Toronto to Dallas Roadtrip




Day One

…Well I actually didn’t leave because I’m lazy

Day Two

The halo of America starts to flood in as I leave a “Canadian” Timmies while gently cruising down the 401 towards Detroit. Lowered F150. A C3 Corvette Stingray. And finally, as I’m approaching Windsor, a desolate 3-lane highway which is reminiscent of the once effervescent industry relationships between Detroit and Toronto.

Near the edge of the imaginary border in the middle of the Detroit, I’m waiting for the custom to clear. The whole procedure lasted an eternity… of five minutes. This was a Sunday: the vast majority of cars are Ontarian and coming back from the US. Even cars going to Michigan are mostly Ontarian.

Contrary to previous border crossing, my biggest concern was not at all that my fruits get confiscated because they don’t have a sticker proving they’re produce from USA or Canada, nor that I’d have to go back to Canada to drop my firewood (yes, I have had to do cross the border 3 times within half an hour because I wanted to bring firewood for camping). I was just focusing on not embarrassingly stalling my car in front or near the Border Patrol officer.

Arrived in Detroit. Not so bad at the first glance.

I covered all potentially appearing-as-valuable objects inside the car; locked it; locked it again; went to see the Michigan Visitor center. Of course, it’s closed. Who in the right mind travels to Detroit on a Sunday. Or any day…

The hotel where I’m staying looks quite impressive: on the outside and the inside. The arc-shaped building actually reminds me of my hometown’s (Qingdao) City Hall. Hint: new Chinese government buildings are excessively imposing.

The lighting effects, the center void as well as the exposed elevator could host a Star Wars parliament.

Its occupancy though… Like five percent? I count less than 30 cars; the hotel has 14 floors with more than 40 rooms each. The restaurant served one table that day.

Led by curiosity, I took a detour off the safety of the Interstate, and voyaged back into downtown through local streets. “don’t stop the car, don’t stop the car, …”

Despite my expectations, I still felt quite disillusioned by the quasi-apocalyptic environment created by broken houses, demolished houses, or simply the lack of houses in clearly what was previously a regular residential lot. Surprisingly, the streets are clean. Maybe it’s the wind? Maybe it’s the disturbing absence of life on any street?

The various architecture in the heart of downtown exhumes the past of the once glorious and industrious metropolis. The $0.75 rail still stands tall in Motor City.

Day Three

The Ford Rouge Museum / Factory

Home of chains of production chains and vertical integration

Final assembly of the all new F-150. It’s not an engineering marvel, but nevertheless a major overhaul of the symbol of America with its aluminium chassis and EcoBoost engines rather defaulting to VEE-A-MORRORS (This is how Jeremy Clarkson impersonates Americans saying V8 Motor).

Somehow, this massive campus of industrialisation, engineering and cars feel more modest, just like the imposing yet honest cars & trucks produced there for the average hard-working American. Things are where they’re supposed to be, so are overly complicated machines doing very simple tasks and so are humans (the process is a lot more manual than I thought).

The only exciting feature is the continuously moving production chain and the number of cars at all stages which show the progress of the manufacturing process. This is based on the expectation from working in an aircraft engine manufacturer, where production per day is … well low. The museum is more nostalgic than futuristic, just like the entire city.

I found out on my way to Cincinnati that road constructions in this part of the country request semi-trucks to be on the left side of the road. Makes sense. They see better the concrete divider since it’s on the driver side now. Problem: you pass on the right. Well actually you don’t pass at all, since some trucks and slow cars are still on the right side.

Also, it feels like final destination sometimes.

Day Four

Cincinnati. Apparently another “once great” city, although it has not experience any spectacular downfall of Detroit’s magnitude. Simply a lack of revolutionary boom.

I didn’t have time to tour downtown. Also, the hilly and unpaved streets don’t seem too inviting for my low, stiff and manual car.

I walked around this Central Park type of space on hill near downtown. Quite a lot of classical hints such as an agora. Maybe the Roman dictator’s name isn’t just an homage to George Washington who voluntarily gave up his president title after two terms, or the city’s famous Greek-inspired chili.

Toyota Factory

This is much less of a touristic trap than Ford’s. A tramway actually takes people on the floor of the factory. The home of the Kanban doesn’t disappoint. Boards everywhere. Although the output of 2000 cars a day and the sheer size of the factory is comparable to Fords, the presentation makes everything quite more astounding.

The passion is still just in quality and efficiency. Not the car though. Corvette's factory should be more promising in that aspect.

Simply KFC

Met with the others at another landmark. “It was however, from this very building that Kentucky Fried Chicken grew into a world-wide organization.” And from this point forward, our diet completely shifted into a true Southwestern one: fried / BBQ / veggie-less / carb-heavy.

This is a fossil. Now look at it. Ok great, I don’t have much to say about it.

Day Five

Corvette museum and factory. Finally some passion for the car guy. Despite popularity of ‘Vettes on the streets which diminishes some of its “flair”, despite my general preference to modern automotive engineering and design, the amalgamation of old and new Corvettes, in addition to its rich history, definitively leaves an emotional memory.

Unlike the other two, this factory is not focused on scale. Rightfully so.

