I've always wanted to do an epic road trip.
In the past, I have done that. My relocation from Northern Virginia to Madison, Wisconsin in 2000 was one. My failed attempt at a relationship in the Puget Sound area back in 1995 was another – from the Bay Area, and back. And yes, annual those drives to/from the Midwest Automotive Media Association Fall Rally actually count on this list – considering the distance and time.
The truth is that these road trips were for practical purposes. However, I have never done a road trip that was non-linear. By non-linear, I mean a larger loop around the country. I deviated on some trips – like the one year I went home via Iowa from a MAMA Fall Rally (I went there through Wisconsin), but never something that was meaty, required an extraordinary amount of road time and circled places I have never been.
To find out what kind of road trip I can put together if given the chance, the funds, and the time to accomplish – I reached for a plan that would bridge business with fun. I did so by using Google Maps to calculate routes and distances. A pretty handy tool, if you ask me.
Indulge me, if you would…
LEG 1 – V&R HEADQUARTERS TO KANSAS CITY, MO (442 MILES/6 HOURS, 30 MINUTES)
Based on the "day trip" with some enthusiast friends, it seems like quite an easy direct shot down Interstate 35 from the Twin Cities. I have never driven this highway past Des Moines, so I am definitely heading down uncharted waters. However, that trip earlier this year simply scratched the surface. I got a taste – now I want the meal. To do so, I must visit the places I missed the first time down there. For example, I do hope to head to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the 18th and Vine District, some chill out time around Country Club Plaza, a visit through Union Station, and the Airline History Museum. One bonus should be a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium – if the season is still going on. I will definitely need two days to do it all – and two nights at a decent accommodation.
LEG 2 – KANSAS CITY, MO TO INDIANAPOLIS, IN (482 MILES/7 HOURS, 15 MINUTES)
The usual destination for any run down Interstate 35 is Texas. I'm thinking "let's shake things up." Instead of heading south, I'll head east towards St. Louis and Indianapolis via Interstate 70. Two things could extend the drive time here. One, St. Louis has a lot to offer in terms of attractions – such as the Gateway Arch. However, Indianapolis has one important piece above all: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I think any stop through Indy would require a two-night stay. The Brickyard is that important.
LEG 3 – INDIANAPOLIS, IN TO NASHVILLE, TN (289 MILES/4 HOURS, 30 MINUTES)
This is a short leg because there are a few stops to be made along Interstate 65. In Louisville, there is the Louisville Slugger Museum, makers of the game's finest bat. In Bowling Green, the Chevrolet Corvette is the main attraction with the National Corvette Museum and adjoining Motorsports Park. Hmmm…the thought of driving a Z06 or ZR1…anyway. Lastly, there's Nashville. Not just Music Row, but Nissan's North American headquarters in Franklin. I have a few friends I need to visit there. This could be a two-nighter in Nashville.
LEG 4 – NASHVILLE, TN TO CHARLOTTE, NC (409 MILES/6 HOURS, 30 MINUTES)
Through the mountains, I go! On Interstate 40, I get to run through East Tennessee and Knoxville before tackling the Great Smoky Mountains into North Carolina. A part of me would like to divert to Spartanburg to see the BMW plant and the BMW Zentrum there. In Charlotte, there is the NASCAR Hall of Fame and an old friend I have not seen since 2000. I may have to spend some extra time in Charlotte. I suppose two nights in Charlotte will do.
LEG 5 – CHARLOTTE, NC TO WASHINGTON, DC (399 MILES/6 HOURS, 15 MINUTES)
My route will take up NASCAR country and Interstate 85, before joining Interstate 95 to the Nation’s Capital. I lived there from 1996 to 2000 and have been back once since my relocation from there. I need to make amends with old friends from my DC and Twin Cities days who reside in the area, along with some new/recent contacts. Not to mention catching up on some places I loved back in DC – and some new ones. How about a Nationals game? This might take a few days to catch up with everyone and do everything. Perhaps at least two nights in the area. Maybe three…
LEG 6 – WASHINGTON, DC TO ALBANY, NY (363 MILES/5 HOURS, 45 MINUTES)
I better explain this one. This one will feature a ton of traffic, even as I try to skirt around New York City. Albany is selected because I have a few colleagues I would like to visit in and around there. Plus, I get to take in the Hudson Valley along the way. Some of the routings along Interstate 95 will be familiar, but I will find a way to avoid the Big Apple once in New Jersey. Interstate 87 will be ticket along the Hudson, so hopefully, I will be rewarded. One definite stop is to Cooperstown to finally visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This could take two nights in the area.
LEG 7 – ALBANY, NY TO BUFFALO, NY (289 MILES/4 HOURS, 30 MINUTES)
I would love to explore New England. I would be afraid that whoever wanted me to drive any car would be upset if I racked up too many miles as intended. Therefore, I must head west. The first leg should get me across New York State to Buffalo on the Thruway – Interstate 90. I figured that if I can get across the state, I'll be fine with the next few legs ahead. Let's go with that! For Buffalo, I'll take one night – just one night.
LEG 8 – BUFFALO, NY TO DETROIT, MI (369 MILES/6 HOURS)
This leg is tricky. While it is a shorter drive through Canada, a lot of manufacturers would not allow their vehicles to do so. Instead, I will head to head through Cleveland and Toledo to get to the Motor City. That means continuing on Interstate 90 and on the tollway system, before meeting up with Interstate 75 into Detroit. Considering the number of colleagues and industry people I would like to meet up with, I'll be there for a few days…perhaps a few nights at a hotel in the area.
LEG 9 – DETROIT, MI TO MILWAUKEE, WI (382 MILES/5 HOURS 45 MINUTES)
Why would I avoid Chicago on this road trip? I'm usually there a few times a year, so instead, I would stretch this trip around the city into Milwaukee. Actually, to Jason's place in Mukwonago. It is a direct shot on Interstate 94, with a diversion on the Illinois Tollway system before meeting up with I-94 again. I may need a few nights to spend with him and debrief from the entire journey.
LEG 10 – MILWAUKEE, WI TO HOME (341 MILES/5 HOURS, 15 MINUTES)
The drive home. There is nothing like it. Just Interstate 94…that's all.
In total, this road trip will cover 3,765 miles of driving – at least. This could end up taking more than two weeks to accomplish – possibly three.
As for a budget, I estimated a cost with gas, food, accommodations, and admissions to attractions to run about $3,800 – that is, if I do this with everything I want to do and see.
In comparison, if I simply flew out to Washington or Albany, I would easily spend over $1,000. That is based on a three-night stay, including airfare, accommodations, food, and so forth.
There is a shorter version I would do if time and money were constrained. Instead of going all the way to the East Coast, I would head out of Indianapolis towards Detroit via Ohio. The diversion would be via Dayton, as I take Interstate 70 east to Interstate 75 northbound through Dayton and Toledo. Though, a part of me wants to head down to Cincinnati for a few friends/colleagues.
The shortened trip would cover 1,929 miles of driving – at least. This could end up taking a week to accomplish. I'm fine with the time, as it would give me some value along the journey. Therefore, I estimated the cost of this shortened road trip to about $1,700. Strangely enough, flying to either Kansas City, Indianapolis, or Detroit would cost the same as flying to Washington or Albany for a three-night stay. That is, with the cavaeat of "doing it right."
Gee, now that I have this out of my system…I wonder if I could actually do this. And, what would a western road trip look like?
All photos by Randy Stern