I definitely never planned that I would be spending the last few years living in four different cities. I’ve become well adapted to the cross country move, first to college in Boston (lets just say I got really good at packing a checked bag), then to Bellevue, WA post grad, back to the east coast a year later to New York, and earlier this year (admittedly three months ago) my first move, back to my hometown of Portland, OR, involving the dreaded cross country road trip.
I once mentioned that I couldn’t commit myself to a tour through North Carolina BBQ country because I couldn’t stand the thought of being in a car for 9 hours. (read here; I decided instead to get an authentic cheesesteak.) Well I’ve blasted that excuse away now that I’ve driven 45+ hours from Tuxedo Park, NY to Portland, OR and dare I say…. didn’t mind it that much.
Previously, the furthest I’d ever driven by myself was probably like 3 hours. Road trips were never something I found interesting or exciting. They sounded god awful in fact. Yet despite all of my preconceived notions about how horrible road trips were, I made it through one without a whole lot of drama. Let me start from the beginning.
After a lot of thinking and planning on what we really wanted to do in our lives, my boyfriend Cody and I decided that it didn’t include staying on the east coast. We bounced around on where to go, and Portland just kind of fell into place. It definitely helped that I grew up there and had two very supportive parents who were going to let us stay with them until we found our own place. Because of job timelines, we decided to make the move in January, which could have gone horribly wrong as anyone who has experienced an East coast / Midwest winter knows. Since we both own cars, we had to manage the trip driving separately, although we did pick up his dad in Wisconsin to have a rotating third driver. Cody is an experienced long distance driver, and even though I’m not, we planned on four days of driving, 10-14 hours a day, with an extra day to hang out in Wisconsin with his family.
In the planning stages of this road trip I used the My Maps tool in Google Maps, which is seriously amazing for all those detailed planners like me. Not only can you create your route, but you can add icons to represent places to stay, or things to eat/ see. As you can see above, we had three stops planned before getting to Portland: Kenosha, WI; Rapid City, SD and Missoula, MT. I want to say that I planned this road trip around amazing food destinations along our route, but unfortunately this wasn’t that kind of road trip. We only had a certain number of days to get our rented Uhaul trailer to the Portland location without paying more money so we really didn’t have a lot of time for stops. Kenosha is where Cody’s from so that was obvious, then Rapid City was purely so that we could go see Mt. Rushmore and Missoula just happened to be a good distance in between Rapid City and Portland. Simple as that.
So much of the drive is a blur now. No, it was not like the movies where there’s a classic rock or mellow alternative song in the background, the sun shining through your window on your happy & carefree face, having a friend take the wheel while you’re cozily napping in the passenger seat with just your socks on.
Our first day started at 4:30 AM, when we both woke up at 3:30, stared at each other, and decided to just get up and go rather than trying to sleep more. It rained almost the entire way from NY to WI, and I had a meltdown as we reached Chicago and I took a
wrong slightly inconvenient exit (why I was responsible for navigating I ask you?!? I have NO sense of direction) that resulted in higher toll charges than an alternative. Ok… it was like $40 more so I get the issue. Upon arriving in Wisconsin we went straight to Culvers (fried cheese curds… duh), and The Brat Stop where I learned how to root for the Packers (there isn’t another option).
Driving day two was marked by the never ending flow of billboards through South Dakota (now renamed forever in my mind “The Billboard State”), advertising how many miles were left until Wall Drug (we started at about 300 as soon as we entered the state.. you can guess how many of these signs we saw), anti abortion propaganda, and the Corn Palace, among others. It was the most boring state I’ve ever been in.
Day three started with an early morning visit to Mt. Rushmore, the coolest part of the trip by far. Not only was it the most gorgeous day we had the whole time, but Mt. Rushmore was actually much more impressive than I expected. I would highly recommend it to any road trippers. It definitely delayed us for the rest of the day, but I’m still really glad we made the stop. Pro tip? Get there early! We showed up just after the gift shop opened, around 8 AM, and there was nobody around. Perfect if you’re trying to get some great photo ops!
Later that day…Wyoming! So pretty!
No I was not driving when I took this photo. Cody was taking over for me.
At the end of driving each day I would be so tired that I’d start falling asleep at the table in whichever restaurant we were in. You don’t realize how focused and alert you are all day until you sit down with your well earned beer and all of a sudden your eyes are shut. This happened more than once.
The scenery continued to improve as we drove toward Portland, and even better was when I started to recognize the names of towns on the exit signs. The only scary driving we encountered was going through Idaho into Washington, the road gets high in altitude and it was cold and icy.
Now, I’ve been settled in Portland for the last three months, and recently we moved out of my parents place and into our own apartment! We’ve been reintroduced to luxuries like a dishwasher, oven, and kitchen sink. Frankly, it’s been awesome. I’m really looking forward to getting back in touch with the Portland food scene, and cooking up some delicious food of my own! Read again: I HAVE MY OWN KITCHEN! It’s good to be back Portland!