You can find the Travel Vlog of our Road Trip on YouTube!
August 31-September 5, 2020
Our Cross-Country Road Trip from Seattle to Boston!
(WE MOVED TO THE EAST COAST!)
To hear about an adventure consisting of: 3500 newly acquired miles on our odometer, Sherbert’s car-ride experience, a scenic drive through Yellowstone, Chicago snacks, and all 13 state signs along the way -- keep on reading! (But buckle up -- it’s a long trip!!)
Rather suddenly, Lucas received military orders for a permanent change of station in Boston, Massachusetts by early September. Given that our wedding occurred in early August, the new orders only allowed us for 1 month of preparation in-between before moving to the other side of the country.
With the military’s assistance coordinating most of our belongings through a moving service, we decided to embrace the unique opportunity to drive coast-to-coast across the entire United States of America! Based on my research, most people recommended 1-2 weeks minimum when driving across the country. If we had the time to do so, we definitely would have taken more time to soak in more cities. Although we were excited to explore along the way, we were even more eager to settle into our temporary home. Therefore, we spent only six days total driving from Seattle to Boston.
Moving is emotional. No matter what the circumstances. But moving across the country to a neighborhood you’ve never been to before… and all during a global pandemic? Maybe a bit more daunting than other circumstances…
Leading up to the big move, loved ones had asked us if we were scared. The answer was: not really. We had a healthy level of concern to stay sanitized and away from others, we were a little nervous given we didn’t know what to expect during most of the trip, and we were a little anxious about how Sherbert would react to being in a car for so many hours. But with that said, I wouldn’t say we were “scared.”
Change requires resilience and adaptation, but I wasn’t scared about starting a new life with my forever adventure partner. And this was just that - a new adventure!
Now let’s be honest though... Was this the mindset that I had when we were hugging my mom and dad before we hit the road? Absolutely not! Lol. But luckily I was able to switch gears to more optimism once we were on the road for a couple of hours.
As we entered I-90 East, Lucas and I agreed that it wouldn’t truly feel like a road trip until we hit Montana that evening. We have frequented Eastern Washington quite a bit, and we have even driven to Idaho for a weekend. So initially, it all just felt like we were going on a day-trip. I mean… this was until you turned around and saw that the back of our car was PACKED. I’d say that was a clear indicator that we would be on the road for quite some time.
It took us about 5-hours to arrive at our first rest stop in Spokane, WA. By “rest stop” in this scenario, I really mean Starbucks and a gas station. If I remember correctly, we were only just over half a tank of gas, but we wanted to be well-prepared before entering the mountain range with limited cell service.
Things became less familiar once we were leaving Idaho and approaching the mountains of Montana. The jagged peaks of the Northern Rocky Mountains resembled the Washington Cascade Range that we’re used to, but the Rockies were definitely on a grand scale. This was also when Lucas took a break from driving, so I took my first driving shift for a couple of hours. (Side Note: Lucas valiantly drove 95% of the entire trip!)
Our next rest stop was in Butte, MT, which was another 5-hours later from Spokane. We decided to pick up Dairy Queen for dinner (for some reason we were just craving ice cream and chicken strips lol!), and also sustained our caffeine consumption at Starbucks. This was when we decided that it would be a fun idea to collect some of the “Been There Series” mugs as we passed through each state!
Once we passed through Butte, we detoured from I-90 East to drive towards West Yellowstone, MT for another 2.5 hours. We were driving through rolling hills and ranches when the sun fully set about 30 minutes away from our hotel. We discovered that there were plenty of lodging options in the city of West Yellowstone, but we decided on a quaint pet-friendly hotel.
I wanted to take a moment to provide an update about how Sherbert was doing. We weren’t sure how he would react to being in his pet carrier for long-periods of time, but thankfully, he did so well! He was a bit shaken up and very alert during the first hour (peeking his head out from the top of his soft carrier to see what was going on), but after that, he just napped the entire day away. This was how he was every day of our trip! He would nap in the morning, wake up to eat and drink, stretch here and there, nap again in the afternoon, and then he would be ready to play by the time we arrived at our hotel each night. We were proud to have a cat who didn’t mind road tripping with us!
We began Day 2 with a trip to the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center located in town. If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you’d know that I collect stamps, postcards, and stickers at every National Park that I travel to. Stamps are usually given at Visitor Centers, but because of Covid-19 precautions at that time, Yellowstone Visitor Centers were all closed except the one in West Yellowstone. After we received our stamp and map, we stopped by the gas station to top-off our gas tank and pick up some stickers, postcards, and Redbulls. We were now all set to enjoy a scenic drive through some of Yellowstone National Park!
This was my first time traveling to Yellowstone, and it had been many years since Lucas’ last visit. I learned quickly that Yellowstone was a huge park filled with so many diverse landscapes (mountains, rivers, geysers, hot springs, etc.) and wildlife (bison, bears, moose, river otters, etc.)! It’s literally impossible to enjoy it in one day (let alone, half a day!) but we wanted to make the most out of the few hours that we had in the park. We would’ve loved to go hiking but do keep in mind - we also had Sherbert with us, so we didn’t want to leave him in the car by himself!
