I just wrapped up my second year of school and decided to make a big move. The door was open to leave my small town and head to the West Coast.. and there was no way I was staying in Ohio. My boyfriend booked a flight home (he had already been living in California) and we set out to leave that next morning. Looking back on our trip, first and foremost I miss the road but secondly, I think it went far better than either of us had anticipated. A 38 hour drive sounds pretty awful regardless of how you want to look at it but I was hopeful that as long as my best friend was at my side, I would see sunny California in no time.
Days before I was set to leave, I had all of my family get together for dinner, and more importantly cake and ice cream. All of my family being together at once is an extremely rare and risky occasion and throwing the fact that in less than a week I would be living on the other side of the country, there was plenty of room for it to go less than smoothly. Thankfully it went great and the cake was phenomenal. Looking back, I’m glad that we had our goodbyes then instead of right before I left. If I would have waited to see everyone right as I was setting out to hit the road, it would have been so much harder to take off without looking back. I saw my grandparents and my pups the morning before I left and as they waved us off with watery eyes and bittersweet smiles, I held it together far better than I thought I would. So my first tip of advice is get your goodbyes out of the way because if you’re anything like me, waiting until the day of would result in crying until there was nothing left to cry and about a two hour pounding headache.
Our first stop was the Windy City of Chicago. From where I lived, Chicago is about a 6 hour drive without traffic. I decided to drive the first leg of our trip and it wasn’t all that bad, except for one thing: tolls. All in all, getting to Chicago and through Illinois I would bet it cost more than $30 in tolls, to me that seems outrageous but it seemed like a good trade off at the time for continuing on the fastest route. East Chicago was a little strange to say the least. A section of the highway was closed for construction and the detour took us through what I would assume to be a small town on the outskirts of the city, except for the sole fact that we did not see a single person for miles. It was like a ghost town, an old rusty industrialized ghost town that seemed to be out of an episode of The Walking Dead. We got dinner at The Chicago Diner in Logan Square. They pride themselves on being meat free since ’83 and that’s totally awesome not to mention the food was great. We walked a little downtown after dinner, I really wanted to see The Bean but it was so late that it was closed. We drove a couple hours outside of Chicago the first night before we got some sleep. We pulled off in the middle of nowhere in Illinois to get some gas and decided some sleep was necessary. Sleeping in the car is not the most ideal nor comfortable plan, but I was so refreshed the next morning after such a long day the day before.
Denver, Colorado was our next destination but to get there we had to drive through the rest of Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Let me tell you now, what. a. drag. Chicago was a nice change in scenery because without that, it would have been 18 hours of farm lands and flat fields.
Driving through Colorado was beautiful and I really don’t know how to put it in to words. It was a terrain that I had never seen before. The skies were so blue and the clouds were white and fluffy for as far as you could see. The rolling hills were endless and we got to see a couple tumbleweeds, which was cool. I also got to drive it as the sun slowly falling which was so unbelievably beautiful. The city of Denver had never been a place on my travel radar but after being there I so desperately want to go back. Granted we did not get to see much of the city but what we did see we both loved so much. The people that we encountered were very laid back and pretty namaste. Most people seemed to have tattoos which is very different than the place that I am from. We had some great eats for a late night dinner and breakfast the next morning. We will definitely be making a road trip back there. The Rocky mountains were another high point through Colorado. I had never seen the mountains before and I really wanted to see the national park but now I think that driving them was enough. We drove through all the of peaks and valley’s and winding roads of the snow capped terrain and it was awesome. The change in elevation did make us really thirsty and made our ears pop for what felt like forever though.
Utah was our next feat that had plenty of beauty to offer as well. There were endless rock formations and viewpoints that we drove passed, another refreshing change in terrain. One specifically was called Black Dragon canyon that we stopped at for what ended up being a couple of hours (even though it was just a viewpoint it was so nice to be out of the car). Through this state rest stops were really far apart and cities were scarce. We got down to two pegs on my gas gauge, driving through some really big rocks at night with little cell service before we really though twice about it. Luckily we made it to gas station that was only (ONLY) about 40 miles away.
Vegas was the next on our hit list but I don’t have much to tell of it. We were driving through Vegas at about 2 am and decided we needed food or the closest thing to it which landed us at taco bell. We drove through what I assume to be the bustling downtown area of Las Vegas with all the flashing lights and high profile brands but that was about it. I have never had the desire to see Vegas and it was late so we did not bother to get out. Thinking back, Las Vegas is a place you have to see even without the booze and gambling, because it is such an epicenter for true American culture on every level, plus that was the brightest city I have ever seen in my life.
After hitting Vegas, the end was in sight. It was the middle of the night and the last leg of our journey was to drive through California, from the Mojave to the Bay Area. Driving the Mojave was beautiful, and I can only imagine what it would have been like if we drove it in the daylight. Seeing the looming mountains in the distance under the glow of the moonlight was something that I will never forget, don’t get me wrong, but a trip back is certainly due. I never knew how long this state was and I don’t think I ever want to be reminded. The change of scenery from desert to the golden rolling hills was great but it seemed like the hills went on forever especially having been driving all night, the last three hours was gruesome.
My journey was one that I had never anticipated I would actually do and so early on in my life. It was quite the experience and one that I believe everyone needs. Staying in my comfort zone was never my thing and I have always wanted to see different places. There is so much to see and you certainly don’t have to move across the country to start adventuring. If you do however, let this be your warning, you’ll finish one journey itching to start your next.