Trip Notes


I don't have as many nifty add-ons as some members of this forum but here I will describe how those I do have performed on the trip.

Navigation System Certainly the most expensive accessory and my personal favorite. Most of the areas we visited were detailed mapped and the nav system did a terrific job finding even out-of- the-way places. I prefer using the nav system to getting  directions although I often find it difficult to convince people to give me the address instead of detailed directions. The advantage is that if you do screw up, the nav system recalculates a new route while if you get off a route given you by someone, it is often very difficult to find your way back. The nav system will also get you back home again. 

We found the system useful for estimating driving times and for locating places to stay down the road. Picking up the free motel guides is also helpful because they offer a more detailed description but the nav system does give a phone number and you can call ahead for rates and reservations.

Separation Net ($78 at - Having this well made barrier between the rear cargo area and the passenger seating allowed us to carry much larger loads safely. It actually kept me from having to use a roof-top carrier since I could stack up luggage all the way to the roof leaving a small viewing "window" for the rear view mirror. The advantage is that I didn't have to climb up on the roof to get things, rain protection and not having a huge wind spoiler eating up my gas mileage. It also proved a good safety net when running off road because loose gear and the back tends to bounce around pretty good on the big bumps. It's removable between trips which is good because I always feel like I'm in a police car when I use it around town.
Cargo Net ($37.70 at - This very inexpensive little accessory stays in the vehicle all the time. It does a good job holding small items like umbrellas where you can find them, as well as keeping other cargo from slipping out the back unnoticed. It is easy to remove or flatten when needed.
Cargo Cover ($104 at - I use this all the time at home to hide valuables but it didn't make the trip because (1) it is incompatible with the Separation Net (above) and (2) our luggage was always stacked way to high to fit under the cover it we had it along. Instead for the trip, we bought an inexpensive plastic tarp and used it to cover things in the rear.
Motorola 4500 Car Phone - ($100 installed at Alltel) - I opted for a more powerful, longer range permanent car phone over a handheld cell phone. The disadvantage is that you can't take it with you when you leave the car. The advantage is much greater range and coverage (especially compared to a digital cell phone). Even though much of this trip took us to remote areas far from major towns and highways, we were almost never completely out of range. The larger antenna and 3 watts vs. 1/30th watt power makes a big difference especially in remote areas where a phone might be most important. What good is an emergency phone if you can only call for help when you are in a city or on a Interstate. Twenty miles up a back country dirt road at night is when I want my phone to be available. Also the larger speaker and permanently installed microphone allow all passengers to talk and hear clearly even at highway speed. I'm very happy with this choice. DETAILS
Highland Kar Pak Car Top Carrier ($49.95 at Auto Barn) I found this carrier and it's seems to be a reasonable fit and decent quality. I never actually had to use it on this trip. When I do, I will pass along my experiences. 
Tire Mounted Step ($39.95 at Proline) Actually, I paid more and got the same thing from Nissan (with their logo emblazoned on it). If I had actually had to use the car top carrier I would have needed this to get up there. A very useful item but one that I didn't actually have to use on this trip.
Moonroof Visor ($46.80 at - This accessory certainly reduces turbulence when the moonroof is open and I also believe that it reduces wind noise a good bit.  I can't prove it, but it also seems to  have a slight benefit in better gas mileage, presumably by providing better streamlining over the rooftop carrier. 
Igloo 22-Quart Thermoelectric Cooler ($59.87 at - Unfortunately, there was not enough extra room to carry this nifty little electric ice-chest on the Western trip, but it is always with us on our other road-trips. It plugs into the accessory socket in the back and does a great job keeping a constant supply of cold snacks and drinks handy without having to stand in line at a convenience store. It can also be used to keep food hot although I have personally never tried out this feature. You will want the optional AC adapter to take the cooler into the motel at night because the rear outlet only operates when the motor is on - a great idea!! because otherwise your battery would sure be dead in the morning. It helps to pre-chill drinks before putting them in, and to run the chest overnight before the trip. It has enough power to keep things very nice and cold but it takes a long time to cool things off if they are warm.

Crossing America : National Geographic's Guide to the Interstates ($19.96 at
One book we found particularly useful is "Crossing America - National Geographic's Guide to the Interstates" which is easy to find at most bookstores. It lists all the neat stuff and side trips along all of the major cross-country interstates. It has strip maps showing worthwhile stops within a easy drive of the Interstate. We used this book to find short tours to break up days of driving. You'll find a good variety of things here that you might otherwise miss. Using it as a starting point, you can usually find more detailed information online for places that catch your eye.

COMFORT: I'm a BIG guy. I'm 6' 1" and weigh ..... well lets just say a whole lot more than I should. I also have a badly smashed up ankle with a lot of hardware in it. One of the main reasons I was in the market for a new car is that I could only drive my Cavalier about two hours before my ankle would cramp up and leave me lame for the next 24 hours. So driving comfort is a BIG issue with me. My wife is disabled and cannot drive, so how far I can drive is how far we can go. I got tired of never being able to get more than 100 miles out of town. On the Western Expedition I was able to drive 4-8 hours a day, day after day with no discomfort at all. On the last day, rather than spend another night on the road, I actually put in a full 11 hours and while I was tired I was not miserable or in pain. This is frankly more than I ever hoped for. Comfort is a very personal thing but I can drive the MDX all day and just want to go some more the next day. 


1. Buy Shell gas for better mileage.
2. All seats need lumbar support.
3. Back seat for long distance travel is ok, but not as comfortable...switch with front seat.
4. GPS is great, but every town is not detailed...wonderful in unfamiliar places.
5. Get road guides like National Geo highway guide.
6. Use online guides like Rand McNally and GORP for trip planning.
7. Use the internet and guide books like Fromer's for trip planning.
8. Make reservations ahead of time.
9. For long trips, travel on scenic by-ways. Plan at least one interesting stop a day.
10. Use the GPS to find motels, gas stations, and restaurants ahead.  We found that some gas stations were out of business.
11. Get a motel guide. Call ahead for reservations.
12. Try to travel when the season isn't peak time. You save money. The crowds are much less.
13. Stay in bed and breakfast and historic hotels. You meet wonderful people and have great memories.
14. If you go off-road, don't put anything in the back of the car.  Be prepared for a bouncy experience. Bring Dramamine.
15.A lot of stuff can go inside the Acura. Buy a cover and steps for the roof carrier.
16. Be prepared for lots of people who want to see your car. They will be so amazed!
17. The programmed two-driver function is very handy.
18. The tilting mirrors are very helpful.
19. The CD player is nice. Control from the steering wheel is good for the driver.
20. Install a car phone. This is safer for the driver. Get Alltel with the two-way system. It doesn't work everywhere.
21.The GPS system is hard to operate from the passenger side.
22.The Acura is a very smooth and quiet ride.  The best we tried compared to the Mercedes, Lexus, and BMW.
23.The interior is really plush! 
24. The handles inside above the doors are nice.
25. The baby car seat tether system seems much more stable and safe.
26.The extra cup-holder is nice.
27.The individual heat/air controls for the rear seats is wonderful.  Now, we need to figure out how the volume controls work.
28. Take pillows for the rear seat. It's not comfortable to lean against the seat belt.
29. This car was amazing in snow. We went through a blizzard and passed many stopped cars.
30. Go to National and State Parks websites
31. Check Chamber of Commerce sites for individual cities.
32. Check websites for discounts on travel, especially hotels. Many places give internet discounts and coupons for tourists.

This page is still growing as I think of things, and as time permits. If you have a question, just send me a quick email using the icon below or add it to the discussion string.

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