I’m taking a break this week from our regularly scheduled jewelry posts to chronicle something different...my family’s EPIC cross-country road trip.
Caravanning across America has been something my husband and I have both dreamed about at various times in our youth. And, we both thought that time had passed, that we were too old to enjoy it, that our kids were too rambunctious to have the patience for it, and that we lacked the time professionally to devote to it.
But, we put all those worries aside this June, packed up our minivan, lifted our aged yellow labrador into the back, and buckled our nine and 11-year old boys into their seats and set off. We plotted our zigzag course from our home in Northern California to our summer destination in Rhode Island--a course that would take us coast to coast in 10 days.
We winded our way through north eastern California and into Nevada to the desert town of Elko. We arrived toward midnight and the town was colorfully lit up by endless rows of casinos.
We got an early start the next morning needing to make it across Idaho to Jackson, Wyoming in a day. We had lunch in Twin Falls and took in the sites of Shoshone Falls, a natural waterfall on the Snake River. At 212 feet, the falls are higher than Niagara Falls.
We crossed into Wyoming that evening, careening down the Teton Pass on fumes, the gas gauge pointing to empty. We rolled into Jackson just in time to catch site of two moose drinking at a water hole on the edge of town.
The next day we traveled north into Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, both exceptionally beautiful and full of natural wonderment. There are too many incredible sites to list here, but my family’s highlights include the Midway Geyser Basin, the Sapphire Pool, Hayden Valley, getting stuck in a traffic jam for a herd of bison to cross, and seeing baby bison.
We took off early the following day, travelled across Wyoming into the black hills of southwestern South Dakota.
We stayed at Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park, which is a starting point for hiking into “The Needles,” a range of awe-inspiring eroded granite pillars, towers, and spires.
We took the Needles Highway to visit Mount Rushmore. It was the most exhilarating and terrifying drive of my life -- The highway passes through two one-way tunnels—Iron Creek Tunnel and Needles Eye Tunnel--that were blasted through sheer granite walls and barely fit a single car. I had to hold my breath as we eased through. The narrow roadway winds for miles and features hairpin turns, low tunnels, unbelievable scenery of the Needle mountains and surprising vistas of Mount Rushmore.
After that drive, the actual monument of Mount Rushmore was a little less impressive.
We bulleted across South Dakota through the moon-like Badlands and ventured into Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, and finally Tennessee, where we stopped for an overnight in Nashville.
We took in Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage, and then cruised to Gatlinburg for a look at the Great Smoky Mountains. From there, we headed to Charlottesville, Virginia for one last sightseeing trip to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
Afterward, we decided to push it and to drive all the way to Rhode Island that day. We made it, easing into our driveway as the clock neared midnight.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, one where we saw so much yet barely scratched the surface. One that brought us closer together as a family and one where I saw my children rise to the occasion with a surprising amount of stamina and patience. A trip I thought I might live to regret was one I will never forget. I highly recommend hitting the road!
Next week, I’ll be back with more jewelry.
As Always, Shine Bright!XO