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  1. #1

    Default Road Trip 2: Allentown, PA - Broadus, Montana and places in between

    Beginning on August 21, 2010 two friends and I began a journey from Allentown, PA out west to Broadus, MT over the course of seven days. We planned for over a year (because of one failed attempt thanks to student loans) and were better prepared for another speed run. In November 2008 one friend and I went through the south east in four days. Here is the story of the second trip. We switched drivers every hour and a half (roughly) and took all of the proper precautions for a speed run. Our goal was to get to as many states as safely possible in a week.

    Part 1: Allentown, PA - Florence, KY

    The second journey began on the morning of August 21, 2010 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. At eight o'clock in the morning we got our car, a Hyundai Elantra, from the Allentown Airport Avis Rental Car Company. We ended up getting out of the airport by 8:30 and the road trip began. Saturday morning traffic was rather light heading to route 22 west bound which took us to Interstate 78. US 22 and 78 are roads often traveled so they are boring to us. We make good time out of 78 to Harrisburg and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The toll was over $12 dollars to run the length of the PA Turnpike from Harrisburg to exit 75. Exit 75 took us to Interstate 70 in western Pennsylvania.

    Interstate 70 in western PA was where we found a quick lunch at Arby's. Heavy lunches filled with fat are usually what drivers want to avoid while going on long trips to avoid the drowsiness of eating such a big meal. We kept it light even though it was Arby's. Pennsylvania is a huge state. It doesn't look it, but it took us until about two o'clock in the afternoon to get out of there. Being so familiar with the state of Pennsylvania, we couldn't wait to get out of there. There was some construction in western Pennsylvania on Interstate 70 (around the PA Turnpike interchanges) but it only slowed us down fifteen minutes in the long run. 10 minutes of West Virginia comes and goes and Ohio is the next destination. We get gas there. So at least we stopped in every state.

    We head into Ohio, crossing the Ohio river for the first time, and look for maps. None could be found thanks to the recession. The state welcome center was closed due to a lack of funding. Interstate 70 took us to Columbus, Ohio. The surroundings were similar to western Pennsylvania. The clouds began to gather in the late afternoon hours and at the junction of Interstate 70 and Interstate 75 rain began to pour. There was a heavy downpour of about fifteen to twenty minutes just south of Columbus and heading towards Cincinnati on Interstate 75 south. When the clouds opened up it felt like a new day. The rain coming and going was a great refresher. The sun shining on the vast, wet fields of corn through the broken clouds looked amazing. The rain slowed us down a little bit as visibility was terrible. It was the first time any of us felt like we were on a road trip. The humidity was gone and we opened the windows. I felt far from home for the first time.

    It was close to dinner time in south western Ohio. It's after six o'clock in the afternoon, closer to seven, when we approached Cincinnati. Along Interstate 75 every sports venue is visible. Paul Brown Stadium and the stadium where the Reds play (the name escapes me). The interstate first goes through the large buildings which I assume are the business district and then does a loop around the two stadiums before crossing the Ohio River for the second time in the day. Florence, Kentucky wasn't more than 10 or 15 minutes into the state. We stayed at the Microtel Inn. It was perfect for what we needed it for. A one night stay there was great. We got there at roughly 7:30pm and got dinner there. Day 1 was over. It was an easy drive, half of which was familiar. The best part of the day's drive was interstate 75 from Columbus through Florence after the rain subsided. Day 1 was business. We just wanted to get to where we needed to be since we are very familiar with Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Day 2 was when everything was new and exciting; Florence, KY to Topeka, KS.

    Milage: 567
    Time: 11 hours
    States: PA, WY, OH, KY

  2. #2


    Part 2: Florence, Kentucky - Topeka, Kansas

    Day two of our seven day trip started out in the dark, as they all did. We woke up at the Florence, Kentucky Microtel. We may have woken up a little earlier than we were supposed to, but according to our sunrise chart we were fine. We woke up before the alarm and talked about what happened the day before and what was to happen on this day. We got out at sunrise.

