My Border-to-Border Drive

After visiting Wisconsin for my cousin’s wedding and then Duluth and Thunder Bay, I thought it would be cool to drive from border-to-border and record the whole thing to do a time lapse video. I hadn’t really seen anything on YouTube where it showed the whole drive in such a manner, so I thought this would definitely be unique.

I also wanted to use a standard cell phone to record this. The premise behind my blog is to just get up and go and travel with what you have. Everyone carries a standard cell phone around and overall they do take good pictures and video. I have taken all the pictures and video on this blog with my cell phone. In this case, I had a spare LG Optimus 2 that I was going to use. I wanted to have my regular cell phone free to use Google Maps or if I needed to make a call. The LG Optimus 2 can be bought from Best Buy for around $50-60. Basically it’s a very cheap phone.

I went to Fry’s Electronics and bought a phone window mount that worked like a scissors and clamped onto the phone. I could then put the camera on the far end and you couldn’t see the mount. With a little adjusting, it made a perfect view out the window. This mount cost $15.

One issue I had with the camera is it liked to bounce around. It bounced really bad and the video was shaky. I decided to go to the Walmart craft section. I bought a 97 cent foam block and 2 pieces of 23 cent felt. This stabilized the camera substantially.

I had to put an additional piece of felt under it, but in the car it looked like this.

I added a 32GB micro-SD card to the phone and then changed the settings to record to the SD card since the phone’s internal memory was very limited. This SD card cost around $15. I calculated I could record about 20 hours of footage before filling up the card.

I did a lot of testing and have some additional footage that I might eventually edit and get onto YouTube. By the time I hit the border, I knew that everything was going to work. After going through customs to get back into the US, I started recording. I recorded the whole way down Highway 61 to Duluth. I then copied the footage to my laptop and freed up the space.

After the drive, I explored Duluth a little bit and then got a good night’s rest. I left about 7:30am the next morning and went back to the exact spot I stopped recording the night before. This was the intersection where I35 starts.

I drove continuously until it started getting dark. This put me at the Oklahoma Welcome Center around 8PM. Another limitation I ran into is it can only record in 2 hour continuous blocks. You can start the recording almost immediately afterward, but you have to make sure you pay attention when the recording time is getting close to 2 hours.

With the glaring sun, it was sometimes hard to look at the time. I would make sure to start recording after the 2 hour block ended. I also stopped recording right after I crossed a state line. This allowed me to know that the last minute or so would be crossing to into another state. This made it easy to find and helped with the editing process.

As you can see, I ran into a fair amount of weather, especially in Minnesota, Kansas, Oklahoma, and parts of Texas. The camera did pick everything up well. One thing I noticed with the camera is sometimes it would get out of focus and take a while to get back into focus. This made for some blurry footage, but overall it wasn’t too bad.

I spent the night and slept in my car at the Oklahoma Welcome Center. I transferred the day’s footage onto my laptop right before going to bed. With the weather, there was a cool rainbow and also the sun looked cool in the clouds.

After I hit the road at about 7:30am, I drove continuously. The footage itself when driving is sped up to as high as I could do at 9999%. I did record when I took my stops but most of them happen so fast it’s hard to really see them. I did slow down every time I crossed state lines. One thing that you will probably notice is the shakiness. At 200,000 miles, the Focus’s suspension isn’t the greatest. It was definitely a rough ride and you can probably see that when the clips are slowed down.

When I hit Texas, the traffic definitely became like Texas driving. The whole way traffic was pretty good but in Fort Worth and Austin, traffic was definitely bad and you can see how backed up it gets. By the time I reached South Texas, it was getting hot. It was around 95 degrees outside. The bugs and dunnage were starting to cake on the windshield as you probably see. Eventually, even with the air conditioning on, the phone overheated. I had to pull to the next exit and then cool it off by putting it over the vent. The rest of the way I cranked the AC.

I made it to Laredo a little after 7PM. I drove up to the point where if I drove any further, I’d be driving into Mexico. I bet if I crossed and came back, my car would be torn apart with my previously crossing the Canadian border back into the US less than 2 days prior. When everything was said and done, I had almost 25 hours of footage from the 1700 miles I had driven.

I drove back to Austin that night as I wasn’t too tired. I made sure to stop at the huge gas station Buc-ee’s.

I made it back and slept very well that night. I then took the footage the following weekend and loaded it to my Mac AirBook. My main laptop is a cheap Walmart PC but I also own a Mac Airbook since I want to get involved with iOS development. It also came in handy to use iMovie.

This was the first major movie I had edited besides some crap I threw together for a senior English class in high school. iMovie doesn’t have a bad learning curve, at least for a professional IT guy. It still took a significant amount of time to get everything together. Once it was all put together, I found some free music in the YouTube Audio Library that made good background music.. When everything was said and done, I was able to get almost 25 hours of footage down to 18 minutes.

I loaded the video to YouTube. It took a while to load since my connection isn’t the fastest, but I just worked on other things in the meantime. Overall, it was a good experience and I might throw together some more videos like this.

Without further ado, here is my border-to-border trip from the Canadian border at Pigeon River and the start of Highway 61 in Minnesota to taking the whole length of I35 to Laredo, Texas:

To see more of my adventures, click on the map! Or if you prefer to see a list of more blog entries, click here.

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