USA FALL ROAD TRIP

This road trip went for 30 days from Phoenix, AZ to Vancouver, BC. We passed through Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

DAY 1: PHOENIX, AZ – AUSTIN, TX

19 HOURS / 1000 MILES

Left Phoenix at 2:30 am and drove through the early morning passing through Tucson, AZ and east across Arizona.

By sunlight, we had reached the New Mexico Border. We stopped at La Cruces, NM for gas and stopped at Save-on-Foods for muffins, food for sandwiches and snacks. Also went through a Dunkin Donut drive-thru, peak hour coffee run by now, for some much needed iced coffee refreshments for $1.50. 

Time to hit the road again. Passing through the Texas Border. Texas is the Lone Star State. And they LOVE their stars. Be prepared to see them EVERYWHERE.When we passed into Texas we lost 2 hours of time.

Shortly after crossing the border we drove through El Paso, TX which is right next to the Mexican border. Driving along the highway you can see the fence separating the two and looking over you can see the Mexican town of Ciudad Juarez. 

There are bridges passing over the highways with the street names written on the sides. This is also when the Spanish radio stations are in their prime. Leaving El Paso we continue through Texas. There are not a lot of large towns on this route. We stop once for gas at Fork Stockton and we make sandwiches for lunch on the road.

At lunch we swapped and it was my turn to take the wheel. After turning off the main highway the street were very dark, pretty much deserted and we only passed through a couple of very small towns. The scenery was full of lush trees. We drove through the night, making sandwiches for dinner and relying on crackers, other snacks and lots of water to keep us going. 

Our destination was Emma Long Metropolitan park on the outskirts of Austin, TX where we were setting up camp for the next two nights. We arrived at 9:30 pm driving through pitch black, winding roads down into the park, hoping that nothing would run onto the road.  We picked a spot close to the bathrooms so we had some light and didn’t have far to go to use the toilet.

We were worried that our automatic air mattress pump might be too loud but the bed was pumped in a few minutes and we were ready for bed. Only, others in the camp couldn’t read the obvious 10 pm ‘go to bed signs’ and enjoyed being loud. There were cars driving through the park with their headlights on ALL through the nights. Also being so close to the bathroom where EVERYONE was going all through the night was not the best option.

DAY 2: A DAY IN AUSTIN

Today we spent “A day in Austin”. After the day, we spent another night at Emma Long Park where we had dinner at one of the park tables, trying to protect our food from birds.

DAY 3: AUSTIN, TX – NEW ORLEANS, LA

12 Hours / 500 Miles

We left Austin and headed to New Orleans. On the way we spent a couple of hours driving to some of the popular spots in Houston.

First stop was lunch at Rudy’s. Here we had pulled pork with green chilli stew.

This is a popular chain in Texas, serving ‘Texas’ style. Think lots of delicious slow-cooked meat in a large hall with paper/plastic plates and plates with condiments and checkered plastic table cloths.

Then to see some interesting sights of Houston. We drove past the Chong Hua Sheng My Holy Palace. It was never completed.

Then Waterwall park, which provides the water for the City of Houston.

Next stop is to see the amazing sculptures including the very life-like presidential sculptures at David Adickes Studio.

When we were looking we went to the old location of the studio (studio according to Google maps), but found the the studio location. There were very large, life-like heads of presidents and a large Charlie Chaplan sitting just inside the gates. We just did a drive-by.

As we are driving through Houston and head out we are amazed by all the overhead passes!

Our destination tonight is New Orleans the first thing we decide to do is buy Drive-Thru Daiquiris. We then checked into our Airbnb which was in a private studio on the lower level of a house.

DAY 4: NEW ORLEANS, LA

We spent “A day in New Orleans” and stayed in the same studio Airbnb for the second night.

DAY 5: NEW ORLEANS, LA – CHATTANOOGA, TN

9 hours / 475 miles

Today was a day of driving. Leaving Louisiana we drove through Mississippi.

For lunch we pulled of the highway into Hattiesburg to stop at the infamous Leatha’s Bar-B-Que Inn. If you are driving through this area of Mississippi, GO HERE. We had pork and steak ribs cooked and sauced to perfection and two huge bowls of homemade potato salad and coleslaw that are to die for. The place itself is a little run down and the dishes don’t match but trust me who cares when the food is so good. Don’t have a picture but these guys (https://roadfood.com/restaurants/leathas-bar-b-que-inn/) describe the experience well:

After a very large and very satisfying lunch we hit the road again heading through Alabama. Since Chattanooga is close to the Georgia border we drove through Georgia to get there.

Then after 20 minutes in Georgia we entered Tennessee. We lost 1 hour when entering Tennessee.

Tomorrow we were starting a house sit with 6 cats so we got there around 7 pm to get acquaintanced with their owner and get the low down on what was required of us for the next 5 days.

DAY 6-9: CHATTANOOGA, TN

These four days were spent housesitting and looking after 6 cats in Chattanooga. See “How to be a housesitter”.