    We headed west bound on Interstate 71 towards Indiana. We passed through some great hill country of Kentucky. Too bad we couldn't' see it. There was a dense fog for much of the early morning drive through Kentucky and it didn't break until we reached just outside Louisville. It was a sunny day after Louisville as we crossed the Ohio River one more time on Interstate 64 and headed into Indiana.

    Indiana was the first new state of the day and the second of the trip (we previously were in PA, WV, and KY). We stopped at the Indiana welcome center and stared at the giant state sign for about 10 minutes. Southern Indiana was a great place to be. We got coffee and gas in Indiana and watched the corn fly by. Indiana had more of a hilly terrain than I had expected. I expected more flat land. Nobody was on the Indiana portion of I-64 through the Hoosier State Forest. It was great. Being used to the congestion of the northeast it was a welcomed change.

    Western Indiana started to flatten out as we reached the Indiana state line with Illinois. It wasn't 11:00 when we stopped at the Illinois welcome center. We felt like we were making great time, especially since it was really 10:00 as we crossed into the central time zone. I was expecting Illinois to be quick and I couldn't wait to get out of there. I wanted the St. Louis Arch.

    Illinois was mostly corn country through the southern part. There were less towns than southern Indiana and I was ready to get out as soon as we got in. Along the interstate was only grass and sky with some bushes in between. An occasional farm dotted the farm land. The anticipation of The Gateway Arch made Illinois seem needless long. On approach to East St. Louis we saw exactly why it has the reputation that it does. Several adult clubs, stores, and run down, burned out buildings filled the entire place. We knew it was East St. Louis because the Gateway Arch was up in the distance. (There was also an O'Fallon, Missouri and Illinois. I found that odd being that they were so close.)

    The Mississippi River was crossed by 12:30pm and we stopped at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. I am going to assume that most people have seen the Gateway Arch who go on road trips often, but the first time you see it, you can't believe it. It is a massive metal structure that doesn't look like it could physically stand. It's an engineering marvel. We made sure to take plenty of pictures of the arch. I'm surprised with the state of the world you can get so close to it and touch it, but we did. It was clearly the highlight of the day.

    Interstate 70 was reached when we were finished with the Arch and past Busch Stadium. That section was the Mark McGwire expressway. For lunch we chose Culpepper's. It reminded me of a Shoney's. It looked pretty bad from the outside but the food was good. We spent a good hour or so in Culpepper's going over what just happened at the Arch.

    By the time we were out of Culpepper's and back on I-70 (for most of the next two days or our lives) it was the hottest point of the trip. It was well into the upper 80's and possibly 90. It was oppressive when driving such a long distance but we kept going, we were in the west now.

    Missouri wasn't that great from I-70. It took four hours to cross the great expanse of Missouri. This was mid-afternoon summer heat and maybe that is why Missouri just felt long. I found it odd that there was a nuclear power plant visible from the highway which goes close to a wild life preservation area. I think the nuclear power plant would defeat the purpose but I digress. Missouri wasn't desolate and had it's share of Sunday traffic heading into Columbia and passing through to Kansas City. Missouri was similar to souther Illinois in that there was nothing to see as far as interesting terrain. A lot of grass and bushes and the occasional lake. It was 90 degrees and the air conditioner was having trouble keeping up so Missouri was pretty long. Missouri ended with Kansas City where there was considerable traffic. From I-70 you can see into the Royals stadium. There was a game and the place was probably a third full. They were definitely losing (because they were the Royals) and have been a losing team forever now, but I'd take a spot on their roster regardless. Anyway, we got into Kansas around 4:30pm, four hours after leaving Culpepper's. We were making good time.

    Kansas was strange. I expected flatness, just a vast expanse of grass and nothing else. The first hour of Kansas, to Topeka, was hilly and it had trees and bushes. We stopped at a rest area as we entered the Kansas Turnpike and there was a Jayhawk statue painted red, white, and blue. They clearly love their Jayhawks and the cartoonish character welcomed us to just a monstrous state.

    Topeka is roughly an hour into Kansas and we stop at the Topeka Plaza Inn. This place looked like the Bates Motel. Nobody was there and the pool was broken. It looked like you could push open the door and walk into any room. This place was down right creepy. This was the only time failed me on this or any other trip.

