Big Trip Epilogue

When we returned home from our grand journey, we were pretty impressed with ourselves for actually keeping up with this web journal thing during the trip. We only missed a couple updates and never had any significant trouble connecting to the Internet, even in the tiniest towns. We even managed to write updates on the days we were sick! We were sure, then, that we would finish up our epilogue and get it online within a couple days. Ha! Eight months later, we are finally adding this last chapter. We could make up excuses about taking the time to gain additional perspective, but the reality is we both just fell back into our normal lives and forgot about the epilogue (though not the trip itself!). We still feel this is worth writing though, so here it is at long last.

Miles 8098
Days 29
Average Miles per Day 279
Travel Days 19
Average Miles per Travel Day 426
States 29
Canadian Provinces 1
Car Problems 0 (!)
Horrible Illnesses 2 (1 each)
Geographical Centers Visited 2
Pictures Taken 973

This was an incredible trip. An entire month on the road, with no itinerary to stick to and only a general plan of where to go. We were very lucky to have the opportunity to take a trip like this. In the future we will go out of our way to make this sort of thing possible again. So, what did we learn?

One month wasn’t long enough.

We had hoped to take the whole trip at a leisurely pace, making detours regularly and staying off the beaten track. It didn’t take long for us to realize we would quickly run out of time and we quickened our pace after only a few days. We still enjoyed it tremendously, but it would have been nice to take twice as long (or alternately see half as much of the country). The corollary to this is…

The USA is big.

Five hours on a coast-to-coast flight at 35,000 feet doesn’t give you the slightest idea just how much beautiful country you’re passing over.

Seattle isn’t like the rest of the country.

Our first morning back in Seattle, we had breakfast at one of our favorite places, Atlas Foods. It was an interesting contrast to the Farmhouse Restaurant we’d eaten in the day before in Idaho. Atlas doesn’t have a smoking section (except in the bar), serves strong and tasty Caffe Vita coffee (with a full selection of espresso beverages), and has things like yogurt parfait and vegetarian hash on the menu. The Farmhouse doesn’t really have a non-smoking section, serves rather bland coffee, and has nothing parfait-like or vegetarian on the menu.

Small town America isn’t what it used to be.

We wrote several times about the changing face of small town America, but it really deserves another mention. Throughout the country, it seems many small towns are dealing with a transition much like the one larger cities went through decades ago: downtown is dying. Downtown businesses are being put out of business by big chain stores located on the outskirts of town. Finding unique local stores and restaurants is increasingly difficult because even the locals are eating at McDonald’s and shopping at Wal-Mart. More disturbing, the smallest towns (like Holbrook) are in danger of disappearing entirely.

The West is best.

We haven’t spent much time back East since we moved out here from Maine five years ago. And, while there are definitely things about the East we miss (autumn in New England, fireflies, real winter with snow, the greater sense of history), we love living in the West enough to give up those things. We may not have everything here in Seattle, but a two hour drive can give you an autumn day or real winter with snow. We may not have fireflies, but we don’t have mosquitoes either. And, the sense of history isn’t as strong out here, but there seems to be more acceptance of change, more adaptation to the new.

So, let’s take a look at some of the bests and worsts of our trip:

Best Worst
Meal Street & Company
Portland, ME
Ontario, Canada
Coffee Peets
Chicago, IL
Anonymous truck stop
Somewhere in Montana
Traffic The West Chicago
Drivers Montana Rhode Island
Lodging Kalispell Grand Hotel
Kalispell, MT
Days Inn
Atlantic City, NJ
Scenery Glacier National Park New Jersey
(near NYC)

So, would we do it again? In a second. When? Well, time will tell. We’d love to do something similar by plane. We would be able to see a lot more of the country in the same amount of time and have a unique perspective to boot! That’s not to say we don’t want to do it again by car. Perhaps it’s an adventure we’ll undertake with our kid(s).

Today’s Photos: