A Man of Means by No Means...
June 21, 2010 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Today is the first day of summer, and for many Americans that means taking a road trip with the family. For Barry Stiefer, it means visiting all 50 states (48 by car), while only taking one week of vacation time.

Logistical Summary:
-Odometer At The Beginning of the Driving Portion: 504
-Odometer End of the Driving Portion: 9,153
-Total Miles: 8,649
-Elapsed Time During Driving Portion of the Trip: 185 hours
-Average Speed During Driving Portion of the Trip: 47 MPH (this is an around-the-clock average, including times when I was sleeping in a hotel room)
-Total Gallons Of Gasoline Purchased: 324
-Average Gas Mileage (1998 Buick Park Avenue): 26 MPG
-Number of Times Stopped For Gas: 22
-Number of Times Stopped For Speeding: 1
-Number of Times Stopped for Meals, National Parks, National Monuments, Roadside Attractions, Places of Historical Interest, Fruit Stands, Antique Stores, or “Beautiful views”: 0
Be sure to check out the FAQ.

Bonus Link: 21 states in one day
posted by 2bucksplus (69 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
That sounds like the worst thing in the world.
posted by The Whelk at 12:24 PM on June 21, 2010 [28 favorites]


America!
posted by gurple at 12:24 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


That sounds like the worst thing in the world.

He could be doing it with 2 whiny children and several angry cats. That would be worse.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:26 PM on June 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


"That sounds like the worst thing in the world."

Nah, it was a Buick Park Avenue.

If it had been a Yugo, I might agree with you.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:27 PM on June 21, 2010


Somewhat related: The Iron Butt Association.
(not what if may sound like, or exactly what it sounds like, depending on your dirty mind)
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:28 PM on June 21, 2010


That sounds like the worst thing in the world.

Completely disagree. This would be so, so awesome (I'd make it two weeks though).
posted by Melismata at 12:28 PM on June 21, 2010


Why?
posted by Juicy Avenger at 12:29 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, it looks like he wasted some time in San Francisco. Hmmm.
posted by Melismata at 12:31 PM on June 21, 2010


Wow. Respect for squeezing in Hawaii and Alaska there.
posted by GuyZero at 12:31 PM on June 21, 2010


Number of Enjoyable/Relaxing Minutes during this Stunt: less than zero

This is stupid. Of all the things to do with a free week of time ... and it's not even self-indulgent, because what's the pleasure in driving across this country without taking the time to appreciate a bit of it?
posted by grabbingsand at 12:32 PM on June 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Total Gallons Of Gasoline Purchased: 324

Lovely.
posted by desjardins at 12:33 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not the worst thing in the world, but very monotonous. Having driven across the country four times, I can say the parts involving hauling ass on the interstates consisted primarily of meditating on trucks, truck stops, and empty land. Local routes are filled with culture that's worth experiencing; this sounds like something just to do for bragging rights.
posted by gnidan at 12:33 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


grabbingsand: "Number of Enjoyable/Relaxing Minutes during this Stunt: less than zero"
Q: Wasn’t it boring, just driving all day?

A: Not at all. I like driving, and I especially like seeing the country. I’d been working at a very stressful job with a Silicon Valley startup and really appreciated having eight days to just think and stare at the scenery. I also listened to a lot of Country & Western music on the radio and heard Trisha Yearwood sing “There Goes My Baby” at least thirty times, which was fine by me.
posted by charred husk at 12:36 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was adding up the states I have been to (31!) and fantasizing about hitting the last 19 in one desperate cross-country drive when I came across this site. This has only encouraged me.

Unfortunately, my metric for whether or not I have visited a state is more stringent: I must have either bought something, ate something, or slept there for it to count. I think when it comes to long distance drives there is a point where a pleasurable numbness and will to continue forward overtakes your entire being. Some people like that, some people don’t.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:36 PM on June 21, 2010


listened to a lot of Country & Western music on the radio and heard Trisha Yearwood sing “There Goes My Baby” at least thirty times

Now it's the worst thing in the world.
posted by theredpen at 12:37 PM on June 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


I love road trips and I hate this.
posted by escabeche at 12:38 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


But I kind of admire it too.

