2,000 Miles Of #JoyOfMachine
The Initiation

Have you ever driven across the country? Left everything you’ve built and hopped in the car and just started driving? Trips like these are something many of us have experienced in our lives, whether for better or for worse. For some, it’s a journey of a lifetime; for others it can be the one of the most dreadful things in the world.

The fact of the matter is, sometimes life simply just throws you a curve ball, leaving you with no choice but to get up, pack your belongings and drive. It’s the definition of automobile ownership that gives each and everyone of us the first-hand freedom to do so. And that’s exactly what I did. Just me, my dog, a trunk full of gear and a disposable film camera for the pure moments I couldn’t snap out of.


You’d imagine, that with just joining Speedhunters this journey would be made in a completely radical balls-to-the-wall machine, and you’re 100% correct. I did the drive in a 2004 Honda Civic… LX! Not only is it pumping out a full 115hp, but it has a solid 140,000 on the clock and has been modified to burn through an entire quart of oil in about 350 miles. Sick, right?


Not at all. In fact, its actually about the most miserable form of transportation possible for a drive like this. But that’s what really made it all so significant. It wasn’t a highly planned move where I had the time (or finances) to load up a U-Haul and explore the open country. And it wasn’t an intercontinental OE test drive where I’d be concerning myself with a machine’s long lasting performance and MPG ratings. It was a mission – a goal to get from A to B in effort to begin a new chapter in my life. And when you’re trapped in a barely breathing beater for 2,000+ miles your only true escape is to get lost in your own head.


For me, driving in general has always been a place of peace – my temple on the road, no matter what the vehicle. Where no one can bother me, and where its completely understood that I cant immediately respond to emails and requests. Those of you who have done the drive know exactly what I’m talking about… Eventually there comes a point where the scenery fades away, the WiFi is lost, and you’re forced to surrender your 3G and space pads. Where it’s nothing but you and the open road.


But it seems there’s always a great purpose, a significant reason, that one’s actually driving rather than flying. Whether it’s for an immediate task at hand, a new calling, or just for the sake ticking a silly lil’ challenge off the bucket list and exploring all that this vast country has to offer.


No matter what the reason, for lack of better words, it will forever be noted as an ‘epic’ experience. Something you’ll always be able to look back on and say, ‘Remember that time I drove across the country?’ Specifically for me, I know this won’t be the last time I make the trek with the career path I’ve chosen, though I can confidently say that this was one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. This was the time I took a chance, moved across the country in a total piece of sh*t with nothing but my camera and my dog, to join this all-star cast of Speedhunters photojournalists.


In my eyes, this is the quintessence of #JoyofMachine. It’s the ability to hop in the car – no matter what it may be – shut out all the chaos that surrounds you, and simply just drive until you physically can no longer continue. Literally, you can just pick up and go anywhere in the world (with the restriction of your seaboards limits). It’s the childhood dream of finally obtaining a license and the ever-so-sought-after right of passage all wrapped into one. And anyone can do it.


Yet believe it or not, leaving California was actually very difficult for me. My initial move to the West Coast was definitely pretty rough, but in time I finally got it all dialed in. Sure, the people are frustrating and the traffic only gets worse, but you’re constantly greeted with a breathtaking sunset at least five nights a week — and you have the ability to drive just a few hours and have your mind blown by the kind of places you would only find in the highest-end commercial productions. And to think I would be leaving all of this to move back to Georgia? But that’s what makes every transcontinental journey so significant. There’s always a sacrifice involved. There’s always a few strings left begging you to stay.


But what can you really do? Pull over and hug the barrier and beg to stay? Not a chance. Just with anything in life, it’s these times where you have no choice but to bite the bullet, squeeze the wheel ’til your knuckles turn white and #MaximumAttack the crap out of the pedal beneath your foot.

Middle America

As California slowly disintegrated behind me, it was officially time to start looking forward.  With one of the greatest gems of driving across the country being the fact that you get to experience so many different cultures in such a short time frame, I wanted to make sure I was taking advantage of such as much as possible. Not knowing when I would have the next opportunity to swing through Phoenix, I decided to make it my first stop. It was where I would spend the evening with one of my dearest friends squirreling around the city slamming tall boys and stuffing LoLo’s chicken and waffles down my face.


