How Long Does It Take to Drive Across America?

I am often asked how long it takes to drive across America.  Well, that depends on you.

If you drive East-West from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, it is 2,100 miles at the two closest points.  If you drive from the top of the United States at the border to Canada to a Southern border, it is miles.  It can be between 1,250 miles and 2,500 miles.  Choose from Highways 89, 101, 1, 41, 61, 83, 89, or 101.  Or make up your own route.

Now, what is your objective?  If it’s speed, the 2,100-mile cross-country trip should take you about a week, assuming you stop to sleep.

How long does it take to road trip around America?

Is your question: how long does it take to road trip around America?  If your plan is to see the sights, and you want to visit all 50 states, my 50-state trip Round America took 158 days.  If I could have seen everything there is to see, it would have taken years.

There are other options.  Perhaps consider what the farthest points across the country are, and choose a route.  I looked at the map and devised two laps around the U.S. so I would hit all 50 states.  On my second trip, I devised one lap that enabled me to reach all 50.  It took 237 days.

How long does it take to visit all 50 states?

How long does it take to drive across USA?  As with so many things in life, it all depends.  Decide what you want to do and can do, and just go!  A road trip around America is an amazing experience.

Round America 50-State Road Trip – St. Augustine to Jensen Beach, Florida

Accidental Tourists — Day 4

We were determined to make today a better one!  We got off to an early start as it was going to take us a good while just to get back to Saint Augustine after our hotel-hunting-odyssey.

We met another nice American from Ohio as we gassed up — Rich McIntosh from Cleveland.  We had met more people from Ohio than from anywhere else.

Saint Augustine is a very interesting place.  Tremendous history and equally tremendous (aka overdone) tourist development.  It’s a pretty place with a striking black-and-white striped lighthouse.  We drove straight to the Fountain of Youth for a water fix.  We enjoyed learning about the history of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of America, which he named “Florida.”

Old Ponce was an accidental tourist, too, as he was trying to find Bimini and the alleged Fountain of Youth.  Instead, he found what is now Saint Augustine and a spring.  Bozzie loved seeing the peacocks.

In the parking lot at the Fountain of Youth, we met an especially nice couple from Missouri, “Rocco” and his wife.  We also met Dolph, who works at the Fountain of Youth.  They saw the signs on the car and asked all about the trip, and we enjoyed sharing a few stories and learning a little about them.

We then saw the other historical highlights in Saint Augustine — the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the USA, and the lighthouse.

Down Highway A1A through a variety of little towns down to Daytona Beach.  In Daytona, we enjoyed watching the stereotypical diner waitresses at the Starlite Diner where we had a cheeseburger and “Freedom” Fries.

We lived in Orlando for six years and have been to Daytona many times, so we didn’t spend as much time as we would have otherwise.  I enjoyed seeing the Drive-In Christian Church — a real church built on the grounds of a drive-in movie theatre where you can listen to the sermon on the window speaker in your car.

We made a few other stops.  We met a nice lady, Pat, in a parking lot as she saw the sign on the car and told us how she wished she could go to all 50 states.

We passed through a lot of beach towns today, and we saw one little motel after another.  It was amazing that all of these little, old places can stay in business, but it was so great to see that they have.  Motels provide a real slice of Americana that it would be such a shame to lose.  We also saw a good number of roadside fruit stands today as well as a big souvenir store called Wings.

We arrived in Jensen Beach just as the sun was setting.  William, the desk clerk at the Marriott, DID have our reservation, so he became our newest hero.  In the elevator up to our room, we met a cute 10-year-old named Brianna.

William recommended Villa Parma for dinner, where we enjoyed very good Italian food and a delicious Chocolate Bomb Cake for dessert.  Our waitress, Nicole, was excellent, and we met Michael, a very friendly and talkative bus boy.

We also saw Brianna again and met her parents and her brother, Derrick.  Brianna and Derrick are both Olympic-caliber competitive swimmers.

We missed connecting with old friend, Craig Linton.  My Florida geography was bad as I thought he lived near Tampa, but he was apparently just down the road from our hotel.  Our apologies to Craig and his wife!  We enjoyed many wonderful times with Craig when we lived in Orlando; we think of Craig and Guy Lombardo every New Years.

The main lesson we learned today was this:  There are more nice people than not-nice people; all you have to do is say hello.  We met delightful people today at a gas pump, in a parking lot, in restaurants, and in an elevator.

We had found that some of the most enjoyable travel experiences were when we veered from the planned route on a whim or when someone suggested something to us that we didn’t know about…or when we got lost and found something unexpected.  Accidental tourists.

A number of things that we had done to make the trip go well were working as hoped, while others were not.  I couldn’t imagine how I would cope nearly as well during the stretches of the trip that Boz was back in Atlanta.

Thank Heavens for the sunscreen as I had an outstanding “golfer’s tan” with only the balding spot on the top of my head sporting a sunburn.  Our system of clothes worked really well; we had four bags – two bigger ones that held a week’s worth of clothes that stayed in the car, and then we each carried a day or two’s worth of clothes into our hotel each night in a smaller bag.

The next morning, our dirty clothes went into yet another bag ready for the weekly washing.  We took the right amount of stuff.  Our tape recorder malfunctioned the night before the trip, so we took notes the first three days until we bought a new recorder.  It worked great on Day 4 as we drove and flipped it on to record the towns we hit, mileage, thoughts, etc.

It was much harder than I thought to find the time at night to write as much as I would have liked and to process the day’s photos.  We took large-format photos, but I barely had the time to put a few small format photos on the website.  If I could figure out how to drive and type on the computer at the same time….

Round America 50-State Road Trip – Savannah, Georgia to St. Augustine, Florida

Interstated and Ticketed – Day 3

From beautifully-preserved Savannah Georgia, we traveled down two-lane roads with skeletons of businesses put under by the Interstate highways.

We expected a let-down today after such a special day in Savannah yesterday.  We got it.

According to Mr. Rand and Mr. McNally, the distance from Savannah to Saint Augustine is only 180 miles.  It took us 12 hours to get there, so we averaged just 15 miles an hour (though we ended up driving over 350 miles, so we actually averaged about 30 mph).

I recall passing just one vehicle all day.  I hadn’t had a ticket in 9 years, and I had decided to drive at or under the speed limit throughout this trip.  After all, we were driving on two-lane roads to see the sights…not racing to get somewhere.

So it was the lowlight of the day when Officer Vincent Passarelli of Kingsland, Georgia claimed I was driving 55 in a 35.  I was just driving along at the same speed as a bunch of other folks.  Officer Passarelli admitted he was coming from the opposite direction, so he decided to stop the little white convertible instead of any of a variety of pickup trucks and SUV’s.  I joked with him that we had driven only 500 miles of 25,000, and at this rate, I would lose my license before we hit Alabama.  He didn’t laugh.

I tried to get him to let me take his picture, but he refused.  We did manage to get a shot of a sign nearby that said: “Speed Checked by Radar.”  On our Trip Scorecard, I budgeted 0 (zero) traffic tickets, so we are way over budget, and it’s only day 3.

I’m afraid my focus will now have to be on speed signs to avoid seeing more flashing lights in the rearview mirror.  There are a never-ending number of speed limit changes on the two-lane roads that pass through so many towns.

The day began well enough five or six hours earlier, though we got away from the hotel much later than we should have.  Sunny and 75-degrees, so another lovely day.  We drove around the Historic District of Savannah for an hour or so looking at homes for sale, and we saw some nice ones.

We stopped for gas, and we were delighted when we found it was an old-fashioned full-service station.  Thomas pumped our gas, cleaned our windows, and helped me clean the bugs off the front of the car.

We drove off – Saint Augustine, Florida was our ultimate destination.  We got really lost trying to find our two-lane road, and we wasted an hour or more.  I lost count of how many times we got lost today, but I bet it was five or six times.

I joked with Barbara (who I call Boz or Bozzie) that I should place an ad on www.monster.com for a new navigator.  We again regretted that we didn’t have a GPS and joked that we were using a BPS (Bozzie Positioning System).  We finally got on the right road.

We saw the historic Midway Church, built in 1754, but one of the few highlights of the day was a little later when we saw the world’s smallest church — 10-feet by 15-feet, built in 1949 and deeded to Jesus Christ.

We drove through mile after mile of run-down houses and trailers.  Several of the houses looked like something out of “Deliverance.”  I hope the folks who live there are happy.

We reached Brunswick, Georgia for a late lunch at the highly-recommended Georgia Pig restaurant.  We were disappointed, and Boz assured me the ladies room would “win” the worst restroom award in our “Best and Worst” competition.

Jekyll Island was our next stop, and we felt it was a bust.  Boring and not particularly attractive.  The ladies at the Welcome Center were far better than the island.  I adjusted the color on the picture of the ocean at Jekyll Island, and it makes it look a lot prettier than it was.

There is no coastal road from Savannah down to Florida.  We passed through a lot of swampy terrain.  Not a pretty area compared to beautiful Savannah.  We finally saw the ocean at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Throughout the day, we saw one closed bombed-out-looking service station after another.  I love old service stations, and I did find these interesting to see, but it is sad to realize that the Interstate Highways caused so many businesses to fail.

We did find Woodbine to be interesting — mainly because the first thing we saw as we drove into town was an “antiques” shop with a sign out by the highway that says “Dead People’s Things For Sale.”

We met some nice people, including Kevin from Strongsville, Ohio, who we ran into at the Hofwyl-Broadfield rice plantation; another Kevin (the rock climber) in the parking lot at Staples; and Tim and Tiffany inside Staples.  Tiffany had an interesting story; she has two different legal identities!  Her name was misspelled on her birth certificate, so she is legally “Tiaffany.”

We also met some really nice folks on the boat.  Yes, the BOAT.  We had not planned to take a boat ride, but there are a few problems with maps, it seems.  We discovered that maps have far less detail than is ideal; small roads and towns are not shown, and they tend to show roads where they aren’t.

That’s why we ended up on a boat — the St. John’s River Ferry boat — to take us across a wide expanse of water between Fernandina Beach and Jacksonville.  The “Ferry Mistress,” Jennifer, was a delight as were the folks in the vehicle next to us, Melissa and Rodney from Powder Springs, Georgia.

We finally arrived in Saint Augustine after dark at about 8:30 pm.  We couldn’t find our hotel.  When we called, the hotel said they had no reservation for us.  We checked with hotel after hotel to find them all full.  I drove further than I will ever admit before we finally got a room for the night.  To me, there’s nothing much more aggravating after a long day than to hear that you don’t have a room.

We learned a number of lessons today.  I guess the main lesson was Location, Location, Location.  Interesting that Savannah can be so beautiful, but you don’t have to head very far south to see ugly.  And to see what the interstate highway did to businesses on the old two-lane highway delivered a very strong message of the first, last, and some say the only rule in real estate — location, location, location.

The reality hit “home” today that this trip is going to be very hard.  At one frustrating point, my sweet young wife of 34 years said this trip was going to be a cross between Fear Factor and Survivor.  She’s right about the Survivor part; this was to be an endurance test.

Round America 50-State Road Trip – Day 2 – Savannah Georgia

Life is like a Box of Chocolates — Day 2

Savannah, Georgia is a feast for the eyes.  We love old buildings and architecture, so today ranked as one of the most enjoyable days we have ever spent on vacation.  Savannah has an incredible collection of beautiful old buildings, huge trees draped with Spanish Moss, and lovely flowers, plants, and gardens.  When you put all of this together, it is truly stunning.

We live just a few hours away, but we had never seen Savannah until today.

We saw buildings that date back to the mid 1700’s; late 1800’s buildings seemed new in comparison.  In 1820, 464 homes were destroyed by fire, but with only a few rare exceptions, the people of Savannah have managed to save the city from those who would knock down the old to make way for the new.

I don’t believe there is anything else like this anywhere in the country.  Savannah also has clear rules about trees; no one is allowed to touch them – not a one.  Barbara commented that if she were a squirrel, she would want to live in Savannah!

We have learned from our travels that an overview bus tour can be really beneficial in a new city, so we began our day with guide Annie and a busload of gray-haired people on an Old Savannah Tours trolley.  We got the lay of the land and learned a lot.

We left the tour and then walked the route to take a closer look.  I took about 200 photos; I could spend days here and take thousands.

James Oglethorpe, the founder of Savannah and Georgia was apparently a very strong leader, and it is clear that he was a genius as a city planner.  Savannah was laid out with 24 wards (now known as squares), and these are beautiful parks with big trees and beautiful plants and flowers.  21 of the 24 have survived, and we saw them all.

The squares are usually lined with great, old homes and equally attractive commercial buildings.  Savannah makes extensive use of iron – wrought iron and forged iron – and the iron provides the character for many of the historic buildings.

History is everywhere.  Savannah is surrounded by three forts, and the military has a strong presence here.  There are more memorials to brave Americans and wars than I’ve seen anywhere but Washington, DC.

We took a break from history to lunch at the Soda Pop Shoppe, a small Mom and Pop lunch counter in the heart of the city.  “Senor” took good care of us, and our hot dogs were very good.

We visited the Jack Leigh Gallery.  Mr. Leigh is a top photographer, and one of his photos is the cover for the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  We admire great photography, and we were really taken with his work.

There have been a lot of movies filmed in Savannah.  We took pictures of the Mercer House on Monterey Square – the home in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”  And we visited Chippewa Square, where Forrest Gump sat on the bus bench with his box of chocolates.  We were disappointed to learn that the bench is no longer there, as the bench has been one of the highlights that we planned to see.

Guide Annie told us that the bench is now in the museum at the Savannah Visitors’ Center, so I paid the entrance fee to take my trusty camera in for the all-important photo.  I got the picture, but it isn’t the REAL Forrest Gump bench; it’s just a similar bench that the motion picture company donated to the city.  I hope they didn’t sell the real bench on ebay.

We met a number of nice people on the streets of Savannah.  We enjoyed chatting with Jane and her dog, Susie, and Sherry and her daughters, Morgan and Ellie.  We also talked with a nice couple (both medical folks) from Delaware who we ran into several times.

