We had 4 weeks, no plan, just a car and the open the road, the only thing we needed to do, was to end up at Virginia Beach for the next job.
Sometime in September after a wonderful time in the Galapagos Islands we landed in Atlanta airport with just an idea of a few places we wanted to visit in America. We picked up our car from the hire company with no issues. Well I say no issues, just a few comments from the lady that wanted us to upgrade to a bigger car for twice the price. After politely declining, her last words to me where ‘are you going to put a suitcase on the baby, good luck trying to fit it all in!’ to which my face was looked like thunder, and before I stopped to think the words just came out ‘as if I would put a suitcase on my baby, what a stupid remark because I wont pay another thousand pound to get a bigger car! Thank you very much for your help we will manage’. I thought I was quite polite at the time after I stormed off, and really I should of just let it go, but it did annoy me. Anyway as a wonderful surprise when we got to the car port a lovely gentleman gave us a free upgrade to quite a bigger car, and included a sat nav. Now I doubt we will get this again and it was just luck but I have to admit, I felt pretty smug at this point after nearly being conned out of a grand and a silly remark.
We had never completed a road trip this long with our daughter, nor had we gone away with only a weeks notice and no plan. This I am slowly getting used now with dads job. So we did the ‘take every day as it comes’. We spent our first night in a nearby hotel to Atlanta airport so we could decide our first few days, there were so many places in America we wanted to go it was hard to know where to start. America is HUGE compared to the UK. After a few looks at google maps, a kind of figure 8 would be our route, south first then north through the middle and east of the country.
Day 2 – Only a few hours drive from Atlanta, as we drove through our first national forest’s my breath was taken away. It was more than I expected, as a nature lover for me the countryside is the best place to be, full of different trees, winding roads, and every now and again we’d catch a glimpse of a vast view of forest tree tops, slowly starting to change colour for Autumn.
We stayed on the Indian reserve Cherokee, in a lovely lodge, and arrived early to spend the morning exploring this beautiful woodland. Our daughter was overjoyed to be running around outside, leave’s crunching under her feet, huge tree root hurdles for her to climb over, and listening to the stream running along side us, it was great to be outdoors! We had a picnic outside for lunch and headed to the Great Smokey Mountains for the afternoon. We even walked up cling-mans dome. A bit of a steep hill trek and the mist and cloud meant we didn’t get much of a view. But it was still worth going, we had a lovely chat to the volunteers in the visitors centre and off we headed. On our journey back to the hotel we joined quite a few cars stopped on the side of road to witness a herd of elks in a nearby field. It was amazing to see them in the wild.
Day 3 – Cherokee to Chattanooga, Tennessee. State number 3. We had a beautiful scenic drive, the road followed the river through the forests, and past little villages. Our daughter fast asleep in her seat until we stopped to explore rock city, it will amaze you, located atop Lookout Mountain, just 6 miles from downtown Chattanooga, Rock City is a true marvel of nature featuring massive ancient rock formations, gardens with over 400 native plant species, and breathtaking “See 7 States” panoramic views. My daughter in her rain mac had a fantastic time wandering around, up and down all the steps, feeling every stone on the way.
Day 4 – A waterfall deep underground inside a cave. Ruby falls. My daughter however, decided she was not that keen on being underground and to her this strange place she was now in was a bit odd, dark and cold, after a fair while crying I decided to take her out the cave to coffee shop above, dad carried on to see the waterfall so at least one of us got to see this wonderful natural view, and the history of it been discovered. After a spot of lunch we had a rainy drive to Nashville.
Day 5 – With Nashville on flash floods warnings we carried on our journey to Memphis, home of the King. We had a superb day getting an insight into Elvis Presley’s home and life. Graceland is definitely worth a visit.
Day 6 – Still in Memphis, today was a day for our daughter. The children’s centre and Shelby park. She had a great time playing and running around the children’s centre and for Shelby park we hired bicycles, with a pull along carrier and enjoyed a bike ride through the park. There’s nothing quite like open fields, trees and fresh air in your lungs.
Day 7 – Lake Hamilton, hot springs, Arkansas. State number 4. Now this is a charming town, surrounded by two huge man-made lakes, with period buildings, bath houses and a great history behind it. The springs are a fascinating bit of nature and extremely hot, watching the steam rise from water trickling out the land was a surreal sight. This town was also the boyhood home of Bill Clinton and a regular spot of Al Capone.
Day 8 – More exploring of hot springs national park, the park is another attractive spot, and going 216ft up to the observation deck gives you spectacular panoramic views of 140 miles. A landscape of ever-changing colour leaves as far as the eye can see, I could have looked out for hours. Our daughter slept through the tower but had an awesome time running around and spotting deers, As well as visit to the Cavern woodland land gardens.
Day 9 – A driving day to Texas, State number 5. We had our first glimpse of Dallas and a quiet evening in the hotel after a long drive. At this point we were feeling quite lucky how well our daughter travelled, if we timed it right she slept for most of the time in the car, when she woke we’d stop for food and a leg stretch. We stayed the night in-between Dallas and Fort Worth.
