Monday, November 14, 2016
1:10 p.m. EST
Well, we left a little later than we wanted to. It all started last night. We had an awesome last supper at Mamma G’s with good friends. By the time we got home, it was too dark to continue cleaning the house (we’d already packed up all the lamps), so we had to pick up this morning where we left off.
We packed away our king-sized bed yesterday morning, so we slept on a queen-sized guest room bed that we were leaving for Alec and Lauren, our friends who bought the house. It was a fitful night because the cats took up about 2/3 of the bed, but we were up by 6:30 to continue cleaning.
We put the final items in the U-boxes just in time for them to be picked up by U-haul. We filled all 4 to the brim and they’re set to ship from the depot in Rochester to arrive in San Jose by the end of the month.
Since the U-boxes won’t be arriving until a week after we’ll arrive in CA, we packed everything we’d need for the next two weeks or so to take with us in the Jeep. We packed our suitcases in a car top carrier and strapped it down to the top of the Jeep.
We’re shipping AJ’s car since he’s on a lease, and 3,000 miles would be a little much to put on it in one fell swoop. AJ’s a little bummed that we won’t be able to communicate across cars via walkie talkies. The smoker is in the trunk and we will have some very disappointed relatives if it doesn’t arrive in time for Thanksgiving, but we’re crossing our fingers. If the shipping company is able to pick it up in the next day or two, it may beat us there, but they’re not sure yet when they’ll be able to pick it up.
After the Jeep was fully loaded, we had one last task: getting the cats in. We took Angus and Roux for a dry run in the Jeep the other day, so we were hoping they’d know what to expect. We let them out of their crates as soon as our doors were closed and they were able to explore the haven we’d set up for them in the back of the Jeep. With the seats folded down, they had a completely flat surface for their litter box, food and water, and comfy things for them to lay on.
We set off at at 1:10 p.m. and were officially on our way! We headed west on the Thruway heading towards Buffalo. Our initial plan was to spend the night in Indianapolis but with our late start and an 8 and a half hour estimated drive, we focused on getting to Columbus or Dayton and spending a little more time driving tomorrow.
After about an hour of dueling meows, the cats settled in for the ride.
3:08 p.m. EST
We have gone 134 miles and just crossed the Pennsylvania state line. Next stop, Ohio!
4:50 p.m. EST
We’re currently right outside Cleveland and are about to leave route 90. Between being at SU, rugby, and work, we’ve both driven the Thruway hundreds of times. I can’t say I’ll miss it too much.
We booked a hotel on the Orbitz app (15% off promo code, score!) that’s in West Columbus, pet friendly, and near a ton of restaurants. We will be a little behind from our original plan of getting all the way to Indianapolis tonight, but we can definitely make it up tomorrow.
Tomorrow night’s goal is to get to Kansas City. That will officially put us in the Central Time Zone and AJ is really excited to get some authentic BBQ there.
Current kitty situation -they’re both on my lap.
We could see downtown Cleveland and hundreds of depressed Indians fans in the distance from the highway.
Who would’ve known that Cleveland could produce such a beautiful sunset?
9:20 p.m. EST
We’re beat. We got up at 6:30 this morning to finish cleaning, sign some paperwork with our lawyer for the house sale, and pack everything into the Jeep. We made it to West Columbus and the kitties were troopers. We booked the Red Roof Inn which welcomes small pets with no additional fee. We left them to explore the room while we grabbed a quick dinner at Olive Garden, and now they’re cuddling with us in bed.
We’ll set off as early as we can tomorrow. It’s an estimated 9 and a half hours to Kansas City, so we’ll do our best to make up the time we lost today.
New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio
LICENSE PLATES SPOTTED
Georgia, Illinois, Maine, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee
Until tomorrow, friends! Thanks for following along!
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
8 a.m. EST
Last night was a little rough. The kitties started out well, but midway through the night they started to get restless. We could hear every scratch they made in the litter box, Angus kept running across our heads, and Roux meowed for about two hours straight and was only placated when AJ got up for the day. Then he made about 15 trips to the car with our overnight bags and various kitty items while I stayed in the room with them. This must be what it feels like to have kids.
