mikedd969 New Reader
4/12/18 11:01 a.m.

Greetings everyone!!


Bear with me please, this is going to be kind of long. Apparently I am incapable of brevity.  wink


For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to do an epic cross-country road trip.  It appeals to the adventurous romantic in me, the guy who is always excited about doing something new, seeing new places and having new experiences.  I’ve traveled all over the world and the US, but I’ve never had the chance to make a drive like this, until now.  In fact, I've missed most of the southwestern US in my travels, not counting day trips for work.


Late in 2016, the small mom and pop computer software company here in Mobile AL where I worked for the last 14 years as an IT Manager (yuck) was acquired by a HUGE software company in Folsom CA. This company is essentially the Microsoft of that particular segment of the software industry.  Transitioning from a small company operation to a large company way of operating was a challenge, all the more so because I was the only one in my new department at our location.  The “mushroom effect” was strong indecision, but I was, at least I felt, making the transition.  It made work a lot less enjoyable.  To be honest, I never really liked the IT field, I sort of fell into it by accident, my background is all “real electronics”, starting with my 10 years as a U.S. Navy Electronics technician.  I stayed in my job mainly because I really enjoyed the people I worked with, and the industry sector we were part of.  Last September, our new company started a “personnel realignment” with respect to our little office.  That’s fancy business-speak for firing people that they think they can do without, me among them. angry I wasn't really that surprised, and to be honest, it was a bit of a relief actually.  I wasn't enjoying the new regime and the “big IT” rigid structure of the way they operated.  Also, like I said, IT was never really something I truly enjoyed doing in the first place.  I got a nice severance package, and I truly do not miss the job (miss the salary though....), but I do miss the people in the office here that I worked with, they are like family to me.


So, rather than jump right back into the job market and find another IT job, I instead took some time to figure out just want I would like to do.  I was 49 at the time and if I was going to make a career change I figured that this was probably my last chance to do so. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to return to my roots in electronics, and to working with my hands again.  That was the work that gave me the most satisfaction, and, not to toot my own horn, I was always very good at it. smiley Over the past 5 years or so, the Mobile AL area has developed a fairly sizable aviation industry presence.  Airbus opened a huge manufacturing facility here a few years ago, and there were already several companies in that industry operating in the area.  Once Airbus came to town, a lot of other companies followed. Ultimately, I decided to go back to college.  Well, to be 100% accurate, I decided to go to college, I never went in the first place.  I joined the Navy right out of High School in 1986 and just never found time or had the need to go after that.  My local community college has an excellent Aviation program, offering AS degrees in powerplant, airframe and avionics.  I figured that with my extensive electronics background, avionics would be a perfect field for me.  So, at the ripe old age of “not quite 50 yet” I became quite possibly the world’s oldest college freshman when I enrolled in the Spring 2018 semester. cheeky


The downside to all this, of course, is financial.  Lucky for me, my wonderful wife (SHMBO) makes enough money to support us while I go to school, but we have had to make certain concessions and cutbacks.  The first victim was my planned “Miata project” acquisition that was to have taken place this summer, marking (hopefully) my long anticipated return to the racetrack, but this time on 4 wheels instead of 2……(getting too old to be racing motorcycles and I sold my beloved old Ducati 916 years ago anyway)   Kind of a bummer, as I’d been planning and scheming about it for years.  Oh well, there will always be ratty old Miatas that need a loving home. smiley  One will be there when I am finally ready.  I’m pretty philosophical about things like that, everything usually works out for the best in the long run.  This way I might be able to afford a used ND when the time comes……wink


That brings us to the upcoming summer.  I’m only taking one class in the summer semester, and that will be 100% online (a math class….yuck), so I can pretty much take that class from anywhere.  We are empty-nesters, my Daughter is a freshman at Mississippi State University (Hail State!!) and my son works and lives here in Daphne AL.  My wife is a Registered Nurse, a NICU specialist.  She has been working as a “travelling nurse” all across the country for the past couple of years, and currently she is working and living in San Jose CA.  I lived in that area myself back in the mid-90's and I love the Bay Area. So, I thought, I have nothing tying me down, why not spend the summer in CA with my lovely wife and do my schoolwork from there? Genius!!! The only cost will be transportation there and back. I also figured it made more sense to drive, so that we would have both vehicles and not have to share while I am there. Plus, I get to finally make that epic cross-country solo road trip that I’ve always dreamed about.  Perfect!!  I am beyond excited at the prospect.


So the current plan is to pack up my trusty 2015 Honda Fit (I love that silly little car so much!!) and leave Daphne AL sometime in mid-May, heading West.  I’m going to take the “northern route” through Hattiesburg and Jackson Mississippi, getting on I-20 in Jackson.  I’ll cross Louisiana, go through Shreveport on my way to the DFW area, where I figure I’ll make my first overnight stop.  From there, on to Amarillo, and get on I-40.  I’ll ride I-40 all the way to Bakersfield CA before I get on I-5 to head north to San Jose.


Here’s where I’d love all the fine GRM folks to help.  Other than a stop at the Grand Canyon, I haven’t really identified any things to do, see and visit along my route.  I have friends in the DFW area that I can visit, but that’s pretty much it. I’m planning on blogging my adventure in the unlikely event that anyone else would care enough to actually read about it. blush  I enjoy writing and it will help me to enjoy my experiences.  So, what are the things along the way that I should see or do?  I’m not going to be on a strict schedule, so I can take as long as I want, and detour as much as I want, within reason.  I figure 5 days minimum, possibly as many as 8 if there are enough cool things to see and do along the way.


