Mike Across America

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Somewhere I did not visit.

I just drove across the country for two weeks. Here are some of my thoughts from the trip.

Been awhile since I’ve written anything personal. Also been awhile since I actually completed my recent drive across America – one precipitated by the loss of a job in California and the need to return to the East Coast.

I’ve been back more than 2 weeks now, actually. And it’s felt weird; almost like I still haven’t quite completed the trip.

So I figured I’d write a recap about it. Tweeting and Snapchatting and Instagramming along the way all served a great purpose. But there’s something to be said for the closure that comes from placing a number of thoughts in a single place; like throwing a picture frame over the tapestry of 14 days worth of memories.

How to best do it? Let’s hand out some awards.

BEST ROUTE

Everybody asked me: are you taking the Southern Route? Are you taking the Northern Route? Are you taking Route 66?

This cross-country road trip is about to be decent. #janelamerica

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Nope. I chose a winding, waving, circuitous route that took me to everything I wanted to see and do in this country over a 2-week span. With all the time in the world to burn (even if money was a different issue) and the good fortune to have already visited 49 states and basically every famous U.S. landmark before this trip even started, I allowed myself the chance to do what I wanted unbeholden to any geographic or time constraints. So that’s what I did. I ended up with the route you see above: 4,083 miles, 16 states, and 14 days driving as the drunk crow flies.

BEST HASHTAG

Yeah, as you see in that Instagram post, I created #Janelamerica for this trip. Deal with it.

BEST MEAL

Look. At. This. Tray.

The caption says it all. I can’t recommend the Pecan Lodge in Dallas enough. Shoutout to Stat Guy Greg of ESPN’s “Cheap Heat” fame for the personal recommendation. The only thing I could eat the rest of the day was an apple.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Kentucky is a college basketball blue blood. Its home, Rupp Arena, annually tops national attendance figures. So when a Wildcats home game coincided with my driving through Lexington, I obviously had to check it out.

I was not impressed. Look, the crowd brought it: a Tuesday game against below-.500 LSU sold out with chants and cheers rocking from the jump. But they set fireworks off in pregame introductions, and I half-expected music during gameplay. The arena was cavernous and felt like any random Nets game I attended at the Izod Center as a kid.

The arena had nothing memorable or unique to the program. How do you not have trophies on display or a Hall of Fame wing or even murals of the great UK players through history lining the walls? I expected a lot more.

BEST EXPERIENCE

On the other hand, OMG KANSAS.

Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk. This place is magic. #jayhawks

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From their incredible Hall of Fame – like, better than 95% of the museums I’ve ever visited in my life – that you enter through to get to the arena; to the intimate setting and wooden bleachers; to the traditions like singing “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk” and the student section using the campus paper during player intros; THIS is college sports at its pure, unfiltered best.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT

Walking the 3/4 of a mile from the parking lot to the vista over Horseshoe Bend in Page, Ariz., and seeing…

horseshoe-bend

No picture I could ever take would do this place justice. Just go someday. And whoever didn’t give it 5 stars on Google Reviews are idiots. You won’t find anything better to do in this country for free that won’t get you arrested.

FUNNIEST MOMENT

I’ve owned my car 10 years. Driven it all around the country. Never seen this before, which popped up after a 13-hour day on the road.

MOST FUN I HAD

Well, if you know me and carefully studied the road map above, you should know the most fun I could possibly have on the trip was at the Royal Rumble.

Gonna be a fun night. #royalrumble

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If you don’t follow the “sport,” you won’t understand. But there’s nothing quite like witnessing a live, nuclear Roman Reigns crowd reaction at an arena with 50,000+ marks. The night instantly vaulted into a Top 10 live sports experience in my life (that’s a post for another day).


So there it is.

Like I said, I’d been lucky enough to have seen so much of the already-great America (that’ll be the only political slant in this post) before. But the one experience that had always eluded me was driving coast-to-coast. Now I can say I did it, and literally: I started by sticking my right foot in the placid Pacific in San Diego. I ended with my left in New Jersey’s frigid Atlantic.

Literally from sea to shining sea: 14 days, 16 states, 4,083 miles. What a trip! 🚙🇺🇸 #crosscountry

A post shared by Mike Janela (@mikejanela) on

I sat next to and talked with a dad and his kid for two hours at a Dallas Mavericks game. Drank with dudes visiting San Antonio from Australia. Ate hot dogs and curly fries with a random woman I met at a bar in Kansas. Watched the Super Bowl in a Motel 6. All experiences I will never, ever forget.

My only regret is that the Pecan Lodge is now 1,500 miles away.

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