I thought I’d look at the Montreal skyline from the Turcot interchange, or in my mirror while crossing the Champlain Bridge. I thought I’d set the odometer before leaving to measure the total distance. I thought I’d drive away with a highway song playing and have a mix ready for the long road trip to New Hampshire and the Left Coast. I’d thought I’d be leaving with the sun rising. I thought…
It doesn’t really matter. In the end, I finished packing my car in a hurry. Without even having fully emptied my place, I slipped the keys in the janitor’s mailbox and split like a thief. I pulled out of the parking lot, got on Décarie, merged on the 15 southbound, sped away and that was it.
I forgot to look back at the skyline, forgot to set the odometer, forgot to put a song on and didn’t even go to New Hampshire. I crossed into New York after answering a few extra questions to an intrigued border officer and made it to a sleepy village of Keene, under a starlit sky. Just like that, a chapter had ended and a new one had started to unfold.
A cross-country road trip had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Driving from coast to coast, seeing the landscape change from forest to plains to prairies to forest again, and ending it somewhere on the Pacific. The road trip was on, and it would be from sea to shining sea.
On Saturday morning, I said my farewells. My friends went off on their hike and I set off on what I hoped would be an epic journey through what some like to call the land of the free. I wouldn’t actually start on the Atlantic, but I made it close to Providence, which was good enough for me.
After hitting the high points of Connecticut and Rhode Island, I bought a box to put on my car’s roof in Hartford because I was picking up a friend in South Dakota and he wouldn’t be able to sit as it was. Even with the box, I had to play a bit of Tetris – minus the music – to have enough room to sleep, but it worked out.
Then it was back to New York and on to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, crossing the Appalachians along the way. Looking at a satellite map of that mountainous area shows the interesting work the glaciers did. Driving through it was pretty cool, and long too, as the roads zigzag their way through the mountains. I eventually made it into Ohio, and all of a sudden, everything was flat. I wouldn’t see anything resembling a mountain for a few thousand kilometers.
Ohio started rather industrial, but quickly turned to fields, lots of ‘em. Not sure what was growing, but the fields were everywhere. They were even more everywhere in Indiana, if that was possible. I also almost got in an accident in Indianapolis when someone signaled I could get out of a parking lot and cross a lane. I’d think twice before trusting someone in traffic again, but it wouldn’t be an issue for a long time as Indy was the last major city I’d see until Seattle.
Then it was more fields in Illinois and Iowa, where they even had soil moisture forecasts on the radio. Driving through the Great Plains was long and felt endless. There were fields as far as the eye could see, and when I’d get on top of a hill and could see farther: still, nothing but lush green fields.
After the high point of Iowa, I drove off, and noticed what looked like a free campground. It was too early to stop, but I wouldn’t mind a hot shower. I turned around and what’d’ya know, it had a real shower! I really liked Iowa.
What I found fascinating about the Plains was the sky. It felt it was larger than I’d ever seen it. Maybe it was the wind, maybe it was the clouds. And the sunsets… They were a treat. I’ve never seen sunsets that intense. I always like watching them – who doesn’t –, but now I found myself chasing them on rural back roads, sometimes followed by the local farm watch. I’ll remember the Plains by its skies.
And then, as I’d only find out the next morning, I’d left the land of the crop.
Coming up next: Crossing the Missouri and the Dakotas, South and North