We drove to the Old Faithful Visitor Center parking lot where we took a peek at the famed geyser, Old Faithful. We were unable to see it erupt, but we knew with full confidence that we were going to re-visit Yellowstone again some other time. So, instead of waiting an hour or two to watch it erupt, we trekked on to see other views.
The top 2 items on my Yellowstone bucket list were as follows: 1) See the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and 2) See a wild bison. Luckily, we were able to do both in that order! We stopped by the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone where we snapped a quick picture and soaked in the view for a few minutes. Then, we drove to Hayden Valley because rumor said that it was an iconic viewing area for bison walking through the vast meadows. We were able to spot 1 up-close and 2 from further away during our only 30-minute drive! I’m sure if we spent even more time there, we would’ve found dozens more!
At this point, it was around lunchtime so Lucas and I munched on our road trip snacks (gifted by my thoughtful best friend, Lauren!) as we made our way out of Yellowstone through the Northwest entrance/exit. From our car, we were able to find even more Bison hanging out by the side of the road, and even snuck a glance at Mammoth Hot Springs!
From Yellowstone, we drove 4 hours to Billings, MT for another rest stop and then another 5 hours to Dickinson, North Dakota. And let me be honest with you... the eastern part of Montana was practically all flat farmland with some rolling hills here and there. So, to make it through this driving stretch, we were fueled by a Taco Bell drive-thru stop and the Crime Junkie Podcast! Listening to true crime stories wasn’t how I pictured our cross-country road trip, but after so many people recommended it to us, it became our main source of entertainment for the entire trip!
We were almost to North Dakota when the sun began to set. Not going to lie - that part of the drive was a little eerie because the only light source was the full moon and service was spotty. However, we were able to make it to our second hotel of the trip in Dickinson, ND safe and sound!
By Day 3, our car was crusted with bugs on our windshield and front bumper! At each stop for gas, Lucas would attempt to wipe them clean but only to be met with even more bugs only a short while later! We decided that we were going to get the car properly washed by Day 4 or 5!
We started our morning with - you guessed it - Starbucks! On top of our collection hunt for Starbucks mugs, Pumpkin Cream Cold Brews were a consistent order during this road trip. Once we were adequately caffeinated and the car was fueled up, we drove back west for about 30 minutes to the Painted Canyon Visitor Center. (We would’ve stayed the night closer, but Dickinson had the most pet-friendly hotel options.)
I didn’t know about this viewpoint until I did some research the night before to see what was nearby, and wow am I so glad I discovered it during my search! It was so dark when we approached North Dakota, that all I remembered seeing were flat farmlands before the sun had set. It was a total surprise to us to see the Painted Canyon, an entirely different landscape altogether! The overlook is found right off the freeway, so if you’re ever passing through, the panoramic views from the parking lot alone are absolutely worth the detour!
Up next was the hunt for my stamp, stickers, and postcards from Theodore Roosevelt National Park (the South Unit Visitor Center in Medora, ND), which was about 15 more minutes west along the freeway. We weren’t sure if the Maltese Cross Cabin would be open due to Covid-19 precautions, but luckily it was open for visitors as long as masks were worn and groups entered one at a time. It was an awesome experience to see the restored version of President Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin from back in 1883.
We would’ve loved to have spent more time hiking around the area, but with so many more miles left to go, we continued onwards. Our next rest stop was set for Fargo, North Dakota about 5 hours away. Most cross-country road trips recommend going through South Dakota, but Lucas and I were very set on going through Fargo instead because Lucas’ grandpa (and now my grandpa too!) lives there.
He wasn’t able to travel to our wedding so it was nice to spend time with him, while having dinner together out on his porch. He even surprised us with the thoughtful gift of hiking poles! Funny enough - Lucas just broke one of his hiking poles within the last few weeks, and I always borrow my mom’s hiking poles, so it was the perfect gift!
With hearts as full as our stomachs, we continued for another 4-hour drive to downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota where we stayed the night at our third hotel. I thought it was hilarious that we stayed in the “middle-of-nowhere” farm country the night before, and now we were staying on the 9th floor of a skyscraper hotel in downtown Minneapolis the next night!
Our original plans had to change at the very last minute, so instead of hitting the road bright and early like we had been the past few days, we decided to sleep-in for an extra hour. We also very much wanted to stretch our legs a bit more, considering we’ve been doing a lot of sitting in the car the past 4 days. Since check-out wasn’t until noon, we left Sherbert at the hotel and decided to go for a walk to find some coffee (Caribou Coffee this time because what else do you have in Minneapolis?! But don’t worry… we still stopped by Starbucks to pick up our “Been There Series” mug!). With warm Pumpkin White Mochas in-hand, we walked about 15 minutes over to the Stone Arch Bridge.
