Friday, March 14, 2008

Roadtrip Across America: a Few Impressions

We finished our 3,102-mile road trip from Sacramento, California, to the Washington DC suburbs of Northern Virginia yesterday. Here are a few impressions:

The Nissan Sentra 2.0 S with continuously variable transmission (CVT) is an excellent vehicle! Very smooth ride, quick acceleration, and it can cruise at 80 MPH with no problem whatsoever. The CVT also results in mileage on a par with a hybrid engine; we got around 37 miles per gallon despite the car being loaded with luggage and two adults.

Wind power is definitely on the rise. Tahatchapi, California, has so many wind turbines (around 4,000) and generates so much electricity from them that it bills itself the Wind Power Capitol of the world. We also saw more huge wind farms along Interstate 40 in northern Texas. I was fascinated by those majestic high-tech windmills. Click on the video below for an example of what they look like.

The average length of beard on a Grand Canyon Park Ranger must be somewhere between 12 and 18 inches. Really. My son asked me whether ZZ Top had broken up and gotten government jobs. I loved everything I saw at the Canyon. My next vacation will be there, when I'll have the time to hike the trails.

The plains in northern Texas / southern Oklahoma are spectacularly vast and flat. I knew that before driving there, but the sight of the landscape - flat as a tabletop from horizon to horizon - still left me awe-struck.

GPS navigation devices are great for giving audible turn-by-turn directions, but they're less than 100% when in comes to picking the best routes. They invariably seek the most direct routing, but you also need to take into consideration things like traffic flow, which means the "Garmin Lady" will announce she is "recalculating" the route when you deviate from her set course. If you've used a Garmin you know that note of disgust she puts into the word "re-CALC-ulating." I got tired of the Garmin Lady's attitude long before we crossed the Mississippi.

There was a certain symmetry in starting our trip by driving down California's Central Valley and ending it by driving up Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, two agricultural corridors that bracket the country.

Now that I'm home, I've got a week's worth of newspapers to plow through.

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