Over the last 2 weeks, I drove my Aston Martin 6,522 miles across the United States, from Philadelphia to California and back. I reached 19 U.S. states. I visited three national parks. I spent 15 nights on the road. I met nearly 800 readers and viewers. I substantially devalued my car. I received one speeding ticket. And I am absolutely, unequivocally exhausted.
This is the story of what it’s like to take an Aston Martin on a 6,522-mile, 2-week road trip across the country. It’s long, but I suspect many of you will find it interesting. For those of you who want to check out all the numbers from my trip — like fuel economy, distance traveled and cost — that post is coming up later this afternoon. It has spreadsheets. See the 2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage models for sale near you
I left Philadelphia at 10:20 a.m. on Friday, September 9. By noon, I decided I had made an enormous mistake. I’m serious. After the initial excitement of getting out on the open road wore off, all I could think was, "I can’t believe I’m going to be driving for the next 2 weeks."
But I felt like I had to do this, because I promised myself when I got my Aston Martin at the end of last year that I would drive it 20,000 miles in one calendar year in order to really test out the now-famous bumper-to-bumper warranty. When I left, I was sitting at something like 12,500 miles in 9 months. The only way I’d reach the magic number was a road trip like this.
And so, I pressed on, and on, and on, and on and on until, after 3,087 miles of travel, I finally reached Lake Almanor in Northern California, where I was attending my fiancee’s annual family vacation. Then I had to drive all the way back.
Of course, there were a few highlights along the way. For example, in Cleveland, I drove a Porsche Carrera GT. I would say that was the overall highlight of the trip — and perhaps my life — but even better things happened the following week. I’ll get to that in a second.
First, some other highlights. In Indiana, the E-ZPass toll barrier gave me a green light, so I started to drive through it, and then the gate came down on my roof anyway. Fortunately, there was no damage. Between Illinois and Iowa, I crossed the beautiful Mississippi River and soon discovered that Des Moines is actually kind of cool (who knew?). I visited the University of Nebraska football stadium (dubbed Memorial Stadium with no apparent indication as to who was being memorialized), which is the size of Latvia. In the middle of Nebraska, I saw the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Then I got off the interstate and checked out some seriously small towns in western Nebraska and eastern Colorado. At one point, someone asked me if my Aston Martin was a Bentley.
After spending a night with my parents in Denver, I drove through the Rocky Mountains and visited the beautiful, criminally underrated state of Utah, full of gorgeous red cliffs and amazing photo opportunities. On Tuesday morning, September 13, I released a video where I mentioned I got a windshield chip in Nebraska from a rock strike. I thought I’d have to carry this chip across the country and risk it spreading to a full-on crack, but a viewer who works at Glass Mechanix, a Salt Lake City-based company that makes chip-repair products, saw my video and tweeted me. By noon, it was fixed — with all efforts to pay strongly rebuffed. Trail magic.
It’s a good thing the windshield was fixed, because I was soon going 145 miles per hour on the Bonneville Salt Flats, a few hours west of Salt Lake City — a truly unforgettable experience. Then it was on to the most beautiful part of any cross-country trip: a drive across northern Nevada, which is full of amazing, desolate, lonely mountains and gorgeous sky that stretches forever. Soon, I was in California, undoubtedly home to the ugliest "Welcome To" border signs.
After a few days at the family vacation, I was back behind the wheel on Saturday, September 17. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to wake up after 3,087 miles of driving and just 3 days of relaxing and know that you now have to do it all again. Worse, that day was especially hard because it was the dullest, most uninspiring drive of the trip. Although you might think of Oregon as lush, green and full of hipsters with beards the size of wall clocks, the strip of U.S. Highway 95 from McDermitt, Oregon to the Idaho border is the most tedious, monotonous, awful stretch of road anywhere in this country. I never thought I’d be so happy to see the "Welcome to Idaho" sign.
And welcome to Idaho, indeed: Boise was the surprise of the trip. It’s a wonderful city that seems poised to experience the kind of population growth that’s happened in Portland and my own hometown of Denver, Colorado, once people discover it. Driving around Boise’s gorgeous North End, I was calling my fiancee, screaming into the phone, "Why don’t we live in Boise?!?!?" She reminded me that it would be difficult to find Aston Martin service. More on that in a minute.
