Such an incredible and eventful journey I don’t even know where to begin. I think chronological is going to be the best approach, so here goes:

  • Day 1, Thursday: Our first mission was to reach Reno, where Cara’s truck and our first hotel were waiting for us. She had lent her Denali to a friend to help him move, so we would be driving his Acura TSX to make the trade. I left work a couple hours early, Danielle and Cara had packed gear for the four of us into the Acura’s trunk, and we scooped up Jordan at his office and headed straight down I-5… into 2 hours of rush hour traffic. About the time it was dark, we found open lanes south of Olympia and began to really make progress despite the sheets of falling rain. Quick stops at a couple of Starbucks locations and some other annoying Oregon things before we reached Hwy 58 just south of Eugene and left the utilitarian efficiency of the interstate highway system. A turn south towards Klamath Falls a few hours later marked the change in weather, as the general dreariness of the Cascades gave way to the harsh cold of the north Sierra Nevada. Snow flurries kept our speed low, but the helpful truckers along Hwy 97 did what they could to clear our passage into California. We reached Susanville, CA just after 4am, with only the downhill grade into Nevada left to conquer, and arrived in Reno about 5:20am, checking in at our hotel at a time of day when I have often checked out of one.
  • Day 2, Friday: Four delicious hours of sleep and a much needed Starbucks trip later, we rescued Cara’s GMC from the Grand Sierra parking lot and headed east for Fallon, NV. The extra legroom and bright desert sunshine meant spirits were high, so much so that we absently discussed taking a detour to nearby Lake Tahoe on our next cross-country trek.

    The small towns of rural Nevada provided so many photo ops I could barely stay inside the vehicle, so take note of pages 4-9 in the gallery for my car-window glimpses of Fernley, Fallon, Shurz, Hawthorne, Goldfield and the endless miles of desolate highway that connect them. It was an urban decay aficionado’s paradise that I would love to revisit sometime. In Indian Springs, NV, about 6:30pm, I started asking if we could see Las Vegas yet. At 7pm, we rolled into the valet loop at the Rio and found Mom and Dad in front of a bank of slot machines ready for a fantastic weekend.
  • Day 3, Saturday: Breakfast on the (faux) streets of Paris, and then straight to work at the business of having fun. We were on a mission to get Mom and Dad into an awesome dinner and Vegas show, and so spent part of Saturday morning working the streets to find the right deal. There was standing in line to be done by all, but it paid off with half-price tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis for the 6 of us that night, an incredible show full of acrobatics, trampolines, huge dance numbers and lots of Elvis tracks.

    We emptied our wallets on Elvis merch and then lost our remaining loose change at the craps table afterward.
  • Day 4, Sunday: Cara and I said our (temporary) goodbyes to the group and found our way to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Nascar Kobalt Tools 400, an awesome day of gearhead fun and an adventure all in itself. Mom and Dad delivered Danielle and Jordan to the airport and their Seattle-bound flight and returned to their winter home in Lake Havasu, AZ, leaving Cara and I to enjoy one last night in our favorite city.

    Our evening in old downtown Las Vegas was a blast, and I managed to win back everything I’d lost all weekend in a lucky turn at the slots – a perfect farewell to the Entertainment Capital of the World.
  • Day 5, Monday: Up early and fueled by our unofficial roadtrip sponsor, Starbucks, Cara and I struck out in a southern direction, attempting to touch as much Route 66 pavement with our tires as possible on our way to Arizona.

    We managed to hit 3 states’ worth, in Nevada, California and Arizona, although only CA offered any lingering Route 66 signage suitable for photo ops. We arrived in Lake Havasu in the late afternoon to spend 2 nights with Mom and Dad in their winter getaway and soak up just a little more of that fantastic desert sunshine. That evening’s venture out with the folks was to The Naked Turtle for much-needed margaritas in the barefoot bar.
  • Day 6, Tuesday: Mom and Dad arranged a desert ride on their atv’s, along with a few of their Havasu friends.

    Mom’s homemade sourdough pancakes provided early-morning fuel, Dad’s GPS contained the trails, and we barreled into the Arizona desert stopping occasionally to enjoy the view and returning home covered in dust and smiles. That night we feasted on tacos and marveled at the beauty of the desert before retiring to rest up for the final leg of our adventure.
  • Day 7, Wednesday: Two goals for this day were on our minds – reach our hotel in Boise ID before midnight, and see as much beautiful country as possible.

    After a brief stop on the east end of Las Vegas where an impressively-friendly team of lube techs administered a much-needed Denali oil change, we accomplished both goals, arriving in Boise about 11:30pm after a dinner stop in fabulous Jackpot NV and many miles of sleepy towns, winding canyons, and wide-open valleys full of cacti and sagebrush like the kind in old cowboy movies. Our Idaho hotel clerk’s friendliness didn’t quite make up for her inability to correctly issue a room key, but we were too tired to wonder who left her alone on the night shift.
  • Day 8, Thursday: Back in the rain again, and the closer we got to Seattle the more difficult it became to pretend it was just another day in an endless summer vacation. Stopping for brunch at Cara’s Grama’s house, though, for her signature biscuits and gravy and fresh-squeezed OJ, melted all our cares away and made us feel like kids on summer break once again. The renewed energy from an amazing meal and a hug from Cara’s mom Sandy outside her office as we passed through town propelled us home to Seattle, where a seemingly-endless rainstorm and the chore of unpacking did nothing to diminish the fantastic joy I felt (and still feel) looking back on this grand adventure. So many laughs, so many firsts, and so many wonderful hours spent with the people in my life I care about the most – exactly how an epic roadtrip should be.

Click through below for the roadtrip gallery. There are also separate posts and associated galleries for the Nascar race and our stay in Lake Havasu. I also have a Google Earth KMZ generated by my iPhone’s GPS logs that details our route.

Gallery is here – slideshow button is at the top-right corner.