Road Trip to Nowhere

Heineken has an advertisement that they stage in an airport. Anyone can walk up to a game show style board and have their flight randomly changed to a new destination. Not exactly for the faint of heart. This idea was the seed that morphed into our road trip to nowhere. 

You see, our goal was to pack our bags and head to the airport with absolutely, positively no plans. Once we got there we would gaze up at the departures board and pick our destination! 

To our chagrin, the world is a more complicated and less trusting place than it was in the past. Between regulations, security, and airline seat-filling algorithms this idea just won't fly any longer. Some would give up, but we went for the next best thing.

Days before our departure we went to Google Flights, clicked "I'm Feeling Lucky", and held our breath... Denver, CO! We had our destination. 

Fast forward to our touchdown in Colorado - we hopped into our rental and pulled out of the parking lot. Nearly two weeks ahead of us and not a single detail planned. Each morning we would wake up and ask each other "where should we go today?"

North-West

Kim commented, "I heard Jackson Hole is nice." and we were off. We drove into the night finally arriving around midnight. When we woke in the morning we found ourselfs in a prestine winter wonderland. 

We explored Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons before heading further into the mountains. 

The winding mountain roads eventually gave way to sprawling plains. The one constant was a bitter cold, temperatures hovered around 14°F.

We stopped for dinner in Idaho Falls at a little place called Jakers. I was expecting run of the mill food, so you can imagine my surprise when the waitress began describing the steak I had ordered by detailing the hybridization and punnet squares for the beef. Simply put - this is one of the best steaks I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. 

We drive until the soporific effects of our meal were too great to fight off any longer. The next morning we visited Shoshone Falls. We learned that the falls are taller than Niagra Falls, measuring 212 feet.

California

One remarkable characteristic of the Western landscape is the juxtaposition between its scale and the suddenness of the change. We would drive for hours through frozen plains, then in a matter of a few miles, the landscape would transform to a desert. The starkest transformation came when we drove from the Nevada desert into California.  

In Petaluma I "geeked out" for an afternoon and sat in on the filming of a favorite internet security podcast - Security Now from the TWiT network.

From there we drove South to Napa Valley and of course, wine. Even in the off-season the landscape is beautiful. 

We expected San Francisco to be expensive, but some of the home prices made New England feel down right affordable.

We spent my birthday driving the Pacific Coast Highway. Getting up early paid off with stunning vistas and a great sunrise.

One view I will never get tired of is the perspective of my drone hovering over the coastline. Watching the waves crashing onto the rocks gives a view of fractal-like shapes which get accented by deep shifting colors and swirling patterns.

If you like these views, head over to my video background page. You can download some of my favorite clips for your computer background or digital photo frame.

Driving further south to Santa Barbara led us unto the path of the Thomas wildfire. I had seen vivid photos online, but these were not sufficient to prepare me for what was ahead.

The first sign that we were getting close was a light haze in the air and finding that everyone around us was wearing some type of breathing protection.

Shortly after we turned a corner and saw the flames racing along a mountainside. Several items from the experience have stuck with me. The scale of the disaster was staggering. It is difficult to describe in a meaningful way just how big this fire was. 

The aspect that can't be adequately described is the emotion of being in the area. Your senses are all aware of what is going on around you. This ranges from the smell in the air to the buzzing of your cell phone as emergency alerts prompt you to exacuate the area. 

The most unnerving part of traveling near the fire was the lighting that resulted from the thick smoke. The sun was hidden behind the wall of smoke which in turn gave an eerie orange glow to everything in sight. Looking around, it was hard to fend off a feeling of impending doom. Experience this feeling by just being in the area gave me pause and a deeper empathy for the people impacted by the fire.

Part of good drone safety is to ensure that you never fly near an active wildfire. This training was reinforced to me when we paused to stop for a moment. Without warning a massive tanker helicopter buzzed only a few hundred feet overhead on its was to the fire. 

East

By this point, we were well into our time off. We turned away from the coast and started heading inland back toward Denver.

Stopped for a quick visit to Hoover Dam. The underground tour is great and somewhat unnerving. One room actually vibrates from the millions of gallons of water rusing just feet under the floor.

Driving through the endless desert was surprisingly enjoyable. The passing miles and landscape become almost meditative. You let your mind drift, you reflect on your life and what you want to accomplish next.

We arrived in Denver and it was time to head back home. We did however sneak in one last mini adventure at the airport. Free ice skating!