John’s Great Cross-country adventure: The wrap-up

Great weather, great car, and great scenery.  The 2014 Kia Sorento in Grand Teton National Park.

Great weather, great car, and great scenery. The 2014 Kia Sorento in Grand Teton National Park.

John’s Great Cross-Country Kia Sorento boat delivery adventure is over, but here’s the wrap-up…..

To catch you up, I was driving across the U.S. to deliver my family’s canoe to my nieces near Raleigh, North Carolina and then hanging a right and driving to Miami, Florida.

Starting Point: Portland, Oregon

Boat drop-off destination: Farmville, Virginia

Final Destination: Miami International Airport, Miami Florida

The symbolic end of the cross-country trip, with my toes in the Atlantic ocean in St. Augustine, Florida, but I still had 6 days before I flew home.

The symbolic end of the cross-country trip, with my toes in the Atlantic ocean in St. Augustine, Florida, but I still had 6 days before I flew home.

Total Mileage: 4,990 miles, and yes, I thought about driving those last 10 to put it over 5,000.

States visited: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida.  I’ve now visited 42 of the 50 states.

Vehicle: 2014 Kia Sorento SX AWD. Base price $24,100. Price as tested $38,550. (Vehicle for return trip: Boeing 737)

Mileage:  With 17-foot canoe on top, 20.0 mpg.  Without boat, 26.2 mpg.  Easily beat the EPA ratings of 18 city/24 highway for the Sorento, even at high Interstate highway speeds.

About the Sorento: Exceptional build quality, stability, comfort and driving dynamics. Electric power steering that did an outstanding job of managing wind buffeting and drift.  Comfortable heated and cooled seats.  Panoramic sunroof, used first to make sure the boat was still on top of the SUV, and then to absorb as much vitamin D as possible before heading home to the gray Oregon winter.  Fantastic Infinity audio system through which I wirelessly played every bit of music on my iPhone over and over and over again.

I would recommend the Sorento any day.  I’d replace my personal luxury SUV with this Kia in a heartbeat.

Sunrise at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota on day 5 of the trip.

Sunrise at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota on day 5 of the trip.

All cars sold today feature a system of tire pressure monitor devices. When they first came out, they were considered an expensive and largely unnecessary bit of technology.  After having a flat tire and experiencing the system in action, I’m now a huge advocate.  Without the system, I would not have gotten the early warning as the tire started to go down.  Instead of having the time to stop in a safe rest area, I would have been stuck on the side of a lonely freeway, in the rain.

Beard Status: Some of my former co-workers challenged me not to shave during my journey.  It’s been itchy since South Dakota, but the beard lives on.

Highlights of the drive:

You can't count on weather like this in late October.  Some years, the parks are closed by then.

You can’t count on weather like this in late October. Some years, the parks are closed by then.

  • Perfect weather to tour Grand Teton and Yellowstone National parks. The timing was excellent to see a variety of wildlife throughout the parks, including elk, bison, moose, and a grizzly bear (WooHoo)
  • Finding the Bighorn Scenic route between Greybull and Sheridan, Wyoming.  It’s one of the best roads I’ve ever driven, but I know it will be hard to ever find an excuse to go back there.
  • To have the freedom and time to see a sign pointing to Devils Tower National Monument and following it to see the huge monolith sticking straight up from the surrounding landscape. Remember Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  It was filmed at Devils Tower.
  • Early morning at Mt. Rushmore, being the only visitor in the park to watch the sunrise flow across the faces of the presidents.
  • The museum of the Strategic Air Command near Omaha, Nebraska where I snuck the Sorento around back and photographed it next to a B-1A Lancer bomber.
  • Morning at the St. Louis Gateway arch.  Riding the pod-like elevators to the arched observation deck on at the top of the monument.
  • Visiting the home of the Budweiser Clydesdales, also in St. Louis.
  • Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Home of the Chevrolet Corvette, and a fantastic public tour of the GM plant where it is assembled.  Just down the street is the National Corvette Museum, another car lovers’ must see.
  • South Beach in Miami Beach, Florida.  A great place to visit, but I sure wouldn't want to live there.

    South Beach in Miami Beach, Florida. A great place to visit, but I sure wouldn’t want to live there.

    The Jim Beam distillery, near Louisville, Kentucky.  This massive facility creates Kentucky Bourbon all day long, every day.  It’s kind of like the Budweiser of hard alcohol – more factory and less craftwork.  And once again, no, I did not imbibe.

