After I skied the Rockies, I dropped down to Santa Monica, the end point of Route 66. Although it was the turning point of my ski trip out of Houston, in effect it was the start of my last great trip around the USA. From Santa Monica I followed Route 66 for at least half of its path through the USA, turning South at Amarillo for Houston. After a few days in Houston I then drove East through the Dirty South, taking in New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, Plains, Savannah, Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Ocean City before finishing my adventure back in New Jersey.
Along the way I dipped my toes in the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and had some awesome experiences along the 4000 mile trip. Truly an adventure from sea to shining sea.
What were the highlights? After several road trips to get to visit specific places or do specific activities, this was a more relaxed trip in terms of goals, if not in terms of schedule. I would have liked to have spent more time in California and Arizona, but I don't think a longer stopover would have informed me more about what makes the USA what it is. Throughout my travels, certain insights got re-inforced, but my curiosity on this road trip was largely about the Southern experience. I decided the "must do" activity would be to visit Plains, Georgia, the small town where a peanut farmer came from who would became President of the USA. Quite apart from having something of the quality of a pilgrimage, it also allowed me cut right through the rural South on the byways that no through traffic would use. Plains is in the middle of nowhere, it doesn't even have a motel.
Talking of motels, I had throughout my trips planned each evening where I would end up the following evening, and what I would do along the way. With one eye on the overall schedule I needed to stick to, my only other consideration would be the cost of the next stopover. Generally I aimed for cheap motels that hadn't acquired a reputation on bookings.com for being a fleapit. I had a couple of nights in places that a location manager would have liked for filming "Psycho III", but on the whole had no problems with the places I stayed. A lot were tired and needed some investment, but were convenient, cheap and clean. The big chains tended to provide the most consistent experience, but invariably lacked character. I also stayed in a few hotels which - since I was travelling during low season - were often very affordable. This was particularly true on this road trip, hence overnight stops in Biloxi, Myrtle Beach and Ocean City, places which in high season would have been expensive.
One of the more agonising choices around where to stay was deciding how much road time I was prepared to tolerate. I had to cover a lot of ground, but I didn't want to miss out on things I had prioritised, or to forgo an unexpected gem because of the schedule. I generally got up early and aimed to find my lodging before it got dark. I eschewed freeways as much as possible, but sometimes they enabled me to cover a lot of ground or were the only practical way to get from A to B. In the less populated areas, regular state highways were often as fast as interstate highways, albeit sometimes stretching the speed limits a little. If I had a day on rural roads with lots of small towns along the way and lots of historic interest I might cover less than a hundred miles in a day. That would certainly be true of sections of the original Route 66. In contrast, on the big point-to-point journeys, I would often cover in excess of five hundred miles in a day. Those long journeys weren't as boring as you might imagine unless they went through densely populated areas, in fact there was something cathartic about them, the sense of movement. And for sure it guaranteed a good night's sleep.