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Because my dad has a fear of flying, road-tripping was always a part of my childhood. Every spring we drove 9 hours from New Jersey to Cincinnati to visit my dad’s family. And every summer, we drove 6 hours to Cape Cod for our family vacation.

I remember these trips fondly. Of the actual road trips, I acutely remember stopping at the first rest stop for breakfast. This added to the excitement of the journey as breakfast would usually be Burger King, and my brother and I were obsessed with their little rounded hash browns. As for snacks, I was a Bugle girl—so salty, so crunchy, so easy to play with.

In the early days, my parents got us a portable TV with a VHS player to help pass the time in the car. It was braced by a strap that went across the front seats and sat on the center console, and when we got to our destination, we would take the TV out of the car and bring it to our room.

Eventually, we got a travel DVD player that came with two screens that could be fastened to the head rests of the front seats. We were living large at that point. There are only so many bulky VHS tapes that you can pack in an already crowded car, but with DVDs, we could bring as many as we wanted in a slim CD case. The best part of packing for these trips was sitting in the hallway in front of our DVD shelf and choosing our travel movies, usually consisting of such classics as Austin Powers: Goldmember, The Simpsons Movie, and any number of action flicks and superhero movies.

Movies were a great distraction for my car sickness, which would inevitably sink in at hour 3, and a break for our parents who could have their own conversation up front without hearing any bickering or complaining.

I guess you could say that these road trips of my youth prepared me for the biggest road trip of them all: my pilgrimage from East Coast to West Coast. When I decided to move to Los Angeles in 2016, I also decided that driving was the best option. So my mom and I piled most of my belongings into my car and settled in for our 5-day road trip.

Before we set out on the open road, we created some guidelines to make the trip as seamless as possible.

  1. We would take the most straightforward route right across the middle of the country: I-70.
  2. We wouldn’t drive at night. My mom needs glasses to drive later in the day, and I honestly hate how hard it is to see: either too dark or from the blaring headlights in your face.
  3. We’d follow a loose plan of where we were going to stop each day.
  4. We would stay in Holiday Inn Expresses. They’re affordable; they’re reliable; they’re everywhere. They also have complimentary breakfasts as well as pools/hot tubs.

Stop One: West Virginia

Our first stop on the trip was Hickstown, USA. We had the whole trip ahead of us and after a long day of driving, we had some canned wine by the hot tub and toasted to the future. What a way to start off an exciting adventure.

Stop Two: St. Louis

This was probably my favorite stop of the trip. By some stroke of luck, the Cincinnati Reds—our favorite baseball team—were playing the St. Louis Cardinals—their biggest rivals—on the night we were in town. Our hotel was in the middle of the city and within walking distance of the stadium so we took a leisurely stroll to Ballpark Village where they had all manner of Busch beers on tap. Luckily, I am a fan of Shock Top.

We were about to buy tickets at the box office when a man approached us and gave us his tickets because he had obtained better seats. Before taking our free seats, we walked around the stadium taking in the sights which included a wonderful view of the Gateway Arch.

One of my favorite things to do when I’m in a new city is check out their baseball stadium because, one: I love baseball, and two: They all have their unique quirks and cuisines. At this particular stadium, they had margaritas on tap and tater tot nachos. You could say I was in my element. The Reds lost (of course), but it didn’t matter. I ate a home plate full of tater tots covered in queso, pico, jalapeños, and scallions.

Though we had a great night in St. Louis, the fact that we still had 3 more days of road-tripping ahead started to weigh on us.

Stop Three: Kansas

That feeling of road trip fatigue came to a head in Colby, Kansas. I apologize in advance to anyone from Kansas, but dear god… I understand why Dorothy wanted desperately to leave.

First of all, driving through Kansas was boring. The road is long and flat. Trucks speed down the highway with reckless abandon, passing each other like it’s a game, and I was but an obstacle in the way. Another thing— tumbleweeds are real, my friend, and I ran over one with my car.

When we finally got to our destination, we were starving. The pickings were slim, but we managed to find a pub where we could recharge physically, and later, I attempted to recharge mentally by swimming a few laps in the hotel pool.

The one good thing about Kansas was that on our way out and into Colorado, we encountered a wind farm. Windmills covered the open fields for what seemed like a million miles. It was incredible.

Stop 4: Utah

The speed limit on the highway in Utah was 80 miles per hour. Driving through the state was otherworldly. After driving through colorful Colorado, with its green mountains peppered with yellowing trees and an open blue sky, when we got into Utah, the trees seemed to thin out into cacti and open to grey and sand colored stones and caverns with clouds of rain rolling across the expansive desert fields.

It was here that I had my first true West Coast burrito, and it was glorious.

Stop 5: Vegas

From Utah, we drove through Arizona, whose mountains were red and covered in cacti. And then, we reached Nevada. Two months earlier, we had gone to Vegas with my mom’s friends for her 50th birthday. In an absurd twist, we felt a sense of normalcy upon returning to Sin City. The neverending lights and energy of the city served as a much needed recharge to our systems. We were so close to our destination we could taste it, and for now, we were going to have fun.

We had dinner at a nice restaurant, drank sparkling wine, went to a comedy show, got the Belini from Fat Tuesday, and gambled until we were ready for bed.

Four-ish hours later we had done it! We were in L.A. Now, all we had to do was shape up my apartment… but that’s a story for another time.

Sydney Mineer

Sydney Mineer believes in Harvey Dent. She is the #1 bull terrier spotter in Los Angeles and is fluent in both Seinfeld and Spongebob references.

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