What is it like to drive from So Cal to Wisconsin? Part Two: Tips for the Drive (and a roadtrip gallary)

In Part One, I shared my tips for packing and preparation for my cross-country move. For Part Two, we get to the good part: story time, tips to make the most of the long drive, and a collection of photos taken en route. Fair warning: most of these photos are of my road trip companion bulldog Gjalla (so it’s a Road Trip Gjalla-ry, if you will).

The Hardest Part about Leaving So Cal

We left Huntington Beach around 10:30 a.m. on a Friday morning. I thought I’d get all choked up and do the looking-in-the-rearview-mirror dramatic scene, but I was too excited for the journey ahead. Plus, there are not many ways to leave California without driving past Vegas, and I was looking forward to driving past that mess.

TIP: If you are driving a Penske truck, you do have to stop at the scales. But they are easy to do – it’s just like driving slowly out of a car wash vessel.


Where to Stop for the Night

The first night, we stayed in a less-than-5 star hotel in St George, Utah. Normally we’d find an Air BnB but the pickings were slim, and the prices were high. The hotel room was a little dry, so neither my husband nor I slept very well that night. Also, there must have been some strong-smelling creature roaming nearby around at 4 a.m. because Gjalla woke me up and convinced me she HAD to go outside. I opened the door, expecting her to amble after me to the nearest patch of grass per usual, but instead, she bolted. She ran after some creature across the parking lot into the bushes. Whatever it was got away, thank goodness. Also, thank goodness Gjalla was in Ninja Mode and didn’t bark one bit.

Shortly after 7 a.m. the next morning, we left that hotel. It was one of those times when you’re tired but you know you’re not going to get any more sleep in your current location. Our destination that night was Kearny, Nebraska, but we ended up stopping for a small picnic break around noon. My husband was still dehydrated from the night before and also approaching a zombie-like state, so he took a small nap while I went to get lunch.

TIP: Keep a few pillows and comforter in your car when you make the big move. Not only do they help your princess puppy more comfortable, they also come in handy for pit stop picnic breaks


How to Time Your Drive – Do These Parts During the Day

On day 2, en route from St. George to Kearny, Nebraska, we had to go through the Rocky Mountains. The Rocky Mountains were definitely the hardest part. The moving truck was struggling under the heavy load and the sparse oxygen. I highly recommend doing that part during the day because even during the day (with a sporadic rain) those steep mountain curves were not fun. It took little imagination to picture how awful and scary those climbing curves would have been if it was raining and night.

The most stunning part of the drive was also on Day 2. Taking the I-15 past St, George, the freeway winds through the same terrain as Zion National Park and Capitol Reef National Park. The colors of the rocks are stunning. I feel sorry for the people that drive through that pass at night, having no idea how gorgeous the landscape is around them as they pass by.

TIP: Nebraska can get really windy at night, so a picnic pitstop might seem like a delay, but it can pay off later during those last hours of your drive, when you need to stay alert and sharp to fight the wind.

Roadtrip West Coast to Midwest

Making the Drive More Fun

One of the things that made the drive a little more fun was having my cell phone ready whenever we came up to the state borders so I could (attempt to) take a picture of the signs. I missed the entry to a few states because they came up before I was ready, so it was more like a challenge.

For long stretches of the drive, there won’t be anything to see. In those moments, I usually pretend I’m an anthropologist studying human life. I try to imagine what the people who live in those towns do for fun, or where the cars around me are headed. You must allow yourself to become fascinated by cow farms, crop patterns, and weird road signs like the one in Colorado along I-70 that says “ILIFF” , or the ones that warn you about hitchhikers.

prison hitchhikers

Staying Comfortable

Sitting in a car all day definitely took a small toll on my body. When I’m at conferences all day long, I use a golf ball at night to roll out my feet, especially my arches and heels. It feels amazing. I didn’t bring a golf ball on this road trip, but I truly should have. Even with cruise control doing most the work, my feet were hurting by the end of Day 2.

I decided to keep the air conditioning on for my easily overheated dog. That certainly kept her comfortable, but after awhile I caught myself driving with my shoulders slumped forward, the way up person who is cold hunches over in her chair. After a few hours of sitting like that without realizing it, my shoulders and traps begin to ache. For the next half-mile, I did shoulder rolls and a shoulder shimmy – it helped a bit.

My best idea was to bring stretch/exercise bands in my overnight bag. At the end of the day, using those to stretch my shoulders and back made my whole body feel so much better.


Another good way to keep the drive interesting is to fill those hours by communicating with friends and family (using your hands-free safe driving device, of course). It’s also a good idea for safety to let someone responsible know where you are, where you were, and/or where you are headed.  During our drive, my husband and I saw a car that had obviously rolled over and was upright in a small ditch. At the time we drove past, there was a gentleman sitting on a boulder talking to a policeman. Grateful he was already getting some attention, I spent the next half-mile thinking about what I could have done if I was the first to arrive or drive past that scene. Keeping loved ones posted about your progress and when you expect be at your next stop can help ensure  that if you do get into an accident somebody knows your approximate whereabouts.

The Gjalla-ry


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  1. Well done Danielle!! I’m so very proud of you. Love your description of scenery and your thoughts along the way. That’s a hugh adventure you were on. 👍👍😀❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I’ve seen that road before en route to Vegas and a few gymnastics meets in Arizona, but I didn’t see it this particular time. I think I may have been distracted by trying to think of more walkie-talkie jokes, and also looking back to admire the sleepy puppy I had with me.
      Thank you for reading, and for commenting.


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