Big U.S. Road Trip 1994

And here I promised myself to not bother with this one. But it WAS a pretty good-sized trip (five months in all). Plus, I'm anal (short of anal-retentive, but let's stay away from THAT imagery. Oops - too late.). So sue me. In any event, I'll only outline and highlight. That should keep this only knee-high in the golf claps, although my writings should be required reading at any university of repute. Speaking of which...

In 1994 I had just finished an ill-advised (by my ego) Master's Degree at the College of William & Mary. Even though I knew I had lost all steam in the subject matter almost a year before it was over, I completed the thing. It was the last straw in a succession of questionable aspirations, each fulfilled without my owning them. But I nevertheless followed on through. Yes, pathetic. Too late. If anything, my longheld suspicion, that the vast majority of advanced degrees - perhaps 99% - were done for ego far more than intellectual curiousity, was now cemented. Guilty. Now what?

Road trip! Besides, I needed somewhere new to live. Tiny Williamsburg, VA, didn't strike me as the longterm place to be, and I'd long had a desire to try living out on the West Coast. Before blowing town, too, I already had effectively narrowed the possibilities down to two, Seattle and San Diego. Both put me (essentially) on the Pacific, but with polar opposite personalities. This trip would help to flesh out that competition while taking a looksee along the way. I hoped to pass through many places of note which I had never checked out before. Maybe some other town would even join the list.

All told, my count of states never visited would reduce to about a dozen by the end of the trip. [The number is now down to exactly 8 in 2009, a countdown of erratic rate based on waxing and waning interest.] By car, my middle-aged Hotel Hotel, I'd head through a large collection of known and virgin states (to me). Simultaneously I'd hunt down the random family member, old friend, friend of a friend, or natural park/attraction. The upshot of the mess, in the end, was that five months later I would find myself again in Virginia... and moving to Seattle.

The route went (roughly) like this: Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Hawaii, Washington (again), British Columbia, Washington (again), Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado (again), New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia (again, now pulling a trailer), West Virginia (again), Ohio (again), Indiana (again), Illinois (again), Iowa, South Dakota, Montana (again), Idaho (again), Washington (again). That's a lot of states. And one province. Someone had to do it. Apparently that someone was me.

On my way through StateFest 1994 I managed to take in the following cities of interest (or not, depending on point of view), in order: Detroit (where I grew up nearby for several years), Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Fe, New Orleans (again), Tallahassee (went to FSU), and Tampa (where I lived after FSU and before W&M).

Similarly, I made a survey of national parks: Estes, Yellowstone, Mt. Rainier, Olympics, Crater Lake, Redwood, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Ozark. Beyond those were numerous state, county, and city parks I've lost track of. Add to those the odd "monument": Mt. Rushmore (where I foolished braked to a stop on a steep hill, then pulling a loaded trailer with my Honda moving to Seattle), Devil's Tower (where I did a 3-point turnaround with my trailer on a washed out mountain road), the (St. Louis) Arch (where a crow strafed and attacked me making my way to it), Lake Powell Resevoir (where nothing miraculously happened), and Mt. St. Helens (which, too, decided to stay quiet for the moment). I spare you the gory details.

While in Seattle I did a short side trip, too, back to Hawai'i. I grew up there, too, for several years straddling the end of the 60's and beginning of the 70's. Some things felt oddly familiar (the feel of the sand and shore of Bellows Beach, for example), some were completely new (like knowing where the hell I was, having left at the august age of six). It helped that my eldest sister had moved back many years prior to the visit; she lived on an idyllic compound in the country near Waimanalo on Oahu. The Big Island and Molokai briefly figured in the mix, too. For all this I got to remember that Hawaii was still a beautiful place, and I was still a haole as far as the locals were concerned. Perhaps most strangely interesting was finding a handful of "flower power" stickers still stuck to our old mailbox. Not bad for 25 years or so, even if the mailbox was completely buried within a bush I had no memory of.

Back on the mainland, my list of cities for future residence never grew, but San Diego pushed itself out of the running just about the time that I realized that it was VERY similar to Tampa, Florida. I had just lived in Tampa for three years; I wasn't interested in bookending my time in Williamsburg with a repeat offence. Seattle would be a new thing altogether, plus my sister lived there - why not give THAT a try? Moreover, I would have an easy time finding work. Before even starting on the trip, I had determined that that would be making video games. Indeed, I had to do SOMETHING creative with that newly minted master's of computer science degree - outside of lining a birdcage with it.

Speaking of which, lining birdcages is perhaps what should be done with this little writeup if it were actually possible. Who could possibly be interested in the above outside of friends and family? Good question. To this, however, I have one word. PICTURES! Everyone likes PICTURES. So stay tuned for me to scan and post them here some distant day. They'll come with captions, too - to which I promise content far more interesting than the crap you just read through. Meanwhile, try reading about my other trips - to THOSE I promise you FAR more entertainment value than this sorry excuse of a travelogue. Now off with you.

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