Go West, Young Man (Pt. 1)

Happy holidays! For Christmas, my wife and I loaded up her Jeep Grand Cherokee and aimed toward the Midwest. In just about twenty-eight hours, we blitzed through six states, covering nearly 1,200 miles. Our westward trek was mercifully drama-free, with unseasonably warm temperatures, no storms, little traffic, and my wife’s good planning coming together to make for a pleasant journey. What follows is the first stage of our trip… westward ho!

Beginning Mileage: 44,665

Ending Mileage: 45,838

Total Mileage: 1,173

States Covered: NJ, PA, OH, IN, IL, WI

Gray 2012 Honda Accord parked in park along Raritan River.
Before putting my Accord away in the garage for the next several weeks, I gave it a quick wash, wax, and detail. Because a clean car is a happy car!
2012 Honda Accord parked in garage.
For the next week, the Accord will be parked in the garage, safe and sound from the elements. Sleep well, buddy. You’ve earned it.
View of I-206 exit sign toward I-80. Sign says 80 WEST DEL WATER GAP STROUDSBURG PA LEFT 3 LANES
Setting off, the traffic in New Jersey was slow and consistent. Fortunately, this would be the only traffic we would hit during our entire drive.
View of Delaware Water Gap.
A scenic overlook along I-80 in northwestern New Jersey gave us a view of the Delaware Water Gap. The Water Gap separates New Jersey from Pennsylvania where the Delaware River cuts through the Appalachian Mountains. My wife and I have long-planned a trip to explore this beautiful area, so stay tuned for a future post!
View of I-80 with blue welcome sign for Pennsylvania on right side of road.
State line #1: the New Jersey/Pennsylvania border!
Road cutting through notch between mountains.
We raced through Pennsylvania, enjoying the scenery while trying to maximize the daylight hours for driving.
Road sign beside route 80 that says EXIT 192 880 Jersey Shore.
One game I enjoy playing while I drive – finding strange highway exits, and while in the middle of Pennsylvania we passed an exit for the town of “Jersey Shore.” Located on the banks of the Susquehanna River, the town was so-named in 1826 because its founders came from New Jersey, so this “Jersey” town sits on the shore of the river. Who knew?
Road passing through hills of Pennsylvania.
As we proceeded through central Pennsylvania, the views along I-80 became more striking.
Sunset sky with rolling hills of Pennsylvania in the background.
Despite driving being far slower than flying, you don’t get views like this from a plane at 30,000 feet!
Sunset sky over I-80 with trees on either side of road.
With a beautiful sunset sky in the distance, we continued onward.
Road sign for Ohio across I-80 highway.
Our next border crossing: Ohio, the Buckeye State!
Exterior of Hampton Inn & Suites hotel at night.
Our stop for the night: the Hampton Inn in Fremont, Ohio. The roads were starting to get a little icy by the time we stopped, so halting for an evening rest was a good call.
Car odometer reading 45,185 miles.
In about eight hours of driving, we managed to cover a bit over 500 miles. Not bad progress for the first day, considering we didn’t get on the road until after lunchtime.
View of road in darkness behind car dashboard. Clock on dashboard reads 7:26 am.
While I’m accustomed to sunrise by 7:00 am, the more northern latitude of Ohio meant that we did not see any hints of sunlight until almost 8:00 am. Leaving our hotel at 7:00 am, it still looked like midnight.
Map of Ohio on floor of rest stop.
After an hour of driving, we swung by a rest stop along the highway for a gas fill-up for the Jeep and a Starbucks fill up for ourselves. This map of Ohio on the floor (with stars indicating the rest stop location) was pretty cool!
I-80 in Indiana with a road sign saying “Welcome to Indiana.”
Our next state border: the Indiana state line! Our time in the Hoosier State would be brief, although we made note of a few places to stop on the way home – stay tuned for more information in a future post! A thick fog followed us from Ohio through most of Indiana.
Blue-sky day with bridge that says WELCOME TO ILLINOIS over I-90.
By the time we reached Illinois, however, the fog had burned off, leaving us a clear and gorgeous day.
Rest stop built over I-90 in Illinois.
One of the cooler rest stops I’ve ever seen: a series of these “Oasis” rest stops are built over I-90.
View overlooking I-90 traffic from rest stop in Illinois.
We stretched our legs and enjoyed the view for a few minutes before getting back on the road to press on to our ultimate destination: Wisconsin.
Road sign along I-90 welcoming to Wisconsin.
And there, on the distance in the right, we spotted the sign for our last state border crossing for this trip… Wisconsin! We would still need to travel several hours until our final stop, but it really felt like progress!
Snow-covered hills along side of I-94 in Wisconsin.
As we drove further to the north, we crossed into a Winter Wonderland. Snow covered both sides of the highway, and the temperature dropped into the mid 30’s. For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without some snow on the ground.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee on bluff overlooking St. Croix River.
We made a quick stop by Birkmose Park in the city of Hudson, taking in a beautiful, if chilly, view of the St. Croix River.
Car odometer reading 45838 miles.
And finally, stopped for the evening! We drove nearly 1,200 miles in just about twenty-seven hours. Whew!

After hours of highway driving, it felt great to get out of the Jeep and spend time with family and friends on Christmas Eve. The Jeep did fantastic on its long cross-country trip, providing us a comfortable, spacious cabin, soaking up the highway miles, and doing surprisingly well with gas mileage. I am planning two more posts in the coming days. The next write-up will be a tour of some cool places in the Twin Cities, and the last post will be our return trip to New Jersey. Stay tuned, and happy holidays!

Thanks for coming along on another road trip down the open road ahead.

’Til next time.

4 thoughts on “Go West, Young Man (Pt. 1)

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