I enjoyed taking photos of flags and patriotic displays.  There were quite a few.  I was puzzled by one home that had three flags hanging from an iron railing on the second floor.  One was mounted properly, but two were upside down (and flying a flag upside down is a signal of distress).  I’m not sure if it was an expression of concern about the Iraq War or a dyslexic patriot.

I am hoping that I will get enough good patriotic photos from each state to publish a photo essay book featuring flags across America.

On vacations in recent years, I always felt like the vast majority of the other tourists were quite a bit older than we were.  After removing my glasses several hundred times to take photographs and to attempt to read maps today, I now recognize that the years have taken their toll.  After this, I may just have to try the surgery to improve my vision as I hate being handicapped this way.

We had been planning to eat dinner at Mrs. Wilke’s Boarding House, but several people recommended a similar place, The Lady & Sons.  Our southern buffet was exceptionally good.

Each item at The Lady & Sons was about as good as we have ever had – fried chicken, sausage and onions, spaghetti, green beans, butter beans, yams, black-eyed peas, and cheese biscuits.  The peach cobbler and banana pudding were really good, but not special.  I again had ½ iced tea and ½ lemonade; our singing waitress, Lisa, called it an “Arnold Palmer.”

Everyone we met and did business with in Savannah was nice.  Even the street people were courteous, and they were surprisingly few in numbers.

Georgia is very clean.  We believe people today are much more conscious of keeping places clean than they were when we traveled as children.

We capped off a special day by going to the Savannah Theater to see a musical production, “Lost in the 50’s.”  The Savannah Theater is the oldest continually operating theater in the country, built in 1818.  The show featured 80 great 50’s songs.  Nine energetic singers and dancers and eight musicians did a nice job.

While the talent was not Broadway-quality, it was a very enjoyable two hours enjoyed by several hundred folks.  It was an audience where you didn’t want anyone to take flash photography as many could have been blinded by the reflection from all the gray hair.  It was definitely a “Branson crowd.”

We didn’t miss the continuous coverage of the war that we endured while home for the last few weeks.  When we watch war coverage, we watched Fox News, as they are the only network that we’ve seen that seems to be patriotic.

As we walked back to our hotel after the show, we reflected on the day and agreed that we had learned an important lesson today: There are significant benefits to preserving and protecting history and “old stuff.”  It bothered us when we saw an ugly CVS Pharmacy on the corner of one of the most beautiful squares, a really tacky-looking chiropractic office in another square, and an orange A-frame Howard Johnson’s motel just a block or so from the Historic District.

The job that generations of folks in Savannah have done to preserve the history and beauty of their community is truly amazing.  Interesting that I could draw this same analogy to the Iraq war — it’s the brave who make possible the land of the free.

We knew our trip would be like a box of chocolates.  So far, we’ve pulled nothing but winners.  Days 1 and 2 were a delight.

Worlds Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas

I looked forward to seeing the World’s Largest Ball of Twine more than any other sight in America.  Everything from the Grand Canyon to the Worlds Largest Ball of Twine – that’s how I’ve summed up my sightseeing adventures.

I visited the Ball of Twine twice.  I have taken two 50-state road trips, and I saw the ever-growing ball on each trip.

There isn’t anything much in Cawker City, Kansas except the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, so I had no problem driving right up to it on the main street through town.  This sucker is BIG.  It’s housed in a very nice open-sided building where you can walk right up to it and smell it and touch it.

Frank Stoeber started the ball of twine on his farm in 1953.  It weighed 5,000 pounds in 1957, was measured at 8-feet in height, and contained 1,175,180 feet of sisal twine.  Stoeber gave the ball to Cawker City in 1961 before his death in 1974.

The last published report is that it weighed 19,973 pounds (that’s almost 10 TONS).   The ball of twine had a 40-foot circumference, and it was reported to consist of over 7,009,942 feet of twine.  If stretched, it would extend 1,325 MILES.  Like I said, this baby is BIG.

Frank Stoeber created it, and since he died, folks bring balls of twine, and they are weighed and measured and added to the giant ball.  I bought a ball of brown “sisal” twine (the only type of twine that is accepted), and I left it in the box that’s there for that purpose, so my twine is now a part of the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.

Be sure to take your own ball when you visit!  It was wonderful to see that the townsfolk stepped in to build this special place for the Ball of Twine after the creator passed away.

The owner and caretaker of the Ball of Twine is now the Cawker City Community Club.  A Twine-a-thon is a big annual event held in conjunction with the Cawker City Picnic and Parade.  The ball never stops growing.  The picnic and parade are held the third Saturday in August, and the twine winding is conducted the Friday before.

The World’s Largest Ball of Twine is easy to find in “Downtown” Cawker City right along Wisconsin Street (Highway 24) on the south side of the highway.  719 Wisconsin St, Cawker City, KS 67430.  It’s half a block west of Lake Drive, but you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it (small town and a big ball).

