I haven’t taken a road trip that has lasted longer than my 5.5 hour drive back to school in Milwaukee since I was 7. In the early 1990s, my family drove to Mount Rushmore in our Volvo, listening to Raffi for approximately 8.5 of the 9 hours it took us to get there. We stopped at the Corn Palace and Wall Drug, my brothers and I had matching sunglasses, and we took the obligatory photos that prove I was cuter, blonder, and more stylish when I was 7 than I am today.
This summer, I’m undertaking a pretty massive road trip that will last 3 weeks and 3300 miles for several reasons:
- I haven’t before, and that’s a good enough reason to do anything.
- I have to get to Salt Lake City for a National Endowment for the Humanities Landmark Seminar on Manifest Destiny and the Mormon Trail somehow.
- Along the way to SLC, there are people to see and places to visit. I get to see some friends that I haven’t seen in a while, and experience parts of the country that I’ve never seen!
My entire road trip will keep me within “fly-over country;” the crassly-named, non-descriptive way to categorize an entire HALF of our country. I’m a proud midwesterner, and though Minnesota’s topographic features may be lacking, I’m excited to share the beauty and diversity of the great plains and the Rocky Mountains with my kids and my friends.
In preparation for this undertaking, I’m trying to populate a list of road trip basics:
- A road trip playlist: needs to be upbeat and singable enough to keep you awake, and diverse enough not to become repetitive. Though I’d love lots of suggestions, some of my go-tos are: anything John Legend has ever sung, the original cast recording of Rock of Ages (the stage production, NOT the movie!), which is a nonsense story, but a GREAT soundtrack, and Hamilton. Because duh.
- Road trip snacks: portable, not messy, and won’t make me feel like death as I’m driving through Wyoming. Also will keep me from spending hundreds of dollars (and gaining hundreds of pounds) on soda and chips at gas stations, hopefully!
- Road trip-themed reads: though I’m glad to be visiting friends and seeing and doing fun things, I’ll also spend quite a bit of time alone. Good books with themes about travel and adventure, self-discovery, or nonfiction about nearly anything are always appreciated!
- Pit-stops: I don’t sit in cars well, so having sights to stop and see will make the drive significantly more pleasant. It just so happens that a large portion of my route will take me along the Oregon/Mormon Trail, and will give me plenty of historical sights to stop and see (and parts of my childhood to reminisce):
- Minuteman II Missile Site in Phillip, South Dakota
- Badlands National Park outside of Rapid City, South Dakota
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota
- Wind Cave National Park in Hot Springs, South Dakota
- Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming
- Fort Laramie, an integral stop on the Oregon Trail (both in real life and more importantly, in the game of my childhood)
- Independence Rock, where I’ll rest, hunt, and hopefully get rid of my dysentery
- Fort Bridger, to load up on supplies for the final push to the Dalles (or SLC, in my case)
On the way from Salt Lake City to Madison, Wisconsin, with a pit stop in Sioux City for a family wedding, I’ll also be stopping in Kearney, Nebraska, at another Oregon Trail highlight, the Field of Dreams movie site, and the New Glarus brewery, for the best Wisconsin has to offer.
I’ll be chronicling my trip during and after, in hopes of highlighting the beauty and uniqueness of this region of the country, but first, let me know: what else do I need to know about road trips to make this enjoyable, rather than painful?
Safe travels to all who have summer adventures on the horizon! MC Lean