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Fort Collins to Northeast U.S. Road Trip

Four thousand four hundred miles. That is the round-trip distance I drove in order to pedal my bicycle in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200km Permanent, making it my longest journey powered by an internal combustion engine since the epic Great American Road Trip of 2005. Only this time I gave myself only ten days to travel instead of several months. In hindsight, I wish I gave myself at least an extra day or two.

Despite the whirlwind nature of the trip, it was memorable and educational—particularly because I used the majority of the alone-in-the-car time to listen to, practice and internalize an entire French CD course consisting of 34 lessons. The road trip—in cost and essence—was therefore much like a 40-hour French immersion class, except that I got much more verbal practice, did not have to listen to other students mangle words with an Anglo accent, and had constantly varying scenery whiz on by.

In addition to cycling a classic North American randonneur course and improving my French communication skills, I got to do some fast-action sightseeing and visit a friend from Fort Collins who is staying in the D.C. area for the summer. I also went through seven states I had never visited before: Michigan, Rhode Island, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri. My visited U.S. states count is now 42.

This was the itinerary:

  • August 8, 2011 (Mon): Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa. Camped in Rock Creek State Park (east of Des Moines) for the night. 720 miles.
  • August 9, 2011 (Tue): Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ontario. Camped in Wheatley Provincial Park, Ontario (by Lake Erie). 601 miles.
  • August 10, 2011 (Wed): Ontario, New York, Massachussetts. Stayed in the Monticello Inn in Framingham, MA for the night. 664 miles.
  • August 11-14, 2011 (Thu-Sun): Boston-Montreal-Boston Permanent by bicycle, self-supported. 753 miles.
  • August 14, 2011 (Sun): Drive from Newton, Massachusetts to New London, Connecticut, stopping in Providence, Rhode Island for a couple hours. ~110 miles.
  • August 15, 2011 (Mon): A traffic- and rain-laden drive from New London, CT, through New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland to Washington, DC to visit Tia. We did some sightseeing and had dinner at Thai Chili before heading over to her sister-in-law’s place for the night in nearby Waldorf, Maryland. ~380 miles.
  • August 16, 2011 (Tue): From Waldorf, Maryland through Virginia and to a hotel in Dunbar, West Virginia for the night. Slow driving due to going over the Appalachians. ~400 miles.
  • August 17, 2011 (Wed): West Virginia, Kentucky (with a lunch stop in Shelbyville, hometown of the late Colonel Sanders), Missouri (sightseeing and dinner in St. Louis). Camped in Graham Cave State Park, MO for the night. ~600 miles.
  • August 18, 2011 (Thu): Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and back home to Fort Collins. Only made stops for food and gas. 830 miles.

One thing that I missed by only one week was the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Memorial (25 years in the making) in Washington, D.C. On the other hand, I also missed the northeast’s most powerful earthquake in 114 years by eight days and Hurricane Irene by two weeks.

Highlights from the road trip are depicted in the associated photo gallery.

I was really impressed by my Chevrolet Cruze rental car, which was very Audi-like and high quality both on the inside and out.  Here it is at Rock Creek State Park, Iowa.
The state capital of Providence, Rhode Island.
Waterfire, an award-winning sculpture by Barnaby Evans on the rivers of downtown Providence.
Driving from Connecticut to Washington, D.C. took almost 10 hours due to bad traffic and rain.  Here's traffic in Delaware...
The license pates for the District of Columbia read, "Washington, D.C.: Taxation Without Representation."
A model of NASA's land rover that will be deployed on Mars later in 2011.  This was at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum.
In front of the United States Capitol.
The Washington Monument a week before sustaining damage in a 5.8 earthquake.
I met up with Tia (from Fort Collins but staying in the D.C. area for the summer) and she showed me around D.C..  Here she is in front of a statue of former U.S. president James A. Garfield.
The Friendship Archway of Chinatown in D.C. is supposedly the largest such single-span archway in the world.
The U.S. Treasury Department, whose folks were probably mightily relieved that it did not have to default on the U.S.' debt last week.
Camping in Rock Creek State Park, Iowa the first night of the road trip.
Me in front of the White House.  President Obama was on a Midwest tour so was not home.
At the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.
Now in West Virginia.  Traveling over the Appalachians was a little slow going due to having to drive on twisty two-lane roads, but was scenic.
For dinner, I ate pho ga at Pho Grand Vietnamese Restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri, which my friend Alyssa recommended (she used to eat there in the 1990s while in college).
A Ted Drewes' Frozen Custard stand (another recommendation by Alyssa), a St. Louis classic.  I had their Daily Special, a hot fudge sundae for $2.50.
The Chevy Cruze in downtown St. Louis with the St. Louis' Gateway Arch in the background.
Driving by a giant Uniroyal tire in Detroit, Michigan before entering Canada.
Now in Ontario, Canada.
Driving to my campsite in Wheatley Provincial Park, Canada.
I watched a nice sunset at Wheatley Provincial Park, Ontario by Lake Erie---one of the Great Lakes.
Now in New York, the Empire State.  Cops were hiding every 3 miles on the highway and I paid about $20 in tolls to travel across the state.
A windmill and lawn tractor by a Napa Auto Parks store not too far from Des Moines, Iowa.