Escaping Winter Day 2: Pennsylvania To Kentucky

Escaping winter is my account of a road trip from Tewksbury, Massachusetts to my new home in Tucson, Arizona. The crew includes my fiancee Jess and my first-mate Erik, armed with a shopping bag full of motion-sickness meds, Advil, anti-diahreals, toilet paper (in case the last one doesn’t work),  gummy bears, beef jerky, and enough chocolate to kill a diabetic 10 times over. The goal is to make it to Tucson without dying and/or being kidnapped and/or arrested.

11AM-West Chester, Pennsylvania-Brian’s House

We broke our rule of “leaving at 9” by actually leaving at 11. We had a long road ahead of us, about 10 hours to Lexington, Kentucky, our next destination.

Showers were a must, as we would be sitting in the car for as long as it takes to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, minus the entertainment.

SIDE NOTE: I’m still not sure why sitting in the car for hours makes you feel like you’ve been bathing in filth all day. It’s not like you’re actually doing anything. But anyone who’s had the experience knows that after a long car drive, you feel and smell like you’ve been wrestling wild pigs all afternoon.


Due to the awful weather at the moment, we’re trying to skip down south as fast as possible. Before leaving Brian’s, Jess asks if we’ll be going through any mountains, which I should probably know, but I don’t.  Before this trip, I wasn’t even sure which states were between Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

Funny how much you can learn about geography when you need to.

rural PennsylvaniaWe pass through rural Pennsylvania, through Lancaster, Harrisburg, Mechanicsburg, Chambersburg, and any other burg that you can think of (except Pittsburg, no Pittsburg). We’re treated to lovely snow-covered landscapes and Mennonite furniture stores.

Wonderland Pennsylvania
Winter Wonderland

rural Pennsylvania


At our first stop, we buy an atlas, which becomes my obsession for the entire trip. The thrill of passing a state line becomes more intense than winning a Nobel prize.

On the atlas I notice that West Virginia has an awful lot of green. Green means mountains. And also that West Virginia is known as the mountain state.

I think we were going through some mountains.

Wonderland Pennsylvania dragon
The dragon awaits

Around 3:30 we pass the West Virginia border. First up, it’s a quick dinner in Morgantown, where the land is still relatively flat.

After dinner, we get on the road with just enough time to see the sun set. It turns out to be perfect timing. Luckily we beat any bad weather, all dry on the mountains, which is a good thing because it’s tough to blog when you’re lying in an Appalachian ditch.

The mountains of West Virginia are as frightening as they are beautiful. The hills rise and fall like a roller coaster (only with less safety precautions).

west virginia windy mountain

west virginia

west virginia

And the best part is you get to see sunsets like this:

west virginia sunset


west virginia sunset IMG_4691

west virginia sunset


We make one more stop about 3 hours outside of Lexington at a two-floor truck stop, whose restaurant is packed like it’s Nobu on a Saturday night. Erik thinks about buying a $13 giant Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup simply because it exists, but thinks better of it. He drives the rest of the way, relieving Jess for the first time.

We arrive in Lexington a little after 11, everybody ragged from sitting in the car. The Hobbit comes out tonight and we consider seeing a midnight show…back in Pennsylvania. By now it was out of the question, and so was seeing the rest of Lexington.

Lexington, Kentucky, at least for us, would be for sleeping. But tomorrow we’re going to find some good bourbon and head on down to Memphis, where the meat is slow cooked and the King still lives.

Escaping Winter Day 1: Massachusetts To Pennsylvania

We ended up leaving a day later due to some unfriendly weather. Also we had some trouble with the bike rack…meaning that Amazon lost the original rack I ordered…and also that I scrambled to buy a new one and accidentally bought the wrong type. So I started the morning of our departure by running off to REI to buy a Yakima spare tire rack. Luckily they had one left.

Also luckily, the day turned out to be sunny and beautiful.

We tied on our Platypus roof rack easily enough. We had vacuum sealed our clothes and were able to fit them all in the Platypus. All good as long as it didn’t fly off on the highway, taking the roof along with it. Let’s at least hope that it happens somewhere warm.

