This page is under construction. The longer paragraphs are generally the
most complete. I haven't finished scanning all of my pictures yet.
Last updated on August 1, 2003.
A note to foreign visitors: Assume the standard (British Imperial or American)
system of measurement for all quantities used, e.g. degrees Farenheit, miles,
gallons, etc. All monetary quantities are in US dollars and cents. Gasoline
prices quoted are for regular unleaded, 87 octane.
I have done a lot of traveling since I bought my first car in May of 1997. I
never had much desire to travel before I accepted an out-of-state job, but
since then I've more than made up for my earlier lack of enthusiasm. As of
April, 2001, I have been to 46 states (including Michigan's Upper Peninsula)
and six foreign countries (and two Canadian provinces). I have personally
driven through 44 states (though technically I never drove in
California) and have visited two states by plane only (in one state, Texas, I
never left the airport). It was my original goal to have visited all 50 states
by the end of the millenium, but I Alaska and Hawaii are going to be a bit of a
challenge. And perhaps I'll visit Puerto Rico, too!
All of my trips have taken a week or less (according to CNN, a growing trend
among vacationers, and what I dub short attention span vacations), with the
exception of my two-week business trip to Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I'm not
necessarily against flying, it's just that I feel that you really miss out on
what's great about our country by flying from Point A to Point B. If you lease
your vehicle and you're worried about the mileage, get an unlimited mileage
rental car. They cost more money than limited mileage rental cars, but they're
worth it. If you do fly to your destination, get a rental car and drive around
a bit. There's a lot of beauty not far outside of metropolitan areas, and
depending on your definition of beauty, you may not even need to leave the
heavily populated areas. In some cases, you may be able to do some traveling
on foot. Be creative! The next time you need to be somewhere 200-1000 miles
away, take a few extra days and drive there. You won't be
disappointed. The same advice should apply for European travelers, though I
have not yet gone on my European road trip. I do know that the rental car
rates I looked at in Amsterdam were ten times that of typical American car
rental rates, although they are closer to only five times higher if you
downgrade your car size to Europe's idea of a subcompact (cars so small a few
guys in a Mentos commercial could lift them) compared to something like the
Neon or the Focus in the U.S.
Before I start describing my trips, I'd like to offer the most useful piece of
advice for travelers. When you go somewhere, ask people what they like to do
there. People love to talk about the fun they've experienced and what's best
is that they relive that fun by sharing their advice. Also, join AAA and take advantage of their maps and travel
service. I also highly recommend the Rand McNally Road Atlas, which costs only
$10 (In 2000 Wal-Mart ran a special for about $5). And while you're at it,
make sure your car is in good repair. (On one occasion, I got stuck in Amish
country waiting for a wheel to be repaired but I was lucky enough to find an
excellent mechanic who was able to fix the problem the next day). If you don't
trust your vehicle, get an unlimited mileage rental or convince someone to lend
you theirs. :-)
December 1991/January 1992
This trip was with my best friend, Don. We decided to visit an old college
friend of his who lives in Sioux Falls, SD. The weather on the way there was
cooperative, typically cold for the Midwest, but basically free of snow. We
drove in his rear-wheel drive Camaro, which would prove to be somewhat of a bad
idea. On the way there I took over the driving duties for a while, and I
managed to get ticketed at 14 over near Sparta, Wisconsin. (Michigan drivers
speed and the state police are generally tolerant toward speeders. They have
zero tolerance, however, for agressive drivers and drunks). I had already
known that Ohio highway patrollers are unreasonably severe toward speeders but
I found out that Wisconsin officers also have zero tolerance. I received no
break on the ticket, and since I was 16 at the time the State of Wisconsin
sent letters to my parents and the Secretary of State of Michigan informing
them of my speeding ticket. (I suppose people in Wisconsin get bored of cow
tipping, drinking beer, and making cheese and enjoy making tourists' lives a
living hell). The rest of the ride was uneventful. Seeing the frozen Sioux
Falls was something else, but the weather there was just too cold for us
normally hardy Michiganders (daytime highs around 10 degrees F), so we decided
to head home early. On the way back, it was snowing lightly and we hit a
concealed patch of black ice somewhere in Minnesota and spun off the
interstate, just missing a large wooden sign post. A truck driver was nice
enough to give us a hand, and we managed to make it out of that mess in one
piece. I felt like kissing the ground when I got back to Michigan where
daytime highs were in the 40's.
Note the large time gap here. During this period I spent a lot of time as an
impoverished student, biding my time until one day I would be able to see the
world. And I also decided to avoid traveling during the winter (at least in
areas where it snows frequently).
