After living in Miami for seven years, traveling back and forth between Pittsburgh, and doing clinical rotations in 3 corners of the USA I am no stranger to packing up and getting on my way. However, this isn't a packing guide because as my family would tell you I am the least qualified as I travel with an abnormally large amount of things, packed in an it's-organized-to-me-don't-touch-it-or-ask-too-many-questions fashion. Since this was my first cross country road trip I am excited to show some snippets of our journey. If you're interested in seeing more photos, follow @upsidedown_physio on instagram, posts and story highlights have the goods!
We traveled from Pittsburgh to the Bay Area in a total of 6 days, turning a 38 hour trip into about 50 hours and making several stops for photos and gas along the way.
DAY ONE, Pittsburgh to Cincinnati: 4 hours, 30 minutes
Jacob and I decided that in order to bring both our cars (and all of our things) each of us should bring a road trip buddy along the way. Which meant my first leg of the trip was actually just an extended performance of the Broadway Musical: Wicked, crying cause I missed my mom already, and listening to podcasts about Rupaul's Drag Race. What I'm saying is, I waste no time and multitasked (singing and crying at times). A huge highlight, perhaps the only one, was receiving the email that I had gotten my CA PT license. I met my road trip companion, Jordan, at her Cinci apartment and Jacob met us there with his travel partner Ken. We spent the night at Jordan's, ate pizza and watched The Mick - which we recommend if you love trashy sitcoms as much as us.
DAY TWO, Cincinnati to Kansas City: 10 hours
We started our day "bright and early" around 8:30 am and hit the road. Our original intention was to stop overnight in St. Louis, but nothing like last minute re-route plans to ease a planner's mind. Not tons of photos from the uneventful drive through Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. And, if there had been anything to see it was coated by a sheet of rain, slow windshield wipers and cloudy grey skies...the. whole. time. However, once we got there and the downpour turned into a light mist, I was excited to see KC for the first time! A week prior to the Superbowl, the town was still quiet amidst the COVID-19 chaos. We stayed at a modernized industrial hotel, Crossroads Hotel, in the Crossroads Art District. For dinner we walked over to Jack Stack Barbeque to try some famous KC Burnt Ends and ended the night at Up-Down Kansas City, an arcade bar with over 50 classic arcade games. Anyone else play a lot of Simpson's Pinball at Chuck-E-Cheese as a child or was that just me? I was super impressed with Up-Down's COVID regulations, working at 25% capacity puts a strain on businesses but it felt safe and (relatively) clean for a bar. Their staff was super friendly but no nonsense when it came to enforcing the rules.
DAY THREE, Kansas City to Denver: 9 hours
We had a late start this morning following our night out in Kansas City. We found a local coffee shop to try, PT's Coffee (in this car every coffee is a PT's coffee) and set out for the day. We made it to a rest stop that was officially halfway between our home in Pittsburgh and our new home in California and commemorated the moment with some cute, road trip chic photos.
The drive through Kansas, although not as rainy as the day prior, was pretty uneventful and nothing felt better than seeing the first mountains start to appear along the horizon.
Once we got to the Renaissance Denver Downtown it was finally time to stretch and explore. Another gorgeous hotel (kudos to Jacob and Ken who made all of our overnight stays feel like a vacation). We were very close to main street and having just been here the year prior with all my PT classmates for CSM, I felt very nostalgic. This was the last time we had been together as a class to celebrate our accomplishments and enjoy each other's company. We headed to ViewHouse, where I last saw all my friends, and got to reminisce on playing cornhole and laughing with my PT classmates for the LAST time before our impromptu zoom graduation. Despite COVID rules getting rid of all the fun games, ViewHouse still made for a great night with the travel squad: plenty of beer, appetizers and green tea shots were consumed.
DAY FOUR, Denver to Salt Lake City: 12 hours
While we originally chose the 8 hour path, we made some unforgettable stops along the way that brought us to a total of 12 and a half hours (and we didn't even quite make it to SLC). This was without a doubt our longest but most beautiful part of the drive. We began the day at Red Rocks Amphitheater, it was Jordan's first time! Honestly nothing beats driving next to enormous snow covered mountains, down winding hills and through long tunnels - especially after the last two days we had. In Glenwood Springs we stopped at the No Name Rest Area (that's actually the name ok) and gathered for another group photo shoot. For lunch we made the road trip choice - Freddy's Steakburgers.
Once we crossed into Utah, Jacob called me to ask how we felt about a quick detour down south the to Moab. The four of us agreed that we couldn't pass up the opportunity to see Arches National Park. Honestly, the amount of footage we all got of the area could make a feature length National Geographic movie - if only someone had time to edit it. I am so thankful for road trip companions who were down for adventure, even if that meant a little bit of a longer drive. Once out of Moab, Ken and Jacob found us a cool airbnb that came with a hot tub! Though, once we arrived we all fell asleep watching Shrek instead - it's the little things.
