Saturday, May 19, 2018 (Bay Area, CA to Ridgecrest, CA)
Our adventures continue with a cross country road trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to New Hampshire. Jeremy wasn’t able to join us, but my dad decided to fly in and take his place!
After a five hour drive, our first semi-major stop was at the Mojave Airplane Graveyard. I handed James, the airplane fanatic, my phone and told him to find a spot to drive to. The GPS took us to the main gate, which was right next to a bunch of his favorite planes, but alas, it was closed and we could go no further. There were also signs posted saying that photography was not allowed. Next, we decided to stop by the Mojave Air and Space Port building that was a couple of blocks away. There was a nice man that told us that we already got the best vantage point at the main gate, although he said that if we came back on a weekday, the restaurant next to the Mojave Air and Space Port should have a nice view. Being a Saturday, we continued our drive along the fence, stopping at a grocery store that had a mediocre view of the planes.
Sunday, May 20, 2018 (Ridgecrest, CA to Cedar City, UT)
We spent the night in Ridgecrest, which is about an hour outside of Death Valley, and a great spot to spend the night if you are coming from the west and want to spend the next morning exploring the park. If you are coming from the east, Las Vegas is a good choice. You can see my full post about Death Valley here, but the highlights included the Sand Dunes, the museum at the Visitor Center, Badwater Basin, the Devil’s Golf Course, Artists’s Drive, and Zabriskie Point.
By 2:00 we were sick of the heat and decided to continue to our next destination. We thought about stopping in Las Vegas, but since we wanted to get to Colorado by evening the next day, we decided to drive straight through. We were a bit surprised when we cut into a corner of Arizona, but there were some really nice views from the car.
We ate dinner in St. George, Utah, then continued on to a hotel in Cedar City and let the kids swim a bit before going to bed. It was a little past their normal bedtime, but they needed to burn off some energy.
Monday, May 21, 2018 (Cedar City, UT to Denver, CO)
We woke up reasonably early and got on the road after a quick hotel breakfast. We knew that we had about 9 hours of driving before arriving at my aunt’s house near Denver, so we didn’t want to dawdle.
Utah always surprises me with how beautiful it is. There aren’t many people in the state, less than 3,000,000, and they are very spread out. For example, Salt Lake City is the largest city, and it has less than 200,000 people. It seems like the beauty should draw more people.
The kids were a little disappointed that I couldn’t drive 3-4 hours without stopping, like their dad can. In contrast, I am lucky to make it an hour to hour and a half without needing a break, but we still made reasonable progress and arrived in the Denver area around dinner time.
We did hit some stop and go construction traffic at Glenwood Canyon, but the view was so amazing, that other than being a little sleepy, I actually enjoyed being able to take this section at a snail’s pace. After about a half an hour of traffic, we were able to pull over so my dad could take over driving. It is so nice having another driver in the car when exhaustion hits.
Thursday, May 24, 2018 (Denver, CO to Des Moines, IA)
After two days of visiting family members near Denver, we got an early start. We were a bit worried about Denver traffic, but even though we started at 7:00, we were able to skirt around most of it and get to the other side by 7:30. Eastern Colorado is much less interesting than western. Once we hit Nebraska, the landscape started to become quite green, if a little flat. Interstate 80 follows the Platte River, which made for a very relaxing and visually interesting drive.
We were debating a slightly early lunch in North Platte, but when we realized the time had changed from 11:20 to 12:20, the decision became easy and we decided to try Taco John’s, which ended up being quite tasty. I haven’t been to one of those since I was a fairly small child.
After lunch, I drove about 45 minutes, then got really sleepy. I was a bit worried since it was way too early to stop, and I didn’t want my dad to have to drive the rest of the day, but a 30 minute snooze followed by some enjoyment of the scenery was all it took to be recharged.
