Georgia

https://www.flickr.com/photos/shan213/15160796555
https://www.flickr.com/photos/shan213/15160796555

There is nothing like arriving to your final destination after sitting in a car for six days straight. Our excitement grew as we counted down the hours and minutes to our destination. As soon as we arrived in Savannah, we felt a little bit of relief. Knowing that we wouldn’t be spending hours on end in the car anymore was exciting, but it was a little bittersweet. Although the road trip portion of our adventure was over, we still had plenty of time to explore Savannah.

Savannah is incredibly different from Portland. It felt like I was taking a step back to another era of cobble stone streets and historical buildings. Of course there are still modern day amenities like cars and fast food, but there are also horse drawn carriages.

Savannah is a unique city that was built on top of graves. Because of this the sidewalks often bulge up from the coffins making it almost impossible not to trip while waling down the street. I made it almost three days with out tripping but alas my luck ran out when my toe caught on a crack in the cobblestone.

Tree lined runway
Tree lined runway

Savannah has a distinct feel and is filled with southern charm. The branches of the trees twist and curl around each other like a girl who just woken up and has yet to brush her hair. Moss hangs off the trees in an eery yet beautiful way as you wander through the many squares that are scattered throughout the city. I felt as though I was walking down a tree lined runway every time I walked down the street.

Savannah Trees
Savannah Trees

One of the advantages of Savannah’s location is how close it is to the beach. A quick 20 minute drive lands you on Tybee Island. As I walked out onto the beach I was automatically transported to a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Tybee Island
Tybee Island

While Savannah is known as a historic and beautiful city, it is also undergoing some big changes. As my friend Daniel says, Hollywood is moving to Savannah. One of the many movies filmed in the area was Magic Mike 2. As we wandered down the beach we found ourselves on the same bench Channing Tatum had swung on a scene in the movie. It was interesting to think about what Savannah’s role is in today’s world. It plays several different roles today. It is a touristy city where people can be taken back in time, but it’s also the place where the second Spongebob Movie was filmed.

This was a great place to end our trip because it was so different from where we started. We had seen the landscape of the U.S. change before our eyes and saw more sights in six days then some people may see in their whole lives. A road trip is a great way to see as much of a country like the U.S. as possible and will provide an endless amount of memories.

Tennessee

https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2539/3837545587_c09b2f6bb6_b.jpg
https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2539/3837545587_c09b2f6bb6_b.jpg

On our way to Nashville, we decided to book our final hotel on the trip. We had been using hotels.com for most of the trip, but decided to check out hotels tonight just to make sure we weren’t missing out on a deal. We found that we had a discount and began looking through the hotels available. We found an open room at the Sheraton and it was cheaper than any of the hotels we had stayed at so far. We decided to book it and hope for the best.

When we arrived in Nashville late at night, we went directly to the hotel. We were welcomed with a dramatic entrance and a very large and beautiful hotel. We were little out of place walking through the lobby, surrounded by people dressed in their best. One look around and we could tell immediately that this was definitely not like the cheap motels we had been staying at in every other state.

When we went up to our room we were deliriously exhausted and ridiculously excited to find that we would each be getting a bed, rather than sharing one as we had done throughout our trip. It was a nice way to end out final hotel stay and I was glad we had saved the best for last.

The next day, we woke up and decided to check out the Grand Ole Opry. We were in Nashville, so obviously we had to! When we arrived, I was a little surprised to find it was surrounded by a large shopping mall. Other than the unexpected surroundings, it was cool to see something I had only ever seen on the T.V. show Nashville.

The Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry

We thought about taking a tour inside the Opry, but it was $20 and we weren’t prepared to shell out that cash after everything we had done. We put going inside the Opry on our bucket lists and decided to try and find some food.

After searching for somewhere to eat, we finally settled for a place called the Frothy Monkey. As soon as we stepped inside, it was like we had been transported back to Portland. This place exuded the hipster vibe and we immediately felt at home. It was nice to find somewhere similar to home so far away.

While we were waiting for our food, we began chatting with an older couple sitting next to us and learned they are from right outside of Savannah, our final destination. One of the best parts of a road trip is the people you meet along the way. You never know what connections you may make!

 

Illinois and Kentucky

One of the greatest things about going on a road trip is that you never know what you are going to do. Sure, you can have an idea of where you want to go and big stops you want to make, but you never know what you will see along the way. Be spontaneous.

