Underrated Visual Gems Across the United States

It’s been almost a year since Steve and I set out from Vancouver across the United States, and more than seven since our rusty, faithful-but-not-very reliable junker of a van landed, flat tire and all, in my parents’ driveway in Philadelphia, and our road trip is still something I think about every single day. As I’ve said before—and as everyone I’ve told about it has said—it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one of the most amazing opportunities of my life.

I’ve shared tons of photos on here, facebook, and instagram, and I’ve talked about plenty of the incredible things we saw, but I want to get specific about a few of my favourite locations for visual inspiration. However, let’s take a look at the ones that are a bit further off the beaten path—you don’t need me to tell you to go take photos at the Grand Canyon or the Golden Gate Bridge. Here are five locations where I had a ton of fun taking photos and that I would recommend for anyone looking to explore.

Cumberland Falls State Park

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I love waterfalls. Big small, wide, narrow–whether it’s the rushing cascades of Niagara or little more than a ripple in the stream, they’re one of my favourite features in nature. Cumberland Falls is not the largest or most awe-inspiring waterfall you’ll ever see, even if it does call itself the Niagara of the South, but there’s something charming about it. Tucked away in a state park in a rural area of the state—the most notable town nearby is Corbin, known for being the birthplace of KFC—it’s a peaceful, relaxing place to hike and enjoy nature.

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Cumberland Falls is also the home of an amazing natural phenomenon: the moonbow. Similar to when sunlight passes through water and create a rainbow, a moonbow occurs when moonlight passes through water and creates an arc of light. While a moonbow can happen anywhere, there are only two waterfalls in the world where the angle and location are just right for the moonbow’s occurrences to be tracked. One is Victoria Falls in location, and the other is Cumberland Falls. We were lucky enough to be there for a full moon, when the moonbow was most likely to be visible. Although the early summer’s long daylight hours meant that the moonbow was incredibly low and faint, it was still an amazing thing to experience.

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Keep Calm & Drive On: Minimizing Conflict on Your Road Trip

Picking the ideal copilots for an extended road trip is important. Whether it’s your partner or your BFFs, you want people with whom you can spend hours in a car without wanting to kill them. Choose the perfect travel companions and your trip will be an incredible bonding experience, full of amazing adventures and special time spent together. Well, 95% of the time it will be. The other 5% of the time you’ll be tired and hangry and whoever’s driving will have just made the fourth wrong turn of the day and you’ll be all-out shouting at each other over the hellfire-and-brimstone religious radio station you’re being forced to listen to because someone forgot to charge the phone with the music. That’s just how it is. But there are some important steps you can take to ensure that percentage stays at 5% and that you still all love each other when you reach your destination.

Get out of the car

On our road trip, we tried to limit our driving time each day to five or six hours, but some days we had to spend nine or more hours in the car and on those days we definitely got more antsy and more argumentative. Obviously the conditions of your road trip may dictate how long you have to drive each day—if you’re trying to make it across the country in a week as opposed to our 2+ months you’re going to be forced to have much longer days on the road—but even if you know you’re going to be driving 12 hours don’t be tempted to try to push through without pitstops. Even 15 minutes’ break outside the car to stretch and get some fresh air and explore a town or a nature area makes such a difference in everyone’s temperaments.

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We stopped at this beach for lunch on our way through California, a nice and relaxing break

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Five Tips for Your Best Road Trip

You may have noticed that my last post was the day after Election Day. Sometimes when we need our creativity the most is when it’s the hardest to find. Hoping to write more this summer. 

Since the majority of my blog’s readers are either my friends or my mother’s coworkers, most of you probably already know that Steve and I spent March to June traveling across the United States from Vancouver to Philadelphia. Our zigzag route took us about nine thousand miles in a beat up ’03 Ford Windstar (RIP) and to amazing destinations both natural and metropolitan. We went hiking in the Grand Canyon, boozing on Bourbon Street, ate pretty much everything we could possibly eat (plus a lot of soup cooked on our camp stove), and more. 

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At the Tunnel View viewpoint in Yosemite National Park

All along our trip, so many people told us that it was the trip of a lifetime (definitely) and that they would love to do something similar, so I decided to put together my top tips for a cross-country road trip. 

Build a sleeping platform

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Our humble abode

Honestly, sleeping in a van isn’t as rough as it sounds. Sometimes the lack of ventilation makes the night overly hot and humid, but for the most part we were pretty comfortable. However, if you’re traveling for more than a few days and don’t want to spend all your money on motel rooms, a sleeping platform is a must. We took out the back two rows of seats and Steve built ours in an afternoon with a piece of plywood and a bunch of 2x2s. We were able to put almost all of our belongings underneath the platform and a super-cozy piece of foam with bedding on top. At least one road-tripping couple we encountered were sleeping on their seats and so every night they had to shuffle all their luggage around to make room—the last thing you want to do when you’ve been driving for nine hours and you’re completely exhausted.

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