A few weeks back I had the pleasure of driving cross-country from Carmel, California to Hamilton, Massachusetts with my Godmother, Libby. Before we left, we spent a few days in Carmel and Firebaugh exploring (I had never been to California before!) and getting ready to leave. You can read about our time here and here.
Why drive cross-country? Well, air travel is wonderful for us humans, but not quite as convenient for our furry friends--and my Godmother has a few of those. Also, driving cross-country has always appealed to me for the adventure as well as the opportunity see parts of our country that I have never seen over the course of one big trip. From start to finish we hit thirteen different states, seven of which I had never been to before. (California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts)
^ My very first view of the Pacific.
On the day of our departure we made sure we had everything we needed, lunch/snack were packed, and that all of our furry friends were accounted for and ready to go. Sweet old yellow lab? Check. Funny little jack russell? Check. Hound? Check. Fluffy lion-esque chow? Check. Convention of cocker spaniels? Check, check, check, and check.
Our first leg was from California to Salt Lake City, Utah.
We drove along through forests of redwoods and mountain passes, most notably Donner Pass. (Named after the Donner family of cannibal fame...) Despite it's gruesome history, the pass and lake below were beautiful.
After a few hours of driving we entered Nevada and the desert, which was beautiful in an equally but very different sort of way. The colors (ochre, red, rust, sage, purple, beige, etc) are just so different from the landscape that I am used to seeing in the East. Libby insisted on doing most of the driving for this leg so that I could really take it all in without having to focus on the road. She's the best.
After a full day of driving we made it to Salt Lake, where we posted up for the night. In the morning we headed over a mountain and into Park City where we had a yummy breakfast with some good friends who just moved to Utah this year! It was so fun to catch a glimpse of their new life and see a bit of Park City--now I can't stop dreaming of coming back with John to ski... #shred
After breakfast, a quick doggy walk, and hugs good bye, we kept heading east on rt. 80 through Utah and into Wyoming.
I visited Wyoming with my family when I was a kid and had the full ranch experience, as well as driving through Yellowstone. I have such fond memories of that trip, and have since considered Wyoming to be one of the most incredible states I had ever been to--driving through this time only reinforced those memories. We drove through plains studded with snow breaks and antelope, with rolling hills which gave way to the snow-capped Tetons in the distance. For most of the day there wasn't a human structure in sight.
Gas stations were few and far between, but every few hours we would see a sign for Little America, which Libby kept saying we had to stop at. Eventually we saw it a few miles down the road--a little oasis of for road-weary travelers. We turned off the exit and arrived at the nicest rest stop I have ever laid eyes on, complete with cute hotel and beautiful landscaping. After fueling up we headed inside and perused the aisles of fun Wyoming souvenirs including jig-saw puzzles, cowboy hats, and kitchy gizmos galore. We grabbed a few little presents for Johnboy, and then headed to the cafe area (like I said--nicest rest stop ever) to grab some soft-serve for the road, before getting back on Rt. 80 and driving a few more hours to our next stop: Denver.
(If you are driving along rt. 80 through Wyoming you have to stop at Little America. I promise--you will be so pleasantly surprised.)
We spent two wonderful nights in Denver at Libby's mom's house--my dear Aunt MA. It was so special to get to stop mid trip and spend time with her, as well as have some time to catch up with Lib's sister Elsie and brother John, both of whom rock and I don't get to see enough! I also hadn't been to Denver since I was a baby and loved getting a feel for the area (aka falling a little in love with it), and I can't wait to go back as I have a hunch there is tons more to see and do. We checked out an awesome church on Sunday, had a yummy lunch, and later I got a chance to stretch my legs a bit on the Highline Canal Trail--actually one of the most scenic running routes I have ever taken.
Our time in Denver flew by, but was so, so sweet and full. Needless to say, we were a little sad to leave, but also excited to continue East.
Could not get that song out of my head pretty much the whole time we were in Nebraska....
The rest of our trip went by pretty quickly. I tried to tell someone at dinner the other night how pretty I thought Iowa was (all hills and little hamlets with streams running through them and trees turning colors here and there, with the occasional cow) and they looked at me like I was crazy... I am thinking that we may have hit the state at just the right time in the season. Thanks for turning out, IA.
We spent a night in Clive, IA, before continuing on to Buffalo, NY for another (short) night. (Trying to make a flight out of Boston + traveling with a pack of canine friends = no rest for the weary) From Buffalo we officially entered New England in all it's Autumnal glory. Halfway through the day, due to a variety of factors and while speeding down the Mass pike, we decided to bag my flight and reschedule it for the following morning. As we pulled off rt. 128 my heart settled into the peace of ur-home, and the rest of the evening was spent visiting with my godson and his lovely mama, hugging and regaling my parents with stories of our trip (somewhat deliriously,) having a yummy dinner at the local watering hole (where I was surprised by one of my best friends and my other Godmother,) and cozying up in my very own bed. Such a little gift at the end of our trip.
Overall, it was such incredible roadtrip. The California Coast, Wild West, the Mississippi, the Rockies--it was unexpectedly moving to witness all of these landmarks which have played such big roles in American history. As we made our way across the country I felt a little more American each and every time we saw a part or place that I had never seen before. Driving through (vs. flying) helped me connect the dots and make sense of this patchwork of cultures that makes up our country. To “zoom out” in a sense and gain some perspective—see the bigger picture.
This is why I travel, I think. As I continue to embrace the adventurous spirit created and kindled within me I have come to realize that it is fueled by a deep curiosity, a curiosity that goes beyond the desire to be an authentic patriot and world citizen. It is a curiosity to understand us—the motley “we” that makes up this world that we live in, and how we all fit together.
Thanks for reading and a huge thank you to my wonderful Godmother for having me along for the ride! Another huge thank you to my husband for being so gung-ho about me leaving our little home for 10 days with pretty short notice.
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