As I’ve mentioned in the past, Nick and I are going to be taking a cross-country road trip this August. We have John Muir to thank for saving a whole bunch of amazing landscapes for us to visit. This road trip has been 6 years in the making. We originally wanted to take a similar trip right after graduating from college, but since I started my first job the day after graduation, we were forced to postpone. I’m glad we waited until we had some money saved up so we don’t have to skimp on every detail like we would have had to do as poor recent college grads. Here’s what we have planned for our three-week long trip. Let me know if you have any suggestions!
First off, this is roughly the route that we’re taking. We haven’t decided on actual driving roads yet, but we want to make sure that we mix in local roads to get the local flavor instead of speeding across the country on major highways.
Day 1 is a major driving day, but we made sure to route ourselves through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, the first of the three “Grand Canyons” that we will see on this trip. We’ll end up in Chicago at the end of the day and I’m sure collapse in bed the minute we get there.
Day 2 will be spent exploring Chicago. We plan on taking the stereotypical architecture river tour and visiting some museums before we end up at Nightwood for dinner, which looks so homey and delicious.
Day 3 takes us over to Moline, IL where Nick’s grandmother lives. I’m excited to see her house, which Nick’s grandfather built himself, and the town that I’ve heard about for almost 10 years now.
Day 4 will be spent driving to Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It’s a pretty lengthy drive, so hopefully we’ll find some weird side-of-the-road attractions to visit, like a giant ball of twine.
On Day 5, we drive to Yellowstone National Park, stopping at Mount Rushmore and Devils Tower on the way. By stopping I mean we’ll be doing little more than getting out of our car and checking them out. We’ve heard that Mount Rushmore isn’t worth stopping for, but it would be silly to drive right by it and not stop. Devils Tower offers some great rock climbing opportunities if you’re into that. Once we arrive at Yellowstone, we’ll be staying in the Lake Lodge Cabins, which we were excited to snatch up for $69 a night! They’re pretty bare bones, which is fine with us. Who needs a TV or internet access while on vacation? Not us! Aren't they adorably quaint?
On Day 6, our first full day in Yellowstone, we plan on going on a hike, possibly to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (Grand Canyon #2 if you’re keeping track).
Days 7-9 will be spent on our OARS Jackson Lake 3 day kayaking trip in Grand Teton National Park. This is one of the things I’m most excited about. We will spend 3 days kayaking, hiking, and camping around Jackson Lake. The lovely OARS people haul our camping supplies and cook us gourmet meals, which pretty much takes the hard part out of camping so I'm ok with it. We get back on the morning of Day 9, so we’ll do a short hike, possibly to the Mammoth Hot Springs, before retiring to the Lake Lodge Cabins again.
Day 10 will include our longest hike while in Yellowstone. We’re not sure exactly where we’ll be going yet, but I’m sure it will involve a mountain.
On Day 11 we move slightly south to the Grant Village area for a half day of kayaking with OARS on Yellowstone Lake. We might spend the rest of the day lounging at our cabin. Who knows!
Day 12, our last day in Yellowstone, includes another long hike, most likely to the Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the US and pretty darn neat looking (shown below), and Old Faithful (no explanation required).
Day 13 of the trip is a transition day from the Yellowstone portion of our trip to the Grand Canyon portion. We’ll be driving to Utah and pretty much just sleeping there since it will take us awhile.
Day 14 is the second leg of driving to the Grand Canyon. I’d say this is Grand Canyon #3, but let’s be real: this is the actual Grand Canyon. We’ll most likely arrive later in the evening, so I’m not sure how much we’ll be doing once we get there. We were excited to book a cabin at the Bright Angel for the time that we’ll be there. It's another bare bones cabin like we are staying at in Yellowstone.
Days 15 and 16 are devoted to short hikes into the Canyon. We had initially wanted to hike all of the way to the bottom of the canyon and all of the way back up, but it’s going to be super hot in late August and we just didn’t want to do that to ourselves. We are still trying to figure out what to do during the day while we’re here because our hikes will most likely be in the morning and evening due to the heat. Any suggestions?
On Day 17 we drive from the Grand Canyon to Colorado Springs. Then we crash at a hotel for the night.
On the morning of Day 18, we take a cog train to the top of Pike’s Peak and then drive into Denver for an oil change, some exploring around the city, and dinner at Second Home.
On Day 21 we drive to Saint Simons Island, GA. I hope to fit in at least a walk around the island before we go to bed. We’re staying at the Ocean Inn & Suites, which is right across from a park, where…
…on Day 22 we’ll be celebrating the marriage of our friends Keeva and Lauren! Our road trip was already in the works when we found out about the wedding and it’s the perfect way to end our trip!
On Day 23 we get back in the car and head up to Raleigh, NC (by way of Savannah) to stay with our friend Steve. On the morning of Day 24 (Labor Day) we’ll feast at Big Ed’s in Raleigh. We have gotten a ridiculous amount of food at Big Ed’s while visiting Steve in the past and it’s pretty much mandatory that we go there whenever we’re in the Durham/Raleigh area. The first time we went was for lunch and I got a half chicken, mashed potatoes, veggies, biscuit AND roll, a soda, and a dessert for $7. $7!!!! Can you believe it?? The last time we went was for breakfast and Nick got this insane plate. That's potatoes, gravy, onions, and cheese with a side biscuit with country ham.
We’ll also be picking up a bag of biscuits before embarking on our final drive—up the east coast on 95. We’re hoping that the holiday gods shine upon us so we don’t get stuck in too much DC/Baltimore traffic. But if not, you would not believe what a biscuit can do to ease traffic stress. Upon arriving back in Newtown, PA, we will pick up a celebratory pizza from our buddies at Newtown Pizza and return to a cat who I’m sure will be missing the heck out of us (not that Grandpa Billy, aka my dad, isn’t a suitable babysitter/head scratcher for the three weeks that we’ll be gallivanting around the country).
Don’t worry, it’s not straight back to work for us once we get home. We reserved two days of rest before returning to work on Thursday, September 8th. That way, we only have two days at work and then we get another weekend, complete with another wedding! Aren’t we excellent vacation planners?