Sometimes a nice long road trip is a good way to get away from it all. Driving across the United States, listening to good music, and watching the landscape change can be a good way to spend a vacation. There is just something about being on the open road that is therapeutic. You get to see the beauty of nature, smell the fresh air, and unwind with your own thoughts. It is no wonder that Jack Kerouac loved a good road trip. There is a lot to love about road trips.
Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to go on a bit of a road trip myself. I drove from the West Coast to the Midwest, over the course of four days. What follows is some information about my trip, in case it is helpful to others that may be planning to make a similar drive. Even if you are not planning such a road trip yourself, maybe you’ll enjoy reading on.
I left the San Francisco Bay Area on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. My destination was either Minneapolis, Minnesota or Chicago, Illinois. The purpose of my trip was to get away from it all, and ultimately to visit family when the driving was finished. My road trip would cover over 2,000 miles, but most of it would be traveled over only one road. Interstate 80 East will take you all the way from San Francisco to Illinois.
I left the San Francisco Bay Area a little late, so I was not planning on driving too far on the first day. I drove for about three hours, covering approximately 200 miles, to arrive in Reno, Nevada. Ideally, this trip is better taken during the spring or summer months, when the days are longer and the weather is better. My road trip was taking place during the middle of October, so the weather was cooling, and darkness was falling earlier. Because of this, and the fact that I did not sleep the night before, I decided to spend the night in Reno, even though I had only been on the road for a few hours. There are a few benefits to spending the night in Reno. First, it is one of the bigger cities that you will pass through along Interstate 80, so there are plenty of gas stations, restaurants, and hotels to accommodate road-weary travelers. Second, Reno is kind of like a miniature, old-west version of Las Vegas, so there is a lot to see and do. Third, during the week, you can usually find cheap room rates by staying at one of the casino-hotels. The casinos are less crowded during the week, especially in the fall, so they usually have a lot of empty rooms and offer low room rates because of this. I stayed at the Circus-Circus Hotel and Casino for the low price of only $34.99 per night, plus tax. It was the least I paid for a hotel room during my trip, and it was also the nicest place I stayed.
Wednesday morning, I woke up to some very cold weather in Reno. It was hard to believe that it was only October, because it was cold enough for there to be frost on my windshield. When I filled my gas tank, I could see my breath in the air. Because of the cold weather that is, not because of bad breath. I did brush my teeth that morning. Anyway, I left Reno and continued East on Interstate 80. Outside of Reno, there isn’t much besides mountains and desert. I enjoyed the scenery, but there wasn’t much along the way of restaurants, gas stations, and rest stops. I was glad that I filled up my gas tank in Reno. After driving for about four hours, and almost 300 miles, I reached Elko, Nevada. Elko isn’t exactly a huge city, but after driving through the desert for a few hours, it was definitely civilization. I stopped in Elko for some lunch and some gas. The gas was for my car. I didn’t make any special stops on this road trip just to break wind. I just kept driving through that, since I didn’t have any passengers that I had to be courteous to. Once again, I digress.
After my pit stop in Elko, I got back on Interstate 80 and headed East toward Salt Lake City, Utah. I drove about another four hours, covering 230 miles, and arrived in Salt Lake City. The terrain and the scenery were postcard-perfect, as I neared Salt Lake. I was thinking about spending some time in Salt Lake City, and staying there overnight, but I was full of adrenaline and wanted to keep driving. So, I filled up the gas tank in Salt Lake City, and continued East on Interstate 80.
Once again, I was glad I filled up on gas around Salt Lake, because there weren’t too many stops for the next few hours. I drove for about another five hours, covering almost 400 miles, before arriving in Laramie, Wyoming, my destination for the night. About an hour or two before Laramie, I took a break at a rest stop for a quick bite to eat, and to fill up on gas. By now, the darkness of night had arrived, so I didn’t get to see much of the landscape around me. What I could see was not pretty though. The weather had gotten bad and there was snow blowing across Interstate 80. The roads must have become very slippery and hazardous, because there were quite a few bad accidents and multi-car pileups. The accidents appeared to have occurred shortly before I passed by, because police officers were just arriving on the scene at many of them. At about this point in time, I was wishing I had spent the night in Salt Lake City. However, it seemed that I was in the middle of nowhere, so I ventured on cautiously to Laramie, Wyoming. When I started seeing the exit signs for Laramie, along with the signs for hotels, I felt relieved. I arrived in Laramie before midnight, after having driven for about thirteen hours, covering over 900 miles. It was quite a difference from my short, three-hour drive the day before. Tired, and relieved to be done driving for the night, I went to the first hotel off of the exit and hoped they had a room. I wound up staying at the Best Western in Laramie, Wyoming, for the rate of $65 for the night. It wasn’t as nice as the Circus-Circus the night before, but I wasn’t picky at this point in time. They did have a free continental breakfast the next morning, and free high-speed internet access in the lobby, so I was happy.
I left Laramie Thursday morning, and continued my road trip on Interstate 80 East. I passed by Cheyenne, Wyoming, and then crossed the state line into Nebraska. The terrain had changed as I entered the Midwest. The land was flatter, there were more farms, and at one point I even drove into some tumbleweed. It looks just like it does in the cartoons and the movies. I drove for about seven hours, and almost 500 miles, before stopping in Lincoln, Nebraska. I fueled up both my body and my car, before getting back on Interstate 80. After Lincoln, I passed Omaha, and drove about two or three more hours before arriving in West Des Moines, Iowa. It had just started getting dark outside, so I decided to spend the night in West Des Moines, rather than risk an accident like I did the night before. I spent the night at the Motel 6, which was right off of Interstate 80. The room was cheap, a little over $40, and clean, but definitely not the Four Seasons. If I remember correctly, there was no pad, pen, or shampoo in the room, but what do you expect for $40, I guess. I think I was daydreaming of my $35 room at the Circus-Circus as I fell asleep.
The next morning, Friday, I continued my road trip along Interstate 80. At this point, I still wasn’t sure whether I was going to visit family in Chicago, or family in Minneapolis. Chicago would have meant dinners out and socializing. Minneapolis would be more low-key, with dinners in and watching movies on DVD. I realized I was spent from the road trip, and not much sleep, so I opted for Minneapolis. For the first time on my road trip, I drove on a highway other than Interstate 80. I took Interstate 35 North through Iowa and into Minnesota. Had I gone to Chicago, I would have stayed on Interstate 80 East. After about three and a half hours of driving, covering nearly 250 miles, I arrived at my destination in Minneapolis. It was quite a trip, but I was ready for it to be over. It was nice to get out of the car for a while, and to spend a few nights in the same place for a change, not to mention seeing my family. The following week I returned the rental car and flew back to the San Francisco Bay Area. There was no way I was driving back. This was a one-way road trip. When all was said and done, I drove over 2,000 miles and went through seven states. If you are thinking about taking a road trip of your own, plan carefully, and drive safely. I hope all your road trips are good ones.