Timeline: September 1-23, 2019
In September, we set out on our first big cross-country road trip! So far in our journey as travel therapists, we have only worked on the east coast, so the furthest road trip we had taken was from Virginia to Massachusetts and back. This year, we were planning to attend the Traveler’s Conference for the first time, which is held annually in Las Vegas. We figured we could make a road trip out of it rather than flying, since we were going to be taking several months off from work already. So, right after returning from Europe, we set out on our drive from Virginia to Vegas! We would have liked to have continued further past Vegas to see more of the west coast, but we were limited on our timeframe due to a wedding back in Virginia at the end of September. So with a three week time limit, we mapped out our route from Virginia to Vegas and back, hitting many awesome sites along the way!
Here was our itinerary:
- Roanoke, VA (starting point): September 1st
- Louisville, KY: September 1st-2nd
- St. Louis, MO: September 2nd-3rd
- Kansas City, MO: September 3rd-4th
- Colorado Springs, CO: September 4th-6th
- Moab, Utah: September 6th-7th
- Orderville, Utah (Zion NP): September 7th-8th
- Las Vegas, NV: September 8th-12th
- Williams, AZ (Grand Canyon NP): September 12th-13th
- Flagstaff, AZ: September 13th-14th
- Santa Fe, NM: September 14th-15th
- Amarillo, TX: September 15th-16th
- Oklahoma City, OK: September 16th-17th
- Little Rock, AR: September 17th-18th
- Memphis, TN: September 18th-19th
- Roanoke, VA (quick stop back at home): September 19th-21st
- Norfolk, VA: September 21st-23rd
- Roanoke, VA (ending point): September 23rd
In total, this amounted to just under 6,000 miles in about 3 weeks!
Here’s a little recap of everything we experienced during our road trip:
*Disclaimer: the first half of the trip was a lot more exciting than the second, so there’s lots more detail in the beginning!
Days 1-2: Roanoke, VA to Louisville, KY
We set out from home and headed west, going through “Wild and Wonderful” West Virginia. As we headed toward Kentucky, we decided to make a quick detour over the state line of Ohio because we had never been there, so we wanted to say we had! Not sure if that really counts just driving through, haha, but we did it anyway. As we made our way through WV, Ohio, and Kentucky, we got to see lots of railroad bridges crossing the rivers which we thought were cool! We made it to Louisville, and then we kept on going across into Jeffersonville, Indiana where we would be staying for the night in an Airbnb. Jeffersonville is just across the Ohio River from Louisville, and after we got settled in, we actually walked across the river from Indiana back into Kentucky on a pedestrian bridge! However, we (I) misjudged the distance we would be from the key sights in Louisville once we got to the other side, so we took a little bit of a sketchy walk from the bridge into town. We did some sightseeing around Louisville (including checking out a bar called the Garage Bar which was a former car repair shop/garage) and then had dinner at an amazing BBQ spot called Feast BBQ! Then we made our way back to the pedestrian bridge after dark (this time via a very short but necessary Uber ride) and walked back across the pedestrian bridge to our car, and got to see the bridge lit up in awesome colors at night! The next day, we did a little more sightseeing around Louisville, including seeing the giant statue of a Louisville Slugger! Then, we got to meet up for coffee with two current DPT students who were interested in chatting with us about Travel PT! We were excited to be able to connect with people along our route across the country, with these students being the first!
Days 2-3: Louisville, KY to St. Louis, MO!
