Finally, we left Blacksburg for good in February 2008, to go to Bay area, CA. We decided to drive our Toyota Camry all the way. It was 2700 miles drive and we were excited. We started our drive on a Sunday morning and planned to drive about 750 miles each day. Visually, the travel was as the following map.
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When we started in Blacksburg there was snow all around and wind chills. However, we were lucky to have sun that day. Beautiful, sunny Blacksburg reminded us of the wonderful years we spent here.
We entered into Tennessee in just few hours. The Tennessee welcome center was quite big and designed artistically. The landscape of Tennessee was not much different from Virginia, but it was definitely flatter. We drove about 490 miles in Tennessee.
We entered Arkansas in the night. I have been here few times but it was first time for Vinny. We booked a hotel on phone and then called Dr. Saraswat. Dr. Saraswat is my senior from my undergrad college. Well, it was a mistake to call them after booking the hotel and we realized that after we got some nice scolding, and a great welcome from Dr. Saraswat and his wife in Little Rock, Arkansas. They cooked a really nice dinner for us. Too bad, we forgot to click a picture at their house.
We started from a place called Conway in Arkansas, which is very near to Little Rock in the morning. The time zone change was showing its effect and we got up a little early. On the I-40 in Arkansas, we got a chance to catch a scenic view in our camera.
We did not have to travel much in Arkansas and we were in Oklahoma by early noon. They really had a nice welcome center. Oklahoma welcome center displayed some interesting examples of some skills of Indian's craftsmanship. I found an interesting quote in the Oklahoma Welcome center as well.
Oklahoma was mostly flat, and pretty much deserted on Interstate 40. We reached Tulsa, in the afternoon. We wanted to eat at a nice Indian restaurant, but we didn't know address of any restaurant. So we tried the GOOG 411 service for the first time. Those who do not know about it, it is a service to find out local businesses by dialing 1 800 GOOG 411. We ended up at an amazing restaurant Gopuram at Oklahoma City. We had a nice buffet.
We reached Texas around evening. The welcome center for Texas was just a welcome sign. They didn't have any rest rooms there. We saw quite a few windmills as soon as we reached Texas. The size of these windmills were really huge.
We reached Amarillo, Texas in the evening. Interstate 40 passed though the Amarillo, so we were able to see that city. We in fact did some shopping at Kohl's there. Having interstate in the city is positive as the people passing buy can actually see the city and may be visit it as well. Amarillo, however, like many other US cities is also made for cars, not people. You cannot walk between two showrooms if they are just 20-30 feet apart. That rant some other time though.
Around the time we were going to pass Texas, we saw a beef farm right beside the interstate which was more than a mile long. All the beef in the farm were waiting to get butchered. I hadn't seen animal agriculture at that scale before, it was overwhelming. At the end of Texas, severe wind was blowing which was shaking our car badly. We entered New Mexico after dark, and the time zone changed as well. We stayed in Tucumcari, New Mexico that night in a Super 8 Motel. Actually, that was first time I stayed at a Super 8, it was pretty good. Tucumcari looked like a small beautiful town. I could see Route 66 from my room in motel. Route 66 is considered were scenic.
We started from Tucumcari in the morning and reached Albequrque, NM during lunch time. My cell phone was having problems, so I had to go to a verizon wireless showroom in NM. Albequrque, NM is situated in a valley with mountains surrounding it. Its a beautiful place. I talked to four people in NM, two verizon wireless representatives, one hotel receptionist, and one native Indian at the roadside. They were not only very nice, they had a very special warmth as well. May be that's a characteristic of NM people? There was a village situated right beside Interstate on a dormant volcano. I think I forgot its name, but some Indians were on the road and one of them told me about it. The nearby areas had black earth due to that volcano which erupted few hundred years back. New Mexico had some snow by that time, and the surrounding areas were looking very beautiful. Enjoy some other pictures from new Mexico as well.
Arizona had a nice welcome center. It was based on the theme of an Indian village.
The interstate in Arizona had some big statues of dinosaurs which appeared to be running towards the interstate.
Arizona was looking really beautiful and we entered California by night in the pacific time zone. California didn't have any welcome centers, although California welcomed us by checking our cars. I think they do not allow import of agriculture products and live animals. We stayed in Needles, CA that night.
We still had to travel about 550 miles in California and reach our apartment in Fremont before 5 to get the keys. Thankfully, time zone change helped us wake up by 5 and leave Needles by 6. This was our fourth day of driving, but we were as excited as we were on day one. We were less than half a tank of gas when we left Needles and were planning to get it filled before moving forward, but we forgot and realized when we were in the desert of Mojave national park. That area was dry and deserted as in the pictures below and you could easily see small wild animals (fox, rabbit, deer etc.) running around .
We tried to call 411 (couldn't call 1800GOOG411 as my phone was discharged and another phone was out of minutes), but that was not of much help, as we didn't know the name of city or county where we were. We had no other option than to drive as far as we could. We finally found a place called Ludlow, out in the desert, which had only two gas stations in total and nothing else as far as one could see (one could see for miles actually there). We could have been in serious trouble if that place was couple of miles away. Once we got the gas, we started again. California had the most varying landscape, changing from desert, to snow covered mountains to huge agricultural farms to concentrated cities. You can see the varying landscape of CA in pictures below. We found amazingly big wind mill farms near Mojave as well.
We had lunch in Bakersville, CA. We were able to reach Fremont, CA before 5, and we got the keys. In few minutes, we left for Ikea to buy the bed. We took the picture below couple of days later to show how dirty our car was after so much driving.
I always wanted to do a cross country travel like this, and I am glad I did it with my better half. It was an amazing experience. The visual panorama we experienced for four days will always be in our minds and heart like a treasure. All of that cannot be illustrated in the pictures or in my shoddy writing, but hopefully you liked them.