For the last 7 years, I flew from coast to coast with frequency. I lived in Los Angeles. My family lived in Virginia Beach. I got on a plane and a few hours later like magic I was at my destination. I never bothered to consider nor appreciate the vast country that lies in-between. When I decided to return to Virginia, I knew that I wanted to drive cross-country. Driving cross country has been on my bucket list for quite some time. I was fortunate to have my best friend Cicely volunteer to join me. It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime.
We drove from California and passed through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina to get to our final destination of Virginia. It took us 5 days to make the trip. Ideally, we wanted to take 7 days, but we spent some time
shopping sightseeing in Southern California. Along the way, we tried cuisine from different locales. Some of it was good; others not so good. We also stopped at as many cupcakebakeries as we could manage. This trip was nicknamed the Cucpcake Tour. The southern part of the United States is beautiful. Here are some of our pics.
Needless to say, we both gained a new-found perspective and appreciation for this country and our friendship. I highly recommend embarking on a cross-country trip of your own either with your significant other or your best friend. My next goal is to drive cross-country via the northern route.
Should you decide to embark on a cross-country trip of your own, I have a few tips.
- Plan to take at least a week to drive from one coast to the other.
This will allow you to time to stop and enjoy the sights along the way. This also minimizes the amount of hours you spend on the road per day. By condensing our trip to 5 days, we spent far too many hours on the road which was very exhausting.
- Take your trip during transition season like Spring or Autumn.
We drove in late February which put our travel in the middle of winter. This made for some hairy moments. At one point, we drove just to stay ahead of a snowstorm that was coming across the country. Summers are great, but I don’t necessarily recommend them if you’re going to be driving through the southern part of the country. Anyone that lives in the Deep South can tell you summers are not fun.
- Have your GPS and traditional maps ready.
My car does not have a built-in GPS unit. So, I opted to buy a stand-alone unit. This was the best decision I made by far. The worst decision was not testing it out and updating it before we left. We ran into a few hiccups while we were in Dallas, TX. This is exactly why you should also have good old-fashioned paper maps at the ready. When the GPS failed us, we simply pulled over and pulled out a map. Voila! Problem solved.
- Do not count on staying with friends when you don’t have a set travel schedule.
In theory, we weren’t going to have to pay for any accommodations while on the road. In actuality, we made so many stops that we were arriving at our destinations later than we expected. We didn’t think showing up on someone’s doorstep at 12AM was very polite or proper.
- Do not stay in hotels with numbers in their names unless you’re absolutely desperate.
We stayed at a Motel 6 in Tempe, AZ. That was the sketchiest place I’ve been in a long time. That’s saying a lot considering I lived in L.A. for some time.
- If you plan on making your trip food/restaurant-centric, check the operating hours of the place you plan to visit ahead of time.
This was supposed to be a cupcake tour. Two of the bakeries we visited were closed. One closed as we got to the door. The other wasn’t open on Sundays. During our five-day trip, we only got to sample 2 bakeries. :(
- Bring lots of snacks and beverages.
While it was fun to sample new cuisine, some of the food we encountered did not look like it would sit well with either of our stomachs. For moments like those, we relied on the contents of our trusty picnic basket to carry us through. Also there are stretches of highway were there was nothing for miles. Had we relied on simply eating on the road, we would’ve starved.
- Keep an open mind and be flexible with your schedule.
Being flexible allowed us to visit blog friends that contacted us at the last minute for meet-ups. Keeping an open mind allowed us to stop and see more than we originally planned.
For our readers who have driven cross-country, do you have any additional tips or stories to share?