Epic Road Trip 2011: The Long Haul

Epic Road Trip 2011: The Long Haul

This is part 3 in a series about my Epic Road Trip 2011.  If you have not yet seen the teaser, or read the background behind my love for the open road, then now would be a good time to get caught up.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

All done? Up to speed?  Good.  Let’s do this.

Friday, March 4th

We are go for EPIC Roadtrip 2011! @justinhamlin, Rusty (the dog), and me on the road for 3400 miles over 8 days. Stay tuned! #EpicRoadie2011

The time has come.  I have been in California for 3 days now, taking care of some contract work and cramming in as much time with California friends as possible before heading back towards my new home.  The morning is filled with last minute packing lists, getting caught up on emails and things that need immediate attention.  The trip begins at 2:00pm when I head out for Santa Fe Springs to pick up Mike.

It is hard to believe that I have not been in this house, or slept in this bed in a month.  February 2nd was our last day in California before heading for New York.

One last goodbye to Juliet’s mom and brother.  One last goodbye to our home for the past 2 years.  One last photo.  Toss Rusty in the truck, it’s time to hit the road.

One last goodbye

The quick jaunt up the California highway to pick up Mike at his office in Santa Fe Springs is uneventful, as it should be.  After a few goodbye’s and farewell’s at his office, it was time to head towards Arizona.  320 miles of Friday traffic leaving Southern California lay in front of us.

Ready to roll

3:00pm, we embark on the first leg of #epicroadie2011 (the epic hashtag that Mike created for the trip) and the first leg of the long haul section of the trip. (*It looks like Twitter’s search function does not go back far enough to search on the hashtag, so I will be embedding some tweets into the posts) Thankfully, we come prepared with plenty of music on 1 iPod, 1 Zune and XM radio in the truck.

Oh, and we have 3 batches of these puppies.

Granola Bar Goodness

Mike made 2 batches before we left and his mom surprised us with another batch.   These granola bars have become a staple of every road trip we have taken.

Oh yeah, back to the road trip…

We’re not 50 miles into the trip, while sitting in traffic, Rusty makes it well known what we we’re in for.  It actually becomes a common occurrence for us to look back and hear Rusty snoring away in the back seat.  Needless to say, he was is comfortable.

His other pose

The next 5 hours of the drive is spent discussing various details of the trip, from departure times, drive times, distances, as well as reaping the benefits of XM radio in the truck, listening to our Anaheim Ducks beat the Dallas Stars in overtime.

We pull into my home in Kingman, Arizona, where my grandparents live, around 10:30pm MST.  We spend the better part of an hour talking with them about the trip before crashing for the night.  Saturday’s destination is El Paso, Tx.  We have ground to cover.

Saturday, March 5th

After a good night’s rest, a nice hot shower, we are able to catch up a little more with my grandparents about our trip, the route and how far we were looking to make it on Saturday.

Showing Grandma the route

All packed up and ready to go, it is just like Willy said, on the road again!

Saying goodbye
Kingman AZ, check. Next stop, El Paso, TX. Or, you know, gas or food somewhere in between here and there. #epicroadie2011
Justin Hamlin

Down the road we head, East on I-40 to Rt-93 and south to meet up with I-10 to head across the south of Arizona, New Mexico and into Texas.  What seems to be an innocuous drive turned quite eventful and sad, as we come across the south side of Wickenburg, AZ, we see what looks to be a downed motorcyclist, covered with a coroner’s white sheet and nothing but his boots sticking out the bottom.

On the road trip checklist, we can check off FATALITY. #epicroadie2011
Justin Hamlin

A sad moment, as less than 24 hours into the trip, we weren’t ready for that.

Shortly after, we pass through Phoenix.

Phoenix skyline

Next on the list is Tempe, AZ, where the Anaheim Angels (I REFUSE to call them the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) have Spring Training

Angels Training Camp

We stop for lunch in Mesa, AZ at a little sub-sandwich place off I-10.  Actually, amazing food.  Go check it out if you are around the area.

Lunch in Chandler, AZ, back on the road. Got some highway calling our names. #epicroadie2011
Justin Hamlin

A little past the Tempe/Chandler, AZ area, we run across Firebird International Raceway.  The only reason that I got such a clear shot was because traffic came to a complete stop, right at the racetrack.

Firebird Raceway

Why, you might ask?  Because of this

Race cars less than 50 yards off I-10

Yup.  People stopped on the interstate to watch a road race.  Well, in actuality, I can think of worse reasons to stop on the interstate, so I guess I will let this one slide.

