My husband, Cameron, and I are halfway through our military PCS move from Rhode Island to Hawaii. Sitting in California, we are literally at the midway point between the two locations.
In April our belongings were packed up and crated away. A week later we began a meandering trip with our dog, Gus, in our 2005 Kia Sportage across the country. We spent time with family in Virginia and Tennessee, meandering through Dollywood at the latter. We visited Cameron’s alma mater, The Citadel, and I fell in love with Charleston, South Carolina (especially the food).
Me at our “fancy” dinner in Charleston:
This was my first trans-continental drive, and I honestly was not looking forward to it. I’m not good on long car rides. I tend to whine after 10 minutes. So my husband and I equipped ourselves with snacks, sodas, audiobooks, and a neck pillow to fortify against boredom and discomfort. For the most part, this worked, although my bladder required frequent breaks.
Along the way we spent time in 20 states. Our route had to change more than once due to spring storms, but we made it into CA by our planned arrival date. Most of the states were new to me. I made many observations along the way. The most poignant observations are recounted below:
Drivers in New England will stop to let pedestrians in, but will never change speed to help you merge. Drivers in the South will always let cars into their lane, but never stop for pedestrians. Drivers in New Jersey can go to Hell.
The Northeast tries to trap you in with tolls. You want to leave the airport? Toll. You want to go across a bridge in either direction? Toll. You want to drive anywhere in New Jersey? Tolls everywhere. It cost around $50 just to get from Rhode Island to Virginia, and that was all done in one day.
In New Jersey, Missouri and Colorado, I saw signs in public restrooms warning women not to drink booze while pregnant. My favorite was one that proclaimed: “you never drink alone… when you’re pregnant.” That was at a Chili’s. In Nevada, the public restroom implored users to report human trafficking.
Kansas may very well be the most desolate and boring place on earth. I now understand why Oz was so appealing.
We got snowed in just before Idaho Springs in the Colorado Rockies. It must have been cosmic retribution for happily exclaiming “NO MORE SNOW!” as I skipped into the car on the way out of Rhode Island.
Our hotel patio after a night of snow:
In Salt Lake City, we stayed at an airport hotel on the outskirts of town. In our room there were two books in the nightstand: The Holy Bible, and The Teachings of The Buddha. The Buddha was on top.
Everything doubles as a casino in Nevada. I bet there are churches with slot machines. We stopped for gas twice and both gas stations had slot machines. I lost a total of 75 cents while waiting for Cameron to pick out what snacks and beverages he wanted.
California really is the prettiest state, and the best part of the drive. After driving through the dark side of the moon (AKA Nevada), the mountains and trees along the California border are heavenly. Everything feels like it’s going to be ok, even at Donner Lake.
I thought after living in California and Rhode Island, I had a pretty good idea of what the country is like. I’d lived in two extremes and I assumed everything else was not just physically, but culturally in the middle. I was wrong. There are similarities, but every location had its own vibe. The culture changes from state to state, and in some cases, so does the language. I heard Gullah spoken for the first time, and learned while in Tennessee and Nevada that there are incomprehensible accents outside of Boston.
Kansas aside, it’s a beautiful and vast land. We’re headed to Hawaii, and I’m sure that will be another cultural adventure. I may have loathed the idea of being on the road for over a week, but I’m glad I got the experience. I wonder what I’ll see next time we make the journey.