Eric's Cross-Country Drive
If you only have time for the short version of my report, here is how my
cross-country drive went:
Orlando, Florida, Georgia, Atlanta, Chevron gas, Sandi, Henriette, Sandi, Shell
gas, Alabama, Natural Bridge of Alabama, Mississippi, Oxford, Amoco gas, Alex,
Tennessee, Arkansas, Phillips 66 gas, Oklahoma, Texaco gas, Texas, New Mexico,
Conoco gas, Albuquerque, Tucanos Brazilian Grill, Theobroma, Pilot gas,
Arizona, Meteor Crater, Canyon Gas, Grand Canyon, Nevada, Hoover Dam, Mobil
gas, Las Vegas, California, Cupertino, Arco gas.
I did not repeat any gas station brand.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
I planned to leave Wednesday, but the movers finished loading the truck before
1 p.m. So I made some phone calls, thought about it, threw my final things into
bags and other containers, told the apartment management I was vacating, and
started for Atlanta. I left Maitland at 2:45 and reached Atlanta at 10:06,
driving 465 miles in 7 hours and 21 minutes, averaging 63.3 miles per hour.
That includes one stop for gas in Georgia, where some tiny flying insects
invaded my car.
I went to Atlanta to visit my friend Sandi and my cousins Victoria, Jonathan,
and Catherine, and their mom, Henriette.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
|Bonnie (back right) and Clyde (front left).
Sandi's cats are Bonnie and Clyde.
Sandi went to work in the morning, and Henriette was at work too, so I did
some quick sightseeing and shopping and met Sandi for lunch.
After lunch, I went to CNN, which is in downtown Atlanta, and took the studio
The studio tour begins with an eight-story escalator, followed by a stop in
the monitor room at the far left, where you can see the same image in various
stages of processing—the plain image from cameras, the image with some
identifying graphics overlaid, and the image as it is being broadcast with
|Mock-up of control booth monitors.
|Tour guide demonstrates blue screen.
Then there is a room where they demonstrate teleprompters and how blue screens
are used to merge camera views with background graphics like weather maps.
After that, the tour goes by some studios where they are broadcasting news
In the afternoon, Henriette came home, and I visited for a while. Jonathan was
there, Victoria arrived after a bit, and we went to pick up Catherine and
then went to dinner.
|Victoria and Henriette Spielberg above, Catherine and Jonathan below.
Jonathan's birthday is August 20, so I gave him his present a couple of days
Thursday, August 19, 2004
In the morning, I set course for Oxford, Mississippi, where my brother Alex
recently moved to be Technical Director at the Department of Theatre Arts at
the University of Mississippi.
There is a sign at the Alabama border announcing you are entering the Central
time zone. I think that is the first time I have driven across a time zone
Around lunchtime, I passed a sign for the Natural Bridge of Alabama, and I
figured that was as good a place to eat as any. (I had some food with me.) The
bridge is a vein of iron ore that was left behind as sandstone eroded away 200
million years ago. There is still water dripping around the bridge, so it will
not be there forever.
|Natural Bridge of Alabama.
A sign says this is the longest rock arch east of the Rockies. The reverse of
the sign announces that Winston county's representatives voted against
secession in 1862, making them unpopular in the area.
I continued to Alex's and arrived at 4:00. We did a quick tour through town and
visited the university, including the theaters where Alex is working.
I forgot to bring my camera, so these photographs are from the next day.
|Not the Grove.
|People outside the student union.
We finished in town and looked for a restaurant. Our first choice was closed
for a private party, but Old Venice was open and turned out to be pretty good.
|Buildings around courthouse square.
For some reason, a British telephone box is installed in the square, next to
city hall. This reminded me of my recent travels, such as the red telephone
booth in EPCOT's World Showcase. This 1930 box was originally installed in
|British telephone booth.
Friday, August 20, 2004
Friday, I just drove 727 miles in 12 hours and 1 minute, with one stop for
food and gas and another just for gas. Reception of public radio stations was
pretty good while passing through Arkansas.
When I merged onto I-40 from 240, my GPS directed me to drive 889 miles, then
Saturday, August 21, 2004
Saturday was also a long driving day (681 miles), except that I stopped in
Albuquerque for lunch and chocolate and had time for a quick visit to Petrified
Forest National Park.
In Albuquerque, I happened upon Tucanos
Brazilian Grill. Grills are not generally good places for vegetarians,
but Tucanos has an excellent salad bar was very good and included several
good non-salad dishes. Their main meal is the Churassco, which includes
assorted breads, fried bananas, unlimited salad bar, and grilled items that
servers bring around to the tables and slice for you. Most of the selections
are various cuts of beef, poultry, pork, and seafood, but they also have
Legumes (vegetables), Feijoada (Black Bean Stew), and
Abacaxi (grilled pineapple). I quite enjoyed the meal and recommend
the restaurant (101 Central Avenue SW, 1-505-246-9900).
|Amtrak in Albuquerque.
|Tucanos Brazilian Grill.
The staff also directed me to
|Train on plain.
Upon crossing into Arizona, I gained two hours on the clock, because Arizona
stays at Universal Time Coordinate minus seven hours. (I think technically
Arizona might switch between Mountain Standard Time and Pacific Daylight
Savings Time, which are both UTC-7 but satisfy federal regulations about
observing Daylight Savings Time.) So I arrived at
Petrified Forest National Park
relatively early, at 4:40 p.m.
