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Traveling from Cincinnati to Phoenix and Beyond

Over the past eleven years there's been one major issue that I've had to overcome: I live in Ohio and the really fun dirt is about 1,900 miles west of Ohio.

For the most people, getting from Cincinnati to Phoenix isn't too bad. In general, you hop on an airplane and about three and a half hours of flight time later, you've moved from the Mid-West and find yourself sitting in Phoenix. (Can someone please tell me why the Hell this area of the United states is refered to as the Mid-West? Did they not look at a map? It's the middle, eastern part of the United States' land mass. The Mid-West should be Colorado.)

Ah, if it were just that easy for me.
But, it's not and I'm okay with it.

Because I head out west to enjoy myself, that means taking things to enjoy myself with.
Things like a desert race car and off road motorcycles. You can't check these sort of things in at the Delta Kiosk. Heck, one of them doesn't even fit in the airplane and I can't imagine what the extra charge would be for a checked bag that weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,800 lbs. The airlines are touchy about fuel and oil things too. So, all in all, trying to pack up my toys and head west on an airplane just isn't an option.

So what does one do when they want to go out west, get out of wet, cold, muddy Ohio and enjoy the sun and desert with a bike and/or a car? They drive!

"DRIVE? Drive from Ohio to Phoenix? Are you insane? Do you know how long that takes?"

Actually, yes. I do know how long it takes. It takes anywhere from just a hair under twenty seven to about thirty hours of sitting behind the steering wheel. The time depends on weather, traffic, construction, wind and all sorts of other things.

As a general rule, I spend about thirty six hours in the van while making the trek and I have two paths that I can take:

The first one, which is about fifteen miles shorter, is to drive from Cincinnati to Indianapolis, out through Terre Haute and then across the middle of Illinois (pronounced Ill-i-nwah if you're feeling like the "international traveler" or Ill-i-noid, if you just don't like the damn state, which is the way I feel. I don't know why, but there's something about it that has a military state feeling to me and the 55 mph speed limit for vehicles over four tons or pulling trailers is a royal pain in the butt and kills my overall average speed.) to St. Louis. The one advantage of this route is that it's flat and quite direct to St. Louis.

The second route is to head down to Louisville, Kentucky and then head towards St. Louis through Indiana. I still end up in Illinoid, but only for about one third the distance the other route does, the speed limit in Indiana is 70 mph, but it's also quite hilly. If the weather's not threatening, I'll go this way. Either way, St. Louis is roughly five and a half hours from home.

It's always fun to see the the Arch in St. Louis. It lets me know that I've arrived and that I'm getting ready to leave Illinois.

From St. Louis, I head south west towards the north eastern corner of Oklahoma, entering it just a couple miles south of Kansas. Misery (Missouri) isn't too terribly bad. A bit hilly, fairly mundane scenery, but I'm able to run 70. It goes by pretty quickly in the overall grand scheme of things. It's around four and half to five hours across the state. The past year Misery's done a lot of nice highway upgrades, so I have nothing to complain about.

Water leaking out of the sides of the ground where it was cut away for the highway. It forms some really pretty icicles as it seeps out into the air and freezes.

It gets fairly flat in some areas of Missouri.

How about the Budweiser Clydesdale setup? Three semis along with an extended van escort.
I could hear the horses in two of the trailers and one trailer was carrying, what I'm guessing was, the trailer the horses pull.

Like the Clydesdales, I've seen some really cool things while on the road. Just about every aspect of national caliber racing - Supercross & Motocross teams, road racing teams, drag racing stuff, Indy car teams, off shore racers, hydroplanes, and, of course, lots of NASCAR stuff (which I don't tend to pay attention to - just not my bag except for when they road race those beasts.) If it races all over the country, I've probably seen at least a couple of the teams.

There are a couple things about Misery that I do get a kick out of and a few things that I've seen that stick in my mind. There's a cave (darn, I can't recall the name! - Meramac?) that's advertised all over the state as you travel though. In the summer the sign says it's a wonderfully cool temp of fifty six degrees. In the winter, they change it to being a warm fifty six. There's a cool little yard that has, what has to be a dozen or more, large model airplanes on display out in front of the house - cool modern area and older WWII military stuff. I've seen sky divers, there's the arch in St. Louis, all sorts of ads for the entertainers in Branson and such.

