JOPPA, Md.--I'll just say it now: I am not a fan of Interstate 95.
Since 2006, I've spent part of each summer driving around regions of the United States, working on stories about a wide variety of destinations related to aviation, the military, technology, science, nature, and more. This is my annual Road Trip project, and right now, I'm a little more than a week into Road Trip 2010.
In the past, I've covered the Pacific Northwest (in 2006); the Southwest (in 2007); the Southeast (in 2008); and the Rocky Mountain region (in 2009). All told, I've covered more than 18,000 miles. The reporting experience has always been fantastic, as I get a chance to go behind the scenes at a lot of places I'd never get to go otherwise. But I've also loved the long, leisurely drives through stunning parts of the country.
In all honesty, I've resisted coming to the Northeast because I knew that it would be difficult to avoid the kind of traffic congestion I know the region is famous for. But after the four previous trips, it was clear this year's journey would finally hit the East Coast.
I flew into Washington, D.C., a week ago, with well-thought-out plans of where to go, what to visit, and how to stay away from the worst of the traffic. My plan: mainly, stay off of I-95--especially at rush hour.
The truth is, though, it's been hard not to spend time on that main north-south Interstate, and despite my best intentions, I have ended up on it more than once in horrid gridlock.
Of course, that hasn't been the worst highway foul-up I've put myself in. Somehow, in spite of a college degree, a Master's, and more than 40 years of time on Earth, I hit D.C.'s Beltway last week at 5 p.m. I think I almost got out of the car and walked away.
That's particularly true because on Road Trip 2010, I'm driving what I can only describe as a very sweet car: Porsche's Panamera. The German sports car maker's first four-door passenger car, the Panamera was not made to sit in traffic. Yet I've ended up putting it there far more often, in just nine days, than I ever thought I would.
With all that in mind, then, it's both ironic and completely predictable that I hit 1,000 miles of driving on the trip while smack dab on I-95 here last night. I have marked every thousand-mile milestone of each of the previous trips, and this year will be no different. I've always hoped to be in beautiful spots when the odometer rolls over, and have managed that several times, most notably in Glacier National Park last summer, and Zion National Park in 2007. I've also cheated a few times and driven a few extra miles in order to ensure being somewhere notable when the zeroes appeared.
But on my drive last night from Annapolis, Md.--where I had just finished reporting a story on the U.S. Naval Academy's induction day--toward Easton, Penn., where I hit Crayola this morning, there was no way around it: I was going to be on I-95 at 1,000 miles, and I'd just have to make the best of it.
Either way, though, the first thousand has presented me with some wonderful experiences this year. I've visited NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding's production facility for the next-generation Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier; the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum; the U.S. Bureau of Engraving & Printing's next-generation $100 bill production line; and more. I've even gotten to go on a wonderful and relaxing sailing trip around Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis with some old friends.
There are several more thousands to go, though, and I'm going to do my very best to stay out of traffic. If that means taking back roads instead of the interstates, I will try to do that. If it means not driving from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m., I'll do that. Whatever it takes. I guess I'll see if it works.
For the next few weeks, Geek Gestalt will be on Road Trip 2010. After driving more than 18,000 miles in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and the Southeast over the last four years, I'll be looking for the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation and more throughout the American northeast. If you have a suggestion for someplace to visit, drop me a line. In the meantime, you can follow my progress on Twitter @GreeterDan and @RoadTrip and find the project on Facebook. And you can also test your knowledge of the U.S. and try to win a prize in the Road Trip Picture of the Day challenge.