Behind The Wheel - 2000 ended on October 6th, 2000. We returned to civilization after 37 days and 8087 miles. We now completed the first week of return to civilization after BTW. We now have some time to go back and re-think about BTW. Have a bit of time to browse through all the moments on the trip - sit back with a cup of coffee and dwell on the past. The photos of the trip that we got recently also brought back the stuff right in front of our eyes. On this page we are venturing to express our feelings now and recapitulate the trip that was.
BTW 2000, we think, was an achievement of a life time - kind of, we lived right through a dream. Its still hard to believe that we did it. Just all the photos reiterating that we were really there. It all seems like a panoramic picture that just flew by us. But on the other hand the trip remains alive and always in front of the mind's eye. How can we ever forget driving all those miles, being out there in the wide open, searching for a place to stay every evening...
One of the things we wanted to do on this trip was to visit all those exotic places we heard about. We wanted to go through our checklist of places. However we have come up with a surprising outcome - instead of shrinking our checklist has grown !! We have now added many more things to do on this list of ours. Guess it reflects the way life goes - you can never rest, saying its all done :-). Getting a little philosophical are we ? Well what we want to say is if get a chance again we would never hesitate from hittin' the road again. So in some sense BTW 2000 has become a start and has left us gasping for more miles.
Everything about this trip right from preparing for the trip to ending has been exciting. Researching for a trip like this one, reading about the exciting places really invigorates the individual. We hit the road on August 31st, 2000. We knew very little how the roads are going to treat us. But as we said before, you would never know unless you started. It took us some time to settle down into the trip. We learnt how to minimise the number of things we take off the car. We learnt how to find inexpensive, yet good motels on the road. We learnt to eat well on the road. After this initial phase we felt like a super streamlined team !!
We settled down to travelling on an average of about 220 miles a day. Earlier we had thought that this figure would be around 150 miles. This under-estimate and a couple of other factors gave us a chance to do more destinations on the trip. Our initial estimate of the distance we would cover was something like 4500 miles. However we winded up clocking 8087 miles !!. This under-estimate was due to the fact that we had not counted on local driving. As we mentioned before we used the interstates only for travelling between destinations. Driving on the local roads is truly rewarding in terms of the sheer pleasure of driving. We also did a lot of off road driving - those dirt unpaved roads. We were rewarded more than once with fantastic views. That brings us to how did the car do ? Well, we have nothing but praise for our Honda CRV. It lived up to the trust that we have placed in it. Except for the two regular oil changes, we had to do absolutely nothing in terms of repair ! Oh yeah we had to get it washed a few times because of all the dirt. On the paved roads, its fuel efficiency was really great (with the atrocious fuel prices it feels even better). Off the paved road, it did great with the All-Wheel-Drive. It exceeded our expectations of handling the gravel roads with tight slippery corners. Power was never a problem - it climbed the hills with ease, probably more so because we had kept the load light. Safety on the trip, as we had believed was always common sense. Like so many other things on the trip (for that matter in life) you got to follow your intuition, and must always be on the look out for unsafe scenarios. Fortunately we had absolutely no incident that could be classified as bad. It was in the town of Wapello, Iowa. We had asked a hotel to hold a room for us. When we turned up at the hotel, our intuition told us to stay away from it. We drove down further to another motel where we paid a bit more but felt a lot safer. After this we never booked a motel in advance unless we were sure. Driving this long distance was never a problem. Probably because we kept the milage it low. Moreover in most places it was a pleasure to drive because we took the local routes that were designated scenic routes. Driving the interstate highway in the praires in South Dakota was the only place that we vividly remeber as boring. Choosing your routes can make a difference between pleasure and pain. Interestingly we had only one instance while driving where Ajay drifted to the shoulder and found that it was cut way down. The car veered a bit, but we could get control. That was the worst thing that happened to us while driving. Staying in America was never a problem. There are some very good inexpensive motels if you have the patience to find them. The big chains are usually costly (around 40+ a night for two). However more than once a manager from these big chain motels has directed us to inexpensive and clean accomodations. Its worth a try to get into one of the big chains and ask. Almost a third of the time we found Desis owning motels. Lots of Indians (read that as Gujratis !) have gone into remote places and bought motels. Most of the times they maintain the places well, except once when we found a really badly maintained one. We found one desi motel in Monticello, Utah which was maintained impeccably. Kudos to these guys who have opted to stay in these remote places pioneering a motel business.
What about the weather ? First of all we had picked the month of September. We believe this is one of the best months for a trip like this. Moreover the gods in heaven were really smiling on us - we had a bit of rain in Pennsylvania, when we started. The next patch of bad weather we hit was right on the California coast, on the last day of the trip !! It was really so magnificient. We were keeping a very close watch on the weather and were always ready to change our course if needed. We were out of Ohio about a week and we heard about this terrible storm in there. We were really fortunate in this regard.
Finally to answer the million dollar question "what was the best place you visited ?" As always there is no one place. It is impossible to pick one place. In general to go by our likings we felt that staying away from the big cities was a great decision. For the two days we stayed in Las Vegas we were tired of the traffic already. Not that there is nothing to do in the cities, but just the crowds and the traffic was not worth it. Other than that, we felt great in all of the open outdoors. If you look at the photo page you will know what we mean. Once there you can try to answer the million dollar question for yourself and you will know why an answer has evaded us !!! We just hope that as a human race, we have enough sense to preserve all these great open outdoors for future generations to see.
Thank you all for being with us ! If you have any question/comment on our trip we would always love to hear from you. See you Behind The Wheel yet again !