Traveling Cross-Country | Our American Road Trip

In June of 2016, we drove across the country from
Salt Lake City, Utah ▻ to ▻ Camden, Maine in one week!

Here’s our journey. . .

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U T A H

After flying back to the mainland from Hawaii then spending time unexpectedly in Indiana, we returned to Utah to pack up our home. Many hours and many boxes later, we were about to start our drive across the good ‘ol U.S. of A.

We were ready to hit the open road!

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We drove quickly through the northern part of Utah – I was in the front seat frantically trying to catch up on work + also emotionally deal with the great overwhelm that had compiled in my chest over the past ten days, or more accurately – past month. It was all a lot. I was tired.

Wyoming + Nebraska

We stopped in Wyoming for a bite to eat + a brew. We had planned on camping at a national park not far from the town we stopped in but the locals informed us it would be far too cold, so we opted for a hotel room near the Wyoming-Nebraska border. I welcomed the cozy, comfortable bed and the much needed sleep.

We woke the next day ready to tackle the miles ahead of us! We drank coffee, talked through the highs + lows of the past month and got ourselves excited for the places to come along our journey. In Lincoln, Nebraska we found a little place called Honest Abes which had delicious burgers + fries (not to mention a wicked good drunken milkshake).

Aaron was so excited to try out our new camping gear so we ended our day at Eugene Mahoney State Park. We set up camp lakeside + had ourselves a beer to celebrate! If you’re doing this road trip, or are in this area, I would definitely recommend this campground.

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Iowa

Wahoo! Waking up on the lake was so refreshing and we were able to pack up camp with ease.

We were on a roll and making great time drive-wise. That was until we couldn’t find a single local place to get a coffee (besides Starbucks and I wanted a little mom + pop shop). Missed exit here, closed place there. Apparently, it just wasn’t in our cards to get a coffee before we hit the state line (lol). So, on to Iowa it was!

Our drive through Iowa was mainly how you are probably picturing it. . . Lots of open land and lots of cows for a long time. But then after many miles, almost out of thin air, these skyscrapers appeared. There was this little city in the middle of nowhere – Aaron + I were shocked! We had to stop and check it out.

Turns out Des Moines, Iowa is awesome. Truly! It was such a clean, beautiful place. We grabbed a coffee (finally!) and walked around for quite a bit. There was modern art in the park, lots of young working professionals and some tasty looking restaurants. We ended up asking a few locals what their favorite lunch place was and almost unanimously they recommended Lurra Cocina.

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Talk about YUM! We loved our meal and the views from the large wall of windows. Totally recommend this place!

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Illinois

We drove + drove to make it to Chicago before sundown. We got there just in time with the city lights sparkling and the sky still buzzing with streaks of pink and orange. We drove through the city (P.S. can I just say how much I HATE tolls? Y’all feel me?) and I was so overwhelmed by the amount of people, the honking cars, etc. Yes, this is what living on an island will do to you! As usual, Aaron handled it with ease – not phased and actually really excited.

Me on the other hand, not so much. I was just purely overstimulated. But I put on some gangster rap and dealt with it. Hah! We parked (how, I don’t know!) and found a place where Aaron could get a juicy, long-awaited slice of deep dish. He was so excited!

Now, mind you, all along this trip we didn’t book hotels or air bnb’s beforehand because we wanted to go at our own pace and to be spontaneous. So, when we were driving into the city I was looking for a hotel under $300 for the night – HA! I repeat – HA! It was certainly a joke to find a hotel the day of, anywhere near the city.

Aaron, still on his camping grind, suggested that we camp somewhere near the city. This was brilliant in theory. In actuality, it ended up making for a hilarious night. Turns out, the closest camp ground is an hour east in Indiana and upon arrival, we found that it was quite sketch. We arrived around midnight, I thought Aaron might get murdered while checking in and then we were kept up all night from the sound of the train right behind us – FAIL. Serious fail. But it made for quite the laughs! (That’s all that matters, right?)

We really wanted to have a full day in Chicago so we turned right around and went back into the city (again, there the tolls were. . . At that point, I think it would have been cheaper to just stay in the city because of the added up tolls!). Yes, this was all a pain in the ass and could have been planned better. But, hell! Such is life and I’m so glad we took the time to go back into the city.

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We rode the L around the city, stopping here and there. Snagged a delicious coffee from Intelligentsia Coffee and then walked some more. I was amazed at how little this city makes you feel. Everything towers over you. But it was magnificent and beautiful.

We couldn’t come to Chicago and not see The Bean! I’ve wanted to see this beauty forever. The park was filled with tourists, much more than naively I expected, but we walked around and enjoyed ourselves. I was more so the one who was excited to see it but Aaron ended up really loving it too.

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We grabbed a bite + drink across the street from Millennial Park and then made our way down to Navy Pier. There were gorgeous views all around. Aaron wanted to take in the sunset from the water so we hopped on the next boat out and boy did the Chicago skies show off! *All the heart eyes*

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Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania

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After a long day in the city, we made our way back to Indiana (farther east this time) and stayed in a hotel. We dedicated the following day strictly for driving and made it all the way to Cleveland, Ohio and had ourselves a relaxing night in!

