We drove more than 5,000 miles, passed through nine states and spent more than 50 hours in the car together during our road trip to the U.S. Southwest.
We sang, we snacked, we laughed, we reminisced, we quoted our favorite TV shows – hell, we even listened to our favorite TV shows, with Netflix playing through the car speakers, cutting in and out as we lost signal throughout parts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.
We watched flat corn fields turn into rolling hills turn into cow-studded wheat fields and oil rig- and wind turbine-dotted prairies, and then, finally, after a stretch of nothingness, we saw mountains on the horizon as we stared straight into the sun on our way out west.
We crossed dozens of things off our bucket list, but arguably some of our favorite memories were those we created while riding in the car together – goofing off, laughing at ourselves and making inside jokes we’ll never forget.
Together, we saw parts of the country we never would have seen if we’d been asleep or watching The Intern (or some other half-decent movie) on an airplane.
Like, for example, the world’s most beautiful rest stop. OK, it’s not *officially* the world’s most beautiful rest stop, but the Grizzly Creek Rest Area (pictured below) in Glenwood Canyon along I-70 in Colorado was the prettiest we’ve ever seen.
We had meaningful conversations about life, family, our aspirations as travel bloggers, our careers and, yes, about The Office. We found ways to entertain ourselves – one of which became a fun competition of who could make the most dad jokes. (For the record: Mike won.)
I discovered a new ~skill~ that helped me stay entertained while Mike drove. I like to call these Terrible Travel Art, and I’ll be available for freelancing if you’re interested in commissioning a drawing that looks nothing like your travel photos 🤣
We marveled at the towering rock formations in Utah and the remains of an extinct volcano (Shiprock) in New Mexico. “It’s amazing how small we really are,” we said to each other on more than one occasion. “Can you believe this is in the U.S.? It looks otherworldly.”
We gazed out at Outlaw Country when we stopped at the Ghost Rock scenic overlook (pictured below) on I-70 in Utah. In these canyons, Butch Cassidy, Elzy Lay, Flat Nose George, Kid Curry, Joe Walker and others eluded the lawmen who pursued them in the late 1800s.
Considered one of the great hustlers of the American West, Butch Cassidy robbed trains and banks and led a gang of outlaws known as the “Wild Bunch”.
Of course, we also had to stop off to see Butch Cassidy’s childhood home, about an hour away from Ghost Rock. He lived here with his family from ages 14 to 18 (1880-1884).
And, naturally, when we saw a sign at Ruby’s Inn for Old West Photos on our way to Bryce Canyon National Park, we took the opportunity to dress up like outlaws and have a little fun.
Because traveling isn’t all about taking great Instagram photos. It’s about the silly moments that make up your personal “yearbook”. The unscheduled detours and pit stops that tell a bigger (and sometimes better) story about your trip together.
Throughout our road trip, we became quite comfortable with five-hour drives, as we realized there isn’t much in Utah that you can get to without a commute of that length.
Speaking of which, we drove the longest stretch of road in the U.S. interstate highway system – on I-70 between Green River and Salina in Utah – where there are no services for 110 miles. You read that correctly: There were no towns, exits, gas stations, bathrooms or legal way to turn around for 110 miles.
If there were ever a time that I was right about the benefits of keeping the gas tank full, this was it.
We learned that different stretches of the highway posed different dangers: Like elk crossing the road in Arizona, runaway trucks in Colorado and falling rock/fallen rock/falling rocks (we saw signs with all three variations) in various parts of Colorado and Utah.
But life on the road wasn’t perfect. We dealt with setbacks and hanger and the inevitable squabble.
We got stuck in a traffic jam from a car fire one night in Colorado. Mike broke my phone mount at the beginning of the trip. We got sick of eating Lunchables, string cheese and beef jerky very quickly. I was a backseat driver the whole time. We wore ourselves out every day and still had to drive hours at night to get to our next destination.
And my personal favorite: We drove three hours out of the way to see Four Corners – the quadripoint where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet – but it was closed.
In the end, arguments and all, we had more fun on this trip than any other. We’ve never laughed so hard, sang so loud or talked for so long before.
We learned how to get over disagreements. How to laugh off the setbacks and chalk them up to a funny story. How to be flexible when it comes to travel planning. And how to balance each other’s needs and wants.
That’s why we recommend road trips to any couple, not just travel couples. These skills are crucial to any successful relationship.
Spending 50+ hours in the car together will give you an incredible appreciation for each other and for the world around you. You’ll learn things about each other that you never knew before and your bond will grow stronger along the way.
And, if you’re like us, you might just have more fun on the journey than at your destinations.