And just like that, I was on the road again. Though it was an incredible time, I’ll be the first to admit that initially stopping in Phoenix definitely screwed the agenda, as six hours of driving isn’t really much progress. And the raging hangover I had acquired from the night before wasn’t helping much either. But I stayed strong — I stuck to the plan and kept on trucking. Weaving through the cactus-engulfed Interstate-15 leading from Phoenix to Flagstaff where I would eventually hop on I-40 and be planted for the next 1700 miles with nothing but poolside.fm blaring through my radio and an imaginary film montage blasting through my skull.


Leaving California and entering Arizona you’re first surrounded by a mass of mountain ranges, which eventually flattens out…until you hit New Mexico. To me, this is the most gorgeous section of the drive. The mountain ranges are surreal, the colors are absolutely firing off and everything is simply, beautiful.


And then you hit Texas, where it all seems to just sort of… die off. And it’s at exactly this point where the reality of how brutal the drive truly is begins to set in.


In most cases, folks making this journey tend to avoid these stints of misery by periodically stopping throughout the way, and believe me when I say I had the intentions of doing so. But inevitably – and exactly as I expected – as soon as I got behind the wheel all I wanted to do was plow through as fast as possible; riding the tank from F to E and only really stopping for gas, oil and to periodical snap photos through my windows.


With 700 miles down on a mere three hours of sleep, I decided to call it a night and crash in Amarillo, TX. A pretty uneventful town to say the least aside from the fact that my hotel was just a short few miles away from the acclaimed Cadillac Ranch. This is a public art installation from the mid ’70s consisting of various generations of run down Caddys, which I would decide to visit first thing in the morning.


Honestly, it was cool, but not as awe-inspiring as I would’ve hoped. The graffiti was a bit overwhelming, the weather was miserable and I felt every second I was out on my feet was a wasted second on the road. Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually really stoked I took the time to explore the installation, but along with many other things in this region, it’s really only one of those joys you’ll experience when driving across the country.

A few disposable frames later and just like that, I was back at it: 16 hours and 1200 miles to go, with nothing but a pane of dirty glass separating me from the open road.


Once you hit western Oklahoma it really begins to be the point of no return (as if there was one in the first place.) It’s right about here where you’re officially in the middle of nowhere. Where the FM scanner picks up a total of four stations, three of which being incomprehensible, and where you realize the only other cars on the Interstate are semi trucks and a light sprinkle of mini-vanner’s sharing your same experience.


But something truly radical that I found as I was making my way back home through these rural areas was that as you venture across the great open plains exploring abandon rest stations and mingling with the utmost random locals, you quickly find that for some reason everyone simply seems to have your back, and knows exactly what you’re going through. Whether they’ve done the drive themselves, a trip of similar distance, or simply have never left their hometown but have always fancied the thought of conquering the great unknown, there’s a common bond. There’s a mutual respect shared that makes you feel as if the entire country is on your side, even when you’re entirely alone.


After a quick stretch and refuel in Fort Smith, Arkansas, I was finally able to pick up a strong enough signal to get an update on my progress. I looked down and saw that there was only 11 hours remaining. It gave me the exact confidence I needed to keep pushing through.


My back was shot, the dog was definitely irritated and my oil temp was creeping higher and higher with every mile — but I pushed on. I blasted through Little Rock, crossed the Mississippi and breezed through Memphis. The closer I got the quicker I drove. My adrenaline was on full blast as I cruised through these familiar areas I had visited so many times in my life. At last, the end was in sight. I could see the finish line and I was determined to complete the drive right then and there.

Home, Sweet Home

But just as I entered Alabama and the sun finally dipped past the horizon, my body shut down. I had done 1000 miles and 14 hours… in a Civic. I wanted to push on so bad, but I just couldn’t. I think dementia was officially setting in as the other cars in the road began to fade into blurred electric lines. And with the dementia also came the paranoia. And if you’ve ever lived anywhere east of the Mississippi you can probably agree that deliriously driving through middle ‘Bama at 1.00am with Cali’ tags isn’t really the best idea. Or better said – it’s freakin’ terrifying.