I wish they made 2000 Corvettes a day, rather than 170. They were saying 99% pass rate at the final quality check. But that’s only 2-3 sigmas…


This romantic setting, created by shitty lighting and shitty focus and dead bugs and crap on the windshield, finally pushed me into adhering to the one rule of Road Trips: avoid Interstates and take side roads.

Nashville’s great, I guess. Apparently great things happen in those looks-sketchy-but-actually-quite-renown-back-alleys. I say "Apparently" because we were too busy taking pictures… because walking and taking pictures is the only way to distract ourselves from the long wait at the restaurant.

AT&T’s building is actually Mordor? Seems about right.
Beer Salad on the left; meat salad on the right

You want what now? Leaves? What don't you take some that's pre-processed by machines or, better yet, pork and chicken?

Day Six

I see visually management has caught up with our “youth”.

This is also as much as I know about Country, since it's pretty much Country-inspired Pop music

The Country Museum Hall of Fame cambered the notion of Hillbilly for me. These walls echo the post-war prosperity, the cultural creativity aimed towards artistic beauty rather than spectators’ shock, the era’s ingenuity and people’s unity.

Classy, Exquisite

The tour through Elvis’ actual studio, RCA Studio B, created another out-of-cranium experience for my overly rational brain. Something, something, something about imperfect location, suboptimal instruments, and inaccurate humans producing greatness because of the human chemistry and human feel of good art.

Enough of American art. Let's get some Jack Daniels.

"Not Bourbon, Whiskey"

Jokes aside, Jack Daniels does exude some sense of "refinement". Maybe it's the contrast to moonshine. Industrial, yes. Both in terms of grandeur and cleanliness. Perfect to add some manliness juice...

But then you find out that the founder died because he kicked this safe and his toe got infected.

Bruhhhhhhhh ...

Mall is to America what ... Never mind. Mall is America, and America is Mall. CAPITALISM. In the middle of nowhere is erected: a parking lot, stores, restaurants and a church.

Very Harmonious Colour Composition

Day Seven

Sweet home Alabama.

Let the driving begin.

I don't know, man, these just seem like the right pop culture thing to say.

Sign of Freedom

Despite popular depiction of the state, Alabama is actually quite a lovely state. Geologically, it has the sandy Timber Belt along the coast of Gulf of Mexico and deep caves in the mountainous North.

We were there for the holes.

The lusciously curvy roads were just a nice surprise. A very nice surprise, to finally let my car free into the wild. Oh the balance and the stability. Such neutral words to describe one of the most exciting experience yet.

Given the crescendo of respect and admiration of Southern culture, I really started to connect with the ruggedness of the backwoods, the incredible warmness of people to whom we ask directions and the homemade ingenuity.

So much that we agreed to follow a stranger with pistols and knifes into his backyard cave. So i casually left a trail of blood, in order to discourage hiding our trails and hiding our bodies. Just kidding. My nose bled.

So here we are. I'll refrain from making the obvious remarks about the shape of the hole we're heading into, because audience.

Yes, there's a string coming out of it...

Never has going down on, i mean into, something felt so laborious and rewarding. Far from claustrophobic, the different compartments in pit connect to each other in a playful manner. A stream coming out of rocks and feeding into more rocks enhanced the mystery. Serenity percolates.

The previous cavernous adventures I've undertaken felt artificial. Yes, those cavities' size distorted the sense of space, but had so much lighting and human additions to it such as ramps (the worst being the addition of humans).

U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama

Military. Inhumanity. Humanity.

Technology. Discovery. Morality.

Wars make cool stuff appear, and people disappear. The US space program got some help from post-war German engineers. That whole air knowledge had something to do with the USSR. History isn't pretty.

V rocket and Saturn V

Space. For some reason, I feel a special connection with this vast, empty entity devoid of emotions. The infinity and possibility is such a playground for my imagination and my physical exploration.



Mall: current definition of the American Dream
#Subaru #Mercedes #Ferrari


Axis countries sure know how to make automobiles after the war.

"Make Cars, Not Wars" ... ?

The hotel where we stayed was quite sketchy and has the same procedure of entering the main room as a bank's vault for personal safe deposits.

Day Eight

Today we go to New Orleans, right in the middle of Easter. Easter is important in NOLA, right? It's directly related to Mardi Gras and its ex-French-colony culture makes it pretty religious?

Unfortunately one of our cars broke its diff.

Fortunately another one broke some personal record (obligatory "did not take place on public roads").

We stopped at Hattiesburg to sort out the car issues. Neat little town which astounds visitors with its literal cleanness of the street, the buildings' bricks, the lawn,...

I wouldn't call it cultural shock given the location and the relationship of locals with those soldiers, but the not so subtle hint of sympathy towards the Confederates clearly indicates our position: Deep South.

Other interesting fact: every other store is an attorney's office: again representing the world's best economy, America and its tertiary service sector. If lawyer just keep fighting each other, GDP goes up right?


The flatness of New Orleans seems almost artificial. While I usually desperately look for curved roads in my driving experiences, the ridiculously long and straight stretches become an admiration exercice of the orderly disposition.


NOLA. Actual Sin City of the United States.

Fearless (Stupid) me Circa 2015 (so not that long time ago)

And... I stayed here on my first visit. Courage pill before venturing into Mexico alone? Maybe.

My sole knowledge of New Orleans to this point was the recent

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oliver x

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