In a hating kind of way.
posted by escabeche at 12:38 PM on June 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


When I was in college a friend drove from Alaska (fairly far north, IIRC) to central Florida, in a pickup truck, with his dog.

If he did it today and did it right, I suspect he could probably get a good blog and maybe a book deal out of it. As it was, he got a lot of good stories.

I always thought it sounded cool but I could never make myself spend that much time in a car simply for recreation. That much driving would need a purpose, something to justify all the hours behind the wheel. Otherwise I feel like I'd get somewhere in the central U.S. and say "aw, the hell with it" and just end up stopping in Chicago or something.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:38 PM on June 21, 2010


Also: 50 capitals in 50 days.
posted by nitsuj at 12:38 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


That exhausted me just reading it. I did a solo US roadtrip last year. My longest day was 525 miles. Can't imagine having to average double that for 8 days straight.
posted by jontyjago at 12:42 PM on June 21, 2010


I love me some road trips but (a) have a much more fuel-efficient car and (b) like to frikkin stop and get out every now and then. What about the flea markets? Side-of-the-road ice cream? Giant balls of string?

The best part about being an adult is getting to stop where you want to. (My dad was always about making "good time.")
posted by JoanArkham at 12:42 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


As someone who's driven from St. Louis to New Hampshire, and back two days later (with no radio, to boot), this still sounds like hell.
At least I had destinations. He drove all that way to...get back home. Ugh.
posted by notsnot at 12:45 PM on June 21, 2010


Your favorite thing to do for fun sucks.
posted by ekroh at 12:49 PM on June 21, 2010


He could be doing it with 2 whiny children and several angry cats.

My mother drove from Toronto to New Brunswick in a small Honda with 6 cats, 13 birds, and a dog. My mother is crazy.
posted by dobbs at 12:53 PM on June 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


what's the pleasure in driving across this country without taking the time to appreciate a bit of it?

Oh, I think he had plenty of time to "appreciate" it. That's a lot of sitting and staring. Or what charred husk quoted. I can partly see the appeal. Going that fast (i.e. over 80 or however fast he had to go to do 1.1K/day) would ruin it for me.

Also, not getting enough sleep (i.e. the wake-up call at 1:30am) almost turns it into criminal behavior.

The best part about being an adult is getting to stop where you want to.

Close. The best part about being an adult is getting to do whatever the hell you want. This guy has certainly done that.

I gotta say, he took a pretty good route. I can't imagine doing it "better."
posted by mrgrimm at 12:53 PM on June 21, 2010


Reading the account, something struck me. This sounds like grinding, MMO-style. I know I've gotten into a state where the constant repetitive yet slightly novel but all encompassing grind lead me into a strange meditative, completely thoughtless state. It's an unusual kind of comfort, going completely blank, but it does pass time and you're not actively stressed when you do it.
posted by The Whelk at 12:56 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


It occurred to me that rather than moan about the limitations of this schedule, I could find a way to maximize my enjoyment and prove to myself that I could actually get a lot done in a week off.

It is this fucking attitude that let's your bosses grind you and your co-workers into the ground.
posted by edbles at 1:00 PM on June 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


For some strange reason I've read this multiple times, despite never having actually driven more than 250 miles at once. (I've been a passenger on longer drives, but still nothing over a thousand, and I don't remember that longest one because I was nine months old.)
posted by madcaptenor at 1:07 PM on June 21, 2010


This guy's scheme : road trip :: hot-dog-eating contest : backyard barbecue.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:10 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


When we did the partial Route 66 Road Trip this spring, it took us four days to get from Tucson to Oklahoma City (which mean we averaged about 250 miles a day); I couldn't tell you how many roadside attractions we stopped at or how we managed to lose hours at a time taking detours and backtracking to make sure we didn't miss something we might have wanted to see. We had to travel from OKC to Chicago in one day/overnight because we were out of time, money, and people to check on our cats. Still though, even with that marathon miserable bit at the end, it was one of the best weeks of my life.

