The Road Trip Ends

From Tennessee, we continued driving into North Carolina, passing through the Great Smoky Mountains – and man were they smokin’ today:

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The Smokies are named for the fog that rises in early morning hours and after it rains, a result of warm humid air from the Gulf of Mexico cooling in the higher elevation. It was raining as we entered, soon causing an endless amount of  impressive plumes.

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I always hate having a destination on a roadtrip, especially one with a time commitment, because it means you’re less free to take the unexpected detours that make roadtripping so much fun. Unfortunately, if we wanted to see the Biltmore Mansion, we had no choice but to high-tail it through the winding mountain pass with zero stops.

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To this day, the Biltmore is the largest private residence in the United States, with over 250 rooms. I wish I could show you pictures of the interior, but they have a no photography policy. Not sure how I could possibly damage the Vanderbilt family’s revenue by putting up pictures to entice people to visit, but oh well.

After going on the 3 hour tour, I will agree that the Biltmore is one of those places you absolutely have to visit before you die…

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…but I do have one complaint: $60 a head?? Are you kidding me?? Then, after paying and going inside, we learned that that the audio guides (free at nearly every self-guided historical building I’ve ever been to) cost an additional $10 each! EACH! I think the elderly woman working the counter noticed the look of exasperation on my face, because she snuck us two for free.

Again: worth seeing, but definitely devote an entire day to the experience to make it feel like your money was well spent. I honestly felt more satisfied with my $30 trip to Graceland.

As we continued our route north to New York City (at this point, traveling on Interstates to get back in time), we decided to make one final stop in Washington D.C. After parking the car, we ate lunch on a bench in front of the White House, and it never ceases to amaze me that you can get so close to the home of the President.

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I gotta admit, every time I visit Washington D.C., I feel really inspired.

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It’s easy to be cynical about American politics, but I find that this washes away when I explore the city.

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While the grandeur of the buildings and monuments are certainly impressive, it’s the overall concentration of accomplishment and history that really gets to me.

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To be clear, it’s not a pride thing – personally I’ve never been one to feel pride simply because of shared geography. Immensely grateful, amazed, uplifted, and inspired by the triumphs of others, absolutely.

Seeing the space suit that allowed Buzz Aldrin to walk on the moon at the Smithsonian brings me to tears. Such an unbelievable achievement, and I immediately feel that aspiration to contribute something of my own. Standing in the literal shadow of such a triumph, it really does feel like anything is possible.

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The same goes for seeing the vest worn by Gene Kranz at mission control as he helped bring Apollo 13 safely back to Earth. I mean, really – the stuff of legends here.

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Washington also has its share of artifacts from the failures and tragedies of America’s history, and I find these to be equally moving. Inspiration can just as readily come from a desire to learn, evolve, and overcome as it can from the great successes of others.

For these reasons, I’ve always considered D.C. to be an important stop for any cross-country roadtrip, and as we were driving through the city, I was happy to find that we were suddenly on US-50 – the two-lane route that had taken use across the US!

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In D.C., US-50 is better known as Constitution Ave, and passes by the White House, the Washington Monument, and the National Archives, which houses the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights (among many, many other documents). It was a nice way to end the trip by rejoining the route we had started on.

We made it back to New York City later that night, and as I pulled into a space that was safe from the dangers of alternate side parking, so concluded the Great Road Trip of 2010.

Thank you all very much for joining us on our journey via the internet. To me, nothing offers such endless possibilities and promise for adventure, experience, and triumph as an open road stretching into the horizon. I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip, and maybe have even been inspired to go one yourself someday.

Just remember the rules: 1) not too much planning, 2) no Interstates, and 3) bring a friend.

nick4

-SCOUT

PS -A look back on US-50, from start to finish. It’s not entirely complete – we started in Indiana and ended in Nevada – but I’ve included the beginning and end mileage signs from Ocean City, MD, and Sacramento, CA, which I hope to see one day in person. Enjoy!

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53 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing, I truly enjoyed the whole thing through your lense :).

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your roadtrip with us – I’ve been following along avidly, having roadtripped through many of those same cities!

  3. You’ve honestly made my August… this has been great! I am extremely thankful & very jealous. Welcome Home….now get back to work!

  4. Scout, many thanks from Barcelona for sharing with us your photos and your thoughts… it’s always a pleasure to read your articles!

  5. Thanks for and awesome backseat trip! You’ve been a welcome feature in my .RSS feed.

    jani (Finland)

  6. Thanks so much for sharing your roadtrip with us. I live in Ireland and have taken 2 American trips in the last seven years, now you have me planning my next one :-)

    You’ve really helped pass the last few weeks.

    Looking forward to seeing what you unearth in NY.

    Keep it up.

    Paul

  7. Thanks. I really enjoyed your reports and your photos. Makes me want to take this trip too!

  8. It was a wonderful trip and I’m glad that you arrived home safely.

    The Biltmore estate is a beautiful place, I don’t remember it costing that much the last time I was there. The back of the house tours are really interesting as well!

