Thursday, September 03, 2009

Road Trip!!!

I think I don't have to tell you guys how much I love traveling by train. (If there's any confusion, please review my trains topic.) However, in the interest of allowing my kids to form their own opinions, we decided to take them on a good old-fashioned American road trip!!!

At my last job in Switzerland, my American colleague and I used to love to swap culture notes with our Swiss colleagues! We explained to a Swiss colleague that getting a used car and driving around the U.S. is a popular adventure for young adults to take, but that the dream -- if you have a little more money -- is to fly to Europe, get a rail pass, and backpack all over. He told us that they have an equal and opposite adventure for young adults in Europe: normally you get a rail pass and spend a few months exploring all over Europe, but the dream -- if you have a little more money -- is to fly to the U.S., buy a used car, and drive cross country!

Naturally, I shouldn't be surprised. Getting in the car for a road trip was the economical family vacation I remember from my childhood, whereas (for me) railway travel was an exotic adventure! I guess it kind of depends on what you grew up with.

Why not take a road trip across Europe? Well, they don't have the (socialist) interstate highway system like here, so it's not nearly as convenient. It's the same as the reason why nobody dreams of exploring America cross-country by train: it may be theoretically possible to do it, but good luck! lol

I've heard that one of the motivations for setting up the (socialist) interstate highway system was a strategic one. Upon realizing how easy it is to wipe out a compact city with a nuclear bomb, the U.S. government decided to deliberately encourage sprawl in order to spread out the potential targets. This is a very real consideration, BTW. For example, if someone managed to take out Paris entirely, France would be in very serious trouble. That said, the disadvantage of the sprawl strategy is now becoming painfully clear: transportation through the sprawl net is incredibly inefficient, so if your energy supply is in question, then you're in very serious trouble.

Military strategy aside, our family's road trip was loads of fun for us and the kids (details and pics soon!) and we've arrived in our little apartment-for-the-semester in New Jersey.

p.s.: Sorry for being AWOL from the Internet while on the road. I didn't mean to post something controversial just before setting off, but I should have known that if I post any remark that's even obliquely critical of homeschooling, woah Nellie, watch out! ;^) But seriously, give me this evening to relax and get my family settled in, and I'll read all of the comments carefully tomorrow.


Unknown said...

In 1989 I made a one month trip by train (Amtrack) from Seattle to Chicago via LA, Phoenix, New Orleans, (the bus to) Orlando, (train again) Philadelphia and New York.
It was a great experience.
And we've made roadtrips to Portugal and Poland.
I'm really not an average European am I? :)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Hugo!!!

That's fabulous! Why do stuff the easy way? ;^) Sounds like a great set of adventures!

Allan said...

The only train trip I ever took was when transferring areas on my mission in Bolivia. I loved it even though a freight train derailed ahead of us in the middle of the Andes and had to be tumbled into the ditch to allow us to pass. Other than that it was great.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Allan!!!

Wow, that must have been quite an adventure! I think I'd be a little worried about riding a train through the mountains if there were some problems with staying on track...

littlemissattitude said...

I love the train, and take it whenever I can when I'm traveling. However, there are so many places you just never see when traveling by train, so I love road trips as well.

For example, this past weekend, I rode along with a friend when she took a short trip to Salt Lake City to see her son, who is in the Marines and stationed there at the moment. (It's a long drive from central California to SLC and back, by the way, and I don't recommend it as a three-day road trip, despite the good time I had.)

On the way home we decided to drop down and take U.S. 50 rather than retrace our route on I-80. 50 runs through central Utah and then crosses Nevada in an area where there is nearly nothing...four or five very small towns (which were much larger before the silver mines went bust) over a distance of between 300 and 400 miles...and is billed as "The Loneliest Road in America".

Fascinating route to take. There are archaeological and paleontological sites along the way, the geology is amazing...and beautiful. The altitude (several passes reach above 7,000 feet) helps out a bit with the temperature, although it can get hot in the summer. This is a place where at times the road really does run straight as far as the eye can see.

I plan to go back when I have three or four days to really explore the area.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey LittleMissAttitude!!!

Yeah, it's true that a road trip can take you past a lot of out-of-the-way places that aren't accessible by train, which is a big part of the fun of a road trip. Your trip sounds really amazing!