  • The Kentucky horse country near Lexington.  Kentucky is definitely one of the places that I want to spend more time in.
  • Driving across West Virginia with the autumn leaves in full color.  I had to do way too much of this drive in the dark, and it bums me out because I’m sure I missed quite a bit of beautiful scenery.  Add West Virginia to the list of places to go back to.
  • Farmville, Virginia, where I was able to unload the big red boat and finally get to enjoy the Sorento’s panoramic sunroof, satellite radio, and efficiency.
  • Halloween with the nieces in Raleigh!
  • Saint Augustine, Florida.  I had heard how nice this historic city is, and the reports were true.  It’s a great place for a long walking tour, and don’t miss the old fort that fronts downtown.
  • Daytona, Florida.  Home of the Daytona International Speedway, and one of the few places in the U.S. where you can still drive on the beach.
  • Bears used to be seen all of the time in the park.  Now, it's pretty rare to see one, especially a Grizzly like this one.

    Bears used to be seen all of the time in Yellowstone National Park. Now, it’s pretty rare to see one, especially a Grizzly like this one.

    Walt Disney World.  Yes, I’ll admit it, I love this place.

  • Miami Beach, Florida.  Despite horrendous traffic, South Beach is just something you’ve got to see.  It’s like no other place I’ve ever visited.
  • Spending time with only my thoughts to guide me.

Places I never need to see again:

  • They advertise the world famous Wall Drug Store for hundreds of miles in all directions.  It’s 30 minutes of my life that I can never get back.  Perhaps a bit less marketing, and a bit more substance might be in order at this tourist trap to end all tourist traps.
  • Southern Illinois.  Idaho and South Dakota are pretty flat and boring, but they’ve got nothing on the Southern Illinois.  Unless you’re fascinated by table-flat cornfields, or actually being able to see the curvature of the earth, there’s just no reason to be there.  Plus it was raining, and I got a flat tire.  Strikes two and three.
  • Pedro’s South of the Border.  At the state line between North and South Carolina on I-95 lies Pedro’s South of the Border.  It’s a huge, brightly painted monument to every bad Hispanic stereotype imaginable.  And, no, I didn’t spend my money to visit the 200-foot Sombrero Tower observation deck.
How long can you stand this view?  Before taking a multi-day car trip, you need to understand your endurance for the road, and plan accordingly.

How long can you stand this view? Before taking a multi-day car trip, you need to understand your endurance for the road, and plan accordingly.

Best roads: Wyoming, South Dakota

Worst Roads: Iowa, Illiniois, Indiana

Slowest pace: Oregon, with its antiquated 65 mph speed limit on rural highways feels like you’re driving in quicksand.  I-65 between Bowling Green and Louisville, KY due to tremendous amounts of truck traffic.

Fastest pace: I-95 through South Carolina.  Apparently, the 70 mph limit is merely a suggestion.  I was one of the slowest on the road at 85, and was routinely passed by vehicles going in excess of 100 mph. It was like people were fleeing the northeast for the warm weather of Florida.

Best rest areas: Idaho, South Dakota, Virginia.  Clean and safe, with travel information and free WiFi.

Worst rest areas: Oregon, by far.  Desolate, basic, and populated with people begging for money.  There was no feeling of safety at the Oregon rest areas.

Best drivers: Idaho, South Dakota, Missouri. In all three states, the drivers were considerate and well-mannered, and they knew how to use the freeways.

A great feature of the Sorento is a navigation system that points out mileages to the next available rest areas.

A great feature of the Sorento is a navigation system that points out mileages to the next available rest areas.

Worst drivers: Washington, Florida.  You’re probably thinking “he didn’t even go into Washington.”  True, but Washington drivers are known for never yielding the fast lane on the freeway.  So here I am, driving south through Iowa and there’s a big lineup of traffic in the left lane. When I caught up with the blockage, it was, naturally, a car with Washington license plates. They’re everywhere. Florida drivers are just completely unpredictable, and many are “driving” massive sedans with underutilized mirrors.

Lessons learned: When looking at hotels, more expensive does not necessarily mean better quality.  Some of the least expensive were the best, and the most expensive the worst. The best thing that could happen to the expensive La Quinta hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota would be for the earth to open up and swallow it whole – staff and all.  On the flip side, one of my least expensive stopovers – the La Quinta in Omaha, Nebraska – was one of the best.

You need to have a good idea of your natural endurance for the road. Some people can drive on forever, some can’t. There was only one day where I questioned my decision to go forward to my planned destination. While I was able to stay alert and it turned out OK, I should have listened to my body and stopped earlier.  Driving at night is much more exhausting than driving during the day, and as the trip went on, the days were getting shorter and shorter.  Your two biggest challenges are fatigue and wildlife on the road – two threats that grow larger as the days go into evening.

I crossed the bulk of the country in a little over a week.  It should have taken at least twice that long.  There’s just so much to see, and you’ll never see it from the fast lane of the freeway. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but the next drive is already forming in my mind….

One thought on “John’s Great Cross-country adventure: The wrap-up

  1. Kelly

    Thank You for sharing your wonderful trip with everyone!
    I hope you can someday take the next one that you are now planning in your head, and bring along your wife to share the experience.

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