6-Week Cross Country Road Trip

From April 7 to May 17, 2015, I went on a spontaneous 6-week cross country road trip with one of my best friends. Saying it was an unforgettable trip would be a massive understatement. I knew it would change my view of the country as a whole, but interestingly enough, it also had a positive impact on Raw Athletics as well — which I discuss in more detail here.

For now, I just wanted to share my experience seeing this amazing country by posting my daily journal I kept along the way, along with my major take-aways.

Trip Facts

  • 40 Days
  • 27 States
  • 13 National Parks
  • 11,376 Total Miles Driven

Trip Awards

  • Favorite bar: Peacock Bar & Grill, Corvallis, OR (May 6)
  • Favorite city: Austin, TX (April 17)
  • Favorite national park: Yellowstone (May 12)
  • Favorite hike: Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park (April 26)

Things I learned—

  • Everything east of the Mississippi River arguably looks the same
  • The geography west of the Mississippi is unique and cannot be found back east
  • Driving behavior significantly affects gas mileage
  • It’s impossible to grasp how massive this country is until you’ve driven 8+ hour stretches at 85mph+ and still feel like you’ve made no progress
  • When showers are not readily available, you can clean up surprisingly well with facial towelettes
  • Adnan Syed is probably innocent (I listened to many podcasts using Podcast Republic)
  • Tim Ferriss & James Altucher have awesome podcasts


  • Tuesday April 7 — Washington, DC
  • Wednesday April 8 — Washington, DC to Atlanta
  • Thursday April 9 — Atlanta to Boynton Beach, FL
  • Friday April 10 — Miami, FL
  • Saturday April 11 — Delray Beach, FL
  • Sunday April 12 — Boynton Beach, FL
  • Monday April 13 — Orlando, FL
  • Tuesday April 14 — Orlando, FL to Mississippi
  • Wednesday April 15 — New Orleans
  • Thursday April 16 — New Orleans to Galveston, TX to Austin, TX
  • Friday April 17 — Austin, TX
  • Saturday April 18 — Austin, TX to Big Bend National Park, Texas
  • Sunday April 19 — Big Bend National Park, Texas
  • Monday April 20 — El Paso, TX to White Sands National Monument, to Albuquerque, NM
  • Tuesday April 21 — Albuquerque, NM to Colorado Spring, CO
  • Wednesday April 22 — Colorado Springs to Denver
  • Thursday April 23 — Denver
  • Friday April 24 — Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Saturday April 25 — Rocky Mountain National Park to Boulder; to Arches National Park, UT; to Cedar City, UT; to Zion National Park, UT
  • Sunday April 26 — Zion National Park, UT
  • Monday April 27 — Zion National Park, UT to Bryce National Park, UT
  • Tuesday April 28 — Bryce National Park, UT to Grand Canyon South, AZ
  • Wednesday April 29 — Grand Canyon South, AZ; to Joshua Tree National Park, CA; to San Diego, CA
  • Thursday April 30 — San Diego to Pacific Coastal Highway
  • Friday May 1 — Pacific Coastal Highway to San Luis Obispo, CA; to Carmel, CA; to Monterey, CA; to Sacramento, CA
  • Saturday May 2 — Sacramento, CA
  • Sunday May 3 — Sacramento, CA to San Francisco, CA to Yosemite, CA
  • Monday May 4 — Yosemite National Park, CA
  • Tuesday May 5 — Napa, CA
  • Wednesday May 6 — Eugene, OR and Corvallis, OR
  • Thursday May 7 — Portland, OR
  • Friday May 8 — Seattle, WA
  • Saturday May 9 — Seattle, WA
  • Sunday May 10 — Seattle, WA to Spokane, WA to Glacier National Park, MT
  • Monday May 11 — Glacier National Park, MT to Bozeman, MT to Yellowstone National Park, WY
  • Tuesday May 12 — Yellowstone National Park, WY to South Dakota
  • Wednesday May 13 — Mount Rushmore to Badlands National Park to Minneapolis, MN
  • Thursday May 14 — Minneapolis
  • Friday May 15 — Minneapolis to Chicago
  • Saturday May 16 — Chicago
  • Sunday May 17 — Chicago to DC

Detailed Daily Journal

Tuesday April 7 — Washington, DC

The 6-week road trip officially starts tonight at my brother’s apartment in Sterling, VA. I have already been here for a week since I moved out of my apartment a week prior. Bill will get here later tonight and we will hit the road early tomorrow morning. Consistent with my usual pattern, I’ve been procrastinating on almost everything related to this trip up until today– just started packing my bags and belongings for the trip, have not logged a single second behind the wheel of a manual transmission car even though the car we’re taking is manual, and aside for a very general route, have not done any research on specific sights to see or things to do. On top of that, I’ve been scrambling to get a lot of important business done before the trip, but looks like I’ll have to tackle a few of these projects from the road as there’s just too much to do and too little time. Bill got to my brother’s apartment at about 11pm. We got some basic planning done but decided to get to bed before we went through everything because it had already gotten to be 1am and we had to be up by 6am to hit the road so my brother could lock the door behind us as he left for work.

