Summer Road Trip: The Recap

Route 50 Nevada

I said it was coming and here it is, it’s finally time to talk all things road trip (that adventure M and I went on last summer) so put the kettle on and pull up a chair – this could be a long one…

The great American road trip is one that has been romanticized for decades through film, television, books and art, from epic coast-to-coast journeys in campervans to traveling Route 66 on the back of a Harley Davidson. Last summer we took to the road for our own adventure to celebrate M’s birthday, and his new, or should that be old, 1964 Mustang. The poppy red vintage car (which you may have spotted if you follow me on Instagram) is something he’s wanted for as long as I’ve known him, so after two careful owners and twenty years spent in a garage (only used for weekly trips to the golf course), we now use it to go to Trader Joe’s and for long weekends away.

Behind the wheel 64 MustangTo say that I was apprehensive about trusting such a old car to get us across several states and back is an understatement but nevertheless, in mid-July (2016) we packed our bags for a week on the road, traveling across California, through Nevada to Salt Lake City in Utah, then up through Idaho to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. In seven days we covered 2,700 miles, six states (we stayed in Montana, which shares Yellowstone with Wyoming and Idaho) and four National Parks.

It was incredible and although it was a lot to bear in 30 degree temperatures with no air conditioning, driving through the ever-changing landscape really did feel like we were in the middle of a classic western, particularly in Nevada, where the “loneliest highway in America” was just that, with several minutes passing between seeing another vehicle on the road.

Nevada route 50 ootdSan Francisco, CA > Ely, NV

Despite complaining about how foggy it gets during the summer, weather-wise, San Francisco is my kind of city, hence why it was a shock to the system when we got deeper into California and had to cope with 30+ degree temperatures and a car with no air-conditioning. Highlights from this leg of the journey include:

Sunflower fields in Dixon
Our first ever Walmart experience
Spotting a black bear in a Tahoe motel parking lot
Intense heat
The loneliest highway in America
A 5k glow-run in Ely

Utah salt flatsEly, NV > Salt Lake City, UT

After completing a 5k fun run in Ely, where we were covered by day-glo paint that we then tried very carefully not to inflict on our pristine motel room, we headed to Salt Lake City to see L&K and meet their baby! Due to time constraints we only spent one night with them but it was lovely to have a chilled out evening eating takeaway curry and L’s homemade chocolate ice cream. Memorable moments include:

More of the loneliest highway
Posing in vintage dresses
Playing with perspective on Utah’s salt flats
Meeting a new arrival
Homemade ice cream

Bison dust bath at YellowstoneSalt Lake City, UT > Idaho > Wyoming/Montana

Our furthest point was Yellowstone National Park, and it was simply incredible. So big that we took a 100 mile round-trip just to visit natural hot springs, and that wasn’t even from one side of the park to the other. We stayed just outside the park in a lovely place called Al’s Westward Ho Motel and spent two days exploring as much of the park as possible. Pinch-me moments include:

Taking a dip in a Boiling River
Watching a buffalo take a dust bath
Spotting another black bear (this one was crossing a road in Yellowstone)
Geothermal pools and their rainbow colours

Hiking in Yellowstone NPWyoming/Montana > Twin Falls, ID

On our way from Yellowstone we passed through Grand Teton National Park, which was beautiful. We took turns driving and I remember being so distracted by the snow-capped peaks of the Tetons, that we had to pull over to admire the view. The rest of our route was fairly dull compared to previous days, and it definitely felt like more of a slog to get to our destination; Idaho’s Twin Falls. Noteworthy parts include:

Chasing waterfalls at Twin Falls
Driving past a giant Clif Bar bakery
Truck stop breakfasts
Selfies at the Potato Museum
Broken traffic lights, long queues and sweaty backs

Mono LakeTwin Falls, ID > Ely, NV > Yosemite National Park, CA

Part of this journey was similar to earlier in the trip – cinematic desert-like landscapes and a night in Ely – but on the way to Yosemite we stopped off at Mono Lake, which I’d read about in our California Rough Guide. Mono lake is over one million years old and is known for its “tufas” – towers of calcium-carbonate that line the edge of the lake and rise out of the center. From the lake we went to our final destination, Yosemite! Highlights include:

Southern Nevada landscapes
Alien-like topography at Mono Lake
Hiking up Lembert Dome
Marshmallows at Tuolumne Meadows campground
Hiking to a not-so Mirror Lake

Lembert Dome
Yosemite National Park, CA > San Francisco, CA

After over 2,300 miles in fifty year old car, our final day was just about efficiency and getting home. You know when you’ve almost-but-not-quite reached your destination, and all you want to do is BE THERE? That was us. The drive from Yosemite only took four or five hours but it felt like a lifetime, especially when we hit traffic coming back into the Bay Area. I was happy to be home but also proud of us for tackling such an ambitious trip, and to its credit, the car didn’t let us down once. 

It would have been rude to go on this road trip and not take advantage of the beautiful roadside scenery, so check back in later this week for a post on the vintage threads I wore, plus a round up of the National Parks we visited.

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