  9. I’ve enjoyed the posts. Hope you get to make another road trip soon as your eye for the landscape is amazing.

    My wife is from GA and went to the Biltmore on a high school trip. That was back in the early 90s and she still talks about it and wants to take me there. (We live in Wisconsin now).

    Of course that means Ill have to take her to Graceland.

  10. Thank you for sharing your Road Trip with us. I would love to do one my self one day but in the meantime your photos and information have made me feel as if I were with you on this wonderful journey.

  11. Awesome trip. Thanks for taking us along.

  12. Thank you for this cross country trip.

    I always loved your eye for interesting buildings, but I am surprised that I came to appreciate your photos of empty roads. They give a feeling of moving ahead, of driving, that is very cinematographic.

  13. Well I don’t agree with your no Interstates policy. (I love them, I love driving on them, and think they get short shrift!) I will agree that every person should make the cross country trip at least once. I also have no love for DC. And find the buildings and places there not only uninspiring, but oppressive.

    But the rest of the country? Love. Especially the drive through the midwestern states and hitting that wall between the plains and the western mountains.

    I wish I had paid attention before you left — I would have hooked you up with a tour of Biltmore. My high school French teacher works there now. Has for years. (He’s paid well too, which I suppose comes from the extremely high entrance fees!)

    As for U.S. 50, you know it connects Ocean CIty, MD with Sacramento, CA. There are signs in both giving distances to the other.

  14. Wow, congrat on finishing! Yeah, it wasn’t complete, but whats fun about any trip is the realization that there is more to see, and you put those places on the back burner for future trips.

    The White House doesn’t inspire me, maybe coz I see them so much on tv? The Licoln Memorial does. I can stand there for hours in awe. The Smithsonian does it for me too. And surprisingly for me (Vietnam War protestor at a very young age) so does the Vietnam and Korean War memorials (actually, not inspire me so much as move me)

    Welcome home!

  15. Thanks for taking us along on your roadtrip. I usually don’t care for travel writing, even with good pictures, but I was absolutely rivited.

  16. More pics of your friend! She is smoking hot!

  17. Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. I have looked forward to each and every one.

  18. Really enjoyed your trip, thanks for sharing!

    Now there’s no point in me going to America from England to do it myself :P

  19. Wonderful. I feel like I’ve been on vacation, myself. Thanks.

  20. Glad to have you back! Great stuff as always.

  21. Hi Scott,

    I am from Brazil and I’ve been dreaming about a roud trip around the US since I was 15 years old..I am 31 now. I was inspired by movies and stuff. You “reinspired” me again and I hope that soon I will be able to do it and I will take into consideration some of the cities you mentioned and the advice you gave us.
    Thanks for sharing your trip !
    Janice

  22. WOW!!! I just went on a great road trip with you. Thanks for sharing – it was wonderful.

  23. Scout, thank you for taking the time to post such an amazing view of roadtripping and the US. I know the writing, research, uploading & posting took up a chunk of your time, but I am so thankful that you did it!

    I’ve always appreciated the time and attention you’ve dedicated to the site, and this just is icing on the cake!

    Glad you had a great trip!

  24. Welcome back to NYC! Thanks for “taking us along” on your cross-country trip. Great stuff! I was totally absorbed with the photos and your experiences all month long. I highly suggest that you publish it! Your last post reminded me of Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. I don’t know why I thought that, for irony’s sake, you would get lost coming back into the city or get a parking ticket or something. Thank you so much for taking the time to share these experiences with your reader/viewer-ship.

  25. Congratulations Scout! Sorry you didn’t get all the way to Sacramento. Not that you missed too much here! It was a blast reading this trip from the beginning. I may have to take the reverse trip some day!

  26. I think I enjoyed this more than looking at my own travel pictures!

  27. Scout, thank you so much for a fabulous ride with you on this road trip. Now you’ve made me add to my list of things to see. Although I think i’ll pass on the Biltmore. I think Reynolda House is perfectly good enough for me, and I think it’s cheaper. *grin* Look forward to more pictures while you scout out new locations!

  28. Hey Scout!

    And so it has come to an end. Thanks for documenting your trip so well, it has been great to live it vicariously :)

    -Bur.gr

  29. This was really fun to read and view. Thank you!

  30. Thanks you so much for sharing such a fantastic trip. It was filled with smart observation throughout. I would have to disagree with you on one point though. We took a road trip ourselves this summer, NYC to Memphis through NJ, MD, VA, NC, TN, KY, WV, MD and back. We stopped at the Biltmore while in Asheville NC for a night and balked at the $60 price tag to get in. After seeing many grand houses in the UK and Europe for much less or even free it just didn’t seem worth it to us. However, the $30 into Graceland was the best we spent. We thought it was understated kitsch compared to how it was hyped and loved it. Each to their own I guess.