While we were here we also checked out the city and spent “A day in Chattanooga”

DAY 10: CHATTANOOGA, TN – MAMMOTH CAVE, KY

3.5 hours / 225 miles

We had seen Bojangles everyday as we were driving around and decided to try it out. It’s famous for it’s chicken biscuit sandwiches. They were pretty good, nothing amazing but filling and big pieces of chicken.

Our next destination was to spend “A day in Nashville”. Although we drove through peak hour the traffic wasn’t that bad.

After Nashville, our final destination for the night was Mammoth Cave National Park. This part of the journey took about 1.5 hours and we entered Kentucky. We stayed at the Mammoth Cave campground.

DAY 11: MAMMOTH CAVE, KY – SEYMOUR, IN

3 hours / 150 miles

This morning after a camp breakfast and packing up the tent we spent the morning “Visiting Mammoth Cave”.

After the tour, we left Kentucky and made our way to Indiana. First we stopped at Sunergos for coffee and to charge the pump. Then we were off again, hoping to find a spot at a campsite near Seymour. Leaving Louisville we came across a lot of trucks but this one stood out for its sheer size.

Shortly after leaving it started pouring and there was a huge storm. Originally we were planning on camping but with the rain we decided to stop at Wendy’s for their $4 meal deal (Chicken burger, waffle fries, softdrink and 4 chicken nuggets). Note: We also saw a random Amish couple buying Wendy’s.

While out of the rain we used the wifi to scour the internet for some place dry to stay. We searched Hotwire.com and Google for hotel. We found the best, cheapest place in Seymour on Hotwire.com.

DAY 12: SEYMOUR, IN – ST JOSEPH, MI

4 hours / 250 miles

Of course it was still raining in the morning so we headed to the capital to spend “A day in Indianapolis”.

After checking out downtown we were hoping to see some of the beautiful parks that Indy has to offer but after seeing downtown it was still raining outside. Instead we decided to head north to St. Joseph, MI. 

There was more rain projected so we booked in at a last minute hotel with hotwire.com in Joseph.

We made a make shift kitchen in the hotel room and had instant ramen for dinner. This counts as camping right?

DAY 13-14: ST JOSEPH, MI – CHICAGO, IL

2 hours / 100 miles

We drove west to Chicago where we gained an hour after passing the border into Illinois.

This was another part of the trip that we had planned as we were meeting up with some friends while they were also visiting Chicago. We stayed at an Airbnb outside of downtown in a private room with shared living space. Overall we spent “A day in Chicago”

We spent the first day walking around the parks of Chicago just the two of us. We then met up with some friends in the evening in Downtown Chicago. On the way we gave some change to a guy who approached us as one of the leaders of a street gang near our Airbnb. We caught the train in and met up at their hotel in Downtown. We bought some drinks from the liquor store and softdrink from 7eleven and had pre-drinks at their hotel. We then hit up the clubs and then caught an uber home.

The next day we explored downtown Chicago again, played bocce and finished the night by watching the Chicago Cubs get into the World Series right neat the stadium.

DAY 15: CHICAGO, IL – MILWAUKEE, WI

100 miles / 2 hours

We left Chicago and drove to Wisconsin to spend “A day in Milwaukee”. We booked at last minute hotel in Milwaukee with Hotwire.com.

DAY 16: MILWAUKEE, WI – FARGO, ND

8 hours / 600 miles

The day started off with a 4.5 hour drive through Wisconsin to spend “A day in the Twin Cities”. After visiting the cities it was time for dinner and to find a place for the night. We booked a last minute hotel in Fargo with Hotwire.com. Camping was out of the question as it was just too cold. We decided the best place to stay would be Fargo. So we picked up McDonalds (dodgey one) and then drove 3.5 hours to Fargo.

DAY 17: FARGO, ND – WINNIPEG, MN

4 hours / 225 miles

Today we enter Canada. But first we had a hot breakfast provided at the hotel and then drove through ‘Downtown’ Fargo, passing the Fargo Theatre. We also drove through the streets of Fargo where the trees had turned very yellow and there were leaves EVERYWHERE.

There is a very small crossing of the Red River in Fargo separating Nort Dakota and Minnesota so when we were driving around we accidently went back into Minnesota. LOL.

It took us 2 hours to get to Border Control where we were taken inside and questioned to make sure we were here for the right reasons since I had a work visa and Todd did not. After about half an hour of itense waiting they let us through and we drove through to Winnipeg. Here we got a Canadian sim from Virgin Mobile, bought some groceries and checked into our Airbnb.

DAY 18: WINNIPEG, MN

We spent the day exploring Winnipeg and it was colddd. We stayed at an Airbnb and spent “A day in Winnipeg”

DAY 19: WINNIPEG,MANITOBA – REGINA,SK

6 hours / 350 miles

Today was a day of driving and trying Canadian take-away. We had breakfast at Tim Hortons. There was a huge line at the drive-thru and it was pretty buy inside. Candians are seriously obsessed with Tim Hortons. And honestly I just don’t get it. The coffee tastes instant and gross and I don’t even know how it can be called coffee. This article perfectly describes my feelings about it.