It was nice to not be in a car for the morning. Have you ever been on a boat for too long, so when you finally get off the boat, you still feel like you’re moving? I felt that, but because of the car, haha! Walking around and enjoying a quiet Thursday morning in Minneapolis was just what I needed.
The next drive from Minneapolis to Chicago, Illinois was a long stretch of 6 hours. We basically had to cross a huge portion of Wisconsin diagonally. Lucas’ Best Man, Ray, recommended that we stop by the New Glarus Brewing Co. in New Glarus, WI. They apparently had one of Ray’s favorite beers sold exclusively in Wisconsin, called Spotted Cow. Sadly, the brewery was closed for the summer due to covid precautions, but we were able to pick up a couple cases of Spotted Cow at a gas station in Madison, WI. We’ll have it ready for when Ray comes to visit!
With many hours of the Crime Junkie Podcast later, we arrived in Chicago, IL. While cars sure do drive a lot faster there (lol), there was also a lot more traffic too. Traffic wouldn’t normally bother us too much, but this time it was a little more painful because Lucas and I were SO excited to try Chicago Deep Dish Pizza from Lou Malnati’s! It definitely lived up to the hype! (In fact, I’m dreaming about having a slice right now as I write this!)
Inspired by the previous morning, Lucas and I decided to explore Chicago a bit before returning on the road. While Sherbert hung out in the hotel room for the morning, we decided to venture into the city to find the Cloud Gate (aka the Bean!) and a Garrett Popcorn Shop to pick up a snack for the road. If you know, you know… Best. Popcorn. Ever! We love the Garrett Mix, which includes both cheddar and caramel.
It was 5 hours from Chicago to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio, which was our next rest stop. By this portion of the trip, I was fascinated by all the toll roads and traffic stops throughout Indiana and Ohio. It seemed like there was a police car ready to pull over speeding cars every 2 miles. In fact, I even witnessed a car that quickly passed me, get pulled over! It was an interesting experience and very much contrasted to the sleepy first half of the road trip.
For dinner, we tried corn dogs from a corn dog stand at the corner of a gas station... But before you judge, hear me out - they were the BEST corn dogs we have ever had!
Because we decided to spend the morning in Chicago, we ended up not being able to make it to Cuyahoga Valley’s Visitor Center to get my stamp and souvenirs before they closed for the day. We were informed that we could write-in to request a stamp at a later time, but honestly, we might just stop by again one day! With the light quickly fading, we didn’t stay at that National Park for very long and continued driving 3 more hours to our fifth hotel in Buffalo, New York.
On Day 5, we traveled in 4 different states! We definitely felt it too because by Day 5 we started to take non-drowsy dramamine lol! No worries though - we were almost home!
And finally Day 6 arrives! I think that morning was the earliest we had woken up - waking up about an hour before the sun even peeked over the horizon! Although we considered stopping by Niagara Falls since we were so close, we were anxious to get home to Boston. Especially because office hours closed by 5pm, and we wanted to ensure we arrived with plenty of time to pick up our keys from the apartment leasing office.
Coffee wasn’t just desired, but heavily needed that morning. To my delight, there was a Tim Hortons in Buffalo, NY! I love visiting Tim Hortons whenever I travel to Canada, so we picked up coffee and breakfast sandwiches instead of Starbucks, to start the last day of our cross-country road trip.
From Buffalo, NY to Boston, MA was about 7 hours, but there’s just something about it being the last day that made time go by quick! We were probably just excited to be home. Were we still listening to the Crime Junkie Podcast? Absolutely! We would occasionally sprinkle in some Disney music or Fantasy Football podcasts, but for the majority of our road trip, we really did just listen to true crime stories. They helped pass the time for sure, and before we knew it - we were finally home!
Annnd that's a wrap!
After 3500 miles, 6 days, and 13 states later, we made it from Seattle, Washington all the way to our temporary home in Boston, Massachusetts! What an enriching and humbling experience it was to drive from coast to coast!
Although we could’ve just flown to our new home, it wasn’t for certain that we’d ever receive the opportunity to drive across the country again. Yes, we have every intention to travel back to WA, but who knows where we’ll be in life after a few years? I am thrilled that we embraced the opportunity to travel cross-country at this point in our lives -- as newly weds, young with high spirits, and with only a cooperative cat!
It gave us the perspective on how far Boston really is from Seattle, and that there is so much of our country left to explore! That said, it also allowed us to be grateful for technology and planes, in order to help home feel not so far away. Truthfully, moving can have its growing pains though, and I’m sure I’ll start to get homesick very soon once we’re settled in. To actually hear about some of the initial moving pains we’ve experienced - stay tuned for my next blog post where I share our brutally-honest, not-so-great, first impression of where we’ll be living in Boston! It’s a “fun” one, and a story I’ll definitely remember years down the line lol.
Cheers to courage, patience, and new adventures!
Storytelling by Gen
Travel diaries from personal trips and photo adventures.