A number of people told us our trip was too ambitious – that we were trying to fit too much in in a short amount of time, and even joked that we should draw up divorce papers (being “stuck” together in a car for that long). I will say that while there were a couple meltdowns, it was by far the best experience of my life. I got to travel the country with my best friend (who also happens to be my husband), see parts of the country I’d never even thought about before, and experience a story that will last the rest of our lifetimes.
There were some amazing highlights and some things we’d do differently. We both agreed that the best part of the trip was Yellowstone. We had talked about going for years, so finally being able to do so made it even more special. The wildlife and sheer beauty of the area were astounding. It makes you realize how small you are in the world – surrounded by geologic features millions of years in the making, in an area where wolves have made a comeback to keep the ecological beauty of the area intact. That’s one of many reason why the recent news stories of a man putting a bison calf in his car, and adventure bloggers stepping onto the Grand Prismatic Spring hurt so much. Nature isn’t there for our benefit and we cannot do what we want with it. Yellowstone is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year, and it is a reminder that setting aside areas to remain wild is what makes a country great.
Some of my favorite memories from our trip were Hasha being chased by an amorous sage grouse, the coffee from St. Louis, MO (hello 7-hour straight drive), driving the Iron Mountain Road, the 1st time seeing snow in the Badlands – and then Really seeing snow in Yellowstone, leaving a medicine bag for our weddings in the Black Hills, almost dying on our 10-year anniversary on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, Hasha being yelled at by an angry logger… all these memories just add to the greatness of the adventure.
Some of our regrets, or caveats… My biggest would be not going to Wall Drug – I said the other day that I would fly up to South Dakota just to go to that marvelous, kitschey insanity. That regret ties into the timing of our trip. Since I only had a certain amount of time I was allowed off work, we knew we would be pushing the drive in some areas. I would’ve loved to have more time to explore along our routes, or deviate off of them to head to something interesting. While it made it a challenge, I don’t think I could’ve been satisfied with any amount of time… months maybe or a year. There is so much to see in this country. But that just means more road trips to plan. Also, small things like, when driving from sea level to the mountains, always make sure your liquids are well sealed in plastic bags… to avoid a lake in your car. Or really make sure you’re going to use the gadgets you thought you couldn’t live without – a DC converter to charge the laptop was never used. But the good thing is that the more road trips you go on, the better prepared you are.
For anyone doing a huge road trip, my advise would be to research as much as you can! We used apps that were really helpful in that. Roadtrippers was awesome for finding sites to see, weird roadside attractions, etc. along our route. The website and app were instrumental in planning our trip. We also used HotelsTonight almost every day. We didn’t book any hotels before we left other than our cabin outside of Yellowstone. We weren’t sure where we’d actually end up each night and didn’t want to put constraints on our route if we were too exhausted or wanted to bypass a city. We also used Yelp for food and Waze saved our asses (every time except once) in speeding and navigation. It’s crazy to think that just a year later there are even more apps (like AirB&B) and websites to help plan trips. The internet and smartphones were serious lifesavers and tension reducers.
We also picked our route semi-based on where our friends and family were. I have to give a huge shout of to everyone we stayed with or saw along the way – Thank You! We Love You!! It made the trip more special getting to see people who loved us. It also cut down on our budget, allowed us a break from entertaining each other, provided us the sheer joy of sleeping in a comfy bed, and let us to get to know our families better.
I really forgot how much I loved road trips. In high school I took them all the time to go surfing on the East Coast, and as a kid I did small ones with my parents up the eastern US. But there’s something different about being an adult and deciding to just head out, fully prepared to live out of your car. It also made me realize that if we could accomplish that much in 18 days, we could plan some amazing road trips in the future, and made me want to look into restoring an old RV or trailer to travel around in. It was exciting not knowing what we were going to see that day, and planning for the big things that we really wanted to see. There’s just so much out there to explore!
This trip taught me that to see exotic places, you don’t have to fly across the world. That even though things don’t always work out exactly to plan, there’s always something better around the corner. That sometimes all you need is a car, lots of coffee, some horrible radio stations, and your bestest buddy to make a trip of a life time.
And that there’s no place like home…