    Instead of possibly dying in the hotel we set out into the city of Topeka for some dinner. We found much more, and much less. I am not aware but maybe Topeka closes on Sundays and has those Blue Laws. There wasn't a soul on the street or driving through town. There is no doubt in my mind you can lay in the road with a green light and nobody would come. I have no doubt because we did it. The town didn't look like it was in recession, it appeared as though the Great Depression was still going on. It was hot, stuffy, and the buildings were all old. The Dr. Pepper ad painted on a brick building reminded me of old 1950 or post World War II pictures of middle America.

    We headed down to Old Prairie Town. It was empty but I guess it was a park because you could wander around anyway. Pictures were taken near an old AT & SF Railroad Car. (If anyone wants a history lesson of the AT & SF I'll let you know.)

    In our wandering we found the Brown vs. Board of Education Building. It was certainly an interesting piece of history for someone very much into the history of this country. Day Two ended in Topeka, Kansas. Day 3 will be the longest haul of the trip. An unbelievable journey through Kansas, Colorado, and into Wyoming.

    Milage: 592
    Time: 12 hours, 11 with time zone jump
    States: KY, IN, IL, MO, KS
    Last edited by Dominic Longo; 09-22-2010 at 02:48 PM. Reason: Added the Topeka Experience

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default to the top

    Quote Originally Posted by jimzdj36 View Post
    Indiana had more of a hilly terrain than I had expected.
    That was also my impression making the drive from Evansville to Louisville a couple years ago. Remarkably scenic in a place I wasn't expecting.

    I'm surprised with the state of the world you can get so close to it and touch it, but we did. It was clearly the highlight of the day.
    Not only can you touch it, you can go up in it! Next time, you really should stop and go to the top. The pods that take you up to the top are an oddity in and of themselves (and not for the claustrophobic), and one would think someday they may decide that they just aren't up to code anymore.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Did you watch the film in the visitor center?

    There's a video of the construction of the Arch and on the day they actually tied the two halves of the arch together -- it was not exactly a 100% foregone conclusion -- especially because the two parts of the arch are not rigid -- they move a bit and getting them line up was pretty interesting. I've been in the top of the Arch with a sustained breeze of about 20 knots and IT MOVES A LOT! I actually got seasick from the motion.

    It is an awesome structure!


  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Not only can you touch it, you can go up in it! Next time, you really should stop and go to the top. The pods that take you up to the top are an oddity in and of themselves (and not for the claustrophobic), and one would think someday they may decide that they just aren't up to code anymore.
    I don't think I will every find myself inside of the arch. Too high for me. I knew you could go inside of it, but I pictured a roped off area and a mile long line.

    I also just selected some pictures of the first two days for a photo album on the site.
    Last edited by Dominic Longo; 09-22-2010 at 03:29 PM.

  6. #6


    Day 3: Topeka, Kansas - Casper, Wyoming

    The distance on day 3 is not recommended for anybody ever. To complete the trip and have a relatively short fourth and fifth day of our speed run we decided to go 800 miles. This was something we prepared for and thought about over and over again. This was the day we couldn't wait for. With the driver rotation we completed it with ease.

    We almost started day three at 2am. We wanted to go to sleep at 8 and wake up at 2 so we wouldn't die in the horrible hotel we found. Thinking better of it, we hit the Kansas countryside at dawn as usual. Early morning in Kansas was unbelievable. Heading west, the sun was behind us and it glowed orange on the hills of eastern Kansas. This was the heartland and furthest west than I have ever been. The plains of Kansas went on for miles and miles. It was great scenery. Looking to the left and right the Kansas prairie stretched on for miles. Pictures couldn't tell the whole story. The colors, rolling hills, and miles of land aren't picked up well enough. It was just too big. Sunrise is Kansas was easily the best sunrise of the week.

    We take a stop at Victoria, Kansas for no particular reason. It wasn't planned but we stumbled upon one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas. A giant Catholic church, the Cathedral of the Plains, stood tall over the small farm town. It looked like Pleasantville, USA, the stereotype of a midwestern farm town. A small downtown area was surrounded by neatly laid out streets of small houses, all looking the same. Everyone had to work at the giant farm around the corner.