Day 10 – Dallas, a visit to the JFK memorial museum, a legend of a man well ahead of his time. Not only does this museum look at his death but gives an insight into his life and the man he was. Driving to Dallas on the other hand was a bit more stressful with spaghetti junctions and huge highways it took 4 attempts to get off at the right exit. For the afternoon we explored the historic Fort Worth stockyards, I loved this place, cattle drives and cowboy boots, a true feeling of the west, what more could you ask for in Texas? The street is filled with saloon style pubs, western shops, old cobbled roads, a cattle drive, very friendly people and real cowboys. We of course had to do the tourist thing and buy cowboy boots whilst we were there! Later that day we drove down the state as far as Fairfield to break the journey up heading for the coast.
Day 11 – Galveston, Texas. The morning we left Fairfield I had read online of a highly recommended place, Cooper farms (another reason we stayed overnight in the area) this is a random little shop full of home made jams, pies and fudge. By far it was and is the best strawberry cheesecake fudge I have ever tasted. After a few hours of driving we finally got to the coast, clear blue skies, Sandy beaches and dream houses overlooking the gulf of Mexico. We took an afternoon stroll on the beach, and even found a hermit crab. There is nothing my daughter loves more than paddling in the sea, and after a day in the car it was refreshing to have the sea breeze on our faces and the sand under our feet.
Day 12 – Still in Galveston, we had a much needed chill day and enjoyed the hotel pool, beach and local shops. There is a lot of attractions here, so always something to do if you ever visit.
Day 13 – An early start for the day of driving, across on the ferry, through Louisiana (state number 6), though Mississippi ( state number 7) and into state number 8, sweet home Alabama. In hindsight we should have stopped in each state at the welcome centres for a picture of the sign and some ideas of what the state has to explore, but we didn’t even think of this till weeks later. So trying to get one decent picture of the welcome state sign whilst driving past became a funny tradition on our trip. We drove to our first stop Mobile, across swamp lands and into the humidity we arrived. First order of business was to get more insect repellent spray!
Day 14 – Mobile, Daphne and Fairhope. An extremely hot Alabama. We visited the USS Alabama battleship memorial park, an eye opening day of history. They also flew some of the planes in a small reenactment. We got to see short films, explore this huge battleship and submarine as well as rare and historic aircrafts.
Day 15 – Little River Canyon, Talladega, Alabama. We set off early again, after re-packing our cases, something I had got extremely good at by this point. I was glad that I had purchased suitcase organiser cubes, it made life a lot easier when moving hotels every other day. Before the drive we took a stroll on Daphne alligator board walk in hope to see a wild gator! To our luck after 30 minutes we spotted one, across the river, his eyes peeping out the water, and his body slithering like a snake. He hadn’t made a ripple in the water as he drew closer to us. With only a stone bank between us and ‘beware of alligators’ signs in the car park we decided we were close enough and quietly walked back to our car. During the drive up north we took the scenic roads, through little towns and snippets of forests in awe of the views. Mass cotton fields filled the land, a sight I thought was cool never seeing them before. We got a glimpse of a wolf, that ran across the road into the trees and arrived at the top of the canyon in time for sunset. An amazing drive down the canyon with little spots to stop and enjoy the view. A view of free flowing water over rocks making spectacular mini water falls. The last light of the day hitting the tops of the trees giving them a sunset glow. It was so peaceful and bliss.
Day 16 – With Alabama expecting severe weather and storms we headed up north. Roads…roads…more roads, some corn fields that I so desperately wanted to run through. For some reason I’ve always wanted to run through corn fields since I was a child, it just looks like a fun thing to do! And more roads. We had a few ice cream stops on the way, that our daughter enjoyed very much, she was very fed up of the car. But the drive would be worth it, 16.5 hours and 7 states later we arrived at Niagara falls!
Day 17 – Niagara falls, New York. State number 12. This is one phenomenal view we were so excited to see, and it didn’t disappoint. We parked close by and within minutes of walking through the national park we could hear the water thrashing over the cliff side, and felt the wind it created. As we entered the viewing ledge no words could describe the view! It was breathtaking. All excited and ready we got down to the dock to get our pink ponchos on, even our daughter had a tiny one. The closer we got the less we could see, due to the mist, blew by the force of this beast of a waterfall drenching us, and it was invigorating and addictive. We took turns in getting soaked whilst sheltering our daughter to keep her dry and out of the wind. She was not a fan of being on the boat. After a fresh Niagara falls shower we proceeded to look at the view from above, giving our tiny human chance to enjoy being outside and spot some squirrels. It was a day that truly exceeded expectation and left us wowed.
Day 18 – Still in the state of New York, just a short drive away was a tiny off the grid town called Inlet. Our home for the night, an old traditional inn sat beside a lake. We were informed that we had made it for the last day of good weather for the fall. The leaves rustling under our feet whilst watching the sunset over the lake was a peaceful perfection. The town itself is full of rustic shops and Diners, with beautiful food, coffee and unique items to buy, we would love to go back here one day.