For lunch we stopped at A&W. Their burgers are named after family members and differ in size. We ordered the mama and teen burgers, but since the burgers were at least $8 by themselves we opted out of upgrading to a meal with root beer and fries.

In Regina, where we learnt it is pronounced RAY-JI-NA, we stopped for much-needed coffee at Abstractions Cafe. We had Cinna Mint and Vanilla Hazelnut lattes. We stayed at an Airbnb. We checked in where we played foosball, darts and interviewed for our second housesitting gig on Vancouver Island. 

DAY 20: REGINA, SK – CALGARY, AB

7 hours / 470 miles

Another long drive along the prairies of Canadian on highway 1. Today we stopped at Burger King for their cheap meal deal.

When we passed the border into Alberta we gained an hour. Once we arrived in Calgary we ordered curry and naan at Spice Hut. We were staying at an Airbnb for a week so we went to the to get groceries for the week and head to our Airbnb.

DAY 21-26: CALGARY. AB

The Airbnb that we stayed in was the bottom floor of a house with two bedrooms, full kitchen and living area. It was decorated with photos of Aurora Borealis as the owner liked to hunt for them. We spent “A day in Calgary” and also every day went on different “Day trips from Calgary.”

DAY 27: CALGARY. AB – MAPLE RIDGE, BC

11 hours / 600 miles

Today we were heading to Vancouver driving through the Canadian Rockies. We followed the Canada #1 Highway. Entering the Canadian Rockies there was Bow Valley Provinvial Park to our left then Banff National Park to our right.

Unfortunately with our schedule we didn’t have a chance to stop and explore any of the places whilst driving through. We did get to enjoy the scenery though as it was a nice, clear day. There were quite a few cars around and a lot of logging trucks.

We stopped at McDonalds in Golden for lunch. It was surprisingly good and they also had the Monopoly game going on and some other people in the store gave us theirs as well to add to our board.

Then we drove through Glacier National Park of Canada and Revelstoke National Park and stopped at Starbucks in Revelstoke for caramel brule and chestnut praline coffees. We continued through Kamloops and turned onto highway 5 to head south towards Hope.

Tonight we had subway for dinner (a footlong of cold cut is only $6) and headed to stay with the family and see the kiddies.

DAY 28: MAPLE RIDGE, BC

We spent the day with kids. We went with them to their ice-skating lesson, where they fell over a lot but got right back up and kep trying. While we were here we talked with their grandpa about his cross-country road trip by himself from Vancouver – Newfoundland. We stopped at Harvey for burgers and poutine for lunch. Gross! Then Todd and I took them to an indoor play area called Jungle Jacs where we joined them in climbing the equipment and going down the slides again and again.

Afterwards we stopped at McDonalds for a soft serve ice cream and then took them home. It was time to say goodbye. Grandpa had gone out of this way to get us road guides from the local AAA and the kids begged for us both to come back again.

We were planning on catching the 7pm ferry to Vancouver Island. What should have been a 1 hour drive to Twassassen Ferry became 2 hours as we hit Vancouver’s dreaded peak hour traffiic. There were so many road jams not to mention a bridge that had been closed but no sign to say so so everyone was waiting for the barrier to come up so we could cross. And of course in Vancouver spirit it rained the whole time 🙂

Once we finally got closer we picked up subway again and also bought muffins and milk for breakfast in the morning. We then proceeded to the ferry terminal to buy our tickets and pass through the gates to wait for the ferry. Once the ferry arrived we boarded and sat in the car listening to podcasts on the journey. However this wasn’t exactly the quietest choice, car alarms continued to go off the whole journey and crazy people worrying about their pets being fanatic.

We then drove 30mins from Swartz Bay to Victoria where we were staying for the next 2 nights @ Ramada Inn.

DAY 29: VICTORIA, BC

Today we were exhausted after our travels so we slept in and then headed out to the movies to watch Dr. Strange. Afterwards we had thai curries at Noodlebox for lunch. I had coconut jungle curry noodles and Todd had the special, lamb curry with rice.

To relax for the evening we went to the stores where we bought block of chocolate, Vancouver Island beers (one with kelp) and Sea Cider Rumrunner (mix between wine and cider). One the way back to the hotel to enjoy our treats we admired the Parliament Building lit up.

DAY 30: VICTORIA,BC – MILL BAY, BC

We had spent “The Perfect Day in Victoria”. To start the morning off we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf to see if the seals were about. There was 2 🙂 Then we drove to Beacon Hill Park to walk around and compare how the park had changed during the falls. There were leaves everywhere! For lunch we headed to La Taquisa where we ordered El Gordo (supersized) burritos with chicken mole and chorizo pork.

It was time to head to our first house sit. On the way we stopped at Split Rock Lookout to admire the view.

Then for a bathroom break and some more exploring we stopped at Bamberton Park.

We met the couple and they even took us out to dinner. We went to Bridgemans Bistro where we ordered fish and chips and gnocchi and talked about everything from American Politics to Germany to their travel plans.

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