Wednesday April 8 — Washington, DC to Atlanta

Sunset at Piedmont Park in Atlanta
Sunset at Piedmont Park in Atlanta

We woke up at about 5am to pack the car and make sure we had everything. It was raining aggressively, and we had to make multiple trips to and from the car. It was raining so hard that even though the car was only about 10 feet from the cover of my brother’s building, we got soaked within seconds of stepping from under the cover. As if being soaked in everyday clothes isn’t uncomfortable enough, imagine knowing that you’ll be sitting in those clothes in a cramped car until you dry– fun way to start the trip, but weirdly enough didn’t dampen the excitement one bit. Once everything was packed and we said bye to my brother, we sat in the idling car for a few seconds in silence before it hit us– we didn’t exactly know our next destination, but since we had about 12 hours to figure that out, we just inputted “Atlanta, GA” into Google Maps and hit the road. (Note: This set the tone for the rest of the trip– not knowing exact details, just winging it as we went.) Straight shot to Atlanta. We stopped about halfway in a tiny parking lot of a church in the middle of nowhere in South Carolina so I could get a quick crash course on stick shift. We arrived in Atlanta just in time for evening rush hour traffic, and met a friend of mine at Piedmont Park for a beer– it was a beautiful day, perfect weather, and the park was fairly crowded. Granted I only saw that one snapshot of Atlanta, but it seemed like a young, active population. After the park, we then went to visit some of my cousins for dinner at their house, and then back to my buddy’s place to crash for the night after a long day of driving.

Thursday April 9 — Atlanta to Boynton Beach

We got breakfast in the morning with my friend and Bill’s friend. After eating and saying bye, Bill and I found ourselves in the exact same position we were in nearly 24 hours earlier– sitting in the car with only a general idea of where we wanted to go but unsure of the exact details. We originally planned to visit Charleston and Savannah on our way down to Florida and potentially staying the night in one of those places, but because they are decently close to home we figured we could easily make a trip back to either one any time, so we decided to skip them and make a straight shot down to my parents in Boynton Beach, FL. About an hour south of Atlanta, we stopped at a KFC in the middle of nowhere so we could grab some food. I also took this opportunity to practice driving manual in the KFC parking lot. First two times trying to put the car into gear, I stalled out, as opposed to my practice session yesterday that was flawless. Very frustrating, but practiced for about 10 more minutes until I was comfortable enough to test the road. I continued driving until about Jacksonville, and then Bill took it from there. We got in late, around 11pm, putting us at 1,250 miles in the book within 48 hours.

Friday April 10 — South Florida

Slept in until around 9am, made a large breakfast and then hung out at the beach for a few hours. Since we knew we wanted to hit the road again early Monday morning to get to Orlando, we decided to go out in South Beach Miami tonight so that tomorrow could be a break from the road. Got to South Beach around 8pm and went to a cool bar along the intercoastal with a pool and patio. Then we met up with Bill’s friend at another bar around the corner. We ended up leaving about 3am, got pizza and then drove home. Got back to parents house around 5am. Although it was only about a 90-minute drive, we had to switch driving in the middle so neither of us would fall asleep at the wheel– this was my second stint on the road in a manual car. Still alive.

Saturday April 11 — South Florida

Woke up late, made another large breakfast, and had a very stress-free morning and early afternoon while also getting a bunch of work done. Decided to head to the street fair in Delray Beach to walk around for a bit. Then I drove around my parent’s neighborhood for a little to get a better handle on stop-and-go driving– my big break here was learning the finesse of going from completely stopped to a crawling pace, as if inching up behind a car at a red light.

Sunday April 12 — South Florida

Did a lot of nothing today– woke up late, made another large breakfast, relaxed at my parent’s house, and got a lot of Raw Athletics work done in preparation of hitting the road again and not having a solid work space for a while.

Monday April 13 — Orlando

Woke up semi-early, drove up to Orlando and got in around 1pm. First, we were all lounging around the hotel room getting work done for about an hour, then we went down to hang out by the pool for a little before it started storming. Then four of us went out for dinner and drinks in the touristy part of Orlando- went to Senor Frogs, then a cigar bar, then a self-serving beer-on-tap place, then the hotel bar, then bed.

Tuesday April 14 — Orlando to Mississippi

Rest stop bathroom art in Mississippi
Rest stop bathroom art in Mississippi
Left fairly early in the morning with the next stop being New Orleans. We stopped in Gainesville at a Starbucks, I got some work done for about 30 minutes, then we kept driving west along Route 10. We decided to divert south towards Pensacola, FL and drove through Perdido Key and Gulf Shores– they were AMAZING beaches. Beautiful sand, beautiful water, and surprisingly developed– highrise building after highrise building. We continued on and decided to stop in Mobile, Alabama for a drink and quick bite, still unsure if we were going to make it all the way to New Orleans that night. The streets were dead, so we made a last-minute decision to continue on as far as we could. We made it about an hour outside of New Orleans before we decided we couldn’t make it any further, and since we didn’t want to deal with finding a room nor did we want to stray too far from the highway, we decided to stop at a rest stop along I-10 and slept in the car.

Wednesday April 15 — New Orleans

Mardi gras beads on a tree in Tulane, cross country road trip
Mardi gras beads on a tree in Tulane
Woke up fairly early from the sun, and got right back on the road. Made it into New Orleans, and decided to drive around for a bit while trying to secure a place on Airbnb. Immediately upon entering the city limits, we got muffalettas at Central Grocery. Then we drove through French Quarters and the CBD before parking at Tulane and walking around the campus for a bit. Beautiful campus. We finally secured a spot on Airbnb in the Treme right behind Louis Armstrong park. As we were driving to check into the Airbnb, we saw a cool cemetery that Bill wanted to take some pictures of. I was pretty uneasy partly because it was a cemetery, but partly because it didn’t seem like the safest area– but actually glad we went because I saw some cool things. For instance, saw a grave with a War of 1812 commemorative seal. Got a quick nap in at the Airbnb, then showered and headed out to explore the French Quarters. We first walked to Frenchman Street just east of the French Quarters to check out a few bars and live music. Then we got Poboys on Bourbon, and then went out on Bourbon Street for the night. It was a fun night, but probably my least crazy of the three times I’ve been here prior– granted it was Wednesday.

Thursday April 16 — New Orleans to Galveston to Austin

Woke up surprisingly early and hit the road again. Next destination was Austin, TX, but we decided to drive through Galveston because we had just started watching The Jinx on HBO. Our first stop was the beach and then bar right along the beach. We met a girl who was currently in the Coast Guard and who had made a day trip to Galveston to relax on her day off. She told us about the area and about growing up and living in the south. Then we drove by Robert Durst’s Galveston apartment as well as the place he dumped Morris Black’s body. We then continued on to Austin. Got in late, decided to sleep in the car in a Walmart parking lot.

Friday April 17 — Austin

Salt Lick BBQ in Austin
Salt Lick BBQ in Austin
Woke up early from the sun, parked downtown and went in to WeWork. Unshowered, felt nasty. (By the end of this trip, 24-hours without a shower was considered being in an almost perfectly clean state.) Got a LOT of work done and secured an Airbnb for the night. I worked until about 3pm, at which time we left to check in to our Airbnb, got a quick nap in and then headed out. The plan was to start a Rainey Street and then make our way to 7th Street, but because Rainey Street was so fun and last call was unexpectedly early, we never made it to 7th Street. There was a really cool bar called Container Bar comprised of almost exclusively shipping containers– very cool indoor-outdoor concept. I had never seen anything like Rainey Street– it was a normal neighborhood street that converted all the homes into bars, so it was like walking through a neighborhood, but instead of bar-hopping, it felt like you were almost hopping between house parties.

Saturday April 18 — Austin to Big Bend National Park

Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park
Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park
Today I woke up late—around 10:30am. We wanted to continue to head west, but didn’t exactly have a destination. After checking out of the Airbnb, we spent about 30-minutes at Starbucks getting our plan together since we figured cell phone service might be shaky from here on out. We decided to head to a famous BBQ joint called The Salt Lick just outside of Austin, and then visit a few national parks in Texas and New Mexico before eventually making our way up to Denver. We identified 4 parks we wanted to hit before Denver— Big Bend, White Sands, Chula and Chaco Canyon. We got to The Salt Lick about 25 minutes later— you drive through the middle of nowhere, and then all of a sudden, boom– a huge winery and amazing bbq place with an extremely large and extremely crowded gravel parking lot. I ordered an amazing pork rib plate with cole slaw, potato salad, beans and bread—all for $12. Delicious and very filling. Then we kept driving. We passed through some AWESOME small towns—most notably Johnson City, TX (home of LBJ—everything was named after him), and Fredricksburg, TX (the quintessential small western town with an awesome “main street”). I drove all the way to Fort Stockton, TX from The Salt Lick, then we started heading south towards the park– this is the first point in the trip where we completely lost all cell phone service. Made it to Big Bend about midnight. The stars were so bright, so amazing.

Sunday April 19 — Big Bend National Park

Approaching Big Bend National Park
Approaching Big Bend National Park
Woke up at Big Bend around 10:30am, much later than we expected. First we hiked the Boquilles Trail. On our way heading to it, we drove passed something which looked like a border-crossing checkpoint, but decided not to go, figuring it was just a trail on the other side of the border. Disappointingly, we later find out that it’s actually a tiny town on the other side of the border, with some authentic Mexican restaurants and a bar, all with a very interesting history– really wish we had made it out there. On the Boquilles Trail, we hiked up a ridiculously off-the-path route to this massive cave. We then continued on, turned around, and went back to car to explore more of the park. Next we drove to the Rio Grande Outlook and got a few good pictures, then took a dip in the natural hot springs along the Rio Grande, and then (wrongly) decided to test the Mazda3 on an off-road trail– it was a long day, but we saw a lot. We left the park in the evening and drove to El Paso, quickly ate at a Five Guys as they were closing, and then found a Walmart (conveniently next to a Starbucks) to crash in the parking lot for the night.

Monday April 20 — El Paso to White Sands National Monument to Albuquerque

White Sands National Monument
White Sands National Monument
I set my alarm early so I could wake up and head over to Starbucks to get some work done before we hit the road again, since I figured it’d be at least a day before I had cell and internet again. The nice thing was, it was already 9:30am on the east coast by the time I got to Starbucks, so I hit the ground running. Stayed there for about 2 hours, got a LOT of work done, and then we hit the road again towards White Sand National Monument– you’re driving through the desert, then all of a sudden you’re surrounded by white sand, it’s very bizarre. We then decided to skip Chaco and Chula National Parks and to simply continue on to Albuquerque. We arrived and found the downtown, which looked fun but was unfortunately dead (it was a Monday night after all). We drove around a bit exploring the city, then got tired so we vetted a few Walmart parking lots before we settled on a Walmart north of the campus and deemed it safe enough to sleep the night.