We then made our way back out of Kentucky, through Indiana, through Illinois, and into Missouri! Here we had plans to meet up with two more current DPT students who we’d actually met earlier this year at the CSM conference and become friends with! We got together at the Anheuser-Busch factory and did a beer tour and tasting, which was a fun experience, and we even got to see the Clydesdales! Then our friends took us on a driving tour around the city, so we could see the Gateway Arch and the outside of the wild City Museum (although sadly we didn’t get to go in because it was closed by the time we got into town)! Then, we got together with even more new friends, two current Travel PTs, for dinner with all 6 of us! What a fun filled day of exploring and networking! We enjoyed round two of “midwest” barbeque, this kind being just a bit different than the Louisville BBQ, but also so delicious! The restaurant we went to was called Salt+Smoke. That night we stayed with our DPT student friends who were such gracious hosts, inviting us to stay the night with them on our way through St. Louis! The next day before we headed out of town, we got a sneak peek at their motorhome they are in the process of remodeling so that they can set out on their own Travel PT adventures after graduation!
Days 3-4: St. Louis, MO to Manhattan, Kansas!
We made the short drive from St. Louis to Kansas City, MO and got to explore KCMO! It was absolutely scorching when we got there, so we did some sightseeing but not too much because we didn’t want to die! Ha! We hoped to visit a friend/Travel Nurse there, but the timing didn’t quite line up (but it was okay because we got to see her later on the trip in Vegas at TravCon)! We stopped to see the WWI memorial and a cool overlook of the city. There a nice lady took our photo and asked us if we had been to see the Money Museum across the street. She said it was really neat and it was free (plus there were bathrooms and AC) – so needless to say we were sold! The museum was inside the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and it was definitely a great experience! We got to see an exhibit of origami made from dollar bills, a massive coin collection dating back to the early days of our nation, and saw them sorting money in the vaults! After that we checked out Union Station and the City Market area. Before we headed out of town, we had to try some more barbecue, KCMO style! We went to Gates & Sons Bar-B-Q and it did not disappoint! Then, we started our trek across Kansas to our Airbnb for the night, located in Manhattan, Kansas! Here we were intrigued to find out that our host was actually from Virginia and went to college near where we are from! It’s a small world! (Also the host had a GIANT inflatable swan in their pool for some reason which was interesting haha).
Days 4-6: Manhattan, Kansas to Colorado Springs, CO
We started our day with a delicious breakfast at a local diner in Manhattan KS called “The Chef” which was recommended by our hosts. Then we continued our long, flat drive through the state of Kansas! We enjoyed taking in the scenery of many flat fields and lots of sunflowers (we learned that Kansas is the sunflower state). We even made a pit stop at the Kansas state high point, “Mount Sunflower” which is actually just the highest flat point in the middle of someone’s farm land, ha! It was a fun little stop. We experienced very rural towns through Kansas and the eastern part of Colorado with almost no gas stops during some long stretches of the drive. It seemed like it took forever and ever to finally see a little bit of mountains once we hit Colorado Springs! Once we arrived, we got to stay with one of my best friends from college who I hadn’t seen for years! Because we had some flexibility and wanted to see more of Colorado and spend time with my long lost friend, we actually stayed two nights with her and got to have a full day to explore Colorado Springs the next day!
In Colorado Springs, wanted to do a short hike and take in some of the beautiful Colorado scenery, so my friend let us know about some options in the area, one of which was the Manitou Incline. Well, it sounded tough, but doable, because it was a steep but short hike, so we went for it. Unfortunately, we really had no idea what we were getting into, and to top it off we tried to do the hike fasted like we do most of our hikes, but that was an epic fail. We started struggling almost immediately when faced with the first hundred or so of the 2,744 steep steps! The exhaustion and muscle fatigue were bad enough, but I ended up having to give up when I was getting light headed and couldn’t stand without falling over! I’m sure it was mainly due to being fasted, but also probably the heat and the elevation we weren’t used to (okay and being out of shape!) I elected to take the “bail out point” after about 1800 steps, and although Jared really wanted to finish, he stopped too and came with me down the “easy trail” back to the parking lot. Hopefully we can revisit The Incline another time, more prepared next time! After this we went around and saw some more amazing sights, including the Garden of the Gods where we drove through and got out and walked around some, followed by the Red Rock Canyon Open Space. We drove through the city of Colorado Springs as well, before going back and meeting up with my friend for dinner and local beers at The Public House!
