19 States in 22 Days

Original Post: July 17, 2015

The original plan was 22 states in 22 days, but who’s counting?  

I have wanted to travel cross-country for almost as long as I can remember.  I began formulating an actual “road plan” when I was 18 and had I done it the summer I turned 19 as I’d originally planned, gas would have been a mere $0.88 a gallon instead of the $2.70 – $4.20 a gallon it was this summer.  But hindsight is always 20/20.  On the upside,  digital photography didn’t exist back then which means — I would have spent more money on film in 1998 than I spent on fuel a few weeks ago.  I guess it all has a way of evening out.

Part of the reason for my longing to embark on this crazy road trip had to do with my love of photography.  I love just about all photography, but there’s a special place in my heart for landscape photography.  Though there is an art to nature that cannot possibly be experienced aside from being immersed directly within it, good landscape photography is a close second.  Where else can you experience the immensity of the El Capitan or appreciate the subtly changing light as the sun rises over the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon?

Not a day goes by where I don’t view a scene on my way to or from work and frame it out exactly as I’d shoot it in the camera of my mind.  Rarely do I have an actual camera in hand.  So to plan a trip that was entirely based on my desire to photograph the country was akin to planning a trip to heaven.

“Are you insane?” I heard numerous times from different friends and family members.  “Do you know how many hours you’ll be sitting in a car…just…driving??”

Yes, in fact.  I did.  135 according to my Excel spreadsheet.  (Yes, Excel.  You didn’t think you could plan a trip like this in three weeks time without a little bit of planning, did you?) 

Generally speaking, people had one of two reactions when I showed them my spreadsheet.  I either got a breathless “Wow! I’m so impressed,” or the dubious eyebrow raise with a “Better you than me.”  

I realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.  In fact, even my husband doubted the wisdom of so much driving in so little time. When would we have time to do anything or see anything?  Would we hate each other after so many hours with no other company?  I was convinced we’d either end up spiritually bonded on a new level…or divorced.  Only time would tell.  “Plus,” I’d told him, “the entire schedule is able to be changed at any time.  It’s OUR time and we can do whatever we want with it!  If we decide to scrap a campground and lose $20, it’s not the end of the world.”  Little did I know how soon I’d have to eat my words.

So when the big day was just about here, I was more than a little crushed when the remnants of a hurricane were moving through Texas and into the midwest, scheduled to hit Lexington, Kentucky, just as we were supposed to be setting up our first campsite.  This was NOT the way things were supposed to go.  I wasn’t supposed to have to change plans on the very first night!  When I drew up the schedule, I figured we’d probably end up sleeping in our car at least one night.  I just never bet on it being the very first one.

“We can’t very well set up a tent in an already flooded campground,” I told Nate the day before we were to leave.  I sighed and resigned myself to the fact that whether I liked it or not, my very outlook on the trip was being challenged by forces greater than I.  

At 10 pm the night before we would leave, we scrapped Kentucky and made plans to head to Ohio, staying well north of the majority of the storm, and visiting Nate’s family on our way westward.  Despite the visit, I wanted to pout.  It didn’t feel like day one of a monumental vacation.  It felt like we were going where we’d already gone a dozen times before.  For this day at least, I felt like a nine year old who wanted nothing more than to sulk at the fact that’d I’be been served pistachio ice cream when I’d ordered mint chocolate chip.  Still green?  Yes.  But not the same.

But, like all things, this too shall pass.  And it did.  I could live with the fact that we wouldn’t be visiting Maryland (been there), West Virginia (seen it), or Kentucky (haven’t seen it, but I’ve done Tennessee and isn’t that close enough?).  By day two, we were ready to catch up and get back on schedule.  But that’s a post for another day!

Yep, that’s a year’s worth of planning.  If anyone knew how many hours in the car I was going to sit, it was me.