Tuesday April 21, 2015 — Albuquerque to Colorado Springs

We woke up and had breakfast at Frontier Restaurant—I got an insanely delicious breakfast burrito and cinnamon bun. Then we drove straight up to Colorado Springs. We got in fairly late, decided to see if there was a spot for us at the Garden of the Gods RV campground but they were already closed. We went to Starbucks to figure out our plan for the rest of the night and tomorrow. We decided to check out this old school that was converted into a bar & restaurant, and then headed downtown and ended up at a sports bar. We decided to crash at a Walmart parking lot again for the night.

Wednesday April 22, 2015 — Colorado Springs and Denver

Woke up early, hiked Garden of the Gods trail, then drove up to Denver. Took a shower at Bill’s friend’s house where we were staying, then went to REI and drove around downtown. We stopped at a brewery up in Golden and got some beers on the patio, then went to a restaurant close to the house and got wings and more beer. Then we watched one episode of Jinx before calling it a night.

Thursday April 23, 2015 — Denver

Woke up, went to Starbucks and got a lot of work done. We then drove around downtown a little more before checking out Red Rock Ampitheater. We then went back downtown to check out another great Denver brewery called Great Divide. We then made our way back to the house, stopping at a small market on the side of the road to grab some things to grill for dinner. We then watched the final three episodes on Jinx before calling it a night.

Friday April 24, 2015 — Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park

Woke up, showered, went to Starbucks to figure out our plan for the next few days, then grabbed lunch at BD’s Mongolian Grill. We said bye to Bill’s friend, grabbed our laundry, packed our bags and hit the road towards Rocky Mountain National Park. On our way, we passed through some really cool small towns, one particular one called Lyons. The views along the drive were amazing, especially inside the park. We went on a quick hike around the campground before the sun went down. Decided to claim a campsite and go to bed early so we could wake up early and get a good start to the day.

Saturday April 25, 2015 — Rocky Mountain National Park to Boulder to Arches National Park to Cedar City to Zion National Park

Sunrise at Rocky Mountain National Park, cross country road trip
Sunrise at Rocky Mountain National Park
Today we woke up at 5am in Rocky Mountain National Park in hopes of catching a sunrise. We found a good lookout spot around 5:45am and snapped pictures as the sun rose. Then we drove up the park, stopping at various lookout points, until we couldn’t drive any further due to closed roads from snow. One of the lookout points was of Long’s Peak, which is named after its namesake Major Long whom led an Army Expeditionary mission of the area in 1820– it was powerful to think that 200 years ago our armed forces were still mapping out this territory. We backtracked our path through the park and left to make our way towards Arches National Park. We stopped for breakfast in Boulder at a small bagel place around 8am. It was odd that despite being a Saturday morning, this one spot was the ONLY place open at the time– the owner explained Bolder “moves slow”. No kidding. We then continued on our way to Arches. The drive from Boulder to Arches was amazing— winding highways weaving through the Rockies. There were two notable mentions on this particular drive– first, driving past the most nonconformist town ever called “No Name, Colorado”, and second, the first time I’ve seen a “Runaway Truck Ramp” and learned what it was, and that even though it’s fun for a car to drive down an 8% decline on a highway for miles upon miles without ever touching the gas or the brakes, it’s not all fun-and-games for trucks apparently.

Very low cloud cover at Arches National Park, cross country road trip
Low cloud cover at Arches National Park
We eventually made it to Arches and I immediately learned within minutes of entering the park, while driving along a winding road straight up the side of the massive plateau that Arches sits on, that I may have a fear of heights. Luckily once you get to the top of the plateau, the only hint at your elevation was due to the perception of a low-ceiling overhead formed by the clouds— it almost felt claustrophobic as the storm clouds overhead were noticeably closer to you then clouds usually are. Arches overall was amazing, glad we made the slightly out-of-the-way stop, even though it was raining. Then we continued on to Zion National Park. We stopped in Cedar City, UT for Starbucks since it had been a while since we had reliable internet, and then went to the most ridiculous “club” called Toadz (that was not a misspelling). Left at midnight, got to Zion around 2am, and accidentally drove up the entire mountain before realizing we passed the campground area 20 minutes prior, so we turned back around and set up shop in the visitor center parking lot.

