This year, just as we were heading into a lovely summer season, I was thrown into an unexpected urgent family emergency. Three months of coast-to-coast trips caring for a loved one, countless hours of managing the personal and business issues of someone else’s life while juggling my own left me emotionally and psychologically spent.
The toll the summer stress had taken on my mind, body and soul could only be healed with one perfect remedy- a road trip.
A trip that would allow me room to breathe again, to linger in a warm sunset evening and remember the peace of a clear horizon.
This road trip with my husband would cover Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota and complete my visit to all 50 states. It was the antidote to all the busyness and distractions of my recent daily existence. A respite from the obligations and a welcome remembrance of the forgotten treasures of nature like the bear, the bison, the sound of a bubbling stream and the smell of pine trees in the breeze.
This specific part of our country with all its majestic sites and beauty, its vast skies and expansive spaces makes me feel alive again. The splendor of the natural world is so healing and the daily surprises one experiences just driving through a National Park is incredibly freeing. Who cannot be charmed when a small herd of prong-horned sheep or buffalo wanders across your path?
The 2,600-mile 2-week journey took us through some spectacular American landmarks, those once-in-a-lifetime spots, Mt Rushmore, Old Faithful, the places you read about since you were a child and never really thought you would see in your lifetime.
Have I peaked your interest? Here are just a few tips for your next road trip:
- Choose the right car for both the passenger and the driver. Many hours in the car requires some creature comforts. We found having a big trunk to safely leave lots of items in made it easy to fill and refill the daily picnic cooler, leave hats, shoes, and jackets, and avoided having to schlep items in and out of the car.
- Know your limits- generally we were good for a 6-hour scenic drive most days which included lots of stops and a picnic lunch. We needed to do one long 12-hour day to get us across the width of Montana and while we did it, I would not recommend more than one of those endless drives per trip.
- Stay places that fit your lifestyle needs -We prefer more luxurious accommodations and looked for places thar could meet our standards when we could find them.
For our visit to Grand Teton National Park, we found the amazing Bentwood Inn in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A gorgeous wood cabin lodge with an inspired kitchen that prepared a hot breakfast each morning to start the day right. Swapping travel stories with other guests over a glass of wine was a highlight. We did pop into town one night for the best hummus in Wyoming at FIGS restaurant in the Hotel Jackson. Lebanese food at its best.
In West Yellowstone, Montana we tried glamping with Under Canvas. This was no regular campsite. I loved the idea of seeing the stars at night from the comfort of a king-sized bed. The wood-burning stove kept us cozy and having our own private bath and shower in our tent was a must. Smores by the firepits every night was a real treat too! With a full restaurant and bar available on site, there was no need to worry about food. They even made espresso drinks in the lobby tent each morning. This was as cushy as camping can get.
For our stays near Glacier National Park in Montana, Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, and for Custer State Park, the Badlands , Crazy Horse and Mt Rushmore in the Rapid City, South Dakota area we found our lodging in small historic hotels in town. Nothing particularly fancy, but some charming spots that were conveniently located.
For the last night of this epic journey we drove back to civilization and treated ourselves to a celebratory and luxurious evening at the Thompson Denver Hotel. Dinner at the French Brasserie, Chez Maggy was the grand finale to an unforgettable trip.
A road trip is all about movement and change and a chance to just follow one’s desires without caring about what’s going on in the world. It’s gives life the capacity for surprise and wonder and an aura of magic to your day. Like a beautiful rainbow suddenly appearing in the sky or an exquisite scene that comes into view just as you turn a corner.
This makes life worth living.
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