The cross-country road trip is becoming habitual, this being my third in just over a year. But this time around, I decided to give myself plenty of time to visit family and friends and to take a detour through the Deep South - one of the few parts of this country that I had yet to experience.

The full trip from San Francisco to Boston would take me nearly 4000 miles through 18 states in 10 days. Here are my top picks of the 499 photos I took over the course of the trip.

Day 1: Monday, August 19, 2002. It would have been nice to have clear skies to wish me on my way, but that's a lot to ask for a city famous for its interminable fog. I left San Francisco in the early afternoon, making a quick stop to photograph the city from Treasure Island.

Mile 6: The view of the Bay Bridge & San Francisco from Treasure Island
Mile 63: A power substation for a windmill farm, CA
A train coupler: yin and yang
I drove late into the night, finally stopping at a KOA in Needles, California - one of the hottest cities in the United States. When I went to bed at 4 a.m., the temperature was still hovering at 88 degrees.

Day 2: Sleeping in was impossible with the rising heat. By the time I left Needles at 10:15 a.m., the temperature had already climbed to 100 degrees.

Mile 571: Swimming pool at the KOA
Shortly after leaving the campsite, some rock formations near the Colorado River caught my attention. A long detour down Needle Mountain "Road" afforded some nice views, but after winding about for far too long through dry riverbeds, I still couldn't get close enough to really explore the hills.

Mile 590: The view from Needle Mountain Road, AZ
Mile 740: Cold Drinks, AZ
Against all odds
Mile 827: No Trespassing - Near Meteor Rd., AZ
Meteor City nicely typifies the tourist traps along I-40 through Arizona - complete with teepees of ridiculously non-traditional construction and an arsenal of American flags.

Mile 834: Meteor City, AZ
World's Largest Dreamcatcher
In need of a long-overdue retirement
Stewart's is one roadside stop that lives up to every bit of its billboard hype. The friendly storekeeper immediately offered me a free postcard and nicely polished nugget of petrified wood, just as promised by the billboards.

Mile 901: Stewart's Petrified Wood, AZ
On Tuesday evening, the clouds rolled in for a stunning New Mexico sunset. Unfortunately, the rain stayed with me for the remainder of my drive into Albuquerque.

Mile 979: New Mexico sunset
Sunset over the strip
Mile 1122: I spent Tuesday night at Dad's place in Albuquerque, visiting with him and Lavonne. A real bed in an air-conditioned room was a refreshing change from the night prior.

Day 3: On Wednesday morning, I visited all of the touristy places around the Santa Fe Plaza - St. Francis Cathedral, Loretto Chapel, and the Palace of Governors.

Mile 1185: Santa Fe Plaza,
Casa Sena courtyard
St. Francis Cathedral
The famous spiral stairway at Loretto Chapel
"50¢ each to light candles"
Indian Market at The Palace of Governors
Mile 1196: Camel Rock, NM
I spent Wednesday afternoon and evening in White Rock, New Mexico, visiting with Mark, Mom, and Beth. Conveniently enough, Mom was staying home from work to help Beth out as she recovered from her recent tonsillectomy.

Mile 1218: Keeping White Rock's white rock white
Mark, Mom, Rob, and Beth

Day 4: On Thursday, I stayed around White Rock to do some hiking and spend more time with my family.

Mile 1223: The Sangre de Christo Mountains as seen from Overlook Park in White Rock, NM
The Rio Grande
Sneaking Man

Day 5: I left late Friday morning, bound for Dallas, Texas, where I had arranged to visit some of my college buddies.

Mile 1237: Old Rio Grande Bridge near Espaņola, NM
Mile 1243: Fireplace near Pojaque, NM
Mile 1261: Santa Fe National Cemetery - Santa Fe, NM
Mile 1308: Aeromotor windmill near Clines Corners, NM
Mile 1314: Sunflowers, NM
Mile 1494: Approaching storm, TX
Mile 1570: Windmill on Old Route 66, TX
Mile 1577: Sunset, TX
Mile 1658: Sunset from Road S near Childress, TX
Mile 1776: I had a late night dinner at the Denny's in Wichita Falls, Texas. The conversations at the tables around me were indicative of the extreme religious and social conservativism of the area. After another 100 miles of driving, I stopped at a hotel in Denton, Texas, just outside of Dallas.

