Thursday, August 06, 2015

Highway 50 Coast to Coast

Last year when I told Mike that the National Square Dance Festival in June 2015 would be in Springfield MA, he said we should consider driving out.  Well by the time summer 2015 rolled around Mike was planning on spending the summer in Montana (where he has wanted to live his whole life).  I thought this summer would be a nice time to stay in Fairplay, be alone, and do WHATEVER I wanted to WHENEVER I wanted to do it.  Since he had planted the idea of driving to MA, I thought I'm going to do it, I'm going to drive, I'm calling it my freedom trip, I'll eat where, when, and what I want, I'll stop when I want, I'll sleep when I'm tired.... No hotels to confine my travel plans, I'd sleep in the car, or if I wanted a hotel I'd get one.... No planning.

Well, Mom didn't like the idea of a "freedom trip".. too dangerous or some other malarky.  But she offered to come with me, so I wouldn't be driving alone, and frankly.... you don't turn mom down on an offer to spend 3 weeks together.  So I agreed that would be fun.  Later she vetoed the sleeping in the car idea, so while freedom was being whittled away, we still had a great trip planned.

Mike and I lived on highway 50 for 7 years in Canon City.  Highway 50 is one of the oldest coast to coast highways.  President Eisenhower decided to build the interstate system after travelling from DC to the West coast on highway 50 in 1919 as a young Lieutenant Colonel in the Army.  It took them 52 days to get the 81 Army vehicles coast to coast, and that was not going to be acceptable is the country had an emergency and had to respond.  There is no Interstate 50 because while the state highway system numbers go North to South the Interstate numbers go South to North, and highway 50 would have caused confusion with Interstate 50 in many states since both were in the middle.  Highway 50 also has a garage sale in May every year where people coast to coast on Highway 50 have a garage sale on the same date.  This is a quirky interesting fact to me, and made me want to drive highway 50 end to end.  This has been on my bucket list for many years.

In February 2015 Mike and I went to Lake Tahoe to ski.  We took highway 50 across Utah and Nevada, including the section known as "the loneliest road in America" on our way to Tahoe.  It was lovely!  I also took a day on that trip to drive on over the mountain to Sacramento, completing the Western half of the trip, from Canon City to Sacramento.

The sign in Sacramento
The drive to Massachusetts was the perfect opportunity to do the Eastern half.  So no decisions needed to be made, get on 50, stay on 50 until you see the ocean in Maryland.  Then turn left and drive to Massachusetts.

I met up with Mom in Pueblo and we had lunch before starting off on the trek.  We also incorporated a geocache in every state as we passed through.  In Kansas we learned that highway 50 followed the Santa Fe trail.  We had dinner in Dodge City, but then rather than stay for the night felt we had to "get out of Dodge".

In Indiana we took a detour off 50 and visited Columbus, another bucket list item of mine.  In Columbus the main employer, Cummins Engine, paid the architectural fees for any public building that agreed to use a name architect off of the Cummins list when Columbus rebuilt the city after WWII.  It was interesting.  We did a walking tour of town.

In West Virginia we stopped in the town, Spencer, where my mother was born.  It had been 80 years (since she was 2) since she had been there.  Obviously she didn't remember anything, but it was fun to go.  We also stopped in Buckhannon where Mom's grandparents lived while she was growing up.  By contrast, many happy memories there.

But then I had my third IBM interview (reference post from 7/26).  We had to spend 24 hours in DC that were not in the itinerary (Yeah ok... I know.. "FREEDOM TRIP"..  why was there an itinerary... Well, I am a Swenson after all!).  But everything was so perfect with the job process, I just knew that had to take priority, so reluctantly, our drive on highway 50 had to end in Washington DC, in front of the capital building.

From DC we went North. Stopped in for a night with my cousin in Maryland, visited the liberty bell, spend a week in Springfield Massachusetts, where I attend Square Dance Caller school for the second year, and the National Square Dance Festival.  Then Mom and I drove home via my birthplace, Madison, Wisconsin (where I hadn't been back to since I was 2) and St Paul/Minneapolis where we were able to visit a cousins daughter, friends from college days, and Dad's cousins that I had not met before.  We concluded our pilgrimage at my sister Monica's house in Loveland, Colorado, where we met up with the rest of the family for the 4th of July. 

Fast forward a month.  My first three days with IBM are in Herndon, VA.  I was to fly in on Sunday for IBM orientation starting on Monday.  I requested as early of flight as I could get, and arrived at Dulles at 2pm.  After waiting for my car for an hour and checking into the hotel, I started back on 50 to complete the highway 50 coast to coast tour in 2015.  Woo hoo!.  The drive was slow through DC and stuck in traffic going over the toll bridge across the Chesapeake Bay, but beautiful!  enjoyed every minute (even the traffic).  I got to Ocean City and dipped my toe in the Atlantic just as the last rays of light were hitting.

I had hoped to stay for dinner, but decided I really better get back.  After all I was starting a new job in the morning.  Our sailing instructor we had on Saturday advised me that the thing to eat in Ocean City was crab.  Well, I did find a place and got some crab cakes to go,

The Sign in Ocean City
Otherwise, the trip to Herndon was great.  I am now an IBMer!  Not too much to say about my first 3 days except that it is exciting to be part of this company.  There we 50 people starting on the same Monday from many different jobs.  I'm sure there are a number of other locations as well.  And they do this every 2 weeks.  Yet, I didn't feel like a cog.  I am a a valued individual, one of 430,000 of us world-wide.  The other guy starting my same job and I did have the opportunity to go out to lunch with our boss.  I also took a moment to enjoy what being in the city has to offer and spent my evenings shopping.  Oh, right, I also need to make a note to sleep more when I travel to help combat the jet lag!  Until next time....


  1. Great blog, Phyl!

  2. That's great that you got to finish the last bit of hwy 50