Let’s Take a Road Trip…

SOME FRIENDS, A JEEP AND A DREAM

It started out simple enough — the old “wouldn’t it be fun to…” kind of  idle chat between two friends on a lazy summer afternoon.

“Wouldn’t it be fun to take the Jeep and drive Route 66 to California…”

Between us, “Cactus Killer” and I had done an awful lot of traveling over the years. And even after “Silly Squirrel” was born, we continued to travel around, introducing him to the magic of the road from an early age. So why not take on Route 66?

After years of working in conflict zones around the globe, a simple old-fashioned “road trip” across the U.S. would be easy. Or not…

We began planning what evolved into “The Great American Road Trip 2010,” a multi-faceted nomad adventure to re-discover that mythical “America” we’ve always heard about.

We knew that the trip itself would take about 6 weeks, back and forth (that is from New York to California and then back to New York). And during that time the three of us would be living out of the Jeep! But it would take a lot of planning work to get that rough outline filled in a bit before departure day.

HOW MANY ROUTE 66’s ARE THERE?

Just finding a map of Route 66 proved to be more complicated than expected. Current maps don’t show Route 66, because, after being de-commissioned in the 1980s, it no longer officially exists. To find your way, you need to follow the “breadcrumbs” left on the internet by other travelers, so you can plot the line of the old route across the current mix of roads that have replaced it.

We quickly realized that Route 66 is, in some cases, a multiple choice menu. Historical re-alignments of the road over time have left us with choices.

Do we take the oldest routings along all the backroads and impasses, making sure to hit even the smallest ghost towns, or do we opt for the later (and presumably faster) version. There are good arguments for either, and better arguments for a mix of both, but ultimately it is a personal decision–a function of the time available for the journey, the preference in style of travel and the willingness to risk getting “lost.”

The oldest part of the road may be a bit more complicated to navigate, but this trip is an exploration not only of American geography, but also of American history! …And so a few detours here and there for the sake of a good story, or a rare image, will never really be time lost…  rather history found! (btw, remind me i said that, when i start stressing out on the drive when the maps and the streets in front of us don’t match!!!!)

We decided to take the older, more rural segments as often as possible, because according to other travellers’ notes, those segments of the road have so much of the iconic imagery. As a photographer, I fancied myself on a quest of sorts to capture all these really bizarre bits of Americana, and i didn’t want to miss a thing. But practically, I knew there would be times when we might really want to just keep moving faster so that we could have more time in the next place rather than still be driving.

Even freedom’s road has compromises!!!

THE CHALLENGE OF ORGANIZATION

Three people living out of a jeep for six weeks is a recipe for chaos (and for lots of fun too, of course)…

While, there is a great temptation to just take the keys and get in the jeep and drive, we needed to be organized enough so that we wouldn’t find ourselves out in a remote location missing some “minor” but crucial piece of equipment. And at the same time we had to keep “stuff” to a minimum, or we would be buried under it for hours a day while driving (even in such a “BIG” Jeep).

We began serious planning almost 9 months prior to departure (the same amount of time it takes to have a baby!) The principle question was: How do we reduce the needs of modern life into what we can carry comfortably in the Jeep?

Luckily travel in the U.S.A. has conveniences that travel in the developing world does not. No matter where you are in America there is always a Walmart (or an equivalent) somewhere close by. We would not have to worry about provisioning the way we do when preparing to, say, traverse the Sahara. And even in the desert stretches here, we don’t have to obsess about water, food and gas. (and I knew “Cactus Killer” would be glad I wouldn’t insist on bringing 20 gallons of water everywhere).

Still, we did have to “edit” our packing lists down to the really important essentials. And nine months gave us plenty of time to debate what “essential” means…

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