The cross-country road trip has been an American traditional rite of passage since it gained popularity as the best way to see the country almost 65 years ago. You don’t have to bleed red,white, and blue to be familiar with the image of the Great American Road Trip. The wind blows through a Ford convertible mussing the hair of the modern American adventurer who blazes a path across unexplored territory. A pair of wayfarers provide the sole protection from the sun hanging high in the vast blue sky, while the wide open yellow striped blacktop fades into the horizon.
Upon my return to the United States, I was faced with the task of relocating from the West Coast to the East and immediately my mind snapped to the picture perfect American road trip image to which I was now mentally Photoshopping my brunette self and tiny Hyundai Accent into.
Start- San Francisco
Day 1 San Francisco to Santa Barbara
Day 2 Santa Barbara to Phoenix
Day 3 Stay the night in Phoenix
Day 4 Phoenix to The Grand Canyon
Day 5-6 Camping in the Grand Canyon
Day 7 Grand Canyon to Lake Powell – (camping)
Day 8 Lake Powell to Mesa Verde – (camping)
Day 9 Mesa Verde to Boulder
Day 10 Stay the night in Boulder
Day 12 Kansas City to Lexington
Day 13 Lexington to Pittsburgh
Finish – Pittsburgh
The sound of a 13 day road trip can be daunting. After all, you are willingly locking yourself in a metal box for the majority of almost two weeks and letting go of the ability to control your food choices, constant shower access and toilet availability. I’ll admit even I was a bit intimidated by the long stretch of road ahead of me. However, this turned out to be one of the best trips I’ve ever taken and I would highly recommend traveling across the US as an American rite of passage.
That being said, here are some tips to survive:
1. Have a Road Buddy
Besides obvious safety and navigational advantages that a friend provides, you’ll find nothing brings people closer like being in the same car for hours on end. Deep conversations and exciting side adventures are better when shared. Just make sure it is someone you won’t want to leave at a random rest stop halfway through the trip!
2. Books on Tape
Books on tape will literally preserve your sanity while on the road. After conversation has run out, putting on a book is the best entertainment and most run at least 5 hours. I’d recommend the Audible app to download books to iPhone and play them in the car.
3. Camp Out
America is full of National Forests and awesome campsites that complete the nomadic road trip experience. Among my top picks are Mesa Verde, Colorado, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. Be sure to book in advance. These spots can sell out months in advance, and Yosemite sells out half a year in advance.
4. Visit Family and Friends when Possible
Nothing breaks up a long driving trip better than staying at an actual home and seeing people you haven’t seen in a while. Plus you get the benefits of being shown around by a local if you stay a bit. So hit up your friends and family along the way and ask to crash on the couch.
5. Take it Slow
Don’t plan to drive for more than 5 to 8 hours in a day. Planning long periods of driving increases the chance of you getting sick of it that much faster.