US Road Trip: Numbers

Below are some interesting and/or fun facts about our trip

  • Route:

  • Total Miles driven: 10,035.6 miles (16.150,7 km)
  • Number of days: 46
  • Average mileage per day: 218.17 (351.11 km)
  • Longest days of driving: #46 – 960 miles (1545 km) – 16 hours
  • Average Gas consumption: 24.5 mpg (9.60L / 100)
  • Total number of gallons consumed: ~409.62 (~1550.58L)
  • Max speed driven: ~145mph (~233km/h) – On a dry, flat, empty road in Texas
  • Car issues and maintenance to deal with:
    • Flat tire in Knoxville TN
    • Dead headlight in Mammoth Lake CA
    • Wobbling wheel between 45 and 60mph in Salt Lake City UT, due to front tires being in very bad shape.
    • Oil change in Salt Lake City UT
  • Number of states visited: 24
    • NJ, PA, WV, VA, TN, GA, AL, MS, LA, TX, NM, AZ, NV, CA, ID, MT, WY, UT, CO, KS, MI, IL, IN, OH
  • Longest stay in a single town: Las vegas – 8 nights
  • Number of hotels: 34
  • Earliest checkout time: 9am – Pony Express Jackson WY
  • Latest checkout time: 3pm – Venetian Las Vegas NV
  • Number of pictures taken: 4,000+
  • Number of sprained knees: 1 due to ATV incident
  • Things we were happy to have with us:
    • Large storage boxes and smaller bags (Most of our clothes where in large plastic bin in the trunk, and we were only carrying small bags to our hotel rooms)
    • A big car – We were (I was) thinking of getting a convertible. It would have been very nice on some section of our trip, but overall, the comfort and space of our car was a huge plus.
    • A Canon lens: 70-200 F2.8L II IS – Purchased in Las Vegas. It’s fantastic.
    • PDANet – Allowed me to tether my 3G connection for accessing the web with laptop and ipads.
    • A place for everything – After a few unpacking / packing session, we became very good at it. It would take us maybe 2 minutes to pack everything and move on with our trip. This was mostly thanks to knowing where to put things in our bags. Also it prevented us from losing anything.
  • Things we wish we had with us / wish we had done:
    • Altimeter – Although I discovered later on that my car had one albeit not convenient to use
    • AAA subscription – Would have saved us some money on hotels.
    • Binoculars
    • An RV – Seeing those people parking on the side of the road on top of a mountain and spending the night there.
    • Running some kind of project associated to our trip. e.g. take a thematic series of pictures, visiting specific restaurants, etc.
    • A stronger zoom – My 70-200mm was nice, but a 100-400 would have been really nice for those wildlife shots
    • A wide lens – I would have liked to be able to shoot wider than 17mm – e.g. 10mm. Would have made panorama and other landscape shots more interesting.


US Road Trip Day 46: Home at last

This is going to be a quick post. I am home as of yesterday night 11pm, which was day 46, and the last day of our amazing trip.

After staying in Moab, I drove through the Arches National Park – It was nice, but not mindblowing. I then went to the Rocky National Monument. It was great. The drive up the main road goes as high as 12,000 feet (3700m). I saw ton of wildlife.

Eventually I drove to Kansas (It was really, really flat) all the way to St Louis MO where I stayed at my friend J.’s for the weekend. He toured me through the city and surroundings. Life is nice and mellow there. I left on Monday at 7:30am local time. I initially was planning on taking a break, but made it home at 11pm after driving nearly 1,000 miles in the day. V. was not expecting me – She thought I was in Chicago.

So here I am in my office. Looking back at the trip as a whole – What I liked, what I disliked. The amount of work I’m going to have to do to triage pictures. The unpacking that I still need to take care of. I highly recommend such a trip. On one hand, the country is beautiful. Most people know that, of course, but packaging all those sights in a single trip made it all the more impactful. Deserts or mountain ranges, hot or cold, big city or nothingness this country has it all. On the other hand, an extended disconnection from home of close to 7 weeks – Which I had never done – put things in perspective. It makes you appreciate what you have home, and it makes you understand what you need and really want. Sure, it doesn’t really compare to backpacking 18 months in south america or biking through asia for 8 months – But if anything, it creates a hunger for that sort of trip, for something else than the day to day, the standard, the socially expected.

I will be posting some stats / facts about our trip later today.

You own so that you are, and then you throw

The products we buy. The TV we watch. The friendships we maintain. All are fake. things are temporary. We exchange them. We upgrade. We consume.

