Taking the Ultimate Road Trip

planning road trip roadside attractions travel

By Christy Johnson, founder & CEO of United Goods

Earlier this summer, I shared with you my Top Tips for Planning a Road Trip. I was able to put those ideas to use in August when my husband and I took what turned out to be 19 incredible days of U.S. travel. Our intent was to take a COVID-safe vacation in which we’d be outside, hiking, biking, and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) as much as possible.

Incorporating my own road-trip tips, we decided on the "loop the loop" style of route with three main destinations, and we left wiggle room to add in stops, which we did! Our hard plans—Airbnb rental days, dates of excursions we had to register for—were logged into our shared Google Keep list. We kept the rest of the schedule squishy for spontaneity. 

Then we packed our bags, and loaded up our truck with our inflatable SUPs, bikes, coolers of food, and everything we’d need (and, as it turns out, wouldn’t need) for the next 19 days. 

First destination: Breckenridge, Colorado.

From our home base of Minneapolis, Minnesota, we began the first leg of our trip going south through Des Moines, Iowa. We grabbed local takeout from Mia Patria Ecuadorian Kitchen, which was followed by malts from Snookie’s Malt Shop (marshmallow and butterscotch, if you're curious). The treats were a great kickoff to our trip.

From there, we continued on before staying the night in Omaha, Nebraska. In the morning, we picked up takeout from a local breakfast spot and ate in a nearby park. Then we drove until we reached our Airbnb in beautiful Breckenridge.

Our time in Colorado consisted of SUPing in Dillon Reservoir, hiking, and stopping into Mountain Top Cookie Shop on too many occasions (actually…nah). I even whitewater rafted for the first time! We did The Numbers section of the Arkansas River in Buena Vista, Colorado. It was unforgettable.

When we were in Breckenridge in 2017, we ate an incredible dinner at Breckenridge Distillery, so we had to revisit while in town. We dined outside and had another fantastic experience.

Second destination: Moab, Utah.

En route to Utah, we were told by a friend to take Scenic Byway Route 128 and stop at Fisher Towers. Even though it was raining, both recommendations were completely worthwhile and appreciated.

I'd never been to Utah before, and I was awed by its beauty. We had so much fun hiking Canyonlands National Park, including the challenging trail to the Druid Arch in the Needles District. On another day, we had the entire afternoon on the teal water of the Recapture Reservoir all to our paddleboarding selves. 

Our second hike in Utah was at Arches National Park, which was a red-rock playland and even cooler than anticipated.

Third destination: Page, Arizona.

Though we were sorry to leave Utah, it was time for our next stop. The above-mentioned friend suggested we take Scenic Byway 163 through Monument Valley for some “iconic southwest” views, and that did not disappoint.

In Page, we hiked the slot canyons and SUPed Antelope Canyon (OMG), and SUPed Lake Powell (OMG!) in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. We also hiked 6 miles of the Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park.

Extra destination: Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Mid-trip, we decided to extend our vacation one day to visit Santa Fe, a city I'd wanted to experience for years. I loved it so much: the art, the vibe, the food! We can't wait to return.

After our fun day in New Mexico, we sadly had to start wrapping up our trip. So we headed north-ish before getting takeout from Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que and staying the night in Kansas City, Kansas. The following morning, we again drove through Des Moines—where we stopped for banana cream pie Tornadoes from Dairy Zone (yum!)—before arriving back in Minneapolis.

 

We both had such an incredible time, and took lots of photos so we could recreate the experiences in our minds for years to come. We made a pact that we’d do another long road trip next summer. We’re already brainstorming the states we want to explore.

Tell me: What are your best road-trip tips? Also, If you’ve taken a similar vacation, where did you go? And if our excursion has inspired you, where do you wanna go?

Watch our Instagram and Facebook to see the State Icons that were inspired by our journey!


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