Sunday April 26, 2015 — Zion National Park

Angels Landing at Zion National Park, cross country road trip
Angels Landing at Zion National Park
Woke up today at 9am in the parking lot of the visitor center at Zion National Park. I was absolutely shocked at how beautiful this place was. From someone who’s spent his entire life in an area full of light pollution, I forget how dark night can really get— out here, it gets really, really dark. And although we were driving around the park for at least an hour last night, I had absolutely no idea what the park actually looked like. But this morning was a pleasant surprise. The towering pillars of jagged rock was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We drove around for a few minutes snapping pictures, but realized that all of the trails were in one section of the park only accessible by bus. So we parked at the Museum of Human History and took the bus all the way up to the top and went on a short 2-mile hike that took no longer than an hour. On the way up to this last stop, we heard the bus driver mention “Angel’s Landing”, and we agreed that we needed to make that hike. Holy shit, we had no idea what we were getting into. Bill forgot to wear suitable shoes for hiking, so we bussed all the way back down to the car, grabbed his shoes, ate a snack, took a nap (since we were running on only a few hours of sleep), and woke up at 1:45pm to head back up to hike Angel’s Landing. We got to the very beginning of the trail, essentially where the bus let us off, at 2:22pm. Keep in mind, the trail was only 2.5 miles up and 2.5 miles back. We arrived back at the bottom at 5:40pm—it took us 3 hours to hike 5 miles, including a 20-minute rest at the top to take in the views. The first 2 miles from the beginning of the trail up to Scout’s Lookout had a very steep incline– very, very rigorous but didn’t make me feel like my life was in danger. The last .5 miles, from Scout’s Lookout to the top of Angel’s Landing, was by far the most insane. Back at the very bottom of the trail, there was a sign that gave a very muted warning that 6 people have died on this trail since 2004—looking back, they probably should’ve emphasized that a bit more. Regardless, it was a crowded trail, so that gave me reason to underestimate the danger involved- if they could do it than why couldn’t I? When we arrived at Scout’s Lookout, I honestly thought that was the end. Then I saw people coming from around the corner of what was essentially a cliff with a 1,500 foot drop on either side, climbing while grabbing onto a chain. If I hadn’t seen people coming and going from this direction, there was no way I would’ve assumed we were supposed to go there, let alone legally allowed to go that direction. But seeing people twice my age and in not-so-great physical condition coming and going provided such a false sense of confidence. We decided to keep going. I’m really glad I did it, but had I known what I know now, after reading the articles and seeing the path first hand, I would not do it again. My shoes didn’t have the best traction, and the entire trek of .5 miles took place on a sandy, slippery, slanted surface that lent itself for bad traction— plus there was very little margin for error, so I took every step carefully and deliberately. There was a chain to hold on to and guide you for probably half of the way, and when it was there I relied on it almost 100%. When it wasn’t there, every step was planned carefully. There were crazy climbs, narrow walkways, and steep paths. But we eventually made it. It was amazing to be eye-level with the hawks and vultures that you typically see as a tiny dot in the sky. After that hike, we drove to St Georges to get dinner at Texas Roadhouse. Then I went to Starbucks for two hours to get some work done, we stopped at Walmart to grab a new case of water, and we ended up back at the same parking spot in Zion National Park to sleep.

Monday April 27, 2015 — Zion National Park to Bryce National Park

We decided to sleep in today since the prior night was a short night. Woke up at 10am and decided to get one more hike in at Zion before leaving. We made it up to Emerald Pools, starting at the northern part and ending at the southern part. The upper pool was very serene, except for the fact that there were about 40 other people there. There was a very subtle waterfall that made just enough noise to be calming. It filled a pool against the side of the wall that flowed into the river below. The lower cliff was more of a cave. To leave the park, we drove out towards the east— the same drive we did in the middle of the night when we first arrived. It seemed much shorter in the daylight, and had amazing views. We then drove towards Bryce National Park, driving through Red Canyon, which was very peculiarly shaped red rocks, hence the name. We decided to stop at a coffee shop just outside of Bryce in order to get some internet and make some phone calls, since we were unsure of how much service we would have in the park. We ended up staying at there for 3 hours talking to the owner and one employee—it was awesome hearing their perspective on the Baltimore riots, their tiny town, their religion, etc. We then made it to Bryce around 9pm, found a parking spot, and went to bed.

Tuesday April 28, 2015 — Bryce National Park to Grand Canyon South

Today I woke up at 7:30am for a phone call, then we drove around Bryce Canyon. We got off at a lookout and went for an hour hike that started around the edge and then took a path down into the valley. Then we drove around a bit more, saw the sights and random lookouts, and left the park towards Grand Canyon South, since North doesn’t open until May 15. We briefly stopped at Big Al’s Burgers, and then McDonalds to get Wifi. We made an impromptu trip to Flagstaff after driving past Grand Canyon because we really wanted to be in a city environment for the night, and considered driving all the way down to Phoenix but decided against it. Stopped at Starbucks in Flagstaff for a little, then went back to Grand Canyon. It was much more commercialized than I expected. We found a spot on the street next to a hotel, and slept there for the night.

Wednesday April 29, 2015 — Grand Canyon to Joshua Tree to San Diego

Joshua Tree National Park, CA, cross country road trip
Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Woke up, drove to a few lookouts. Then stopped at the visitor center for recommendations and was pointed towards the Bright Angel trail. It was reverse of what we were used to— you start at the top, hike your way down, and then once you’re nice and exhausted, turn around and hike back up. It was much more difficult this way. We hiked about 1.5 miles down, took in the sights, then turned back. Went to one more lookout, then left the park. We drove through Joshua Tree on our way to San Diego. I apparently slept through an odd checkpoint—still have no idea what agency it was. Anyway, the subsequent hour after entering California from Arizona was by far the most desolate area of the country we’ve seen so far. Granted we’ve never strayed too far from major highways, but it was startling. Joshua Tree was cool to drive through, and I could see it being amazing for hiking, but it was full of desolate, desert-like landscape, which I wouldn’t want to camp or hike for long distances. We then made it to San Diego, went straight to my favorite California burrito spot called Roberto’s (now called Valerie’s) and then went to PB Shore Club for goldfish racing– met a bunch of Baltimore people who worked at Under Armour. We were there for a while, then went to one more bar on Garnet, and decided to call it a night and slept in the car in the Von’s parking lot.

Thursday April 30, 2015 — San Diego and Pacific Coastal Highway

We woke up, got a breakfast burrito at Kono’s, and then separated for a bit— I went to Starbucks and worked for about 2-3 hours and Bill hung out on the beach. We then regrouped at Starbucks, drove up to Mt Soledad, drove through downtown La Jolla, then got my favorite fish tacos at Mitch’s Seafood, and then met up with my friend and her boyfriend in North Park. We went to a bar about a 10-minute walk from her new house. We then showered at her place and hit the road again. Got north of LA and slept in Oxnord, CA— first posted up in a Walmart parking lot that ended up having a bit too much activity for our comfort considering it was 2am, so we left and found a WinCo parking lot and slept there.