Day 6: Colorado Springs, CO to Moab, UT
This day started our amazing journey through beautiful Colorado and part of Utah! The GPS would’ve taken us along the highway up through Denver and straight across to Moab, but we decided to take a longer route to go to the southern part of Colorado and stop by and see some more of our friends/fellow Travel PTs who were home in Durango! This took us right by the Great Sand Dunes National Park where we stopped for a quick detour, and we were in awe of the craziness that is a desert of sand dunes in the middle of the Colorado mountains! We also drove through some amazing scenery, including going through the Wolf Creek Pass, en route to visit our friends. We stopped for lunch at Grassburger and quick sightseeing in the mountain town of Durango, before visiting our friends at their house. We had to hurry though because we needed to make it to Moab, Utah to visit the Arches National Park before sunset! We made it just in time, and were amazed by the Arches! We unfortunately didn’t have time to hike there, but we did drive through and get out at many of the overlooks and walked around to some of the arches. We thought it was a great time to be there at sunset, because it wasn’t as crowded or hot, and the sunset was beautiful on the rocks. Being from the east coast, we had never seen anything like the scenery in Colorado and Utah! That night we had a free hotel night to use at a Hyatt hotel in Moab, and Jared even enjoyed the pool and hot tub a little before closing time. We got dinner in the cute town of Moab at a Mexican restaurant, but we didn’t really have much time to explore Moab.
Day 7: Moab, Utah to Orderville, Utah
The next morning we enjoyed an awesome breakfast at the hotel before heading out on our scenic route through beautiful Utah! Again, the GPS would’ve taken us directly southwest on Route 70 to Route 15 from Moab to Zion, but we got some recommendations from other travelers to instead take the scenic route down Route 12 from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon. This was the best advice, because this ended up being our absolute favorite scenery of the entire trip! The views we saw off Route 12 were absolutely breathtaking. We couldn’t believe what we saw: everything from desert, to mountains, to forest, to valleys, to massive canyons, to large rock formations! Utah was absolutely stunning! We made many stops along this scenic drive for photos, before finally making it to Bryce Canyon. We got there an hour or so before sunset, so we had to make haste to do a quick hike down into the canyon and make it back up before dark. This turned out to be a great time to be there as well, because it was again less crowded and less hot, and the red rocks and “hoodoo” rock formations were magnificent with the light from the setting sun. The trip just kept getting better and better! After visiting Bryce, we made our way to our Airbnb/motel for the night in a tiny town called Orderville, which was about halfway between Bryce and Zion. It was a little bit of a sketchy experience, but since we didn’t get murdered, looking back it was cool! Ha! It was an old motel with the rooms redecorated. The room we stayed in was the “cave room” and was truly decorated like a cave!
Day 8: Orderville, Utah to Las Vegas!
The next morning we got up early and made our way through the east entrance of Zion National Park! This drive was another amazing experience with gorgeous scenery. We were meeting fellow travelers who were coming from the conference in Vegas on a day excursion with one of the travel companies, so we met them there since we were coming from the east and they were coming from the west. This turned out not to work quite as well as we hoped with timing, but it wasn’t too big of a deal. Jared wanted to do the Angel’s Landing hike, but by the time we were able to meet up with everyone, there was limited time so instead he came with me and a bunch of other travelers on a more moderate hike, the Watchman Trail. This turned out to be the best experience because there was a large group of us, so we got to more leisurely talk with and get to know some other travelers during the hike. Jared and I also took some time to take the shuttle bus around the park and see some other views of Zion. We didn’t get to see quite as much as we would’ve hoped there, but we definitely got a good taste of it!
Next we parted ways from the travelers who were taking the bus back to Vegas, and we drove to Vegas to check in to our hotel for the conference! The first conference event was a big dinner hosted that night by one of our awesome recruiters at a very upscale restaurant, so we got our first glimpse of the Vegas nightlife!
