I’m pretty lucky in how much international travel I have done at only 24 years old. It makes me proud to flip through my passport and read my collection of stamps like a memory book. What I regret, though, is my lack of travel experience within the US, since it’s my home and I would love to know it. And so, when I had the opportunity to road trip from Texas to California, I was instantly onboard.
Brycen took my car to Dallas, Texas for the summer so he had a car to drive in while he completed an internship there. Since it was now August and he was done, he needed to bring it back to California, but he was not so thrilled at the idea of sitting in a car for 24+ hours alone again.
Instead of rushing to get home and doing it alone, I offered to join and make a mini vacation out of it. We both loved the idea, and researched our best route, deciding on interstate 40. We took off early Monday morning and made our mission the first day to drive as far possible.
We took off from Dallas and eventually found ourselves in Amarillo (I played “Amarillo Sky” on repeat here, of course!) where we stumbled across the “Cadillac Graveyard” – an art piece set up in the 70’s.
It’s legal to graffiti, so as the true artistic geniuses that we are, we creatively and totally uniquely signed our names, like no other tourists would ever think to do! #sarcasm
We hopped back on the road and took in the Texas scenery one last time; churches sat on each corner beneath water towers proudly announcing each town’s name. The land was flat and open for miles, often littered with long horn cows or horses grazing in the pasture (We even passed a “Horse Motel”?!?) We then crossed the state line went to straight to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we stopped for the night. Total time in the car: 11 hours.
We drove through New Mexico for only a short period of time, since we crossed at the very bottom of the state, but it was easily the most gorgeous of all the landscapes – rocky rustic red mountains hugged the freeways and shadowed us from the burning sun as the miles ticked on.
We made our way to our third state, Arizona, with a thunderstorm chasing us. We managed to stay in front of the ominous grey clouds, but the lightning struck all around us as we drove through Indian Territory.
It finally left us behind as we turned north and made our way to the Grand Canyon. The landscape in Arizona is hard to describe because it changed every few miles, often suddenly, shifting from desert to pine tree packed forests to open grassy flat lands, which is what surrounded us all the way until we drove up on the Grand Canyon.
The canyon itself was stunning – a seemingly infinitely deep cavern painted with corrosive streaks in blues, reds, and oranges.
The main lookout points were roped off, but further down the trail was open to the drop, so I made my way to the edge (as close as I dared) and took in the magnificent views around me.
From the canyon, we figured out that we had two options – continue west and end up in LA, where we could crash at a friends house for the night, or make our way north just a bit further and end up in Vegas. There was no question which route we were taking.
On our way there, I noticed a sign that read,
“Vegas – 100 miles
Hoover Dam – 30 miles”
and that’s when we happily discovered we were heading straight for another major American landmark. I slammed on the pedal – the sun was already sinking, but if we hurried we could just make it, and we found ourselves there with minutes to spare before daylight disappeared.
We finally arrived in Vegas around 10 pm. Hours in the car day two: 10 I swear Vegas is the only place where the check-in line will take over 30 minutes at that hour and the night is just beginning….on a Tuesday.
Brycen winked at our check-in lady a few times and managed a free upgrade to a 23rd floor room with a view of the strip. We took in the sites, and then quickly made our way down to join in on the fun. We stopped by Fat Tuesdays for a yard dog and jello shots and then tested our luck in the casino where Brycen managed to hit the jackpot on a dollar slot machine and I somehow won over $100 playing blackjack and roulette. Overall, successful night.
Finally, day 3, tired and hungover, we piled into the car to complete our journey home. This was our shortest driving day, totaling only 6 hours, and yet, it was easily the worst. Post alcohol binge, we were tired and bored and the scenery offered up nothing. We were quickly within California’s borders, and yet, it was BY FAR the ugliest area we passed. You would think there is no way that the same state that boasts beachy Southern California and breezy a coastal Northern half could not also contain the ugliest portion of our road trip, and yet…
Everyone warns you about, “ohhh, there’s nothing out there in Texas!” but no one can prepare you for how absolutely desolate the California desert is between Las Vegas and Bakersfield. It was over 100 degrees, and there was nothing but dry, dusty brown desert that was so barren, there were hardly even cacti in sight (and, also, so many one-lane sections?? It’s 2016?!?! Why am I stuck behind the world’s slowest semi for over 30 miles?)
Finally, we found civilization and just over an hour later, we were pulling up at home sweet home.
We had managed a lot in just three days, most of which was a surprising accident. It was fantastic getting to know and see each of the five states we drove through and while I still feel residual l back pain from sitting in the same seat for over 26 hours in three short days, I think we both had a fantastic experience and I look forward to my next US road trip (in like 3 years. maybe.)