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Driving South To Central America – First Leg – California To Ohio

The Beginning of a Monumental Trip

Months of planning and preparation have finally come to fruition. We packed up both our cars and left California to Ohio.  Shelly's car is still being paid off and we weren't going to drive it to Central America, so we decided to take her car to Ohio and store it at my parents house. We bought 2 cargo bags that are supposed to be used indoors called Rhino Bags,to store the cars in outdoors.  We highly recommend them very durable and one size fits all.  We figured that two bags outside with some rat poison and desiccant between the two bags would be enough to store the care outside on my parent's property while we travel.

Buying Chester Cherokee

We sold our RAV4 and bought an $1800 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4x4 with 168,000 miles that we affectionately now call Chester. The jeep had a few issues. I replaced front shocks with some heavy-duty Bilstein shocks and the backs I applied some adjustable ProComp MX6 Adjustable Monoshocks. I fixed some leaks in the transmission and transfer case as well. There were some other minor fixes and after a month of working on it, we were ready to drive, what ended up being 7860 miles to the Mexican Border.  California to Ohio was only the first leg. 




Outside Of Flagstaff

California to Ohio

California to Ohio

We left California to Ohio in the afternoon on August 24th after getting a 6 shot espresso latte drink from our favorite coffee place called Black Rock in Oceanside. We bought another to stash in our cup holders for later in the morning when we might need it. The drive through the Mojave Desert was hard. Probably the hardest of the trip. Shelly started feeling tired within a few hours and I started getting tired around 2am. We decided to travel at night because it would be easier on our cars and less traffic and construction makes for a better drive.

Also driving during the day in the desert in a loaded down Jeep that had no previous history with us, was just begging for a break down. We downed our other 6 shots and pressed on. Needless to say, neither of us felt right and figured it wasn't such a great idea to drive a boring stretch of desert at night, with no one on the road, with 12 shots in us. I think I even hallucinated a little. I definitely thought my heart was palpitating.  In hindsight, maybe 12 shots were too much.



Coming Into Amarillo, Texas

California to Ohio
California to Ohio
California to Ohio

Flagstaff to Oklahoma City

We stopped in the mid AM hours of day 1 in Flagstaff to find a hotel and sleep a little. We left Flagstaff in the late afternoon and made it as far as Amarillo, Texas without a problem. In the early morning hours we hit our first of what seemed like a million rain storms. It was hard-driving into the east-rising sun with rain and mist from rush hour traffic obscuring our view of the road. The sunrise before we hit the rain and Amarillo was beautiful.  We had bought a really good waterproof car top carrier made by Keeper. We also bought before leaving a roof rack cage made by Curt. They both worked great with each other to keep our stuff bone dry and safe in the heavy rain, bugs and wind.  

The day had a weird mustard-yellow look to it because of the sun peaking through the clouds low on the horizon casting its light against the rain. I'm sure there were a few rainbows behind us, but I couldn't take my eyes off the road long enough to see. We made it through Amarillo and stopped outside of town for some more coffee. We wanted to make it to Oklahoma City that day and stay a day or so with my sister who lives there.



Chester and Shelly's Car

California to Ohio

Oklahoma City to St. Louis

We finally made it to Oklahoma City and we loved it! It was great to see family and spend some time resting. We left the following morning and decided to start day tripping our way to Ohio instead of at night. We made as far as St. Louis, MO and got a hotel. Every stop we had made so far we dreaded unloading the Jeep. The roof rack we bought was loaded with things we were taking to Central America and the Back Cargo area and half the backseat was also full to the roof. Shelly's car had a few boxes in the trunk and Buddha our dog, was in the front seat with her..



Construction All The Way

California to Ohio
California to Ohio
California to Ohio

Hoping our Jeep Doesn't Get Broken Into

Unloading everything we owned and bringing it into a hotel simply made my skin crawl and back ache. Gladly at this point we hadn't had to do it yet. In Flagstaff, we were parked during the day and in Oklahoma City, we were in a nice neighborhood with security lights on the driveway.  St. Louis was another story. The problems in Ferguson had just happened and we didn't know what the civil unrest would be in St. Louis and were worried about staying there a little. Our hotel however was in an industrial park outside of the downtown area and we felt it was safer than the suburbs. It started raining again when we arrived to the hotel and decided to take our chances not unloading the Jeep. We woke up that morning and found that the Jeep was fine. No signs of break-ins.

The next morning we drove to the St. Louis Arch and found a Starbucks and continued on the day of driving that would get us to Ohio that evening. Rain and more rain, construction through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio made things slow at times, but we made it to Ohio around 9pm. On our trip from California to Ohio,  we realized that the roads in the United States were an endless line of construction down I-40 and I-70. Road conditions were less than good. In a loaded down 4x4 with great shocks, I could still feel every pothole and shift in levels of recently asphalted roads and grated areas waiting to be asphalted. No problems with the Jeep or Shelly's car and we made it safely in 4 days.



Sunrises Heading East

California to Ohio
California to Ohio
California to Ohio

Change in Perspective

One of the most impressive things were the sunrises each morning of our night driving. There is something magical about driving east and watching the sunrise. Changing landscapes and colors in the sky with storms in the distance provided some truly breathtaking views. The sunsets on the way to Ohio were not as spectacular or we just didn't see them as they were in our rear view mirror.

The sunrise has a symbolic edge to it as does the sunsets.  The start of a new day, the beginning of something unknown.  Sunrises are beautiful sometimes, however it's their symbolism that makes them even more so.  The fact that the darkness is going away.  That we have something to look forward to.

Each day is a new start.  No matter what happened yesterday, the new day brings new challenges, joys and a new set of problems.  We are embarking on the unknown, with a new vehicle (for us, but not new at all) packed to the gills getting ready to drive through Mexico and Central America.  We are excited and nervous for what we might encounter.  The new day for us and metaphoric sunrise is leaving the US for an indefinite amount of time.  Happy, hopeful and it is beautiful to see the new set of challenges the future holds for us.

California to Ohio Video

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