Summer road trips tend to ignite such a sense of adventure and wanderlust, don’t they? Think state hopping, vista seeing, piled into the car, windows rolled down, radio turned up, not sure where we are sleeping tonight kind of road trips. The kind of road trip where pulling over to take a photo only ten miles from where you took the last one is an important part of the daily agenda and seeing the scenery change from alpine lakes to salt flats, to desert rock and to raging rivers is very normal for only one days drive.
The dream of crossing this vast country from coast to coast seems to be quite the priority on many folks to do list. And now I understand why. The United States, in all its glory, is a wonder land – and needs to be seen from the road.
Somehow, for the past three and a half weeks, I was lucky enough to find myself on one of these road trips. The opportunity came up to join a friend, where we would travel along the California West Coast, cross through the center of the country and end up back down to Florida again. Two girls (one Australian), 25 days, 11 states, 7000 miles, and all in my friend’s little Hyundai Accent. We hit the road. Here are some of the highlights.
It all started in Tuscon, AZ where I met my friend and my first ever Saguaros cactus.
We journeyed to California, stopping in at Joshua Tree and ending up in San Diego, where we dipped our toes into the icy Pacific Ocean and spent the day sun baking with the Sea Lions. We then climbed the Sierra Nevadas to find ourselves among the gentle Sequoia giants. We braved the chilled summer air and camped the night, keeping warm by pine cone coals and locking all of our belongings into bear boxes.
The ocean called us back to the coast, where our hearts were temporarily stolen by the beauty that is Big Sur. We camped by grassy cliffs, ate chocolate croissants at the sweetest off road bakery, climbed down to the waters edge and picnicked at sunset in meadows above the clouds.
It was time to head inland again to Yosemite National Park. We camped in Yosemite Valley, where we found ourselves surrounded by even more meadows, the tallest granite cliffs imaginable, more bear boxes and many enthused and adventure seeking rock climbers.
After four days of nature seeking, it was time for an urban adventure in the city of flowers, fog and food.
Then, it was wine time. Hello Napa Valley!
Lake Tahoe was our last Californian stopover. Never had I imagined that the water would be so blue. We were thrilled to see snow still atop the nearby mountains, which ended up staying with us most of the way through Nevada, Utah and Colorado. The salt flats in Northern Nevada took us to the side of the highway where we spent a little too long (never!) taking photos and marking our names on the white ground with little stones.
We spent the day exploring the Arches National Park in Utah. What a sight. We kept red sand in our shoes all the way to Colorado, where we spent time in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and happily ate our way around the streets of Boulder.
The long straight roads took us through the flat wheat filled land of Kansas and Oklahoma and led us into Texas. We spent the night in Fort Worth, the day in Austin and found ourselves in Sunflower fields in between.
Our eyes were tired. They had seen a lot and driven us far. Louisiana carried us home back into Florida, where we were greeted by the first summer rain storm of our trip. We had made it home.
It was one of those road trips. Even during the times where we spent 10 hours driving and had to blast Swedish Pop to keep us awake, even during the times where we had to book last minute, bad hotels on Priceline, even during the times where we couldn’t find a gas station, the gas light was on and all we had for lunch were cookie crumbs and squished fruit from the snack bag in the back of the car, I still felt so incredibly grateful to have spent such quality time crossing from coast to coast, exploring the back roads, city streets and interstates of this country. It is beautiful. And I’m glad to have traveled across it in Summer. In the little Hyundai Accent. On the road.