About My Journey
My wife and I own 2 houses – one in Atlanta, and one in Phoenix. She lives primarily in Phoenix, and I split my time between both houses. I cancelled my planned trip in late March/early April during the height of the pandemic. I hadn’t seen my wife in two and a half months and we decided the safest way to travel was by car. The idea of staying in a hotel was worse than traveling by plane, so I made the decision to sleep in my car at night.
During my journey traveling cross country, I tried to stop at every major city along the way for a few pictures. I scouted locations ahead of time on Google maps, but some locations were closed and I had to improvise (Memphis and Albuquerque ). My pictures are opportunistic – I couldn’t stop for hours and wait for the ideal time to take pics based on lighting, I had to shoot at the time I passed through. All pictures were taken with my Canon 5D Mk 4 and Sigma Art Series 20mm ultra wide angle prime lens.
Birmingham is only 2 hours from Atlanta, so I stopped downtown on the 24th Street bridge at 4 pm. Birmingham is an older, industrial city and railroad hub, but it’s quaint and surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains. I stayed just long enough to snap a few pictures, and then headed to Memphis.
I arrived in Memphis about 3 hours later, around 7 pm. I had planned on shooting from the bridge that takes you to Mud Island State Park, but it was closed due to the pandemic (their web site said they were open). So I had to improvise and luckily stumbled on Memphis Park. It didn’t allow me to capture all of the downtown area, but sunlight was waning and I had to shoot what I could. The sunset over the Mississippi River was spectacular. No time to dwell, off to Little Rock!
Little Rock, Arkansas
I arrived in North Little Rock around 10 pm. The first night was crazy, sleeping in my car in a Walmart parking lot. Tornado sirens went off at 11:30 pm local time, followed by heavy winds, rain, and then hail started to fall. I jumped in the front seat and drove to the gas station to get a roof over my car. 45 minutes later, the rain and hail subsided and I went back to the regular parking lot for the remainder of the night. Lizzy and I survived unscathed.
The next morning at 6 am, I got up, stretched, and headed to North Shore Riverwalk Park for some overcast sunrise pictures of downtown Little Rock. I was surprised to find Little Rock a very nice city. The areas around downtown had that small town, old nostalgic feel, despite the proximity to a major city.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Four and a half hours after leaving Little Rock, I arrived in Oklahoma City. The halfway point (approximately) for my journey traveling cross country. I drove to Scissortail Park to enjoy the view of downtown and have lunch. Scissortail Park is new and very pretty, just on the south edge of downtown. It was very windy however, with 25+ MPH gusts. I snapped some pictures, ate one of my MREs for lunch, and got back on the road.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
I finally arrived in Albuquerque around 5:30 that evening, after traveling 900 miles. I passed through Amarillo, TX, but didn’t bother to stop. There was nothing worth photographing there!
That night, in another Walmart parking lot in Albuquerque, I was asked to leave by security – that location was too suburban to allow overnight parking. I headed down I-40 to find the next Walmart at 9 pm, saw that there was a rest area in 50 miles, so I decided to head there instead. As I approached the exit 45 minutes later, I saw the sign saying the rest area was closed. Crap. I ended up driving another hour to Gallup, NM and found my space for the night – a Walmart parking lot with an area set aside for overnight visitors. The following day, after I arrived home in Phoenix, the governor of NM closed all roads to Gallop due to a sever outbreak of Covid-19. Glad I made it through in time and didn’t leave my car while there.
Day 3, I’m finally in Arizona, with the end in sight. I just had to stop in Holbrook to visit the Wigwam Motel – a route 66 classic.
Coconino National Forest, Arizona
I stopped at a few scenic locations near Payson in the Coconino National Forrest for pictures. Less than 2 hours from home and the end of my journey traveling cross country!
Observations Traveling Cross Country
- Memphis is a an old, worn out toilet. Downtown is run down, the roads in and around Memphis were horrendous – full of pot holes and very neglected.
- If Memphis is a toilet, Amarillo is a dusty, dirty little outhouse – a true shit-hole.
- Little Rock surprised me the most – it was the nicest city along my route. Far from my perception of the back woods redneck city that fostered 2 of the most corrupt politicians in US history.
- Albuquerque and Ohlahoma City were nice but nothing to write home about. They didn’t leave a particularly good or bad impression, they were very generic, plain Jane cities.
- Gallup was the prettiest area along the route. The sunrise over Gallup was stunning, and the landscape was gorgeous.
- Oklahoma was truly the wild-west of my journey. Half of I-40 through OK seemed to be a construction zone, I experienced the fastest, most aggressive drivers there, there were wind gusts up to 30 mph that kept you on your toes, and thanks to the wind, there was debris that occasionally blew across the highway.
- I saw the most highway patrol officers in Mississippi and Tennessee, despite the fact that I traveled the fewest miles in those states. I saw the fewest in Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico (less than a dozen combined in those 3 states).
- I traveled through 2 states I had never visited before – Oklahoma and Arkansas. That makes 27 states visited, with 24 left (including DC).
- I packed all my own food and drinks for the trip to avoid contamination. XMRE brand military spec MREs are delicious. Especially the Italian Sausage in a savory tomato sauce, with Santa Fe rice and beans, tortillas, jalapeno cashews, and an oatmeal cookie! I ate them cold, I’ll bet they’re even better warm.
- The trip reaffirmed my love affair with Lizzy (my car – 2015 Ford Taurus). She’s incredibly comfortable, quiet, with a smooth, yet sporty ride. My butt and back never got sore. Sleeping in the back seat in a tight fetal position, however, left a lot to be desired.