Day 6: I slept in Saturday morning and arrived at Darin's place in Dallas around noon. I spent the day catching up with Darin, Mike and Carissa. We saw "Extreme" at the Omni Theater, followed by a somewhat dissapointing musical comedy at the Pocket Sandwich Theater.

Mile 1929: Car-bumper dinosaurs near the Omni Theater, Dallas, TX

Day 7: Mike, Carissa and I all spent Saturday night at Darin's place and had a leisurely homemade pancake breakfast on Sunday morning. I spent much of the afternoon touring Dallas before heading off toward Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama on I-20.

Mile 1932: Bank of America Plaza, Dallas, TX
Courthouse, Dallas, TX
Mile 1935: Dallas skyline
When I crossed into Louisiana, it felt like I was finally entering the Deep South. The landscape was dominated by kudzu - A non-native vine introduced in 1876 and promoted in 1930 for erosion control. The vine can grow up to a foot a day, and consumes anything left unmaintained - trees, telephone poles, roads, cars.

I stopped in Shreveport, Louisiana to wander through downtown and take the self-guided historical tour recommended in a tourist brochure. The city seemed eerily abandoned. As I walked through the southwest corner of downtown, there were no cars, no pedestrians, no sign of life. Entire blocks of buildings lay vacant. To take photos of the Strand Theater, I stood in the middle of a four-way intersection for several minutes with no traffic from any direction.

The historic section of the city, south of I-20, was equally poorly maintained. The buildings indicated in the brochure were in a terrible state of disrepair, with sagging roofs and broken windows.

In contrast, the east side of the Red River was built up with glittering casinos, well-maintained and packed with tourists.
Mile 2128: Strand Theater, Shreveport, LA
Mile 2131: Historic District, Shreveport, LA
Mile 2132: Abandoned rail car
Mile 2134: Horseshoe Casino
Mile 2203: Creeping kudzu near Ruston, LA
Mile 2309: Riverboat Casino, Vicksburg, MS
Mile 2566: I spent Sunday night at McCalla Campground near Tannehill State Park in Alabama. It was really more of an RV park than a campground. When I tried to pay for my tent site the following morning, the campground owner seemed shocked that I slept in a tent, and waived the fee.

Day 8: On Monday morning, I made last-minute arrangements to meet with Suzie, an old high school friend, and her husband Jeff. We had lunch at the Tin Roof BBQ, most noted for its vast collection of kitschy pigs - reputedly more than 1000 - that cover every surface in the restaurant. Jeff, a photographer, recommended the Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama as a good place to take some photos.

Mile 2628: Sloss Furnaces, Birmingham, AL
Under the highway - sun through a crack
Mile 2677: Abandoned house near Eastaboga, AL
Mile 2690: Auto graveyard near Anniston, AL
The best things in life are free.
And so is dirt.
Mile 2785: Olympic Park, Atlanta, GA
I spent Monday evening enjoying the nightlife in Atlanta. I left town shortly after midnight to find a hotel on I-85, a few miles outside of the city.

Day 9: On Tuesday, I passed through Georgia, both Carolinas, Virginia, DC, and Maryland, aiming for Baltimore. Rainstorms followed me the entire way - apparently the first in several months for most of the states that I passed through.

Mile 2935: "Road Ends," near Piedmont, SC

Mile 2994: At a gas station in Gaffney, SC, I found recruiting ads for the KKK stuck to the walls of the bathroom stalls. I refuse to give them the satisfaction of reproducing images of those ads here.

Mile 2999: Peach water tower near Gaffney, SC
Mile 3007: SC billboard, near NC border
Mile 3057: Settlers' Cemetery, Charolette, NC
The rain turned from light showers into a torrential downpour late Tuesday evening. I arrived well after midnight at Uncle Bob and Aunt Ellen's place in Ellicot City near Baltimore, Maryland.

Day 10: On Wednesday, the final day of the trip, I drove through showers most of the way, passing through Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. My only stop was in New York, where I met with Vince for coffee at the Terrytown castle, followed by dinner at McDonald's and a brief tour of the Lyndhurst estate.

Mile 3755: Terrytown Castle
Mile 3761: Lyndhurst Castle
Night driving
Mile 3977: I arrived back in Boston shortly before midnight on Wednesday, August 28 - still smiling and ready for another day on the road. I listened to the radio almost the entire way across the country, never even taking the Avril Lavigne CD out of the CD player. After this trip, I've been to every U.S. state except for Florida, Alaska, and Hawaii.

So many tourist traps, so little time.

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