Steve and I drove from Collegeville, Pennsylvania to San Francisco and Los Angeles, California, and then back home to New Jersey for our honeymoon. We didn’t stay more than one night in one location and had to be up around 7am to start driving each day. We never stayed on the road later than 9pm and recorded every time we stopped or entered a new state. Here’s more about it!
(And here’s a video if you don’t feel like reading.)
We left bright and early and headed toward Chicago. We were really excited to hit some weird roadside attractions so first stop was: the Big Mac Museum in North Huntington, PA. It was literally a McDonald’s with a huge big mac in the play area and some facts about big macs. So silly and amazing. Then we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH. Steve plays guitar and could have stayed there all day if we had time. I saw clothes that Beyonce actually wore and a Beatles drum set so that was good enough for me. Then we stopped by Notre Dame and FINALLY got to Chicago at around 9pm. But we were so excited to try deep dish pizza that we went out to Giordano’s, waited an hour (?! which is normal apparently) and ate dinner at 10pm. SO WORTH IT. ↓
We walked around Chicago for a little in the morning and saw Millennium Park and Cloud Gate – and then we went to the Willis Tower on the Skydeck to stand on the see-through floor. After that we headed to Aurora, IL to honor Wayne’s World, one of my favorite movies – and landed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to eat dinner at the Safe House. The Safe House is 100% the coolest restaurant I’ve ever been in. It’s in a secret location and you need a password to get in – since you are spy agents on a top secret mission when you enter! We did NOT have a password and had to perform a “task” of miming that we were trapped in a glass box with a small door to escape. Our miming was good enough to get us in, and after a few secret doors we get to the restaurant where everyone is applauding for us…? They have been watching us on a hidden camera the whole time! There are secret compartments, eyes watching, a magician bartender, cool spy memorabilia, and Wisconsin cheese curds. ↓
This was another fun day of weird roadside attractions on our way to Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse (after we parked in the wrong lot and got a mean note on our car. Whoops). First we saw a huge pink elephant wearing 70s glasses in Deforest, WI, then was the world’s largest six-pack in La Crosse, WI, followed by the World’s Largest Jolly Green Giant and the Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD. This was just a field of giant art made by a guy who hangs out in a shed giving out chocolate and collecting donations. And it was awesome. Then we visited the world’s only Corn Palace, which was a strange auditorium with corn everywhere. And finally made it to a hotel in Rapid City, SD. We were going to stay a little closer to Mt. Rushmore, but I was driving on a pitch black road at night with no cars and I freaked out so we pulled over and stayed at the closest thing we could find. Which was the Hotel Alex Johnson. Turns out, our room had a plumbing issue and we got upgraded to a BALLIN honeymoon suite. We stayed in a room next to the presidential suite where presidents like Reagan and Roosevelt have stayed. It was the comfiest bed and the best night’s sleep I ever had. And I would say my favorite hotel of the whole trip… Until I posted a photo the next morning and clicked to see other photos people have posted there. Turns out, the hotel is haunted and a woman killed herself on the floor below us. They do ghost tours. Not the best surprise but at least we got some sleep before we found that out. ↓
On our way to Mt. Rushmore we stopped at Reptile Gardens, which is the largest collection of reptiles in the world. I’m not a huge fan of reptiles but we go to pet a tortoise that was born in 1881! Steve was totally freaked out to pet the tortoise but it was pretty adorbz when he finally got the courage. Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse were awesome to see in person, and then we got pizza and ate it on a scenic pull-off somewhere in Wyoming. There’s not a lot to do in Wyoming but it is absolutely beautiful. ↓
Yellowstone National Park was so gorgeous and so huge. We needed way more time here, but I really wanted to see Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring and it was even more incredible in person. Then we headed to the Idaho Potato Museum! We saw the world’s largest potato chip and learned about the history of the potato. So silly but so much fun. ↓
I believe it was between days five and six that we shaved off an entire day on our trip. We drove until 10pm and found a disgusting hotel in a casino town in Nevada that smelled like cigarette smoke and sadness. The towels were different shades of “white” but we were exhausted and fell asleep right away (somehow). We woke up and found Loveock, Nevada which saved our otherwise weird/gross morning. It’s a small town with a small park where couples “lock their love.” We didn’t have a lock, but improvised. Then we made it to California!
San Francisco was another weird experience. I thought everything was in walking distance (the Full House house, Alcatraz, Golden Gate bridge). It was not. We walked miles, myself wearing jelly sandals in August heat, on the sketchiest street in town. When we finally got to the bridge and were able to see everything, it was amazing. But it was a very long, weird day of bad navigating. ↓
We made it to LA! We hung out at the park near the Hollywood sign and got In-n-Out burgers. I was underwhelmed with the vegetarian sandwich but Steve lovedddd his burger. Then we went to see the Cabazon dinosaurs from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure! This part of the country was probably my favorite. It was like a movie looking at miles of desert on the left of you, and then miles of desert on the right. The temperature outside was SLIGHTLY concerning, especially after passing a sign that said “please turn off air conditioner to avoid overheating” …when my car was reading that it was 111 degrees outside. Steve and I turned off the AC and immediately started sweating. But there was no shoulder on the road, nothing around, and no pull-offs, so we did not want our car to die. This fear lead to us sitting in our own sweat for about two hours since we didn’t know when were allowed to turn the AC back on (we only needed to keep it off for about ten minutes. Whoops). Then we found another weird roadside attraction on Highway 62 in Rice, California. It is a tall pole with random signs in the middle of nowhere. ↓
The Grand Canyon was another amazing part of our trip. It really makes you feel small and reminds you that you are a thing living on a planet. As we were leaving, we found another smaller canyon with a few natives selling jewelry and dream catchers, which we purchased, and then we ate Navajo fry bread tacos at Cameron Trading Post. They were soooo delicious. And then we made it to the Four Corners Monument and stood in four states at once (New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado)! ↓
I have best friends in Austin, Texas who were kind enough to let us stay the night – so before we hung out with them, we visited San Antonio to see the Alamo. BUT before we got to Texas, we got pulled over in New Mexico where the speed limit went from 45 to 25 in an instant, and we were somewhere in that instant when a cop caught us. Also, he couldn’t scan Steve’s license because it kept saying he only had his learner’s permit – which is something they don’t do in NM. Then the cop asked me for my ID and if mine was fine, we would switch and I would drive. Mine also wasn’t fine and did the same thing. We told the cop we were on our honeymoon and between that and the fact that he couldn’t even scan our licenses, he let us go. Whew! But after that we made it to Texas. San Antonio is such a cute little town and learning about the Alamo (more than what I know from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Which is a movie that has apparently influenced me more than I thought) was so interesting. Then we ate food truck BBQ and drank and had fun with my friends in Austin! ↓
It worked out that I have best friends in Texas, and family in Lafayette, Louisiana – so that was next on our list! My Godmother, uncle, and cousins live here and set up a room for us that was the cutest little honeymoon suite. We went out to dinner and then my cousins took us to the Blue Moon Saloon for some Cajun music. Something I wasn’t expecting: the second the music started everyone partnered up and started two-stepping. I was even asked to dance by a much older gentleman and held my own, being that I had never in my life danced like that before. Apparently Grammy award winning artists go to this bar to play because Lafayette is the Cajun music capital of the country. It was so much fun and I understand why we haven’t convinced my cousins to move back up with us… yet. Then of course we went to New Orleans, where we tried beignets from Cafe DuMonde, walked along Bourbon Street, and visited Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral. ↓
Steve and I made our final journey before home to Nashville, Tennessee! We got there at night and, despite being exhausted, took an Uber into town where all the live music and bars were. After checking out a few that were packed – we finally found one where we could sit down and have a drink. (At the very back corner of the bar where we wouldn’t draw any attention to ourselves). Now, Steve and I don’t consider ourselves country music fans, but we listened to SO MUCH country music on our road trip because I guess that’s the only thing anyone listens to on the radio in the majority of the country. Our music apps weren’t working so we decided listening to the radio and taking in the local culture would be more fun. At a certain point Steve and I were able to sing along to some of these songs on the radio. My favorite one was about not being rich and that money can’t buy happiness “but it could buy me a boat..” But anyway. We are feeling a little uncomfortable because we are the only ones not wearing cowboy boots and hats and not singing along – and we’re about to leave. Until we hear the strum of a guitar and a guy start to sing “I ain’t rich, but I damn sure wanna beee.” Wait, is this our song? And as we are talking trying to figure it out, the entire bar goes “BUT IT CAN BUY ME A BOAT” and Steve and I look at each other and go “IT COULD BUY ME A TRUCK TO PULL IT!” And sang the whole thing. It was the perfect ending to a perfect trip. ↓
Or so we thought that perfect moment would end the trip. Nope. Steve left his phone in the Uber on the way back to the hotel. We realized this the next morning, so we call and find out the Uber driver has left town. Naturally. But he left Steve’s phone with his dad. Which is nice of him. However, this guy’s dad lives in the middle of the woods in a nowhere town south of Nashville (the opposite of where we were trying to go). We assumed this was the part of the story where the headline reads “Newlyweds kidnapped and never seen again,” but we risked it and got to the house and it’s absolutely beautiful and they have a friendly dog and the guy’s dad was even nice enough to charge Steve’s phone for him! It worked out just fine. And then we FINALLY made it back home and my mom and sister completely made over the room Steve and I were going to be staying in. And THEN we had the perfect ending to our perfect trip.