My life has been NUTS lately. I moved back to the Bay Area from San Diego last April, and then in December I found out I was moving to Virginia Beach. My fiancé and I immediately bought a house since they’re so affordable in Virginia, and then my brother, my doggy Atlas, and I set off on a cross country road trip to get me to my new home. Neither of us have ever driven across the country, so we wanted to make the most of our trip. If you’re a psycho, you can technically make the trip from California to Virginia in a little less than two days, but we took the most scenic of all scenic routes and took six days. We wanted to be able to see the main things in each city we stopped at, but also didn’t want to take too much time away from driving, so there are a few cities I’d love to go back and explore more in the future. Here is a breakdown of our route:
Day One: San Jose, California -> Grand Canyon, Arizona
This was one of our longest driving days. We wanted to rip the bandaid off and get the long drive over with while we were still fresh. The drive normally takes a little over 11 hours, but we were towing a little five foot trailer behind my Jeep, so between the speed limit and food/restroom stops it took a little over 12 for us to get there.
**Note: When road tripping with a trailer, make sure to look up the trailer speed limits in each state because they vary. California seems to have the strictest/slowest limits, whereas states like Texas are literally 70MPH which is both insane and awesome.
Red Feather Lodge – Because we had Atlas, we had to make sure to find pet friendly hotels along our route. Red Feather Lodge is a no frills hotel/motel combo that is only about seven miles away from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim entrance. Our room was clean and the staff didn’t freak out when they saw my 100lb dog walk in, so that’s always a good sign (a lot of hotels have weight limits on pets so make sure to do your research!).
Day Two: Grand Canyon -> Amarillo, Texas
Since Day One was strictly a travel day, we designated Day Two as our day to explore the Grand Canyon. Neither of us had ever been before and we were dying to see the beauty of the canyon for ourselves. We went to the South Rim because it’s the only part of the park that allows pets. Dogs are allowed on several trails as long as they are paved. My advice to you is to check the weather forecast before you go because the South Rim can get very windy. We were a bit unlucky and had a wind chill factor of like one million and froze our butts off, but the views of the Grand Canyon were 100% worth it. Don’t leave your cameras at home!
**Note: The South Rim has an entrance fee of $25
After exploring the canyon, we got back in the car for an 11ish hour drive to Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo was strictly a pit stop for us, although I’m sure there were spots we could have explored if we had time (ie. Cadillac Ranch – totes could’ve gotten good photos for the ‘gram, but we had other priorities).
Days Inn Amarillo East – We booked our hotels day by day when we decided where we wanted to stop each night. And because we were both on a budget and just needed places to sleep, we went with a “no frills” theme for our accommodations. Cue Days Inn Amarillo East. This hotel was pet friendly, clean, and incredibly cheap. We paid all of $45 for one night and it was great for what we needed.
Day Three: Amarillo -> Waco -> Austin, Texas
This is where our detour began. If we had any time restrictions we would have made a straight shot across the country from Amarillo, but we chose to go the southern route instead.
Waco – If you’re like me and are a huge Fixer Upper fan, you HAVE to stop at Magnolia Market at the Silos. I cannot rave about this place enough…it’s like adult Disneyland. My brother had never heard of Fixer Upper and even he was impressed. The entire property is incredibly well done and thought out, and every single employee I encountered was genuinely the nicest person I had ever met. Atlas was basically a celebrity himself there because all the employees couldn’t get enough of him (and also had doggy treats on hand!).
Most of the property is pet friendly other than the turf area and bakery, so we were able to take Atlas inside the market…which was unbelievable. I wish I could have taken everything home with me. It even smelled amazing. But I do have to say the prices were crazy expensive. Even unreasonable in some cases. But Chip & Jo have created their own little tourist destination in a town no one would ever have considered stopping in before (unless you’re a Baylor fan of course), so I can see how they can get away with the prices.
For lunch we had a selection of food trucks to choose from outside, and we went with Cheddar Box. My brother and I both had The Boss – bacon, gouda, and basil on sourdough bread….which was soo good! We obviously needed dessert as well, so we hit the Silos Baking Co before getting back on the road. We got chocolate chip cookies for our lunch dessert (massive and delicious) and chocolate cupcakes for dinner dessert (so tasty and so moist). 10/10 would recommend!
Austin – After exploring all The Silos had to offer, we made the 1.5ish hour drive to Austin, our final stop of the day. I had always heard great things about Austin and was super excited to get there. We didn’t have a whole lot of time, but we wanted to at least see a few of the main sites.
Unfortunately for us, most of the BBQ spots recommended by friends (see Truett’s Austin guide here) were closed by the time we got there (I mean we got in town at 6pm, which isn’t late…ugh), but we were still able to get down on some mean BBQ at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. My brother got beef ribs and I got pork, both of which were fantastic. Definitely make sure to get a side of mac and cheese!
The next morning we made our way to the other side of town to get breakfast at Jo’s, home to the notorious “I Love You So Much” wall. What would a trip to Austin be without a basic ass photo in front of it, am I right? Lucky for us Jo’s had outdoor seating because we had Atlas, so my brother and I both ordered and loved the breakfast tacos. He also really enjoyed his flat white coffee (I can’t vouch for it because I don’t drink coffee, but take his word for it!)