In other words, I should probably be anti this. Yet I'm still impressed. I'm just saying it would take me all summer to do the same thing.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:29 PM on June 21, 2010


-Number of Times Stopped for Meals, National Parks, National Monuments, Roadside Attractions, Places of Historical Interest, Fruit Stands, Antique Stores, or “Beautiful views”: 0

Are we having fun yet?
posted by the painkiller at 1:35 PM on June 21, 2010


Interesting, but I agree with folks that it would ultimately be a whole lot of Interstate.

I find Bob Higdon's version more interesting(which I oddly can't seem to find a real article about):
He visited every county courthouse in in the continental U.S. over the course of 5 years and about 150,000 miles.

It seems like that would bring you to a lot more interesting places than a week-long Interstate binge.
posted by madajb at 1:36 PM on June 21, 2010


This inspires me. Let's paint a Start/Stop line in front of my house. You follow this guy's trail through 50 states while I buy a gallon of gas* and re-read me some Kerouac and Least Heat-Moon on the back deck till the sun sets. Every night. Can I can drink beer while reading? Yes! Good.

See you in a week and we'll compare stories.

* So my son can mow lawn while I'm competing.
posted by hal9k at 1:51 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I figured I could be driving 18 hours per day, leaving six hours per day for sleep and shower and getting in and out of a hotel quickly.

A HOTEL ROOM? MULTIPLE HOTEL ROOMS?
posted by user92371 at 1:55 PM on June 21, 2010


-Number of Times Stopped for Meals, National Parks, National Monuments, Roadside Attractions, Places of Historical Interest, Fruit Stands, Antique Stores, or “Beautiful views”: 0

This is the very definition of doing it wrong. I mean, I'm always up for a road trip vacation involving a lot of driving, often by myself, but part of the pleasure is knowing I can stop any time I want to -- and then actually occasionally wanting to.

If you don't get out of your car, you're just watching it on TV or playing a video game. You might as well be on a cruise ship in the cargo hold, watching a real-time video of someone else doing the driving for you.
posted by davejay at 1:56 PM on June 21, 2010


I noticed I'd been feeling less O Zone in the air lately.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:56 PM on June 21, 2010


Okay, so: I'm driving up the coast for a few days, for fun, and I see this sign that says "Morrow Rock", as some kind of landmark or something. So I get off the freeway there.

Before I ever see the rock, I park in a little downtown area where, evidentally, there's a custom car show wrapping up on this lovely Sunday afternoon, and I go wandering. I see this one car that is, to be fair, not that attractive, but it is a survivor instead of a restoration, and has great art deco trim that makes it gorgeous to me. A conversation is struck up, and the owners (a very pleasant couple, husband and wife) end up driving me around in it for a couple of minutes while we talk some more about how cars aren't made this way any more, and how lame it is that nobody seems to drive stickshift any more (this particular late 40s american sedan was a stickshift.)

Then I go see the rock, which by comparison is underwhelming, and get back on the freeway. Honestly, with moments like that lurking around every corner, why would you stay on the interstate?
posted by davejay at 2:01 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


there was this other time I ended up driving along this endless mountain road that got narrower and narrower until I didn't have the nerve to keep going, so I parked and got out and discovered I could see for miles and miles out over the ocean, and I didn't see another person for half an hour going up or coming back, and it was beautiful, and I thought "who owns all this?" (as it was a somewhat private road) -- I found out later via some creative online map work that it was land Reagan used to own and had bequeathed to some right-wing think tank nightmare place that's still up there, which was unexpected. So many little stories add up to a more interesting life, I think.
posted by davejay at 2:04 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is the very definition of doing it wrong.

By itself I think it's pretty amusing. From his "motivations" page it's clear that he did find something that makes more sense for his life:

While it’s true that, now, in the Year 2000, I’m self-employed and have a lot more flexibility in planning my vacations, back then I was assuming that I’d be an office-bound employee for the rest of my career
posted by MillMan at 2:10 PM on June 21, 2010


What a miserable way to spend a week off.
posted by kafziel at 2:12 PM on June 21, 2010


But hey guys don't knock his vacation and say he did it "wrong", he clearly came out of it with a positive light.
posted by gnidan at 2:21 PM on June 21, 2010


The best part of any vacation is talking about it after the fact. I'm sure he got more... (wait for it) mileage from this vacation than any vacation since.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:26 PM on June 21, 2010


This sounds about as much fun as when we rented an RV for the weekend, leaving on Friday afternoon for West Virginia and returning Monday morning to DC, taking turns changing our clothes in the back while the other navigated through 60 miles of rush hour traffic along I-66.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:26 PM on June 21, 2010


The things he missed!!!

