Category Archives: Texas

AK2FL One Year Later: New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma

The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries in Groom, Texas (pop. 587). 13 June 2011.

Five photographs from New Mexico to Oklahoma one-year-after the cross-continent summer trip of 2011. These photographs were originally processed with Apple’s Aperture application and have been heavily edited with Snapseed on the iPad for this post. Original live-blog posts from summer 2011 can be accessed here

NEW MEXICO, TEXAS, OKLAHOMA: Miles 5194 – 5919 represented (725 miles total in this leg). My cross-continental journey most certainly accelerated once I hit the New Mexico border. I’d decided to burn through the night from Arizona to Oklahoma, essentially skipping New Mexico and Texas side-trips, to afford myself more time to visit with friends in Oklahoma, as well as to visit Red Rock Canyon State Park. I’d also hoped to visit northern Arkansas to hike the Blanchard Springs area. Ultimately, however, my altered-altered-altered plans were literally unraveled in Oklahoma. My beloved Jeep suffered a rather brutal environmental shock once temperatures climbed well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. After four years in Alaska, the scorching, dry, summer heat of the American midwest simply ravaged my Jeep’s delicate, cold-blooded innards! The rubber lining on pretty much everything started to disintegrate and fluids were sketchy at best. From that point on –mile 5919–, the goal was to simply get home as fast as possible, as we’ll see in the next post.

The New Mexico Border, leaving Arizona. 12 June 2011.

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Interstate 40 just east of the Texas/Oklahoma border. Temp in the lower 100s. 13 June 2011.

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Box Canyon Trail in Red Rock Canyon State Park, Oklahoma. 13 June 2011.

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Along the Box Canyon Trail in Red Rock Canyon State Park, Oklahoma. 13 June 2011.

Sunday 12 June 2011 (Day 13):

Monday 13 June 2011 (Day 14): 

The June 2011 Drive from Alaska to Florida

20110624-103522.jpgIn June of 2011, I drove solo from Anchorage, Alaska to Mt. Dora, Florida, taking the long way and cutting south through Utah and Arizona before finally heading east. I drove 7221 miles in 15 days in my beloved 1998 Jeep Cherokee. Lady Cherokee, bless her heart, performed beautifully — though the 100+ degree temperatures beginning in Oklahoma eventually began to unravel her four-year acclimation to the chilly Alaskan climate. With disintegrating lining and an exhausted water pump and belt, she eventually stalled and died fourteen miles from the finish line: my parents’ home in Mt. Dora.

My wife and daughter had flown directly to Mt. Dora, leaving me with two and a half weeks to explore North America as I made my way southeast. I camped in a tent or out of the Jeep all but two nights along the way and ventured into innumerable parks and preserves. Among these hiking/photo stops were (to name a few): Denali National Park, Stone Mountain Provincial Park, Muncho Lake Provincial Park, Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Petrified Forest National Park, the Painted Desert, Meteor Crater, Red Rock Canyon State Park, and the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge. By the time I reached Oklahoma, the trip accelerated as I found myself closer to home and with an obviously heat-stroked vehicle.

Despite frequent difficulties with attaining decent 3G coverage, I photographed and live-blogged the entire trip with my Nikon D90 and iPad 2. Forcing myself to stop and write about what I was experiencing in real time provided me with a kind of internal rhythm by which I could better soak in these experiences. Indeed, it was ultimately more experience than my tiny hominid mind could handle and now, looking back, I’m grateful to have these on-location notes and testimonials for reference. Otherwise it would all be an incredible blur.

In general, I strove to not box myself in with a rigid timeline or concrete plan — other than to arrive home no later than Sunday the 19th on Father’s Day. Still, my modernistic ways kept pushing me to calculate and to box myself into itineraries. In hindsight, breaking free of my own self-mandated scheduling proved more difficult than the drive itself. It took great effort to break myself from “The Plan” from time to time, to follow an unknown road or to veer slightly off course.