The drive from Boise to Yellowstone was the scariest of the trip. Although I enjoyed the bizarre landscape of Craters of the Moon National Monument in central Idaho, Google Maps then sent me down some truly desolate roads — offering the alluring "similar ETA" notation — where I absolutely shouldn’t have traveled alone. For more than 25 miles, east of a town called Kilgore, Idaho, I was on dirt road with no other cars in sight. Then the darkness fell. Then I lost cellphone reception. Then I started to see deer all over the side of the road. Then the rain came. At one point, I almost hit an owl. You know you’re probably in the kind of place where it’ll take authorities a couple of days to find your body when you almost hit an owl.
But I made it to my stop that night, and the next day was spent in Yellowstone National Park, which really is as beautiful as everyone says it is. And I will never forget the moment as I was walking along the footpath at the Grand Prismatic Spring — a gorgeous, colorful hot spring known literally the world over for its unique appearance, surrounded by tourists speaking French, German, Russian and Portuguese, taking in the amazing sight of this truly unique natural place — when a man walked up to me and said, "You’re Doug DeMuro! I’ve been thinking about getting a 997 from CarMax!"
And so, there we stood, in one of the most beautiful places on earth, discussing the CarMax warranty.
Not much happened after Yellowstone until I reached rural eastern Montana, when I got a speeding ticket for going 90 mph in an 80-mph zone, the only speeding ticket of my entire trip. This was an amazing experience — the words "I’ve never pulled over an Aston Martin before!" were uttered. I’ll have a full description in a future column.
Two more highlights came next. One was when I entered North Dakota, because it’s the 49th U.S. state I’ve been to, and seeing five new states was a primary purpose for this trip. More importantly, I visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park near the surprisingly quaint town of Medora, North Dakota, where I finally got a picture of my car next to a bison. Then I met up with one single reader who emailed me from a small town in rural western North Dakota ("Eastern North Dakota has all the good stuff," he told me), and I made my way to Bismarck.
The last few days of the trip were a total blur. I worked in the mornings, drove during the day and hosted reader meetups at night. I remember three things. The first is visiting the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere, which is a television tower in rural North Dakota (I’m serious). Next is getting my brake pads changed by the incredibly nice and generous staff at Morrie’s Luxury Auto, the Aston Martin dealer in Minneapolis. And third is screaming with joy when I reached the King of Prussia exit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and I was finally back in the Philadelphia area. I’ve never been so excited to sit in traffic on Interstate 76.
When I bought my Aston Martin at the end of last year, I knew that I planned to drive it across the country and back. I always assumed it would be to Monterey Car Week, in August, but that didn’t work out with my schedule, so I did this instead. What I didn’t know is whether the car would actually make it.
Well, here’s the answer: It. Was. Flawless.
I drove through heavy rainstorms in Minneapolis, high-altitude passes in Colorado and dirt roads in Idaho. I filled it with gas at truck stops in Iowa and in small towns in Nevada. I drove late at night in Montana and through fog in Pennsylvania. I drove in large cities like Chicago, Cleveland and Minneapolis and in incredibly tiny towns like Blanchard, North Dakota, and Jordan Valley, Oregon. And every time I twisted the key or pushed the starter button, my Aston Martin roared to life. It never gave me a fault code, it never told me there was some problem, and it didn’t make any funny noises. It never showed any sign of trouble.
Beyond that, the V8 Vantage never showed any need for a break or any desire to slow down. The temperature gauge stayed perfectly level on the entire trip. The tire pressures never fluctuated. It never scraped on any curbs, entrances or driveways, and it carried all of my stuff — two overnight bags, a computer bag and approximately 87 North Dakota-related souvenirs — without complaint.
The only issue I encountered was a maintenance item: As I was slowing down from my 145-mph run on Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, the brake-pad warning light came on, indicating that my front brake pads were low. With several days’ warning, I was able to take the car to Morrie’s Luxury Auto, the Aston Martin dealer in Minneapolis, and have the pads quickly changed while I waited and drooled over the inventory. Total cost: $1,222.99.
I can’t speak highly enough of this car — and to those of you who considered an Aston Martin but instead chose a Porsche, a Corvette, a Mercedes or a BMW, I have to ask: Do you have a picture of your car next to a bison?
And then there were the meetups — the unquestionable highlight of my trip.
A few days into my journey, I announced meeting locations with readers and viewers in six cities: Boise, Billings, Fargo, Minneapolis, Chicago and Cleveland. I honestly had no idea what to expect. I was blown away.