DAY FIVE, Lindon, Utah to Reno, Nevada: 11 hours
Despite another 7 and a half hour drive, we managed to expand it an extra four hours by making more iconic stops en route to Reno. We woke up SURROUNDED by mountains, with a view of the Utah Lake in the distance. It was absolutely stunning. Well rested and ready for Nevada, we hit the road for another adventure: the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The Salt Flats are a densely packed salt pan in northwest Utah and yes this was all copied straight from wikipedia. We stopped and enjoyed the vast flats, on which you can drive "as fast and as far as you dare." There were small campfires that had been made and Jordan saw online that some people use the flats as a wedding venue. Not much shade on the flats (BOYTent), but we didn't need it on this chilly afternoon. Wrapped in blankets we photographed the cars, each other, and all FaceTimed our family to show them (the road trip delirium wasn't concerning for them at all, I'm sure). For lunch we stopped in Elko County, which was as cute and quaint as the name sounds. It was reminiscent of a western movie set, and the people at each shop and restaurant were so friendly. If you were to stop in Elko County along your travels, our whole group would HIGHLY recommend McAdoo's for lunch - it was so nice to have a salad and veg filled wrap after consuming questionable fast food across America. We ended our drive at The Grand Sierra Resort and Casino. This was my first time gambling in a real casino, and though at one point I was down $80 (sorry mum) I ended up a +$1 - so I'll take that as a win.
DAY SIX, Reno > Tahoe > San Francisco: 7 hours
Another late start to the day - I blame the free drinks at the roulette table - but we were FINALLY going to be in California. I put on a pair of shorts because, ya know, winter no longer existed to me - we were about to be in CALIFORNIA. We decided to turn this 3-5 hour drive into a full day of traveling by stopping in Lake Tahoe to soak up the scenery and it was absolutely worth every pit stop along the way. We went from Reno to North Tahoe and headed around the perimeter of the lake all the way down to the bottom of South Lake Tahoe. It ended up being a cool 18 degrees at one point in the drive - so, the shorts were a mistake. I won't even go into the poor shoe choice I made (and regretted as we trudged through a few feet of snow to this look out spot).
With our cold feet back in the car we drove another hour to have a late brunch at Revive Coffee and Wine. Breakfast burritos and lemon bars are a tried and true combo, take it from me. For the reminder of the drive Jordan and I sang our hearts because what's a road trip without a little karaoke? I loved seeing the hills in Sacramento because they reminded us so much of our southwestern PA landscape. As I nervous giggled through the last 30 minutes of our drive, Jordan made the reassuring observation that it was too late to turn back home. Cue audible gulp. Finally parked outside our new apartment, Jacob and I shared a nervous but excited hug - we made it! We unpacked the cars and as I watched Jacob organize his clothes, his record player, his hammock, his outdoor games, his stereo and I realized I literally brought nothing despite my car being full to the brim with stuff and things.
Unfortunately that night we had to part ways with Jordan so she could catch a flight, but the boys and I ate chipotle and settled into our new home - fung shui, Netflix and all.
~ Bonus Day ~ DAY SEVEN(ish), San Francisco
So excited to be in our new apartment and new city, we ventured into town to try out a taco spot recommended to us in the Mission District. Not going to lie, we were exhausted following the week of travel so that's about all we were capable of getting out of the house to do.
The next day, we took a ferry to see the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a gorgeous day, blue skies, mostly calm water and the warm afternoon sun. Since they weren't handing out headphones and it was a bit windy, it was hard to hear the speaker tell us all of the facts about our new home. Jacob and I have agreed that we have to go back, perhaps on a less windy day or when COVID isn't a concern (fingers tightly crossed for that day). We rounded out our adventure by trying almost every food Pier 39 has to offer: clam chowder in a bread bowl, pizza, french fries, mini donuts and crepes -- road trip eating officially stopped here.
We are truly thankful to have had our road trip partners Ken and Jordan along for the ride, and an entire album of Ken in Nature photos are available for download by request (just kidding, Ken). For more road trip pics, please contact Jordan because she took better ones.
Jacob and I have been settled into our home for roughly a month and have been enjoying exploring on the weekends, long walks because of parallel parking, and eating a much more balanced diet. We are grateful for our families who allowed us to set out on this grand adventure (for the small fee of a phone call and some photos/week), who encourage us to chase after the things we want and support us endlessly. Jacob started his new job and I will be entering the workforce, after quite the eventful start, this upcoming week!
Kaylee, PT, DPT Kaylee is a Doctor of Physical Therapy based in the Bay Area of California. She received her degree in 2020 from The University of Miami and is currently practicing in Sub-Acute Rehab. Kaylee is passionate about all things yoga, neuro-rehab, and limb loss and limb difference rehabilitation demonstrated through practice, student education and advocacy.