One of the most iconic images of Maine is that of the Portland Head Light. This lighthouse was completed in 1791 and sits on a head of land at the main entrance to the shipping channel into Portland Harbor. The lighthouse is located within Fort Williams Park (free to enter) and is a great place to explore, have a picnic, and just enjoy the beautiful Maine scenery. And the best part is that we now live here and can see it anytime we wish!
Our cross-country road trip is a combination of moving from Oregon to Maine, visiting with our family that we have not seen in over two years, and gathering the little bit of junk that we left behind.
Before leaving for our around the world adventure over two years ago, we got rid of pretty much everything we own. Everything we had left, which included photo albums and other “important stuff”, fit neatly into a 4×8 U-haul trailer and was left at Kerri’s sister and brother-in-laws house in Utah. We also left some books at my mom’s house in Oregon, but due to lack of space inside our Cheap and Cheerful Audi we are going to have those shipped to us once we reach Maine (thanks mom). We could have rented a trailer, but we had no trailer hitch at that time. That came later.
After driving across Idaho we reached Layton, Utah and enjoyed visiting with Kerri’s sister Alison, brother-in-law Scott, and the nieces Cassie and Rose. During our stay in Utah we had a trailer hitch installed on our Audi A6, which turned out to be a bit of a hassle, but I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say that Audi’s are not the easiest cars to work on and it left the people at U-haul scratching their heads on how to get the rear bumper off. Luckily, someone documented the procedure and posted the instructions online. We also had a new key made at the dealership since the key that came with the car was broken and missing the buttons. Those Audi keys are not cheap and it cost us $208 for a single key. Crazy!
Once we had a trailer hitch installed we picked up a 4×8 trailer and dug out all of the crap we left behind 2 years ago. Our first reaction after seeing the boxes was, “Why did we keep this?” Even though we got rid of lot stuff, we feel we could have done better. The majority of the stuff we have left is going right back into storage once we reach Maine. Perhaps we should have got rid of everything and had a seriously clean start!
After saying our goodbyes in Utah we drove south towards New Mexico. Since we were pulling a trailer we wanted to avoid steep hills and snow, so we took a slightly longer route. The weather was great and we arrived in Cortez, Colorado just as the sun was setting. We found a cheap room at a Super 8 and ordered a Dominos pizza. Life on the road!
The next morning we packed up and continued towards New Mexico. On the way we took a slight detour and visited the Four Corners Monument, which marks the convergence of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. We were a little shocked to find the price to be $5 per person to visit a survey marker, and unfortunately the fry bread food carts weren’t open.
After visiting Four Corners we stopped at Aztec Ruins National Monument. We are suckers for old ruins and couldn’t resist stopping to explore. They even had a Junior Ranger program for kids and after completing her booklet; Sydney was excited to get sworn in as an official National Parks Junior Ranger. She now wants to visit every National Park and monument in the United States. Yikes!
After our detours we arrived safely at Kerri’s parents house in Los Alamos, New Mexico and unloaded our trailer’s contents into their garage. It was cheaper to rent a trailer in segments that it was to rent it to go all the way cross-country. We had just missed a snowstorm and there was snow piled up around town, but the weather was really warm when we were there. We did some hiking around the area and Sydney got a new Junior Ranger patch for visiting the Bandelier National Monument. I have never been a fan of high altitude and spending a week at 7000 feet was rough. I can’t wait to be back at sea level again! We had a great, but breathless, week visiting with Kerri’s parents and after picking up and loading our U-Haul trailer we were off to visit Kerri’s sister Erin and brother-in-law Ralph in Albuquerque.
We stayed just one night with Erin and Ralph and the next morning we were on the road again. After passing though a whole lot of nothing, we arrived in the bizarre town of Roswell, New Mexico. Roswell is said to be the location of an alien spaceship crash in 1947. Of course, the US military says it was a crashed weather balloon. Whatever the story, we toured the world famous Roswell UFO Museum. The museum was pretty cheesy and was not as exciting as we had expected.