Free and easy down the road we go, another 100 miles off the trip, another Twitter hashtag is born.  #PearlsOfWisdom will become our hashtag for the amazing quotes that can only come out of 2 guys, 1 dog and tons of open road.  The first one is a moment of glorious insight, complements of Mike.

You heard it here first. I now know what I am buying Mike for his birthday.  I wish I could offer more insight on this one, but this is a dedicated Mike-ism.

We continue on I-10, stopping east of Tucson to gas up the beast, snap a few photos, and back on the road.

This, too, was a common sight
My kinda place!

Back on the road around 3:15pm, we have an entire state to get across, and we still have not made it to the border yet!

"Free-range desert cattle. Definitely not happy, California cows." #PearlsOfWisdom #EpicRoadie2011 @justinhamlin

More wisdom from the road ensues.  My take on the free range cattle that occupy the desert east of Tucson, AZ.  Definitely must be what these guys are referring to.  I mean, they are not from California, this must be why.  I would much rather live in California than Arizona, if I was a cow, that is.

New Mexico on the horizon.

I felt welcome
Running from the sunset

New Mexico is a blur, and before we knew it, we come into Texas.

Funny how we're driving down the interstate, and just across the river, I'm looking into a third world country...literally. #EpicRoadie2011

This is one of the more surreal portions of the drive for us.  If anyone has not been on I-10 between Las Cruces, NM and El Paso, TX, I recommend doing the drive at night, it gives a very distinct picture of the difference that exists within those few hundred yards.

To paint the picture, on I-10, 10-15 miles inside the Texas border, there are steep hills/mountains to the north/northeast, and to the south/southwest, about 50 yards off the highway was El Rio Grande, and past that, Juarex, Mexico.  Up against the hills in El Paso are strip malls, fast food restaurants, hospitals, colleges and all the luxuries of western civilization.  150 yards to the right, is a 3rd world county.  During the day, and even at night, it Juarez looks like a shanty town, pretty much straight out of from a movie.

As we pull into our hotel for the night and get settled, we realize that we could see Juarez about 2 miles off in the distance.

Juarez, Mexico

Definitely brings some things into perspective, sitting no more than a few miles away from a poverty stricken country that is currently in the midst of a drug war that rivals only that of Nicaragua in the 1990’s.

After 11 hours and almost 650 miles on the road, we get some rest and prepare for another long day of driving.  The Great State of Texas is in our future.

Sunday, March 6th

Leaving El Paso, going to make San Antonio by the end of the day, possibly Houston if we are making good time. #EpicRoadie2011
We sang Willie Nelson every morning.

Now the meaning of the term “Long Haul” is starting to give us its meaning.  1000 miles in 2 days and an ambitious goal of 750 for Sunday.  Away from the hotel, gas and go, Interstate 10, here we come.

Not 100 miles east of El Paso, we c0me across a U.S. Border Patrol Checkpoint.

Border checkpoint in Texas.

Yes, we have our citizenship questioned.   Yes, I know it is standard protocol, but it literally takes all of our restraint not to ask the nice Border Patrol Agent if California residents counted as U.S. Citizens.

Oh, and Rusty is called a “killer dog” – Yup, this Rusty:

He's a killer alright.

Sunday is definitely proving to be the longest day of the trip, with a desolate landscape surrounding us, it does not lend itself much to photos or wonderful insight.  We stop to stretch our legs somewhere along I-10 in the middle of Texas (don’t ask me where, it was some random rest-stop, didn’t even have bathrooms).

3 Weary road warriors

About the only thing memorable on this stretch of road was that for the previous 24 hours, from Phoenix through Texas, we have been playing leapfrog with a group of travelers in one giant caravan.  The odd thing that set this group apart was there are around 8 primary cars, all with license plates from different states.  I say 8 primary cars because the primary cars all are either towing or carrying another car. (not quite sure if they are functional or not) The vehicles in tow all have the words “IN TOW” written in duct tape across the back of the vehicles. Most all of the towed/carried vehicles are Toyota pickup trucks, circa 1985, and all are loaded down with stuff.

Two of 8 in the caravan

We finally pass them for good somewhere west of San Antonio, Texas.

With the completely long, boring drive across Texas, the conservative goal of San Antonio for the night is quickly approaching and we decide, as we pass through, that we can make Houston by 8:30pm.  Onward we go.

San Antonio Skyline

Another quick stop for gas in Luling, TX, a few quick photos, and back to I-10 we go.

Scenic photos outside a gas station

Only 145 miles left to Houston, sun setting behind us left us nothing to do but cover some ground.  Our fun comes from trying to figure out the origin of town names across the south.  This started in Texas, right about…. wait for it…. here.

