The story starts five years before I actually did the trip. In December of 1993, I had just finished graduate school at the University of California at Davis and had begun work at a fairly unpleasant “old economy” office job in Suisun, California. I had always enjoyed driving, and in fact had worked for three summers in college as a truck driver for California’s central valley tomato harvest, gaining some 100,000 miles of tractor-trailer experience. This new office job only offered two weeks of annual vacation, which was significantly less than what I’d become accustomed to during my years as a student, and I began to wonder how I could make the most efficient use of this limited time off.
The problem with having only two weeks of vacation per year is that this leaves you with generally only one week off in the summer, the other week generally burned up at the Christmas holidays. Living in California, and liking the West as I do, I’d enjoy visiting the National Parks, the mountains, the deserts, etc. But the fundamental limitation of a single week’s summer vacation is that by the time you drive out there, get set up and relax, it’s time to pack up and come home.
While it’s true that, now, in the Year 2000, I’m self-employed and have a lot more flexibility in planning my vacations, back then I was assuming that I’d be an office-bound employee for the rest of my career, and I already felt that having only a week off in the summer just wasn’t going to be satisfactory. It occurred to me that rather than moan about the limitations of this schedule, I could find a way to maximize my enjoyment and prove to myself that I could actually get a lot done in a week off. Thus, an idea came to mind: the best way to prove that I really could “go somewhere” in a week’s vacation, was to “go everywhere”, by visiting all 50 states.
So the ground rules were set: I needed to leave work on a Friday afternoon at 5:00 PM, and return to work nine and a half days later, on Monday morning, at 8:00 AM, having visited all 50 states in the interim.