Our goal was to get at least to Omaha, Nebraska, but ideally to Des Moines, Iowa. Our pattern has been to call Jeremy a couple hours before we want to stop, he uses a computer to book a hotel deal for us, then he texts us the address. It has worked really well so far. A little before Omaha I was feeling quite good, so we decided to stop for coffee and call Jeremy and ask him to book us a hotel on the western side of Des Moines.
Driving through Nebraska was much more pleasant than I expected. I knew it would be flat, but the green fields made it quite nice.
Once we hit Iowa, pleasant turned into amazing. Iowa is very green and the rolling hills and beautiful trees add amazing texture to the scenery. I’m not quite sure why I forgot to take pictures, but it is a really nice state to drive through. We hit a mini rain storm that was hard enough to wash a few bugs off the windshield, but not hard enough to be annoying.
Through the day, we managed to finish a couple of audio books that we had checked out from the library. Our public library allows you to download some books with Overdrive, which makes it easy to listen to them in the car. In the morning we listened to I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg and Magic Treehouse: A Good Day for Baseball. In the afternoon, we listened to James and the Giant Peach. Most days we only listen to one audio book, but for whatever reason, the kids were really into them today.
Friday, May 25, 2018 (Des Moines, IA to Fremont, IN)
We had another long driving day ahead of us, so decided to get another early start – particularly to avoid Memorial Day weekend traffic near Chicago. By 7:30 we were in the car and heading towards Toledo. We got delayed early on when traffic came to a standstill. At first I was worried that a semi overturned, but then the traffic started to crawl again. Arrival at the scene revealed a garbage truck with a charred pile of rubbish pushed to the side of the road. Our best guess is that the garbage caught on fire, the driver panicked and dumped it into the middle of the highway, then the emergency vehicles put the fire out and cleared it from the road. Odd, but glad that it appeared that no one was hurt.
We encountered more traffic in Chicago, and were starting to feel a bit exhausted, so we called Jeremy to find out what our hotel options were. Fremont, Indiana, not to be confused with Fremont, Ohio, seemed to be our best option, so we booked a hotel there. The kids enjoyed a late swim, then we all crashed for the night.
Saturday, May 26, 2018 (Fremont, IN to Canton, OH)
One of the places we wanted to see along the way with my dad was the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Ohio. Given that we’ve had longer driving days the last few days, we decided to have a shorter 3.5 hour drive to Canton, OH. We got a slightly later start and arrived just after lunch.
The boys enjoyed imagining that they were football players. We watched a couple of movies, one about what goes on behind the scenes, and one on the super bowl. John also enjoyed the last room where they had a bunch of xboxes set up with football games.
It was raining when we arrived, but was paused when we exited, so we let the boys run around on the field for a while. All in all, it was fun, but the exhibits could have been better presented. It’s worth a stop if you are nearby and really into football, but otherwise, there are probably better stops to make.
We checked into our nearby hotel a little after 4, looking forward to the hot tub and pool. Unfortunately, it was under maintenance, so we watched a bit of TV, then made an early night of it. I slept a solid 10 hours, and only woke up because my alarm went off. The boys slept for 11 hours.
Sunday, May 27, 2018 (Canton, OH to Herkimer, NY)
We could have made it all the way to the Baseball Hall of Fame by lunchtime if we would have driven somewhat more yesterday, but since we decided to take a light day, this would be a driving day with the goal of getting close to Cooperstown, New York, by dinner time. We slept in a bit later and didn’t get on the road until 8:15.
Ohio is a beautiful state and well worth driving through. We have had a bit of rain, but that is what keeps everything so brilliantly green.
After passing Cleveland, we continued up the coast of Lake Erie. After consulting the GPS, we found a beach that was within a mile of the highway and stopped at Barcelona Harbor Beach. It was quite rocky, but the kids had a ton of fun skipping rocks and rolling some logs around on the beach. The kids thought it was funny that we were in “Barcelona,” and even funnier when we saw signs for Hamburg, Rome, and Poland.
Since we knew there wasn’t going to be much to do at our destination, we decided to forgo the fast food restaurants and get salads at Applebee’s. It felt good to get something other than burgers, tacos, or pizza. That has been the main downside of road tripping – trying to find healthy food is a chore.
We continued on through Pennsylvania and the kids were surprised when we hit New York so quickly. I think they thought we were heading east/west, rather than north/south. We brought along our DK State-By-State Atlas, and the kids have been reading the section on each state as we cross the border. The kids have been a bit dismayed that the readings have become much more frequent, but I like that they are learning a few facts about each state as we encounter them.
Yesterday and today we were in a Magic Treehouse audiobook rut, and listened to at least 4 of them. On Friday, we finished The Wild Robot, which had a similar theme to Monday’s House of Robots. Hopefully, the kids will pick something different tomorrow.
In retrospect, we probably should have stopped in Cleveland to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but we didn’t think about it until we were already in New Hampshire. Without actually going, our guess is that this would have been a better stop than the Football Hall of Fame.
Upstate New York is also beautiful. I could see myself living there, although I’m not really sure what Jeremy and I would do about jobs. There are lots of places I see myself, California usually not one of them, but employment opportunities matter as well. Hopefully by the end of our summer adventures, we will have a better idea of where we see ourselves.
Most of the hotels in Cooperstown were booked up for the holiday weekend, so we decided to stay in Herkimer. Unfortunately, the pool ended up being outdoors, and it was raining off and on, so the kids spent the evening watching some TV.
Monday, May 28, 2018 (Herkimer, NY to New Hampshire)
After a somewhat leisurely morning, we got on the road around 8:15 and made it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY just before it opened at 9:00. The town was really interesting, and it was really unfortunate that we didn’t stay there the night before – there would have been a ton of interesting evening activities. Alas, the town’s hotels were very booked up for Memorial Day weekend (maybe something for “next time”).
This museum was a lot of fun. We started on the 2nd floor, with a nice section on Babe Ruth that highlighted the reason that the Baseball Hall of Fame is better than the Football Hall of Fame. There were a ton of newspaper articles, pictures, and fascinating tidbits. He had a very crazy life. In contrast, the Football Hall of fame had a lot of artifacts from various players, but not a lot of the stories that brought the artifacts to life. It was much more interesting to read about Babe Ruth being fined $10 for letting minors play pool in the saloon he owned, than to see a football jersey from some player that I didn’t recognize the name of.
The front desk had given the boys a scavenger hunt paper that they could bring to the gift shop and get some baseball cards and a piece of bubble gum if they got everything right. The bubble gum cinched the deal, and they happily poured over the museum to try to find the answers. Dad and I were able to read our articles leisurely and enjoy the things we were learning while the kids found the San Diego Chicken, some info on Jackie Robinson, and other such details. The kids were super excited that they had just learned about Jackie Robinson in Magic Treehouse’s A Big Day for Baseball.
The boys and I enjoyed discussing A League of Their Own and finding the various players in the section on the women’s baseball league. Dad enjoyed telling the boys about Mickey Mantle and some of his other favorite childhood baseball players.
We finished a little before lunch, the boys got their bubblegum and baseball cards prize, then we decided to head out for New Hampshire. I was a bit worried about Memorial Day Traffic, so we consulted Waze, then decided to avoid Boston and risk the 2 lane northern backroads that started in Albany. We wondered it we were doing the right thing when we hit a little traffic getting out of Albany, but decided to go with it and enjoy the scenery if it got worse.
Our decision proved to be the right one, we had absolutely no traffic the rest of the drive! The roads were a little curvy, but the beauty was well worth the trouble. I ended up drinking way too much coffee to stay alert, but we made it to my parents’ house in New Hampshire a little after 6:00pm! The kids were super excited to see their grandma!
California to New Hampshire, 10 days, 14 states, 3,545 miles!
Keep reading our travel blog for more posts from our Gap Year!
Here are some more posts from our two road trips across the USA: