Weekend Wrap-Up

Sometimes, when the pressures and hassles of life get you to a point where you feel overwhelmed, you need to step back and take a break. For some, it might be time at home, to read, watch TV, and relax. Others might journey to a tropical island or a mountain cabin. Some might venture to a place of spiritual healing. For those of us who find our place of peace behind the wheel of a car, however, there is no better way to re-set and re-energize than with a road trip.

For this post, I wanted to do something a little different and turn the reins over to my friend Josh. He is a former US Navy service member who now works as a courier, driving his 2014 Honda Accord across much of the eastern United States on a daily basis. This winter, in need of a break, he packed up his car and set off on a nearly 7,000-mile cross-country adventure, battling snow, wind, and ice, taking in beautiful vistas, and recharge along the way.

Afterward, I want to share several updates, from a friend’s high mileage achievement, to a return to the Jersey shore, and to a form of transportation that opened up a whole new appreciation for airborne adventure!

Let’s begin:

The Winter Road Trip

Map of United States, with blue route line running from Pittsburgh, PA to Biloxi MA to Las Vegas NV to Death Valley CA to Bonneville Salt Flats UT to Bismarck ND to Arrowhead MN to Schaumburg IL and back to Pittsburgh PA.
Mission Impossible: Drive over 6,700 miles in the dead of winter.
View of highway, with trees covered in snow, from behind dashboard of 2014 Honda Accord.
While winter driving brings its own set of challenges, there is no question that Josh chose a beautiful time of year to take a road trip. When I asked him why, for a guy who earns a living on the road he would chose to relax with a road trip, he responded, “Even with working 5-7 days a week most times, being behind the wheel gives me a sense of inner peace.”
Small beachfront shack with signs on porch that reads BE KIND OF EACH OTHER LIFE IS SHORT PEACE RULES.
Josh’s first stop was to visit a friend in Biloxi, Mississippi. Along the way, he explored the western beaches of Alabama. “Be Kind to Each Other… Life is Short.” Words to live by.
Cannon atop Fort Gaines in Alabama.
Josh took some time to explore Fort Gaines in Alabama. During the American Civil War, this was the site of a Union naval victory, best remembered by Admiral David Farragut’s command of “Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead,” when his fleet was confronted by a Confederate minefield in Mobile Bay.
Interstate highway in US southwest.
After visiting with a friend, Josh resumed his drive, heading through western Texas toward New Mexico.
US-93, under cloudy skies, with mountains in the distance.
After reaching Phoenix, Josh began heading toward Las Vegas, Nevada along US-93. 93 was once one of the most dangerous roads in America – numerous improvements over the years have greatly improved safety (via Wikipedia).
View of Las Vegas from behind dashboard of Honda Accord.
Josh rolled into Las Vegas for a brief break from the road, before continuing his journey.
Badwater Basin, with sign that reads BADWATER BASIN 282 FEET/85.5 METERS BELOW SEA LEVEL.
The next stop was Death Valley National Park. Death Valley is the hottest, driest, and lowest elevation spot in the United States. Badwater Basin gets its name from the fact that the water is undrinkable due to the high salt content from the surrounding hills that washes down into the basin (via Wikipedia).
2014 Honda Accord parked beside Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park.
In 2017, I took my Accord to the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, one of the higher elevation points in the continental United States. Josh, however, took his car to one of the lowest points in Death Valley. 
Panorama of salt flats.
Josh walked out onto the salt flats of Death Valley while temperatures were only in the mid-60s. He had visited the previous summer when temperatures soared to over 127 degrees. He spoke of being respectful of the realities of this harsh landscape, a knowledge he gained during a road trip with friends the previous summer: “There was actually someone who perished in the heat a couple weeks after my friends and I had visited, due to not taking the steps necessary in which to survive the borderline deadly heat.”
2014 Honda Accord, parked in front of Bonneville Salt Flats.
Josh then headed to Utah, where he ran into a snowstorm at the Bonneville Salt Flats. So much precipitation had fallen that the salt flats were covered in at least 6 inches of water, making them look more like a vast lake than a dry desert.
Snow-covered road through Bonneville Salt Flats.
Josh said driving on the road through the salt flats was a surreal experience, as it became difficult to figure out where the road ended.
I-80 in Utah, covered in snow.
No one was doing the speed limit this day on I-80. Josh equips his Accord with Michelin X-Ice winter tires (exactly what I would use in the winter if Nokian were no longer in business). Even so, he took care to keep his speed between 45-55 mph. Winter driving requires a certain mental flexibility. In the words of Josh, “The weather doesn’t care about where you are going. Delays will occur, as well as road closures. Just be prepared to change plans on the fly in order to keep the trip an enjoyable one!”
Hills and fields covered in snow.
The reward for winter driving? Scenic views like this! 
View of mountains in distance, with interstate highway in foreground.
Or scenes like this. Josh left Utah and motored through Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota.
Bison burger on plate, with fries and mustard.
In Bismarck, North Dakota, Josh took a pit stop for a bison burger at a local restaurant. “Bison meat has a unique taste to it that’s honestly hard to describe. I would recommend it to anyone that wants to try something different.”
2014 Honda Accord parked on Lake of the Woods in Minnesota.
Josh made it as far north as Lake of the Woods in Minnesota. Although the lake was open for vehicles to drive out onto (for ice fishing), Josh kept his Accord to the very edge, as he didn’t want his sole mode of transportation to end up sitting on the bottom!
2014 Honda Accord, parked on snowy field.
From Minnesota, Josh then headed to visit a friend in Illinois, before ending his journey back home in western Pennsylvania. I’ll let Josh close this journey in his own words: “I hope that the little story of my journey finds all of you well. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Talk to people, seek help if necessary, and if all else fails, pack your car and DRIVE SOMEWHERE!!!!”
Car odometer reading 241712 miles
Thank you, Josh, for sharing your winter adventure with us! We’ll be interested to hear about more of your future road trips!

Sunday Morning by the Sea

New Jersey, with blue route line running from New Brunswick to Asbury Park, Jenkinson's Aquarium, Barnegat Light, and returning to New Brunswick.
On a recent Sunday morning, we finally emerged from winter as temperatures rose into the 60s. With nothing in the forecast except for sunny skies, my wife and I decided to head to Asbury Park for breakfast… and then we just kept driving.
2012 Honda Accord parked in front of Asbury Park Covention Hall.
Greetings from Asbury Park! Although Cape May will always be my favorite beach town, I’ve come to appreciate Asbury Park as one of the cooler beaches in the northern half of the NJ coastline.
Waffle on plate, with glass of orange juice cup of fruit, and mug of coffee.
Our first stop was for breakfast! We returned, as always, to Toast City Diner, where my wife and I both enjoyed the Firebird Waffle (gluten free). My wife ordered hers with fruit, while I less sensibly got mine with a side of bacon. It was delicious!
Mural of eye on brick wall.
After breakfast, we took a walk along the Asbury boardwalk. Asbury is filled with numerous murals, and this one is one of the most eye-catching (pardon the pun!) that I’ve seen. Rather than head home, we decided to continue our journey along the coastline and see how far south the day would take us.
Empty boardwalk in Pt. Pleasant.
Our next stop was Pt. Pleasant, a beach resort town known for its boardwalk amusements. Tired of restrictions in nearby towns like Asbury Park, Charles Jenkinson took his business idea for seaside entertainment to Pt. Pleasant, and in the 1920s opened Jenkinson’s Boardwalk. It has been in operation for nearly a century (via Jenkinson’s).
Closed gate in front of dunes, with sign that reads THIS BEACH ENTRANCE IS CLOSED PLEASE USE NEXT NORTHERLY ENTRANCE.
The boardwalk and the beaches were deserted. In a few months, though, Pt. Pleasant, along with the rest of the shore towns, will be jam-packed with visitors.
Entrance to Jenkinson's Aquarium.
A few stores and attractions in Pt. Pleasant were open, including Jenkinson’s Aquarium. In operation since 1991, the aquarium is a year-round attraction.
Fish in tank.
For a relatively small space, Jenkinson’s offered a surprisingly wide array of aquatic species on display, from fish that live near New Jersey, to ones found further away.
Sea horse in coral.
Did you know that sea horses pair bond for life, and also greet their partner each day with an elaborate dance? The dance shows each partner’s commitment to the other (via Ocean Conservancy).
Close-up of lion fish.
“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.” In their home of the Pacific, the lion fish population is kept in check by other predators within the ecosystem, but in the Atlantic Ocean, this species represents an invasive pest, crowding out other fish from coral reefs.
Two sharks on bottom of shark tank.
The shark tank is one of the prime attractions at Jenkinson’s.
Mockup of sailing ship in aquarium.
Jenkinson’s Aquarium charges the same price for admission year round – $16 for adult, $11 for seniors age 65+, children ages 3-11 $10, and children 2 and younger can enter for free. At the peak of summer season, $16 per person is a bargain, but in early spring, $16 to visit a relatively small aquarium felt like a bit of a stretch. Still, it made for a fun mid-morning stop. After leaving the aquarium, it was back to the car and onto our next destination!
2012 Honda Accord parked in front of two-story house.
In the town of Bay Head, we detoured onto a side street to check out this two-story cottage where, in 1950, L. Ron Hubbard, a former science fiction author, wrote Dianetics, the book that would serve as the foundation stone for Scientology. Since 2018, the house has been on the National Register of Historic Places (via Wikipedia).
View of Bay Front Park from behind dashboard of 2012 Honda Accord.
Our next stop was in Lacey Township, where we ate a picnic lunch at Bay Front Park. With a view of Barnegat Bay, and the car windows open to enjoy the bay breeze, we happily munched on our sandwiches.
Gazebo in foreground, with bay in background.
With a playground, a gazebo, workout equipment, and a walking trail, Bay Front Park is a fun place to spend time by the water. It re-opened in 2017 after being destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Exterior of Creperie de la Mer.
Our next-to-last stop was to Long Beach Island for an early afternoon snack at Creperie de la Mer.
Counter inside cafe, with chalkboard menu on wall in background.
Open since 2017, Creperie de la Mer took over the home of an old general store. It is now an authentic French creperie, serving sweet and savory crepes that are available in both regular and gluten free varieties.
Cappuccino in paper cup.
The cafe offers a varieties of drip coffees, espresso, and cappuccino, and my wife indulged in an almond milk cappuccino while we waited for our snack.
Butter and sugar crepe on paper plate, with side of whipped cream.
I had the butter and sugar crepe, while my wife had the Nutella banana crepe (gluten free). The crepes were light and airy, full of flavor, and filling but not too heavy. So good! If you’re looking for a little taste of Paris at the Jersey shore, I would give Creperie de la Mer two enthusiastic thumbs up!
2012 Honda Accord in parking lot, with Barnegat Light in background.
After our snack, we drove to the northern end of Long Beach Island to visit Barnegat Light, which has stood here since 1857.
Barnegat Lighthouse, with statue of lighthouse keeper in foreground.
A small statue honoring the lighthouse keepers of Barnegat stands in a park behind the lighthouse. We last visited Barnegat Light during the 2018 New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge. 
Barneget Lighthouse.
Barnegat Light was designed by George Meade, who would later go onto national fame as a Union general during the Civil War, defeating the forces of Robert E. Lee in several battles, leading to the Confederacy’s eventual defeat.
View of NJ 539 through Pine Barrens.
After a fun-filled day, it was time to head home. Instead of following the Garden State Parkway north, however, we criss-crossed the Pine Barrens in central New Jersey. It was a longer drive, but certainly much more scenic!
Car odometer reading 213621 TRIP A 7.7
We rolled into the driveway, tired but filled with great memories. Meanwhile, the little Accord continues motoring along happily, gobbling up the miles. It’s due for an oil change and some other maintenance in the coming weeks – well-deserved work for all its trouble-free miles. Onward!

