Maria and Derek's Travels

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Art of the Roadtrip - Eastern US Capitals

August 28, 2017 - September 21, 2017

48 state capitals and one long roadtrip.  That was the original idea, though it has changed a bit since inception.

Back in Atlanta and needing a trip to fill some time between some bigger trips and family events this summer, we decided a roadtrip was in order.  So we searched the area and found a reliable used car that doubles as a mini campervan.  A 2003 Honda Element.  These are great little cars with a very unique look - people either love them or hate them, and we were in the latter group until changing our mind on them a few years ago.

We found a great used Element - high mileage but still in very nice condition with a great service history, so we had it checked out by a few mechanics, talked our way into a week long "test drive", did some bargaining and were ready to go.  Turns out that Elements are a kind of cult car with a very devoted following, and now with "Toasty", we're part of the club!

Being able to convert the car and use it as a camper will save us a lot of time and money, and more importantly, it will be a great adventure.

We came across a helpful and inspirational website of a professor that did some work with optimizing routes (similar to the Traveling Salesman problem in mathematics), and he came up with the "optimal" route to hit all 48 state capitals (capitol buildings).  So we're doing a truncated version of this, covering 23 states and Washington DC, and we'll hopefully do the Western portion of this next year.  Here's his site, in case you want to learn more.

Please follow along with our journey and be sure to leave comments for us...otherwise I feel like I'm just talking to myself...

Our projected route - beginning in Atlanta, heading Northeast up to New England, circling around, West through Pennsylvania, up to Michigan and then winding our way back down to Atlanta by the end of September.
"Toasty" - our 2003 Honda Element passing by the skyline of Atlanta.  (The name comes from the fact that many people think these boxy cars look like a toaster on wheels.)

The Elements are super versatile, so we're using it as a car and a mini campervan for our trip.  In one configuration, the front seats and back seats fold down flat together, creating a great place for sleeping in the car.  Note the sunroof and huge windows, giving the car a lot of light.  In addition, the boxy style gives us tons of headroom.

The back seats can also be folded up against the side of the car to provide plenty of room for carrying stuff or sleeping on the floor of the car.  We will be picking up a storage platform in New York from a fellow Element enthusiast and will have our bed on top of the platform and our gear stored underneath.

Instead of true camping mattresses, we're using two small foam mattresses cut to fit perfectly into the car.  In this picture, you can see how they fit perfectly with the front seats folded forward.  When we get the platform, we'll simply put these up on top of the platform and have plenty of room to store our things below.


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Taking advantage of our laptop lifestyle and wandering this world together. Maria Renee is an online health and fitness coach, and Derek is an actuarial seminar instructor. Traveling together since 2015. Also see

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