After getting my college degree, multiple EMS certifications and finally, my post-grad license as a PA, I thought I had done all the schooling I needed to get some sweets jobs.
As an undergraduate student, I drove between Texas and California with some regularity. Campus was outside of San Jose and home was Dallas. It was about 1700 miles and, after a few trips, I had it down to two days. One 16-18 hour day from Dallas to Phoenix and then another slightly shorter day from Phoenix to the Bay Area. The whole trip was timed to attempt to avoid LA traffic. Those attempts inevitably failed. I usually did the drive solo. I enjoyed it. The open road, windows down, tunes up, sunglasses on and shirt off. There is an appeal. The Great American Road Trip. I got to see parts of the country seldom visited. I always stopped at the same gas station in the Midland-Odessa area, mostly because the owner-operator was batshit insane in a very classic west-Texas fashion and I looked forward to seeing what new conspiracy theories he was peddling at each visit.
When I lived in Ohio, I decided to drive to Philadelphia for a Halloween party. It turns out Akron to Philly is a lot longer than I anticipated. But it was a great party, so I’ve got no complaints. Playing mens rugby in Austin involved trips to play against New Orleans or Little Rock or even our neighbors three hours away in Dallas. Those trips were fantastic. Teammates packed into vans, whiling away the hours with tall tales and bold-faced lies.
I love getting on the road.
I thought I had done, more or less, the epic American road trip. I now know better. I have seen what a real road trip is. I learned that this weekend.
The South Pole Traverse is a road trip that starts at McMurdo Station and, about 1035 miles later, door-to-door, they arrive at the South Pole. They drive across the sea ice, parallel to the Transantarctic Mountains. Then, they bank a right and creep up the Leverett Glacier, round the tip of the Transantarctics, and deadhead across the Plateau to South Pole. It took them 28 days this year. They average about 8 miles/hr.
It’s a convoy of about 10 guys and multiple tractors. The lead tractor is helmed by a mountaineer with a ground radar on a boom looking for crevasses. Which they occasionally have to fill in. With explosives. There will be multiple trips made throughout the summer season, but the first one has to blaze the trail after the long winter. So not only is it “open road” in a tractor, but they, occasionally, have to make the road. With explosives.
10 guys with a berthing module with double bunks (bigger than the berthings in a Los Angeles class nuclear submarine, but not by much) that gets dragged behind a large tractor. 10 guys with a small kitchen/shower/laundry module that gets dragged behind a large tractor. 10 guys in tractors dragging bladders full of fuel, to the tune of about 100,000 gallons of fuel. This is the fuel that will keep the South Pole station running through the winter. 10 guys in tractors with 12 guys worth of beards and pony tails.
Every year the lead rig on the first Traverse (usually of 3 in a summer season) is staffed by a professional mountaineer. It may just be that I have to go back to “school” to get my guide cert because: 10 guys, 6 or 8 giant tractors, 1 Pisten Bully with a GPS/radar boom. And a whole mess of explosives. Now that is the Great American/Antarctican Road trip.