It certainly isn’t the first time I have mentioned this summer’s 7-week cross-country road-trip (I feel like I have been going on about it for months!), but I thought it would be useful to have one central page that could act as sort of a “home base” for all the different pieces of content related to the road-trip and the destinations I visited.
What does this page include?
The 21 travel vlogs from the road-trip are all edited and uploaded (you can watch the playlist from the start) and also divided into the relevant sections below to help you find ones that you are interested in based on locations. Additionally, the pertinent dispatches and city guides that have been posted are linked and as I write more I will continue to add them to this post! One of the pieces of information I haven’t listed is how long I spent in each location and this is mainly because “efficiency” wasn’t necessarily a major consideration in my road-trip. As I had 7-weeks, I only tended to plan 4-7 days at a time. This resulted in me spending about 75% of the trip on the West Coast (particularly Washington) and two days speeding from South Dakota to Cleveland. This was exactly how I wanted to do the road trip; however, the calendar wouldn’t be particularly useful to anyone actually planning a trip, so I hope it makes sense why I left it out!
My Cross-Country Road-Trip Itinerary
Los Angeles, CA. My road-trip began in my beloved Los Angeles, a place I have previously written plenty about but still haven’t put together a complete list for (soon, I promise!).
Sequoia National Park, CA. After a few nights sleeping in a hammock in Bakersfield, I finally made it to my first real stop of the road-trip — Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Known for its huge sequoia trees (have you heard of the General Sherman Tree?), gigantic peaks, and dramatic waterfalls, Sequoia is nothing short of breathtaking. The original plan was to spend a couple of nights in Sequoia and then Yosemite which is north; however, unfortunately, the fires in Yosemite stopped me from entering, which just meant that I had more time to leisurely explore Sequoia and Kings Canyon. While spending time by Hume Lake, I admitted that this wasn’t too shabby of a backup plan.
Lake Tahoe, CA. One of those legendary California destinations, Lake Tahoe is a place that is a perfect destination year-round. The afternoon drive to Tahoe was fabulous by itself, a whole day spent twisting and turning through wine country; but, as I turned the corner and caught my first sight of Lake Tahoe, I gasped aloud. The lake’s various shades of shimmering blues and greens make it nothing short of dazzling and a place that needs to be on every traveler’s bucket list.
Portland, OR. Oh, Portland, my sweet, sweet love. You were the best introduction to the Pacific North West (PNW) and I aligned with your vibes so much that I ended up spending an entire week exploring you. Last week I published my Portland City Guide in which you can find a wide range of my recommendations. Portland is a city that I hope to get the chance to revisit again and again and I highly recommend you making a stop there soon.
Seattle, WA. Seattle has always been a few steps ahead of the rest of us – here is my Seattle City Guide.
San Juan Islands, WA. Just like I did for Portland, I will have a San Juan Islands Guide coming very soon and will update this section then.
Bellingham, WA. Multiple people had mentioned to me that I would enjoy Bellingham, WA a funky, student-town in northern Washington and they were right. After my extended time on the San Juan Islands, a few days in a very laidback town was the perfect way to transition back to mainland American life and it was another interesting insight into the vibrant state of Washington.
If you happen to be in Bellingham on the weekend then you want to make sure you attend the Bellingham Farmer’s Market, where many local vendors sell their wares and goods. Woods Coffee and Mallard Ice Cream are essential Bellingham eats and their new Bellingham Beer Garden is where you will find in-the-know locals. This is the PNW so you can bet there are plenty of outdoorsy adventures around. My Couchsurfing host and I did a strenuous 8-mile hike up Oyster Dome Trailhead and then rewarded ourselves with seafood from the famous Taylor Shellfish Farms. There is nowhere else I would have wanted to learn how to shuck oysters.
North Cascades, WA. The United States is lucky to have so many incredible National Parks, with most of them being exceptional in their own unique way. Even by this point in the journey, I wasn’t tired of driving nor seeing National Parks because each one was awe-inspiring. Driving through the North Cascades National Park was a day I will remember vividly due to its glaciers, lakes, and (of course) mountains whose names include Mt Terror, Mt Fury, and Mt Despair. This is undoubtedly the wildest of all Pacific Northwest wildernesses, although the “must-visit” Diablo Lake is as tranquil of a scene as they come (my experience was slightly tainted by the insane amount of smoke from the surrounding fires).