Google Map

Bill Windsor

Round America Trip – Day 1

Day 1 — April 1 — Tuesday

Lost in Atlanta

The time: 9:15 am. The date: April 1. The place: Atlanta, Georgia. Our trip Round America begins.

After years of thinking about this trip and several months of intense planning and research, we charged out of our home at 9:15 am filled with excitement and anticipation. 28,036 on the odometer – will be over 56,000 after we visit all 50 states. “Baby You Can Drive My Car” by The Beatles was cued up on the CD player and provided great dancin’ music as we hit the road. We were pumped!

We ran right straight into Atlanta’s biggest de-ttraction: nasty bumper-to-bumper traffic. Thirty minutes later, we managed to escape, top off the gas tank, grab a couple of Cokes, and put the car in high gear headed east to Athens, Georgia. Enthusiasm filled the air.

I almost immediately learned the hard way that our 29-cent clip-in-the-window-sill cup holders should not be asked to hold nearly full open cans of Coca-Cola. Our second stop was in a church parking lot a few blocks from our home to clean up all the Coke. But nothing could dampen our enthusiasm, so we cranked her into high gear once again, and we were off – vowing that we would let nothing bring us down – this was to be a happy, fun, experience-of-a-lifetime!

We then became hopelessly lost trying to find the little two-lane road I had chosen off a map. An hour into the trip, we came upon the golden dome of the Georgia State Capitol Building. It glistened beautifully in the late morning sun. One problem: the Georgia State Capitol Building is in downtown Atlanta – due south from our home and NOWHERE near Athens, Georgia. All we could do was laugh! A fitting start to the trip. I could have probably driven straight to the world’s largest ball of twine in Cawker City, Kansas (where I’d not yet been), but I couldn’t even find my way out of the town we live in! Sometimes we can’t see the trees for the forest. I had the big picture, but I couldn’t put together one of the most important little pieces. With the help of a cell phone and our daughter, Brittany, we managed to get headed in the right direction, and we ultimately made it to Athens – just two hours later than planned.

Behind schedule, we didn’t stop to see any sights in Athens. Not the way we had planned to begin the trip.

From Athens, we took the Antebellum Trail – a highway that goes through an area of Georgia with beautiful antebellum homes. We fell in love with Madison, Georgia. Madison is described as the “#1 Small Town in America.” Gorgeous streets with stately homes, a wonderful town square, great shops, nice people, and just a warm feeling.

We took a lot of photos, and we had an excellent lunch at The Madison Gift Mart & Cafe. Our waitress, Ginger, was delightful, and we thoroughly enjoyed hearing about life in her very small town. Ginger reported in her DEEP southern accent that everyone in Madison was really excited about the new skating rink (roller, no doubt). Unfortunately, the place will only hold 250 people, and it’s almost impossible to get in because the young kids have made it their hangout. She bemoaned the fact that Wal-Mart is about the only place in town to shop. But she loves living in Madison and commented about how special it is that since the town has only one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school, her children will attend all 12 years of school with the same friends. (That’s an interesting concept for someone like me who had lived in 15 cities and 31 homes in 54 years). Clearly Ginger and the folks in Madison do have a kinder and gentler life than we know in the big cities where we have lived.

We also met Savannah and April at the cafe, and we took their photo. The Blackberry Cobbler was recommended by the nice lady at the Madison Chamber of Commerce, and it was excellent – just like Grandma used to make! Even better was the Gentleman Jim’s Tea – 1/2 sweet tea and 1/2 lemonade. Try it; it’s really good. We planned to eat in Juliette at the Fried Green Tomatoes Cafe, but it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so we will visit it at another time.

We managed to get lost two additional times today. It appears that one of the great challenges of driving around the country on two-lane roads will be FINDING the darned roads. Highway 8 to Dacula (that’s Dracula without the R) just isn’t marked clearly. We may need that GPS system that Uncle Ward told us to take.

We took a number of photos along the way. We saw some expressions of patriotism, but nowhere near what we all saw after 9/11. Dacula and Madison showed the greatest patriotism.

We had a nice dinner at The Shrimp Factory (recommended by Karen, our dental hygienist in Atlanta). Our waiter, Michael, took great care of us and even showed us how to get to Forrest Gump’s bus bench tomorrow. We topped off dinner with the pie recommended by Amanda from the hotel — White Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie. Barbara said it was the best pie she had ever eaten in her life! It was tasty.

We took a stroll down the lovely waterfront area before calling it a night. Savannah is truly a uniquely beautiful American city, and we look forward to tomorrow.

The biggest lesson we learned today, or most important observation, is that there is a kinder and gentler life in the smaller towns in America. Small towns seem somewhat insulated from the negative aspects of life in big cities.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest and the full itinerary is shown.