I woke up the next morning (June 5) ecstatic to celebrate my honey’s 31st birthday! Last year, we were road-tripping the coast of California and this year we were road-tripping across America. What a journey! So much has changed. This was a really special, growing year for Aaron and he deserved all the celebrating in the world.

Even though Aaron wanted to celebrate his birthday in NYC when we got there, I insisted we celebrate a little before hitting the road. We did just that and headed to brunch to snag some lovely bloody marys from The South Side. It was a good morning. We talked about how far a year had brought us, what goals he wants to accomplish in this year ahead and what the highlights of his year were.

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New York

We drove, drove, drove to get to our next destination – NYC! Aaron wanted to ‘technically’ celebrate his birthday here so I booked us a hotel right in the heart of the city, just a block from Times Square. Our room was so New York – a tiny shoebox of a thing, but really amazing. We loved the modern design, quirky art and amazing views.

Oh! Heads up, I had never been to New York before so this post might sound like a total newbie.

Although we were tired, New York ‘never sleeps’ so we felt as if we couldn’t. We went out to Times Square at 11:30 at night and it was as if it was 10 o’clock  in the morning! I couldn’t get over how bright it was and how many people were out. We snagged a slice of pizza (Aaron was ecstatic) and ran around like kids. I knew that my eyes must have been 3x the size as I was looking around, mezmerized.

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We woke rested and ready to explore the city! We set out for brunch, first having to tackle the subway! Aaron wasn’t worried at all, but I was. So I took it as a challenge and decided to be the one who was going to navigate us. It was easier than I thought and I was able to get us to our first stop, Greenich Village/Soho/Nolita area, with no problem. We ate brunch at The Butcher’s Daughter and tooled around this area. I was obsessed! So much to see and there were the most beautiful people, architecture and places.

I felt like we were in photo heaven, both of us trigger happy, snapping away left and right. I even printed out a few of our memories instantly with our Polaroid Zip (so easy + awesome!) and used them as my bookmarks. We loved exploring the city through our lenses!

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After Soho, we boogied our way down (and by that I mean we hopped back on the subway) to the Brooklyn Bridge park.

& YES, WAY ROSÉ did we stop for a little break! It was great to rest my feet and it wasn’t a bad view (kidding, it was obviously spectacular!)

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We walked all around Brooklyn, checking out the gorgeous homes and imagining ourselves living here. We’re not quite yet city people but this little corner of NYC had us daydreaming.

This was a relaxing, comforting part of our afternoon. Who else is in love with Brooklyn?

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After a while spent, we made our way back over the bridge towards Manhattan. It was bustling with rush-hour commuter traffic. No joke, we almost got taken out by a few bikers! You could absolutely tell a tourist from a local, simply by their speed! It was beautiful none the less.

We stopped on a bench and had been there for a bit when this sweet older gentleman walked by. He stopped right in front of us and said ‘Now, that’s a moment to be captured!‘ So sweet; absolutely melted my heart. He motioned for our camera, which we handed him and he took two photographs. Both were blurry. Beautifully blurry.

He told us that life is precious, that we must make the most of it and that it whooshes by in the blink of an eye. All the while, I was grinning at the pure, sweet soul that stood before us.

We thanked him for taking the time to talk with us and he went on his way.

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It’s rare that Aaron takes an upclose, personal portrait of me and I’m so honored when he captures me truly – my mood, my thoughts, my feelings of that day. Thank you for snapping this honey. And for experiencing all of this with me.

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NYC, you took me by surprise! I really, really didn’t think we’d end up liking one another. (Big crowds and bustling cities aren’t 100% my jam) But we’re pretty much besties now. You’re enchanting and charming. You’re one of a kind. Thanks for showing us such a good time!

Massachusetts, New Hampshire

We zipped up through these states but told Aaron’s family that “we were staying in Boston for the night” to trick them. Instead, we drove up the coast until we crossed the stateline of Maine – WE MADE IT! 

M A I N E

My request was to stop at York Beach in the southern part of the state. My grandmother had visited here years ago and I wanted to celebrate her life, and our connection, by stopping to put my toes in the surf, just where she had decades ago.
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It was such a beautiful, charming beach with cottages, and mansions alike, lining the bay. We shook our legs out, danced in the waves and soaked in the sunshine. We were HOME.

Now, since we wanted to surprise Aaron’s family, we drove two hours north to his family home after some time at the beach. We pulled in and felt a big, hefty sigh of relief. This was it! We had made it nearly across the entire length of the country. Whoa!

When his family arrived home, they were SHOCKED that we were there ‘a day early’ and came running with hugs and screams! (We love surprises so this was the icing on the cake)

Now here we are in August – since all of this, we’ve been living here in Camden, Maineenjoying summer on the east coast! I’ll share more updates here soon.

SO – Have you ever driven across the country? If so, which route did you take? Where was your favorite place you stopped?
If not, are you planning to? Where’s your next adventure to?

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Oh + in case you were wondering, all that driving went a little something like this . . . ↓

Author: elanaloo

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