When I was little I used to dread road trips. From growing up in South Jersey, I used to think that any trip over a hour was long – and two hours now that was an extreme drive. After my first cross country road trip in 2013 to head to the West Coast, I learned to appreciate long drives and seeing the United States’ vast landscapes. After five years in California, work brought me back to the East Coast this summer. These next three posts provide a layout to my trip back East.
I chose to drive the Northern route from Monterey, CA to Washington D.C. for this road trip. I focused my trip planning on visiting national parks, unique landmarks, and experiencing local foods/drinks. So with my father, a beta fish named Prince, and my trusty Jeep Grand Cherokee I set off on another cross country adventure.
Part 1: Monterey, CA to Salt Lake City, UT
Day 0: Preparation and Goodbyes
After a busy day of preparing my car and making final reservations for the trip, on Sunday evening I went to Monterey Beach to watch my final sunset in Monterey, CA. Sunsets have always been special to me. Sunsets signal a close of the day, the end of another adventure, and the promise of another tomorrow. Monterey sunsets are special because instead of the bright intense colors of Southern California or the desert, the bay area at dusk shines in water color tones of pinks and oranges. That night I silently said goodbye and thank you for the amazing lessons and sights in Monterey.
Day 1: Traveling from Monterey, CA to Salt Lake City, UT
840 Miles, 12 Hours
The plan was to trade off with my dad every 2 1/2 to 3 hours to stretch our legs, use the restroom, and fuel up the car. Our plan paid off! Despite the great distance we needed to travel to get to Salt Lake City, we made it in one day.
To exit California, we traveled northeast by passing Lake Tahoe to reach Nevada. Although it was mid June, Lake Tahoe’s mountains were topped with glistening snow. I couldn’t help but think about ringing in NYE this past winter with my closest friends in Tahoe as I passed the beautiful pines along a windy road through the mountains.
Once we passed into Nevada, the mountains quickly dropped into a desert landscape. The sign for Winnemucca reminded me of Johnny Cash’s song I’ve Been Everywhere…so of course we had to take a pit stop! Miles traveled on and finally we made it to Utah. My dad recommended that we stop off at the Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway. Definitely take this detour off the highway and drive on the salt flats! Especially at sunset it was magical.
Day 2: Adventures in Salt Lake City, UT
This second day was filled with adventure! First was a stop at Timpanogos Cave National Monument. If you are looking for a great outdoor activity I highly recommend it. The hike was 1 3/4 miles but it was tough… with an elevation gain of 1,092 feet. After you reach the top you take a tour through the caves multiple cells. The back story is quite fascinating too. Our tour guide was incredible and played his flute in the innermost cell. A must see!
We rushed back in to town to go on a tour at Temple Square. Although I work and have friends that are Mormon, I truly had no clue what the faith entailed. It was fantastic talking to the sisters serving at the visitors’ center and in the tabernacle. Again, a must see when you’re in Salt Lake City. Trust me you can ask any question…it’s beautiful how open, honest, and caring the sisters were. As an FYI there is no dress code to take a tour or go to the tabernacle. Come as you are – seriously even in hiking clothes.
After finishing up on the tour we grabbed a bite to eat at Fireside On Regent. The parking was a little tricky but it was totally worth it. We shared the “pink pine” pizza – made with fennel sausage, leek, shishito pepper, tomato, and mozzarella – and the grilled quail panzanella salad. Seriously the quality of the food was so unexpected, the drinks were great, and it the atmosphere was perfect.