In July I celebrated my one year anniversary of driving across the country. I’m celebrating it because I never thought I would drive that far nor did I ever have the desire to.
By mid 2017 I had been doing contract design work so I had a flexible schedule. What a lot of my friends might not know is that I had a deep desire to move to either Austin, TX or Seattle, WA. I had started the interview process for both states, but I was getting more leads in Austin than I was in Seattle. My friend Shannon who lives in Seattle didn’t want me to feel discouraged, so she suggested I come stay with her and her family for a month or two. I didn’t have any plans, so why not?
As my questions and fears kept me going back and forth on whether to drive or just fly, my gram unexpectedly passed away. I was in shock since I had just spoken to her. And a month before her passing, my stepdad died of cancer. Both of these events pushed me to take the chance and just drive. I needed some sort of therapy, or a new challenge and this was going to be it.
- Car check up, oil change and new tires. My car was new but it’s still a good idea to do this
- Map out your trip. I did increments of 8-10 hours per day
- I ordered a case of coconut water and had my water bottle with me
- Pack snacks and granola bars
- Car mount for your phone
- Download podcasts because most states only have Christian or Country music stations
- After chatting with my friend Matt about how some states don’t have gas stations for miles, I made it a point to make sure I stopped every time my car was around a half a tank. My car is great on gas so this was fine and made me feel safer.
I mapped my address to my friend Angela’s house in Denver, CO and then to Shannon’s house in Seattle, WA. I thought driving through the mountains would be fun. Google Maps and Road Trippers were very helpful for interesting things to see along the way. My first mistake was making a tight deadline for myself. I only gave myself about 4-5 days at the most to make my journey. I started to feel like I had to make a quick decision on where my next move would be or my next job.
First stop was St. Louis, Missouri. I had never been but I was told to go to the City Museum. It was a Saturday and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Upon entering, it was jammed full of loud kids. Whenever I hear the term “museum” I think of a quiet place but this wasn’t it. The museum is in a former International Shoe Company building that’s over 600,000 square feet. It includes an eclectic mixture of industrial items and found objects. It’s very interesting and kind of insane. I was a bit overwhelmed after being alone in my car for 8 or so hours.
At first glance, St. Louis didn’t blow me away but I wish I had more time to just stay the night and explore the next day. I had beer and poutine at the Schlafly Brewery. After that, I drove an hour or two more to Columbus, MO and slept.
I really loved Kansas City and was only there for a few hours. Maybe because it kind of reminded me of Pittsburgh. I didn’t get many photos while I was here but if you are thinking about checking it out, I recommend it and here is a great guide from On the Grid. I spent a lot of time in the Westport area where there were different shops, restaurants and it was very walkable. People were friendly and I found myself wanting to spend a few more days there. I had to get on the road so I could make it to Denver, CO next.
I woke up super early in Denver, CO. I found a cafe nearby where I had coffee and a big breakfast before heading to Salt Lake City, Utah. This was my absolute favorite part of the drive. The mountains are unreal. No words can describe this landscape. Whenever I saw a rest area that had a view, I immediately pulled over to take photos. It’s crazy how hot it was during the day and you look up to see snow on the mountains. I felt at peace while I was traveling through here.
I stopped in Salt Lake for the night and did my usual where I had dinner, spoke to a few locals, slept and found a coffee shop in the morning. I ate at this place called the Bayou which was yummy and got my morning coffee and snack at Publik Coffee.
Making my way through Idaho up to Oregon was not super exciting. It was very dry and the wind was blowing really hard. I should have done 8 hours but felt tired after 6 so I stayed the night in Baker City, Oregon which is a small town. I walked around and took some photos. Apparently the Oregon Trail went through this area and it was booming during the gold rush.
If you plan on staying in hotels during a trip across the country, the Priceline app was helpful. It picks up the hotels around you and to be honest, sometimes I would just wing it. If I felt tired, I just opened the app up and that’s how I ended up in Baker City. My girlfriend actually does a thing where she calls the hotel first, asks them to match or beat the price from the app and they usually do that for you. I just went through the app during the trip but sometimes you need to be careful cause Priceline will NOT give you a refund most times. I had no trouble during the trip but in the past I have.
My next day drive was only 6 hours to Seattle, Washington. I felt really accomplished after I arrived but exhausted. I remember not doing too much during my week in Seattle because it was actually cold there in June. Plus all the sadness from dealing with two deaths had caught up with me. I wasn’t sure how to deal with the grief. I am usually into exploring but I just sat around, and didn’t make too many plans. I sat around with Shannon and we talked a lot. Shannon has been my friend since we were 21 and probably knows me better than most people. She was great to have around during this time. It made me miss living next door to her.
I’m not going to cover the drive back in this post or my time in Seattle. I will say the biggest thing I learned during this trip was I now would like to buy a small camper for my partner and my dog to be able to go together, and I’m hoping to explore more of our national parks.
The best part of my time on the road was the space and solitude. Some of this was hard on me but I needed to be ok with that. So much of the trip there and back made me realize how much I loved observing the floating clouds, big mountains and tall pines. These are some of the things that helped me zone into myself and start to feel some peace. There’s always more work to be done but this was a great start.
Edited by Matthew Buchholz