Sometime in late June or early July I’ll make the return trip, this time taking the “southern route” along I-10.  I have more things identified along that route.  It’s the northern one I need help with.


If anyone lives along my route, I’d be honored to stop and meet, have a drink or a lunch and talk all things GRM. (mazdeuce, I'm looking at you here!!)  Always great to meet new people!! 


Thanks for reading everyone!!  Please feel free to make comments, suggestions, snide remarks......whatever.  laugh

Brokeback Reader
4/12/18 11:37 a.m.

I'll be in Flagstaff by mid May - let me know when you'll be in town!  Feel free to send me a PM and we can figure out timing. 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltraDork
4/12/18 11:57 a.m.

I've done two Southwestern road trips now- one cross-country and Route 66 focused, one more meandering and National Park oriented.

Things I have fond memories of, in no particular order:

  • Route 66 through western AZ and into CA is fun and twisty, and the landscape is amazing.  Make sure to say hi to the donkeys.
  • One of the most memorable and interesting roads I've ever driven was north from the Grand Canyon to Kanab UT.  All of that general region is pretty incredible.
  • Flagstaff is cool.
  • Carlsbad Caverns, Petrified Forest, Zion, Bryce, Arches, Pikes Peak are all National Parks worth visiting if you want to go anywhere close to them.
  • Roswell is silly but if you enjoy endless alien themed stuff it's fun.  Camping in the desert outside of Roswell even more so if you have an active imagination.
  • Cadillac Ranch is cool.
  • Get off of I-40 at least occasionally, 66 runs adjacent to it in a lot of places so you can take the scenic route without losing a ton of time.
  • You can camp for free or nearly free along your entire route if you plan for it.

I'm sure I'll think of more, but that's what immediately came to mind.  Ask questions if you have them!  It will be fun no matter what you do, as long as you don't just beeline it on I-40 the entire way.

CJ GRM+ Memberand New Reader
4/12/18 12:24 p.m.

Plans to go further north than San Jose?

mikedd969 New Reader
4/12/18 1:03 p.m.
CJ said:

Plans to go further north than San Jose?

Probably while I'm in the area.  I was out there a few weeks ago and was able to attend the NASA season opener at Sonoma Raceway (It'll always be Sears Point to me) which was one of my "home tracks" in my motorcycle racing days.  I'm planning on exploring the coast North from SF while I am there.  I'm also going to be attending the World Superbike races at MRLS this summer.

mikedd969 New Reader
4/12/18 1:03 p.m.

In reply to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ :

Thanks!!  Much appreciated!!

mikedd969 New Reader
4/12/18 1:46 p.m.
Brokeback said:

I'll be in Flagstaff by mid May - let me know when you'll be in town!  Feel free to send me a PM and we can figure out timing. 

Will do!!

Jay_W Dork
4/12/18 10:24 p.m.

Canyon deChelly in Arizona is... transcendent. Monument Valley is not to be missed. The deja vu from seeing that landscape in every Western you've ever seen is worth it.

mikedd969 New Reader
4/13/18 1:45 a.m.
Jay_W said:

Canyon deChelly in Arizona is... transcendent. Monument Valley is not to be missed. The deja vu from seeing that landscape in every Western you've ever seen is worth it.

Those are very tempting, and not too far out of my path.  Monument Valley has been on my "must visit" list for a long time, but I'd never heard of Canyon deChelly.  The pictures look amazing.

BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/13/18 9:28 a.m.

One thing about the CA leg of your trip - unless you are in a hurry, there is pretty much no acceptable excuse to take I-5 from Bakersfield. That part is about as soul sucking as it gets.

Either go all the way across and then North on Hwy 1 if it's open at that point in time, or go through Death Valley and then take 395 North and cross the Sierra either in Yosemite, Sonora Pass, Ebbetts Pass of go via Lake Tahoe. In my book, Sonora Pass and Ebbetts Pass are the more spectacular ones.

Personally I like the desert so I would definitely go to Death Valley. I would also consider making the usual "tourist loop" from Grand Canyon (Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Valley of Fire). Yes, you'll go back East from the Grand Canyon but it's worth it.

I'm in San Jose 1-2 days a week until the end of summer, potentially longer, plus there are a few more GRMers in the Bay Area (codrus and Type Q come to mind, plus I think there are a few more).

mikedd969 New Reader
4/13/18 11:04 p.m.

In reply to BoxheadTim :

Great advice and much appreciated!  The route I proposed was more a general idea, it's very much still a work in progress.  I agree about the I-5 thing.  I'd gladly to the Hwy 1 route, but it was still closed south of Big Sur when I was out there a few weeks ago, I haven;t tried to find out when that stretch is expected to reopen.

So, a question for any SF Bay area folks on here.  I'd like to do a little preventive maitenance on my wife's  2015 Ford Edge while I'm out there this summer.  Noting major, just give it a good going-over, check the brakes, that sort of thing, and possibly install a hitch reciever that I bought but didn't get to install before she took it to CA. Are there any maker-space type garages in the Bay area that rent space and access to tools by the day?  I don;t think her apartment complex would be cool with me doing that kind of work in the parking lot, and I really don't want to haul a big toolbox with me.

CyberEric Reader
4/16/18 12:08 p.m.

There are rentable garages around here, but I've only heard of them, never used one. I had a friend in SF who did all her own work in one of them, but I don't remember the name of it. Maybe somebody else on here has. 

Ovid_and_Flem Dork
6/27/18 7:56 p.m.

have you taken this trip yet, Mike.? Call me if you come through Jackson. I'll take you to lunch or happy hour or whatever.

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