No sleep ’til Brooklyn

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There comes a time in two perfectly reasonable people’s lives when they decide that driving cross-country to New York is a sensible thing to do.

“Now wait a minute” I hear you exclaim “Aren’t you driving to Argentina? That is quite a lot further away from Alaska than New York and therefore a slightly madder thing to do!”

I’ll grant you that the plan of driving to Argentina does sound a little crazy, but ultimately it comes down to a question of timeframes. 

Driving from Alaska to Argentina over the course of a year, or two. Not so crazy in the bigger scheme of things, really. It certainly made sense to us…

Driving from Colorado to New York (and then from New York to Tijuana) in a matter of a few weeks is probably a bit insane. 

There we were, leaving Mesa Verde, Colorado. It was October 9th. We had plans to be in New York City on October the 20th.

So being sensible, reasonable people we began to head south. 

After all, we wanted to see New Mexico, Louisiana, Florida and then zip up the East Coast to Washington DC and New Jersey so why wouldn’t we? We had a whole 11 days?

Turns out 11 days isn’t very long when you have 2000 miles to cover—in a straight line (4000 if you factored in all our planned detours) and still want to cram in time for sightseeing. 

Although we did find time to use our scorpion light that we had purchased on a whim:

Scorpion
We had learned that the way to find scorpions at night is not by blasting ‘Winds of Change’ on the car stereo.
Scorpion under UV light
But is in fact by shining a UV light on them. They glow under UV light. How fun is that?

After zipping through New Mexico stupidly fast, muttering things like “Well, I’m sure it is awesome, but we have seen a lot of desert I guess—Besides, if we travel faster, we’ll have time to check out New Orleans.” We found ourselves at a turning point just out of Fort Worth, Texas.

The miles of interstate stretched between us and our destination and it just didn’t seem like it was getting any closer. 

Technically it was, but it really didn’t feel that way. We finally had to admit defeat, we just didn’t have enough time to see everything we wanted to see.

Well, not completely admit defeat. We were still going to New York. We had arranged to meet a friend there and equally importantly, we had booked an apartment in Brooklyn through AirBnB. Not just any apartment either. One that contained a shower with six shower heads. Yes, you heard me. Six. Some might say that is five too many. To them I would simply respond with a derisive scoffing noise.

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So admitting defeat simply meant dropping New Orleans and the Florida Keys road off our itinerary. It meant we would now start to drift northeast, in the actual direction of New York City.

But not immediately. The immediate task was sheltering from a violent storm of rather dramatic proportions.

We were setting up camp at a KOA just off the interstate. As was typical of the last few days, we had arrived after dark after a long day of travelling.

The heat and humidity in the air was a shock after the cool dry mountains of Colorado. It wasn’t the first night we had seen dramatic lightning storms in the distance, so we thought nothing of the distant flashes in the clouds.

Storm in New Mexico
In New Mexico we had watched this lighting storm for hours, silently flickering away in the distance over a lake.

The tent was set up, we were just about to tuck in to dinner when we realised the storm was moving our way—fast.

We were just tying the last strings on the extra tarpaulin we put over the tent in heavy rain when the storm hit. Emma struggled to wrestle the new bike rack closed in the howling wind while Ben stubbornly tried to tie the tarpaulin against the forces of nature. It didn’t take long before we both gave up and were huddled in the front seats of the vehicle as the storm raged around us.

We immediately regretted setting up the rooftop tent. With every gust of wind the entire vehicle shook violently and often felt as if it were lifting off the ground. We both had pictures in our head of only ragged shreds of fabric remaining of the tent once the storm subsided. The torrential rain pelted down, the truck shook violently the tent and tarpaulin were furiously battered by the wind and every other moment was punctuated by flashes of lightning and the roar of thunder. The air around us pulsed with electricity as we firmly agreed that being inside the truck was a much better place to be in such a storm than in our little tent on the roof.

Waiting out the storm inside the vehicle
Waiting out the storm in the vehicle. We had heard Texas does like to do things on a large scale.

The storm passed after an hour or so and all was calm again. We gingerly looked outside to assess the damage.

Impressively, the tent was still attached to the roof and all intact. Damp, but intact. Nice one CVT!

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The next few days followed the same pattern. Drive a long way on the interstate. Look for somewhere pleasant to stop for the night. Arrive there in the rain as it was getting dark. Wake up the next morning. Rinse and repeat.

Driving in the rain—Arkansas
Arriving at the stunning Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas. Wish we’d had more time to spend here. Also, would have been nice if the rain let up.
Rattlesnake
The good thing about this stop was that they were holding a ranger talk for kids—with some snake wranglers! Obviously we attended and Emma eagerly joined the queue to pat the rattlesnake and cuddle the baby alligator. No other photos, Emma was too busy hugging reptiles.

Each day we would find ourselves driving out of the rain late in the morning, heading for clearer skies, but by the evening the rain would set in again.

Coffee tanker?
A dull grey morning drive on the interstate was made temporarily more interesting by a short pursuit of what was clearly a coffee tanker.
Rainy autumn drive in Kentucky
A rainy autumn drive in Kentucky.

Any time we got off the interstate (Usually late in the evenings) the roads provided beautiful tree-lined autumn vistas. Although we were just catching the end of the autumn colours as most leaves were already on the ground. This kept us taking unnecessary detours to nice sounding state parks, so at least the camping was pleasant. Except the rain.

Rainy autumn drive in Kentucky

Not spider webs
On another positive note, we can confirm that these horrifying looking creations that lined the trees near our campsite were the work of caterpillars. Not spiders. *whew*

Finally after five days of driving in the rain from New Mexico, through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio (the briefest of detours) and West Virginia we arrived in Maryland.

Shortly before the rain.

This is how it came to be that we were parked on the side of the highway in Maryland, in the pouring rain, with a small puddle of transmission fluid sitting on the ground beneath our four-wheeled ticket to freedom.

Outlook bleak
Outlook: Bleak.

Ben decided that the transmission fluid was just old. A good flush, combined with not driving 100’s of miles daily would probably do the truck some good. We both decided that we were done with rain and would check in to a nice warm, dry hotel room near a mechanic who could flush the transmission for us. Thus, we found ourselves overnighting in a Super 8 in Hagerstown, Maryland.

As we turned on the local news channel and watched the weather report we finally understood why the weather had been so bleak the last few days. The huge storm we had sheltered from in Texas had been tracking across the country at the same pace as us, bringing with it torrential bleakness and general misery at every stop.

But things were looking up: The storm was fading the next day. The transmission was being flushed by a pro. But most important of all, we had a few more days before we were due in Brooklyn. Plenty of time for a side trip to Washington DC!

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