Random Comments:

Some folks think we are nuts to take off driving around the country for several months. In honor of those people, we chose April Fool’s Day to begin our adventure. Maybe we are crazy, but we are very excited to see so many wonderful sights in this great country that most of us never see. There aren’t a lot of people who could or would take off and drive around the country for four months, so we’ve created and will build this website to provide a virtual tour for those of you who wish you could do something like this…or those of you who are just curious.

More Information on the Sights Visited Today:

Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta — Apalachee School House — Madison, Georgia

Round America Trip – Bibliography

The trip ‘Round America covered 50 states and over 2,500 towns.

Bill Windsor is writing a book about the experience, and these books have been sources for the trip and book:

American Bizarro

American Pie

Blue Highways (we may read it someday)

Blue Plate Specials & Blue Ribbon Chefs

Charles Kuralt’s America

Eat Your Way Across the U.S.A.

Eccentric America

Fun Along the Road

Let’s Go USA

The New Roadside America

On the Back Roads

Road Trip USA

Roadfood

Rock ‘N’ Roll Road Trip

Travels with Charley

Round America – The Beads

How I Got My Beads

I was just doing my thing at 11:45 am on April 18 in the extremely remote area between Del Rio and Big Bend, Texas.  In this area, I’d go for long stretches without even seeing another car.  “My thing” consists of driving as my eyes scan 180-degrees ahead enjoying the view and looking for anything that my mind considers especially interesting at that point.

I came across a car that was moving slowly on the two-lane road, so I spent pass #8 to get around them.  As I drove by, I saw a long web address painted on the side of the car.  I thought to myself that this was very interesting to see on a passenger car, and I wanted to know what it said.  So, I pulled off the road to take a photo just so I could read the web address when they passed me.

They passed, but there was no web address.  Uh oh, 18 days on the road and I’m beginning to hallucinate.  I knew I saw a web address, so I spent pass #9 to go around them again.  It said “floatingneutrinos.com,” and there was some other writing on the car that I couldn’t make out.  Floating Neutrinos???  I wonder what in the world a Floating Neutrino is!  I was anxious to get to a hotel so I could check out the website

I motored on, and it was several miles before I saw something that I wanted to photograph.  So, off the side of the road I went, and out of the car with the camera.  A few minutes later, I saw the Floating Neutrinos car approach and pass.  As the car drove by, I was able to see an Ernest Hemingway-looking driver, with a woman riding shotgun, and a dog in the back seat.  They drove slowly past, and the woman’s arm was sticking out of the passenger side window gently waving Mardi Gras beads.

They stopped 50 feet ahead of me, and I walked up to the car and met Papa and Aurelia and Buckaroo the dog.  They gave me the beads as a gift.  How special was this.  I knew from looking into their eyes that this was going to be interesting.  I can’t remember everything that was discussed as I kind of felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.  Buckaroo kept barking, and Aurelia told me to avoid eye contact, as he would not bite me unless I looked him in the eyes. 

I donned my new beads, and we began to talk as I tried to remember to avoid making eye contact with Buckaroo.  As I recall, they were especially enthusiastic about my odyssey, but we very quickly began talking about them.  I learned, among other things, that Papa Neutrino and Aurelia (aka Captain Betsy) took a trip from New York City across the Atlantic Ocean to Ireland and then down to Spain.  Many people have taken a trip across the Atlantic Ocean, but Papa and Aurelia did it floating on a RAFT!

Papa opened the trunk of his car, and he pulled out a yellowed laminated newspaper story from the New York Times with their picture and a picture of the raft (that looked like something out of a Steven Spielberg movie).  What an amazing adventure, and what stories they have to tell.  I tried to remain focused, but I just kept thinking how incredible to be on my unique journey by land …to bump into on the highway literally in the middle of nowhere…two incredibly interesting people who risked their lives while making an incredible journey by sea.  Going to the river with Fast Freddy paled in comparison.

Papa said he wanted to give me a song he had written.  I noticed a guitar case in the trunk.  (And after Fast Freddy and the giant hedge trimmers, I’m sorry to say that the thought of there being a machine gun inside rather than a guitar did skate through my mind.)  Papa gave me a photocopy of the words and music to “Thanks to the Yanks of the USA.”  He asked if I would like to hear him sing it, and I said absolutely!

Papa played the guitar and sang; Aurelia smiled; Buckaroo barked; and I thought how sweet and what a truly unique experience…and scrambled to get a photo of this as no one would ever believe it. 

When the serenade ended, I had to ask Papa his views of the Iraqi War.  I anticipated that Papa and Aurelia would be anti-war.  His response was fascinating.  Papa and Aurelia are not “meat eaters” and would not even kill a mosquito…and though President Bush “is a hunter” and eats meat and hunts and kills, they both support the President, voted for him, and believe his actions will dramatically change the world for the better.  I didn’t expect to hear that.

