Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent those of Maryville College or the Highland Echo staff.
Road tripping is a somewhat romanticized American tradition. Many find themselves dreaming of driving across the country, though few are ever able to pick up and go.
When my roommate, Brittany Miller, asked me about a year ago if I would be interested in driving across the U.S with her, I was wary at first but was ultimately lured in by the promise of adventure. After months of planning, we hit the open road the day after finals ended. We quickly adopted the hashtag #onaridetoeverywhere for the enjoyment of our trusty social media followers and cranked up our road trip playlist.
Over the course of four days Miller and I worked our way to San Francisco, CA. We would drive across entire states or more in a day, and ten hours in a car began to seem normal. We embraced the road-tripping spirit and took several detours along the way, stopping at places like Arches National Park, the Bonneville Speedway and Reno.
Over the course of just a few hours, entire landscapes would change before us. In one day we travelled from the still snow capped mountains of the Rockies to the arid red-rock landscapes of Utah.
Once in California, we carried out our plan of travelling down the coast at a somewhat more leisurely pace. We spent some time in San Francisco and quickly fell in love with the city, the people and the atmosphere, though not so much with the weather. Afterwards, we travelled to Yosemite National Park for a day and were awestruck. We hiked through a forest of giant sequoias and drove through the Yosemite Valley, if only to be reminded how small we are in comparison to the world. On our way to Los Angeles we continued relishing the beautiful views as we travelled down Highway One along the coast of California’s “Big Sur.” After LA, we proceeded south to San Diego where we spent most of our time lounging on the beach, and I took a brief interest in surfing.
After California, we made the short drive to Arizona. During our two weeks there, we traversed the majority of the state, watching sunsets from mountain tops in Sedona and exploring ice caves in Flagstaff. But perhaps most memorable was a hike into the Grand Canyon, where our aching bodies were greeted by glistening waterfalls and unbelievably starry nights. In these moments travelling across the country seemed like the right choice, even the only choice.
We earned true road trip status on our way home as we followed a large portion of Route 66, making sure to stop at several iconic attractions long the way. Though this portion of the trip was not nearly as eventful, the journey back to Tennessee was surreal because it marked the end of a journey that had quickly become a way of life.
Over the course of a month, we had traveled through 13 states, the car had become our home and the road our guide, with a little help from our friend Garmin. We belonged both everywhere and nowhere at the same time. When arriving somewhere new we felt we had earned it; surely we deserved to be there. Often, however, the best moments were not the planned ones but the times that came in between when all that we had was a car and four possible directions. In times like these, singing at the top of our lungs with the country stretched out before us, we realized how far we could truly go.