For those who have been following along know that we’ve picked up our life again and have ventured back to the West Coast. We’re sure those of you who have made massive moves like this are shaking your head and wondering if we’re crazy or masochistic. We’re neither, we promise but it was the right time and place.
We said some tough goodbyes to our East Coast friends and family, and through tear-filled eyes, we left behind some incredible people and some unforgettable memories. It’s not an end but a new direction. True to our adventurous nature, we decided to turn our cross country move into a road trip to remember. Here’s a blow by blow of our trip through the American heartland.
Day 1: Long Island, NY
Our first stop on our trip was to say our final goodbyes to our New York family. We spent the last hours on the East Coast enjoying the sunny warmth, dipping our toes one more time into the Atlantic. Our time on the beach was followed by a backyard barbecue surrounded by family. Lovely.
Day 2: Chicago!
We left at 6am in the morning, turned our cars west, and made our way to Chicago. The trek was long and I don’t recommend it, but it was worth doing one long push in the cars to be able to take some time enjoying sights in the latter portion of the trip. Arriving in Chicago at 9pm, we lugged our valuables and luggage into the hotel room and crashed, hard.
The following morning was a whirl-wind tour of the Windy City. Our first stop was the death-defying heights and views of Willis Tower (once named Sears Tower). Feeling a little shakey, we put our feet on solid ground and headed over to the Cloudflare, also known as “The Bean” to the rest of the nation. We took a few pictures that would make any hipster millennial jealous and then made our last stop at Superdawg. Which by the way, had a really creepy, unearthly green relish but was DELICIOUS. I highly recommend just closing your eyes when eating there.
Day 3: Minneapolis/St. Paul
As we pulled into the Twin Cities, I said in a very serious tone that I didn’t want to visit the Mall of America. Being a little bit of a minimalist myself, I had little want to visit a shrine to American consumerism. I ate my words very quickly when we discovered that our hotel was attached to the Mall of America. They gave our dog a goody bag of treats, toys, water and food dishes, and a fashionable bandana. Seriously! Our dog was treated better than us! Oh America.
Out of pure curiosity, we walked into the Mall of America to check out why this place had such a big reputation and we were more than overwhelmed. And that’s an understatement! We were greeted with 1.15 miles of zip lines, roller coasters, ferris wheels, an aquarium, 520 stores, and 400 live trees (yes, inside the mall). I’m sure I’m missing some details, but you get the point.
After a long day on the road and stumbling onto the Las Vegas Strip of shopping, we headed back to the room to order room service and wake up early to drop our dear friend off at the airport.
Day 4: Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Our next stop was in South Dakota. After a long stretch of cornfields and some bazaar signs advertising strange novelties to tourists, we pulled into Badlands National Park. We pitched our tent at Cedar Pass Campground right in the park, and then got back in the car (gah) to do some sight-seeing. The best part of this park is that there is a large park loop called Park Loop Road (original, right?) that allows you to see the entire park from the car.
After grabbing a burger in the small town of Interior (when I say small, I’m not joking – population 94), we settled into our camp site to watch the sunset over the ragged spires of the Badlands. I wish I could say our night was just as peaceful. A summer thunderstorm rolled in late at night and we had to quickly move to get the rain cover on. Aside from the quick moving storm, all was quiet.
The next morning, we packed up at sunrise and headed through the prairie lands of South Dakota. And yes, I got a little peek at prairie dogs standing at attention as we passed by. In the words of the youth, they were “totes adorbs!”
Day 5, Part 1: Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
Day 5 of our trip proved to be one of the more memorable but I must admit, our stop at Mount Rushmore was not the height of it. I’ll talk about why Yellowstone blew our expectations out of the water a little later.
Just an hour and a half west of the Badlands lies Mount Rushmore. It was a perfect breakfast stop and a great way to break up the drive to Yellowstone. We’ll be very honest with you though. Mount Rushmore is not as spectacular as it’s made out in the photos. Yes, the carvings are massive. But it doesn’t feel massive. We actually weren’t allowed to go past the entrance because we were traveling with our dog. But even if we were able to get into the monument area, they still wouldn’t feel that massive. What would have made it a little better is if Nicolas Cage was just hanging around searching for national treasures.
Our suggestion when visiting? We actually have two. 1) Sure, do the main monument entrance and see the carvings square on. 2) No one shares this, but make sure to stop and check out the profile viewing area of Mount Rushmore. That will really give you a perspective of how grand these mountain carvings really are. AND, they don’t charge for parking there. You’re welcome.
Day 5, Part 2: Yellowstone, Wyoming
Yellowstone has stolen my heart. Sorry Eric. We drove in through the eastern entrance (which I think is actually prettier than the actual park itself). Eric and I kept radioing over the walkie talkies, “Are you seeing this?”, “Can you believe your eyes?”, “Am I dreaming?!”. Cody, Wyoming was once called the most scenic 50 mile drives of America, and there’s a lot of truth to that. I’ve never seen anything as beautiful as the eastern entrance of Yellowstone. Sweeping rivers, protruding rocks and mountains, cabins that are “Home and Gardens” magazine worthy, and wild west fields literally took our breaths away. One word of advice, don’t do this in one day!
The rest of the day was no less amazing as we were held up by a bison herd. There were bison babies too! Apart from that cuteness, we eventually reached the Canyon Campground, which is smack in the middle of the park. I would recommend bringing some bear spray with you just in case. Yellowstone is a rare wilderness that features many wonderful animals but always be aware that you are in their home. We pitched our tents and settled in for a chilly night that was welcomed as the temperatures throughout the trip were regularly in the triple digits.
In the morning, we quickly broke down camp and rustled up some breakfast. One our way out, my husband just so happened to hit a deer. Now before you call PETA, my husband and the car all came out with little to no damage. Bambi lives another day! Apart from that small heart attack, we were just gobsmacked by all of the thermal activity in the park. On top of that, remember that you are driving on one of the largest super volcanoes in the world.
We eventually reached the western entrance to the park and we made our way through Big Sky country, which is some of the most beautiful landscape in the US. If you want to see purple mountains majesty, this is where you go.
Day 5: Glacier National Park, Montana
So this will seem a little embarrassing on my part but we had no idea we were actually in the park until we reached the western entrance. My husband kept saying, “we must be in it by now” but neither of us had seen a sign anywhere. Nevertheless, once we reached the campsite, we were confronted with Glacier National Parks glacier lake. You don’t get nearly as clear of water outside of glacier lakes. We took a little time to stretch our legs and investigate the beautiful views.
Day 6: Washington, Land Ho!
This was a pretty short day for us as we were bound for Spokane, WA to see some family friends and stay for the night. For my husband, this was the moment he started yammering on about why Washington was so great over the walkie talkie… Regardless, the drive in was easy and calming from all of our long days on the road. We finally got to sleep in a bed, the simple pleasures.
Day 7: Seattle!!!
With determination in our hearts, we made the final push driving the width of Washington state and finally making it to Seattle! It was an uneventful drive outside of the fact that we just wanted to get there. Any frustration or fatigue was quickly wearing off as we neared our destination.
The trip offered us many experiences and plenty of challenges. Our marriage thrived during this trip, even though there may have been some frustrations (especially following Eric’s sporadic driving) but then again, if you’ve been on a road trip this is not untypical. We’re both happy to be settling into our new digs and expect the adventures to keep on coming.