Plato, Henry David Thoreau, Arthur Dent and Alton Brown all found enlightenment and self-discovery with the added perspective of distance provided by the open road. I know where I'm going, I have a basic schedule, but I don't have any idea what I will find. Traveling from one ocean to the other in a brand-new car and bringing along a laptop--what a dream trip.

My journey begins at an airport terminal in Orange County, California. I'm mingling with two dichotic yet intermixed pools, like separating salad dressing, of artificially tanned, fast-talking, gold-festooned hustlers dying to get out of the prosaic Golden State alongside bright-faced, blonde-haired starlets in dread of the unwelcoming Garden State. Airports are funny, they bring in all types and force them to deal with each other.

I normally hate cross-country flying. The seats are too narrow, the view too monotonous and the food too terrible. This flight, however, I'm excited. There's nothing that will stand in such juxtaposition to the next five days as this flight. It's still a horrible five hours, but I almost enjoy its misery.

Landing in Newark is the same as at any other airport. The wheels bounce a few times, a giant sigh goes up from the plane's organic cargo and all is well. It's after you leave the plane that things change. People here are extremely self-focused. It's as if others don't exist, or are just obstacles in their way. Baggage claim is a battle and your own belongings are the spoils of war. I wait for the flailing to subside before charging in to get my bags and head for an awaiting shuttle.

I arrive at the car valet expecting a swift delivery. Instead, it's the first hiccup of the trip. The car isn't ready. Apparently, a scheduling error has occurred and it will take a little while to get the MINI. I sit on the bench outside and enjoy a surprisingly cool, breezy evening with a beautiful golden sunset. The valets are winding down for the day and join me in my appreciation of the nice weather. Two of them are from the West African country of Ghana. They ask me questions about California and what it's like. One of them talks about moving west, talking about the beautiful weather and endless possibilities. Manifest Destiny is still very much a part of the American Dream, especially for those who have recently become American. The MINI Cooper S arrives, a bright red vision glowing under fluorescent lights. Sean Lobosco from MINI North America hands over the keys and it is ours for an entire year. I shake hands with everyone, pass out some magazines and drive off on the 3,000-mile adventure back home.

The next morning, I decide that some shots of the new Cooper S by the Atlantic would be appropriate, since the end of the journey would be overlooking the Pacific. I drive an hour south and east, eventually finding the start of the country. It becomes immediately apparent that the roads in this area are not meant for easy navigation, but are threaded around whatever happened to be there first. I find a beach, but nothing I can get near with the subject. Locals inform me of an old lighthouse out on a sandbar. I'm given a point in the general vicinity, rather than actual directions. I scour the coast for well over an hour, but to no avail. With noon approaching, I settle for a semi-picturesque spot.

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