George Orwell was not too far off. Individuality, creativity and overall intelligence have been anesthetized. But: This did not happen as the byproduct of a totalitarian regime attempting to control the people. It was instead the evolution of the modern consumption model which has created this monster of possession, status-based addiction. The difference: When people are oppressed against their will, they long for their days of freedom. They silently prepare for the inevitable fight. The “modern” society in which we live might be in a sense governed by Apple, Sony and Coca-Cola, but there is no evil being to blame. Consumption happens in our free will. Corporations are giving us what we want (Or what we thing we want): A fast pace TV show with plenty of silicone and shocking acts, or a redneck and fat family from Georgia with a vocabulary made of one hundred words (Please, please watch an episode of Honey Boo Boo). A phone that does a little bit more than my neighbor’s. A restaurant with a menu, a décor and staff members designed in a lab. We have become addicted to those things. Some of us might think “Yes I can totally see how people do that. But I shop at WholeFoods and I read books” – I would argue that everyone of us is part of that system. Once in a while people boycott Nike because they employ minors, or don’t go to a specific restaurant because the owner is a jackass. All this is still playing the game. It empowers people, giving them the feeling that they are controlling something. We the people. But they are not. They are only buying Reebok instead of Nike.

Because it’s a societal phenomenon, there is no one to blame. We chose our own destiny. People might wake up and say “Crap I don’t want that crap. Where is the reality in all of this?”. So they’ll start wearing fair trade products and drink organic coffee.
Because there is no one to blame, the “revolution” cannot happen. The only thing that can happen is for individuals to understand what they really want, instead of trying to resolve their first world problems. Once we have this understanding, we can look at the world around us and decide whether or not this is for us. We can take the conscious decision of enrolling or not, in line with our values and what we stand for.

US Road Trip Day 42: Hotel Related Encounters

Las Vegas, around 8:30pm on a weeknight. Another of those warm, overwhelming evenings. Probably he saw me as I was getting inside the bank – I was there to get some cash. His whole speech seemed rehearsed, yet sincere. Weird. I was shoving my wallet in my backpocket, walking back to my car, when this 50-something years old man approached me. Mustache. Overweight. Wife-beater. Visibly tired. “Sorry to bother you sir but I am looking to put together nineteen dollars and ninety nine cents for a hotel room for my family and I. Anything will help sir. I don’t usually do that and my family is in my truck if you want to meet them. We just want to have a night of good sleep”.

Salt Lake City, around 4pm on a Thursday. I am in line to check-in in our extended stay hotel (=There is a kitchenette in the room), but it’s taking some time as a toothless lady is chatting with the clerk. “Can you believe they were charging $2 laundry. It’s free here right?”. The clerk answers that it is. This lady is visibly very chatty, and keep going at it as I grow a bit impatient. The clerk too, is visibly annoyed. The husband, because there is one, is also missing teeth, taking care of their small white dog. He seems to have a bad leg. The toothless lady continues “Someone parked on the handicap spot. They don’t have a tag. I hate people like that”. Eventually she is done talking. My turn. It takes about 50 seconds for me to get my key. “Thank you very much”. As I walk back to my car to get my bags, I see the couple driving their van closer to the other door, on the side of the hotel. Also the one I will use. Their van is old and rusty, the engine is skipping. They park. I park, not far from them. As the lady opens the side door of the van, I see their life, right there. Everything they own, everything they are, is in this van. Probably they go from hotels to hotels. They lost their home. Their benefit don’t cover rent anymore. Any scenario works, really.

Salt Lake City, same hotel, as I’m loading our car the day after. Another lady is doing same. She is loading boxes of documents, clothing, etc. into a very old Acura. Some windows are missing and have been taped over. The rust has made its way through the body of the car. The lady seems and looks very sad. She is chain smoking. She looks at me, at my car without showing any specific expression but sadness. I say hello. She nods.

Torrey, in utah. A very small town. I park my car by my hotel, after a mediocre dinner. A very tanned man with distinctive leathery looking skin approaches me. His clothes, his heavy backpack are dusty. “Do you know how much it is?” he says. I answer as I open the hotel front door. “$59.99 I think but you should ask her”, pointing to the receptionist. I see him doing so as I climb the stairs to get back to my room. I see him shrugging, I see him leaving, and I know he won’t be sleeping in a bed tonight.

US Road Trip Day 41: Wildlife pictures

I am in Moab, Utah. The Super 8 is pretty nice. It’s clean, modern and functional. I am by myself. V. flew back a few days ago.

