Week 44 – Florida to Waterloo, Canada

The road trip is over! Over the last 13 weeks we’ve completed a big loop of USA and Canada racking up a total of 21,768kms. The map below will help put the grandness of our journey in perspective.

Map 14
These are all the places we’ve visited in the last 3 months

I’m really proud of Anna and myself for undertaking this epic journey and completing it without issue. We didn’t even have a grand plan for the trip, we just made it up as we went, and we managed to do and see so much. I’m very thankful that we didn’t have any issues with the car, like flat tyres or breakdowns or damage. Sure, we could’ve picked a car that was more comfortable or practical, but the BRZ was so much fun to drive and was cheap to run. The only thing that saddens me is that we now have to sell our beloved BRZ over the next month. I’ve included some interesting statistics on the road trip at the end of the post if you’re interested, but I should update you on the week that was.

While we were enjoying the warm weather and sunshine of Florida I was keeping my eye on the weather forecasts up north to make sure that we wouldn’t be caught out by any snow storms. It was becoming apparent that some heavy snow falls were on their way, so we decided that we’d take four days to get home. We didn’t want to just drive back without seeing anything on the way, so we decided to head slightly west to go up through Tennessee and Kentucky. The snowfall started on our third day of driving but it was quite light. The real snowfall came the day after our arrival so we timed our 2,215km journey perfectly.

Map 13
Our drive this week (week 13)

We headed up through Georgia and spent our first night just north of Atlanta, the home of Coca-Cola. We considered seeing if there was factory tour that you could do but we decided to press on and wait for Coca-Cola’s perfect partner… Jack Daniel’s. We went for a tour of the distillery which is in Lynchburg, Tennessee. I never realised this but their distillery is the oldest registered distillery in USA and the tour did a good job of covering the historical aspects. It’s amazing to see how primitive the operation is with the old stills and barrels. Considering that all of the Jack Daniel’s whiskey in the world comes from this one location, I was shocked to learn that only four people are required to operate the distillery. That’s just to produce the whiskey though, with the bulk of the employees working on barreling, warehousing and bottling. Lynchburg is a tiny town with not a whole lot going on but when you look around the hilltops you see barrel houses tucked away everywhere. This is because the whiskey is matured in the barrels for 3-6 years before being bottled. The tour finished with some samples of their two liqueurs and their more premium single barrel whiskeys. All of them were very nice, but I still prefer whiskey with Coke. Perhaps I’m not mature enough.

After the tour we decided to walk around Lynchburg for a look so I could have some time to sober up (just kidding). The hilarious thing about Lynchburg is that it’s a dry county! They produce all that whiskey but aren’t allowed to sell it there. The locals drive to the next town over to buy it which seems crazy to us. We had the whole afternoon free so we decided to head to Nashville for a look around the country music capital of the world. After finding a car spot around the corner from the Johnny Cash museum, we went for a wander down the music strip where we were bombarded with country music that was blaring from every bar and store. We looked through some stores and poked our heads into some live music venues, and we were amazed with how active the place was for a Monday afternoon. We’re not really country music people but we did enjoy looking at the cowboy stores where I was trying to convince Anna that a large stallion belt buckle would go nicely with my suit for work. Anna brought me back to reality though. Even black cowboy boots were out as well. After a couple of hours we made tracks for North Nashville for a hotel. We had come up with a system of staying just north of town to avoid any rush hour traffic when we were departing in the morning.

The next day we drove through Kentucky to Ohio. Unfortunately our race against time didn’t allow for sightseeing, but I insisted that we stop for Kentucky’s best export… KFC. Anna doesn’t love Dirty Bird the way I do, but even she agreed it was pretty good. This was our third day of driving and the temperature gauge continued to fall as we headed north. As the snow started falling Anna checked the forecast and noted that heavy falls would be coming to Ontario sooner than we thought. We decided to push on that third day to make the last day shorter. The overnight temperatures reached -14 in Findlay that night and I was very excited to finally have the chance to use our snow scraper & brush that Tom bought for us in Calgary. Being the rookie that I am, I undertook the task without gloves and the novelty wore off quite quickly.