Like Elvis-O-Rama, the Tupperware Museum,
The Boll Weevil Monument, and Cranberry World,
The Shuffleboard Hall Of Fame, Poodle Dog Rock,
And The Mecca of Albino Squirrels
We've been to ghost towns, theme parks, wax museums,
And the place where you can drive through the middle of a tree
We've seen alligator farms and tarantula ranches,
But there's still one thing we gotta see...
posted by Melismata at 2:28 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Q: Did you bring a radar detector?

A: Yes, I did. I “bought” it at Fry’s, the Silicon Valley electronics store that has a great selection, great prices, a great return policy, and then infuriates their customers in every other way possible. After the trip, I returned it.


Apparently he left his morals at home.
posted by milnak at 2:29 PM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sounds fascinating until you take a random look at almost any point on a Google Map street view of a typical interstate route. Multiply that by a factor of x (x being the number of seconds it takes to drive cross-country) and you have a rough idea of the bone-numbing monotony involved.
posted by blucevalo at 2:36 PM on June 21, 2010


I have a new life goal.
posted by reductiondesign at 2:42 PM on June 21, 2010


"prove to myself that I could actually get a lot done in a week off"

And once again, someone confuses work with accomplishment.
posted by bpm140 at 3:02 PM on June 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I love roadtrips. I will defend them all day as a way to see the world, as something uniquely American and individualistic, etc etc.

But 26mpg in a fucking Buick? Rent a Hybrid for week. Dick.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:17 PM on June 21, 2010


This trip sounds awful, but to say he did it wrong, or that he missed interesting sights, is missing the point. He wanted to see if it was possible to drive the lower 48 and fly to Hawaii and Alaska on his week's vacation. In that he met that goal he did it right. He had no interest in taking the scenic route or visiting roadside attractions.
posted by plastic_animals at 3:33 PM on June 21, 2010


But 26mpg in a fucking Buick? Rent a Hybrid for week. Dick.

In 1998? Not so much.
posted by GuyZero at 3:38 PM on June 21, 2010


It is kinda crazy, but then again, I know lots of people that think nothing of driving 400-500 kms in a day because that is how far apart the main cities are in Ontario. Outside of relatively small Ontario, the distances you have to drive to actually GO anywhere in Canada are even longer. Having done those drives myself, I can see a week of them being meditative.
posted by saucysault at 4:22 PM on June 21, 2010


listened to a lot of Country & Western music on the radio and heard Trisha Yearwood sing “There Goes My Baby” at least thirty times

Every road trip I've taken, especially in the summer, somehow gains its own theme song depending on what single's getting heavy rotation on the radio.

We had a Very Special Road Trip in 1988. It developed two theme songs: The Beach Boys' "Kokomo" and Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy".

Trisha Yearwood got nothing on that.



McFerrin is a very accomplished musician, and his stuff with Yo-Yo Ma is pretty damn awesome, but it's a shame he's probably best known for that satirical one hit wonder that passed through America's irony filter like crap through a goose.
posted by Spatch at 5:11 PM on June 21, 2010


Best road trip music: Jonatha Brooke.
posted by davejay at 5:31 PM on June 21, 2010


I could barely whirl through the deep south in that amount of time and manage to appreciate any of it, and I know this because I actually tried.

Pro tip: feel free to skip Mobile, Alabama.
posted by contessa at 6:22 PM on June 21, 2010


It is kinda crazy, but then again, I know lots of people that think nothing of driving 400-500 kms in a day because that is how far apart the main cities are in Ontario.

It's not the distance. 300 miles isn't that far in a day, it's the monotony of it.
300 miles on an Interstate just isn't as immersive as 300 miles on a secondary highway.

