I have been trying to publish this for over a month & it’s finally here:
I DROVE THROUGH 11 STATES AND OVER 3000 MILES FROM FLORIDA TO IDAHO!
So some background: this was not my originally planned route but I had to detour due to ice (…IN MARCH!!! I was so ill prepared…) I intended to stop in more national parks and experience more nature, however, we had to reroute. This final way is not the quickest route, but I wanted to hit Mount Rushmore while it wasn’t tooo far out of the way! I mostly used to RoadTrippers app to plan the route and find hidden gems. Here’s what I did & where I stopped along the way:
Pembroke Pines, Florida–> Port St. Lucie, Florida// 100 miles
I bought my car in Miami Beach and was with my grandparents at the hospital they were in until 7pm the evening before I was supposed to leave. This was not the plan, but I’m so glad I got extra time with them! On the way to my parent’s home in Port St. Lucie, I was able to stop by my little sister’s event on the way where she was selling her artwork at a brewery. Go Dani go!
Port St. Lucie, Floria–> Nashville, Tennessee by way of Orlando & Gainesville, FL, Atlanta, GA & Chattanooga, TN// 800 miles
Up & at ’em at 3:30am, on the road by 4am!
I made it out of the state of Florida by 9:00am!
I was making phenomenal timing but after I stopped for a quick lunch with my beautiful friend Alanna in Atlanta, I hit some horrible traffic & rain on the way out. Chattanooga has been and always will be one of my favorite areas to drive through. After the rain, there were natural waterfalls along the highway, beautiful foliage and although I had zero service for about 10 miles. It’s a different type of serenity to be traveling through nature alone like that.
I was supposed to make a 3-4 day pit stop to Nashville, and I ended up staying over a week! I don’t want to talk about it yet because I’ll dedicate a whole blog post to it. Country music, yummy BBQ, biscuits, and booze…Nashville, you devil of a city. Watch out traveling through there, you might get BIT by a snake. More info to come on this later…
Nashville, TN–> Sioux Falls, South Dakota by way of Kentucky, Illinois, St. Louis & Kansas City, MO & Cedar Rapids, IA// 930 miles
When I finally peeled myself from Nash, I was SET to power through from Nashville to Sioux Falls in one day! The first few states were so quick: Kentucky & Illinois were done by morning! Alas…I started seeing snow on the ground in Illinois…in March…which was a foreign concept to me. I severely underestimated how cold/icy/snowy/wintery it would still be in the US this time of year!
We passed through St. Louis & got lunch in Kansas City, Missouri. Guess what we had? Kansas City Barbecue, baby! Now, if anyone reading is from KC, please stop reading now: I was disappointed & I thought BBQ from the south is better. Maybe I’m loyal having been raised in the South? I’m not sure! Half the battle for good BBQ for me is the sides and I didn’t see that here. After the slightly mediocre (sorry, KC!!) lunch, we headed to the Union Station and got some awesome views.
Kansas City Union Station was built in 1914 & during World War II, an estimated 1 million passengers passed through the halls to travel by train. Just as you could over 100 years ago, the station is still an Amtrak stop. There are also tons of exhibits, cafes, restaurants & even an operating US postal office. The grand hall was just stunning & you must stop in if you’re passing through. Thanks to my friend Jill for the recommendation!
After Missouri, we went through the entire state line of Iowa and Nebraska with the world’s longest, most beautiful Golden Hour. Seriously, this sun was setting for so much time!
Sioux Falls, South Dakota–> Mount Rushmore by way of ????!!!// 340 miles
Alright, I want to start by saying something harsh: I feel like I did not even go to Sioux Falls because there was so much snow I felt like I was in a weird apocalyptic film. It was so funny, honestly! Seems like a nice place, but no one was there and it was COVERED in snow.
Second, that five hour drive was INTENSE. I saw three semi-trucks flipped because of the ice & we almost could not get gas because the exit ramps were so icy.
Then, the best part: the marketing in the middle of no where.
Have y’all ever heard of Wall, South Dakota? I hadn’t & it turned out to be one of the best memories of the trip. Long ago, there was a man who started advertising “free ice water” along the interstate for thirsty travelers so his drug store would get more business. The ultimate marketing scheme because back then, ALL drug stores offered free iced water.
Now, the business spends $400,000 a year on billboards & advertisements both domestically & internationally, a huge portion along the route from Sioux Falls to Mount Rushmore. The single drug store now turned into a 12+ store mini city where you can find South Dakota souvenirs, $.05 coffee & yummy donuts. Definitely worth a stop if you’re road tripping this part of the U S of A.
After Wall, we got suckered into more marketing schemes, because duh. It was time for lunch and there were multiple firetrucks for miles before Rapid City, South Dakota so I had to honor the advertisements and stop by to see what it was all about. It was a winery and brewery, which got our business. I still have two bottles left as we speak. Consumerism at its best.
Mount Rushmore–>Rawlins, Wyoming// 350 miles
I have to warn you if you’ve never been: Mount Rushmore is something you should see, but it is slightly underwhelming. It is what it is! Luckily, my high school bestie, Katherine had warned me before I went so I thought it was fascinating.
The history of Mount Rushmore really interests me. In the first 100 days of FDR’s presidency, he enforced strict initiatives to counteract the Great Depression. One of these initiatives: creating jobs in order to carve Mount Rushmore! His efforts got America back on its feet when we needed it so I viewed this monument as a symbol of hope for the future. There was almost no one else there when I went, parking was only $10 and there was a gift shop, but we didn’t take more than 30 minutes at the monument!
I originally planned on stopping in Casper, Wyoming, but once we got on the road, we realized we could make it to Rawlins by dinner.
We ate at the charming local joint in Downtown Rawlins “Buck’s Sports Grill” where customer service was great (water was given to us by the owner’s very enthusiastic & giggly young children) and the menus were large and in charge! Local Wyoming beer was on tap served in a mason jar & if you’re hungry, try the “Buck Zilla:” Two grilled cheeses for bread with a butter burger, bacon, and two eggs… Buck’s was the perfect, charming Wyoming watering hole!
Rawlins, Wyoming–>Boise, Idaho by way of Ogden, Utah// 580 miles
LAST DAY!! Like I mentioned before, originally, I wanted to detour to Yosemite, but due to ice, I had to detour through Utah.
Quickly, just wanted to mention a very intensively random rest stop in Wyoming called Little America and they were stocked with these Auto Bingos my sister and I had as a kid. I loved these! We couldn’t have been the only ones??
I will say this: Utah was so gorgeous!!
Almost immediately after I crossed the border, we ended up at a rest stop in Echo, Utah that was adorable.
For lunch, we stopped in the little city of Ogden which was so charming, but the weather was very chilly & rainy when we got there so we ate and skedattled! We ate at Slackwater Pizzeria & Pub which was so delicious with sick mountain views! Definitely recommend as well.
Next up, BOISE!
And that’s that, folks. Multiple days, thousands of miles and if you want to see more, be sure to head to my instagram @along.came.alex where I have video clips docked on my highlights under “Road Trip ’19.”
I am so excited to “plants some roots” in Idaho for a while and to explore some of the WILD WEST: Portland & the Oregon Coast, Yosemite, San Diego, Los Angeles, Sedona, and so SO much more! If you have any suggestions, please let me know!