After having moved to New York/New Jersey for my career at NBC following my time in the US Air Force, I was able to get the opportunity to then move to Los Angeles while still working for NBC. Even better, Larry was up for moving with me! We ended up driving across the country via a southerly route as it WAS the middle of the winter and driving I-70 or I-80 at that time sounded pretty horrible.
Of course I took a ton of pictures during this voyage in Larry’s newly-acquired used Toyota Prius, as while it’s always fun to explore new parts of the country, we also managed to visit each of our dads on the way out. All things considered, it was a pretty great roadtrip, and better yet, we didn’t kill each other!
Legs of the Journey
- Moving Day
- Ft. Lee, NJ to Frederick, MD
- Frederick, MD to Columbia, SC
- Columbia, SC to Biloxi, MS
- Biloxi, MS to Castroville, TX
- Castroville, TX to Van Horn, TX
- Van Horn, TX to Phoenix, AZ
- Phoenix, AZ to Duarte, CA
December 28, 2010 – Moving Day
I’m a wreck during a move. Even if it’s all paid for and such, I get so stressed out about the entire process, whether it’s the packing of the boxes, the moving of the boxes, where the movers have to park the truck, how they have to move the stuff there, who’s watching the stuff, thinking about how much stuff I have and feeling guilty, UGH – so much stress. And that’s just the first half of things! (you know what though? my stress is seriously lower after this first half; the receipt of goods and unpacking is so much easier in my mind) During this move, it was going to be a 2-day move, with the first day being the packing of boxes and the second one the loading of boxes into the truck. Mother Nature, being the bitch that she is, decided otherwise though and dumped a giant amount of snow into NYC on that first day. Because of that, traffic was halted and the moving truck couldn’t get in, so we lost a day. That next day was a LONG day then as they got there first thing and were packing and schlepping into the truck all day, and then we had to get Larry’s stuff at his storage unit. SOOOO LONG OF A DAY. Even writing about it in July 2014 gives me anxiety.
December 29, 2010 – Ft Lee, NJ to Frederick, MD
We spent that evening over in Fort Lee with Larry’s mom as we no longer had a place to live in or stay within the city. It was also nice to have a comfortable place to start our journey from. After saying goodbye to Fran and Joel, our immediate next stop was down in Hoboken, where we had a chance to have breakfast with Larry’s sister Alyssa. After that though, it was time to head out, taking I-95 out of the state. Before we could, we hit a HORRENDOUS traffic jam right after the last NJ toll booth in which 25 toll lanes try to merge into 2 lanes, but that day, one of those lanes had an accident in it. It was awful. We persevered and eventually got through Delaware and then into Maryland, where our destination was to where Larry’s father lived, in Frederick, MD. This was my first real chance to interact with him and it was a good time, especially as we also got to play with his father’s many dogs. I remember having to take some allergy medicine to survive though.
December 30, 2010 – Frederick, MD to Columbia, SC
This was one of our big drives of the journey. It’s also one of the most boring stretches of highway there is, as it’s a lot of beautiful green and lush countryside, but damn, there’s absolutely nothing out there. After we said our goodbyes to Larry’s dad, we headed back towards 95, skirting Washington, DC, and then doing the long slog through Virginia and North Carolina. Even when we got to South Carolina, there was still a long ways to go along the highway from I-95 to Columbia, and by this time, it was dark. I remember when we got into Columbia, the city felt deserted. There was almost no one out, but I’m sure that it was due to the fact that it was cold as hell outside and a rainstorm was coming this way. We really did feel that we were racing against the weather at this point.
December 31, 2010 (New Year’s Eve!) – Columbia, SC to Biloxi, MS
And now our wonderful trek through the American South. At least it was along pretty decent corridors, as Atlanta is pretty decent as is Montgomery. I’ve got two longish periods of time from the AF spent in Montgomery, but it was so strange to notice how different it felt than the last time I was there. It’s been REALLY developed since 2004, which was my last real period of substantial time there for SOS. The drive from Montgomery to Biloxi though turned into kind of a nightmare, as the promised rainstorms found us something fierce. There were hellacious periods of rain when you couldn’t even see through the windshield it was that thick with water. Kinda stressful. We did manage to make it to Mobile and pull off the road for a little bit, just to de-stress and get gas. At that point, the rain actually stopped – thankfully as that was when it was pretty dark.
It was also New Year’s Eve, and it was a good thing that we had booked ahead. I remember I had tried to get a room at one of the casinos there, but that was a no-go. Ended up getting a room at the Hampton Inn, but I’m pretty sure it’s on the site of the old Ramada Limited I had stayed in for my first month of BCOT back in 1999. Of course that particular structure didn’t survive Katrina, so this is a new hotel. After relaxing a bit, we “celebrated” our NYE by going to the Beau Rivage for some dinner. I marveled a bit more at how much different Biloxi looked too – so many of the casinos I knew were gone due to Katrina. Beau Rivage looked familiar but it definitely had received a lot of work to reopen. We then wandered over to the Hard Rock Casino to see if there’d be anything to do, but it ended up just being every redneck out with his woman enjoying the night. So safe to say, it wasn’t our cup of tea. We made it back to the hotel around 11:30 or so, figured it was NYE on the East Coast, and called it a night. It had been a long day.