We hit the road at exactly 8 a.m. We drove 400 miles yesterday but are hoping to put almost 650 behind us today. We struck out on Highway 70 West, which will eventually take us all the way into Colorado.
Soon after departing, we passed Urbana, OH, the setting of one of my favorite 90’s kids’ movies and the inspiration for my Halloween costume this year. I was bummed that there wasn’t a water tower with “The home of Kevin O’Shea” on the side, but it was still cool to drive by.
… and entered Indiana.
So far, Indiana is full of “Find Jesus” billboards, candle shops, and Trump lawn signs. We’re about a half hour east of Indianapolis and are on-pace to meet our Kansas City goal by tonight.
11:30 a.m. CST
We’ve crossed into Illinois and the Central time zone (thanks, iPhone, for automatically updating). We also just passed the exit for the “World’s Largest Wind Chime” and the “World’s Largest Golf Tee”, but we couldn’t see either from the highway, so they couldn’t have been that big.
About two hours ago, we drove right by downtown Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Stadium. The skyline was beautiful and Andrew Luck has been pretty clutch for my fantasy football team, so Indianapolis is okay in my book.
The kitties are hanging tough. While AJ was pumping gas, Roux got ready to take over as the driver.
They are both currently cuddling on the center console right between us.
We’re coming up on an exit that boasts 65 restaurants, so maybe AJ and I can agree on a place for lunch.
3:30 p.m. CST
We hit the Pizza Hut buffet for lunch. We spent a total of about 15 minutes and chose a seat by the window that looked right out onto the Jeep. We could see Roux the whole time, sitting on the driver’s seat and looking out the window. Once we got back in the Jeep, we found Angus directly under the driver’s seat. After we extracted him, we were on our way again.
We crossed over into Missouri at around 1:55. The Mississippi River divides Illinois from Missouri and it was an awesome sight to see. We were about 10 miles north of St. Louis and could see the city and arch in the distance over the river.
I wish I could’ve gotten a better shot because this doesn’t do the Mississippi justice at all. I blame AJ for being in the way.
Two HUGE casinos flanked the west side of the Mississippi. When I visited St. Louis with Walgreens in 2007, I learned that gambling is legal is Missouri as long as the casino is on a riverboat or on a boat in an artificial moat within 1000 feet of the banks of the Mississippi or Missouri rivers. This is not a joke.
After crossing the Mississippi, we passed under the official welcome sign.
I used the Orbitz app again to book our hotel, which will be in a suburb on the east side of Kansas City. It’s close to the BBQ joint that AJ wants to go to, and as long as they’re showing the Syracuse basketball game, I’ll be happy. We’re about 120 miles away in Columbia and I’ve already seen about 15 Mizzou hoodies.
I also never knew that eastern Missouri has a burgeoning wine trail. These vineyards make the Finger Lakes look like Napa. They are interspersed between adult video stores, fireworks stands, boot shops, and churches. Ah, the Midwest.
9:25 p.m. CST
We crossed over the Missouri River at around 4:05. I didn’t see any floating casinos so I was totally bummed.
We got to our hotel in Independence, MO soon after. The check-in guy was a huge Syracuse fan, and he gave us two free bottles of water. We settled the kitties into their new home for the night and watched the first half of SU/Holy Cross. Man, we are looking good this year.
AJ had done some manly BBQ research and found a world-renowned Kansas City joint, Jack Stack. I’d checked out their website and not only did they have a great wine list, but they also offered a ton of seafood. We started with some “fire-kissed” wings, which were great, but the homemade ranch dressing was amazing. I had a side salad, and then our entrees arrived. I ordered salmon with a side of cheesy potato bake …
… and AJ got a triple combination plate with burnt ends, brisket, and pulled pork. His sides were cheesy corn bake and hickory pit beans.
Everything was great, especially the ranch. I’d totally go back.
We got back to the hotel and started discussing tomorrow’s plan of attack. Our goal is Denver, but after tomorrow night, the weather may get dicey and we might have to head south. Stay tuned!
Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri
ADDITIONAL LICENSE PLATES SPOTTED
Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
10 a.m. CST
We again hit the road at 8. The kitties were so well-behaved last night. We moved their litter box into the bathroom, which solved the noisy scratching issue, and both of them slept on the bed with us all night. Roux meowed twice at 5 a.m. and we thought it was going to be a repeat of Monday night, but she settled right down.
We headed west through downtown Kansas City and right by Arrowhead Stadium.
The super moon provided a great backdrop for the downtown Kansas City skyline.
As soon as we left the downtown area, we entered Kansas. Other than New York and Pennsylvania, the speed limit had consistently been 70 mph, but it’s 75 in Kansas. We also hit our first toll highway since we left the Thruway (R.I.P., EZ-Pass). The Kansas Turnpike Authority seems to have it right – all of the service plazas are accessible to cars and trucks traveling in both directions, so they’re only 20 miles or so apart, rather than 40-45 on the Thruway.
We passed through Lawrence, where Kansas University is located, and saw about 10 “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk” billboards. We also drive right through Topeka, and according to the map, it looks like we won’t be driving through any other cities I’ve heard of until we get into Colorado.
AJ’s been using the odometer to measure our sight distance on these completely flat roads of 70 west. On this one, we could see more than 4 miles.
1:50 p.m. CST
Kansas is pretty darn boring to drive through. There’s not a lot of variety – lots of farms, fields, and cows, and we haven’t seen any signs of anything even resembling a “city” since Topeka. A tumbleweed even blew across the highway in front of us.
We passed some cool windmill farms. There must’ve been over a hundred windmills.
We grabbed a quick lunch at Qdoba in a small town called Hays. Like yesterday, we were able to run in and grab a window seat with a full view of the Jeep. We ate quickly and when we returned to the car, Angus was in the exact same spot we’d left him in, and Roux was, of course, on the driver’s seat.
We are currently about 75 miles from Colorado and will enter Mountain Standard Time in the last county in Kansas before the border. The kitties are just hanging out.
6:30 P.m. MST
We crossed into Colorado at around 2:25.
Almost immediately, we noticed many more houses and neighborhoods than there had been in Kansas. The speed limit was still 75 mph and soon enough, we could see the outline of the Rocky Mountains in the distance.
We’d spent a grand total of $100 on hotels for the first two nights of the trip, including all taxes and fees. We splurged tonight and I booked a LaQuinta with no pet fees and an indoor pool and hot tub for $100 total.
Instead of driving straight to the hotel, AJ decided to detour so that we could drive by downtown Denver and Mile High Stadium. We hit a few accidents and a lot of rush hour traffic, but the view was beautiful.
We finally arrived at the hotel at around 6:15. Our suite is huge and the cats are loving all the extra space.
We’re going to hop in the hot tub, have a few drinks, and then head out to dinner.
10:30 p.m. MST
The hot tub totally hit the spot. We came back to the room and I had a little more wine while we decided where to go for dinner. We finally decided on Pappadeaux, a seafood/Cajun/creole restaurant about 5 minutes from the hotel.
Our meal was amazing, and I apologize that I don’t have any food porn for you today. The service was also top-notch, and the manager stopped by as we were finishing our entrees to offer us a complimentary dessert! Score!
We were pretty full and pooped after the long day, so we brought our praline pecan cheesecake back to the hotel.
Denver and the surrounding areas are on a winter storm warning tomorrow and are due to get 1-3 inches of snow. We’re scrapping our plan to drive through the Rockies and heading south instead. It will add a little time to our journey but we won’t have to drive through snow – I mean, we did just leave Rochester and the weather was a big reason.
Cross your fingers that the cats are as well-behaved (and quiet) as they were last night. Until tomorrow, faithful readers!
Missouri, Kansas, Colorado
ADDITIONAL LICENSE PLATES SPOTTED
Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Rhode Island
Thursday, November 17, 2016
9:50 a.m. MST
The kitties had another great night last night, so AJ and I were able to rest well. We took advantage of the hotel’s complimentary breakfast and hit the road by 8:35. Depending on how the day goes, we have a few spots in Arizona that will be possible stops for the night.
