American Road Trip – Top 7 (final)
“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu
That quote couldn’t describe my American Road Trip any better. Like most people with a cross-country trip on their bucket list, finding the time to do it is always the biggest obstacle.
Fortunately for me, the stars aligned in the summer of 2015 and I finally made it happen. While the entire trip was phenomenal, there were quite a few things I learned and discovered along the way that I wanted to share. Almost 10,000 miles/16.000 km, 50 days, and 32 blog posts later I’m closing this trip out.
Writing about my trip on this blog over the past six months has been quite the tech learning experience. And while it was a painful process at times, it also afforded me the opportunity to re-live many of my trips best experiences. And for that, it’s all been worth it.
I now present my American Road Trip – Top 7.
1) Friends and Family
Reconnecting with long-lost friends and visiting family around the country were by far the best parts of my road trip. There’s nothing quite like pulling up to the house of an old friend you never thought you’d see again followed by the hours of laughter talking about the good ol days.
If there is one thing I discovered from this trip is that my life path has afforded me the opportunity to make many truly phenomenal friends. I’ve always known I was lucky in the friend department, but driving around the country and seeing so many in such a relatively short time frame really drove it home.
If there is one piece of advice I could give from my road trip, it would be to go visit old friends from 10, 15, or 20 years ago. You know those life long friends you could strike up an hour-long conversation with after a 10+ year absence. Make the time to find them, set something up and go spend an afternoon or weekend catching up. It’ll be something you cherish the rest of your life. I know I will.
2) National Parks and Monuments
There are 59 National Parks and 122 National Monuments* spread across the United States.
For almost 40 years on this planet, I pretty much ignored anything related to national parks. I always associated them with camping, fishing and long boring weekends. Well, I finally saw the light during this trip. Seeing Earl the bison my first morning in Yellowstone slapped the national park apathy right out of me. Those 30 minutes alone with an icon of the American West was one of the coolest experiences of my life.
On this trip, I visited 13 national parks, four national monuments, one national memorial, one national military park, one national river and a slew of national forests.
I have to give a huge thank you to my good friend and virtual tour guide, Dan Fouts (no relation), for all the national park tips. I still find it amazing he and his wife never saw one animal during their trip to Yellowstone. I guess they were all waiting for me. That’s the last dig ever, Leah. I promise.
Here’s a list of my favorite National Parks:
- Yellowstone, Wyoming – Wildlife, amazing landscapes and geological wonders.
- Zion, Utah – “The Narrows” slot canyon hike, great landscapes.
- National Mall & Memorial Park, Washington, D.C. – So many historic landmarks, monuments and memorials. A must for every American.
- Arches, Utah – The views on Devils Garden Trail to Double O Arch.
- Grand Teton, Wyoming – Wildlife and million dollar views.
*Number varies yearly when monuments are added and/or become parks.
3) Random Finds
One of the main reasons I like road tripping is the random stuff you find along the way. It’s exploring at it finest. And with 50 days wandering around the country, I had my fair share of “Random Finds.”
The locations where I donned costumes seemed to entertain people on social media the most. I wonder why.
Here’s a list of my favorite Random Finds:
- 1880 Town, South Dakota – Cowboy costume up in an 1880’s ghost town. Heck yeah.
- American Gothic House, Iowa – Not many people can say they’ve sported overalls and a pitchfork in front of the iconic American Gothic House?
- John Wayne’s birthplace, Iowa – Who knew Iowa had so much to see?
- Little Bighorn Battlefield, Montana – Wait, what did that sign say? Wow, I just randomly drove up to one of the biggest battles of the American West.
4) Kentucky – The most “funnest” state on my road trip
Man, people in Kentucky are great hosts. Too bad they’re also good at college basketball – Go UCLA.
As I mentioned before, seeing old friends was the best part of the trip. Go and throw in a Zombie Walk and Buffalo Trace Bourbon Distillery tour and I think I have my favorite state of this road trip. Kentucky, who knew? Don’t worry California and Colorado, you’re still overall top 1 and 2, not necessarily in that order.
Thanks again Buta Family, Ricker Family and friends for making Kentucky the best state out of 27 on this road trip.
5) Switzerland of America
Colorado is the state that just keeps on giving all year round. Kind of like the Jelly of the Month Club (Christmas Vacation reference).
Driving into the San Juan National Forest and seeing large swaths of yellow covering entire mountains was one of the major WOW moments of my trip. While it falls in the “Random Finds” category, it was so cool I had to give it a spot on the Top 7.
I’ve always heard people in the Northeast part of the United States talk about going to see the leaves change colors in the Fall. I never understood what could be so great about leaves changing colors until that day last September. Now I know and it’s one of my favorite road trip moments.
6) Crazy Horse Memorial
For some reason, the Crazy Horse Memorial really stuck with me and was much more impactful than even Mount Rushmore, which is just down the street. Maybe it was the combination of his story, seeing him up close and the views of the Black Hills from the top of the memorial. Whatever the reason, it was definitely a Top 7 from my road trip.
7) 9,979 miles in my German Souvenir
First off, this country is freaking huge. You can’t really say that until you’ve driven back and forth across it. Flying is cute, but a cross-country road trip is really the only way you’ll ever really know just how big the U.S. really is. My final mileage / kilometer-age was 9,979 miles / 16.060 km.
Now, hopefully this doesn’t come off as pompous, but one of the best things about my American Road Trip was making the journey in the same 5 series BMW I drove around Europe for a year in 2014. It was just kind of cool to drive the same car 10,000 miles / 16.000 kilometers in both Europe and the United States. Of course the car’s damn comfortable and a blast to drive, especially when you need some speed on very short notice.
During my drive from Denver to Colorado Springs, I had my best ever USA – BMW driving moment. But since I may have gone a couple of miles an hour over the speed limit, I can’t/shouldn’t elaborate. But just thinking of that victory over the Lexus and Audi brings a huge smile to my face. It reminds me of the many “competitions” I had in Germany against Mercedes and Audi’s on the autobahn. It was nice to get another “W” in the U.S., even if it was against competition that’s not used to driving 140 mph / 225 km/h during their afternoon commute.
So the vehicle that made it all happen, and happen in comfort, rounds out my American Road Trip Top 7.
This road trip definitely wouldn’t have been the same, or as long, in a lesser vehicle. Thank you, Germany.
Well, that’s it folks. 50 days, 10,000 miles / 16.000 km and 32 blog posts of driving around America wrapped up into one tidy package. A map and link to all my stops is provided below.
No need to repeat the many words I’ve already written describing this adventure. It truly was a once in a lifetime experience and with all there is to see in the world (shiny objects), I’m not sure when I’ll be jumping in a car to do it again. Perhaps American Road Trip part II will come after I visit my 100th country. I’m in the mid 50’s now.
Thanks again to the many friends and family members that hosted me and made this trip a once in a lifetime experience.
All Europe, all the time. I have years of living and traveling through Europe to share. In addition to new travels starting in August.
I’ll be mixing it up a bit using my Where’s Rogers? Facebook Fan Page, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media to make my travels more interactive and “social.” I hope you’ll come along and participate in the ride.
Lastly, if you’re subscribed to my blog, look my new monthly newsletter in the next few weeks. It’ll have my travel updates, pictures and stories I don’t share on the blog or anywhere else. I may pick your brains for travel ideas as well.
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.