I was so close. But I swallowed my pride and spent the night in Birmingham. What was I going to do if I kept driving anyways? Show up at my temporary home in Atlanta at 3.00am and begin unloading? No. I wanted to do it right. I wanted to enter the city refreshed and ready to conquer with a game-plan on the forefront of my mind.


Though, I couldn’t really complain much. Aside from the body pains and car troubles, the journey was all pretty flawless. No accidents, no traffic and best of all, no Johnny Law. I also didn’t really mind waking up in Birmingham, as I’ve always been a fan of the city. It’s a tough area, but it’s real. And everything is beautifully…ravaged, yet still remaining. Not to mention, it hosts a hotbed of radical content just waiting to be exploited, which I will be bringing to you in the coming months.


The drive from Birmingham to Atlanta isn’t too bad either – a short two hours at worst, most of which is spent driving through the luscious Talladega National Forest till you finally hit Georgia. Finally… Georgia. Sorry to cut it all short but at this point, nothing else mattered. I don’t think I could really even feel anything. I had made it.


It’s hard to describe how it all went down, but just like that, I was home. I was safe. I was amping with excitement as I came prepared to melt your desktops with all the unexposed greatness that is within the eastern region of our blessed land. But more importantly, I was relived. It was finally over.


In the days following my arrival I had a friend ask me what I had discovered on my journey. Having spent 30+ hours trapped inside my brain, the question seemed to stop me in my tracks. So I suppose if I were to have discovered anything it would be the fact that my life will be forever evolving; that my immediate environment will not determine my own happiness – but my own outlook will. And if you truly want something bad enough, get in the car and go freakin’ get it. As cheesy as it may sound, I really did discover the #JoyOfMachine


If you’ve never driven across the country, I’d like to strongly encourage you to do so. Whether it be in a Winnebago, a GT-R or a freakin’ Geo Metro, make some cool stops along the way, or do it like me and just plow through as quickly as you can. Whatever the case, Just do it. It’s a life changer. Best of all, each and every one of you will have a different story to tell. This was mine. I’m eager to hear yours…

Matthew Jones
Instagram: matthewjonesphoto



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Good post, I agree the best way to truly see this vast continent of ours is to drive through it. They call it fly over country, but its anything but.


Congratulations again, Matt. Glad to see the journey was pretty drama-free. See you tomorrow, man.


As far as stories go, I've driven across the country in a ford f350 with dad mom sis and a rottwileir all sharing the  the only front bench seat.  The dog did sit on the floor.  I hit a deer at 2am somewhere in south dakota, with dad  sleeping in the passenger seat.  That was in a Mazda 323.  Car was fine, deer I don't know. Dad said keep on going.  Later in life my Ford Ranger took me drama free to Montana and BC.  After the ford Ranger passed on, My $500 Oldsmobile Gutless Ciera took me across the country again, 3 times, including having to drive through an ice storm in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma, with no heat, my down sleeping bag was the only thing keeping me warm.  The AZ sun as i rolled into Apache Junction felt so good.  The Olds went to a Las Vegas junkyard, to be replaced by my Chevy pick up. Which when i finally left LV I had the pleasure of being pulled over by the Kansas highway patrol, just outside of Garden City, KS and was accused of being a meth dealer. Nevada Plates and a Michigan License with a Detroit adress.  The KHP were all about getting the drug sniffer dog out, and while the one  officer searched my truck, I sat in the front seat in the patrol car with the other officer listening to Metallica on their XM radio. Oh and the wind was blowing like 50mph, and the officer searching my truck, had to fight the door from slamming shut on him, or blowing every loose bit of paper out of my truck.
I love driving across the usa, nothing better than seeing the mountains just slowly get larger and larger as you beat down those endless miles across the great plains.

Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

"This is the quintessence of #JoyofMachine. It’s the ability to hop in the car – no matter what it may be – shut out all the chaos that surrounds you, and simply just drive until you physically can no longer continue."
Very true mate, but I can't help but think #JoyofMachine should be changed to#joyofdrive. Especially after that story. Yes it is the joy of driving, not the car and even if its a piece of sh!t. To get out there and drive for the sake of driving is being lost in this fast paced world.
Cheers for this story Matt.