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KFC in Kentucky

Even though it was really cold the roads were much better than the day before and the drive was much easier than anticipated. We still didn’t take a chance by arriving late in the day and headed straight for Waterloo. It will sound silly, but it was only at the border crossing in Detroit that it really sank in that the road trip was coming to an end. I was quite distracted from that point as I thought about everything that we had achieved and all the things that we had seen. I was looking forward to some rest time in Waterloo over Christmas, but I was sad that the road trip was almost over. After missing a turn and realising that I need to focus, our first stop in Canada was Tim Horton’s of course for a coffee and a donut – the coffee is definitely better than anything we found in USA. Over coffee we talked about the different parts of the road trip and I know it’s something that we’ll always cherish. We are so fortunate that we are able to do such a big trip like this and these are memories that we’ll speak about for the rest of our lives. With mixed feelings we turned into the driveway of Anna’s parent’s house and finished the trip without incident.

Anna’s parents were delighted to see us and were very surprised with the snowfalls on the way. It looked like I was going to be treated to not only a white Christmas, but a white birthday as well, both of which I’ve never had. When we woke up on Thursday morning everything was blanketed in snow. For an Australian, this is something fun and exciting and I was itching to get outside and play with the snow. I resisted the temptation to throw snowballs at Anna while we did some snow shovelling to clear the paths, but the real fun was to come the next day…

Friday was my 32nd birthday but more importantly this was the day I had my first turn of a snow-blower! Being a male I love gadgets, but being an Aussie male I love gadgets that rumble and roar. Essentially it’s like a lawn mower that chops up the snow and sends it shooting whichever way you point the chute, but I’ve now realised that it involves some planning otherwise you keep going over the same parts or the wind blows it back all over you. I was terribly inefficient at clearing the snow but I had so much fun. Anna kept laughing at me with my Cheshire cat grin as I carved a path of destruction in the snow. Fortunately for me there should be plenty of snow to play with over the next few weeks. Another first for me was going to select a live Christmas tree. I’ve only ever had plastic Christmas trees in Australia and they’re always perfectly symmetrical. I didn’t realise that so many trees on sale aren’t that symmetrical, but we sifted through and found a great one.

I was very spoiled for my birthday with Anna’s parent’s buying me a 1:16 scale replica of our BRZ. They know how much I love the car and how hard it will be for me to sell it. This model will make it slightly easier to sell the car. When we return to Australia I’ll have to find a special place to keep the model so it can serve as a reminder of our trip. The spoiling continued as we had a grand Polish breakfast with chocolate & caramel cheesecake for breakfast dessert, and then Anna’s parents took us to the Japanese restaurant in Kitchener (meal of the week 31) for dinner. After dinner my parents Skyped me so they could wish me a happy birthday which felt strange for them since it was the 17th there. They still haven’t adjusted to me being away for birthdays. To finish off the day the four of us relaxed on the lounge to watch a movie and split a bottle of red.

Our original plan for this trip was to return to Sydney mid-January and be back at work in February. One of the places we really wanted to get to on this trip was South America but we struggled to find the time to fit it in. We’re very fortunate that my work has agreed to a 3 month extension on my career break, so we can visit South America before returning. We haven’t planned any of the trip, but we’ll do that over the next few weeks. We’re very excited that we’ve been able to delay our return to reality and adulthood.

Since we’ll be staying put in Waterloo, we’ve decided that we’re going to take a couple of weeks break from the blog and we’ll return in the new year. Hopefully by that stage the car will be sold and our South America plans will be coming together. We’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of our friends and family a fantastic Christmas and New Year celebration.

Cheers,

B&A

Stats on the Road Trip:

  • We drove 21,768kms on the trip and averaged 6.7L/100kms for the whole trip. I’m very impressed with that since it includes all the mountainous roads through the national parks and the 130km/h highways in USA.
  • The total fuel bill AUD$1,452 for the whole road trip which works out less than AUD$1 per litre. You can see Americans still have it pretty good when it comes to gas prices considering the BRZ needs premium.
  • We saw a total 27 states and 3 Canadian provinces on the trip.

Meal of the Week
The clear winner would be the Japanese in Kitchener, but we’ve already had that before. After strolling around the grand township of Lynchburg, we heard that there was a BBQ joint that made a fantastic grilled cheese sandwich with pulled pork on it. It was definitely worth the hype. Especially once we put some hot sauce on it.

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Yummy grilled cheese in Lynchburg, Tennessee

More photos

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