14 days, 3910 miles.
Both times I've made a trip of this nature, one of my biggest takeaways is the overwhelming diversity of our country. To go from deserts to swamps, mountains to plains, pine trees to cacti in just a matter of an hour or a day is incredible. I also found myself in constant awe of the sheer vastness of space out west - the feeling that the sky never ends, and the long spans between seeing signs of civilization even on a main highway.
A few lessons learned:
1) The desert has a monsoon season. It is now. We had not anticipated that and were camping in storms through much of the southwest. Oops. Made for some great lightening photos, though!
2) Avoid interstates wherever you can. The more interesting scenery, the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants, the cutest towns are all off of the highways and not the interstate. Plus the driving is not so exhausting.
3) National Parks are AMAZING. We visited 5 on this trip. I think before that I'd maybe been to 3 or 4 in my whole lifetime! They were spectacular and it makes me value the National Park System so much more. It is protecting some truly unique and wonderful places for future generations to enjoy. I'm going to do a separate post later this week with pictures from the 3 major parks we visited.
4) Choose your Road Trip Buddy wisely. Preferably, someone who has known you since 6th grade and therefore is not surprised when you air-brake from the passenger seat, does not mind how loudly you sing along to Dixie Chicks on repeat as you drive through west Texas, and can share small spaces with you for long periods of time without anyone being physically harmed.
5) Just do it. Take your time, stop and enjoy the little places along the way that make you smile, and drink it all in. It was a fantastic journey.
Oregon (420 miles)
|Peanut in my empty room (yes, this made me cry)|
|N Terry St - home for the last 3 years|
|Tetris-style packing. Something goes in every available space! Beware opening the back doors.|
|Trail to Nowhere|
|John Day Painted Hills National Monument.|
It was over 100 degrees, but it was pretty enough that we didn't mind too much.
Idaho (280 miles)
|Crossing the Snake River into Idaho. Leaving Oregon was tough, as it started to feel more real.|
|We spent all of our time in Idaho on I-84 with an 80 mph speed limit and not much scenery until just before the Utah border. There were also signs everywhere along this part of the road warning us about extreme dust storms and severe winds - luckily we had beautiful weather.|
Utah (420 miles)
|I found this sign intimidating.|
|Mountains as we approached Brigham City |
|Cat doing a happy dance because she found a pretty red flower in this sea of green.|
|We stopped at this lovely bakery in Salt Lake City for breakfast on Day 3.|
|Maybe Salt Lake's most famous attraction - the Salt Lake Temple.|
|Heading south into the desert.|
(Arches and Canyonlands pictures coming soon!)
Colorado (175 miles)
We made a brief foray into Colorado to visit the Ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde.
|Spruce Tree House|
|The black roof of the cave is soot from their cooking fires.|
|An uncovered kiva (below-ground gathering space)|
|Where they ground their corn - I loved this because it looks very much like the tools that women in Honduran villages still use to this day.|
New Mexico (440 miles)
|Our second rainbow of the day.|
|Northern New Mexico is surprisingly green. It's those monsoons.|
|Tomasita's, a Santa Fe institution. |
|We were looking forward to a lot of kitschy alien tourist traps in Roswell, and were sorely disappointed. But at least there was this?|
Texas (800 miles)
|Wide open spaces.|
|Breakfast in Fort Stockton, TX. It was this or McDonalds. |
|We spent two nights in Austin hanging out with my grad school roomie, Emma, her husband Drew, and my new little buddy, Pierce. Here, Pierce is dominating at trivia at a neighborhood joint. |
Louisiana (260 miles)
I was too busy enjoying the company of good friends in Louisiana to remember to take many pictures. Here are a couple of the cute kiddos I got to hang out with.
|Miles is a budding party animal. |
Mississippi and Alabama (350 miles)
Y'all, I didn't take a single picture in Mississippi or Alabama. I've driven through there a hundred times before, and let's face it - there's not much to see along the interstates. Just gas stations and Subways.
Georgia (210 miles)
|Walking Kristina's dachshunds, Amelia and Benji. |
|Revisiting my favorite lunch spot from when I worked at CDC - Lee's Bakery. Tofu banh mi for $3! |
|Thanks to Manna for letting me hang out at her pretty pool while she and Kristina tele-worked! |
Funemployment is great so far.
North and South Carolina (282 miles)
I really hate lumping these two states together, for reasons that other North Carolinians will understand. But once again I failed to take pictures on this part of the journey so there it is!
I've got one week left at home to unpack, pack, hang out with my mom and a few friends who are still around, edit and post pics from the national parks, and hit the beach in SC for a college pal's bachelorette.
July 29th I'm off to Tbilisi, Georgia!
Screw getting a job when you return from abroad, just figure out some way to keep driving cross country.ReplyDelete