Story of the Sky

For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with the sky. Yes, most people enjoy a good sunset and those who are willing to drag themselves out of bed may see a few great sunsets, but it goes beyond appreciating a few pink clouds for me.

The sky is everywhere, but is so different depending on where you are and what time it is. It tells a story for that place, like a short narrative of that particular place as you look along the horizon.

Smoke_and_Sky

The story can be that of the raging wildfires in Eastern Oregon that cut through the clear blue sky. This image tells the story of people being displaced from their homes and firefighters risking their lives to stop the spreading flames.

Wheat_Field

The soft glow of the sunset reflected on a vast wheat field with electric windmills breaking through tells the story of agriculture and sustainability. This sunset was so eye catching we had to pull over just to appreciate it and bask in the tranquility it brought.

Portland_Sky

The puffy white clouds over portland tell the story of a bright day in a bustling city. The simplicity of the sky contradicts with the intricacy of one way streets and high-rise buildings.

No matter where you are, you see the same sky. It just tells a different story.

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Painted to Perfection

Ever since I saw the commercial for the “Seven Wonders of Oregon,” I have been obsessed with going to the Painted Hills.

These majestic clay formations came up in almost every conversation I had with my friends as I attempted to convince someone to go with me. After 2 years of subtle hints, I finally convinced two friends to go.

When traveling to the Painted Hills there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Make sure you have plenty of time. It takes several hours to do all the hikes the hills have to offer so a day trip is not recommended if you are traveling over five hours to get there.
  • Camping is the best way to go. There are many campgrounds surrounding the hills.
  • The surrounding parks are beautiful too so check them out!

As we drove into the park we were taken back to another time, one where dinosaurs once roamed. The vibrant color explosions can be appreciated through several short hikes.

Painted Cove Trail

The longest hike is 1.6 miles and allows for a panoramic view of the entire park. The other hikes are no longer than a half mile and is accessible for all ages.

If you’re looking for a weekend adventure, the painted hills will not disappoint.

Entertainment

After 24 hours in the car we felt as though we had listened to every song of the 2000s and we still had another 24 hours to go.

As we drove through Kansas on the incredibly straight I-70 we were surrounded by homemade anti-abortion signs and large Jesus billboards. It felt like the road would never end and we needed something to lift our spirits.

Entertainment is one of the most important parts of a road trip. Long drives can feel shorter with the right music. It can also help keep the driver awake and focused. But what should you listen to when you get tired of music? Podcasts.

Prior to leaving for our trip my travel companion, Daniel, downloaded a podcast called “Throwing Shade.” This Podcast was directed toward ladies and gays, which made us the perfect audience.

This podcast made our trip through Kansas bearable as we laughed at their ridiculous banter and hilarious guests.

There are several things to consider when picking entertainment for a road trip:

  • Have a variety of music. It may seem like a good idea to listen to Taylor Swift the whole way, but after listening 10 times in a row it might get old.
  • Look for other sources of entertainment. Comedy? Sports? Celebrities? There’s a podcast for anything.
  • Don’t rely on the radio. Stations change state to state and there are many dead spots along the way.

Arches at Sunrise

The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and my eyes drowsily opened and glanced out the window to darkness. There are very few reasons to get up that early, but watching the sun rise over Arches National Park is one of them.

Located in Moab, Utah, Arches is vast and grand, somewhat similar to the Grand Canyon. Each formation has its own unique features with specific times of day to visit.

The highlight of our trip was a formation entitled the North Window. Although the park’s website says this formation is best seen at sunset, it is just as breathtaking during sunrise.

“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day” -Henry David Thoreau

The towering formation has an opening in the middle through which the sun illuminates as it rises. The glow reflects the red of the rock which contrasts with the blue hues in the sky.

North Window
North Window

The most well-known formation is called the Delicate Arch, which is featured on the Utah license plate. This formation is beautiful and best seen during sunset. It is about a three mile hike roundtrip for the best view, but it can be seen from two different viewpoints.

Several days are recommended to experience the whole park and take time at each location. To keep on schedule we only had an evening and a morning before we had to head to Colorado.

Although we were on a tight schedule we were still able to see most of the formations.

If you only have a day these are the must see formations.

  • Delicate Arch
  • North Window
  • Double Arch
  • Broken Arch
  • Sand Dune Arch

Your Oregon is showing

We were dreading it the entire way to Idaho. As soon as we saw the leaving Oregon sign we knew it was only a matter of time before we had to do it, it was unavoidable. We were going to have to pump our own gas.