Winthrop, WA. Upon exiting the North Cascades, I drove a little further to Winthrop, WA, a town that has taken a step back into the Old West. Seriously, all the buildings in this tiny town look like they should be in a cowboy movie. Unless you are using it as a base to go cross-country skiing, a couple of hours is enough to walk around, grab some food, and imagine yourself as slightly more wild than you really are.
Vlogs: Visiting and Eating at Pike Place Market in Seattle / Disneyland of Starbucks – Seattle / Ferry to the San Juan Islands / England & USA Almost Fought Over a Pig / An Epic Unknown Mausoleum in the San Juan Islands / Wine Tasting in the San Juan Islands / Kayaking with Orcas / Exploring Orcas Island / Bellingham, WA – the most liberal town in USA / How Not to Shuck Oysters / Driving Through North Cascades / Best Tamales in USA
Boise, ID. While I had every intention of exploring Boise with as much gusto as I had other cities (I hadn’t been in a city for a while), my time there was mostly spent catching up on work and sleep. There is so much to do in Boise that I know I will be back in the not-so-distant-future to do it justice. However, the main things I was interested in doing included dining at The Basque Market (did you know that the city has the largest population of Basques outside of Spain?!), snap photos of the Idaho State Capitol Building, step inside the Old Idaho Penitentiary Site, and catch some music at Neurolux.
Twin Falls, ID. If you want a true American breakfast while finding yourself in Twin Falls, ID, then Buffalo Cafe is the place to go. Come in, take a seat among locals, drink unlimited cups of coffee, and sample the best of American diner cuisine. After you have consumed enough calories to keep you going for days, head to Shoshone Falls to see a spectacular waterfall that is higher than Niagara Falls! This was one of the most surprisingly beautiful stops of my trip and a mere taste of the beauty that exists in Idaho. On your way in or out, make sure you drive across Perrine Bridge — Twin Falls’ beloved arch that is particularly popular with base jumpers.
Craters of the Moon, ID. There is a place that looks like the moon in the middle of Idaho which begs the question, why isn’t everyone heading immediately to the Gem State? Craters of the Moon was definitely the least-crowded National Park I visited and most of the time it felt like I had it all to myself. Formed during eight major eruptive periods between 15,000 and 2000 years ago, the landscape at Craters of the Moon is weird and wonderful and certainly like nothing I had ever seen before.
Jackson Hole, WY. When in Jackson Hole, you are somewhat obliged to see the Jackson Hole Rodeo. I find rodeos extremely difficult to sit through, so now that I have seen two (I saw one in Texas many years ago), I think I have filled my quota. That being said, it is a great introduction to the cowboy way of life and, let me tell you, the Wild West is alive and kicking in Wyoming. If you want to experience it firsthand, opt to take a horseback ride with Swift Creek Outfitters through Grand Teton National Park, before getting your post-ride drink at The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Keep in mind that Jackson Hole is incredibly expensive and doesn’t have too much in the way of budget accommodation. For this reason, I was lucky to meet my Wyoming angels who invited me to stay with them at Glamping Jackson Hole.
Wind River Indian Reservation, WY. Like most Western states, Wyoming has an Indian reservation within its borders. A three-hour drive from Jackson Hole is the Wind River Indian Reservation, the seventh largest Indian reservation in the country and home to the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho tribes. While there isn’t technically anything to “see” here, I point it out because the drive through the reservation was completely serene and also as a reminder to keep the not-so-serene land politics at the forefront of your mind while in this part of the country.
A few hours beyond the reservation, I stopped at Bighorn Medicine Wheel which has been in use for 7,000 years.
Rapid City, SD. My final “real” stop was Rapid City (I drove very fast for two days from here to Cleveland) with the primary purpose of seeing Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial — two large-scale stone carvings that serve to commemorate some of the most important minds in the nation’s history, as well as being a reminder of the values that this country stands for. After spending time at the two memorials (they are about 30 mins apart), I headed back into Rapid City to see what was going on there. Turns out, lots of live music and presidential statues was the answer. The most surprising finding was a piece of the Berlin Wall which — when combined with Art Alley — had me thinking I might be back in Germany. However, a quick walk around the City of Presidents Statues had me well aware that I was still very much roadtrippin in the USA.