It's fun that he tossed in Hawaii and Alaska, though.
posted by madajb at 9:02 PM on June 21, 2010


Folks have been known to ride their bikes across the country in the time it took him to basically drive across the country and back. Moderation in all things, including moderation?
posted by aniola at 11:24 PM on June 21, 2010


I don't know why, but I am kind of impressed. Neat to do something just to see if you can endure it? Maybe its that. Maybe it is the fact that I loved the drive from Chicago to San Francisco in 2.5 days.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:32 PM on June 21, 2010


I have a new life goal.

Me too! And I'm already well on the way to never ever doing this, I just need to keep it up for the rest of my life. Wish me luck!
posted by Evilspork at 12:14 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


My friend's Japanese parents visited the lower 48, albeit not in one week. The only state they said there was nothing to do or see was North Dakota (where I grew up.) I could have told them that.
posted by wheeooh at 7:41 AM on June 22, 2010


I need one more state until I get all 50: Alaska. Of the 49 that I've been to, 48 of them have been reached by driving to 'em. (You figure out which one I had to fly to ... :)) I am determined to, when I finally make it to Alaska, to drive there.

I loves me some road trips.
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:11 AM on June 22, 2010


Those two 'to's are in honor of Bishop Desmond Tutu whom I once heard deliver a speech, actually...
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:13 AM on June 22, 2010


This reminds me of my friend who routinely travels extremely ridiculous routes - I think his most outrageous route was flying from Toronto to Munich (or Frankfurt... Somewhere in Germany at any rate) that managed to stop in Atlanta (or was it Chicago? One of the big hubs, any way)... TWICE. The man loves to fly, and he loves collecting miles. I can't judge this guy for wanting to do something silly with a week off, if he loves driving that much (and a '98 Park Avenue... That's gotta be a comfortable way to do it).
posted by antifuse at 9:07 AM on June 22, 2010


It's not the distance. 300 miles isn't that far in a day, it's the monotony of it.
300 miles on an Interstate just isn't as immersive as 300 miles on a secondary highway.


Heh, you obviously haven't driven through much of Canada. It is dead boring. Monotony is an excellent word for it. The main highway in Ontario (401) rivals the interstates for boring, flat landscape, and the prairies on the TransCanada highways are hardly exciting. We don't really have secondary highways here. Either you are driving in town or you are on the only road out of town (seriously, look at a road map of Canada, lots of only fly-in places). At least you have billboards to read in the US. We got nothin' but the "watch out for deer/moose" signs.
posted by saucysault at 10:15 AM on June 22, 2010


A friend and I have talked about riding New England in a day. Now I see we had our sights set too low (though our idea involved motorcycles and back roads, because interstates = teh suk).
posted by Eideteker at 11:12 AM on June 22, 2010


The only state they said there was nothing to do or see was North Dakota

LIES. Fargo is awesome. I visited during Pride Week in 2009, unfortunately only for a day. I'm on a mission to return. Jamestown, ND turned itself inside out for a group of touring cyclists (this upper Midwesterner was out-polited for the first time in memory). For heavens' sake, if nothing else, you can go see some abandoned ICBM launchers.

The only place with nothing to see or do was I-94. With the possible exception of Chicago, I'm convinced this is the case everywhere.
posted by yomimono at 1:38 PM on June 22, 2010


Heh, you obviously haven't driven through much of Canada. It is dead boring.

Not much at any rate.
I did drive the Alaska Highway which got a bit boring after a while.

Either you are driving in town or you are on the only road out of town (seriously, look at a road map of Canada, lots of only fly-in places).


Sure, but the towns are what make it interesting. On an Interstate, you just fly right on by.
posted by madajb at 11:55 PM on June 22, 2010


The only state they said there was nothing to do or see was North Dakota

The Enchanted Highway!
posted by mrgrimm at 10:51 AM on June 23, 2010


Sure, but the towns are what make it interesting. On an Interstate, you just fly right on by.

The 401 in Ontario is the equivalent of an interstate, really... You're not seeing any towns as you drive through them (aside from their rest stops).
posted by antifuse at 12:09 PM on June 23, 2010


« Older "Life in plastic, it's fantastic"   |   Summer Breeze Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments