Roadtrip Recap: To SEMA and Back

“You did what?” an employee at the MGM asked, as Head of Sales John Acton and I stood before her, tired, and wearing the sort of cologne that can only be earned from nearly 30 hours of driving through the desert.  “That was pretty stupid,” she continued.  Neither of us had the energy to disagree.  And even if we did, we probably wouldn’t have bothered.

vmg-roadtrip

When the plan was originally hatched to drive to SEMA rather than fly (although I would take a plane from Philadelphia to Chicago before officially beginning the trip), words like “nice”, “fun”, and “relaxing” were tossed around casually.  It’d been years since either one of us had done the trip in admittedly less quiet and comfortable vehicles than a new GTI, and nostalgia kept the reality of a 28 hour drive far from our minds.  Even as we started, it didn’t really seem so bad.  Illinois and Iowa were gone in rapid succession. Even Nebraska was fun for a little bit, but tongue-in-cheak Instagram posts can only keep you in for so long, and darkness came quickly.

fillerup

Eventually we made it to Colorado, taking 70 through the Rockies and into Utah, then picking up 15 for the final leg to Vegas city limits.  In total, the trip took 28 hours, which is more than enough for one adventure.  But that’s the thing about driving somewhere- eventually you’ll have to drive home too.  So we consulted Google Maps, finding that legendary Route 66 would take us back to Chicago, and immediately thought, “job well done.”  Even better, we’d be confronted with the type of old-timey romanticism that Pixar profited off of with their 2006 film, Cars.

headlight-desert

So after a long few days on the ground at SEMA, we left Las Vegas with a sigh of relief on Friday morning, pointing our GTI toward the Hoover Dam.  Opened in 1936 to restrain Lake Mead from flooding the towns below and harness a bit of hydroelectric power while doing so, the Hoover Dam is nothing short of a testament to American ingenuity.  Nowadays, its nearly as famous for a cameo in Vegas Vacation than anything else.  For us, it proved to be the first of many scenic stops along our route home, and one last opportunity to use the dam bathroom before settling in for the long haul.

damgti

Setting our sights on Interstate 40 in Arizona (a road which shadows Historic Route 66), we were treated to a vast expanse of nothingness.  No vegetation.  No exits.  No services.  As a life-long east-coaster, the everything and nothing nature of the desert is simply mystifying.  In fact, there really isn’t much until you hit Flagstaff, and then you’re thrust back to nothingness just as quickly as you left it.  But before we could make it that far, we’d hop off of 40 and onto 66, in Seligman, Arizona, the “Birthplace of Historic Route 66.”  Sure, the road technically extends westward to Santa Monica, California, and as far east as Chicago, Illinois, but locals know that this particular stretch, which runs to Kingman, Arizona, is the longest continuous bit of Old Route 66 left in the states.  We knew because there was a big sign on the side of the road.

seligman

Soon enough, 66 would meet back up with 40, revealing an interesting fact about the iconic road- there really ain’t much of it left. As we made our way down the patches that remain, through towns like Winslow, Arizona (Yes, like the song. No, we didn’t stop), and San Jon, New Mexico, what we found was blistered tarmac, yearning for days gone by.  To be honest, it was all a bit depressing.  So we stopped off to get some rest.

texas-tickets

The next day, we entered Texas…. scratch that.  Texas entered us.  While in the nation’s second most populated state, I had the pleasure of being greeted personally by two different, yet equally friendly State Troopers- they also happened to be the only ones we’d pass during our time there.  One even liked me so much, he invited me into his squad car for a chat.  You see, I unknowingly had messed with Texas.  And to pay for my crimes, they messed with me right back.  Our little GTI was pulled over for doing 3 over (78 in a 75 zone), and again for a “seatbelt check”, while doing 3 under.  Normally, I’d consider myself lucky to leave an encounter with the law owing no money, and possessing no ticket.  But this time, I was just sour.  I still am, to be honest.  It was a 99 Problems-style traffic stop, and I have no idea why it even needed to take place.  Was it my Michigan tags?  My lowered new GTI?  All those times I expressed my distaste for “Bro-country” music? All I know, is that if I ever go back, I’ll be sure to be in something quintessentially American.

morefuel

Finally out of Texas and back to the land of the free, we had begun what John and I considered to be the home stretch of our journey.  Having been back in Central Daylight Time for a bit, we traded Interstate 40 for 44 just outside of Oklahoma City, and began heading north.  From there, time seemed to pass effortlessly, as we were greeted with an abundance of cellular phone service, restaurants and service plazas.  Soon enough, we’d pick up 55 in St Louis, and the remainder of our trip was a cake walk.  Or at least I’m told it was.  I was passed out in the passenger seat.

nightfall

With me curled up somewhat comfortably in the GTI’s bolstered buckets, John set in for the final few hours home, punching up the gut of Illinois, land of Lincoln and home of Vortex Media Group.  It was a four hour drive he knew quite well, having done it countless times before.  At this point, the only co-pilot needed was Red Bull, and the final few episodes of Eastbound and Down.

report

It was a long day, capping an even longer trip.  In total, we’d covered about 3700 miles, burned a little over 97 gallons of fuel, and traveled through 11 states on the journey.  At times, yes, it does seem a bit ambitious (ahem, stupid), to spend 50+ hours in a car as opposed to all of eight on a plane, but John and I would say it was more of an excellent adventure than a bogus journey.  Hell, given enough time to forget the realities of such an excursion, we’d probably even do it again.  Just not for a long, long, long time.