Changing careers can take time, but eventually you reach a point where things start to unfold quickly. That point was the day I accepted a position in a post-graduate training program across the U.S. Within 3 months, Kevin and I had sold our Connecticut condo, packed our two dogs into my Jeep, and set off—on our 14th anniversary—for a small house rented sight unseen in Northern California.
The original route had us traveling across “the northern route,” which includes stops in St. Louis, Missouri, and Denver, Colorado. But in the same week I was planning the route, packing, and finishing up my job, we were selected as the new family for a beautiful little fox-red dog, who was currently residing in Houston, Texas.
Kevin reasonably asked if I was sure that this was the right time to add a third dog to our family. I actually thought it was perfect—there would be multiple days where all three dogs were near each other but safely separated in crates—so I started to re-plan our route.
The new route had us traveling through more southern and western states. We selected some stops ahead of time, like local coffee shops in the mornings and breweries in the evenings, and planned to use our annual national park pass as often as possible.
Traveling by cups of coffee
Now it was time to fit three dog crates into the Jeep, in addition to two big rucksacks. We made our last stop for coffee at our favorite local Stamford shop and headed west.
We did make a brief stop in New York City to reorganize the car. One of the pups, our spitz Kavik, was upset in the far back because his border collie brother, Kodiak, was closer to our seats. After that, we were on our way through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada before finally reaching our new home in California.
Amazingly, things went according to plan. The first day was long and exhausting between traffic compounded by a late departure, and to be honest, a relative lack of excitement since we often traveled part of this route down to Florida. I’ve never been as happy to see a hotel as I was when we stopped in Virginia. But after a good night’s sleep, we were eager to continue our journey.
We were able to visit some national parks, including Great Smoky Mountains, White Sands, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite. We had planned a stop at Death Valley, but decided that a 115-degree heat wave was not the time for that particular adventure, especially with three furry family members on board.
We had short visits in big cities, including New Orleans (one of my favorites), Houston (where we picked up our new dog, Tokala), El Paso (home of the gorgeous University of Texas at El Paso campus), and Las Vegas (where I learned that I prefer quiet hotels over loud casino lobbies).
We stopped at quirky attractions, like Standin’ on the Corner Park in Winslow, Arizona, which left us humming Eagles songs for the next 500 miles, and incredible natural wonders, like Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona; I’d seen photos but never thought I’d see it in real life.
Finally, we made it to Sacramento, our new home for the next year. In the end, we drank beers from six different breweries and never once had a cup of coffee from a national chain. Kevin stayed connected to work with early hotel arrivals and we strategized rest stops ahead of time for dog management.
We took more than 1,000 photos, FaceTimed families from seven dramatic vistas, stayed in 11 hotels, and drove nearly 4,500 miles. We’re already looking forward to the trip back east at the end of this upcoming summer, when we’ll once again carefully fit three crates, two big rucksacks, and one family of five into a Jeep. There’s a reason why road trips inspire so many movies, songs, and novels; if you ever have the opportunity to drive across the U.S. for any reason, do it.