The Big Trip


On Monday, August 8, I leave Seattle to return to Raleigh. By car. Yes, you heard correctly. These last couple years, I've increasingly romanticized the idea of driving across country. Such as riding the entire length of I-40, from Wilmington, NC to Barstow, CA. Or renting a car in New York and driving to LA. Or vice-versa. The opportunity materialized this spring, while planning a week's vacation in Seattle. (To see and stay with a friend formerly from Durham, NC.) Instead of using the rest of my roundtrip, frequent-flier purchased ticket, I'd drive back. All 3000-something miles, via rental car, which I figured wouldn't cost that much. Wrong. The first estimate, in May, was $500. (Mid-sized car with unlimited mileage from Seattle-Tacoma airport to Raleigh-Durham International.) I was stunned by the half-grand price, but figured I could always find lower. So I procrastinated and didn't resume the process until late June, when I discovered the truth behind the travel industry's "earlier the better" axiom. The earlier estimate had doubled, except at National, which quoted $680. And which I booked.

By this point in the planning process, I'd also started researching "drive-away" companies. These are firms, both local and national, that transport cars from Point A to Point B. Maybe a car belonging to someone who has relocated. Maybe a fleet vehicle going from one corporate office to another. Maybe a dealer shifting stock. Earlier in June, I did some Web searching on "drive-away" and "auto transporting." Didn't have much success. Tried again in July and, again, no dice. Finally, less than a week before leaving for Seattle, I stumbled upon A-1 Auto Movers in Renton. (Nearby town, maybe ten minutes away.) Their terms and conditions, which I learned after one phone call, include: over 21, valid driver's license, non-smoker, three valid references, and a $300 cash deposit. None of their cars, however, needing taking to Raleigh. The cities that were available included Augusta, GA, and Gaithersburg, MD, both of which are only five hours from Raleigh. And for a guy who would already have 50 hours of driving under his belt, this was a no-brainer. Take the car, save the $700, spend like a sailor while on traveling, and return to Raleigh in a rental car. Or on a train. Or on a plane.

After arriving in Seattle on Monday, submitting an application in person at the firm, and having said application accepted, I learned that the Augusta-mobile was out. And that Gaithersburg, MD, had changed to Alexandria. Virginia. The place for lovers. And, conveniently, not terribly far off the "beaten path" I had been planning. (Drivers are allotted the exact mileage, plus 500. Anything over costs 25 cents per.) Revisiting the maps, I charted a final course from Seattle to Salt Lake to Denver to St. Louis to Indianapolis to Louisville to Lexington to Charleston to Washington. (Alexandria is right outside DC.) I also re-checked the attractions along the way, making sure I'd marked Historic 28th Street in Ogden (UT), Temple Square in Salt Lake City (UT), Arches Park outside Crescent Junction (UT), The Eisenhower Tunnel fire department in Colorado, Red Rocks in Denver (CO), The Denver Fire and Children's museums, a toy museum in Kansas City (MO), Die-cast Direct (!) in Frankfurt (KY), and a railroad bridge outside Lexington (KY). Plus whatever else I saw. Plus social calls, to see a cousin in Provo (UT), a classmate in Denver, and a former co-worker in Columbus (IN).

With one to day to go, nearly every preparation has been made. For the car-- a Saturn station wagon (!)-- I brought my pink fuzzy dice from Raleigh. And purchased a sunshade in town. I'll buy film now and groceries later. (Another drive-away restriction: no eating in the car.) I'll also pack the 20+ rolls of film already shot and send them on ahead. (Expected cost: $75 at Sam's; $3.79 per roll for four-inch double prints.) Money orders have been acquired as well as cash for the Big Drive big deposit. (The firm mails a money order to the vehicle owner. I contact the latter 24 hours ahead of delivery and arrange an exchange. They give the money; I turn over the keys.) Triple-A has been visited, twice, for maps, tour books, and a revised (five times, now!) Trip-Tik. I've printed every piece of advice and suggested place to see, as submitted by friends and family members. (Thank you Bonnie, Brian, Kelly, Mary, Sharon, Sybil, Cousins Chris and Kathi, and anyone else I forgot to mention.) I even brought extra luggage, for additional "containment" space. (Not that I won't be passing a bevy of Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target stores, mind you.) And so, if everything goes as planned on Monday, I should be somewhere in Oregon at this time on Tuesday. Stay tuned.

Final Itinerary

Please note that these are intended plans, based on 320 miles of daylight-only driving per day. Route changes are possible, but not likely. ('Cept for those western wildfires, which are gonna be awfully tempting...) Mileage changes may happen, however, depending if I'm crossing a state with lots versus little to see. Or if a social call runs late. Or if a rest-stop nap goes long. Etc. Whatever happens, I'll be in touch with those I'm visiting. For everyone else, just watch this space. I plan to post daily updates where possible, provided my muse doesn't take a vacation. And, of course, provided a phone line is available...




Day 1

  • Seattle, WA to Ellensburg, WA (I-90)
  • Ellensburg, WA to Hermiston, OR (I-82)
  • Hermiston, OR to La Grande, OR (I-84)

Day 2

  • La Grande, OR to Boise, ID (I-84)
  • Boise, ID to Twin Falls, ID (I-84)
  • Twin Falls, ID to Burley, ID (I-84)

Day 3

  • Burley, ID to Ogden, UT (I-84)
  • Ogden, UT to Salt Lake City, UT (I-15)
  • Salt Lake City, UT to Provo, UT (I-15)
  • Provo, UT to Cove Fort, UT (I-15)

Day 4

  • Cove Fort, UT to Grand Junction, CO (I-70)
  • Grand Junction, CO to Rifle, CO (I-70)

Day 5

  • Rifle, CO to Denver, CO (I-70)
  • Denver, CO to Burlington, CO (I-70)

Day 6

  • Burlington, CO to Colby, KS (I-70)
  • Colby, KS to Salina, KS (I-70)
  • Salina, KS to Wamego, KS (I-70)

Day 7

  • Wamego, KS to Kansas City, MO (I-70)
  • Kansas City, MO to St. Louis, MO (I-70)

Day 8

  • St. Louis, MO to Terre Haute, IN (I-70)
  • Terre Haute, IN to Indianapolis, IN (I-70)
  • Indianapolis, IN to Columbus, IN (I-65)
  • Columbus, IN to Louisville, KY (I-65)

Day 9

  • Louisville, KY to Lexington, KY (I-64)
  • Lexington, KY to Charleston, WV (I-64)
  • Charleston, WV to Weston, WV (I-79)

Day 10

  • Weston, WV to Morgantown, WV (I-79)
  • Morgantown, WV to Hagerstown, MD (I-68)
  • Hagerstown, MD to Alexandria, VA (I-70, I-270, I-295)

Copyright 2000 Michael J. Legeros


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