    Victoria, Kansas was in the middle of the Kansas wind farms. Miles of windmills stretched through the Kansas hills which gave way to the high Kansas plains where ranching is prevalent. The windmills were replaced by cattle and the green grass was replaced by this crunch brown grass with millions of crickets in it. It was dry out there. Oil rigs dotted the land. It wasn't what I expected from Kansas. I knew eastern Colorado was semi-arid, but Kansas was a bit of a surprise.

    In western Kansas we start seeing signs for Limon, Colorado. We all were thinking that this is going to be a city where we can get lunch. We anticipated Colorado. We took pictures with the giant state sign after 6 hours or so of Kansas. It was only 11:00 because we passed into the western time zone. We thought we were making great time. The welcome center was fantastic and we got our maps and got out of there. The road to Limon was full of curves and hills and great views of the high Colorado plains. The ground was an odd yellow color that didn't come through well on the pictures and it looked like no place I have ever been before.

    Clouds started filtering in on the high plains of Colorado and being unfamiliar with the area thought 50 tornadoes were about to come down from the sky. The climbs up the hills led to amazing views from the tops all the way down. Limon was found and wasn't a city at all. It was a small town and not what we expected after looking at the milage signs for hours. We got there by 12:30, just in time for the Pizza Hut buffet. After loading up on pepperoni pizza and breadsticks (not the best meal) we continued through the hills of Colorado, getting excited about every tree we saw and assuming we were at the foothills of the rockies.

    We pass the Denver Airport and see the Rocky Mountains for the first time ever. It was unbelievable. The mountains didn't have snow on them from what we saw, although there was a bit of haze from incoming showers. The mountains were to our left as we took the loop around downtown Denver to Interstate-25. This would be the last traffic we would see for days.

    Heading north on I-25 we lose sight of the Rockies after the Denver suburbs and went back into more grassland similar to that after Limon. Rolling hills of odd yellow crunchy grass. We get into Wyoming and pass through Cheyenne around 4:00pm mountain time. We pass through Cheyenne and find the greatest thing other than the Badlands on this trip....

    My lunch break is over... Day 3: To Be Continued

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Great read.

    And I am looking forward to more, thanks !

  8. #8


    Day 3 Continued:

    It's the middle of the afternoon on the third day and we are past Cheynne, Wyoming. We begin to make a climb and as we reached the summit, the view from above we unbelievable. There were views of mesas and plateaus that just seemed to end in a cliff and fall off into the grass lands. Around every turn was another massive rock wall, or a cliff, or a million mile view. We couldn't believe what we were seeing. Every pull off that we saw we stopped and took pictures. We just stepped out, walked into the crunchy grass filled with crickets, and stared at the endless Wyoming landscape. It was amazing. We lost interest in trying to get to Casper as early as possible. We wanted to take in every minute of this Wyoming landscape.

    We stopped at a rest area to stare at some mountains and we find a gas station near Wheatland. We started to talk to the cashier, trying to stall so our camera battery would charge. I grabbed a University of Wyoming shirt from the shelf and travled off.

    Past the rest area and gas station I felt like we were in a plane as all of the views became aerial. We were on the tops of summits and could see for miles throughout the grasslands. It was pure, untouched nature which is very different from New Jersey or eastern Pennsylvania where we are from. These views refreshed us at the tail end of a long drive. I'm glad we planned it all for the same day.

    We arrived in Casper around 7:00 local time. It took us 14 hours to get from Topeka, Kansas to Casper, Wyoming, a total of 800 miles. It was a day that we were looking forward to. The views in Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming were all strikingly different and helped us stay excited and energized through the longest day of the trip.

    Miles: 804
    Time: 14 hours, 13 with the time jump
    States: KS, CO, WY
    Total Miles: 2163
    Time: 37 hours, 35 with two time jumps

    Day 4: Casper, WY to Rapid City, SD via Montana

  9. #9


    I didn't see your question. We didnt stop to watch the video. There was a long line to get in there because of the medal detectors and we had to get through the entire state of Missouri.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Next time

    And besides the video, next time you've got to ride to the top. It's hard to believe that they still let you take that ride!


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