In the end I consider the trip an astounding success and an absolute gift of experience. While others dream of exploring other continents, I find myself constantly in awe of my own home continent. North America is vast, dynamic, and extremely diverse in the beauties it affords. For everything I have seen of this continent in my life, I know there is still so much more to discover and to experience. I did some damage to my bucket list on this trip and fulfilled several life goals in travel, but I still feel like I’ve only begun — says the man in his late thirties.

Below you will find a chronological listing of liveblog posts written during this trip, with shortcut links to each and every post. Also mote that all posts on this blog are categorically tagged by state or province. These tags can be accessed via the main “black bar” menu at the top of this page under “Locations.”

Special props and gratitude to all those who read and commented along the way, either directly on the blog or via email. You helped make the trip feel much less lonely — and there were indeed some very lonely nights.

If you have any questions about this trip or any of the photos or information provided within, p,ease feel free to contact me via the blog or my email (jansonjones -at- me -dot- com). Also note that the photographs featured during the trip itself (beginning 31 May 2011) were taken with a Nikon D90 in RAW format and processed solely on the iPad 2. I did not have any laptop available during this time. I was strictly mobile in the true sense of the term.

UPDATE: Images in these posts have since been upgraded (in May and June of 2012). During the trip, I had no computer. Just the Nikon D90 and my iPad 2. All images were originally imported directly to and processed with the iPad 2. I was somewhat limited in what I could upload and usually only posted one or two images per post. Since then, I’ve fully processed the photos and revised these posts with the higher grade images in full.

THE DRIVE FROM ALASKA TO FLORIDA:
INDEX TO THE ORIGINAL LIVE-BLOG POSTS

Pre-Trip Posts:


Tuesday 31 May 2011 (Day 01):
ALASKA 

  

Wednesday 01 June 2011 (Day 02):
ALASKA, YUKON TERRITORY 

  

Thursday 02 June 2011 (Day 03):
YUKON TERRITORY 

    

Friday 03 June 2011 (Day 04):
YUKON TERRITORY, BRITISH COLUMBIA 

    

Saturday 04 June 2011 (Day 05):
BRITISH COLUMBIA, ALBERTA 

Sunday 05 June 2011 (Day 06):
ALBERTA 

  

Monday 06 June 2011 (Day 07):
ALBERTA, MONTANA 

    

Tuesday 07 June 2011 (Day 08):
MONTANA, IDAHO 

  

Wednesday 08 June 2011 (Day 09):
IDAHO, UTAH 

    

Thursday 09 June 2011 (Day 10):
UTAH 

  

Friday 10 June 2011 (Day 11):
UTAH 

  

Saturday 11 June 2011 (Day 12):
UTAH, ARIZONA 

  

Sunday 12 June 2011 (Day 13):
ARIZONA, NEW MEXICO 

  

Monday 13 June 2011 (Day 14):
NEW MEXICO, TEXAS, OKLAHOMA 

  

Tuesday 14 June 2011 (Day 15):
OKLAHOMA, LOUISIANA, MISSISSIPPI 

  

Wednesday 15 June 2011 (Day 16):
MISSISSIPPI, ALABAMA, FLORIDA 

  

Post-Trip Posts:

Alternatively, you can also view a thumbnailed archive list of all posts listed above here: http://dusttracks.com/category/series/summer-2011-the-drive-from-alaska-to-florida/.

~ janson.

NOTE: This post was substantially revised and completed on 11 August 2011.

Day 14, Mile 5685: My Cross Is Bigger Than Your Cross

13 June 2011 @ 10:41 am CDT (5685 miles). I’m in Groom, Texas, pop. 587, and admiring the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries grounds. Indeed, I am back in the part of the country where Church, Spectacle, and Theme-Park start to merge.

This particular ministry had the cave you could enter (and later reemerge from, like Jesus, only different), a series of sculptures depicting scripture, and, of course, a cross way bigger than your cross.

There’s a charm in packaging religion as infotainment. I’m not sure why, but it makes me giggly. Especially when so much of the surrounding area seems devastated by economic hardship. It’s nice that churches can put their money to good use. It’s a riot. Har har.

Ah, Texas. ah, America.