Since New England is getting hammered with massive snowstorms, we decided to hang out in warm and sunny New Mexico for just a little longer. Tomorrow we plan to visit Carlsbad Caverns where Sydney can get a new Junior Ranger badge and we can explore someplace new. Afterwards, the plan is to drive across Texas. Yeehaw!
Our cross-country road trip from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine is taking a southern route that we have nicknamed, “putting a smile on America.” Our route starts in the northwest, dips down to the south, and then continues up to the north creating what looks to be a smiley on the map. The reasoning behind our extended route is to avoid the harsh winter conditions in the north, but more importantly to visit with family members that we have not seen in over 2 years.
The first stop on our cross-country trip after leaving Portland, Oregon was to the small town of Ontario, Oregon to visit my mom, brother, niece, aunt, and friends. We spent nearly a week in Ontario and the Boise area visiting with everyone while struggling with the below freezing temperatures. Having come from summer in the southern hemisphere, we have not yet acclimated to winter in the northern hemisphere. Hopefully we acclimate soon as Maine is having blizzards and below zero temperatures!
After leaving Ontario we drove through thick fog in freezing conditions, but once we hit Boise we had blue skies and the temperature warmed. The stretch across southern Idaho is not exactly scenic, so when we saw the sign for Three Island Crossing, a famous point along the Oregon Trail route, we had to stop. Our daughter, Sydney, has been studying the Oregon Trail as part of her homeschooling and we thought it would make a good school field trip stop.
Once back on the road we drove through a whole lot of nothing, some more nothing, and then crossed into Utah and finally saw mountains, which is better than nothing.
We are currently in Layton, Utah visiting with Kerri’s sister, brother-in-law, and the nieces. We are also having our car modified with a trailer hitch and trailer wiring so that we can carry all the crap that we left here across the US to Maine. We must have been crazy to think this was a good idea, but only time will tell.
Our cheap and cheerful car is doing well, but our fuel economy is not so good. Our Audi A6 wagon is said to get 27 miles per gallon on the highway, but we are consistently seeing only 20 MPG. Perhaps it is the studded tires, or maybe the car needs a tune-up. Hopefully it doesn’t drop to 10 MPG once we had a trailer!
On Sunday the plan is to head southeast towards New Mexico to visit with Kerri’s parents. This leg of the journey will take us over the Continental Divide. Normally this is not a big deal, but when we are towing a trailer and snow is predicted in the forecast, it could get a bit hairy.
Wish us luck!
Starting Point: Portland, Oregon
Ending Point: Portland, Maine
Vehicle: 2000 Audi A6 Avant Quattro (All wheel drive wagon)
Total Miles Driven: 375
Current Location: Ontario, Oregon
After spending 803 days traveling around the world we had the realization that we have seen more of the world than our own country. So, what better way to see the United States than through a cross-country road trip. Unfortunately, we lacked a vehicle and it was in the middle of winter, which is usually not the best time for going cross-country. Not daunted by a challenge, we set out to find a vehicle that could handle such a journey under harsh winter conditions and could hopefully get us to Portland, Maine safely. After looking at the available options, and with our limited budget, we purchased a high mileage 2000 Audi A6 Avant Quattro, which is a fancy German way of saying a plush and comfortable all-wheel-drive station wagon. It handles good, has studded tires, and our daughter loves the rear-heated seats.
While visiting New Zealand we rented a “cheap and cheerful” car. Cheap and cheerful was a category of cars that had high mileage (or kilometerage) and were slightly beat up, but mechanically sound. Our current car has been well loved and shows its age with 148,000 miles on the odometer, but seems to be mechanically sound. We have therefore decided to call our cross-country vehicle the “cheap and cheerful car.”
