Lessons Learned–Driving Cross-Country

Well, this has taken a good bit longer than I expected, but here it is none-the-less: A list of the various things I learned from driving cross-country twice.  In no particular order, here goes:

  • I have it on good authority that the combination of a Valentine One, Waze, and a functioning Mk I Eyeball (and brain) will allow you to drive 8,000 miles across this wonderful country at 30+ MPH over the limit…more or less constantly.
  • People in CA love to race. I only had one person in the whole trip try to seriously race me on the highway, and he was in a minivan and just wanted to see the car accelerate. But once I got back to CA, I had a Beamer and a Merc want to run multiple times.
  • Louisiana has some very sneaky troopers. I had several alerts from cops that I couldn’t find…at least until I passed an exit ramp or side-road that they were hidden on.
  • If you have a V1, the best thing to do is to disable all bands except Ka. Laser alerts are never going to save you (if you get an alert with Laser, you, specifically, have been targeted), and cops pretty much never use K or X bands in the US…but all manner of automatic door openers do. If you cut off everything but Ka, you are pretty much guaranteed that every time it lights up, there’s a cop nearby.  The process to disable the bands is listed here.
  • I used to have a Uniden Bearcat in my old 03 Cobra to try and locate police transponders. It tended to be hit or miss, and had a lot of false positives. The V1 so far has been a much better investment.
  • CA has probably the worst roads in the US. I was on backroads in TX that had nothing but abandoned buildings, and they were in better repair than HWY 101 in Silicon Valley. And don’t get me started on the shoddy state of roads in the Mohave.
  • AZ may be the best state, besides Utah and Montana, to haul ass through. Long stretches of interstate through wilderness.
  • Yelp was very hit or miss in regards to food. People’s taste is a bit screwed up. But if you filter by $$ or more, you get a lot better results (it eliminates all of the highly rated Taco Hell’s and Awful Houses).
  • Hotels.com worked out fairly well for lodging, just choose places that are rate 3/5 or higher. You can get by on $100 a night or less. Also, they give you a free night’s stay after something like 5 or 7 nights. Most nights, we picked a hotel only a few hours after arriving in the city.
  • Most of the out-of-the way sights aren’t worth it. Christ of the Ozarks, the Georgia Guidestones, etc., really weren’t worth the time it took to get to them.
  • 8 hours of driving per day ends up working out to 12-16 hour days, depending on how long you take to eat, pack/unpack, and so forth.
  • Using an iPhone 4s for navigation and music while plugged in really doesn’t charge it very well…and it tends to overheat unless you have a vent blowing on it pretty constantly.
  • I enjoyed Denver, but the food (and traffic) sucked.
  • Speaking of traffic, again, CA takes the cake by a very wide margin. No matter where you are in CA, someone else is there, all in your way.
  • However, I’ve been bitching about CA drivers a bit too much. The shitty Prius drivers who hog the left lane notwithstanding, CA drivers are no worse than anywhere else…there are just a shitload of them. Actually, per-driver, Southern drivers are probably the biggest assholes.
  • The Tail of the Dragon is definitely worth going down. If you can stay out of traffic, it’s a blast. Skip it on the weekends, though.
  • It’s amazing how many places are total tourist traps. There are entire mountain towns that are just one big façade, and they are everywhere.
  • Casinos suck. I couldn’t help but be terribly depressed seeing all of the old people feeding dollar after dollar of their retirement or fixed income into the slots. So incredibly sad to spend the last years of your life doing nothing. And there’s a special place in hell for the people who market to them.
  • On this note, Vegas has got to be the most dismal place in the world to live. I couldn’t help but imagine someone bordering on poverty working there every day while having the absolutely obscene opulence of the Casinos, high-rollers, and celebrities shoved in their faces. What a horrible existence.
  • Similarly, there are some towns that are bordering on ghost-town status (I’m looking at you, Barstow) that are some of the most depressing places I’ve ever been. Nothing like being somewhere with no future and imagining the life of people who grew up there and have no chance of getting out.

We also switched from AT&T to TMobile mid-trip (while in NC), so I can directly compare the two in a cross-country context. I’ll do that next time I get around to writing, it deserves its own post.

  1. #1 by Rogelio Torres on March 25, 2015 - 2:24 pm

    Good article Im glad I read this before going on my road trip Friday. I was sure to use yelp and use my iphone for both navigation and music. Thanks.

    • #2 by llt on March 25, 2015 - 6:58 pm

      Thanks Rogelio. Be careful in AZ and TX. Lots of cops, and the ones in AZ are SNEAKY.

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