I had to spend a few extra days in Salt Lake City to take care of another car issue. After blowing up a tire in TN and killing a headlight in CA, the car started vibrating a lot between 45mp and 60mph when we left Yellowstone. It was pretty bad. I looked this up on the web and it seems that many things could have explained this. Tires, wheels, bushings, control arms, etc.
I took the cars to PepBoys. They looked into it and showed me my front tires: Dead. You could see the metal frame thing. I knew they were old and that I would have to replace them soon, but not quite yet. I couldn’t see that the tires were damaged because the bad part was toward the inside of the car. According to them, the reason for the tires to be in this shape was that the control arms were moving when breaking, and rubbing against the tires. Since it was a Sunday and they didn’t have the part, they asked me to come back the day after. They couldn’t tell me how much it would cost. I had them replace the tires, and went across the street to Firestone “Listen those guys are telling me my control arms are dead. Can you check?” A “Suspension check” would have cost $99 so the guy suggested that I do an alignment for $89, since part of their procedure is to check the control arms. I made sure the mechanic was well aware of my concerns, and when I talked to him, he said something like “Your control arms are fine. It’s normal form BMW’s to move in that way. Usually control arms need replacement at around 140,000 miles. Probably you hit a rock or a pothole which damaged the tire”.

So I left SLC and have visited the Capitol Reef National Park / Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Did some hiking, one of which was really nice, the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail. I took tons of pictures but this will be for another post. Today I wanted to post wildlife pictures I took over the past few weeks. No treatment or effect beside some cropping. (You want to click on the picture to see the larger version. Click while pressing the ctrl key to open in new tab).

Bison, Yellowstone
Bisons, Yellowstone
Some Bird, Dauphin Island
Chipmunk, Yosemite
Mule Deer, Yosemite
Mule Deer, Yosemite
Raven, Yosemite
Mule Deer, Yellowstone
Bisons, Yellowstone
Mountain Goats, Beartooth
Pronghorn “Antelope”, Yellowsonte
Elk, Yellowstone
Young Elk, Yellowstone
Elk Herd, Yellowstone

Today I will checkout Arches National Park, and later will be driving to CO.

US Road Trip Day 36: Yellowstone

We are in Utah after two incredible days spent in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone National Park combines an interesting terrain with a great array of wildlife. I took so many pictures that I managed to fill up the memory card on my camera (that’s over a thousand pictures). It’s going to take me a while to sort through them.

We saw Bisons, Mule Deers, Elks, and more. We drove from Yellowstone State Park to Red Lodge MT through the Beartooth Highway which was sumptuous and a must do if you ever make it to Yellowstone. We drove it from 5pm to around 8pm, stopping by a mountain lake to see the sun set down. At around 11000 feet (3.3km), as we seemed to be the only people driving through that passage, we saw some mountain sheeps from the corner of our eyes. I stopped the car on the side of the road and went on a small hike / climb. It was very windy and running after mountain sheeps on a cliff ain’t easy. I took some shots but nothing super exciting.

Below are some iPhone pictures – I’ll try to upload some I took soon.

Hot Spring
Hot Spring
Hot Spring
Hot Spring
Hot Spring
Hot Spring
Hot Spring
Hot Spring
Hot Spring
They have a schedule for Geysers! Old Faithful (video below) is the most famous of them all, it gets a bit crowded around blowup time

These stink bad bad bad.
Smelly and colorful
Waterfall. Apparently this is well-known.
Resting bison. This one was alone, the first one we saw. We were all excited. Eventually we saw herds of them so it was less of a thing.
What a magnificent beast.
Posting all those pictures makes me hungry for a nice bison burger. Is that wrong?
Baby burgers

Good night

We are staying in Park City, UT tonight. This afternoon we went on a drive on one of those puppies. It was fun. I even managed to bring it back on my own this time.

US Road Trip Day 33: Craters of the moon

Today we drove from Twin Falls WY to West Yellowstone MT, going through the Craters of the Moon National Monument. It was an interesting visit of a very eerie place. It reminded me of the White Sands National Monument which we visited a few weeks ago: In the middle of nowhere, a geological landscape that seems completely out of place. Interestingly, some of the lava erupted only 2000 years ago – Which seems pretty recent.

Laaaaavvvaaaaaaa moooouuunnntaiiinnn
Laaaaavvvaaaaaaa treeeeeeee
Laaaaavvvaaaaaaa crraacks

Here is our path so far. It is approximate as we drove 6093.4 miles so far (That’s 9806.38 km).

We are both very excited about visiting Yellowstone tomorrow. We are in Montana tonight, and only have seen a glimpse of it, but it’s beautiful.

US Road Trip Day 32: Mono, Tahoe, Reno, Idaho

Grouping a bunch of pictures together in this post. As I am typing this, we are in Twin Falls ID, recovering from a Mongolian BBQ grill place. Idaho is very white and pretty cheap. People are nice. At this point we have driven 5600 miles (9000 km) since we left NJ.

