I can’t tell you how many terrified looks I got from people when I told them I was driving across the country solo. I honestly didn’t think much about it until others seemed so intrigued/frightened by the idea. I didn’t think about what would happen if I broke down and there wasn’t anything for hours in any direction. Or if I ran out of gas because there wasn’t a gas station for 99 miles. Or if roads were closed and I didn’t have service to get directions cause I’m in bumf*ck America. If you’ve ever driven through Buffalo Gap, you know what I’m referring to when there is literally nothing, and I mean NOTHING, for miles.
So, how do you prepare to drive across the country and how do you go about it?
First things first… Can my car even make this drive?! We’re talking over 2,800 miles, crossing through 11 states, driving in temperatures over 80-90 degrees – on a car that’s 7 years old with 120K miles on it. So I took her in, got her checked out, did some things I probably should have done 20K miles ago… And they said she was ready to go! Here she is in Badlands National Park – she may have had her check engine and tire lights on for half the drive, but she made it.
Second, pick a route! Do I want to do a more southern route or more northern route? What places should I stop? How many days can I take to do it? How long do I want to drive every day? Do I book hotels?
I started with Roadtrippers! I put in my starting location and ending location – then added a few places I knew I wanted to stop on the way, then picked the remaining random locations based on what cities I would be passing through.
My must sees: The Badlands!
And while in South Dakota – Mount Rushmore!
And of course, you can’t pass through southern Wyoming without hitting Grand Teton National Park:
Once those three were set, I started to look at what was along my route. First place that caught my attention: Twin Falls, Idaho to check out Shoshone Falls. And OMG was it worth it…
Breathtaking. I also tried to check out Twin Falls Falls (not a typo), but there was construction and it was confusing, so I drove away. On my way to my next overnight stop, I was looking up “Must-see” places in Idaho (put that down as something I never thought I would say in my life) and stumbled across Balanced Rock. It was only a 45 minute detour outside my route and I was doing great on time so, why not?!
Now, as far as hotels go, this is how it went down. I felt out my day, drove for most of the mornings/afternoons and would have my mom or sister look up hotels in cities I was approaching. Then I would just book the hotel on my phone (definitely not while driving on highways while on cruise control going 80+ mph, that would be frowned upon.)
This drive took me five days, driving anywhere from 14 hours the first day and 7 hours the last day. It was truly an exhilarating experience to be in the middle of the country, endless sky and endless fields engulfing you as you fly down the pavement that seemed as if it was out of place in such a rural environment. It was slightly terrifying when I would see signs that said “Next gas: 99 miles”, or “(Insert random town name here), Population: 10”. I would recommend that drive to anyone who is looking for a solo adventure – there were times that I would look up at my surroundings and just smile, knowing that I am so lucky to be able to travel like this, and knowing that there is so much more waiting for me out there.
Other tips: Road snacks, get a lot of them. Gas station coffee isn’t the best, but it keeps you awake. Audiobooks are surprisingly more intriguing than I imagined. Spotify is the greatest – endless music and podcasts. Even when you think you’re okay on gas, fill up cause you may not see civilization for a long time. Take advantage of free breakfasts at hotels – one less meal on the road you have to buy. Take advantage of fitness centers in hotels – 14 hour drives = stiff legs that are ready to run. If you can, bring a friend! But make sure you can stand being in tight quarters with them for hours at a time.