It's funny reading this. As a New Zealander, these distances are utterly foreign to me. The farthest drive I've done solo was only 3 hours, and yet that was a good fraction of the country out of the way. But I can still identify 100% with your feeling of #JoyOfMachine, that ability to drive until you physically can't, no matter the car. I think that's what might separate the petrolhead from the normal person. Where they might be bored stiff by the drive, we look forward to it, and enjoy it. I think they're right when they say "It's about the journey, not the destination." Loved it!


140000 miles is nothing for a Honda, if it has been maintained properly. :)


I was a part of a rally team that drove from Michigan to Washington. It was totally cross country, but it was still pretty far. In the back seat of quad cab Chevy Diesel, we did it in three and a half days with one two hour rest stop. But the things we say were totally worth it.


good choice while in Phoenix! What color drink did you get?


Bonald  As I was reading I kept wondering if the rest of the world's readers (thinking mostly Europe to myself) would make the mental jump from driving across their own country of, say,Germany to driving across the country of the United States.  I don't know anybody that's actually driven the entire width of the continental US (approx. 3,000 miles or like driving from Lisbon to Moscow).  I also don't know how common these long drives are in the EU.  I've done 2,000 miles in a 26 foot box truck in 3 days.  My wife tag-teamed 2,000 miles with my sister in a Corvette in 2 days.  There's a cool documentary called "32 hours, 7 minutes" about a guy that broke the cannonball run record in a, er, highly optimized, M5.  He did 3000 miles in 32:07...insane...


I can't wait to do this summer. Hop in my 07 sti and drive to the coast and up it. It's going to be nice:)


nickmmele  Skipped the sugar and went straight for the Budweiser! :)


Ewottaja  Correct! Should be able to handle a solid 300k! Unfortunately, I bought mine with 90k miles of preexisting problems :(. Even had to get my tranny fixed beforehand just to ensure I would make it.


Bonald  Exactly! Thanks bud!


Chris 'Haffy' Hafner  Thank you very much sir!


AlanPeterson1  THIS. This is exactly what I wanted to hear. Cheers to you mate! Now, who's gonna top this!


sean klingelhoefer  tryin' son, tryin!


AlanPeterson1  Agreed sir! Sure, some states are a bit long, but its still a unique experience.


Drives like this are what I think every person needs to do atleast once in their life; Especiallly if done with a group of people who you enjoy being around. It makes for good laughs, hilarious car ride stories and awesome memories. Ive only done an east coast treck from NYC to Orlando, FL when I moved and that was pretty fun. For vacation I did a drive from Orlando to Nashville and that was awesome, especailly driving up in the mountains. Hopefully im lucky enough to enjoy a full Coast to Coast drive someday. Awesome story!


When I get my evo 8 fq340 one day in my 20s I will do this


Bonald  It's one thing about being in Canada or the US, that many of my overseas coworkers never understand. When they come to Toronto for meetings, and have some sightseeing time before going back, they always ask if they can go to Ottawa to see Parliament Hill (300 miles each way - 5 hours of hwy), or could they drive through the Rockies (2150 miles away 41 hours of joy). Trying to explain that a drive across a province is 1350 miles is just unfathomable to them... and this isn't even the biggest province! 
#JoyofMachine ? Hmm... I wouldn't agree on that if the car was a Geo Metro. I drive typically 1000 km (600 Miles) every second week, and I can say that the car (or driver seat really) makes the trip. I'm willing to get a small econobox for the drive, but only if I can find a Jaguar XJ seat to fit into it!

Thanks for the post Matt, and glad you made it across without the blue lights in the rearview.


The distances in the US are absolutely extreme. I, myself have grown up with the yearly summer-trip from Oslo to Rome and back. My dad always loved to drive instead of flying and today, some 20 years after my first trip, I'm so glad he did. Now I tag alone with my own girlfriend in my own car and it's the absolute highlight of the year.

Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

At least in America you have things to look at. Between Darwin and Alice Springs in the center of aus, its 1490 odd kms and all you see is a few kangaroos and a big rock! The rest is just red dirt! No speed limit though makes it a bit more bearable. Have seen 255kph (2013 Ford Falcon GT 335kw) out there but one false move or you hit some wildlife and its 700km to hospital.


Great post! I've driven cross country twice (NYC to LA and back) and it was an amazing experience. Still remember the first time I saw a tumbleweed and was like "wow, so THAT'S a tumbleweed." It's amazing how different parts of USA are from each other.