When I arrived in Boise, I was greeted by a guy named Kyle and his girlfriend, Cheyenne, who had showed up in an FC RX-7 Convertible. I told him it might be just us. It wasn’t: 50 people came out in Boise, and there were some impressive cars, including a Porsche Macan Turbo, an Acura NSX, a clean C5 Corvette Z06 and a Ford Festiva turned into a pickup truck courtesy of YouTuber Braden Carlson. I was also given some excellent detailing products by The Rag Company — which came in handy in rural America, where the only car wash is the high-pressure hose people use to spray their hogs. In the end, I spent 2 hours with everyone and had a great time.
But I also worried. If 50 people showed up in Boise, how big would the meets be in Cleveland? In Minneapolis? In Chicago?
Before I could find out, I hosted a meetup in Billings, Montana, where about 25 people turned up to talk cars in a coffee-shop parking lot. Maybe the most impressive turnout was in Fargo, North Dakota, where 25 people arrived — at 2:30 p.m. on a Wednesday — with a wide selection of cars (including a new Porsche 911 GT3) and some great stories. A few readers in Fargo also gave me some excellent souvenirs, including some tasty snacks, a Fargo mug, a homemade popsicle, some University of North Dakota gear and an awesome North Dakota souvenir vanity license plate reading "DOUGCAR" that I will probably have on my desk for the rest of my life. So after the first three meetups, I thought things were pretty cool.
And then I went to Minneapolis.
We had serious threats of rain in Minneapolis, so I moved the location at the last minute from a public park to the parking garage at the Mall of America, which is the largest shopping mall in the United States. By the time I arrived, so many people had congregated that security was already asking us to leave — although, in true Midwestern form, they graciously directed us to another empty parking lot where we could resume the event. So we did. And as I got out of my car and looked at the crowd, I was completely overwhelmed: More than 150 people showed up in all types of vehicles, ranging from a McLaren 675LT and a Dodge Viper SRT-10 to several Aston Martins, a DeLorean, a Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI, a bright-yellow Chevy Colorado with a stick shift, an old BMW 750iL, a series of gorgeous Volvos and an imported-from-New Zealand Triumph station wagon. A member of the Minnesota Vikings was there. And then the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile showed up. Truly.
When the rain finally did strike after about 2 hours, I drove home in a monsoon — but I still managed to call my fiancee and let her know that after 3 years of doing this whole Internet-car-writing-and-videos thing, I had finally realized, in that moment, that it may actually be a viable career. I will never forget that meetup in Minneapolis, and I sincerely thank everyone who braved the weather and persevered through the maze of location changes just to come say hi.
Not surprisingly, the same scene greeted me in Chicago. Nearly 200 people showed up with an unbelievable assortment of cars, including a Mercedes E63 AMG Wagon, a Lotus Evora, a fellow Aston Martin V8 Vantage, a stick-shift CTS-V Wagon, a Lotus Esprit, two Porsche Cayman GT4s, a Lotus Elise and — I swear this is true — a go-kart powered solely by car alternators. Once again, we were kicked out of our original location after just 5 minutes and had to move into a crowded city park where I wasn’t able to say hello to everyone, a major regret.
Nonetheless, things went great, and the Chicago meetup also brought out the longest-distance traveler: a reader who drove his 1990s BMW 535i all the way from St. Louis to the Chicago suburbs, over 5 hours, just to say hi. If you’re reading this, red-535i guy, send me an email — I’d like to send you a free copy of my book. And maybe give you a hug.
The final meetup was in Cleveland, where there was once again an amazing automotive turnout: The gathering included four beautiful E39 BMW M5s, a Dodge Viper GTS, a Ferrari 360 Modena (with a stick shift!), a ’60s Shelby Mustang, a BMW i8, an Acura NSX, an Audi TT RS and a new Chevy Corvette Z06. Once again, the authorities showed up early on, and I went over to talk to the Cleveland Heights police officer who was skeptically eyeing us. "I planned this," I told him, "and I’m sorry, but I had no idea it would be this big." His response: "That’s OK. I don’t think anyone really cares." A few of us stayed there for 4 hours.
This trip counts as the fourth and the fifth time that I’ve driven across the country, and at 6,522 miles, it was the single longest road trip of my life — just eclipsing a 6,400-mile trip I took in 2006, where I visited every county in Colorado, and a 6,300-mile trip I took in 2013 where I drove across the country and back with my girlfriend in a Cadillac CTS-V Wagon.
Just like every time I drive across the country, I always come back saying the very same thing: I am never doing this again. And this time, I’m really, really, really never doing this again. Until it’s 2 years from now, and I have some cool car that I really enjoy driving, and I start thinking to myself, "You know what would be kinda cool…?"
When that happens, I hope to see you somewhere along the way. Find a 2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage for sale