Mono Lake is in danger – The water level has been going down for years. An outcome of that is that some interesting geological structures that would normally be under water are out in the air.

Mono Lake

From Yosemite we drove to Carson City, back in Nevada again. From there we were able to drive around the Lake Tahoe. It’s beautiful there. A bit crowded to my taste (In terms of tourists but also in terms of the urbanization around the lake), but nonetheless quite a sight.

A random beach on the lake Tahoe. Not sure if it’s gold, but it surely looked like it
Lake Tahoe – Beautiful water
A bunch of rocks in water. The water actually is horizontal in real life. I am just too lazy to rotate the picture right now

We drove a bit to Reno where we stayed at the Circus Circus casino. Gambling in Reno does not seem to be as hardcore as it is in Las Vegas, but people still go there in mass to lose money. V. and I frivolously put $20 on roulette table and experienced the highs of gambling when one of our number hit (My birthdate … that was our strategy which says a lot on our abilities and love of gambling). We were up $16 at some point. We saved our initial $20 before giving those $16 back to the casino. What a rush!
Before that we went to a Food Truck Friday: An outdoor plaza, a dozen food truck and a mediocre band. The food actually was pretty good.

Food Truck Festival Friday Festival Truck
The view from our hotel room. Not bad.

The drive to Twin Falls was pretty boring today, and we lost one hour – Idaho observing Mountain Time.

Mongolian BBQ in Twin Falls ID

Tomorrow we will check out the Crater of the moons, another park, and sleep on the edge of Yellowstone.

Every time I say, type or hear “Idaho”, this is pretty much what pops in my mind:

A potato.

US Road Trip Day 31: Yosemite and Bear Encounter

From Mammoth Lake we made our way to Yosemite, where we spent two days driving from vista point to vista point. Yosemite is young and grand. Several time I felt like a giant dinosaur was about to show around the corner – Even mentioned Jurassic Park to V.
My favorite spot was Olmsted Point from which the view is fantastic. Similarly than for the Grand Canyon though, we know we will have to come back for longer hikes and other adventures. Two days certainly isn’t enough to see all of it.
We saw a lot of animals – Chipmunks, squarrols and various birds where everywhere. Deers were not too afraid, and we could approach them as close as 10 feet away. I caught some nice pictures. On one of the many short hikes that we did over the two days, I sat down on a large stone by the trail to look up the trail map on my iphone. It was terribly slow and the website would not load. For some reason I looked back at the trail in front of us and about 30 feet away were an adult bear and a cub, looking straight at me. They were apparently walking on the trail we were about to take. All I could say was “sh*t. Bears.” as I stood up and pulled V. away from there. The bears went off trail and we were able to walk alongside them for a few minutes. I took some pictures but they are not that great. I didn’t have my new fancy lens with me, and it was too bad because it would have really helped.
Anyway. Below are some pictures.

Map of Yosemite
Entry to Yosemite via Lee Vining
Giant Rock
Tilted picture or tilted Nico?
Lembert Dome
Soda Spring
Lembert Dome again
The only way to hike – Hardcore hiking
View from Olmstedt Point. Magnificient
Tunnel View
View from Glacier Point
Did my best speeding
When you see it …

US Road Trip Day 29: From Fake to Real

Our destination after Las Vegas was Yosemite, and being that this past weekend was Labor Day weekend, all hotels were very expensive there. So we decided to stay a few extra days in Vegas, where there are a lot more hotel rooms to chose from. All in all we spent 8 nights in 5 different Las Vegas hotels. The last of it was the Venetian. I used points to reserve a nice suite. It was nice to try it out but it’s not my thing. We don’t spend enough time in our room to justify having three TVs, a dining table, a corner sofa and a fax machine. The view was nice though.

The largest gift shop in the world is in Las Vegas
The view from our room at the Venetian.
This was not my idea
Fake gondola ride on a fake river with a fake italian in a mall. This happens at the Venetian. People line up for this. It was very romantic not.

We left Vegas on Monday the third and drove through a very fun road, CA-168. Below is a video. Yes, another video of us driving.

We arrived in Mammoth Lake in the evening. Our hotel was not great – Probably one of the worst so far. But wifi was available at no charge so I couldn’t complain. We had diner in some local bar with flat beer on tap. Yummy.
We made our way to the gondola ride that would take us to Mammoth Mountain (Yes, another gondola ride. This time it was my idea though). It gave us a nice perspective of the area.

Our ride.
Another ride.
Looking South. Or North. Not sure.
I couldn’t take a step without almost fainting.
It was cold.
Contemplating life and other important questions.
Rocks. Water. Sky.

I’d love to tell you more about Yosemite which we started exploring yesterday, but I have to go for more Hardcore Hiking (TM). Tomorrow!