Favorite Moments from my 7th Cross-Country US Road Trip
This past week I made my seventh pilgrimage between Seattle, Washington and Wewahitchka, Florida. I know what you’re thinking, “Seven times! She must be mad.” but each time has been so uniquely wonderful. Here are my favorite moments from this southbound trip.
Bonneville Salt Flats
If I had to choose a word for this place it’d be immense. Nym and I walked for an hour and we just never seemed to get any closer to the nearby mountains. We saw signs that others had driven on the salt flats and I have to say I was a bit jealous of how fun a time it seemed like they had judging by all the doughy tracks they left behind.
Bonneville Salt Flats Tips:
If you are visiting by driving the westbound road, there is no place to turn around unless you do an illegal cross on one of the emergency vehicle only roads. Otherwise, it’s a 90-mile u-turn. I wasn’t in the mood to be a rule breaker and I was nearly out of gas so I opted for the long u-turn which meant that I missed sunset and I’ve been kicking myself for not breaking the rule ever since.
If you bring your fur baby, be careful to not let them run on the salt too long. Nym’s pads were sore after our walk and I felt so bad.
From what I saw of sunset and sunrise, I’d aim to be there for sunset instead if you have the option. Though, you’ll have it more to yourself at sunrise.
Sunrise at Mesa Arch
I’ve been to Canyonlands National Park before but I went at sunset instead of sunrise to Mesa Arch. I can officially confirm that timing is everything here and sunrise is where it’s at. Just look at the colors!
Blue Skies at Arches National Park
Whether this is possible or just an illusion, I can’t say, but I swear the sky is bluer at Arches National Park that anywhere I’ve ever been. Maybe it’s that orange is the perfect contrasting color and it just sets off the sky’s brilliance like wearing the right color shirt to bring out your eyes. Whatever the reason, it took my breath away.
A Squiggly Drive in Utah
You may have guessed this from the amount of miles I’ve driven, but I love the open road. I especially love when that road is curvy enough that people with a weak stomach would get car sick just looking at them. After an impulsive detour to see Natural Bridges National Monument, we found ourselves on just such a road and it was thrilling. If you have a chance to drive the Moki Dugway, do it! Just pack barf bags for your passengers. The view of the Valley of the Gods below is almost as insane as the road itself.
Sunset at Monument Valley
Sometimes you just get incredibly lucky. This was the case for us as we entered Monument Valley. We had gone out of our way for the Natural Bridges National Monument and were speeding to try to catch sunset at Monument Valley. As we got our first view of it, the sky was doing the most wonderful things. We pulled over, grabbed our cameras, and captured an unforgettable moment.
Sunrise at Monument Valley
I’m officially in the sunset camp at Monument Valley but sunrise shouldn’t be missed either. You can view it from the parking lot or the back porch of The View Hotel which doubles as the visitor’s center. This particular morning was cold and I thought I might lose a finger to frostbite before I could get this shot, but I’ve still got all eleven. I kid.
White Sands National Monument
Being a Florida girl, I didn’t think I’d be too impressed by white sand in the middle of New Mexico. I was dead wrong. Wandering across the dunes and making fresh tracks in the sand made me feel like I was on another planet. The only thing that could’ve made this more magical would have been curling up on a blanket and reading Dune until sunset.
A Mustang at Big Bend National Park
Pulling over to look at the famous Rio Grande that runs along the parks border and separates the US from Mexico was a must. Seeing a mustang making its way down to the river for its morning drink of water? Priceless. Big Bend is known for its wide variety of plant and animal life but I’ll admit, I didn’t expect to see a wild horse as part of that. It was surreal.
Big Bend Tips:
Big Bend is way out of the way from anywhere and you should only visit if you have a few days to spend there and want to do a lot of hiking. The park is the biggest in the US and the roads don’t interconnect well so it’s a massive area to cover.
If you don’t want to camp in the park, you have to drive about 40 minutes outside of the park to Study Butte to get a cabin. There is one lodge in the park with a restaurant and Wi-Fi but they’re fairly expensive.
Bring lots of snacks and water in with you and don’t count on having phone service as it’s existent but not consistent.
No matter how many time I do this drive, I always take the scenic route and I never regret it. Doing this usually adds between 10-20 hours to an already 43-hour trip, but driving hours out of the way for any of these stops is something I’d do all over again. No matter what state you’re in, the interstate is something you should leave behind frequently because if you don’t, you will never know what incredible moments you’re missing out on.