Great American Road Trip Felix Wong

From 2002-2004, I started planting the seeds of making an escape from the San Francisco Bay Area to somewhere with less traffic, a greater sense of community, a better life-work balance, a lower cost of living, and yet was still an ourdoorsy paradise. During this time, I created a list of a few dozen cities to potentially move to. In 2005, I pulled the trigger: I quit my job, sold my home, and embarked on a four-month journey around North America to visit every town I was considering.

Below is a summary of this journey, an adventure that would take me through 18 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces. “Research” through the western part of North America was done out of a forest green Alfa Romeo convertible.

green 1991 Alfa Romeo Spider carrying a red bicycle, Yellowstone National Park

Objectives

  1. To explore all the places in North America that I was considering moving to. At the end of the trip, to make a decision as to where to live. (See my U.S. Cities Comparison to learn about my criteria.)
  2. To visit friends around the country.
  3. To see many of the sites I have always wanted to, including national and state parks along the way.

Itinerary

Below is the itinerary and status of my write-ups on the various cities.

Southern Excursion

March 15 Durham, NC: Complete.
March 16 Chapel Hill, NC: Complete.
March 18 Asheville, NC: Complete.
March 19 Knoxville Marathon: Complete.
March 21 Knoxville, TN: Complete.
March 22 Atlanta, GA: Complete.
March 24 Athens, GA: Complete.
March 25 BMW Zentrum: Complete.
March 25 Backing Up Museum: Complete.
March 28 Kitty Hawk, NC: Complete.
March 29 Raleigh, NC: Complete.

Northeastern Trip

April 14 Boston, MA: Complete.
April 18 Boston Marathon: Complete.
April 22 State College, PA: Complete.

Western Road Trip

July 2 Eugene, OR: Complete.
July 3 Portland, OR: Complete.
July 4 Foot Traffic Flat Marathon: Complete.
July 5 Oregon Coast: Complete.
July 29 Brokeoff Mountain, CA: Complete.
July 29 Lassen Peak, CA: Complete.
July 29 Burney Falls, CA: Complete.
July 31 Crater Lake, OR: Complete.
August 1 Bend, OR: Complete.
August 2 Smith Rock, OR: Complete.
August 3 Mt. Bachelor 100, OR: Complete.
August 5 Redmond, OR: Complete.
August 6 Sisters, OR: Complete.
August 8 Hood River, OR: Complete.
August 10 Beacon Rock, WA: Complete.
August 10 Yakima, WA: Complete.
August 11 Stonehenge, WA: Complete.
August 12 Windshield Repair: Complete.
August 13 Cruise the Gorge, OR: Complete.
August 14 Torture 10,000, OR: Complete.
August 14 Portland Bridge Ride, OR: Complete.
August 21 Portland, OR: Complete.
August 22 New York City, NY: Complete.
August 24 Montclair, NJ: Complete.
August 25 WA-503 to Mt. St. Helens: Complete.
August 26 Seattle, WA: Complete.
August 26 Bellingham, WA: Complete.
August 26 Vancouver, BC: Complete.
August 27 Squamish, BC: Complete.
August 29 Canada Route 3: Complete.
August 29 Spokane, WA: Complete.
September 1 Coeur d’Alene, ID: Complete.
September 2 McCall, ID: Complete.
September 2 Boise, ID: Complete.
September 3 Idaho Falls, ID: Complete.
September 4 Yellowstone, WY: Complete.
September 4 Jackson, WY: Complete.
September 6 Pocatello, ID: Complete.
September 9 City of Rocks, ID: Complete.
September 10 Logan, UT: Complete.
September 10 Ogden, UT: Complete.
September 11 Provo, UT: Complete.
September 11 Steamboat Springs, CO: Complete.
September 12 Rocky Mtn. Nat’l Park, CO: Complete.
September 12 Estes Park, CO: Complete.
September 12 Fort Collins, CO: Complete.
September 13 Loveland, CO: Complete.
September 14 V8 Club Western Nationals: Complete.
September 15 Breckenridge, CO: Complete.
September 16 Golden, CO: Complete.
September 16 Boulder, CO: Complete.
September 19 US-550, CO: Complete.
September 19 Silverton, CO: Complete.
September 19 Durango, CO: Complete.
September 20 Gasoline Prices: Complete.
September 20 Taos, NM: Complete.
September 20 Santa Fe, NM: Complete.
September 21 Flagstaff, AZ: Complete.
September 22 Sedona, AZ: Complete.
September 23 Phoenix, AZ: Complete.
September 26 Las Vegas, NV: Complete.
October 1 Medford, OR: Complete.
October 2 Ashland, OR: Complete.
October 3 U.S. Cities Comparison: Complete.
October 19 McKenzie Highway, OR: Complete.

The Final Leg and New Home

October 29 Plan B: Complete.
October 30 Fort Collins Awards: Complete.
October 31 Halloween in Fort Collins: Complete.
December 14 Home At Last: Complete.
December 18 Rist Canyon 100k, CO: Complete.