- janson

Day 14, Mile 5568: Welcome to Texas, Y’all

13 June 2011 @ 3:41 am CDT (5568 miles). Well, hot damn and I’ll be! We’re in Texas, y’all! Yeehaw! Woot woot!

We’re also now in Central Daylight Savings Time. It went from 2:41 to 3:41 just like that, y’all. It’s crazy like that. It truly is, I do declare.

This also means it’s time for me to get some shut eye. When I start typin’ Texan, you know Ahm gettin’ tired. I’m thinking there’s gotta be a Texas Welcome Center coming up soon. ‘Cause Texas is like that: very welcoming, as long as you don’t mess with the darn state.

Here’s what I saw of New Mexico:

Check you in the morning. I mean, later this morning.

- – And by the way, now that I’m driving interstates, I’m amazed by these mega-gas-stations. You know, those massive 24-hour places that have showers, cots, slot machines, and whatever else the wayward traveler/trucker may need at three in the morning. Crazy, y’all. Those places are crazy. We didn’t have those in Alaska.

G’night.

- janson

June 2011: The Plan

20110327-083911.jpg

On 01 June 2011, I leave Anchorage and begin my two and a half week road trip to Florida, where I’ll meet up with Mumpower and Kid A at my folks’ house in Lake County. They’re flying separately to Florida, leaving me to do the drive solo –well, just me and my camera, at least– in the Jeep. Undoubtedly it’s going to be a remarkable trip.

In general, though I have an itinerary planned, this won’t be a trip regulated by rigid and firm deadlines. I fully expect for the “plan” to change and adjust in real-time, in response to what may come. Hell, the plan has changed already…

What follows in this post is the general plan so far for the June 2011 drive from Alaska to Florida.

Admittedly, this post also serves to allow me to pre-structure the new blog with categorical tags for each of these regions… as I do plan on live-blogging the trip as much as possible… You’ll also find a menu option below the banner image for “series”. This option will let you sort collected batches of posts by related by series-content. For example, all “Alaska-to-Florida” Summer 2011 posts will be collected together as one series. Organization is swell!

Alright, here’s the plan so far:

ALASKA. The trip begins, obviously, in southcentral Alaska. I’ll be shooting east for the border and plan on stopping at a few favorite haunts on the way out. Eagle River Valley, Hatcher Pass, and Matanuska Glacier are likely stops on my way to Tok. From Tok, I’ll then bolt east to the Yukon border, cruising the infamous Alaska (“Alcan”) Highway.

YUKON. There aren’t any formal parks I plan to spend much time at in the Yukon, though I do remember some areas from the 2007 drive I want to explore more of, namely the Kluane Lake area around Destruction Bay. I’ve got room to explore here.

BRITISH COLUMBIA. Highlight stops in British Columbia include Liard River Hot Springs, Stone Mountain Provincial Park, and Muncho Lake Provincial Park. Plenty of time is allotted for random wanderings, as this stretch of the Alaska Highway is packed with roaming bison, stone sheep, wild horses, and black bears.

ALBERTA. Alberta is home to the Icefields Parkway, a spectacular drive from Jasper south to Banff. Athabasca Glacier is located here, as are Banff and Yoho National Parks on the southern end (though Yoho is technically just over the B.C. border to the west). Also in this area, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. Amazing region. I thank my Nikon in advance.

MONTANA. Glacier National Park, baby. I loved it in 2007 and I hope I love it again in 2011. After Glacier, this is where my route will break from the one in 2007. Instead of heading east toward the Lewis & Clark National Forest, I’ll be heading south toward Utah. I might stay the night near Lewis & Clark Caverns before skirting the edge of:

WYOMING. My time in Wyoming will be short. I plan on checking out Yellowstone National Park in the extreme northwest corner of Wyoming before continuing south. If it’s too crowded, however (which it is likely to be), I’ll probably save time and continue southward. As much as I’d love to see Yellowstone, I don’t like massive crowds… And I don’t have time on this trip to do much backcountry hiking/camping. So, Wyoming’s up in the air. I’ll play it by ear.

IDAHO. I’ll actually hit Idaho before and after Wyoming. I may check out Targhee National Forest after Yellowstone, but for the most part I’ll just be seeing Idaho from the pavement. Another blending of borders is Fossil Butte National Monument. Technically it’s in Wyoming, just over the border, south of Yellowstone — and it looks like a good place to stay the night on my way to Utah.