    But by far the best part of our trip was driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway and through the Smokey Mountains. The scenery was spectacular and it was even worth getting up at 4am to see the sunrise over the Blue Ridge: http://aegallerie.com/2010/06/05/blue-ridge-sunrise/

    Welcome back, looking forward to the NYC-centric stuff again!
    Ed

  31. Fantastic journey Scout, thanks for much for sharing your trip with us. Yup, DC does the same thing to me, when I gaze at the Declaration I can almost hear old Ben say ‘we must hang together, gentleman, else we shall most assuredly hang separately’. There are still vast sections of the globe where common people have no voice in their own government, for all the problems that ours has, at least we have the right and ability to change it.

    Anyway, welcome back home, looking forward to seeing more of your excellent hidden-backroom-hole in the wall NYC pics that you have such a great eye for!

    Sedge

  32. Glad you made it back safely to NYC, hopefully you’ll have lots of memories from this trip. Maybe next time you’ll do a Texas only road trip. Instead of driving here fly here rent a car here with Texas plates, The cop probably stopped you just because you had out of state plates, way out of state plates. If you do email me and I’ll get you an list of places to go.

  33. I looked forward daily to your posts, and will continue to do so. You have a great eye. Thanks for a great trip!

  34. Scout,
    This is an amazing blog! I often reference it when teaching journal writing. The students love it! Your roadtrip was amazing, and I thank you for sharing it with all of us. Keep up the good work!

  35. Fantastic, Scout! Great job! Sorry you missed Virginia (my home and the most beautiful state – you’ll have to stay there sometime) but it has been a fantastic ride going along with you all. Hope we get to do it one day!

  36. You are one heck of a writer, and one unbelievably good story-teller.
    Thanks for doing this. I enjoyed it immensely.

  37. Thanks for sharing Scout! Inspiration for my cross-Canada roadtrip!!

  38. Thanks for sharing. When you get to Sacramento, the beer is on me. You can get the photo of the mileage sign to Ocean Beach, MD.

  39. Funny story about that junction of 50 and 93. My father was driving cross-country in the 1960s and had carefully plotted his stops to coincide with the few gas stations in that part of the U.S. He noticed he was getting a bit low not too far from that junction, but decided to press on – confident in his map plotting skills.

    Not too much further away, just up that hill (mountain?) in fact, he ran out of gas. He started the miles-long hike towards the gas station. And kept walking… Eventually a rancher took pity on him and gave him a lift to the gas station. He refilled and was back on his way, but very confused as to what had happened. Later that night, he got his maps back out (before GPS, cell phones, even Google Maps) and took a good look. Tuns out my dad, the pilot, had plotted his trip in air miles…

    The best part of that story? One day a few years ago, we were driving that very same road and I became so engrossed in his stories about driving cross-country I forgot to stop for gas. It must’ve been fate because I ran out at almost that exact same spot. Now, while I may be a forgetful airhead sometimes, I had managed to remember to put a full gas can in my trunk before starting out on my road trip (it was the first time I’d run out of gas on a back-road) and made it to the next stop. Like father, like daughter I suppose…

  40. Absolutely wonderful! That says it all. :) Thank you so much.

  41. A Fantastic Voyage, Scout! Thanks so much for letting us see our beautiful, crazy country through your eyes.

  42. Loved following your road trip. Was almost like going on one myself. Nice work.

  43. Scout, Loved the trip and running commentary. I just got back from DC myself. The one thing that got to me was actually standing on the same spot as MLK and looking out at the same scene. I wasn’t expecting the emotion that came over me. Glad I did it before Beck shat on the same spot.

    Have you thought about doing a rail trip around the country? That too can be a blast. One of my favorite moments on Amtrak involved the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago, a group of strangers that had some fun together and some great Amtrak employees who refereed the whole deal.

  44. We ALL thank you for taking us along in the back seat!
    The only thing that I must have remembered wrong is that I thought the White House had a huge black fence in front of it. The fence was allegedly to protect it from weird nuts but also made it impossible for regular people to get close…

  45. enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing.

    And did you go interstate between DC and NYC, or is there a less-crowded road? I’ve got to drive it labor day weekend, and I’m not looking forward to traffic on I-95 or the Turnpike, so if there’s another way, please share!

  46. AMAZING series of blog posts. Thanks so much!

  47. Amazing trip, thank you for all the photos and the stories! I’ve never been to America – maybe one day! :)

  48. Thanks for your great stories and photos. Welcome back! Have you ever taken a cross country trip on the Lincoln Highway? (Times Sq to San Fran) Also, the wonderful Peter Sellers movie “Being There” has many interior shots in the Biltmore Mansion (but you knew that).

  49. What a great trip! I’m absolutely jealous of it.

  50. I realize that I’m commenting a bit late at this (I just started reading your page), but the best use of the Biltmore Mansion ticket is to go to the winery. You get a free tour and some free tastes. If it is a slow day, you can usually drink more because they aren’t herding folks through there.

  51. This really has inspired me to take a roadtrip of my own. My friend and I going to travel from SW England to Gibraltar in the summer.
    Any advice?

  52. Very cool, thanks for sharing!

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