Friday May 1, 2015 — Pacific Coastal Highway , San Luis Obispo, Carmel, Monterey and Sacramento

We woke up and immediately hit the road with the goal of getting to Sacramento by the evening. From Oxnord, we took 101 North until we got to San Luis Obispo to stop at a Starbucks. Instead of getting back on 101 North, we went to Pacific Coastal Highway and took that all the way up to Monterey, driving through Los Padres National Forest– THIS is what I imagined PCH to look like! Amazing, winding road along the coast– rigid mountains to your right, steep cliffs towards the beach to the left. As we got further north, I saw a sign for Monterey, and wanted to check it out so I got off the exit. I quickly realized that Monterey was still a little more north, but the town where we ended up — Carmel by the Sea — was amazing as well in it’s own little quaint, small town way. We decided to park along the main street and walk around a bit. We then continued on and drove through downtown Monterey, and continued north to Sacramento. We finally met up with our friend, showered, and went out for the night with him and his coworkers.

Saturday May 2, 2015 — Sacramento

Grossly misspelled name at Starbucks
Grossly misspelled name at Starbucks
Woke up late, got breakfast at this diner around the corner for a few hours. Then we just hung out at his place the entire day. We kept debating whether or not to go to San Francisco that night, but eventually it got too late so we decided to stay another night. We ended up getting Thai food and then went to one of his coworkers’ apartments to watch the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. Hung around there after the fight for the rest of the night.


Sunday May 3, 2015 — Sacramento to San Francisco to Yosemite

Yosemite National Park, CA, cross country road trip
Yosemite National Park, CA
Woke up, showered, and left about 11am– took 2.5 hours to get to San Francisco. Went straight to my friend’s place, parked the car on the street, went up to his place to see it, then walked to get pizza. Then we drove around and saw the Coit Tower, the marina, Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli square, the Presidio and a few cool beaches along the Golden Gate bridge. Then we hit the road again towards Yosemite, getting in pretty late and just slept in the parking lot of Ahwahnee Hotel. As we parked the car, we saw a fox run through the parking lot, uncomfortably close to the car.

Monday May 4, 2015 — Yosemite National Park

Top of waterfall at Yosemite, cross country road trip
Top of waterfall at Yosemite
Woke up and decided to hit the trails early. Before we drove to the trail I quickly went inside of Ahwahnee hotel to hit the bathroom– so glad I did, that place was not what I was expecting at all. Outside, you’re in the middle of the dense forest of Yosemite, but once you step inside you’re standing in a 5-star hotel that doesn’t spare any expense. There was an amazing Reading Room and a very fancy Dining Room with dishes in the $50-70 range. We asked concierge for recommendations on trails to get to, and then decided to take his advice and were quickly on our way. First stop was a hike up to the top of the waterfall– it was pretty strenuous in the beginning simply from the steep inclines, although it was on a paved path. You eventually get to a small bridge to cross the flowing river and start heading up the mountain– that’s when the terrain get’s a bit tougher and the incline a bit steeper. When you’re close to the waterfall, you walk through a pretty strong mist. Once at the top, it was very serene and provided impressive views. After hiking back down, we decided to drive up one of the larger mountains in the park to get to the overlook at the top before leaving the park to hit the road. Unfortunately, we were running dangerously low on gas. Dangerously, dangerously low. At the bottom of the main road up to the outlook, the car said we had 20 miles to go before we hit completely empty, but the sign said the outlook was only 16 miles away– we decided to go for it. We found out the hard way that the 20 mile estimate was probably taking into account a flat terrain, and since we were scaling a mountain, we exhausted that entire 20 mile range about halfway up the mountain. We were driving on “0 miles left” for a few minutes before we decided to stop at the next outlook, which wasn’t quite at the top but still provided really great views, just to be on the safe side. What was amazing is we saw the waterfall we were standing at the top of in the distance, and it looked tiny– that really put the scale of our altitude into perspective. We then hopped back in the car and headed down the mountain– we saw on the map that the next gas station was right outside the park limits about 30 miles away. Luckily, our path straight downhill, and just by sheer luck we didn’t hit too much traffic, so we basically rode down the mountain in neutral and arrived safely at the gas station. We then continued on towards Napa Valley, and got about an hour outside of it before we decided to call it a night. Naturally, it was too late to find other lodging, so we found a Walmart parking lot to crash in for the night.

Tuesday May 5, 2015 — Napa

Woke up, drove towards Napa and went straight to a Starbucks to figure out where exactly to go, and decided to head to downtown Napa. We first checked out the visitor center and then a market before making our way to a tasting room right on the main street. We were there for a few hours and met a couple from Montana that gave us some places to check out in Montana on our way back east. We each grabbed a bottle of wine, and then hit the road again to get as close to Eugene as possible, but again, didn’t make it the entire way so we found another Walmart and crashed in the parking lot for the night.