Day 19 – Green Mountains national Forest. Vermont, state number 13. Now at some point on the epic trip we were bound to hit bad weather. Our journey was a rainy one at that, but our next inn was homey and welcoming with a huge game room and wrap round porch so our daughter was still entertained. We also got to pass over the Hudson River, a highlight of the drive. With our next destination in mind, we opted for an early night.
Day 20 – Ogunquit, Maine. State number 15. We had the traditional picture shot of ‘welcome to new Hampshire’ and through state 14 we went. The rainy weather had a break and on arrival the winter sun was out for a beautiful walk on the beach. Our daughter running to the sea as usual, had a lot of fun. I randomly picked this town off the map and by looking at a few Google images. We were so glad I did, home made chocolate stores, a range of restaurants and wonderful people. With our days running out our exploring was kept local and just enjoying strolling down the streets and beach.
Day 21 – Another wet autumn day, through Boston and into Cape Cod, the town of Sandwich, Massachusetts. State number 16. Now as the warm sunny weather was left down south, the winter clothes came out and we were hotel bound. Luckily it had a pool so an afternoon swim before an English pub lunch was our day. I have to say, stumbling upon an English pub made me happy, the taste of traditional pub grub had me feeling right at home, good old cottage pie on a rainy day!
Day 22 – Not many pictures or exploring today as we drove across the states, we took a break at Newport, Rhode Island, state number 17. A wonderful sea side town, and one we’d like to visit properly. Some more home made fudge was purchased and on our travels we continued into state number 18, Connecticut. Some quiet time before we hit the big city!
Day 23 – Before leaving Connecticut I had to take a look at one of the towns that inspired the Gilmore Girls, a show I loved that made me want to live in. New Milford, with its town square gazebo, old movie theatre and street clocks I could see why the show’s author had started writing. Afterwards we hit the traffic and manic drivers that gave that ‘city feel’. We had arrived in the city that never sleeps. A huge shock to the system after staying in tiny towns. But it was New York and had to be seen. By the time we arrived it was dark out, but the lights of the city made it looked pretty. Standing in Times Square, the busiest place I wondered how people live here! A surreal moment. Now the only thing I wanted to do was get a winter hat from Macy’s. Something that when people would say ‘I like your hat’ I could reply with ‘its from Macy’s in NYC’. However, we entered the first store we saw, and 30 minutes later we’re still in the men’s section, we had traipsed up and down 4 floors, baffled and lost and by this point had enough! We exited the store onto a different street relieved to be outside, found the nearest seat and sat down, with no clue where we were. We did get a nice view of the Empire State building though, that we stumbled on. After catching our breath and feeding our daughter we noticed that on the wall of the store was a sign, largest Macys in the world! For a girl that doesn’t like shopping I had to laugh at the irony. And on that note we called it a night!
Day 24 – Exploring New York City. Now I cannot speak for everyone but for me NY is not the best I’ve been too. Out of 63 cities I have visited this one takes the lead on over populated, smelly and dirty, don’t get me wrong there are some nice parts and it’s worth seeing, but after 3 weeks in tiny towns and fresh air I wasn’t that impressed overall. Individual sights were worth going, walking around the Statue of Liberty, feeling quite lucky I got to see this huge iconic monument. Enis island was another highlight, the history behind this tiny island and a look into the lives of people who had come through here hoping for a better life opened my eyes to a different world I don’t know much about. My partner being Irish also found some distant relatives and family names in the archives, something close to home to him to see how many people fled his home country in desperate times. We also got to visit the 9/11 memorial. Now many people will remember the exact moment they received this news, for me being quite young I was in the early years of high school, we got called into the Hall to be informed of what had happened. This heartbreaking day that shook the world, devastated New Yorkers and stole the lives of innocent people is something that will never be forgotten. The memorial site was very eerie, quiet and heartbreaking, but I think that they have honoured those fallen in a beautiful way. We finished the day with a tour guides bike ride around Central Park. A lovely spot of green nature in this city of concrete. Overall I’m glad we went, but with a baby in a carrier for 7 hours we had a different experience of NY and I won’t be going back in a hurry.
Day 25 – Hello fresh air in Delaware! Through state 19 and into number 20. It was nice to be back driving along the coast, boats in the harbours, sun in the sky and fresh air. New Jersey and Delaware have very scenic roads through the countryside. We spent the night at another hotel on a lake, it was very peaceful and relaxing watching the sunset over the water, far away from the hustle and bustle of the cities.
Day 26 – To our final destination (or so we thought) through Maryland, number 21 and into Virginia Beach, Virginia. State number 22. We had arrived at what we thought would be our new temporary home. We’d driven across the Chesapeake Bay tunnel / bridge. An incredible piece of engineering, and the project on what dad would be working on. After some late lunch we took a walk on the beach preparing to settle into our new home.
Day 27 – As usual in the nature of construction nothing goes to plan! I’ve worked in the industry so knew this first hand, and it was second nature to dad. So job delayed! After an epic road trip we were now unsure of where or what to do. For me home was calling, after 3 months away. So home we headed, we took the very long drive down to Atlanta airport over 2 days and got on the first flight with Virgin Atlantic back to the motherland. That was the end of an epic trip!
With dads new job in, he flew out to Chile 5 days later and I stayed at home with the family ready for the festive season.