After walking around town a bit we hopped back in the Jeep for the next leg of our trip.
Day Four: Austin -> New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Neither of us had ever been and after eating shitty fast food almost every day, we were excited to get our hands on some good quality, world renowned food.
New Orleans Courtyard Hotel – We knew we were going to have to spend more on a hotel in New Orleans than we had been so far on our trip, but we didn’t want to go too out of our budget so we chose the New Orleans Courtyard Hotel. The hotel itself is really pretty and has a lot of the charm you look for in old New Orleans’ architecture, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled about the location. It’s situated right on the outskirts of the French Quarter and is technically in a safe neighborhood, but it was a little close to some sketchy areas so that’s something to take into consideration. We were completely safe and so was our trailer parked behind the hotel, but instead of walking anywhere we chose to uber instead. The next time I go back to New Orleans, however, I will definitely be staying within the heart of the French Quarter.
Cochon – There are practically millions of good restaurants in New Orleans, so it was really hard to pick which one we should try on our one and only night in the city. Per google’s recommendation, we went with Cochon. The restaurant itself has a great casual vibe and the food is fantastic. We both ordered the braised short ribs and they were sooooo yummy and tender. I think my brother’s favorite part about dinner was the bread they brought to the table…he literally could not stop talking about it lol.
Bourbon Street – No trip to The Big Easy would be complete without a visit to Bourbon Street. Neither my brother nor I drink so we had no intentions of getting on the same level everyone else was on, but we HAD to experience the famous debauchery of Bourbon Street. It wasn’t super crazy because it was pretty cold outside, but I can only imagine what it looks like during the warmer months or Mardi Gras. In case you’re wondering, yes Bourbon Street is gross. Unless you’re completely hammered, there isn’t much appeal (other than amazing people watching), but we did find an awesome jazz bar that we were able to listen/watch live music at. A lot of the locals recommended we go to Frenchmen Street instead, which apparently is the “new Bourbon Street.” We didn’t have enough time to check it out, but I definitely plan to on my next trip.
Day Five: New Orleans -> Atlanta, Georgia
We had planned to start Day Five off by exploring the French Quarter, but a freak storm had started to hit the South and we unfortunately had to change our plans and get on the road. But not before a quick trip to the famous Cafe Du Monde! Let me tell you…IT IS WORTH THE HYPE. I mean, wow. I have the biggest sweet tooth on the planet and the beignets are just DIVINE. I had three to myself, and they are not small. We went to the original French Market location on Decatur Street because 1. we wanted the full experience, and 2. I had read online that they allow dogs on their patio. I was really disappointed when they refused to let us sit down with Atlas, so instead of enjoying our beignets and coffee there, we had to trek back to our car in a rain/hail storm.
After our powdered sugar breakfast, we made what was supposed to be a seven hour drive to Atlanta. The hail in New Orleans eventually turned to snow and it did not stop until we got to Virginia the following day, so the drive ended up taking almost two hours longer than it should have. Apparently most of the south is not equipped for big snow storms, so by the time we got to Atlanta the entire city was shut down. Even fast food and gas stations! We were starving, tired, and sick of being in the car after five straight days…so of course the front desk agent at The Extended Stay we made reservations at took one look at Atlas and said they had a weight limit on pets. This was not listed on their website, and they were unwilling to make an exception considering the massive storm. So at 9pm in the middle of what was basically a deserted island, we had to drive around and find a hotel that would allow a large dog. We eventually found Baymont Inn & Suites in Marietta. The hotel was nothing special in any way, but we were grateful to have a place to shower and sleep. Once we settled in and remembered how starving we were, we drove around to find any sign of life/food. We found Marietta Diner, which I had surprisingly enough seen on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives. Needless to say, our bellies were happy and we were able to end our chaotic day on a good note.
Day Six: Atlanta -> Virginia Beach, Virginia
I’m sure you can imagine how badly we wanted to get the hell out of Atlanta. Luckily we weren’t missing anything by leaving town early because both of us had been there before. Atlanta is great and I definitely recommend checking it out…just don’t go during a freaking blizzard.
The drive from Atlanta to Virginia Beach takes about nine-ish hours, and by that point in our road trip we were just ready to get to our destination. Because the snow hadn’t yet stopped, there was barely anyone on the roads. This actually worked out in our favor though because Sean can drive in the snow blindfolded while towing a semi truck without flinching, so although we were tired, the last leg of our trip was pretty seamless.
Once we got to VA Beach we were down for the count, but we had SO much fun on our trip. I have to admit, before we set off I was worried about how the trip was going to go with Sean. He is hands down one of the coolest people on earth…anyone will tell you that, but six days in a car with anyone can possibly make you go insane. I wasn’t even sure what the hell we would talk about for that long, but all of those worries were silly because we had such a great time. Not only did we get to see some of the coolest sites/cities this country has to offer, but we made quality memories together that we will never forget. Most impressively, we didn’t fight once…not even in Atlanta when our hangry levels were at all time highs.
When planning a road trip, make sure to choose your copilot wisely…and most importantly, have fun and be safe!
If you’re in need of a good laugh, check out this video of what happens when an antsy 100lb dog is sick of sitting in the back seat.