Many people have asked me why. Why would you drive 2,200 miles with two kids when you could fly? I didn’t have a good answer, but now, on the last day of our 9-day road trip, that cliche phrase, “it’s not about the destination, but the journey” rings so true. This trip started by wanting to bring the car to a family member in Phoenix and ended in an epic family road trip.
I have always loved road trips. Growing up, we had a RV and drove all over the Southwest. In my adulthood, I’ve driven across the country four times. The idea of driving from St. Louis to Phoenix, via Denver, Moab, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Sedona, felt like no big deal. Pack some clothes, bathing suits, hiking shoes, jugs of water, snacks and we were off. My two girls (10 and 15) and myself in our not-so-trusty Volvo.
Four hours into our 40-hours of driving, our not-so-trusty car started shaking and flashing lights at me. We were 1.5 hours away from where I booked our hotel. It was 9pm. This was the first time I kicked myself for being too confident and the last time I booked a hotel in advance. We slowly rolled into a nearby hotel and in the morning found the most gracious mechanic in Blue Springs, MO. Hubby urged me to ditch the clunker and rent a car, but my confidence was soaring. We were road warriors! Just before noon we were back on the road headed for Denver. Nine hours of driving one of the most boring stretches of landscape stopping only for gas – we were on a roll.
Denver was a hit – quality time with friends and an old-school amusement park; we had a blast. On the road again, trying to make the most of the mountains outside of Denver, we stopped in Dillon for dinner and as luck had it, no electricity in the whole town. We kept moving, arriving in Grand Junction around 9pm. Bad luck struck again: all the hotel rooms in Grand Junction were booked. I was able to book an overpriced room in Moab, 2 hours away. Back on the road, driving down a remote desert highway in an unreliable car at 11pm and there I was again questioning my over-confidence. Not feeling much like a road warrior, every strange noise the car made, I was cursing myself, wishing I had gone with the rental car. But we made it to Moab and it was so, so worth it – confidence back at a high.
We spent the next morning hiking Moab and exploring the Arches, beautiful views, and quaint town. Then, on the road again headed to Vegas, enjoying the beauty of Utah, anxious about the huge stretches of highway with no gas stations.
The glam and glitz of Vegas was a shock after serene Moab and we were ready to pick up hubby and hit the road again. The next destination is a favorite of mine, the Grand Canyon, via the Hoover Dam. The GC is absolutely majestic. My favorite hike is the Bright Angel Trail out to Plateau Point, but it’s a whopping 12 miles long. We woke up late, took forever to pack up and check out, had to turn around 30 min in to get gas (hubby was driving now), had to stop somewhere for food and I was again cursing myself for not being prepared. We started at 1pm and decided to go three miles down into the canyon. There were signs that said, “Going down is option, going up is obligatory.” Those made me smile, but also check my confidence. The girls had only ever done 3 miles at a time. But they crushed the 6 mile hike.
Next stop was Sedona where we spent two days hopping from one hiking trail to the next. The views were spectacular. We logged over 15 miles of hiking in two days in Sedona. We jumped in the car and arrived to Phoenix tired, sore and covered in red dust.
Spending $1,500 for 9 days of travel (not including car repairs or flights home) was pretty good for a family of 4. The girls are now seasoned hikers and have learned that road trips can be fun. My confidence level is at an all-time high. I learned that driving a unreliable car on a road trip isn’t good for my anxiety, cheap hotels with pools are the way to go, as is always leave town with a tank full of gas.