Papa talked about a lot of things that I didn’t fully comprehend there on the side of the road, but I am anxious to explore the website.  The back of their car has this painted on it: “Let those who know tell those who don’t know.”  The front of the car has a symbol about the “seven levels” that I believe conveys their philosophy of life. 

Before we parted, Papa and Captain Betsy gave me a videotape of their raft trip across the ocean and a CD of great jazz music by their children, the Flying Neutrinos!  The CD is excellent; I’ve played it several times since, and we will continue to enjoy it.  Boz and I watched the video, and it is better than many of the movies we have seen.

I could have stood there for hours, but I had a long way to go and no hotel reservation, so I said goodbye.  I just kept thinking about what an amazing encounter this had been.  To see and learn more about Papa, Captain Betsy, and Buckaroo, see www.floatingneutrinos.com.

The Impact of The Beads

I’ve worn my green, purple, and white beads ever since I met the Floating Neutrinos.  The Floating Neutrinos have to be really lucky to have survived their float across the ocean on a raft, so I consider the beads to be a good luck charm. 

The beads have added a whole new dimension to the trip.  Women smile and many men look at me with a “can you believe that ‘weirdo’ look.”  Kids stare.  I’m meeting far more people with the beads.  Those of you who know me know how conservative I am, so the beads are a walk on the wild side. 

I felt that I needed a gift for people I meet, though I will say that most of the people I have met seem surprisingly excited about having their name in the book.  While the business card and a little fame may be gift enough, I ordered a case of beads.

The first case of beads was gone in no time, so we ordered three more cases.  It’s nice to be able to share a little good luck as we travel.

Round America – The Impact of a 55 Chevy Police Car

The idea for our trip Round America was encouraged in part by a trip from Dallas to Orlando in December 2001.

The following article was written for the HOTTIES web site:

Dallas to Orlando in a 1955 Chevrolet Police Car

by William M. Windsor, Founder of the HOTTIES Donut, Coffee, and Dessert Restaurants

December 7, 2001….

I have just completed one of life’s great experiences!  HOTTIES bought the newest addition to the HOTTIES’ fleet of police cars on December 4, 2001 on the Internet auction site, eBay.  The seller was Steve Jobe of Southlake, Texas.  Steve told me that I would be missing out if I had an auto transporter ship the 1955 Chevrolet Bel-Air Police Car from Dallas to Orlando.  He convinced me to drive the car, and I did.

I flew from Atlanta to Dallas on December 7 on a one-way ticket; Steve picked me up at the airport in the car (lights flashing at the American terminal), and we went to his beautiful home in Southlake where I inspected the car and closed the transaction.  I really liked Steve, and the police car is in spectacular condition.  It purrs; the exterior is in fantastic shape, and the interior is even nicer.  Barbara Gray Windsor faxed the semi-final version of the Altamonte Springs Florida store lease for HOTTIES to me there at Steve’s home, and I was off.

The odyssey begins….

We passed the Grapevine Krispy Kreme on the way to Steve’s house, so it took me just a few minutes to get back there.  Click here to see how inconspicuous I was at the Krispy Kreme —

Bill Windsor, on a secret spy trip to Krispy Kreme in Grapevine, Texas as he started the trip from Dallas to Orlando.

The Krispy Kreme folks got a big kick out of the police car…little did they know that the founder of their big competitor, HOTTIES, was hiding behind the badge on a spy mission.  (Then again, maybe they haven’t even heard of HOTTIES yet, but they will soon!)  I was forced to buy a few donuts for tasting purposes.  I also did my normal reconnaissance work, pacing off the measurements, writing down prices, etc.  I then sat down in Krispy Kreme’s table and chair area with a grande Pepsi and called the landlord in Orlando to finalize the last two issues on the lease for our HOTTIES store there.  I think it adds a lot to this deal to have done that important piece of business right there in KrispyKremeLand.

Every customer who walked in Krispy Kreme had a big smile on his or her face from seeing the police car out front, and they all wanted to talk about it and ask questions.  It is AMAZING the effect antique police cars have on people!

I then drove to North Dallas to see my mother and father-in-law, Hayward and Janet Gray.

Hayward and Janet Gray with the car in front of their Dallas home.

Mimi (Janet) seemed embarrassed when I had the flashing lights on with the siren blaring as Papa (Hayward) and I took a spin around the block.  The car is fully restored; even the cigarette lighter works.  It has a working siren, working bubble gum machine flashing lights, working spotlight, and working police radio.  This baby has been juiced up, though, with a 350 cubic inch engine with 425 horsepower and a Hurst four-speed shifter on the floor.

Jackie Moravcik, a fraternity brother and our real estate Dude, called when I first arrived in Dallas, and he told me that five of the Black-Eyed Pea restaurants in Dallas were closing.  Mimi, Papa, and I discussed where the best locations were, and I decided to drive by all of them as I spent a few hours touring the areas that I feel would be the best location for HOTTIES in North Dallas.

