If there were any doubts about my OCD impulses after reading this post about my counting obsession or this post about our year’s expenses, I’m sure this new post will put them to rest once and for all.
We traversed a total of 26,571 miles during our Year on the Edges of America – March 1, 2018 to March 1, 2019. That’s equivalent to circumnavigating the entire globe and then some. (About 7 percent more.)
If you think of our trek as a ribbon around the equator, we had enough extra mileage to tie a nice bow on the world after a full loop.
We could have done our perimeter trip in fewer miles if we’d come inland a bit and stuck to interstates and other major roads. Or we could have made the trip longer if we’d weaved in and out of more coves along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic seaboard or crossed back and forth along the Canadian and Mexican borders more often than we did. (We went into Canada and Mexico three times each.)
When we started we had no idea how many miles we’d put on our 2009 Nissan Xterra or our 2007 Casita travel trailer. But having traveled 52 weeks along the circumference of the United States, 26,571 feels about right.
We averaged overall about 511 miles a week, or about 73 miles a day.
We have a mileage guesstimate winner
In this post from last May, I disclosed our mileage projections for the year. Georges thought we’d hit 30,000; I figured closer to 35,000.
And I asked blog readers to chime in with their best guesses. Dozens did.
Now that the results are in, it’s clear that blog reader Tom from Phoenix is the winner. He guessed on May 26 that we’d complete the circuit some eight months later in 27,949 miles. He was barely 5 percent off the mark, over by just 1,378 miles.
Tom has been notified of his big win and his prize is forthcoming. That is, it will be forthcoming as soon as we figure out what the prize is. Suggestions welcome.
States and provinces
We visited a total of 43 states and provinces in three countries.
We started in Texas, launching our trip from Kickapoo Cavern State Park near Del Rio, following the Rio Grande to the Gulf Coast along Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. We spent most of April going down one side and up the other of Florida and then meandered in May and June up the Atlantic seaboard.
July found us in Canada exploring portions of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia (we went clear out to Cape Breton), Quebec and Ontario before heading back into the U.S. and wandering along the lake shores of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
By August we were loving the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Door County, Wisconsin before pointing our noses west and cruising along the top of Minnesota (with a quick jaunt into Manitoba, Canada as the only way to satisfy our need for a beer in Angle Inlet, the northern-most point in the continental U.S), North Dakota, Montana and Idaho.
September was getting a bit nippy as we rambled around British Columbia and Alberta and into Washington and Oregon. October along the California coast was capital; we dipped into Nevada on Election Day. (Here’s why.)
We spent December and January in Arizona, with a couple of beach visits to Sonora, Mexico, and then spent February running from sub-freezing temperatures across New Mexico and Texas – complete with a short “Mexican cruise” into Chihuahua.
Final tally: 34 U.S. states, seven Canadian provinces and two Mexican estados.
More states and provinces to come?
Because we’d already been with the Casita to several Rocky Mountain-area states, there are only seven states in the Lower 48 that our little comfort egg on wheels has yet to experience. (The map leading this blog post is my hand-drawn attempt to illustrate this. It shows the states we’d done prior to our year on the road in yellow, the states and provinces we visited during our just-concluded perimeter trip in red and the seven remaining states in green.)
This can’t stand. Yes, we’re already on a mission to visit those remaining seven.
(Indeed, we’ve already knocked off two of them. We had a family memorial service to attend earlier this month in western North Carolina, so after just two weeks back home in Dallas we headed out in the Casita and spent several nights in Tennessee and Arkansas on our way back home from the service.)
What about Alaska and Hawaii? Shall we take the Casita to the remaining three Canadian provinces or the three Canadian territories? The 29 other Mexican estados? Don’t get me started….
We spent a total of $4,959 gas during our Year on the Edges of America, or less than 19 cents a mile. That’s not even $14 a day – about the cost of a pizza.
We weren’t as meticulous as we should have been in calculating consumption, but we seemed to average between 15-18 miles per gallon pulling the Casita depending on mountains and headwinds.
The most expensive gas we encountered was $6.59 in October in Gorda, California – which was about as breathtaking as the gorgeous Big Sur scenery. The cheapest? Last month at $1.86 in Anthony on the border of New Mexico and Texas.
We toted two bikes around the country on the front of our car. (Actually, four if you consider that our two good bikes were stolen in Washington State, which prompted us to replace them with two cheapies for the rest of the trip.)
Was it worth it? Yes.
But perhaps not as overwhelmingly so as we’d expected.
We used our bikes on 65 days of the year, or about 18 percent of the time. We got on our bikes more than once a week early in the trip – the weather was perfect for biking along the Gulf Coast in March and April. But we became less regular as time went on, perhaps because it was cold and rainy in the North and Pacific Northwest by the time we got there in late summer, and we tended more toward hiking in California and Arizona in the winter.
We biked an estimated 1,175 miles each over the course of the year, about the distance from Dallas to Detroit.
If you laid our two bike totals end-to-end, we clocked collectively 2,350 miles, or roughly the coast-to-coast distance across the country from San Diego to St. Augustine.
We experienced three on this trip – the JFK in Boston, Reagan’s in Simi Valley and Nixon’s in Yorba Linda. We enjoyed them all, but especially and unexpectedly the Nixon.
We’re presidential library buffs, having already visited the LBJ and both Bush libraries in Texas, Truman in Missouri, Eisenhower in Kansas, Clinton in Arkansas and FDR in New York. So that’s 10 down, three to go.
That leaves just the Carter in Atlanta, the Hoover in Iowa and the two Ford campuses in Michigan. (We meant to visit the Ford on our perimeter trip, but were so mesmerized – and exhausted – by the day we spent at the sprawling Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn that we were halfway to Wisconsin before we realized we’d forgotten all about the Ford presidential properties in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor.)
