Well, now that we’re home, and the laundry is done, and the luggage is (mostly) put away, we just wanted to take some time to reflect on this enormous, 7-week adventure of a lifetime.
Most people have asked us, what was your favorite place you went, best thing you did, etc.
Unsurprisingly, this question is nearly impossible to answer! There were definitely some highlights and some lowlights (here’s looking at you, I-15 from Vegas to LA), and so many places we want to return to for a visit! We definitely short-changed the Pacific Northwest on this trip, with our rushed tour of Olympic National Park, Seattle, and Mt. Rainier.
Our hike on Mt. Rainier was definitely one of the best. There was a huge variety in the scenery throughout the hike, with snowfields, rocky areas left behind by glaciers, and gorgeous meadows. The problem is that it’s hard to declare it THE best hike.
Observation Point in Zion was also amazing. The views of the canyon below were breathtaking (not just because of the altitude).
The hike in Glacier National Park was beautiful and allowed us to see mountain goats – definitely a highlight!
We still can’t pick a favorite park. Maybe the hiking in Yellowstone wasn’t as great as some of the others, but you can’t beat it for wildlife encounters. So many bison!
And we saw dolphins and a whale on the way to the Channel Islands, which was incredible as well.
Oh! And the stars in Big Bend! The magical quality of the dark and silence out there was unforgettable.
Exploring the national parks was a favorite part of the trip. But another amazing part was getting to visit with friends and family all over the country. It was wonderful to see everyone, and we were so grateful for their hospitality. The best way to see any city is definitely with the guidance of the locals. We absolutely loved just getting to spend time with people who are normally so far away.
Did we have a favorite city? Impossible question and we shall continue to dodge with egalitarian answers! We were big fans of the nightlife in Nashville. Even without being country music buffs, we still loved sitting in the bar and listening to great live music.
San Francisco was also fun – we loved walking around and definitely felt there was more there for us to see, and would happily go back to explore more.
Once again, our time in Seattle was far too short, so we will definitely want to go back and explore more (and even hit some tourist sights for Sam, who has never seen any of them!)
Getting to go the art museum in Chicago for free! Yes!
We spent over 100 hours in the car. Close to 200 by our estimate. How did we survive? It’s strange, but some of our longest drives were some of our easiest.
While driving from Texas to Arizona, via New Mexico, the time really seemed to go by. Maybe it’s because the highway in New Mexico was so straight (with gorgeous rainstorms in the distance). Any drives with great scenery were downright enjoyable, and there were many of them.
The stretch of Pacific Coast Highway stands out.
So does the drive to Big Bend, with dramatic rock formations sticking out of the landscape and rendering it alien to us, who are so used to trees and greenery.
We listened to quite a few podcasts, and we can highly recommend! We listened to 99% Invisible, a show about the design of and story behind everyday overlooked objects. We also enjoyed getting sucked into the conspiracy of The RFK Tapes, about the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Bubble, a fiction sci-fi comedy show about millennial monster hunters was great, too. Other excellent podcasts: Judge John Hodgeman; Lore; My Brother, My Brother and Me; and The Soundtrack Show.
Bathrooms on the road, for those wanting to know: Pilot truck stops are best. But really, most gas stations with a convenience store were clean and fine!
Did we learn anything from our adventure? Yes! The U.S. seems a lot smaller when you explore it via short-ish drives. This country is filled with so many breathtaking landscapes and cityscapes – many people probably don’t even recognize the beauty right in their backyards. Book National Park lodging at least one year in advance. Elvis hails from Connecticut. There is good food to be had almost anywhere (there are exceptions – the lodge restaurant in Big Bend, for example). People in rural Montana are really good at trivia. People in Portland are extremely nice. Hiking at 8,000 feet elevation is different than hiking at 800 feet. Friendships can survive many months and thousands of miles of distance apart. Two people spending almost every moment of 49 days in a row can enjoy it quite a bit.
This trip was in the making for close to a year, and we wholeheartedly recommend, if you are at all interested in doing something similar, go for it!