Wednesday May 6, 2015 — Eugene and Corvallis

Woke up about an hour south of Eugene. Went straight to a Starbucks. We then went to campus to walk around— VERY similar feel to University of Maryland. There was also this really cool street fair going on in the middle of campus. Then we went to a few bars, but decided to hit the road to get a bit closer to Portland before calling it a night. As I was driving up Route 5, I saw a sign for Oregon State University, and at the very last second decided to take a quick detour and check out Corvallis. So glad I did. Once we got in Corvallis, we quickly stopped in a McDonalds parking lot to Yelp the best bars, and saw there were two that were consistently recommended– Peacock Bar & Grill, and Downward Dog. Decided to go to Peacock Bar & Grill first. Immediately inside, it looks like any bar– a large bar at the front with a crowd surrounding it, along with a dance floor and pool tables in the adjacent room. We hung out here for a while, not knowing there was more to the bar, until we noticed people coming and going from a staircase in the back. We were about ready to leave to check out the other bar, but decided to see upstairs before leaving. As you take the last few steps at the top of the staircase, we could hear country music blasting– already a good sign. Immediately upon entering the bar it immediately cemented itself as my favorite bar of the entire trip, and we still have a few weeks left to go. They were playing exclusively country music, everyone was wearing plaid clothing, and the dance floor was packed with people line dancing. They were playing fairly popular country songs, but each song has a specific dance to it, and it amazed me that everyone knew the dances. Then midnight came around, and the DJ abruptly stopped the music and played Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American“, followed by Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of Red White and Blue“, followed by the National Anthem, followed by a spontaneous “USA, USA, USA!” chant — and then back to the music and line dancing. No bar’s environment will ever live up to that ever again. We stayed until closing, didn’t even make it to the next bar. We then hit the road and got as close to Portland as we could before calling it a night at a random Walmart parking lot along the way.

Thursday May 7, 2015 — Portland

We woke up and made our way to Portland, quickly looking up things to do. We first made it to Powell’s City of Books, then went to the International Rose Test Garden and the Japanese Gardens, then went to a very unique-looking Starbucks to look up more things to do. We decided to head to Pearl District to park the car and walk around. We ate at a rooftop sports bar, then walked around a bit. Saw a cool street fair with a lot of repurposed wood furniture, then we walked to Pioneer Square Park. Obama was in town, so a lot of the streets were blocked off. Then we went across the river to check out some other bars—they were exactly what I expected Portland to be. We went to a bar called Roadside and played pool, then drove by a few others but just decided to call it an early night. Parked at Walmart about 40 minutes north of downtown Portland.

Friday May 8, 2015 — Seattle

We woke up about 3 hours south of Seattle. Immediately went to the closest Starbucks to find an Airbnb for the weekend but ended up not booking anything. Hit the road, got into Seattle around 1pm and went straight to WeWork to get some work done and regroup for a bit. Got lunch at a bar with nice courtyard patio, had a delicious Moscow Mule. Went back to WeWork to try and figure out our plan for the rest of the day, and decided to go see the sunset at Kerry Park and then head out to Capitol Hill. We then drove about 20 minutes south of the city to sleep in a Walmart parking lot.

Saturday May 9, 2015 — Seattle

Pikes Place Market, Seattle, cross country road trip
Pikes Place Market, Seattle
We woke up and went to Starbucks first thing in the morning to regroup and get some work done. Then we headed into the city to do some touristy things– first we went on a short hike through the Arboretum, then drove through University of Washington, then ate hot dogs at Diggity’s and hung out at a bar next door. Per recommendation from a lady at the bar, we went to Freemont and Ballard at night, but got very tired and just decided to get to bed early instead of going out, so we drove east to Belleview to avoid the traffic tomorrow morning. Up until this point in the entire trip, whenever in doubt, we always took the west route– this was the first time we took an east route. We had made it as far west and as far north as we could by following the clockwise rotation, and now we were headed back home.

Sunday May 10, 2015 — Seattle to Spokane to Glacier National Park

Rushing water by old powerplant, Spokane, WA, cross country road trip
Rushing water by old powerplant, Spokane, WA
We woke up fairly early and hit the road towards Glacier National Park. We stopped about halfway in Spokane, Washington, first to quickly stop at Starbucks and figure out details for the next few days, such as what route to take and what sights to see at Glacier National Park and Yellowstone. Once we were done, we left and quickly walked towards the waterfront before leaving– it was awesome! Strong rapids and an old-school suspension pedestrian bridge going right over the water and right next to a very old water-generator power plant. We then hit the road again towards Glacier National park, getting to the park rather late before finding a strange little neighborhood in the park to park the car and sleep for the night.

Monday May 11, 2015 — Glacier National Park to Bozeman to Yellowstone

Glacier National Park, Montana, cross country road trip
Glacier National Park, Montana
We woke up early and walked to a few very cool lookout points along a strong river before it started raining pretty badly. We drove around a bit longer before deciding to just hit the road to head towards Yellowstone– really wish we had seen more of Glacier National Park, but the weather just wasn’t cooperating and we were on a pretty tight time schedule from here on out for the rest of the trip. On the way, we stopped in Bozeman, Montana, per recommendations from the couple from the wine tasting in Napa– so glad we listened. Bozeman was exactly how I expected a small town in the mountains of Montana to be– a well-kept main street with lots of brick buildings and independently-owned stores, nice people, low stress and a relaxing pace. We stopped to grab a beer and play pool at a brewery right on the main street before heading back on the road towards Yellowstone. We got into Yellowstone rather late and found a parking spot right in front of a nice hotel to park and sleep for the night.

