Between the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, a giant increase in gas prices this year, and a move overseas, my travels have been very close to home over the past few years.
But last weekend I dusted off my very dusty 16-foot teardrop trailer and headed west to Astoria, Ore., the city where the mighty Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t a huge road trip – only 77 miles each way. But psychologically it was extensive. It broke the spell that had kept the trailer (called the Red Scribe) eagerly waiting in storage for his next adventure.
Before the pandemic, I dragged The Red Writer around the United States, with most of my time spent in the Finger Lakes and at the family cottage in Valois. Memories of those trips and good times around Seneca Lake were swirling through my mind as we three upstate NY natives—my wife and I and our Yorkie Biscuit—rolled onto US 30, a highway that stretches to across the country, from Astoria to Atlantic City, NJ
We were stoked to be on the road again, racking up miles to see a new place and singing Willie Nelson’s iconic “On The Road Again.” Views of the deep blue water of the Columbia peeked in and out of view.
Major portions of US 30 were part of what was once called the Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to-coast highway in the United States, which opened in 1913. Portions of US 30 were replaced by Interstate 80 in the 1950s to became a primary route from New York City to San Francisco.
But the old US 30 still exists, often running alongside I-80 and other major interstate highways. And, it’s still possible to drive US 30 across the United States, passing through places overlooked by most travelers who choose faster interstates.
On a trip decades ago, I followed US 30 for much of the width of Nebraska and Iowa, marveling at the number of abandoned small towns. It appeared that people simply walked or drove away from their homes and commercial buildings. It was eerily reminiscent of The Twilight Zone, created by the late Rod Serling, a resident of upstate New York.
Our trip to Astoria was without a single Serling-like moment. We encountered a 5 mile long riverside walk and a lively riverside town alive with people walking, cycling, visiting museums and art galleries. Many restaurants were busy, some with lines of people waiting to be seated. It reminded me of the Finger Lakes communities that have successfully developed their waterfronts into friendly and interesting places to visit.
Flipping over my road atlas when we got home, I discovered a strange geographical coincidence.
When I attended Villanova University in the late 1960s, I visited Atlantic City several times with college friends. We usually hitchhiked – on US 30 – to catch rides in the oceanfront tourist area. The distance from the Villanova campus to central Atlantic City is 77 miles, the same number of miles from where I live in central Astoria.
A mathematical coincidence, I guess. But what are the odds? And what is the message? Cue Rod Serling for an answer, perhaps.
Weird math aside, our weekend foray down the West Coast end of US 30 has reawakened our wanderlust. Our 2022 National Geographic Road Atlas is now a coffee table staple. A new 39 by 55 inch US map is ready to hang on my office wall.
And, we have added the website “YourLifeIsATrip.com” to check regularly. It is a collection of travel stories written by real people about visits to all points around the globe.
If the travel bug bites you like it did me, my advice is to scratch the itch. It sure feels good. And it’s time.