America From a Van


Reese Levine, Editor-in-Chief

Hundreds of years ago, when my parents were growing up and before cars were eclipsed by planes and highways became exclusively for truckers, people actually drove across the country. I know this is big news to most Miramontians, but it is, in fact, still possible to travel all the way across the continental United States without flying six miles above the ground.

This past summer I had the chance to experience this relic of ancient times, as a few of my teammates and I drove all the way from the Bay Area to Augusta, Georgia to attend Junior Cycling Nationals. For those of you not fortunate enough to have ever spent 42 hours in a car over the course of five days, I’ll run you through some of the highlights of America, seen at 75 mph.

First off, why didn’t we fly? Well, we did want to show off our super cool team van to all the other bike nerds in Augusta. Most importantly, however, shipping eight bikes across the country costs about five thousand dollars. I’m all for airlines making money, but does it really cost that much to transport a fifteen pound carbon fiber bike?

Once establishing a reason to drive rather than fly, it is time to plan the trip. We had decided to take five days to drive all the way to Augusta, which meant about 10 hours a day on the road, with some time put away for riding our bikes and sleeping. If you’re not in as much of a hurry, I’d recommend taking a couple more days, so you can make side trips; the Grand Canyon, Big Texan Road House, and Mississippi River would all be good ones. And in case you’re wondering what the Big Texan Road House is, don’t worry; you’ll know once you get within 200 miles of Amarillo, Texas.

After starting the drive, one thing became apparent pretty quick; California is a really big state. One solid day of driving didn’t even get us past the border to Arizona. I’d recommend stopping in Needles for the night, home to a Taco Bell and not much else.

On the second day of driving, another realization hit me: America has a lot of open, uninhabited desert, and this would be a perfect place to send all those people who cause overpopulation if it weren’t for the heat. In the summer, 100 degrees is a cool morning and 90 degrees brings out the fur jackets and mittens.

Finally, on the third day of driving, we escaped from California and its satellite states of Arizona and New Mexico. This of course meant we had entered the land of steak and cows, Texas. Magically, cowboy hats appeared on our heads and we began talking with a southern accent. Despite their initial misgivings, the locals soon accepted us as one of them.

Here I must mention something about the quality of food found along I-40. At first, Chipotles dot the landscapes like so many oases, and a good burrito is not hard to come by. But once past Flagstaff, Arizona, these Chipotles disappear. Instead, they are replaced with the most ubiquitous restaurant in the entire South, Waffle House. For those of you not familiar with Waffle House, they serve waffles and some other things; but at a place called Waffle House, are you really not going to order waffles? They are so confident in their ability to make you love waffles that when you exit, the sign on the inside of the door says, “See you tomorrow.”

The final two days of our drive took us through Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama before arriving in Georgia, and honestly these states are all pretty nice. The people are friendly, the accents are amazing, the food is fattening but good, and as long as you can stand the humidity, the weather isn’t that bad. The only complaint I have with the South is that they are missing mountains and Chipotle. Add in those and I’m buying a house there and sitting on the porch with a rifle in hand for the rest of my life.

To be serious for a second, driving across the country is something everyone should do at least once in his or her life. It doesn’t have to be the southern route; you could travel through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and any other states you want to. But I guarantee you’ll hear some amazing stories from people you meet on the road and will get to experience parts of the country that you probably have never even thought about before. Sure, there will be some interesting moments like the time we almost ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere or the sketchy gas station on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, but there will also be amazing discoveries like that Mexican place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Petrified National Forest in Arizona.

It doesn’t cost very much, and if you can gather a few friends together, gas and hotel fees won’t be expensive either. The only thing I ask is that if you do try to finish the 72 oz steak at the Big Texan Road House in one hour, please let me know. I didn’t attempt it, but I want to laugh at anyone who does.