Seriously, they are. And I’m someone who loathes driving. It turns out that all I hate is driving on city streets. (I use the term loosely; it’s not like Gainesville is really a city, but I do know I’d hate driving in SF.) Driving down the highway can be pretty amazing, though.
When the BF and I moved from Gainesville, FL, to San Francisco, CA, we took 1-10 west all the way through Texas. We stopped in San Antonio along the way to see the Alamo and eat some tasty, tasty roadside barbecue. The barbecue place was just this random little gas station restaurant with a smoker out back, run by a guy with a cowboy hat and a handlebar mustache. If you’ve never stopped at a place like that, you’re missing out on a valuable life experience in the form of an amazing pulled pork sandwich.
After Texas, we stopped in New Mexico to see the Carlsbad Caverns; I highly recommend that national park to anyone who can even remotely appreciate cave formations. It’s the prettiest cave system I’ve even seen. We drove north to Roswell next, but unfortunately, the UFO museum was closed down by the time we got there, along with the rest of the town. There weren’t even any funky alien gift shops open! It was a shame, but at least we managed to snag an alien coffee mug at a gas station up the road.
Next we spent a few days in Arizona, a state I’ve decided that I love. The Painted Desert and the Grand Canyon were stunning, and Flagstaff was a great mountain town. The only downside was that we got to the Grand Canyon on Memorial Day weekend. It was packed to the brim with tourists. Without the canyon, I would have thought we were in Disneyland instead.
When we made it to California, we actually had to drive through an inspection point for the first time the whole trip. It was weird, but they didn’t actually search our car, so it wasn’t bad. I guess we didn’t have the agricultural parasites they were looking for?
We didn’t linger in southern California, and we ultimately finished the trip within a little over a week. Along the road, though, we saw some incredible sights. Watching the landscape change was one of the most interesting parts of the journey. We went from the lush, flat southeast to scrubby but hilly areas in Texas. Then, we moved into the arid desert, complete with dust spouts and tumbleweeds. (For some reason, I was giddy with excitement at seeing my first tumbleweed. It just really felt like we were in the desert then!)
Once we got into northern New Mexico, we found ourselves in the mountains, and the mountains stuck with us all the way to San Francisco. The mountains have always been one of my favorite things about California, and now I live in a city where I can see them pretty much any time.
This journey wasn’t just awesome because of the scenery, though. I also learned a lot. For example:
- Road trips don’t take as much planning as you’d expect. Apart from arranging to have the rest of our stuff moved, all we really did was pile into the car and drive. We didn’t even plan out our hotels beyond knowing we needed to stay somewhere that allowed pets.
- Speaking of pets, a cat can actually be a great road trip buddy. Our kitty, Annika, was wonderful, and we never even had to put her in the pet carrier. She spent most of her time in someone’s lap or laying on top of our pile of stuff in the back seat.
- Snapple Apple is hard to find, even outside the south, so if you see it along the way, buy it. (That stuff is addicting and tasty!)
- You can get sunburned while driving if the sun hits you through the window long enough. So, kids, always wear your sun screen!
- Keeping a captain’s log of the trip (times when significant things happened, your impressions of events, etc.) can leave you with something amusing to read later.
- Taking pictures of yourself and making them look cool is tough. Fortunately, some people will be nice enough to help you out and take the photo for you.
- Having the right company on a long trip makes all the difference.
Whoever said that it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts, must have loved road trips. This was only my first one, but I’d like to try another. Perhaps I’d want to try traveling a shorter distance, though, and take along a third driver. A whirlwind week on the road was exhausting.
As much as I enjoyed the trip, I am definitely glad to be in San Francisco. It’s an awesome city; now, it’s my city, too. I’m happy to call it home, and I can’t wait to find lots of nerdy things to do. (If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave ’em in the comments!)