As I drove up Preston Road, people smiled, pointed, waved, etc.  I went to the closest Black-Eyed Pea at Preston and Park, where I was literally mobbed with people.  One lady stopped with the back half of her Suburban sticking out into Preston Road to gawk and talk and ask questions.  The employees at Black-Eyed Pea were equally animated!  I explained that I was in the donut business (always gets big laughs), that we are looking for a great location in Dallas, and that we heard some of the Black-Eyed Peas were closing.  One of the folks there was obviously in management, and she gave me the complete scoop.  She suggested that I drive straight to Belt Line, as she felt the best Pea for our purposes was there, and it had already closed.

When I finally managed to get away after the Black-Eyed Pea-ers took a pile of Polaroid snapshots of various employees with the car, I raced over to Belt Line.  There was a Black-Eyed Pea all closed up — fantastic location.

I saw a street person begging at the corner of Midway and 635.  I gave him $5.00.  He wanted to know if I was the sheriff.  I just smiled.

After doing a little more location scouting in Dallas, I hit the road.  1,000 miles, 50 gallons of gas, and 16 hours and 50 minutes of travel time later, I made it home to Atlanta.  The car ran like a top!  I always drew a crowd at every gas station and fast food stop; several people took pictures.  One lady even took a picture at 60 miles-an-hour as we drove side-by-side down the Interstate in Louisiana.  I got a kick out of a few (very few) people who were afraid to pass me or threw on their brakes when they saw it was a police car.  Most people either realized it was really old or didn’t feel they were driving fast enough to be worried.  Several people kind of swerved off the road from looking.

I drew a big crowd when I stopped at the donut shop that prompted us to start HOTTIES!  A man named Lanny talked my ear off about the various old cars he had owned or still owned.  One nice gentleman came over from a block away as he saw the car and owns a 1955 Chevrolet, too, though not a police car.

In Ruston, Louisiana, two police officers pulled me over.  I knew I wasn’t speeding.  They offered to trade cars.  They were really nice.  I asked them if the siren on all police cars was a switch on the floor like the dimmer switch for the headlights, and they said that was standard.  I gave them a little demo.  They chuckled as I peeled out to get back on the highway.

I spent the night in Monroe, Louisiana.  I couldn’t resist pulling into the registration area of the Marriott Courtyard with the lights flashing and a little shot of siren.  The two desk clerks told me that Shipley’s Donuts are really good there.

I left bright and early Saturday morning, December 8.  I almost immediately had a long caravan of fans of the “Rebels” football team who were going to the state football tournament.  There must have been a hundred cars, and every one of them honked, waved, and laughed.

I saw a hippy-looking hitchhiker in Mississippi.  He pulled his sign down when he saw me coming by.  I guess he didn’t want to take any chances.

Down the road, two good old boys from Alabama, Billy and Glenn, were especially talkative when I gassed up in Heflin, Alabama, so I took their picture with the car.

A lot of truckers came over to talk at gas stations.  One looked under the hood and was surprised to see that big 350 cubic inch, 425 horsepower engine.  He asked me how many rpm the car was running at when I was going as fast as I could go, and he said he bet the car will go 100 or faster if we change out the rear end.  I don’t know that we need our police car to do any faster than the 65 or so I was driving, but all feedback and conversation was appreciated.  No one ever talks to me when I am driving our Jeep; it’s interesting that a little thing like an unusual car will get people to open up and warm up when they would never talk to a plain old stranger.

I got literally hundreds upon hundreds of thumbs up, honks, and waves as I drove down the highway.  And best of all, I saw THOUSANDS of smiles from people passing by.

There aren’t enough smiles in the world, and very few of us walk around or drive around smiling.  And there has been far less to smile about during the last few troubled months.  That made it especially gratifying to see so many people who had their day brightened by an old car with an even older driver.

Joe repaired the brake lights for the last leg of the trip.

Three young painters took a lot of pictures with the car.

That’s me (Bill Windsor) waving as I depart our driveway in Atlanta — headed for Orlando.

Sheriff in Georgia laughing with a man at a gas station — both LOVED the police car!

Lisa, who recently moved back to Altamonte Springs from Saudia Arabia, had her picture taken with the car.

Pizza Hut employee poses with the police car.

The 1955 Chevrolet police car arrives at its new home in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

Marty Windsor and Carolyn Bazzo in the police car.

1955 Chevy — Left Front  |  1955 Chevy — Front  |  1955 Chevy — Right Front  |
1955 Chevy — Rear  |  1955 Chevy — Left Rear  |  1955 Chevy — Right Rear  |
1955 Chevy — Interior Front  |  1955 Chevy — Interior Back  |  1955 Chevy Engine