There is a lot of planning that goes into a cross country road trip— which route to take, what hotels to stay at, how long to drive each day— but learning how to pump gas is unique to Oregonians.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it can be stressful for those who have never done it before.

Not having to get out of the car to pump gas is a luxury only one other state enjoys and it was not on our route.

https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7030/6588204605_776bd5b30d_b.jpg

When we got to our first self-serve gas station, we reluctantly got out of the car. We read the directions and nervously began to follow them. After battling with the gas cap and a few failed attempts to get the gas flowing, we had a full tank.

Stopping for gas is an important part of a cross country road trip so be prepared.

Unsure what to know before hitting the open road?

  • Get familiar with the gas tank before heading out on the road. It may seem simple and after doing it for the first time it is, but becoming familiar with it will only make the first stop easier.
  • Think ahead. There may be some long stretches between each gas station so don’t be afraid to fill up before the gas light comes on.
  • Gas gets cheaper when traveling west to east. Our wallets were thankful for this.

There are many small details of travel that are not thought about prior to departure. Being prepared to do something like pumping gas can make it easier to focus on the important things, like finding a hotel.

Everyone has to sleep

The basic format of a road trip is drive, stop, drive, gas, drive, find a hotel for the night. Finding a place to stay in an unknown city that is safe and affordable is no easy task, especially when booking that hotel the day of.

We had done a decent job of booking our last two hotels in the morning as we drove to our destination but our trek across Kansas started a bit rocky. We locked our keys in the car in Colorado and this pushed our departure time a little later than we had planned.

Kansas is very flat and as it became late afternoon we were tired of the corn. We decided we were doing to make it to Missouri. Kansas City was about five hours away so we began our hotel search.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/The_Open_Road_4891690797.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/The_Open_Road_4891690797.jpg

Finding a hotel is easy with hotel booking apps but they aren’t as helpful when attempting to find hotel in a good area.

One of the biggest mistakes that can be made while looking for a hotel is googling bad areas in a city. While it is important to be informed about which areas not to go, it can also cause unnecessary anxiety about the safety of the area.

The search results were not encouraging when we googled Kansas City. Each review stated that there was no safe place in the city and there wasn’t a single street we wouldn’t be mugged. We eventually decided our best bet would be a hotel by the airport and confirmed our reservation.

We nervously and drowsily drove up to the hotel at 10 p.m. Once we arrived we realized we had nothing to worry about.

Contrary to reports on the internet, we found a good hotel in a nice area.

When looking for a hotel, keep these tips in mind:

  • When in doubt, look for a hotel by the airport. It is often near the main highway, which makes it easier to get back on the road.
  • Many of the “cheap hotels” are actually pretty nice. The Motel 6 in Moab, Utah was one of the nicest places we stayed and it even had a pool.
  • Look for the deals. We stayed at the Sheraton in Nashville and it was one of the best deals we got because of a discount on hotel tonight.
  • If the hotel is not very nice, just remember it’s only for one night.

Where to begin

What happens when two twenty year-olds drive 3,230 miles in six days with only a destination? The adventure of a lifetime.

While there are certain aspects of a road trip that need to be planned, many aspects can be left up in the air. This allows for spontaneity and puts less pressure and time constraints on the travelers.

It is important to have destination goals throughout the trip, but don’t be afraid to veer off path.

Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.”

      — Lawrence Block

The first rest stop after crossing state lines are usually information centers. The centers provide information on local attractions and facts about the state.

As we crossed the boarder into Illinois we knew we needed a break. We stopped at the next rest stop expecting to be back on the road within 10 minutes. As we left the rest stop we saw a small sign saying “Giant Superman Statue.”

We were intrigued by this and decided to start following the signs, unsure where we would end up. About 15 minutes later we found ourselves in front of a giant superman statue in the middle of superman’s hometown, Metropolis. This small town in Illinois was dedicated to superman with a museum, gift shop and old fashioned car with a sign for the Daily Planet Newspaper.

Metropolis, Illinios
Every visitor gets to be Superman
Metropolis, Illinios
The giant Superman statue

This detour ended up being a highlight of the trip.

Cross country road trips are filled with these kinds of adventures, so keep an eye for these opportunities.

Here are a few places to stop between Oregon and Georgia:

          • Shoshone Falls, also known as the Niagara of the west, provides travelers with the opportunity to get out of the car and enjoy Idaho’s beautiful landscape.
          • Arches National Park in Moab, Utah is an amazing drive with short hikes. Plan for a day at this location.
          • The Gateway Arch is a well known landmark that towers over St. Louis.

There are many other places to see so don’t be afraid to explore!