So we’re off, first stoping at Jess’ mom’s work to say a quick goodbye. We then say ‘what the hell’ and stop off at a friend’s house in Worcester. We hang out there for a half hour or so, playing with her daughter until the road calls us back. She puts on a very dramatic (and convincing!) show when we get ready to go, as she buries her head in the blankets and gives us the cutest fake cry ever.

road trip
Goodbye Massachusetts!

At this rate, it’ll take us a week to leave Massachusetts.

But we’re off…again. We soon realize that the weight of the Platypus, along with our luggage, is taking a toll on our gas mileage. We’re not even an hour out and we’re already a half tank down. We stop off at a local gas station. Our nice friends gave us a handy bag full of goodies: candy, motion sickness tablets, wet wipes, all the essentials. Especially essential is a few gas cards for the trip. We decide to break into the first.

I fill up the tank with a $25 card. The only problem is that the tank is filled on $20. I wonder what happens now; do they put $5 back on the card? Will it already be on there?  I go inside the gas station and tell them the situation. The girl behind the counter looks startled. Her eyes bug out. She clearly has no idea what to do. I say that it’s fine and turn to leave. She then explains that the card didn’t record a transaction and we didn’t actually pay for the gas. I should have left when I had the chance. She says she has to talk to her manager. I stand around for a few minutes. Erik comes inside to see what’s going on. I shrug my shoulders. After another few minutes go by I get an idea.

“If I give you $20 cash and keep the card, will that solve the problem,” I say.

The girl looks delighted. “Yes, it would,” she says. I hand her a twenty and go on my way.

We get back on the highway when I feel my empty pockets. That’s when I realize I left the card behind. Twenty dollars down the drain.

But at least we’re finally out of Massachusetts.

We wanted to bypass the apocalypse; also known as New York City traffic at rush hour. So we take the lllooonnngg way around. I maybe was a bit too cautious as the route takes us about 3 hours more than it should have.

Around 11 o’clock we arrive in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where we’ll be staying with our friend Brian from back home. He greets us outside in the freezing cold.

We all have a beer and catch up for a few hours before it’s time to crash. Tomorrow we’ll be doing our longest driving day onto Lexington, Kentucky, the horse (and bourbon) capital of the US.

So far the Platypus seems intact and dry, as well as the bikes (although I didn’t notice that I’d left the bike light on the handlebars so we’ve had a blinking light going off probably since we left)

Until then, it’s sleepy time on the couch with a snuggly brown lab named Mocha.

Continue onto Day 2

Escaping Winter: The Origin Story

Over the past few months, I decided along with my fiancee that we were going to make a major life change in 2014. Without going into the details, this past year has been a doozy, as our lives began to stagnate. I was working 60 hours a week, taking trains, buses, and bikes to get to my part-time job in Boston, while running inside the giant hamster wheel that results from being stupid, young and racking up too much debt.

The freezing winter of Massachusetts was rolling in and we’d both had enough. This year, we are going to escape winter.

An opportunity arose when Jess’ brother moved to Tucson, Arizona last July. So far he’s loved it, describing it as the type of place where everybody is in shape, friendly, and where the weather is lovely (except for the Hades-like summers, but we’ll get to that).

He threw out the idea of us moving to Arizona, staying with him for a bit until we get settled. At first I laughed at the idea. I’d done the crazy young, rebellious thing when I was 20, moving to Southern California with little knowledge of the area, no degree, and no idea of what the “economy” actually meant. Unfortunately, this was 2002 and our country was still digging out of a deep recession. Consider that this was a time when the internet was relatively new to me and I’d received my first cell phone a month before moving. Times were different (except the whole recession thing, but it’s supposedly getting better ;))

The more I thought about it, the more appealing Arizona became. Jess thought the same. Pretty soon we were both entertaining the idea seriously. Soon after that, we’d made definite plans. We ended the lease in our lovely Newton apartment, moved in with her parents for a few months, and prepared for the journey ahead.

So here it is, the big day.

We decided to drive so we could take in some of the sights of our gigantic country, most of which we’d never seen. The following posts will record the places we’ve been and the experiences we…um…experienced along the way.

I hope you enjoy the adventure and maybe even get a little inspiration to roll the dice in your own life and follow the path of what might at first seemed like a silly idea, but turned out to be the very thing you needed.

Click here for day 1