18 Jul
Posted in: travel
By    Comments Off on East Coast Road Trip Debriefing

East Coast Road Trip Debriefing

5,905 miles. Three weeks. 21 states.

I can guess what people will say each time I recite theses details about our most recent epic road trip. People think we’re “amazing” to take our children on an adventure of that caliber, but cannot fathom doing anything similar. We’ve been called crazy. People think there’s some trick for getting our children to travel for weeks and swear their families would not survive the journey. This was the second time we’ve been on the road for weeks, and those thousands of miles are my biggest parenting win.

Family selfie with the Statue of Liberty

I have no tricks. Traveling is what we do as a family. Our kids have been traveling since they were little. We don’t always get along, not at home and not on a road trip. They bicker more when they’re tired, hot, and hungry. All of those things happen at some point, or every day, during an epic road trip. I have moments when I want to wander off for a few minutes of peace and not worry about the whereabouts of children on the busy streets of a city. BUT that time sitting restlessly in a car or dealing with one child looking cross-eyed at another, melts away when I see the awe on one of their faces as they stand in the heart of Times Square or peer over the railing as they approach the Statue of Liberty or jump waves off the coast of Rhode Island. The hundreds of positive experiences over those three weeks far-outweigh the unpleasant moments. I know it sounds lame, but it is worth it, even when the children are fighting over whose turn it is to unlock the hotel room door.

My family didn’t travel much together when I was growing up, but I always dreamed of visiting all 50 states. When we crossed the stateline into West Virginia, marking our 48th state, I could have cried. It feels good to set goals, no matter how large, and actually see them coming to fruition. We still have Hawaii and Alaska to visit, but that dream I set decades ago is very close to becoming reality.

We compare Wyoming and the West to wherever we happen to be when we’re on the road. The East Coast and the Mountain West are quite different from each other. Before I dive into blogging about specific places we visited on our vacation over the next month, I’ll start with a handful of observations we made repeatedly on our epic road trip.Car pulling into a toll plaza

  1. We attempt to avoid toll roads, for the most part, when we’re on a road trip. They can add up depending on the part of the country we’re visiting. We encountered 24 different toll pay stations during our three weeks, costing us a grand total of $106.25. Sometimes it’s easier to pay the toll, save 10 minutes of driving and not have to map our way through back roads. The most expensive toll was $15 for the Holland Tunnel heading into Manhattan.
  2. Driving through the forests of New YorkEast of the Mississippi River there are a lot of trees. It’s difficult to see anything from highways and Interstates because the trees are so thick. We laugh because our hometown is a “Tree U.S.A.” city, and we have nothing on the vegetation in the East. We long for spots where we can see over the trees. I feel claustrophobic at times with the seemingly impenetrable forests outside our car as we drive.
  3. Cities should assume that people from Wyoming will visit. Signage at mass transit stations is so important for people like us. It’s not difficult to figure out, but not all cities are the same. Once we get through the ticket purchasing process, navigating is not a problem. Pretend people who don’t know what they are doing will visit and select words for signage accordingly because clueless people will visit. They will appreciate any and all help offered.
  4. Rest areas along roadways differ throughout the country. We’re big fans of the service station model we encountered in several states where you can get multiple food options, gas, coffee and rest rooms in one location. It’s one-stop shopping for road warriors.
  5. We were expecting to see fluctuating fuel prices throughout the 21 states, but that wasn’t the case. The cheapest we paid was $1.94 in Missouri on our trek home, and the most expensive was $2.39 in Vermont. We only came across one state, New Jersey, that required an attendant to pump gas for you. That’s happened before and is always strange for us.Kids enjoying Dunkin' Donuts in NYC
  6. We don’t have a Dunkin’ Donuts in Wyoming, but they were, quite literally, everywhere we looked on vacation. I may have spent more on food simply because of the numerous traveling coffee stops. They were so abundant that it became a joke in the car. The kids attempted to keep track, but quickly lost interest. Maybe we could get a few more west of the Mississippi River.View of downtown Boston
  7. It goes without saying, but so many people, so many cars, so many buildings….everywhere. New York City left the kids in awe. The lights, the languages, the people, the signs, the bigness of it all. I love cities in the East because of the juxtaposition of old and new. Downtown Boston stole my heart with its buildings dating from the 1700s surrounded by gleaming glass skyscrapers. I have a ridiculous amount of photos strictly featuring architecture.NYC financial district in the morning
  8. We knew we were getting closer to Wyoming when we saw pickup trucks, SUVs and camper trailers. Most vehicles on the East Coast were much smaller than our Toyota Sequoia. Finding parking garages to fit our vehicle was a little tricky at times. I’m glad we managed to travel without a car-top carrier. Parking would have been a nightmare with that attached.

I thought this trip would be our last long road trip. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to plan around activity schedules and school. We weren’t even home and the kids were plotting a road trip to Alaska in two years. I won’t close the door on epic trips quite yet.


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