Purely motivated by a lack of divine inspiration, I took aim for the last three of the lower-48 I'd yet to visit: Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and after a few days of mental wrangling I chose to forgo the 60-hour Greyhound Marathon to the Maine-Canada border in favor of Craigslist's Rideshare.
Departure day was Friday the 6th with Elissa, a pleasant 60-something latina from Santa Fe on her way to see family in Denver. She was almost the perfect Rideshare: no haggling over money, flexible on the departure, and drove fast with very few stops! It was quite uneventful, and entertaining in that I was treated to watching her drive AND smoke a bowl through Colorado Springs; skills I can only imagine!
In Denver, I began coordinating with the bullet-train of this cross-country adventure: Alex. She too was flexible on when we could leave, which made everything possible in that she was willing to wait until late afternoon. Once I was in town, Alex needed time to connect with and pick up Scott, another Ridesharer, so we decided to meet at REI where I could entertain myself until Rapture if needed.
Alex was returning from Denver to Ithaca, New York to stay with her grandmother for reasons she never offered, and I never asked. In fact, we never asked each other a whole lot. I still have no idea how old she is.
Scott was in his early 20's, from near Albany, smoked insane amounts of pot, and was pleasant and genuinely nondescript. He was traveling to random spots and meeting a friend in Davenport. Nothing about him stood out.
Everyone seemed to click quite nicely as we settled in for the Friday night ride across Nebraska and Saturday's Iowa crossing to Davenport, which naturally included a reunion with the Iowa 80. Alex's corgi, Milkshake, and I shared the backseat and, aside from having to pull off for a thunderstorm in eastern Colorado, the ride was smooth and quite enjoyable.
|Alex & Scott|
Things got interesting in Illinois. Alex was in no hurry to get to Ithaca, so I offhandedly suggested I contact Leslie in Chicago to see if she wanted to join us for a couple of drinks. That never materialized, but set the stage for an entertaining and spontaneous couple of hours.
Alex detests toll roads, and once past Chicago, that's what you get if you want to cross Indiana and Ohio quickly. We decided to say, "fuck quickly", and more importantly, "fuck their nearly $30 in tolls."
Fun Fact: Indiana SOLD their told road to another country, so the tolls don't even go to the state.
An alternative is to take I-94 into Michigan. Alex wanted to stop somewhere in the state to have a beer, and my initial suggestion was Battle Creek where I hoped my old radio friend, Bobby, was hosting karaoke. He wasn't and, unable to reach anyone else at the last minute, we left I-94 for US-12 to find the first decent hole-in-the-wall to have an "authentic Michigan experience." That ultimately led us into Edwardsburg; a place that's positively "Pure Michigan"...whatever that is.
With visions of rednecks dancing in my head, I was mildly concerned about stopping at a random bar on a Saturday night in backwoods Michigan, but it quickly became obvious that they were the ones who needed to beware.
There were maybe a dozen people in the bar, along with a karaoke host-- who was sitting by himself, ignored--until Alex arrived. A few songs later, the bar had an influx of her energy, people were laughing, and although I didn't hear it, Alex later told me that the townsfolk had equated me to Bill from True Blood. She assured me it was an enormous compliment and it offered quite a perspective into how people might see me on the road!
US-12 is always maddeningly slow, even at night. So, Alex relented and rejoined the foreign-owned Indiana Toll Road in Elkhart. We slept for a few hours at the nearby service plaza before entering Ohio, and leaving the toll road in favor of US-20 early Sunday morning. That route took us past my sister Michelle's house, making for a nice out-of-the-blue Sunday surprise.
I've never spent much time in rural Pennsylvania, and I have a special disdain for Philadelphia, but the intoxicating landscape dotted with Leave It To Beaveresque towns made me think I had found the Land that Time Forgot... or at least been sucked into Pleasantville! I don't typically make recommendations, but if you get the opportunity, take US-6.