HomeNews and EventsObservations from 6,744 miles through 20 states

Observations from 6,744 miles through 20 states

Steinbeck traveled with Charlie; my companion was an 11-year-old grandchild with a smartphone


(Editors note: During the month of July, the Journal is publishing a series of stories about summer road trips. Larry Edsall is just back after driving 6,744 miles through 20 states in 26 days, and he has some observations to share from the experience. But in addition to our tales from the road, were eager to share your stories about summer road trips youve done, with family, in a classic car, perhaps in a classic car back when it was just the family cruiser. Please submit your stories and a few photos from your trip to [email protected].)

We’re baaaack! We being my just-turned-11-year-old granddaughter, me and my brand-new but bestickered Nissan Frontier, the stickers informing others on the road that we’re helping Drive Toward a Cure to battle Parkinson’s by raising money during the 75 Days of Summer road-trip program.

The trip was supposed to take place a year ago but was among the many, many things postponed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Though delayed 12 months, the trip was great. Following are some observations from the road:

— Armed with a smartphone, an 11-year-old can be a great navigator (and we somehow tolerated each other’s choices in musical entertainment, or perhaps she was using her earbuds when my choices were coming from the truck’s speakers).

— Our first destination was McPherson College in Kansas, where we dropped off a trailer loaded with boxes of automotive books for the college library. To get there, we took I-40 across Arizona and New Mexico and found the surface of the eastbound lanes to be in deplorable condition. Infrastructure repair can’t come soon enough for those of us who like to drive. 

Or can it? After leaving the books and trailer at McPherson, we returned to I-40 south of Wichita and endured a series to construction delays that had us parked on the pavement for up to 20 minutes.

My new truck, with stickers, at Cadillac Ranch

— While in Texas, we stopped at Cadillac Ranch (I seem incapable of drive past without stopping.) On our way from there to McPherson, the GPS found a shortcut that we thought had us lost and questioning the technology. It took us off the main route and onto a roadway through the middle of a spooky-looking chemical-processing factory all painted in black and looking like an ideal location to shoot a Hollywood horror film. It then led us down into a pretty river valley before bringing us back to the highway.

Sometimes it pays to trust the technology, because what seemed to be a detour turned into a trip highlight. 

— That stretch of I-40 in AZ and NM was horrible, and so were the drivers we encountered in Florida (where I repeatedly had to use the horn and brakes as self-defense mechanisms), where we had gone to watch Vanessa’s cousin take part in the 144-team, 17-and-under division of the AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships.

Note to college volleyball coaches: If you need a great setter for your women’s team starting with the 2022-23 season, I can put you in touch with one.

Also while in Florida, we visited my brother and sister-in-law and drove my Mom’s ashes (she died in 2019 but, like so many other things, the pandemic put burial on hold) to Illinois to be placed in the cemetery next to my Dad’s, grandparents’, aunts’ and uncles’ remains.

— Note to states: It’s time to open the highway rest stops you’ve had closed for so many months! People are traveling again and need to use the facilities!

— I-40 in AZ and NM was deplorable, as were many of the drivers in Florida, but Michigan (where I lived for more years than in any other state, so I feel free to say this) should be ashamed of the condition of its roads, especially since people there told me the current governor ran on a platform of road repair.

In Michigan’s case, I’d argue it’s a case of replace, not repair. Yes, the roads were that bad.

— Two great meals along the way: Venison chili cooked by my daughter in Michigan and a poorboy sandwich at Merichka’s restaurant, family owned in Crest Hill, Illinois, since 1933. 

Actually, make that three great meals, since we also had the famous family-style chicken feast at Zender’s in Frankenmuth, Michigan, after a morning of holiday-ornament shopping at Bronner’s, where it’s Christmas year around.

— Back on the road toward home, but with a stop in Dyersville, Iowa, at the baseball diamond built as a movie set for Field of Dreams. And, yes, I’ve been scolded for not having Vanessa remove her shoes as she emerged from the corn field.

On the way to Dyersville we drove through Bellevue, Iowa, a pretty, little and historic community of 2,200 people perched along the Mississippi River above Lock and Dam No. 12. Next time I’m in the area, I plan to spend a few days. 

— We did Dyersville to Lincoln, Nebraska, via old roads rather than interstates and they were delightful, the way I prefer to travel on road trips when time allows. 

At Lincoln, we spent a morning taking a wonderfully guided tour through Speedway Motors’ amazing Museum of American Speed. It was my third car museum visit of the trip, following the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky and the Gilmore Car Museum in Michigan. I’ll be sharing separate stories on them in the coming days.

— We’d planned to return to Nevada via Colorado but had done that drive before, so we opted instead for I-80 across Wyoming to Salt Lake City, and then back to Vegas down I-15. Interesting thing about I-80 across Wyoming – I counted three different times we crossed the Continental Divide while on the same road!

— Some other perhaps strange notes from the trip: We saw no buffalo as we crossed the Great Plaines, nor did we see any beehives, those white boxes that used to dot fields along so many roads. But we did see manatees in the water at Nokomis Beach in Florida, and that was a treat. 

Around home, I can’t drive more than a few blocks without seeing several Teslas, but they were few and far between on the interstates we traveled. I did see several of the newest generation Lincoln Continentals on the trip and wonder why such a beautiful American sedan, perhaps the best full-size design from Detroit since the Oldsmobile Aurora, wasn’t more popular.

Speaking of home, I’m back. Catching up on mail, running errands, writing stories, and planning my next road trip, which will be to Pebble Beach for Monterey Car Week. 

That 75 Days of Summer event runs through September 5. Guess it’s time to get out the road atlas and scout the long way home from Cannery Row.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. It is very important to spend time with your loved ones. I think it’s right to involve children in charitable projects. This is how we teach them compassion by example, not just words.


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