January 1, 2011 (Happy New Year!) – Biloxi, MS to Castroville, TX
Ah, 2011 – I remember thee well. I think it was nice that we went to sleep before NYE hit the Central Time Zone as it had been exhausting, and what was even more fun was that when we departed Biloxi, it was raining and foggy. Yay! This was probably the longest segment of the journey (I think I keep saying that?) as not only were we leaving Mississippi, we were crossing all of Louisiana and half of the great state of Texas. A LOT of ground to cover. I think after BCOT when returning to San Antonio, I stopped in Lake Charles because I had no ambition to cross that much distance on my own. It does help to have shifts to make it.
The drive ended up being fairly easy though, as once we got out of Mississippi, the weather cleared up. Stopped for gas at a Louisiana rest stop that was all sorts of crazy, having a casino attached to it as well as a knife shop. Why’d you ever want to leave? At the end of the day’s journey was my dad and Pat – and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Were they going to have us stay in an inflatable dinghy out in the rain? A tent? But no, they actually got us a really nice hotel room which was much appreciated. It was also so nice to see them again after not having seen them since leaving Colorado. Haven’t seen them since though, so wow to that, I guess.
January 2, 2011 – Castroville, TX to Van Horn, TX
Here’s where I thought it would be fun to have an adventure. 🙂 First, we had a very nice breakfast with Dad and Pat and the pups – a typical Texican breakfast and it was delicious. Had to say goodbye though and head out on the road, which is where I was thinking, let’s not be boring and take the I-10….let’s take 90! That way we’ll get to see the distant vistas and eerie emptiness of a state that you find in the beginning of a horrific Stephen King novel. My dad warned that it probably wasn’t the best idea, but I was undeterred. It would be fun. And you know what, even though I’m writing this as if it all went to shit, nothing terrible happened. In fact, it was a pretty awesome way to go and see parts of the state that you definitely wouldn’t from I-10.
It was just the idea of what might happen to you if your car broke down while out there. Because THAT was frightening. So we took Route 90 west from Castroville, putting you right on the fairly decently-traveled route between San Antonio and Del Rio, which is where Laughlin AFB is. That wasn’t a big deal and fairly innocuous. It was when you kept going on 90 though when things got a little creepy. At one point, we passed a completely empty and deserted ghost-town. At that same point, I looked at the cell phone signal and saw that there was absolutely no signal available. Holy shit. When we stopped at a “rest stop” just to pee off the side of the road, I asked Larry to leave the car running. There was no way in hell I wanted to take that chance. After a certain point of desolation, it was like, let’s not press our luck much more – so we headed back from 90 to I-10 at the next possible point, which took us to Fort Stockton. It also took us to a delicious and beautiful McDonald’s right off the highway! Best food ever at that point.
After getting back on I-10, it was time to finish our leg and head to Van Horn, TX, a city I had also stopped in long ago on my way to BCOT in 1999. It looked fairly the same, but this time, I didn’t just grab fast food like back then. After we checked in to our comfortable Holiday Inn Express room, we went to a pretty cool restaurant, the Hotel El Capitan, with a great art deco theme. Decent food too, and surprisingly expensive if I remember correctly. Surprising because it’s freakin’ Van Horn! Regardless, it was nice to just make it nearly out of Texas without a terrible story.
January 3, 2011 – Van Horn, TX to Phoenix, AZ
Another pretty desolate drive, to be honest. It’s a slog especially through New Mexico and southern Arizona as there is almost nothing from the time you leave El Paso until you get near Tucson. It’s a long, bleak drive. When we finally arrive at our pretty swanky hotel in Phoenix, it was like a breath of fresh hipster air. The restaurant we ate at wasn’t crowded at all but it just felt like civilization again.
And Finally, We Reach our Destination!
January 4, 2011 – Phoenix, AZ to Duarte, CA
This drive was positively easy – a mere 350 miles or so. The desert crossing was nothing, we stopped in Indio for some much-deserved In-N-Out for lunch, then got to Duarte in the afternoon where Mom and Harv were waiting for us!
It was a fun drive to do with Larry and I was impressed neither of us tried to kill the other. Also impressed that his Toyota Prius was a total champ the entire time, with there never being a hint of a problem at all. After that drive though, I’d have to say I may have had my fill of cross-country drives. Unless it’s about moving, count me as one who definitely appreciates the efficient transport method of air travel!