Tuesday May 12, 2015 — Yellowstone to South Dakota

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, cross country road trip
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
We woke up early and mapped out a path that would take us to all the best sights that also kept us going in the direction we needed to take to get to Mount Rushmore, since that was going to be a horribly long drive in-and-of itself. Our first stop was east through the northern part of the park towards Lamar Valley– we saw a bunch of nice falls and and on the way saw some black bears, elk and bison. At one point there was a herd of bison straddling the road, so we pulled over right in the middle of where they were and parked the car to get some pictures. I was freaking out a little bit because a few of the bison were fighting each other uncomfortably close to the car. We then continued on to Lamar Valley and turned around before backtracking to the hotel to head south. On the southern route, we saw a lot of the geysers, including Old Faithful– luckily it erupted right when we arrived, and we stuck around for about 10 additional uneventful minutes before leaving– not sure how rare it is to see Old Faithful erupt, but glad to see it nonetheless. It was already late afternoon when we left Old Faithful heading towards Mount Rushmore, which is about an 8 hours drive, so we knew we probably weren’t going to make it all the way before having to call it a night. But we also knew that the following day, which was starting in Mt Rushmore and ending in Minneapolis, was also going to be an insanely long drive, so we knew we had to go as far as possible tonight to stay on schedule. I got us to about three hours outside of Mt Rushmore before I was way too tired to drive, so Bill took over to get us a few hours closer– the funny thing was that although I did pull the car over onto the shoulder to switch, I could’ve very easily and very safely left the car in the middle highway– it was pitch black and we hadn’t seen another car in either direction for a long time. I actually stood in the middle of the highway and just looked up at the stars for a while because it’s so rare to see the sky that clearly back east. We ended up getting about 45 minutes outside of Mt Rushmore before calling it a night.

Wednesday May 13, 2015 — Mount Rushmore to Badlands National Park to Minneapolis

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, cross country road trip
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
We woke up and went straight to Mt Rushmore– it was awesome seeing it as you drive up the mountain towards the park itself. From the highway it’s still rather small and easy to miss, however you could appreciate the impressive intricate detail even from that far away. From the amphitheater inside the park, the detail was even more impressive, but unfortunately that’s as close as we could get because the Presidential Trail was closed. We then hit the road towards Badlands National Park, which is interesting because you immediately and abruptly go from a terrain of lush plains to sandstone formations very similar to what can be seen at Arches National Park in Utah. We drove through and saw some of the outlooks before continuing to head east towards Minneapolis, and ended up getting to my friends house around 10pm, where we caught up for a little before calling it a night.

Thursday May 14, 2015 — Minneapolis

Slept in today and was moving very, very slow throughout the morning and early afternoon– the long, consecutive drives finally caught up with me, and although the trip has been a blast, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The rain didn’t help much either. We finally gathered ourselves enough to go and walk around the Mall of America. After making one loop, we were surprised that one of the largest malls in America might be smaller then we were expecting– then we realized all we had done was complete a small loop that was within a much, much larger loop, and had only covered one of the many floors. We walked around a little more before deciding to drive downtown to see a bit more of the city. We drove past the Mill City Museum, where an old flour mill used to exist, but was shut down in 1965 and suffered serious fire damage in 1991 that was never rebuilt. We then drove through downtown a bit, but it was already rush hour by this time so we just decided to head back to my friends house so we could all grab dinner. We ended up getting Juicy Lucy’s. Then we just went back to their house to relax and get to bed early.

Friday May 15, 2015 — Minneapolis to Chicago

After saying bye to my friend, we hit the road for Chicago, and got in around 7pm, just in time to pick up Bill’s girlfriend from the airport. We then went straight to our friends place to drop off our bags and watch the end of the Wizards-Hawks game before heading out. Was able to meet up with a friend from DC who also happened to be in town the same weekend. We went to a few bars and then went back to our friends place to crash for the night.

Saturday May 16, 2015 — Chicago

We all woke up fairly early and grabbed brunch together before heading our separate ways– our friend who’s place we were staying at had some things to get done, Bill and his girlfriend when on the architecture boat tour of Chicago, and I met up with a buddy from high school for a little. We met up again at Millennium Park later that afternoon to walk around a bit more before going back to the car and heading over to Bill’s girlfriend’s cousin’s place. Their home was beautiful, brand new and completely custom. We grilled dinner there and then went to a block party across the street, then headed to a new restaurant bar he’s part owner in before calling it a night.

Sunday May 17, 2015 — Chicago to DC

We woke up really early since we had an 11-hour drive ahead of us, not including any stops for gas or food, or taking into account the hour we were losing going from central to eastern standard time. We took a southern route, through Indianapolis, Columbus, and then western Pennsylvania and Maryland– the old manufacturing towns in western Pennsylvania and Maryland were pretty cool, I had never been to a place like that before. About an hour outside of Sterling, Virginia, we got lost somewhere at the intersection of West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia, which also happen to have absolutely no cell phone reception either– that was fun. We eventually made it back to my brothers pretty late, unpacked the car, and then Bill headed back home to Baltimore.

Join Our Weekly Email Of DC Startup News & Political Analysis
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Get our once-a-week email of the latest DC startup news and political analysis
Completely free. You can unsubscribe at anytime.
Stephen Steinberg

Stephen Steinberg

Stephen is the Founder of Vapor Fresh, a line of safer plant based cleaning products for the sports & fitness industry, as well as Founder of Animate Yerba Mate, a brand bringing quality unsmoked organic Yerba Mate teas to the USA.