Considering a road trip across the country? Or perhaps you are playing around with the idea of making the move from east to west. I moved from West Virginia to Southern California in 3 nights with 2 vehicles and a U haul trailer. This is a guide that includes how we packed, the route we took, the food we ate, the stops we made and how I did my best to stay healthy.
HOW IT HAPPENED
I visited Los Angeles the first week of July for a long weekend. It was my very first time “out West”. People have been telling me for years that I belong in California. I usually dismissed their opinions because I heard that California was expensive and housing was outrageous, and I assumed that I would never be able to afford it. During my visit, I ate amazing vegan food, I visited with friends that I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet in person before, I watched Austin Powers in a cemetery, I drove through Topanga Canyon. I didn’t really do “touristy” things, and I think it is because of this that I became transfixed. I spent more time among Angelenos than with visitors and a thought started to bubble to the surface of my mind: I really do belong here. I mentioned to my friends that I would love to live here, and I guess the rest is history. It was just a few short weeks later that Danny and I were interviewing for jobs and looking at apartments. Do not be surprised at how quickly the Universe moves once you are ready.
WHAT WE PACKED
As many of my longtime readers know, I have been dabbling into minimalism here and there. Danny and I seriously considered tiny home life and do still intend to own a renovated Airstream at some point. Since we both already were preparing for a minimalist lifestyle, it wasn’t as difficult for us to get rid of our stuff. We had a yard sale and sold what we could, donated what we couldn’t. I gave away 6 trash bags filled with clothes and shoes. It disgusted me that I owned that many clothing items, most of which I rarely, if ever, wore. We have a Casper mattress, which comes shipped in a small box when you purchase it. Danny found a YouTube video that showed how to suck the air back out of it for easy transportation. It actually did work really well which was huge for us to be able to fit everything in the size of U Haul trailer that we could tow with Danny’s Jeep. We didn’t pack any furniture besides the bed, bed frame and a wooden chest that I had (which I ended up getting rid of upon arriving in California).
WHAT ROUTE WE TOOK
We took the Southern route, as it is known, because it is less mountainous. The route through Colorado and Utah is beautiful, I have heard, but since we were towing a U Haul we didn’t want to take that route. We started in West Virginia and made our way through Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before arriving in California. All of these states were new for me, except for Kentucky! It was mid-September when we were traveling and the weather was absolutely perfect. We couldn’t have asked for anything better. My only real complaint and headache was the Oklahoma Turnpike. If you take this route, remember to bring cash (and coins!). There is a little calculator here to compute exact totals. I came prepared with the cash, but wasn’t anticipating how steep the cost of traveling this stretch of road would be. At one point, it requires exact change, which I didn’t compute as coins. I ended up having to drive right through, oops. Other than that minor hiccup, everything was perfect.
WHAT WE SAW
We weren’t doing this trip for the sightseeing, which was kind of a bummer. We were just trying to make good time so that we could get settled into our new apartment. There were so many cool things along the way that we wish we could have made time for, but we knew that we would be making weekend trips to do those things soon. That being said, we did stay in some pretty cool cities and made a few pit stops as well. We always utilize Happy Cow to scope out vegan options in whatever city or town we are traveling to. We made a stop in St. Louis at Confluence Kombucha to try their kombuchas on tap as well as to grab a little snack. Very fun flavors and cooking techniques and the staff was great! I saw the Gateway Arch from the interstate, even though I kept mentally calling it the Golden Arches (it is definitely not a McDonald’s).
The next night, we stayed in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Because the time change was working in our favor, we had some daylight left to explore the city. We went downtown and parked and wandered around looking at some murals, stopping in to El Guapo’s for a Corona and lime on the rooftop. On our way through Texas, I couldn’t stop marveling at the windmills. Texas is the largest purveyor of wind energy in the country! I had seen windmills before in Maryland, but never this many. We made it a point to stop at the Cadillac Ranch which is just off the highway in Amarillo. We went on from there to stay the night in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We went to Annapurna's Cafe for dinner, which was absolutely delicious. We shared the South Indian Sampler and Mediterranean Plate, both pictured above. After dinner, we walked from our hotel over to Green Jeans Farmery. It’s like a shipping container plaza complete with a brewery, food vendors and more. The hot air balloons against the mountains in Albuquerque are so dreamy, I definitely want to go back. Driving through New Mexico and Arizona were my absolute favorite views. There is something that feels otherworldly and magical about the American Southwest. The trains snaking through the hills made me want to pull over and paint it all, photograph it all, savor each and every drop. I was so inspired.
Danny’s cousin lives in Flagstaff, Arizona and we made it a point to stop in and grab lunch with her. We ate at a little vegan place called WHYld Ass. Their food was amazing. This would have been the perfect opportunity to skip over to the Grand Canyon, and I would recommend it if you have a couple of hours to spare. We made the choice to drive through to Long Beach, and it was a long 15 hour drive day for us. For a while, there seems to be nothing and then you come over this hill and there are lights everywhere, cars everywhere. We had made it.
HOW I STAYED HEALTHY + SAVED MONEY
As I was packing the kitchen, I realized I had a lot of dry beans in my pantry. I made a quick and easy chili in the Instant Pot, because I also had a couple of chili seasoning packets laying around. I packed it in large Tupperware along with utensils for us to eat for lunches while road tripping. I measured out the last of the quick-cook oatmeal that I had, turmeric and the last of my protein powder. I added water to this and zapped it in the hotel microwave. At the last hotel, there was no microwave, so I used the hot water from the coffee pot to make it work. I also packed some apples, GoMacro bars and some peanut butter in the car. I brought along 2 reusable water bottles that I kept filled with cold water from the fountain at various gas stations. There is almost always a microwave that you can use to heat up food at gas stations, so you aren’t bound by cold-only foods while traveling! By using up some of these pantry items, it allowed me to save money, stay healthy and also not have to pack that stuff up. Additionally, we made it a point to book hotels that had a gym. We chose not to stay at Airbnb’s along the way because we weren’t sure which towns we would be staying in each night and didn’t want to be disruptive to the host/hostess with our late arrivals. With as much sitting as we were doing, it was really important to me to start the day with some activity. By no means will you become “unhealthy” or “unfit” if you take time off from your fitness or meal prep while traveling, but for me, it was more about mental health and easability than anything!