I saw lots of trains in New Mexico and Arizona. There is one going by to the
The park also contains some petroglyphs, ancient drawings on some of the stones
that have been glazed by natural processes, but tourists are not allowed close
enough to get good pictures with typical cameras. There is also some
information about why layers of very different geologic ages are next to each
other—intermediate layers may have formed but been washed away.
|Petrified log. The stone is extremely heavy. I hefted a small piece, maybe as large as two fists, and it was very heavy.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
In the morning, I visited Meteor Crater. This crater was formed around 50,000
years ago when a 150-foot meteorite weighing several hundred thousand pounds
struck the earth at about 30,000 miles per hour.
|Meteor Crater. Created in ten seconds by one rock hitting the Earth.
The crater is huge. The appearance is deceptive, even when you are there,
because the hole is generally symmetric, unlike natural features that usually
give you clues to scale. The hole is 4000 feet across and 700 feet deep. In the
second image, I have drawn a red rectangle that encloses a 6' tall cardboard
astronaut and a 5'-by-3' US flag. (NASA trained astronauts here to recognize
geologic features in preparation for recovering rocks from the moon.) Two
million people could be seated around the crater.
Hundreds of meteorites strike Earth every year, and another one this size could
hit anytime, and even bigger ones will hit someday. The blast from this meteorite created the crater in ten seconds.
This land is privately owned. Their museum is fairly decent.
Next, I drove to a bigger hole in the ground in the Kaibab National Forest, the
Grand Canyon. It is bigger, ten miles across, almost a mile deep, and 277 miles
long. However, it has taken six million years to carve. So Meteor Crater was
dug a trillion times faster.
Between the river and the rim, the temperature may change about 30 degrees
I walked a few miles in the park and took lots of pictures for you. I only had
time to walk along the rim. However, if you plan a trip to the Grand Canyon,
I recommend you descend to the river—hike, take a tour, maybe fly through
|Boston Museum of Science marker.
|Switchback path to bottom.
At this point, I was still a day ahead of schedule, since I had started a day
early and driven a lot Friday and Saturday. So I added Las Vegas to my
itinerary. This took me over the Hoover Dam.
There was some unexplained police roadblock about ten miles before the dam. I
was just waived through without question, but I wonder what they were looking
I arrived in Las Vegas around 7:00 p.m. and tried to find a hotel near the
strip. There are cheap hotels begging for customers elsewhere in town, but
I wanted to walk around in the morning without moving the car. However, Vegas
has changed since I was there 15 years ago or so. It is over the top now.
There is a castle, an Eiffel Tower, a roller coaster, pyramids, and more.
After driving around a bit, I parked to seek information, and one of the
fancier hotels was kind enough to direct me to a budget hotel. I got a room
there and went to sleep while Las Vegas partied.
Monday, August 23, 2004
In the morning, I looked around a bit, found breakfast, and looked around
some more. The New York hotel is shown to the right. Inside, it does not
evoke New York much at all, except for Nathan's and its game room and maybe
Coney Island and the roller coaster. I looked for breakfast but did not find
any bagels with schmeers. Maybe the pizza would have been New-York-style, but
none was being served in the morning.
There is a small zoo in the Grand and, in the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art,
works by Monet from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. I did not see what the other
The Paris hotel feels a tiny bit more like Paris than the New York hotel feels
like New York. For starters,
Lenôtre has a store there. The
crêperie is reportedly good, and I also saw a boulangerie and pâtisserie. The
hotel also reminded me of Paris because my chocolate suffered from the heat,
although it fared better this time, and the walk to the train station reminded
me of the trek in Stalingrad.
That train is Las Vegas' new monorail.
My primary motivation for coming to Las Vegas was to visit Star Trek: The
Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, which is a bit removed from the other
hotels. The monorail seems a bit slow and ungainly; it is not what you want
to make tourists feel like they are in the pace of the city.
I arrived at the Hilton before 10 a.m., and
The Experience does not open until 11, so I had time to kill. I
wandered a bit and played blackjack for a while. I ended up exactly even, which
is good for not having refreshed my memory on basic strategy before playing.
|Star Trek: The Experience entrance.
I was pleased with the attraction, especially Klingon Encounter.
Klingon Encounter has some clever scripting, and the audience was amused
by the plausibility of the scenario within the Star Trek universe. I
cannot tell you what happens, because that might change the future. However, I
can say that the story included trips on a transporter, a starship, a
turbolift, and a shuttlecraft, which is a lot to do in 22 minutes, and I
thought the effects were effective. The audience laughed at the ending too,
because it also fits and brings you back to Las Vegas in a "credible" way.
The Borg show is not as good, but it is okay. The entire attraction also
includes Quark's bar, costumed characters (including Borg, Klingon, and
Ferengi), and some interesting merchandise. I ended up with a Borg teddy bear.
Other merchandise includes Klingon blood wine, props from the show, models,
DVDs, greeting cards (like a get-well card showing the Enterprise sick bay),
and t-shirts ("Talk to the hand" depicting the Vulcan finger-spread greeting).
If you are really into it, you can act a few lines in front of a blue-screen
and be inserted into footage of the show.
|Costumes and props.
|Spock's juryrigged tricorder repair.
In the afternoon, I visited the nearby Ethel M factory. and then drove 300
miles and got a hotel room for my last night on the road. The drive went up and
down several mountains, with noticeable changes in air pressure. I think this
is the segment on which I passed Zzyzx Road.
|Ethel M chocolate factory.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
The final leg of my cross-country drive was 250 miles to Cupertino, California.
I arrived near 12:30 and got into my temporary apartment without event.
- Distance: 3363 miles.
- Time: 168 hours, 41 minutes.
- Average speed: 20 miles per hour.
- Gasoline: 82 gallons.
- Mileage: 41 miles per gallon.
- Maximum speed according to GPS: 240 miles per hour.
- Driving time: 54 hours, 21 minutes.
- Time car running but stopped: 2 hours, 9 minutes.
- Average speed while driving: 61 miles per hour.
- Average speed while car running: 59 miles per hour.
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