forecasts on a regular basis, I knew just what sources to use.
My favorite Internet site for both radar maps and written forecasts belongs to the National Weather Service. Their warnings are accurate. The site is a secure one, which I value.

Also, I routinely visit the transportation sites of various states to keep updated on road conditions. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation website is a treasure because it offers links to the surrounding states. This was very helpful as I traveled across that state. It offered great flexibility in planning my route returning home as a series of winter storms rolled across the country.

People

One of the key joys in travelling across the country are the people. I tend to stay in smaller towns and stop for fuel in these locales as well. Of course, size is relative. But each night spent on the road was in a town with a population under 20,000. Clerks young and old offer good tips. Favorite restaurants are always discussed. Furthermore, the clerks are cognizant of road conditions.

Many of the places I passed through have doubled or tripled in size since I was young. Their small town feel and charm is beginning to disappear. However, towns on the high plains look like they are losing population. Other small towns in the deep south are also struggling with retaining residents. A location on an interstate does not guarantee economic growth.

The cities are bigger and busier. Fortunately, one of my travel thoughts was to pass through the large cities on weekends and holidays. The one instance where that was not possible, flexibility allowed me to pass through at a non-rush hour time. In my opinion, the drivers in the cities were more stressed and not as courteous. But, my small town bias may be clouding my judgement.

Interstate Travel

I tend to favor travelling on good state highways and U.S. highways as opposed to the Interstate. I made the exception this time. Driving in the winter can be iffy and I wanted four lane divided roads. One of the interesting aspects of the drive was the placement of hotels by the big chains.

Another, was the rise of super convenience stores. I stopped at a Buc-ee’s along Interstate 10 and was amazed at the sheer size. Dozens of fuel pumps and the inside looked like a Cracker Barrel on steroids, just no tables to sit at. Lots of food choices all freshly prepared before you. Goods from fishing to kitchen to beach. I could have shopped for an hour.

Final Travel Thoughts

Before I travel across this great nation again, I need to buy a good quality digital camera, or upgrade my five-year old phone. Of course, I also need to somehow think as a photographer. Many missed opportunities along the way.

Travelling across the country reminds me of the diversity of this nation. In one locale I was in the minority, in others a majority. But most places I was among a very mixed population. I stayed within my comfort level. For the most part this meant keeping my introvert traits. Not striking up any deep conversations. Maintaining pleasantries and only asking pertinent questions.

Playing it safe.

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