Travel Diary: The Long Road From Portland To Nashville

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Greetings from Nashville, Tennessee! We got into town last week after a 4-day, 2300-mile road trip with everything we own crammed in the trunk of my Volkswagen Jetta. This was, by far, the longest road trip I’ve ever taken, and the drive itself is something I will never forget. I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to sum up the experience, and I think a best/worst list is in order. Read on to get the scoop on Utah sushi, Kansas City kindness, public bathrooms, broken radios, and a quesadilla I will regret for the rest of my life…

THE BEST:

Wyoming. Good God, Wyoming, who gave you permission to be so beautiful? My boyfriend and I are both from Oregon, so we’re generally kind of snobby about natural beauty (“Well, it’s no Columbia Gorge!” –us about every natural phenomenon that isn’t the Columbia Gorge), but daaaaamn, Wyoming took our breath away. Not only were the open, natural spaces gorgeous, we were thoroughly charmed by the town of Laramie, and really bummed we didn’t have more than one night to explore. It’s definitely on our list of places to visit again.


I call this one “Wyoming Sunset Through My Dirty Car Window.”

Sushi in Ogden, Utah. When we stopped for lunch in Ogden, Utah, I looked up the best rated restaurant on my phone. It just happened to be a sushi restaurant called Tona, which also happens to be my brother’s nickname. We were slightly skeptical (Sushi? In a landlocked state? Really?), but decided we had to try it. And I am so glad we did. This place was amaaaazzing. I will be dreaming about the charred brussels sprouts in a sweet chili soy reduction every night for the foreseeable future.

What do you think when you see this landscape? I think, “Sushi time!”

Our kind host in Kansas City. We rolled into Kansas City about two hours later than planned, grumpy and tired and starving. No restaurants were open, and we had resigned ourselves to a tragic trail mix dinner when we walked into the AirBnB house we were staying that night. Our host, Priscilla, immediately insisted we make ourselves comfortable and offered us a fresh salad, homemade bread, and beer. We went to bed full and happy and ready to get up and tackle the last leg of our trip. (I’ll share more about my love for AirBnB soon in honor of Wanderlust Week!)

Seeing actual tumbleweeds rolling across the highway in Eastern Oregon. Such a thrill. “Fievel Goes West” status.


The view from Pendleton, Oregon.

The public bathrooms in Idaho. Thirty-five hours on the interstate + small bladder + compulsive water drinking habit = many, many bathroom breaks. Having peed at rest stops in Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, and Tennessee, I can confidently say Idaho has the best facilities: clean, modern, well-designed. I highly encourage you to add “Pee in Idaho” to your travel bucket list.

THE WORST:

Crazy truck drivers. I don’t know what kind of souped up engine is required to propel a semi truck up a winding mountain pass at 90 miles an hour, but apparently they exist. And driving next to them is utterly terrifying.

Mexican food in Nebraska. One of my favorite parts of traveling is eating different foods and discovering local restaurants. I’d read somewhere before the trip that Nebraska actually has surprisingly good Mexican food, so when we stopped for lunch in Kearney we pulled into a Mexican restaurant for a quick bite. We ordered the veggie quesadilla, which will stand out as one of the biggest regrets of my life. The spinach was frozen. The mushrooms were canned, swimming in some kind of goopy, salty glaze. The cheese wasn’t even cheese, but some kind of opaque white, cheese-like ooze. When we got back in the car we felt so, so sick. And then, wouldn’t you know it…

That time our radio broke for four hours while driving through Nebraska right after we’d eaten terrible Mexican food. The universe was apparently punishing us for something during our drive through Nebraska, because right after we’d eaten a bunch of bad Mexican food, my car stereo randomly locked up. I looked up the problem on my phone, and apparently Jettas have an anti-theft mechanism that renders your stereo useless until you input the security code (we still have no idea what triggered it). The security code was conveniently located inside the tire well in the trunk, under all of our belongings that were packed in there Tetris-style. We resigned ourselves to a silent journey, which might have been an opportunity to have a deep convo and strengthen our relationship if we had been somewhere more scenic and weren’t really irritable and full of fake cheese. Four hours later, the stereo came back just as randomly as it had disappeared, but man, that was a rough day.


Our view for four hours of silence. Lord help us.

All in all it was a really amazing experience, and I feel lucky to have been able to see so much of this beautiful country in a relatively short amount of time. That being said, I’m excited to not drive anywhere farther than a few miles for a long, long time.

Email me at winona@thefrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter @winona_rose.

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