Coming into a town named "Flatonia" - looking for the over/under on the amount of hills in town. Any takers? #epicroadie2011
Justin Hamlin

These are the gems that start coming after 10 hours in the car in one day.

Today has gone pretty smooth, so far.  After the last pit stop, I hop on the computer and begin searching around for a hotel outside of Houston, as per a recommendation from a friend.  Since we have Rusty, we try and stick to places that are pet friendly, just in case we cannot sneak him in.  I find a Candlewood Suites in Katy, TX that looks promising and after a phone call to verify they are both pet friendly, as well as have a room with 2 queen beds (a queen bed and pull out couch), I book the room online.

That’s where the fun begins.

Upon arrival, we get checked in, credit card swiped, good to go to head to our room when the hotel clerk decides to tell us that the room she just checked us into only has 1 bed and she has absolutely no rooms with 2 beds.  As Mike stays inside to threaten the lady’s mother, father, first born and dog, I step outside and start calling neighboring hotels, where I thankfully find a Homewood Suites by Hilton a few miles up the road with some open rooms.  10 minutes later we were in the nice, clean room with 2 queen beds and NO HASSLES.

Note to self, stick with Hilton and Marriott.

So far I think that I'm not a huge fan of Houston, but it'll do for the night after driving over 700 miles today. #EpicRoadie2011

Before crashing for the night, we step out and fing a diner for dinner, as it is about the only non-fast food place open in Houston after 9pm.  Cheddar’s it is.  Mediocre food, okay pricing, cold beer.  The last part being the most important.  It is over dinner that another startling revelation comes to light, courtesy of Mike, again:

You know you have too many contacts in your phone when you have dead people still in there. #epicroadie2011 #quotesfromtheroad
Justin Hamlin

On that note, we close out days 1-3 of our road trip, the Long Haul chapter.

29 hours of driving

1,700 miles

A road trip half over

The fun is just beginning

Justin Hamlin

Justin Hamlin is the founder of <a href="http://www.justinhamlin.com">Get Busy Livin'</a>, a blog founded on collaboration and story telling, dedicated to inspiring himself and others to get busy living their lives. He is a writer, photographer, computer nerd, story teller and world traveler. He calls New York home when him and his wife are not hunting down adventure, exploring the east coast or jet setting around the world. You can follow Justin on <a href="http://www.justinhamlin.com">Get Busy Livin'</a>, <a href="http://www.twitter.com/justinhamlin">Twitter</a> or <a href="http://www.facebook.com/GetBusyLivin">Facebook</a>.

  • Looks awesome but dude what did you eat??? I want to see road trip food!

    • I know what you mean! In past trips, we were able to search out places of a more local variety to eat, but on days like this, where there was so much ground to cover, we ate mostly along the interstate, and not much worthwhile posting about!

      I did get the granola bar photo in there, but other than that, we took some photos of the places we ate, just not a lot of the food. There are some photos that will come up later in the trip, but on the first 3 days, our goal was to get to Houston and unfortunately, that included a lot of fast food.

  • one word… EPIC! I love road trips!

  • What an interesting, exhausting adventure. I haven’t been on a serious road trip since my toddler was born (although taking 7-hour trips with him has had its own “adventure” elements). Looking forward to the next post(s). (Tweets look good, by the way. 😉 )

    • Thanks again for your offer to help. The tweet system just worked itself out. The time shows GMT and not the time it was posted, so I hope that it doesn’t throw people off.

      Road trips are fun and I can only imagine them with a little one. I think you hit that nail on the head, they are an “adventure” with a toddler!

  • Seriously…I’m ready for another roadtrip. Northwest, anyone?

  • Bryan

    Lovin’ it. I’m at the edge of my seat wanting to read more!

    • As soon as I clone myself and can do 19 things at once, you’ll get more!

      (probably by friday :))

  • Oscar

    @ home nursing sinus infection, so I enjoyed reading this…wish I had more 🙂

    • Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment! Hope you feel better soon. More updates are coming, hope to have the 2nd chapter out by end of the week.

  • roy

    Did a roadtrip West to East last summer too and loved it!

    p.s. Mmm those granola bars look good.

    • The granola bars are damn good, lemme tell ya. I am getting the recipe together to post with the next update, as a few people have asked about them.

      The west to east is fun, but I think east to west was better, for the sheer fact that you are gaining time across the country, and not losing it. Either way, both are awesome.

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Definitely will be checking out your blog as my wife and I are looking to take a cruise this summer!

  • Looks and sounds pretty epic! I especially love the photo “Running from the sunset” Great shot.

    • Epic really was the key word for the trip. Overall, an amazing time. Total trip was 9 days, so looks like at least 2 more parts to this story to come 🙂

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