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One comment on Great American Road Trip

  1. Comment by Mike F.

    You have done a lot of travelling to places that I have researched myself. I’ve been to some of them, but don’t travel as much as I want to. I do a lot of research on cities looking for the perfect place to call home. I think we have the same mindset and criteria for selecting a city, which I think is neat enough to bother to send an e-mail about it.

    I drove from MN to Vancouver just to visit Bellingham. I thought it was slightly dissapointing. It had a slightly dismal feel to it, although my expectations were very high. Coeur d’Alene was the best small town of the trip. The east coast is too busy. I grew up there. It’s okay, but I won’t move back. I thought it was interesting that you mentioned a lot of the towns that are or were in my top 10 at some point in time.

    Asheville (have not been there) – too humid in summer, liberal-like you said

    Bellingham – not quite right, liberal – Lyndon and Blaine are good Whatcom Co. options also. Sudden Valley felt unmaintained and unwelcoming. I did like Hwy 9.

    Coeur d’Alene – beautiful (want to go back to see Bayview/Sandpoint), feel like I was cheated because I was unable to get there in time for the big real estate price hike that could have been lucrative. 3 OR 4 years ago you could get a 3 year old 3BR 2 BA in Post Falls for about $125,000. No more. I’m concerned about getting paid enough there.

    Spokane – still can’t make up my mind to this day. I guess I generally lean against it, but don’t by any means rule it out as acceptable enough.

    Bend (have not been there) – too expensive, too far, no real pro sports teams in Portland, especially hockey. (Winterhawks don’t count)

    Issaquah, WA – same thing with too much rain.

    Hood River (have not been there) – thanks for your pics, I will now pass for sure.

    Anchorage – too expensive, crime issues are getting worse, traffic stinks, oh yeah… too far

    Fort Collins (have not been there) – seems about as close to the top as possible. Have not been there. I used my plane ticket for Colorado Springs to scout that area instead, which wasn’t bad… but now it’s time to head back to Colorado. I’ve always had this somewhat negative streotype about Denver. I think someone told me one time it was dirty. I hate relying on others for these things.

    Some spots in Utah (have not been there) look nice, especially the Logan area – BUT I’m afraid I can’t handle the 88% Mormon thing, a little too hot in summer too.

    My Recommendations for you to research:

    I have my vacation plans in Traverse City, MI for this year. Follow all along US 31 up to the Mackinaw Bridge, including Charlevoix, Petoskey, and Harbor Springs. I would recommend this area based on your likings. It’s in the Retirement Places Rated book, like a lot of these towns. There are a lot of rolling hills, beautiful beaches with unreal blue-green clarity. The sunsets must be amazing. They are also known for their cherry production.

    They have the Sleeping Bear Nat’l Park 20 mi to the west near Empire, MI with gigantic sand dunes and unbelievable views. The weather to me is quite nice, hi 81 in summer/ hi 26 in winter, although a bit cloudy in Winter from the constant snowfall. The housing costs are low (especially in new, growing areas like Kingsley). You are up north so crime is low (unlike Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Flint etc.)

    There is something irritating and plain about saying you are from Michigan, but this is not your standard Michigan town. I have never been there, but I have researched it to no end. Traverse City is my new Coeur d’Alene. There are trade-offs, but have the same general feeling. There is no Spokane here to serve as a security blanket. Detroit 4 hours (ick!), Grand Rapids 2½ hours, Chicago 5 hours.

    Shops and resturants there are plentiful enough to support life – yes they have a mall too. Real estate pricing here is going to do well soon. Services are catching up to demand. I called the Wal-mart there (research psycho) and they are likely going to convert to a Supercenter – you know what that means. I would buy a house there now, not later.

    The town from what I gather is fairly conservative, but you never know until you actually see it. Much of the area ouside of downtown TC still runs on well water, which baffles and bothers me a bit. Ask for the visitor packet with the CD.
    Scenery- 4½
    Cost of Living – 5
    Weather – 4½
    Crime – 4
    Cleanliness – 4½
    Downtown – 4
    Shopping – 4
    Proximity to large cities – 2½

    My guess is that this would not be a top 5 for you. If it wasn’t for the lack of good paying jobs it would be neck and neck with Fort Collins for my #1.

    Also, when trying to calculate your top 20, it would be worth looking into Minneapolis (west and south ‘burbs) where I chose to move to from the east coast. Rochester, MN, which has picked up a good number of awards, is an underdog and is struggling to gain national recognition for anything other than the Mayo Clinic. There are a few lakes near Rochester, but no mountains or major bodies of water, so you have to be willing to deal with that. Econmically it is very solid with a bright future. It has a real downtown with a skyline and all. Both cities are very clean.

    Wisconsin has some good towns, but property taxes, and taxes in general there are high, which has turned me off from this state. Besides, Russ Feingold lives there.

    I would consider New Hampshire as an option for the East Coast only for its mountains and Lake Winnebago (Liconia is a nearby town), but mostly for its weather and its status as the 49th lowest total tax burden (2nd only to Alaska). Still, it’s too close to Vermont for me. The larger cities in the southerm part of NH are too expensive for me personally.

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