The Rockies west of Denver are due to get 1-3 inches of snow today, so we headed south towards New Mexico. The view of the Rockies was amazing.
We’re both a little bummed we won’t be able to drive through the Rockies, but we’d much rather not encounter any snow. We’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather so far during our journey – we haven’t even seen a raindrop.
11:20 a.m. MST
We decided to stop at a dispensary before we left Colorado. We hit Strawberry Fields in Pueblo and it was a highly interesting experience. Even though I don’t partake, I wanted to see what a recreational shop looked like. Last week, California passed the vote to make recreational marijuana legal, but it will be awhile before we see shops like this in San Jose.
They were very strict with identification, and we were ID’d before we came in and again at the counter. They highly encouraged me to take pictures, though.
There’s our little white pin for Rochester!
We continued heading south on Interstate 25 towards New Mexico. We should cross the border in about 20 minutes and at that point, we’ll be about 120 miles from Santa Fe and 250 miles from Albuquerque.
3 p.m. MST
It’s been a very windy drive. Luckily, we didn’t catch any of the winter storm, but there’s a Severe Wind Warning for pretty much the rest of our drive today.
The view in southern Colorado was gorgeous.
We crossed into New Mexico at about noon.
We stopped just across the border to a quick grab lunch. It was so windy that the power went out twice while we were waiting at Subway for our sandwiches.
The scenery is New Mexico is also stunning.
We’re currently getting gas in Santa Fe. Albuquerque is less than an hour from here – we had no idea they were so close. The kitties have been very good today. I think they’re getting used to this car/hotel thing.
9:30 p.m. MST
We’ve hit the coldest weather of the trip in New Mexico. The wind is still vicious and temperature dropped into the low 30s by the time we got to the hotel around 7:15. It really stinks not to have heat in the Jeep, and it’s unfair that AJ and the cats have fur to keep them warm.
We started listening to one of our favorite books, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, on Audible in the car. We both love traditional books and have never listened to one before, but I’m in a Facebook group for the book series, and lots of people post about a whole different audio book experience, so we decided to give it a try. Plus, we were running out of Sirius stations that we both agreed on.
Our goal was to get to Flagstaff, Arizona for the night, but the combination of our late start and multiple stops put that out of the equation. We settled on Holbrook, Arizona, a spot that had many hotels right off the highway. I booked a Motel 6 on the Orbitz app because they were cheap and pet-friendly.
I guess we’ve just been very lucky with my random hotel choices for the first three nights. We stayed at two Red Roof Inns for $50 each night and those felt like the Four Seasons compared to the Motrl 6 in Holbrook. We arrived at around 7:15 and bundled the cats into the room.
AJ discovered there was a Pokestop at a sculpture right next to the hotel pool that was accessible from our room. It also spawned a ton of Pokémon, so the poopy-smelling Motel 6 in Holbrook was now AJ’s favorite hotel of the whole trip.
We walked over to a Denny’s at the neighboring hotel for dinner. We were too cold and too tired to try to look for anything else for dinner, and we’d splurged a little in Denver so Denny’s fit the bill. After typically spotty Denny’s service, we walked through the arctic tundra back to the hotel. AJ caught some more Pokémon and we headed to bed to try to get an early start in the morning. Tomorrow night’s stopping point is still up in the air.
Today, AJ’s car shipped from Rochester and will arrive in San Jose on 11/21. A big thank you goes out to Landon for meeting the driver at our house to hand over AJ’s keys and sign the paperwork, since we obviously couldn’t be there.
Our U-boxes also shipped and should arrive on 11/30. Thanks to Shane for the insider pictures!
If you see this semi on the road, make sure to wave to all of our treasured possessions.
I also signed some of the last paperwork for the house sale over my phone, so the closing date will be early December and Alec and Lauren are prepossessing tomorrow.
Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona
ADDITIONAL LICENSE PLATES SPOTTED
Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Montana, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
Friday, November 18, 2016
10:45 a.m. PST
We had another restful night and the kitties cuddled with AJ for most of it. We packed everything up quickly and got on the road at around 6:50. If we thought last night was cold without any heat in the Jeep, we were in for a rude awakening today. Who would’ve thought that the coldest weather during our entire trip would be 21 degrees in Arizona?