One thing that I've always gotten a kick out of is around mile marker 242 or so. It's a billboard that advertises an adult toy store. Not necessarily out of the norm, as there are many of these types of places advertised across our nation's highways, but this one stands out. Now, the reason this sign tickles me is that it's a bright blue sign with white letters that, well, pretty much sticks out like a sore thumb (probably the sign's intention, wouldn't you say?). You come over an overpass and, tada!, there it is. Still, just a blue sign isn't anything to really pay that much attention to. What made it hysterical to me was that about fifty feet past it used to be a bright pink billboard, with the same font lettering that read "PORN DESTROYS LIVES!"
The pink sign's been gone for a couple years now and I miss seeing it. Somewhere I have a picture of it and will throw it in this silly web page if I can find it. There's just something about the dichotomy of it all and the way it was presented that just tickled me.

Once I get into Oklahoma, the trip speeds up. The speed limit goes up to 75 mph, the land goes fairly flat and the road is a toll road that is quite good. It's a ninety minute drive to Tulsa, it takes about thirty minutes to go through Tulsa and then back on the toll road for another hour and a half on down to Oklahoma City. Once I get through OK City I hook up on I-40 and head west. The speed limit is 70, but the mass majority of people run 75 and up. I've learned that it's just easier to set the cruise about two to three mph above the limit and not worry about the nice men in cars with flashing colored lights. My first day of travel is usually done somewhere in between OK City and the Texas/Oklahoma border. Occasionally I will make it to Texas if the wind is behind me, the traffic's good, my timing allows me to miss rush hour in key cities and, mostly if I actually get out of town before 9:00 a.m.. For some reason, no matter how hard I try to leave before 9:00, it very rarely happens.

Over the years, I've discovered that trying to drive when sleepy is not a good thing. I scared the crap out of myself trying to push it just a tad too far a long time ago. There's nothing quite like suddenly being rudely jarred awake by the rumble strips along side the highway. It's not a good feeling at all. Since my truck is equipped with sleeping quarters, it's easy and convenient to just pull over at an exit, rest area or Wally World parking lot and bed down. It's not worth taking the chance of falling asleep and ending up in a ditch or, even worse, waking up dead. (that is if you actually do go "somewhere" once you're taking the dirt nap. I don't believe you do, though... Once you've been turned off, you're done. End of story in my book.) Nappy time usually comes somewhere around 11:00 p.m. and I don't have any issues with pulling over and getting horizontal.

Texas is next on the list of states that gets driven through. It's one hundred and seventy six miles across the pan-handle. Amarillo is smack dab in the middle of it too. Literally out in the middle of no-where. Texas, though, has a few things that really stand out: First off is how flat it is. You can see for MILES and MILES.

The Leaning Tower of Britten, Groom, TX. This was intentionally done as a tourist attraction.

The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries in Groom, TX. Over the years I've seen a couple more of these pop up (one in Illinois). I've spent the night in the parking lot a couple of times.

Not a tree to be seen!

Welcome to Amarillo.

The Cadillac Ranch on the west side of Amarillo, not too terribly far from Helium.

More flatness.

Must be around Mile 16 on I-40 in Texas. It's the first time that the land isn't flat and starts to have some character. Looking north, it's as if some huge animal started digging in the ground as far as one can see.

Welcome to New Mexico. It's about three hundred and seventy five miles across on I-40.

To'hajiilee, New Mexico - I've never been able to figure out how to pronounce this.

The scenery starts getting prettier and prettier as you get farther west in New Mexico.

A few miles west of Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

The Zuni-Bandera volcanic field in New Mexico.

More beautiful scenery along I-40.

Welcome to Arizona! This is the Yellowhorse Trading Post.

Just west of Lupton, Arizona on the south side of I-40.

The train tracks and I-40 follow each other for miles and miles. I've seen people riding in box cars - have actually been able to get a couple to wave back at me over the many times I've made this trek.

The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park attractions.

The Hopi Travel Plaza - this was home for me one night when my van had mechanical problems. Went to sleep with it looking similar to the picture below and woke up to it being covered in about a foot of snow.

The scenery just gets better and better as you head west.

Humphreys Peak, the 12,643 foot tall dormant volcano that Flagstaff sits just south of.

This gives an idea of what it takes to drive from Cincinnati to Phoenix. I did this many times over the years.

Close to where the MDR race was held - this is just west of El Centro, Kommifornia

The pits near Plaster City. We were here for a race but had some issues. Here's the story of a race that didn't happen.

Ronnie Ryerson, the developer and producer of Revolution Racing Shocks - what's on the car. He was turning knobs and making things work better.

My buddies Brian on the left and James on the right.

Part of the MDR course.

Headed towards the Salton Sea.

Like the sign says, "Welcome to the Salton City"

The ground around the sea is kinda weird.

James picking through the dirt.

The Salton Sea shore line.

There were fish skeletons everywhere along the shore line. Stuff doesn't decompose with all the salt.

I guess this is the end of one of my jaunts out west.

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