A High Mileage Update

car odometer reading 200000 TRIP A 234.3
I wanted to share a fun update from a reader who recently rolled 200,000 miles in her 2010 Honda Accord!
2010 Honda Accord sedan.
Kathryn bought her 2010 Accord EX-L V6 sedan in 2012 when it had 34,000 miles on it. She has a 76-mile round trip commute to work every day, which has helped to pile up all that distance on the odometer! To commemorate the high mileage rollover, she parked it in front of the Providence Athenaeum, one of her favorite spots in the city.
2010 Honda Accord parked on street.
This is not her first Accord – she previously owned a 2003 V6 model, and then upgraded to this one when her old car was nearing some expensive repairs. While this one has been relatively trouble-free, it did require an engine rebuild just shy of 100,000 miles. The 2008-2012 Accord have a known issue with piston ring failure (especially the 2008-2010 model years), leading to misfires and oil burning. Honda extended the warranty for this car, and so covered the entire repair for $0 out of pocket.
2010 Honda Accord parked in front of trees.
As this is a road trip blog, Kathryn reports that her favorite drive with the car was a trip to Stowe, Vermont, for a friend’s wedding. As she enjoys not having a car payment, she plans to keep the Accord for as long as it runs without complaint. Thanks for sharing your story, Kathryn! Here’s to the next 100,000 miles!

Alternative Transportation

View of airplane and airport through window of airplane.
Recently, my wife and I flew back for a quick weekend visit with her family in Wisconsin. We didn’t engage in any road trip shenanigans, so that trip did not get its own post. However, our return journey definitely deserves mention – Delta Airlines upgraded us to first class for free! My first airplane flight happened when I was 12, and I have taken numerous plane rides over the years, but this was my first time not sitting in coach.
Meal tray with croissant, quiche, fruit.
Beside the copious amounts of leg room and the non-stop complimentary beverage service, the in-flight meal was one of the best airplane meals I have ever eaten. Ham quiche, a croissant that tasted like it came right from a bakery, fresh fruit, and endless coffee… it was a really good meal!
TV monitor on airplane seat with Formula One race.
The most memorable part of the journey? First class has access to live satellite TV, which allowed me to watch a Formula One race in real time! While my bank account keeps me firmly in coach, first class, you have captured my heart! (Special credit to my wife for being a lifelong Delta customer and scoring this free upgrade for us!!)

Wrapping Up

Whether you are driving 7000 miles or 200, a road trip can be good for the mind and soul. Josh, thank you again for sharing your adventure with us. I am sure the readers of this post will get as much of a kick out of it as I did!

Meanwhile, it felt good, after an absence of several months, to get back to the shore once again. In what will seem like the blink of an eye, the coastal towns of New Jersey will soon be flooded with visitors once again My wife and I will definitely make a point to enjoy the quiet and peace of the off-season at the shore a few more times before vacation season kicks off during Memorial Day Weekend.

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to join us for another adventure along the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.

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