The sun warmed the car a little as we drove and I tried to convince Angus to nap on my lap. We stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Flagstaff to grab some coffee and breakfast and to warm up. The hand dryer in the bathroom was clutch.
We hit the road again. The Arizona scenery on Interstate 40 was much more varied than when I drove from San Jose to Phoenix in 2001.
We were making great time and crossed over the Colorado River and into California at around 10:10. That also put us officially into the Pacific time zone.
We started making decisions about where to stay tonight. Santa Barbara and Santa Monica were the two top options on our list, but both would be taking us out of the most direct route to San Jose by quite a bit. We were only about 8 hours from my parents’ house on the direct route, so we decided to soldier through. After stopping for lunch and gas, we should arrive around 7-7:30 tonight.
This does mean that we’ll have one less day of license plate spotting. We’ve seen 43 different states and have a chance of seeing possibly Hawaii and Alaska today, but the other 5 will be a long shot: North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
2:30 p.m. PST
We’re still making good time. We just stopped and grabbed some lunch, and we’re back on route 58, heading west to Highway 5.
We’re a little less than 4 hours from San Jose and should only have to stop once more for gas. We’ll have driven about 12 hours today, but a home-cooked meal and non-hotel bed will be very welcome.
It’s been a long day for these guys, but they’re doing great.
6:15 p.m. PST
We’re about 20 minutes away from my parents’ house! We’re excited to spend some time with the family tonight, but I will do an update either tonight or tomorrow morning with some final thoughts and the conclusion of the license plates we’ve seen.
ADDITIONAL LICENSE PLATES SPOTTED
Saturday, November 19, 2016
2:30 p.m. PST
We arrived last night at around 6:45. Mom and Dad were here to greet us, and Danica pulled in just as we were unloading the Jeep. We put the kitties in my old bedroom, which will be AJ’s and my room while we’re living here. We let them explore the room while my parents’ cat, Trixie, was able to roam around the rest of the house.
We had a delicious dinner of homemade sauce, pasta, and meatballs. We were pretty tired from the long day of driving so we headed to bed pretty early.
This morning, we put Trixie in abother bedroom and let Angus and Roux explore the house. We will keep them separated from Trixie until probably tomorrow so that they can get acclimated to each other.
AJ’s car should arrive on 11/21 and the U-boxes will arrive on approximately 11/30. We’ll be able to store pretty much all of our stuff in the garage here until we get our own place. The smoker is in AJ’s trunk, so it will arrive for Thanksgiving with plenty of time to spare. We’ll be helping host a packed house of about 15 people, and this will be my first Thanksgiving at home with my family since I was 17 years old, so I’m incredibly excited.
It was awesome to drive across the country. Would I recommend doing it with two cats? Definitely not. We were so lucky that they were well-behaved, but it really prohibited us from doing any sort of sight-seeing or leisurely lunches/dinners. We didn’t want to leave them unattended in the car without them in our sight for more than a few minutes. Even though we did leave them alone in the hotel rooms while we went to dinner, all the hotels required that they be supervised in the room at all times, so we were technically breaking the rules. And though they did great in the car, I know it was hard on them because they didn’t really eat, drink, or use the litter box until we got them into the hotel rooms at night. And I’m still working on which part of my resume I can include “cat wrangler extraordinaire”.
Of the places we saw and stayed, I would say that Colorado and New Mexico had my favorite scenery. The view of the Rockies as we drove nearer to Denver from the east was absolutely amazing. The rich colors and rock formations in New Mexico were also breathtaking. People were very friendly in both Denver and Kansas City, and I could definitely see myself visiting them again in the future. The BBQ we got in Kansas City was also amazing, and even though I don’t eat much meat, I was incredibly satisfied.
We were unable to spot all 50 states’ license plates. We saw a grand total of 44, with Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Vermont, and New Hampshire being the odd ones out. Looking for the different states definitely helped pass the time, as did my satellite radio and our audiobook. And for those of you who have asked how I’d been updating the blog, I used the WordPress app to post from my phone.
Thank you to everyone who has come along with us on this journey!