Our road trip has been cruising along. We’ve made it about a third of the way across the country and have soaked up many lovely days with friends and family. The scenery is to die for, and frankly we’re wondering why we haven’t done this kind of meandering driving before.

And then it hits us.

Nowhere.

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A big stretch of not much lies in the middle of the country, and it is a beast. We crank up our cruise control to 75 or 80mph, and do our best to remain alert and smiling as mile after mile of flat horizon flies past.

From the end of the Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado, to the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, we are simultaneously over and underwhelmed by the unchanging scenery. We struggle to find cute towns where we can stop at a local diner right off the highway for a break and some good food. We eat too many meals at big fast food chains, trying to make semi-healthy choices while also loading up on lethal doses of caffeine so we can power through the next few hours of driving.

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One day we drive ten solid hours across Colorado and Kansas in a desperate attempt to make it to Kansas City before a great BBQ restaurant we’ve heard about closes for the night. We just make it, and that sweet bite of tangy Kansas City sauce is worth every minute of those last hours of Kansas scenery.

The next day we put in another eight hours as we head toward my childhood town where we will visit with my family for the weekend. I-70, one of the interstate highways that cuts through the US, becomes our best friend and we leave it only when we get a Google Alert that there is upcoming road construction and we’ll save 27 minutes if we take a small detour.

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Our longest day of driving is from Indianapolis to southern New Jersey, which we power through over 12 hours on a Sunday. While this drive is actually quite pretty once we arrive in Pennsylvania, our four hours of sleep the night before doesn’t help our energy or moods and we crash hard that night at Drew’s grandma’s house.

What an enormous country.

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We are thankful that over these long driving days we are blessed with a solid little red car with working air conditioning and GPS that allows us to avoid any traffic at all. The miles tick away as we ease our way East where we will enter the world of tiny states and lots of congestion.

Twelve states down, five to go.


 Logistics:

As you might expect, we don’t have a lot to say on this front. The BBQ place where we spent that blissful meal is called Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que and is well worth a detour.

My hometown of Bloomington, Indiana is also one of the nation’s great college towns and it’s much cooler than any mental image you have of Indiana. Do yourself a favour and go there to walk around the campus of Indiana University and stop by my favourite restaurants, the Village Deli and The Uptown Café, while you’re there.

We took the Pennsylvania Turnpike across that state, entering and exiting it at the ends. We had no idea how expensive this toll road is, and the cost of our hours there was over $30! There are other ways to go across PA if your soul cries out in pain at the idea of spending this much on a stupid toll.

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  • June 22, 2015

    That bbq restaurant sounds like a wonderful change from all the fast food chains!
    Maaike (Travellous World) recently posted…St Katharine Docks – Weekend Travel FlashMy Profile

    • June 22, 2015

      we tried to minimize fast food and stop in little mom/pop restaurants along the way. Had some fantastic meals, from a Navajo cafe to the authentic KC BBQ joint, it was a nice break from the long days of highway driving.

  • June 22, 2015

    Ugh. The midwest is kind of the worst with respect to scenery (and food…), isn’t it? Our first day of our roadtrip down to Mexico, we spent 12 hours in the car driving across Minnesota and Nebraska. It was hardly a banner start to the trip but I guess it made everything that came after it when we hit Colorado, Utah and Arizona all the more spectacular!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Three Months in MexicoMy Profile

    • June 22, 2015
      Julie

      Right? And I’m from Indiana which is smack dab in the middle of the not fun part of the drive. I guess at least we were able to legitimately take a several day break due to the stop to see the fam. It’s just that all the cute towns with the fun restaurants that I was looking for are quite a way off the interstate – and I’m not going to drive 30 miles on some state road for good food and add to the drive significantly!

  • June 24, 2015

    Firstly… what a fantastic sounding hometown you live in. Bloomington? Blooming marvellous. Secondly, you guys are awesome… what an adventure! Appreciate the long straight nothingness may get a little bit tiresome and I would DEFINITELY have consumed my weight in junk food by the end… but you never know what excitement may be lurking down the next mile (or 80) of road. Keep going, you’re an inspiration :).

    Gabby
    Gabby @ theglobewanderers.com recently posted…Get Busy Living or Get Busy DyingMy Profile

    • June 24, 2015

      Bloomington, IN is a great town. It’s Julie’s hometown, but I like it a lot too. Being a college town helps, so there is an interesting music/food/cultural scene for a relatively small city in the middle of Indiana. In terms of the rest of Indiana, well…

      We tried to avoid fast food as much as possible, but when you are in the middle of nowhere, options can be limited. Stopping in Kansas at a Dairy Queen was a great idea. Hadn’t one a DQ cone in probably fifteen years. It was a nice treat for our long day enduring the endless highway and unchanging landscape of Kansas.

      Thanks for all the kinds words and glad you enjoyed the post!

  • June 24, 2015

    Just discovered the site, guys, and we’ve got a decent amount in common. I’m an American expat in Amsterdam (just over a year) with a 9 year old basset hound who flew over with us. Not sure if you have experienced this since moving to London, but I just want to go back home and explore so much of “nowhere” my self. Have even fantasized about a cross country road trip avoiding the interstate all together and just doing side roads. Anyway, I’m from St. Louis and have eaten at Joe’s, back when it was called Oklahoma Joe’s, and it is awesome. Have fun at home!
    Scott recently posted…AZ to Amsterdam Chapter 3: St. Louis to DaytonMy Profile

    • June 24, 2015

      we would love to do a backroads trip across. We had a limited amount of time, so we had to book it as fast as possible on the highways to make it to our next destination unfortunately. We did stop at a lot of small town cafes instead of eating fast food everyday and found some pretty interesting places with some solid, home cooked food. Joe’s was certainly a highlight for me, since I’m a huge rib guy. There were delicious.

      How are you enjoying Amsterdam as an expat? We had a blast there at the beginning of the year. What a great city. How did you basset hound adjust? Our beagle settled in pretty well, since there is a lot more green space around us in London than in our apartment in NYC. He def has a better lifestyle!

      • June 25, 2015

        Love Amsterdam, just struggling a wee bit with meeting people, but I suppose that’s natural. The basset did very well, minus a small bit of freaking out and getting scared by bicycles after we were here about a month, but overall B+. She lost on greenspace, but won on time she gets with us as my Dad was taking care of her for 2 years, so I hope it’s a win?
        Scott recently posted…AZ to Amsterdam Chapter 3: St. Louis to DaytonMy Profile

        • June 25, 2015

          We had the benefit of going somewhere with no language barrier, which I think made things a lot easier for us than if we had moved to another country. We have met way more Americans than British oddly, but there are a lot of us in London!
          Glad the basset has made a good adjustment. Our beagle is ok with bikes, but he HATES motorcycles or any large vehicle like a garbage truck or bus. Made our time in NYC difficult. He has an easier life for sure over here in London!