Sounds like a great trip. I've done east-to-west trips twice now (I'm from the UK, so there's no west-to-east afterwards!).

The first was a proper Route 66 trip back in 07, but last year I covered 6,500 miles in a month going directly west from Chicago, before heading north from Colorado to Yellowstone, west via Idaho, south to SLC, south some more to the Grand Canyon. Swapped from a rental Hyundai to a camper van in Vegas, then spent the next two weeks camping in California. Amazing trip and one I hope to replicate in a similar manner in the next few years.


mpn8bd SPEEDHUNTERS a trip I'll never forget Mike!


I want to drive the length of the country one day (coast to coast wouldn't be particularly interesting here in NZ) just me, my camera and my car, taking in the sights of this amazing and beautiful country.


I drove Route 66 with my father as a sophomore in high school and wrote a blog on it. It really does change you and that isolationism is what it is all about. It was on that trip when I decided that I wanted to be an automotive journalist. Heres the blog of the trip if anyone is interested. Just a small part of my story. http://camaroroadtrip.blogspot.com


My wife drove w/ her girlfriend in a Tacoma from NH to CA in 3 days - rolled it in CO and kept going with no mirrors and mangled bedsides/door.  Stopped at Bonnie to grab me a mug/eat Mexican and called to tell me she ate her friend in Donner Pass.  All my drives have been uneventful besides the crazy thoughts of swerving off a cliff... because AIRBAGS.
PUMPED to see some East Coast coverage - NEFR '14 - BE THERE!


JoshuaWhitcombe  hop in the car and do it brother!


antonyingram  This is exactly what I really wanted to do. In fact, my initial plan was to stop and camp in Santa National Forest. NM and then Ouachita National Forest the next night. But as I said, as soon as I left Phoenix, I really just wanted to get the drive done as fast as possible and avoided all detours.


NDeJesus  Thanks! Orlando to NYC is definitely painful. I grew up cruising Jacksonville, FL to Allentown, PA and Naples, FL to visit the grandparents. Guess thats where I gained my tolerance for long drives! ;)


Matt Jones JoshuaWhitcombe  I need to save up and get a car first haha, and my full license


Bonald  same here.  As someone from the Philippines, a long drive like that is out of the question.  Timeframe-wise, it is possible with all the traffic that we sometimes encounter (ex: slow tricycles on main roads) but distance-wise, it won't happen.  Having driven 400+kms north to attend my maternal grandmother's funeral all by myself in 6 hours (5 if I hadn't gotten stuck waiting in the queue as a major bridge had to be rehabilitated and we used the old one-way bridge) right after school, I too relate with your experience Matt.  Hope to see more road trip stories from you and the rest of the speedhunters staff :)


Matt Jones first off welcome to atlanta. You planning on staying here for a while or are you just here for a visit? If you're staying here in atlanta you gotta go check out caffiene&octane on the first sunday every month. Definitely the best car gathering in atlanta.


Chris 'Haffy' Hafner  Saying its not much to look at on a trip straight through europe? Dude, you need to come over ;-)


Great photos Matt.  I actually just made the drive from Philly to Vegas and down to LA/San Diego last week and it was a blast.  Check out my Instagram for some of the photos.

IG: brandoms


Driving more than a day in the UK you'd have to travel through at least one other country. When I was a child we used to drive from England to Italy for holidays, 2 days stuck in a car from waking up to going to sleep was killer as a child, but I never really realised that my Dad was driving 700 miles a day, with 2 kids, a wife directing him from a map, towing a caravan, on the wrong side of the road. I can't imagine it was easy at all, but it never seemed to really phase him.
Really hoping to travel Europe in my car next year with a friend, catch some events all over the place and see the world a bit more.
Hope you have fun working for SH Matt, not jealous at all ;)


SF to vegas in 11 hrs. Ohio to Jersey then to DC then Toronto in god knows how long but it was fun. those were the days before mp3's and xm radio. jebus i can't imagine your drive without a long ass play list lol. great read btw you didnt find any knuckle heads trying to go balls out on the open parts of the roads???


I40 is the worse next to i80, I have crossed coast to coast 3 or 4 times already. I would say route 66 is still the pinnacle of the drive. Its is rich in driving history.