[ Beneath the Waves ]

Drive 2010 - Introduction and Day 1

article by Ben Lincoln


Background and Route

When I was at Yellowstone in 2009, I met an older couple who said that the only national park they'd been to which was as amazing was Big Bend National Park, in Texas. At the time, I had an image in my mind of Texas as mostly a flat desert, but after I got home and looked up photos of Big Bend I realized that it was a place I really wanted to visit.

In addition, there were two major pieces of space exploration history that I'd been meaning to see in person - NASA mission control in Houston, Texas, and Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

2010 was the year that the Gulf Coast suffered an environmental disaster in the form of BP's deep-water oil spill, and so I decided that now was the perfect time, because I could simultaneously benefit from reduced crowding and help out the Gulf Coasts in some small way in the process. I had hoped to do the "before" half of a photo series, with the "after" once the environment had recovered. Surprisingly, I didn't run across any visible effects of the spill during my trip - it seemed that most of the damage visible on shore had already been cleaned up, even though in the ocean itself work was only beginning.

Early in the planning stages, I realized that it was not going to be practical to drive from Seattle to Texas, given the time I had available. This meant that I would need to fly to Dallas and rent a car there.

Originally, I planned to drive in a big loop, covering the Gulf Coast states first, and then the rest of the South on the way back to Dallas. This was quickly abbreviated to a one-way trip to Florida after I realized the great distances that were involved. On a Mercator projection map of the US, Texas looks a little bit wider than Washington, but this is due to the same distortion that causes Greenland to appear much more enormous than it actually is. Whereas Washington is 300-350 miles (~500-550 kilometers in sensible units) wide (depending on whether you're counting geographic distance or driving distance), Texas is closer to nine hundred miles wide (almost 1500 kilometers).

I've driven the distance required for the original loop before, but this time there were several places I wanted to stay for an entire day (or longer), and so the loop drive would have required a total length of almost three weeks. Factor in the car rental and even cheap motel rates and that would have been prohibitively expensive.

On the topic of expense, if you ever decide to do something like this, be prepared for sticker shock at the ridiculous price markups that come into play when renting a car for a one-way trip. Even if you are dropping off the car in a city with a thriving tourism industry, be prepared to see the price increase by something on the order of 50%. The rental company will claim this is because they need to hire someone to drive it back to the point of origin, but this is almost certainly a lie - the car I eventually ended up renting in Dallas had California plates, and I was taking it even further east. Clearly the chances of it ever ending up back in California - as opposed to being back-filled from some location closer than Orlando - were very low.

This was the route that I eventually ended up taking:

The Full Route of My 2010 Drive
[ Route Map ]
Route Map

This map is based on a screenshot of Streets and Trips 2007 (©2007 Microsoft) with my route overlayed and other changes made in image-editing software to provide better highlighting. The route starts in Dallas and ends in Orlando.


Changes In Presentation

The format of the articles for this drive has been modified a bit compared to the series from 2007:

Flying With A Bunch of Equipment

"I haven't 'over-packed'. I simply wish to be prepared for any contingency."

- Seven of Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, 06x15 "Tsunkatse"

Because air travel was involved, I had to significantly pare down the list of what I would usually take with me on this sort of trip. The result was still well beyond what most people would fly with, so I didn't exactly make any friends in the security screening lines when I started filling 6+ trays with the contents of my pockets, backpack, and so on.

With the heavy-handed "security" measures currently implemented in the US, it is foolish to put anything valuable in checked luggage, especially if the whole point of the trip is to use one or more of those items (e.g. a camera). It is virtually guaranteed that it will mysteriously disappear after your luggage is checked, but before it is returned.

Based on my experience on this trip, my suggestion would be to avoid flying in the US as much as possible, especially given that the faux-security screenings have become even more intrusive in the time since then.

A few other things I learned:

Day 1

The first day of this trip was mostly consumed with air-travel overhead and the timezone change. I arrived in Dallas/Fort Worth in the late afternoon, picked up my rental car (see Drive 2010 - Sidebar - The 2010 Ford Fusion), and spent the night in Odessa, TX.

The central and eastern parts of Texas are extremely flat. After seeing the Dallas/Fort Worth area firsthand, I could understand how people who have only been to that part of Texas would be shocked to discover that the southwest part of the state really does look like it's portrayed (usually by other states) in Westerns.

As I drove west, I was genuinely surprised at the scale of the wind-power industry in Texas. I drove along literally hundreds of miles of I-20 from which countless wind turbines stretched into the distance to the north and south. Texans have a reputation for liking things to be "bigger" than elsewhere, but in this case at least it seems more appropriate to say that they've seen a business opportunity and jumped into it without hesitation. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were more windmills along I-20 between Dallas and Odessa than there are in all of California.

Date: 5 July 2010
Starting Mileage: 30189
Ending Mileage: 30540
Distance Travelled (Day): 351 miles / 566 kilometers
Distance Travelled (Trip to Date): 351 miles / 566 kilometers
Fuel Purchased (Day): 9.107 gallons / 34.474 liters
Fuel Purchased (Trip to Date): 9.107 gallons / 34.474 liters
Average Fuel Economy (Day): 38.5 miles per gallon / 6.1 liters per 100 kilometers / 16.4 kilometers per liter
Average Fuel Economy (Trip to Date): 38.5 miles per gallon / 6.1 liters per 100 kilometers / 16.4 kilometers per liter

[ Page Icon ]