When I decided to move across the country, I knew I wanted to make getting there an experience. So, I created a route that led me to a new place every day that I’d never been to before. It ended up looking a little like this:
It’s obviously not the most direct route, but it sure was a memorable one. And my 1994 Ford Taurus station wagon made it all the way with only some minor hiccups (ie a flat tire in Las Vegas). Shout out to my dad for helping me work on my car before I left so I didn’t have to worry! And shout out to my boyfriend, Jon, for taking leave from work and coming with me so I had someone to share the driving and the adventures with. Thanks for capturing it all.
The Grand Canyon
Because of the flat tire in Vegas, my plan of watching the sunset over the Grand Canyon was spoiled; however, because our goal was to camp as often as we could, we read that there was free camping in the national forest outside the park as long as it is .25 miles away from the highway (see HERE for more info). So when we arrived, we drove through the town of Tusayan, AZ, pulled off on a dirt road, and found a camping spot that allowed us to be right outside the park. In the morning, we grabbed breakfast from McDonald’s in Tusayan and headed in as soon as the gates were open.
It. was. breathtaking.
White Sands National Monument
After our morning at the canyon, we drove through New Mexico and camped outside White Sands National Monument. Again, our time was thrown off because of our delay the first day. There is camping inside the park, but you need to obtain a permit from the visitor’s center, which closed before we arrived. There is free camping along US-70 near Hurtz Spring, if you take the exit at the brown sign with the binoculars. Call the visitor’s center for more information as this is not well labeled.
When we woke up the next day, we witnessed a whole different kind of beauty from that of the Grand Canyon. The dunes were such a stark contrast from the desert surrounding them and unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
The “sand” that makes up the monument is actually gypsum. And yes, we did taste it.
About 3 hours from White Sands is another National Park, and one that will change your perspective on caves forever.
When we arrived, the elevator was broken. THANK GOODNESS. The walk may be steep, but it’s worth every step. Taking in the entirety of the caverns was a jaw-dropping experience.
Okay, if you know anything about me, you know I love interior design/ decorating/ crafting/ organizing/ baking/ etc. Because of this, I’m a huge fan of Fixer Upper and Joanna Gaines. I am not an avid TV watcher, but when the show was on Netflix, you bet I watched every episode. Having the chance to go to the market was so fun. It is where I purchased my first succulent and had the best cupcake of my life. If you go, buy every peach pie cupcake in stock.
We didn’t even attempt to find camping in New Orleans, nor did we want to. A shower and a bed sounded wonderful after being on the road for 4 days. We found an Airbnb for a decent price and in walking distance from everywhere we wanted to go. It was a shared house, but our room had a pull out couch and bed, and we never even saw the other guests. (Funny story: I accidentally walked into the wrong house. Didn’t even knock. Luckily the guy was cool about it and even gave us some tips of things to do!)
We went to dinner at Coop’s Place and then headed to Frenchmen Street. The music was incredible. Every bar had a band that I could listen to for hours, but we made our way down the road and even stopped at a few art galleries. I felt that we had to go to Bourbon Street because it is so iconic with Mardi Gras; however, I wish we had stayed on Frenchmen Street all night. Bourbon was dirty with lots of drunks and DJ music. While I love to dance, it was not my scene.
In the morning, we went to Cafe du Monde for some beignets and walked around Jackson Square before getting back on the road. I highly recommend both.
Ahh, another city with amazing music. Before we headed downtown, we stopped for dinner at Two Ten Jack– a delicious restaurant on the outskirts of town, next to an ice cream shop. Then we hit the Honky Tonk Highway.
After a late night of dancing and listening to some of the most soul-filled country music I’d ever heard, we attempted to find a camping spot to no avail. So we slept in the car. We were so exhausted that it wasn’t even that bad. The next morning, we enjoyed a nice breakfast at the over-hyped Biscuit Love and then checked out the Parthenon.
I fell in love with this place in an instant. To begin, we went to The River Arts District and ate tacos at White Duck. Then we walked around downtown, going in book stores and little shops and eventually stumbling upon Praise in the Park, where we listened to worship music while we waited for our table to be ready at Tubelo Honey. This area reminded me of the west coast, which is one reason why I think I liked it so much. I can’t wait to go back.
After dinner, we drove out to the gorge to camp for the night. We went on a brief night hike and set up camp on top of Table Rock. It ended up being one of the most intense thunder storms of my life. I swear the lightning was right above the tent. But it was an adventure. And we got to wake up to this view.
On our way back down the mountain, we ran into some people slack-lining. It was the cherry on top of a perfect cross-country extravaganza.