Days 8-12: Las Vegas, NV!
This was the main event, The Traveler’s Conference! We had a blast at the conference, which was two days of informational sessions as well as networking with fellow travel healthcare providers and recruiters. At night, there were different events and parties hosted by the travel therapy companies, which meant lots of free food and drinks! This was our first time at TravCon, and it absolutely did not disappoint! We can’t wait to go back next year!
We stayed an extra day and a half in Vegas to explore some on our own (and recover before we continued our trek back east across the US!) On our last day in Vegas, we explored the Fremont Street area, and met up for dinner with another DPT student who is interested in travel PT and his girlfriend. They showed us around some and it was great meeting them! We used a free voucher later that night to go to a show in Vegas which was fun!
Days 12-13: The Grand Canyon!
After leaving Vegas, we went by the Hoover Dam on our way to the Grand Canyon. We didn’t really stop there for long, so we just got a glimpse of the Dam, but it was cool to see! We wanted to make it to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in time for sunset, so we were of course on a race against the clock. So we passed through NV and into Arizona (Whitney’s first time in AZ but not Jared’s). We stopped for our first In-n-Out burger experience in Kingman AZ, and saw some cool Route 66 sights along the way. We did make it in time for sunset to the GC and were in absolute awe of the magnificence of this massive canyon! Of course you always hear how amazing it is, and you expect it to be breath-taking, but seeing it in person is still such an incredible experience! We just got a quick glimpse and time for a few photos before the sun fully set, then we got some food and headed to our Airbnb to catch some sleep.
The next morning we hoped to go back to the GC for sunrise, but that just didn’t happen because we’re not really morning people and we wanted some extra sleep! We did go back in the late morning and did a short hike down into the Canyon on the Kaibab Trail to the “Ohh-Ahh” point! It was awesome to be able to go “below the rim” and get slightly into the canyon, and it made you realize how deep the canyon really is because we were no where near the bottom even after an hour of hiking! We made some friends from NC/SC along the trail and realized yet again what a small world it was. After our hike, we drove along the southern part of the canyon and got off at a bunch of the overlooks to get more views of the canyon. Then we exited via the east rim, and headed south to Flagstaff AZ!
Days 13-14: Flagstaff, AZ to Santa Fe, NM
We made it to Flagstaff around sunset and ate dinner at MartAnn’s Mexican restaurant (we had moved on from consecutive days of BBQ to consecutive days of Mexican haha). We then walked around and explored the cute town of Flagstaff a bit, including stopping in at a local brewery called DarkSky. That night, we stayed at an Airbnb before getting up to head to NM the next day. We thought about doing a hike but realized we didn’t have too much time, so instead we just did a quick drive up to the “Arizona Snowbowl” ski area to see an overlook of the city from Humphrey’s Peak.
We then continued our trek through Arizona and stopped at a few Route 66 attractions, including the “Standing on the Corner in Winslow Arizona” street corner. We also saw some cool petrified wood along the side of the highway, and the Continental Divide! We passed into NM and tried some “local” New Mexican fast food at Del Taco, ha. Then when we arrived in Santa Fe, we caught the sunset from Fort Marcy Park. I wish we could’ve seen more of Santa Fe during the daytime, but alas we didn’t have much time. We thought the architecture in Santa Fe was really cool though and unlike anything we’d seen before! We enjoyed a delicious New Mexican dinner (and margaritas) at Tomasita’s restaurant, and I bought a couple of Native American hand-made items from a local vendor.
That night we stayed in a unique Airbnb – in a fifth wheel camper parked on someone’s property outside of Santa Fe! Good thing we were used to the Camper life, so we felt nostalgic staying the night there.
Day 14-15: Santa Fe, NM to Amarillo, TX
After leaving Santa Fe, Jared wanted to stop at this hot spring that he saw on the map, which was in a small town called Las Vegas, NM (not to be confused with Las Vegas, NV)! This was our first hot springs experience, and it was awesome! I didn’t really dress for the occasion, so I just stuck my legs in, but Jared did a full plunge in all 3 pools including the scorching hot one! This was a neat pit stop, and we look forward to going to more hot springs in the future!