After spending a week visiting family and friends in Portland we loaded our bags into the cheap and cheerful car and started heading east. The first stop on our cross-country road trip was at my mom’s house in Ontario, Oregon. Two days before leaving Portland there had been a massive pileup on Interstate 84 caused by black ice which shutdown the freeway for the entire day. Fortunately, we had great weather the majority of the way and experienced no ice, snow, or pileups. The last 40 miles of the trip was through heavy fog at near freezing temperatures, which had the potential for making the roads icy. But with our studded tires it was not a problem.
Our plane landed at the Portland International Airport on January 12, 2015 at 7:59pm. Portland, Oregon is our hometown and we have landed at the Portland airport countless times, but this time was a bit different. This landing marked the end of a 44,000-mile odyssey around the world. It had been 803 days since we had last been in Portland and it felt surreal. As we stood on the familiar PDX carpet we felt conflicted and anxious. We were looking forward to seeing family and friends after so long, but we were sad to be ending such an amazing journey that took us to 27 countries. We joked that maybe we should turn around and hop on the next international flight out of Portland and continue traveling. We had traveled for so long that we now find comfort in movement and exploration. The thought of being idle, even for a little while, makes us nervous. But we tried to remain positive. This was not an ending, but a new beginning. While our around the world adventure had come to an end, we were starting a new adventure. We were about to embark on a 4300-mile (7000 kilometer) road trip across the United States in the middle of winter to visit family and friends and to relocate to Portland, Maine; a place we have never visited.
We only planned to be in Portland for one week. Our mission was to purchase a road trip worthy car and to see as many people as possible during our short stay. I had been checking online ads to compare vehicles for sale. At first we were considering a true American vehicle; a gas guzzling full sized SUV with 4-wheel drive. But in the end we decided to purchase a used wagon and found a well loved high mileage 2000 Audi A6 Avant Quattro. A perfect winter road trip car with studded tires, front and rear heated leather seats, and all wheel drive. We also discovered that being back in the US is hard without a cellphone and picked up a new iPhone 6, which is an amazing little device! So with a car and a phone, we were ready to see our friends and family.
Sydney had been invited to give a presentation at her old school in SE Portland. We put together a few photos from our trip and she worked hard on her talk. Sydney had left school at the beginning of 2nd grade and now her classmates were in the 4th grade. As we walked into the classroom, Sydney’s friends immediately recognized her and gave her a group hug. It was a very touching moment and we were shocked to see how tall everyone had grown. Sydney had been writing letters to the school since leaving and they had followed her adventures around the world and were excited to see her in person. She gave her talk and showed the class pictures from the trip and everyone really enjoyed it. After group photos, we thanked the teacher and left.
We spent the remainder of our week racing around the Portland area seeing friends, colleagues, and family. We had planned to do so much while in Portland, but time was against us. The day before leaving we threw ourselves a “Welcome Home & Farewell Party” at a local family-friendly brew pub in downtown Portland, and just like that, our week was over.
It was a great week seeing friends and family, but we felt very anxious being back in the United States. We had spent the past 6 months in Australia and New Zealand and assumed that the transition back to American life would be easy, but we were surprised at how weird everything was. Portland was pretty much how we remembered it, but we were different. Traveling around the world had changed us and made us different people. We have learned to slow down and enjoy the good things in life, to stop and smell the roses. America is very fast paced and everyone is busy, busy, busy. We were once like that before leaving and had promised ourselves to never be like that again. But even before we landed in Portland we had a busy schedule with too much to do and too little time. We have been feeling overwhelmed and stressed by everything that we needed to get done. Hopefully, we can learn to relax again and enjoy life at a slower pace.
Although our around the world adventure has come to an end, we have many new adventures planned for the future. You cannot travel long-term and expect to just go back to a “normal” life. We would like to thank everyone who has followed our adventure and hopefully you will continue to enjoy our blog posts. We have no plan to stop writing and traveling, so stay tuned for many new articles.
And a big thank you to our friends and family that let us stay with you while in Portland. And to everyone we didn’t get a chance to see, hopefully we can see you during our next visit.