We’ve already checked one of the missing three off the to-do list. We overnighted at the Carter library on the way to our family memorial service earlier this month, and we’ve looped both the Hoover and the Ford museums onto the itinerary for another Casita trip later this spring designed to encompass the last five of the Lower 48 states.
Our favorite presidential library so far? Tough call as they are all so different. In the running (for different reasons and in no particular order): LBJ, Truman, Nixon, George W. Bush.
I didn’t have nearly as much leisure reading time on the trip as I expected, barely cracking the wonderful mile-long list of suggestions for place-specific books that readers provided in response to the column I wrote for The Dallas Morning News before we left. (See state-by-state compilation at end of column.)
There was always so much else to do, from hiking to biking, bird watching to map consulting. I googled the history of places we visited, journaled regularly, drafted scores of blog posts, researched myriad overnighting options. We lapped up lectures, floated on ferries, mused in museums and just generally saw sights.
Oh yes, and day dreamed a bit.
Still, somewhere along the Gulf Coast, I did finally finish Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon, which I referenced in an early blog post. I loved his make-it-up-as-you-go trajectory, keen observations about human nature and fresh turns of phrase.
I very much enjoyed Jesmyn Ward’s National Book Award-winning Sing, Unburied, Sing set in Mississippi. At turns sad and hopeful, it was constantly creative and riveting. And I loved Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (finally!) by John Berendt – so much so, in fact, that I wrote a whole blog post about the book and the city while we were in Savannah, Georgia.
We consulted How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein regularly along the way, recommended by several readers and “Amazoned” to me by good friend Madeleine from Dallas while we were both in South Carolina.
Two books not on the reader-recommended list that I enjoyed in their place of origin were Lisa Wingett’s Before We Were Yours set in South Carolina (and Tennessee) and the Pulitzer-winning Less by Andrew Sean Greene, which is set all over the world but based in New York City.
I went on (another) brief Nevada Barr kick, enjoying – as recommended by many readers – Boar Island while we were in Acadia National Park in Maine and Blood Lure in Glacier National Park in Montana.
I reveled in Pulitzer-winning Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser – having devoured the entire Little House series as a pre-teen growing up in rural Arizona – as we crossed the northern tier of the country in August. And Greetings from the Golden State by Leslie Brenner, formerly of The Dallas Morning News, was an engaging read as we puttered around LA in October.
Last month, I read three books about travelers on adventures. I was swept away by the abandon and humor in The Wander Year: One Couple’s Journey Around the World by Mike McIntyre, struggled with the ugly-American aspects of Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith and relished the wit, historical perspective and philosophical insights of The Oregon Trail: The New American Journey by Rinker Buck.
The best book I read on the whole trip was Modern Gypsies: The Story of a Twelve Thousand Mile Motor Camping Trip Encircling the United States by Mary Crehore Bedell about a trip oh-so-similar to ours nearly 100 years ago.
Next up? I’ve just started Lawrence Wright’s new book, God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State. Other suggestions are welcome in the comments section below.
We saw 79 other Texas-made Casita travel trailers during our 12 months of travel around the perimeter of the United States. We saw them from Key Largo all the way up to Nova Scotia – and across to British Columbia.
(If we had a dollar for every person who asked to see the inside of our Casita, we could treat ourselves to roundtrip airfare somewhere special. Truly, Casita Travel Trailers in Rice, Texas should pay us commission!)
We saw the most Casitas in a single month just last month. We counted 27 as we traveled from Arizona, across New Mexico and back into Texas.
We saw the second-most in October, interestingly enough, when we counted 14 as we were passing through British Columbia, Washington and Oregon in the Pacific Northwest.
This written rumination is the 101st post since the creation of this blog as we were prepping for our perimeter trip. I’ve averaged about two posts a week for the last year.
Reader engagement has been way stronger than expected and, truly, the source of deep enjoyment. I’ve absolutely loved hearing from readers who are as obsessed with this sort of fun and adventurous travel as G and I are. The blog’s traffic figures have encouraged me to become more disciplined about what has always been my first love – writing.
The most-viewed post – far and away – was this one about the worst day of our trip. Except for the blog’s homepage and map, this missive attracted 60 percent more views than the next most popular post.
I’ve posted hundreds of photos and dozens of videos. The most popular video? The day of our departure, which is included in this blog post.
The second-most popular video? Georges’ tutorial with his pal, Collin, in Louisiana last March on how to make a great guacamole. It’s included in this blog post.
In addition to the blog, I kept a daily journal on my iPad all year. It totals 199,186 words. The blog is really just a series of occasional (and more carefully edited) excerpts from my journal.
I was apparently most verbose to myself in May-June. We were along the Atlantic seaboard then, from Georgia to Maine, relishing everything from barrier islands to Acadian vistas. I wrote some 41,013 words in my journal in that two-month span.
By contrast, November-December was fairly spare. I journaled barely 20,526 words then. We’d settled into Tucson for the holidays by Thanksgiving and I struggled with the adjustment of being in one place for more than a few days.
Yes, I know, this is where you’re rolling your eyes and swearing under your breath that I truly am anal….
But I’m unapologetic.
I read back through my journal the other day to calculate our biking miles and it’s amazing how much of our trip I’d already forgotten – the gentleman hiker in Miami, the racist dinner guest in Baltimore, the perfect campground in Big Sur. And so on….
Yes, I may be OCD when it comes to recording events and impressions, but c’est la vie. It’s the only way I can relive – and relive and relive – what has been the Experience of a Lifetime.