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TRAVEL STORY: Mighty Big! Crossing the US of A…

Travel Story: Mighty Big! Crossing the US of A…

 

Everyone knows the United States is a BIG country, but there’s no way to actually understand what that means until you take a road trip across the States.  I recently did just that when I drove from Pennsylvania to Florida with my brother. Having just returned to the States for Xmas from SE Asia, where I’ve been traveling for mostof 12 years, and where countries are pretty small, driving across the USA was simply astounding. I couldn’t believe the extent of the vast,open, never-ending land we rolled past. Fifteen hours of it.  And just think: we were covering only one small section of the country.


TRAVEL STORY- USA

Me on road trip to Florida with my brother
TRAVEL STORY-USA- W Virginia- Red River Gorge
Heading off on our road trip
In total, we drove approximately 1070miles / 1725 km and passed through 8 states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, W. Virginia, Virginia, N. Carolina, S. Carolina, Georgia and Florida.We set out at 10 am on Dec. 29th and arrivedin St. Petersburg, Florida the following day at 3 pm, making the total time 29 hours. That consisted of 20 hours on the road (counting stops to eat, get gas, and stretch) and 15 hours of driving time. We moved from Pa winter temps of 20F  / -6.6C (COLD) and snow-covered pine trees down to Florida temps of 70F / 21C with sunny skies and palm trees, all in one country, in 2 days.
TRAVEL STORY- icicles- pa- usa

 

When we left Pa., the outside temp was 23F / -5C. COLD. Icicles hungoff the porch, snow covered the the ground, and bare trees lined the fields. I’d arrived in Pa. one week earlier. Temps had been the same every day. It was so cold  that I’d only managed to force myself outside once- for a walk with my dad and his dog. I’d intended to go out and exercise, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Happily,  the house was very warm inside.

TRAVEL STORY-Lash at Christmas- USA

 

We set out on the rolling snowy hillsof Pa. heading south. After 2 hours, before even reaching the stateborder, I announced, “Ok, that’s it, a 2-hour drive. We would have crossed the entire island of Bali, north to south, by now!” In fact, I was quite under-estimating. At our driving speed, we would have already crossed Bali one hour ago. Instead wewere barely getting started on our trip. Two hours finished, 18 to go.

TRAVEL STORY- USA

 

Surprisingly, the snow and cold persisted for more than half our trip. The good thing was that we passed  beautiful scenery of snow-clad trees and icicle-covered cliffs. In W. Virginia we enjoyed a scenic stop at the famous Red River Gorge to take photos of the beautifully engineered bridge that spans the gorge. That day it was decked out in deep, fluffy snow.

TRAVEL STORY- USA- W Virginia- REd River Gorge
We stopped for gas several times, of course, and I was repeatedly astounded at the huge convenience stores, particularly the sheer amount of junk food: aisles and aisles of candy, chocolate, chewing gum, potato chips, beef jerky, sodas,cakes, cookies, sweet snacks, and more. Not only was the vast amount ofjunk surprising, but the huge SIZES of them all. I took a few photos of giant-sized candy bars. That made the staff quite nervous. What was I up to? Yeah, I was probably setting up to rob the place. Sadly, robbery is stores have to worryabout in the States.  I managed to alleviate their concern, and avoid possible arrest, by explaining that I was a travel writer doing a story.
TRAVEL STORY- USA- convenience storeTRAVEL STORY- USA- convenience store
We carried on, driving mostly at 70 mph / 113 kph, which is literally not possible in most SE Asian countries. For instance, in Bali, where most roads are narrow, over-crowded, twisting, and climbing up and down, the average road speed in most places is only 30-40 kph / 25mph. In Malaysia and Thailand, on bigger cross-country highways, it is possible to drive 80-110 kmp / 50- 65 mph, but on regular roads the normal speed is 60-80 kmp / 37- 50 mph.
If we had driven SE Asian speeds on our US trip, or if we’d planned a trip this long in SE Asia, it would’ve taken us 43 hours of driving time, a full week of driving. Not only were we traveling a very very long distance, we were driving  much faster than we could have in the countries I’m accustomed to.
 TRAVEL STORY- USA- Georgia trees

 

As we continued through Virgina, N. Carolina, and S. Carolina, the snow eventually fading away but the temps.  improved just slightly. At 11pm we found a typical highway motel where we quickly crashed.  Although we were in S. Carolina, one of America’s southern states, it was only 32F / 0C. Ouch.

TRAVEL STORY- USA- Georgia trees
Next morning we set out before 8am. It was still just 34F / 1C, but it gradually warmed up through the day. It didn’t really seem so cold because of an absence of snow and the presence of sub-tropical vegetation. Within an hour we crossed into Georgia. I knew we’d hit ‘The South’ when I finally spied one of my favorite trees, which I’ve dubbed ‘TheGeorgia Tree’. They are big trees dripping with heavy moss. I’d first seen them as a kid on a family road trip to Florida and had been immediately smitten. Driving through Georgia with my brother, I began seeing palm trees, mangroves, other sub-tropical vegetation as well as sandy soil.
By midday, the temp.climbed to 70 F / 21 C with a hot, piercing sun. Yeah, heat. Even that temperature  was still cool for me. I’d become accustomed to 85-95 F / 30-33 C temps day in and day out. What’s more, my body LIKES those temps. But, hey, I wasn’t going to complain about 70 F after being house-bound in 20 F / -6.6 C temps for a week.
TRAVEL STORY- USA- Georgia trees
southern pine, orange tree, palms.

Finally we reached my brother’s place in St Pete around 3 pm. Mission accomplished. We settled in to get ready for New Year’s Eve festivities and to help my mom move into her new house down in Florida.

QUESTIONS:

Have you ever driven across the USA?

If so, from where to where? How long did it take?

What were your impressions?  Please share your adventures!

You might also like reading my other impressions of the USA during this trip:

American Culture Shock  /  The Flip Side of Culture Shock  /  I Go Sky Diving!  /

cheers, Lash

2 comments

  1. Suzy

    I don't think enough U.S. travelers take advantage of the US enough. While I love traveling abroad, there is so much to see in this big country, including the king sized candy bars.

  2. LASH

    Yeah, I think the US has amazing national parks and natural scenery. US Cities are also cool. Personally, I can skip the junk food, though :)

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