Flew out to Silicon Valley, California, to spend a few days with my friend Tom
who was working there at the time. We drove all around the Bay area, visiting
Stanford and the Bill Gates Computer
Science Building. I suggested we look for Professor Donald Knuth, the famous
inventor of the TeX document layout system and the author of the Art of
Computer Science series, but he was not in his office. We visited UC-Berkeley
and looked out on the entire Bay Area from the mountain outlook there. We had
some Chinese food in San Francisco and also walked around Haight-Ashbury, an
area originally made famous during the 1960's. (We weren't looking for
anything, but the local kids thought we were narcs, judging by our clothing. I
think we had the cops confused, too, because we later pulled up to some
undercover officers asking for directions back home). Then we drove down to LA
to spend another couple of days with a friend, taking the coast highway the
entire way. The coast highway is incredibly beautiful. I highly recommend
checking out the tidal pools, where you can find all sorts of interesting sea
life, including starfish and sea urchins. Unfortunately, I did not take any
pictures of the coast, though I plan on doing so the next time I visit. We
visited Universal Studios during an incredibly clear day, though it was over 90
degrees and very dry. Afterwards, we drove back to Silicon Valley and I
eventually headed home. As far as I know, there were no earthquakes during my
entire stay in California.
Spring Break 1998
Drove from Metro Detroit to Boston, MA, through Ontario and detoured north a
bit through Vermont, New Hampshire (loved the granite rocks and the babbling
brooks) and Maine. Spent two days at MIT with friends and drove down to
Washington, D.C. to spend two days at the Smithsonian. Rounded out the trip to
spend two days with friends in Chapel Hill, N.C. Headed back to Michigan
through Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio.
(At the time I was living in Raleigh, N.C.) Headed down to Atlanta, GA, for
the Atlanta Linux Showcase, a computer conference. Drove through Montgomery,
AL, stopped in Tuscaloosa to pick up a 'Bama t-shirt, drove down western
Alabama through Mobile and Mississippi to the southwestern corner of Lousiana.
From there I headed back to Mobile, drove around a bit, crossed Mobile Bay and
headed down to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Despite being extremely depressed due to
the destruction of Hurricane Georges, the scenery was quite beautiful there and
I went for a bit of a wade in the Gulf of Mexico. The salt water didn't agree
with my wristwatch, and I haven't bothered to get a new one since then. From
there I drove along the coast into Pensacola, and started heading back to
Raleigh through strikingly white cotton fields.
I was moving my belongings back to Michigan after living in Raleigh, NC, for
about five months, and I decided to have a little fun because I wasn't due back
until Christmas. I left around December 15th and instead of taking the fastest
route home (and paying the exorbitant tolls to pass through the States of West
Virginia and Ohio), I decided to take the scenic route back to Michigan. The
weather was cooperative early on in my trip with only light flurries in East
Tennessee near the mountains (see my Great Smoky Mountains pictures). I
thought about heading back to Michigan up I-75 when I got to Knoxville but I
decided instead to visit a few more states before I headed home. I drove all
the way across Tennessee and got off in Memphis. I was unfamiliar with
Memphis, so I didn't have much luck finding a Memphis barbeque place. I found
myself in a bad part of town, so I took leave and continued on to West Memphis,
Arkansas. I ate chicken fried steak and home fries for the first time while I
was there. I continued on I-40 to Little Rock and stopped at a gas station
there to chat with a native about the upcoming Citrus Bowl which pitted
Arkansas against Michigan (Michigan went on to win.) After hearing some
encouraging words about the Ozarks, I continued on I-40 and disembarked near
Clarksville in NW Arkansas. I stayed the night there and started heading north
along the scenic routes to the Ozarks. I also stopped at the Buffalo National
Here are my pictures from the Ozarks and the
Buffalo National River.
From there I took a scenic route to the campus of the University of Arkansas at
Fayetteville. Class was not in session but I did manage to pick up a few
souvenirs. The route through the Ozarks was picturesque, though, with dozens
of small towns with populations numbering in the dozens. Leaving NW Arkansas,
I decided to make my way through the NE tip of Oklahoma. My only significant
experiences there were finding gasoline for 74c/gallon and managing to not get
too badly lost in the rainy, low visibility weather while avoiding the toll
roads. (As you may remember, gas prices were at historic lows during that
period and I never once paid more than a buck a gallon during my road trip.