As a part of our trip, we had to go through Illinois and Kentucky. We were basically clipping the edge of each state and had planned on getting through both states along with part of Missouri and Tennessee. Because we knew we would have such a short amount of time in each state, we didn’t even look to see if there was anything for us to see as we passed through.

As we crossed the border 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.”

Metropolis, Illinios
Metropolis, Illinios

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 had dedicated themselves completely to superman with a museum, gift shop and old fashioned car with a sign for the Daily Planet Newspaper.

Metropolis, Illinios
Metropolis, Illinios

This detour ended up being a highlight of the trip. We found that the most important part of a road trip is to be curious. It is ok to get off schedule and break away from your plans for a little while. It will actually probably make your trip better!

Plans can often make a trip go more smoothly, but if you plan too much, you will loose your sense of adventure which is incredibly important on a trip like traveling across the country.

Missouri

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/Missouri_Welcomes_You_sign_I-155_2013-05-11_001.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/Missouri_Welcomes_You_sign_I-155_2013-05-11_001.jpg

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.

Kansas is very flat and as it became late afternoon we were tired of the corn. We decided we were going to make it to Missouri. Kansas City, Missouri 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.

Once we got to Kansas City, we were ready for dinner, especially since it was around 9:30 pm. Daniel’s dad’s coworker had highly recommended a barbecue restaurant, Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, saying it was the best in the country. He had even sent a detailed description as to what to order.

We considered skipping the food as it was about a half hour away from our hotel, but we didn’t want to disappoint. After carefully finding our way to the restaurant, we took it to go and headed to our hotel. Let me say, it did not disappoint.

The next day we stopped in St. Louis on our way to Nashville. The Gateway Arch was on our list of places to see on the way.

The Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch

When we arrived in St.Louis the arch was hard to miss. After a lot of searching, we found parking and started to walk toward the famous landmark. After searching around, we found it difficult to get close to the arch because of construction.

The Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch

We decided to go to the visitor center and ask a dumb question. Similarly to when we asked how to find the Salt Lake, I asked the security guard “how do we get close to the arch?” The security guard gave us directions and assured us we could get close enough to hug the arch if we wanted to.

We eventually got to the arch and we were definitely close enough to hug it.

Kansas

https://c2.staticflickr.com/2/1122/840540197_b98ac8e175_b.jpg
https://c2.staticflickr.com/2/1122/840540197_b98ac8e175_b.jpg

After saying goodbye to Colorado, we were on to the most dreaded part of our journey. The only thing we knew about Kansas was that it is incredibly flat and the only remotely interesting thing we could find to do online was a Wizard of Oz museum.

Kansas Visiting Center
Kansas Visiting Center

Because of our late start in Colorado, we decided to skip the museum and just power through Kansas.

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.

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.

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.

Colorado

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/ff/Colorado.JPG/1024px-Colorado.JPG
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/ff/Colorado.JPG/1024px-Colorado.JPG

As we drove through the Rocky Mountains, we were in awe of the vastness of the mountains that surrounded us. Colorado is unique in the landscape it presents to the passengers who drive through.

As we slowly wound through the mountains, we experienced the crazy weather that is unique to Colorado. We went in and out of downpour to sunshine and back frequnetly until we came out on the other side of the mountain to flat land. We then made our way to Parker, our final destination for the day.

The Rocky Mountains

In order to make cross country road trips less expensive, try to find free places to stay such as with friends and family. Daniel and I stayed with my aunt and uncle in Colorado. Aside from being a free place to stay, as locals they were also able to show us some places we may not have been able to see otherwise.

My aunt and uncle decided to take Daniel and I hiking the next day. We went to Castlewood Canyon, a beautiful hike less than 20 minutes away.

Castlewood Canyon
Castlewood Canyon

Our time in Colorado was not without issue though. Prior to going on our hike, Daniel had locked his keys in the car. I guess if we were to lock the keys in the car, this was the best place to do it. As we waited for almost two hours for roadside assistance, I found appreciative to be able to go with the flow rather than being annoyed. We made it work and even though it put us several hours behind schedule, we were still able to do everything we wanted for the day.

Utah

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/56/Utah_border_sign.jpg
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/56/Utah_border_sign.jpg

Our first stop in Utah was in Salt Lake City. I had heard about how you are able to float in the Salt Lake and how great of an experience this was. After hearing this, I knew I wanted to experience it for myself.

