Saturday, February 1, 2014

US50 - Phase 1: Forward

The original premise of this trip, my retirement trip, was to follow US50 from one end to the other. Running some 3000 miles from Ocean City Maryland to Sacramento California US50 is (I think?!) the longest single continuous highway in the United States and that seemed like a pretty cool way to kick off retirement. But things change and the best plans are flexible plans. (Is that just me trying to find the best light for a situation I had no control over? Maybe. . .)

For some reason this trip had to be done east to west, it just wouldn’t be right to do it west to east. I’m not sure I can explain why, in fact I know I can’t explain why, but that’s the way it is and that's the way I'm going to do it.

Because I didn’t want to get tangled up with a swarm of families taking advantage of the kids being out of school the original plan was to start my trip in early September, when the kids are heading back to school and my only exposure to them is stopping for the bus as they are heading home in the afternoon. (As it turned out I did have to dodge a class field trip at one location on this trip. Hadn’t thought about that. . .)

Not only does this timing keep me out of the summer crowds it also dodges the summer heat. But it does have me walking a thin line. Remember that east to west requirement?  That means the last half of the trip is through the Western mountains. If I’m going to avoid inconvenient things like campgrounds and other attractions being closed for the season, and nasty things like snowed in passes, I have to slip through that part of the trip with just the right timing.

As it turned out, the universe, and Pablo, had other things in mind.

Pablo is from Chile and when I was – when both of us were – high school kids he lived with us as an exchange student for the better part of a year. During that time he became an important part of our family. Contrary to what some may have felt after a particularly long absence of visit or contact, I am still part of that family, so when Pablo’s schedule gave him the opportunity to get to Michigan (The family home) for the first time in some 35 years I adjusted my schedule to fit his without hesitation  – um – Yeah! That's how I did it - without hesitation. . .
I was always going to make a stop in Michigan anyway during this trip (Passing by only one state away and not stopping in would have been – well – bad. . .) but the stop probably wouldn’t have been quite as long as it turned out to be nor would it have been so late in the season.

As it was, I didn’t end up leaving Michigan for the continuation of my trip until the first week of October, which put me about 3 weeks behind my original schedule.  (I can still hear the universe chuckling.) This pretty much guaranteed that by the time I got into the western portion of my planned trip many campgrounds, points of interest, museums, etc. would be shutting down for the winter since people tend not to camp so much when the snow is butt-deep on the ground, snotcicles form within minutes of stepping outside and the mountain passes are often closed while the plow drivers are stuck at home trying to stay warm!

I bravely forged on, (OK, maybe there wasn’t a whole lot of actual bravery required, but, in the tradition of Daniel Boone, Kit Carson and other great explorers, who all went first and showed me the way was safe, I did forge on!) but by the time I got to La Junta in eastern Colorado I had to face the hard facts. According to my campground guide and web research the majority of the campgrounds and quite a few points of interest out in front of me were within days of closing for the season and I knew my nice symmetrical coast to coast trip was not to be.

I made the decision – well, not made so much as finally accepted it – to come back next season to complete the rest of the original trip.

This did have a side effect, and it was the good kind, not like the double vision or anal leakage you read about on the side of your brand new medication. I ended up in places that weren’t part of the original plan, some pretty cool places as I left US50 behind at La Junta and headed southwest into New Mexico.


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