Monday, October 25, 2021

Road Trip Itinerary: From Des Moines to Seattle

Sitting in front of Mount St. Helen's National Monument. One of the many things we learned: 41 years later, the land around the volcano is still bare. If you grew up learning about this volcano (as I did), it's a site to see! This would have been one of many things we would have missed out on seeing if we didn't take make this a road trip.

When we set out on a road trip, we often have a vague itinerary. On lengthy trips, such as the one we just took from Des Moines, IA to Seattle, WA and back, I have an idea of where we want to end up, but it doesn't always work out that way. It's not until we're home and settled that I can look back on our trip to share our itinerary. 

Before we get to the good stuff, here's a few tips I use for our road trips:

  • Pack a cooler, utilize grocery pick ups. Walmart grocery pick ups saved my ass this trip. Since we already have a Walmart account, all I had to do was change the location of where I wanted to pick up from, order, and then show up at my assigned time. It saved me soooo much hassle since I was by myself this trip. We also pack a cooler every time we take a road trip. We fill it with premade sandwiches, wraps, meats, cheese, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables. It saves us thousands on food while traveling! 
  • I book Airbnb for our longer stays (usually two nights or more qualifies for a longer stay). I usually know ahead of time when we'll be in an area longer, due to the activities we want to do in an area or if it's centrally located to places we want to go. For example, our stay in Ogden, UT this trip. We actually did very little in Ogden, but it was nearby places we wanted to visit or could have visited: Park City, Bear Lake, Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, mountain hikes. My requirements for Airbnb's are beds for everyone, washer and dryer, free parking, easy access, and full kitchen. Shorter stays get hotel rooms. Not fancy ones either, mostly Motel 6 since they allow dogs with no questions asked (many hotels have weight limits on dogs and that won't work with a black, 90 lbs. lab who travels with us). We did have an unexpected longer stay in Salem, OR due to unforeseen issues and we wound up in a hotel for 3 nights due to lack of Airbnbs in the area.
  • I plan travel routes as best as possible. This includes as many "what if we go here..." as I can. For this trip, we took I80 out and I90 back home, so we wouldn't travel the same route twice. I booked nothing after Seattle because I didn't want to push the minis if they were done in the car. I'm thrilled I did that because, as noted in an earlier post, our day that we were supposed to make it through the state of Washington had us in Mt. Rainier National Park all day and we only made it two hours outside of Seattle.
Now, for the itinerary:

Day 1: Des Moines, IA to Scottsbluff, NE
  •    Stop at Fort Kearney; Kearney, NE
Day 2: Scottsbluff, NE to Ogden, UT 
  •     Scottsbluff National Monument
  •     Curt Gowdy State Park
  •     Bear River State Park
Day 3: Ogden, UT
  •     Great Salt Lake State Park
  •     In & Out Burger
  •     Hike in Watsatch mountains
  •     Hike Ogden River Parkway
Day 4: Ogden, UT to Twin Falls, ID
  •     Bonneville Salt Flats (we left for Idaho from the salt flats, which has us            driving through Nevada; this was a boring, no stops area, but we did                 research the Great Basin on the way, so there's that)
  •     Shoshone Falls
  •     Snake River
Day 5: Twin Falls, ID to Ontario, OR
  •      Craters of the Moon National Monument (Idaho, Falls)
  •      Dinner at The Habit in Boise, ID
Day 6: Ontario, OR to Salem, OR
  •       Crater Lake National Park
  •       Odell Lake
Day 7: Salem and Portland, OR
  •     Tour state capital area
  •     Powell's City of Books
  •     Voodoo Doughnuts
  •     Columbia River Gorge
  •     Wahclella Falls hike
Day 8: Northern Oregon Coast
  •     Cape Lookout State Park (Cape Lookout Trail)
  •     Haystack Rock
  •     Ecola State Park
  •     Astoria
  •     Sunset Hwy State Park
Day 9: Salem, OR to Seattle, WA
  •      Mount St. Helen's National Monument
  •     Olympia, WA - state capital area, walk in Watershed Park
Day 10: Seattle and Leavenworth, WA
  •      Troll under the bridge
  •      Hike along Wenatchee River
  •      Shopping in town
  •      Oktoberfest
Day 11: Anacortes, WA
  •      Whale watching tour (Islands of Adventures)
  •      Drive through town
  •      Pizza from Village Pizza
  •      Larrabee State Park
  •      Scenic sunset drive on Hwy 11
Day 12: Seattle, WA
  •      Pike Place Market
  •      Space Needle
  •      Green Lake
  •      Phinney Ridge neighborhood (walking, shopping, coffee shops, etc.)
Day 13: Seattle, WA to Moses Lake, WA
  •      Twin Falls hike
  •      Mt. Rainier National Park
Day 14: Moses Lake, WA to Rapid City, SD
  •      Stop in Spokane, WA
  •      Trail of the Coeur d'Alene
  •      Coeur d'Alene Lake
  •      Missoula, MT (hiking)
  •      Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Day 15: Rapid City, SD to Des Moines, IA
  •        Badlands National Park

I would easily do this trip again, but make our drive home longer by scheduling a day or two in Montana. Otherwise, by the time we hit Montana, we were just ready to be home. We changed up our itinerary a bit in the middle due to an unexpected fraud issue (that the bank cleared up right away), but it actually worked out well. Oregon was very much supposed to be a moving trip, with a different hotel stay each night. We had wanted to do the entire coastline, but it was easiest to have my husband book us one hotel while the fraud issue was cleared. That's how Salem became our base for our Oregon adventures and it worked out well. I say Oregon was supposed to be a moving trip, but honestly, this entire trip was one! That meant A LOT of time in the car. We took advantage of all of the day use areas and parking areas along the side of the interstate in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Those were much easier and more entertaining than regular rest areas because they often had playgrounds, hiking trails, or fields to run through. All of that is greatly appreciated when you spend days in the car.

Now that I have the confidence to take cross country tips by myself with three minis and a dog in tow, I'll off planning our next adventures!