What a great road trip we’ve had these past two weeks heading from Colorado to San Diego, and back again.  While the purpose of the trip was to help our daughter move, we made sure to take some time to enjoy the scenery and experience places we had never been before.  I know many others have taken to the road this summer so I thought I’d share some of the rules for our road trips …

  1. Beauty in All Landscape: flat, mountainous, desert, and lush, we drove through an incredible array of climates and environments, and enjoyed them all in their own way. Southern Colorado was an array of stunning mountain ranges rich with pine and aspen forests… Death Valley National Park may be in California, but the miles and miles of dry, grey desert in New Mexico was “Death Valley” to me. It’s amazing to watch the geological changes in just a few miles as the mountains, canyons and prehistoric rock formations protrude from nowhere, and the colors change from grey to yellow to rich red.  Imagine what early settlers experienced when they first crossed these lands.
  2. Enjoy some out of the ordinary indulgences: 35 years ago my husband and I drove from New York to Colorado and alternated food stops between Perkins Pancake House (awesome omelets) and Dairy Queen chocolate cherry Blizzards. We haven’t had DQ since then.. but as we were passing through New Mexico and the temperature was 115, that Blizzard was calling to us. Some foods from my past haven’t tasted so good when eaten in recent years..however the Blizzard totally held up. Yum.  Dairy Queen isn’t a local delicacy, but there was plenty of indulging in local cuisine during our stay in California.  A couple examples:  Casa de Pico in La Mesa and Buona Forchetta for amazing Italian food on Coronado Islane. Next week I will return to my usual disciplined self.
  3. Ask the locals for advice: We stayed in St. George, Utah – a half-way stopping point recommended to us by friends. They told us it was “kind of a cute-but-nothing-place between here and there.” Some nice walks to be had in the mountains surrounding, but we shouldn’t expect much in the way of restaurant options or town character. However, on check-in we asked the hotel clerk for dinner recommendations … he sent us to “old town” and an adorable and delicious restaurant (The Painted Pony for anyone who is ever passing through).  Our waitress was also a great resource for hiking recommendations for the next morning before we hopped in the car again.
  4. Take a moment to head off the beaten path: Sure you’re in a rush to “get there,” but don’t be in such a rush that you miss some local color. Remember the Eagles song, “Take it Easy”?  Well we headed off the highway to stand on that corner in Winslow, Arizona. Woke before dawn to visit the culturally significant ShipRock in the Navajo Reservation in Northern New Mexico.  And, having never been to Las Vegas, we hopped off the highway to drive down the strip in Las Vegas. I knew Vegas was “over the top”, but wow!
  5. Be a tourist in your own town: The family we stayed with has lived in the San Diego area for nearly 30 years. But, like many of us who live near popular tourist destination locations, they haven’t been tourists in their own town for many years. I actually wrote a blog a while back about taking a “micro-cation” in your own backyard. Here’s just a sample of what we did…
    • Rented bicycles and toured Coronado Island
    • Farmers markets are fun… it’s not about the lettuce, especially when you’re traveling. But a really good farmers market has all sorts of locally created and sourced products. We went to several farmers markets – delicious produce, beautiful flowers, fascinating local vendors and food discoveries made for a delicious home made dinner that night.
    • Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum – I’ve been to the Intrepid in NY, but IMHO the Midway was even better. The interactive displays throughout the ship allowed visitors to actually touch and feel this impressive piece of history. Even better were the docents stationed throughout the ship.  All seemed to be retired military, some of whom actually served on the Midway.  They were proud to share their experience and the ship with the visitors. And you could just feel the strength that comes from people who have faced challenges …and death… and beaten it all for the sake of our freedom.
  6. Be Sure to Move: Road trips are great, but don’t forget to move. It keeps the blood flowing and offsets all of those delicious indulgences. My usual exercise routines were interrupted during the trip but there’s always someplace to walk or run. Get up early for a walk so you know you’ve had some movement for the day. We especially make sure to get some exercise early on days when we will have a lot of driving.
  7. Keep your eye on the highways and the weather. Last summer we drove to southern Colorado, passing through Glenwood Canyon an hour before a major fire broke out, which closed the canyon, and Interstate 70 for two weeks. Our several hour drive south became a 6+ hour return trip as we had to take an alternate route. Now, that same highway has been closed twice within the past two days due to mudslides thanks to last year’s fire.  We are watching the roads and preparing accordingly.  Through the years we’ve had to plan around avalanches in winter, fires and mudslides.  Other areas fall victim to flash floods and tornadoes.  Watch the weather and road reports so you don’t get stuck sitting on the highway for hours.
  8. Amazing Displays of Patriotism: One of the greatest joys of our trip has been to step away from the mainstream media, and see the incredible amount of love for this country that is held by those who live here. With all of the military bases in San Diego, it was no surprise to see many flags flying, but frankly it was evident throughout our journey. They’re right… we do live in an incredible place.

Enjoy your summer travels. Share your stories with me.