It’s the return of ‘Erin Goes Everywhere’ — tales across America! This winter break, my friend Val and I drove almost 3,000 miles across the country. We saw a lot of cool sites, ate some great food, listened to some groovy music and saw a lot of roads. Like, a lot.
I think the best place to start this story is the beginning. Part 1 of this trip was getting out west. We flew from Newark, N.J. to Tucson, A.Z. (with a layover in Denver, C.O.). After sleeping through two quick flights, we arrived in warm Tucson. We got to drive around and see what Arizona is like. According to my mother, I had already been to Arizona when I was 6 months old. Sadly I do not recall much of my time there because I had the brain of a 6-month-old.
I digress; We drove up Mount Lemmon, a real big mountain a little outside Tucson. At the base of the mountain, I saw cacti, sand, dirt and more cacti. As we started climbing up the mountain, we started to see more evergreen-like trees and even some snow! The coolest part was at the top of the mountain where there was a little ski lift. This was when I learned Mount Lemmon is the southern-most ski slope in the United States.
We crashed in Tucson for the night before beginning our great drive. The next day we got up early and drove towards New Mexico. This drive was very flat and sometimes you could see nothing but mountains for miles. The only other people around us were other drivers on the road going God knows where.
After experiencing a quick border patrol inspection stop, we took a break at White Sands National Monument. This park had beautiful white dunes that stretched for miles. Being that it’s January, it (thankfully) wasn’t too hot, so walking on the sand was pretty cool.
Following the White Sands was a stop at Pistachio-land. I saw the world’s largest pistachio.
It was epic.
We drove into Texas for the night and, wow. Texas, you are a very big state. This was when there was, truly, nothing and no one for miles and miles. Also, I feel like I drove straight east, no turns or curves or anything, for hours. It took almost 30 minutes of driving through flat land before seeing another car on the road. I had never experienced anything like this before! Pretty neat to see all the cows and horses grazing open fields without a care in the world.
Dallas was next up, and that’s when I learned how expensive cowboy boots are. This little city-slicker (me) was absolutely FLOORED when she (I) learned these western boots cost over 1,000 DOLLARS. The more you know.
We spent part of our night at the Reunion Tower. It’s a fancy observation deck 50 floors high and has 360-degree views of the entire city. My fear of heights kicked into high gear. My knees were shaking and I could walk up to the ledge. High winds whipped my hair around and I hugged the door leading back inside. However, it was super cool to see the skyline lit up. The view was definitely worth the panic attack 50 floors up.
After Dallas, we drove on up to Nashville. It’s known as the city of music, which 100% reigns true. Just walking out of our hotel I could hear bands playing in the distance. Bar windows were wide open and music ran from sun up to sundown (and then some). Strolling down the street it was a battle of the bands — who could play the loudest? What sounded like a confused harmony in the streets turned into some groovy tunes in the bar.
We went to the famous stretch of bars along Broadway and got to hear some talented people belt out some of country music’s greatest hits. We had fun trying some local beer and dancing in the middle of some bachelorette parties. Although I’m not the most well-versed in country music, it was still a lot of fun to jam to.
After a late-night in Nashville, we drove back to the east coast and stayed the night outside Richmond in Virginia. After a quiet night spent in V.A., we were Jersey bound and made it back in six days.
So what was it like driving across the country? It was fascinating.
It’s a lot of time on roads that seem to never end. It’s driving in one direction for hundreds of miles at a time before you make a slight right, then drive hundreds of miles again. It’s seeing ranches, on ranches (on ranches), but still saying “horses!” every time you see one. It’s playing as many loud songs as you can to keep you awake. It’s pumping your own gas in the middle of nowhere at a gas station that looks like it hasn’t been touched since the ’50s. It’s overpriced food, cheap snacks, and a lot of water.
It was a helluva ride. (I say ride literally, I drove a bit but shout out to Val for doing most of the driving!)
Going into it, I was a little nervous. I know I’ve done a little traveling in Europe, but driving out west felt so foreign to me. I don’t know much about cars other than they run on gas. It was just me and Val, what would we do if things went south? Could we handle it?
Thank God nothing bad happened, plus, I learned a bit about myself. First, I learned I am fully capable of pumping my own gas, as a girl from New Jersey.
I also learned I am capable of doing things on my own. If I want to drive across the country, I can. It’s similar to the feeling I had when I went surfing in Ireland. I had a large sense of pride being able to travel such a great distance with one of my closest friends.
The reactions have been pretty cool too. A lot of people have told me their own tales about driving cross-country and the different places they stopped. So, my loyal reader, I want to hear from you – how far have you traveled in the US of A? Did you see the world’s largest pistachio? Let me know down below!