Also, I never once paid tolls during my nearly 3000 mile trip.) From there I
drove through the SE tip of Kansas to Joplin, Missouri. During my brief four
state tour, I stopped at a delightful little frozen custard place and chatted
with the proprietor and his daughter. They suggested I try visiting Branson,
Missouri, and were quite surprised to find out that I had never heard of the
place. (I never did make it due to ice storms on my return trip through
Missouri.) I drove around Joplin for a while before deciding to head up to
Kansas City. I really fell in love with Kansas City. I particularly liked the
downtown district, the riverboat casinos, and the rolling hills. During my
two-day stay in metropolitan Kansas City, I accidentally crossed into Kansas
City, Kansas. There isn't even a geographical border between Kansas City,
Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, in places; the city continues on as if the
border did not exist. Every other state border I've crossed while still in the
city has been across a signifcant geographical boundary. And more typically
state borders seem to be in rural areas of one or both states. From there I
headed north into Iowa and visited the casino in Council Bluffs, a suburb of
Omaha, Nebraska. It was getting to be quite cold at this point with highs
around 12 degrees, so I decided that it was almost time to start heading in the
direction of home. After I left the casino, I crossed the Missouri River into
Omaha. I was amazed and delighted to be able to legally drive 75 on the
interstate to Lincoln. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln was also out of
session, but the city was pretty, your typical quaint college town. I took a
state highway back into Iowa and was again pleased that the speed limit was 65.
After I crossed back into Iowa, I started heading south towards Kansas City.
I had some trouble finding a decent motel in SW Iowa along the interstate, but
I did manage to find an acceptable place after a few wild goose chases. I woke
up the next morning to a considerable amount of snow. Continuing south, the
weather turned into an ice storm just north of Kansas City. There were wrecks
strewn all over the highway, but fortunately Michigan drivers are used to
driving in slippery conditions due to our lousy weather so I made it through
okay. It took me three or more hours to make it past Independence. When I
stopped at the next rest stop there were a lot of drivers totally wrung out
from the experience. My next stop was St. Louis. The arch was closed, but I
did visit a riverboat casino there after waiting until the next "boarding
time." (To those of you not familiar with riverboat casinos, many are like
stepping into a building that just happens to be on the water. Apparently
Missouri regulations require that you buy a ticket or "boarding pass" (which
costs a ridiculously low sum of money or no money at all) and that you only
board the craft during designated times (in reality the boat never moves so the
only thing preventing you from entering the casino is an usher blocking the
entrance only.) To summarize, the "riverboat" aspect of these riverboat
casinos is a sham.) After spending about 3 hours in St. Louis, I headed back to
Metro Detroit through E. St. Louis, Illinois, and Indianapolis, Indiana,
without stopping (except twice for gas).
Spring Break 1999
Flew from Metro Detroit to Miami. Spent several days with a friend who lives
outside of Fort Lauderdale. Headed up to see a friend just outside Orlando.
Drove down to Raleigh, NC, to the Linux Expo. Spent three days there, then
headed east to the Outer Banks through the scenic swamps of Eastern North
Carolina. Spent one and a half days driving from the northern tip (near
Corolla) to the southern tip. The Outer Banks is famous for its lighthouses,
several of which dot the landscape from top to bottom, its beaches, and its
wildlife. In several places the Outer Banks is barely wider than the highway
and the sand dunes on either side. You can expect sand and seashells on the
roadway. The houses there have been built on stilts in anticipation of severe
flooding and periodic hurricanes.
Here are my Outer Banks pictures.
On the way back, I stopped at a park in the swamps and took several pictures.
Here are those pictures.
Afterwards, I took I-40 out to the mountains with the intention of getting some
wildflower pictures but instead I spent the day at the casino in Cherokee,
which was fun in its own way. (Cherokee is on an Indian reservation, so the
North Carolina laws against gambling do not apply. NC doesn't even have its
own lottery! Incidentally, NC and SC were the only two states that voted
against repealing Prohibition). Heading through the mountains did allow me to
avoid taking toll roads on the way back, so the extra mileage actually saved me
money in the long run. Growing up in Michigan, I'm violently opposed to toll
roads and I can and will go out of my way to avoid them. Tolls have gotten so
high compared to the cost of gas that this is actually worth it (though if you
consider auto maintenance expense/mile it might be a loss).
Drove from Metro Detroit through Ontario to Ottawa, for the Ottawa Linux
Symposium. Spent three days there, but one night I drove through Hull, Quebec,
to Montreal. I know enough French to read the signs but I was totally shocked
the first time I got out of the car there at a gas station. Luckily I could
read the amount of money on the cash register, so I was all set. I got a
little more courage when I got a bite to eat at Burger King so I asked them if
I could order in English. Then I went to the Vieux Quart (Old Quarter) and
spent the evening enjoying puppet shows, live performances in English and
French, and just people generally enjoying themselves. From Ottawa I drove
down to Rome, NY, for the last day of Woodstock '99.
See the numerous magazine articles or the official Woodstock web site for pictures
Shortly after my Ottawa/Montreal/Rome, NY, road trip, I flew to Amsterdam, the
Netherlands, for two weeks on business. I think the trip was successful even
though I was ill virtually the entire time. (I probably caught something at
Woodstock, possibly due to the horrible
sanitary conditions there. See articles in Rolling Stone Magazine and
others for the gory details. I was also experiencing jet lag and may have had
a case of food poisoning). I attempted to capture the flavor of Europe in my
pictures, as well as to capture the Red Light
District for which Amsterdam is famous. In case you don't already know,
Amsterdam has in place a drug policy called harm reduction in which the legal
system utilizes drug treatment programs rather than throwing drug users into
jails where they can be exposed to hardened criminals. Marijuana and
hallucinogenic mushrooms (which have been used for centuries by people for a
variety of reasons) are decriminalized, and the use of so-called hard drugs is
highly discouraged. Marijuana, hashish (marijuana oil), and hallucinogenic
mushrooms are sold to adults in "coffeeshops" and their use is permissible
therein. Having said that, the Red Light District has a large number of
"coffeeshops," head shops (where they sell marijuana pipes, among other
things), live sex shows, adult book stores, and windowed bedrooms where you can
solicit and have sex with prostitutes. Naturally, the crime rate in this area
is low, since none of these activities are illegal. And there are a large
number of undercover cops present making sure that the illegal ones don't
occur. I don't endorse these actvities, though there are worse things an adult
can do besides having sex and using recreational drugs (which for all practical
purposes include alcohol and tobacco).
Here are about half of the pictures I took
during my stay. The remaining pictures are still sitting undeveloped in my
Headed straight down I-75 to Atlanta, GA, for the Atlanta Linux Showcase.
After the show I drove through N GA, and into E TN. I drove along the
periphery and into the Great Smoky National Park, checking out Cade's Cove,
and working my way north past Gatlinburg. I spent two days in the park and
really enjoyed myself. Gatlinburg was a real treat. But I especially loved
hiking 10 miles through the mountains and the spectacular waterfalls. I was
hesitent to leave the park, but eventually I made it back to Michigan
Here are my pictures from the Park, without
captions and a bit disorganized for the moment.
Here I will describe my trip to Florida and back.
February 4, 2000
Here I will describe my trip through central, west, and northwest Michigan and
the Upper Peninsula.
March 13, 2000
Here I will describe my second European vacation, which included train trips to
Paris from Amsterdam on consecutive weekends.
Here I will describe my trip out West, including visiting two national parks,
one national monument, and driving past one national park closed due to fire.
My third European business trip with a surprise 48 hour stint in Madrid, Spain.
My fifth visit to Amsterdam. Somehow I had my passport stolen. Likely they
just wanted my CD player and pilfered my passport by mistake.
South Padre Island, TX
I went with my ex-girlfriend on her spring break during the first week of
March, 2003. It was cool and foggy most of the time so we only took two
pictures. Notable highlights included cleaning up the beach, the best Mexican
food I've had in my life, an evening trip up to Corpus Christi, and a souvenir
buying trip to Mexico. My ex-girlfriend wasn't into the bars or biking up and
down the strip, but what little we did do of that I enjoyed. One of the most
interesting things for me about the area was the fauna. Since I visited I've
assembled a cactus farm.
Blue Ridge Parkway
During my second stint in North Carolina I drove up the Virginia half of the
Blue Ridge Parkway. The parkway is administered by the National Park Service
and is scenic through the entire route from the Great Smoky Mountains National
Park in Tennessee/North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia,
just outside of Washington, D.C.
Here are the pictures from this trip.
Myrtle Beach, SC
I've visited quite a number of times (having lived in North Carolina during two
4-5 month periods) but I still love going there. Myrtle Beach is one of the
cleanest beaches in the nation. It's all tourists during the summer and there
is a lot of cheesy neon at night, but the beach is something you can't miss.
Myrtle Beach is especially good in the off-season when it isn't very crowded.
Planning in advance to go in the off-season might be dodgy, though, because the
weather will be less predictable (especially during the hurricane season). One
time around September, 1998, I headed down from Raleigh, North Carolina, and
stayed the night there for less than $40. It was around 90 F and sunny both
A short two-day trip to the snowiest place in the U.S. in Michigan's Keewenaw
peninsula. To come are some nice pics of my Audi in the snow.
More information to follow: don't be afraid to be late, don't be too
disappointed if you miss something specific.
- I'd like to drive to Alaska through Canada.
- New Orleans at Mardi Gras!
- Area 51 in Nevada.
- California red wood forests and a jaunt through Oregon and Washington.
- A trip to the Maritimes in Eastern Canada, possibly spending some more
time in Quebec and actually trying out my French. Done.
- I guess it's everybody's dream to go to Paris, but there are so many more
things I want to see in America before I go overseas strictly as a tourist.