UTAH. This is the main goal of the trip, short of actually arriving in the southeast alive. Utah. I’ve never been and always wanted to… Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park beckon. I plan on spending several days in this area, soaking up the canyons and arid climate. I will also strive to not become pinned by a boulder in a narrow canyon.

ARIZONA. From Arches and Canyonlands I continue south to and through Arizona. The main objective is to get to the arid region east of Flagstaff, namely Meteor Crater — a mile-wide impact crater formed during the Pleistocene (about 50,000 years ago). I briefly visited Meteor Crater in January 1998 with a dear friend in college and can’t wait to return again. The region is immaculate. It’s a bit out of my way, but completely worth it. (Also note that I’m skipping the Grand Canyon northwest of Flagstaff — there just isn’t enough time!)

NEW MEXICO. Continuing east I hit New Mexico. The goal: the Very Large Array near Socorro. This is another spot I visited in 1998. The VLA is a part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. It’s comprised of three massive (y-shaped) tracks of 82 foot dishes (twenty seven in total). The dishes can be adjusted on these tracks depending on what’s being studied. The array can span about twenty-two miles when fully extended. The region around the VLA is quite beautiful and one I look forward to seeing again.

TEXAS. Texas is but a speed bump on the drive. No offense, Texans. I’ll pass through the panhandle between New Mexico and Oklahoma.

OKLAHOMA. Destination: Tulsa. Purpose: Party. I’m meeting up with a group of old and dear friends in Tulsa for a party. If there was more time, I’d do the Wichita Mountains (one of my favorite regions on earth) and visit Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma. But alas, from the angle I’m coming in from, that would add two days to the trip to do each place justice… So, straight to Tulsa it shall be.

ARKANSAS. This is the part of the drive where distance and making-time starts taking priority over exploring and photography. Having said that, I do hope to be able to spend a little bit of time in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas. Lost Valley is a particular highlight. A favorite place of mine from years past. I miss the Ozarks of Northern Arkansas dearly.

TENNESSEE. I’ll pass through Memphis in the extreme southwest corner of Tennessee, but that’s about it.

MISSISSIPPI. Passing through Mississippi mainly to make time, it might be nice to find a few hours in Holly Springs National Forest. Maybe?

ALABAMA. My time in Alabama is constrained because of my arrival-deadline. I’ll be coming down Interstate 22 and then hopping on 65 at Birmingham (and then highway 82 east from Montgomery). I’ve got some dear friends in north Alabama I hope to meet up with for lunch, but the rest of Alabama-Time will be spend burning tread.

GEORGIA. I’m meeting Mumpower and Kid A in Florida, so humorously I’ll only be blowing through south Georgia, driving right past Valdosta. We won’t actually move to Valdosta until July, after we spend some time with family in Florida and later in South Carolina.

FLORIDA. And then, BAM! FLORIDA!

And that’s the plan.

Again, the “plan” is malleable and I fully expect it to change quite a bit. I’ve mapped out driving distances and times, but absolutely don’t want to regiment myself to any clock (other than arriving in Tulsa in time for the party and arriving in Mt. Dora on the right day). There are a lot of unknown variables in a trip like this. Automobile Health. Weather. Sleep. And on and on. So, who knows how it will actually pan out?

It’s certainly a lot of driving — and, mercifully, I do have quite a bit of time reserved for hiking and photography. Much of the trip I’ll be camping at night, sometimes in a tent, other times in the back of the Jeep. I plan on doing a hotel once every three or four days, maybe, so I can recharge batteries, shower, shave, and do the other things normal human beings do to make themselves tolerable to others.

It’s also going to be the grand test of the iPad. How well will this thing connect to the internet while on the road? Where will my blackouts be? And so on.

Crazy. This trip is going to be crazy. And that’s the plan. So far. As of now. (I’m a little bit excited.)

~ janson

NOTE: The photograph was taken in late 2007 from the window of an airplane somewhere over North America, between Anchorage and Tulsa…