Rolla student recalls 48-state trip with her dad

Not many people can say they have traveled to all 48 continental states — much less make such a trip in about 27 days and do so only four months after getting their driver’s license.

But for Julie Langenfeld, now a 20-year-old junior majoring in geological engineering at Missouri University of Science, that is exactly what happened in the summer of 2008.

Langenfeld completed the trip with her father, Mark, in July of 2008, about four months after her 16th birthday.

“It was a very special time with my dad,” she said, “and for him, it was meaningful.”

The duo’s trip was recently profiled in the September/October 2012 issue of AAA’s Midwest Traveler magazine.

The daughter and father from Cape Girardeau made the trip in a 1968 Mercedes-Benz 250 SE, a family car originally bought by her grandfather, Gene. The family still owns the car, Langenfeld said.

“We said the car was a bit of a time machine,” she said, noting that she visited places that her father and grandparents went to in the past and she and her dad recalled stories of those trips while making new memories of their own.

Langenfeld said it had always been a dream of hers to go on such a trip after hearing stories from her uncle about 48-state motorcycle rides. She said it would be fun to take a trip like that in the family car.

“I mentioned it to my dad and kept bringing it up and he caught the bug,” she said, noting that planning for the trip began about a year to six months in advance.

When they began their trip, Langenfeld said, “It started out feeling so normal” as they took a way they usually did when leaving their house.

Among the highlights of the trip were driving about 13 miles in Kansas along Old Route 66 as well as the Grand Canyon, a sight she always wanted to see.

The trip also took Langenfeld and her dad through Las Vegas, Nev. Langenfeld said they arrived in the evening and decided to ride down the Strip, a stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, and remembered being stuck in traffic even around 1 a.m.

The next day, they stopped in Death Valley, where she said the heat was a serious problem for their car.

“My dad thought it was going to be the end of the trip, but it wasn’t,” she said.

The next day spent in San Francisco, Calif., was a stark contrast to Death Valley, she said. In San Francisco, she got to drive along the Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard Street, which is known for having a section that is steep with some hairpin turns. Langenfeld compared the street to driving down a looped exit ramp of a parking garage.

In Oregon, Langenfeld visited with her stepgrandfather and then spent a day in Portland, Ore., where the two took their vehicle for a tuneup at MBI Motors, which specializes in servicing Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

“Our car got pampered,” she said.

This trip also marked the first time Langenfeld visited Yellowstone National Park. As they made their way back east, they took a ferry across Lake Michigan, which Langenfeld said was the first time the car had been on water since it was shipped over from Germany.

The duo reached Chautauqua Lake in New York on Mark’s birthday. They spent that day renting a sailboat and enjoying a seven-layer carrot cake. The daughter and father then traveled to Maine, where they enjoyed lobster before heading back through New York City.

Before reaching the Atlantic Ocean, just 10 days earlier, they were at the Pacific Ocean. She noted it was interesting see the “different slices of America” from the tall buildings in New York City to the desolate lands in the western United States. She also noted the different foods she got to taste along the way.

Heading south, they drove along Skyline Drive before making their way to Pensacola, Fla. Driving along the Gulf Coast, Langenfeld remembered going through cities affected by Hurricane Katrina.

On their way back across the Mississippi River from Illinois to Cape Girardeau, they were met by a local news crew on the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge.

When they arrived back home, they saw a banner that had the postal codes of all 48 states in the order that they had visited them.

The trip covered 9,979 miles and Langenfeld said they averaged 350 to 400 miles each day, while trying to make sure they had plenty of time to spend at certain places.

Langenfeld said she had never traveled to this extent before, but it has not deterred her from traveling more, noting that Hawaii and Alaska are still on her list of places to visit.

“Travel definitely remains one of my interests,” she said.

Her parents are Mark and Kathy and she has a twin sister, Diane, and an older sister, Lisa.