By the time we got to Salt Lake City it was lunch time. We found a shopping center with a food court and got our meal to go, hoping we could eat it at the Salt Lake.

Unfortunately, the Salt Lake was nowhere to be seen. To be honest, I had assumed the lake would be visible from the city, but as we looked around, we only saw some hills.

After asking at the information center, we learned that we had managed to drive right past the lake. The man told us that we absolutely had to go the Antelope Island for the best experience. After mapping it on google and finding that it would take us about an hour and a half out of our way, we began the search for a closer place.

We took a turn off the highway and found a lookout. When we pulled up, we were shocked to see about a mile of lake bed where water would usually be.

The Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake

After eating our lunch, we began the trek to the lake. After carefully stepping over animal remains, we finally made it to the water. It was definitely dirtier than we thought it would be, but we put out feet in, just to get a little bit of the experience. Our feet did float and it was an incredibly unique, salty feeling.

The Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake

Although we did not fully go in, we crossed it off our bucket lists and decided to continue on our way because we had some arches to see in Moab.

The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. the next day 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

Idaho

https://www.flickr.com/photos/donutgirl/3850400059
https://www.flickr.com/photos/donutgirl/3850400059

Idaho was our first stop and after a long day of driving, we were thankful for the break. After making a pitstop in Boise for dinner, we continued on our way to Twin Falls. We wanted to get as far as we could on that first day, especially since we were planning on making two stops in Utah. Although it was exciting to enter our first of 10 states, we were a little apprehensive.

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.

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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.

Once we had figured out how to pump gas and booked our first hotel, we were more than ready for bed.

We woke up early the next morning in order to see Shoshone falls, advertised as the Niagra of the west. We had decided before our trip started to see something unique to each state we were in and this was our Idaho stop.

Shoshone Falls
Shoshone Falls

While the picture on the brochure showed an abundance of water spilling over the edge, the real deal was not as exciting. We gave it the benefit of the doubt as it was a very warm summer and were still able to enjoy the views.

After our short trip to the falls, we were back on the road and ready to head to Utah.

 

Oregon

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https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/9/13280454_43dd3742b5_b.jpg

What happens when two twenty year-olds drive 3,230 miles in six days with no set plans but a destination? The adventure of a lifetime.

While there are certain aspects of a road trip that need to be planned, many 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.

We began our journey in Portland, Oregon and ended in Savannah, Georgia. In between we saw 10 states, each with it’s own unique feel.

We were excited to get going, but there were a few things we needed to do first, such as packing.

There are many advantages to going on a road trip versus flying to your destination. Of course, one of the main reasons is because of the beautiful scenery you miss out on when flying above the clouds, but there are other pluses that one may not think of when choosing their mode of transportation.

Having significantly more room to bring road trip necessities is a big advantage.

When beginning to pack for a road trip, there are several things to keep in mind. One thing that may not seem important is water. We are spoiled here in the pacific northwest with our clear and crisp tasting water. This is not the case in other states, especially the further south you get. This is why it is important to remember some water so your snobby tastebuds aren’t assaulted by the flavor.

Another must is a pillow. I didn’t realize how big of a difference this would make to the comfort level as I sat for hours in the front seat but it did. Placing it behind your back helps you sit up straight and not hate yourself when you finally reach a rest stop. There are a variety of ways to make yourself more comfortable on the road.

A swim suit is a must just in case your hotels along the way have a swimming pool. Sitting in the jacuzzi was just what I needed to relax my muscles after sitting in the car for hours. I was refreshed and ready for the next day and very thankful I had remembered my swim wear.

Comfortable clothes are an obvious must for any form of travel. Stretchy pants increase mobility and allow for a much more enjoyable trip.

Finally, snacks are arguably the most important part of any trip. The greatest part of traveling by car is that there is plenty of space for snacks, so stock up. Munching on some chips can make the drive go that much faster.

Once we had the necessities, we were ready to go!

Our first day consisted of nine hours in the car to get to Twin Falls, Idaho. Almost everyone we spoke with said that driving in a car as long as we were planning to would be terrible and we would hate it. We were surprised to find that it was not as awful (actually, it was pretty fun) as others had made it out to be. It might have helped that we were going through one of the most beautiful states in the country (we may be a bit biased).

Eastern Oregon
Eastern Oregon

Overall, there are really only three things needed to have a successful road trip

  1. Good snacks (Pinterest also has some great options!)
  2. Good entertainment
  3. An awesome travel companion

If you have these three things than you are ready to go!