The next stop was Texas! We only went through the very top of Texas along highway 40 because we needed to get back to the east coast in a timely manner, so our only stop was in Amarillo. Amarillo wasn’t anything too special, but we did stop and see Cadillac Ranch and some more Route 66 sights! We ate Tex-Mex for dinner, and we welcomed the rest break at our lovely Airbnb for the night after our action packed couple of weeks.
Days 15-16: Amarillo, TX to Oklahoma City, OK
The rest of the road trip from this point on wasn’t too exciting, but again we were getting pretty tired so we didn’t mind not having as much to do and see. We visited Oklahoma City, drove around and saw a few sights including the Bricktown area which is an old factory part of town now gentrified into shops and restaurants. It was really hot there, so we stopped in a brewery for some AC and cold beers before heading to our Airbnb for the night.
Days 16-17: Oklahoma City, OK to Little Rock, AR
During our drive through Oklahoma, we took advice from a fellow traveler and stopped in at a couple of casinos off the highway that offered free play. We used the free money we got from signing up to win a little bit of cash, plus used it as a rest stop for bathrooms and free coffee/sodas. During these little stops, we discovered the hometowns of Carrie Underwood and Toby Keith!
The next stop was Arkansas, another state neither of us had visited. We enjoyed some southern homecooking at a restaurant called Homer’s. We drove around the city a bit, and stopped at a grocery store to get some local beers in lieu of actually going to the brewery which was about to close since it was a week night. There were some hikes that were recommended in the area, but to be honest we were feeling a bit lazy at this point in the trip so we skipped it! We really liked Little Rock though and it reminded us of a medium sized city kind of like where we are from in Virginia.
Days 17-18: Little Rock, AR to Memphis, TN
We were inching closer to the east coast and back in familiar territory! We’ve been to Tennessee plenty of times, but neither of us had ever been to Memphis. Here we met up with a fellow travel therapist (SLP) who we hadn’t had a chance to meet in person yet but communicate with in our online community quite a bit. She graciously invited us to stay with her and her husband in Memphis and show us around! We were excited to meet her and be able to visit with one more friend before our road trip came to a close. They took us downtown and out to dinner at – of course – a barbecue restaurant! We went to Rendezvous, which is apparently kind of famous. Next we strolled through the famous Peabody Hotel, and then walked around Beale Street! We stopped in a Blues bar and listened to some live music to wrap up the night.
Days 18-21: Little Rock, AR to Roanoke, VA
We could’ve made one more stop along the way, perhaps in Knoxville or Nashville, but at this point we were ready to head back home! By cutting our roadtrip short by one day, this gave us two nights and a full day back at home to regroup, before we had to head to our last stop of the trip!
Days 21-23: Roanoke, VA to Norfolk, VA and back to Roanoke, VA!
The final stop on our trip was heading to a wedding of one of my best friends/PT school classmates in Norfolk/Virginia Beach area (where I went to school). I had known about the wedding date for 9 months or so and was very glad we would be back from Europe so I could attend, so I was not going to miss it because of the road trip! It was awesome to be back in my old “stomping grounds” with some of my good friends, and share in my friend’s special day!
We took advantage of being back in that area for a couple days to schedule a presentation with the DPT program where I graduated from (my alma mater). We had been trying to make it back there for a while, so I was glad it finally worked out! We gave a presentation about travel therapy & finances after graduation – a topic we are very passionate about! This was a preview and practice for our big presentation that was coming up in November at the National Student Conclave in Albuquerque NM!
The wedding and the presentation both went great, and afterwards we headed back home to Roanoke to rest and regroup for a while after all of our adventures!
We had an absolutely unforgettable time on our first cross-country road trip, and we are excited to do more trips exploring our own country in the future!