Once Upon a Time in Findlay, Ohio

by John Delach

Bill Smith as told to John Delach

Part Two: The Journey

The Imperial House Motel, next to the interchange of I-75 and Route 157 was the ideal spot to begin and end our journey. We picked May 30 to accommodate me as I was getting married two Saturdays later. We hoped that a starting time of 9am would put us in New York City sometime on Sunday morning to avoid heavy traffic

A small, but enthusiastic crowd saw us off as we headed north. Destination – Toledo, 45 miles away where we turned onto Interstate 90 East for the 582-mile run to Albany. Weather and traffic were fine as adrenalin began to wear off and we established our routine. We decided to rotate drivers every four hours and service the car every eight hours. The first driver would hit the rack at that first service stop and we followed that rotation at each additional service stop.

Upon reaching Albany, we made a planned detour to allow our route to include the northern New England states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. We selected US 4, a route that took us 250 miles through Rutland, Claremont and Concord before reaching Portsmouth. US 4 was then mostly a two-lane road with limited passing and speed limits as low as 30 MPH for many towns. One advantage, we drove on a Saturday night when traffic was light. From Portsmouth, we crossed over the Piscataqua River to Kittery, Maine, paid our respects to the Pine Tree State before turning onto I-95 for the long journey to Florida.

As planned, we crossed through NYC about 7am and began our second day somewhere in New Jersey. Sunday took us through DC, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. We did not exit onto I-10 in Jacksonville but continued south until Daytona Beach where we transferred to I-4 for the run to Tampa. (Although this detour cost us an additional 425 miles, we considered it to be the correct route not to exclude I-4.)

Interstate-75 sent us back north to I-10. Day 3 began near Tallahassee where we navigated a gap of 264 miles in Interstate-10 using US 90 that slowed our progress until Pensacola. Back on I-10 we headed west through the night passing Mobile, New Orleans and Houston before reaching Fort Stockton, Texas and the start of Day 4.

We cruised through Texas, New Mexico and into Arizona where we witnessed the power, beauty and fury of nature as the night exploded courtesy of a powerful electrical storm in the desert. Never had I participated in an event like that before and never would again. It was still dark when we reached San Diego and the Pacific Ocean.

Day 5 found outside Fresno heading north on Interstate-5, destination, Seattle and Interstate-90. We were forced to transverse several gaps along this stretch of I-90 before we could cross into Idaho. We reached Lake Coeur D’Alene close to the start of our sixth day where we were blessed by the sight of that lake in the morning sun. It dazzled like a jewel.

I also experienced a far less pleasant episode as we exited the Cascade Mountains. Pollen invaded the car bringing on an asthma attack that forced me to put my nose and mouth right up to the A/C vent and breathe deeply for several minutes before I found relief. The big sky country accompanied us for most of the daylight hours before we slid into darkness of North Dakota and Minnesota.

A sunrise west of St. Paul greeted us and in the next ten-hours, we buzzed by Chicago and turned south at Toledo for the last run on I-75 for Findlay. We reached the Imperial’s parking at about 7 PM on Friday evening making our total elapsed time: 6 days, 10 hours, and 30 minutes.

Once the formalities ended, I made my way home to sleep, clean up and begin my preparations for my wedding ceremony the following Saturday. Comments about my journey, both positive and negative, consumed my poor bride and me at our reception.

As I look back on our trip, I can’t help but smile. None of us had travelled extensively at that stage in our lives and this adventure gave us the opportunity to see our country in all its geographical glory.

For me it was also an excellent bachelor party.