Guest post by dzr1107
Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.
My brother got a new job on the East Coast, so this trip is our journey of driving cross country with half his belongings in his Subaru. We drove 7-9 hours a day, but still managed to see some sights along the way.
Day 1: San Francisco to San Bernardino
I flew into San Francisco from Charlotte, took an hour Uber ride to Berkeley, and we drove 7 hours on Rt 580 to I-5 to San Bernardino. We had to make up time, so we didn’t have any stops, although I was pleasantly surprised there’s gas every 30-40 miles in the middle of California. The haze was also more significant than I recall in previous years. We stayed at Sure Stay Best Western San Bernardino. It was nice enough for a night, but was surprised they asked for a copy of my license and credit card. We also woke him to the smell of weed and someone being taken out on a stretcher. Picking hotels an hour out is a great way to live life.
Day 2: California to Arizona
- Joshua Tree National Park (CA)
- Keys View (CA)
- Cholla Cactus Garden (CA)
- Hotel McCoy (AZ)
- Broadway Bat Bridge (AZ)
We got an early start and drove just over an hour on I-10 and Rt 111 to the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center, which is located in town and a few minutes outside of the west park boundary. It costs $30 for a 7 day pass. We continued on Park Blvd and stopped at a parking lot before Hidden Valley to take a scenic walk on some rock climber trails to see the Joshua Trees and Yuccas. Joshua trees are significantly more common in the northern portion of the park and are an obligate to the Sonora desert. We were going to skip Keys View overlook, but I’m glad we didn’t. We had clear views of the Indio Hills, Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, and the Whitewater Wind Farm.
We then headed south on Pinto Basin road, with a short walk through Cholla Cactus Garden and Cottonwood Spring. It took us about 4 hours to make it back to I-10. It took us another 4 hours to make it to our overnight destination, Hotel McCoy in South Tucson. Hotel McCoy is a newer hotel with very clean rooms and a theme of “art, coffee, beer, and wine.” How can you go wrong? At dusk, we visited Tucson’s own bat bridge, and witnessed several hundred bats leaving the overhang and departing into the night sky.
Day 3: Arizona to Texas
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (AZ)
- Airplane Boneyard (AZ)
- Scenic Drive – Overlook (TX)
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park (TX)
We drove approximately 35 min over West Gates Pass Rd, which provides a very scenic view of the valley (arguably, better than the nearby Saguaro NP) to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Musuem, which I highly recommend. It has predominantly outdoor exhibits and touches on all of the natural wildlife found in the desert. We spent 3 hours there, but could have easily spent more. It’s well run, informative, and almost a mini-zoo.
We drove back into Tucson and did a drive by of the airplane boneyard, the largest in the world. You can take a bus tour from the nearby Pima Air & Space Museum, but note, you need a 10 day ahead reservation so they can give you security clearance. I would like to check this out next time we go back. We were able to see a small portion of the boneyard from Escalate Road, Kolb Road, and Irvington Rd., but not enough to completely understand the magnitude.
After getting back on 10, we proceeded to Los Cruces for a late lunch and gas before heading to El Paso. In El Paso, we stopped at a scenic overlook that shows the city of El Paso, the border wall, Sebastian’s X, and Mexico. We picked up Rt 62 and drove through nothingness for approximately three more hours to Carlsbad NM.
On the way, you pass through a portion of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This park is very scenic, but accessed entirely by hiking/camping. There’s far more greenery than I expected and I think it would be worth doing some hiking and camping here if time allows.
There are numerous hotels in Carlsbad, but they host a lot of oilfield workers, making it a bit harder to find a hotel room without notice.
Day 4: New Mexico to Texas
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park (NM)
- Oakwood BBQ & Beer Garden (TX)
- Haymaker (TX)
We left at 7:45 am and drove 35 minutes back down Rt 62 to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in order to catch the first elevator at 8:30 am. It cost $30 for both of us to ride the elevators, which run pretty continuously. You can also hike down, which takes about an hour. The caverns are amazing. We did the 1.3 mile Big Room loop, which was dimly light and not claustrophobic. This is a must do if you are anywhere in the area and was especially nice being the first people down (8 max in the elevator). We did not have to deal with echoing voices.
Afterwards, we drove county roads with heavy truck traffic and numerous oil rigs until we picked up I-10 and headed to North Austin. While we didn’t go downtown, we met friends at Oakwood BBQ, a non crowded and friendly local BBQ joint and finished with a nightcap at Haymaker, one of many bars on Manor Rd.
Day 5: Texas to Arkansas
- Eiffel Tower (TX)
- The Waters Hotel (AR)
- Hot Springs National Park (AR)
- Hot Springs Mountain Tower (AR)
- Superior Bathhouse Brewery (AR)
- Ohio Club (AR)
We drove through Dallas and took an Atlas Obsurca side trip to Paris, Texas to view their mini Eiffel Tower. It added about 30 minutes to the trip, and isn’t a must do. It’s in the parking lot next to the civic center and their Veterans’ Memorial.
We then drove straight over to Hot Springs, Arkansas where we stayed at The Waters Hotel. I highly recommend this hotel- it’s clean, historic, and best of all, it’s in the middle of Bathhouse Row. With all the tourists (and it wasn’t that busy), it was nice to not worry about parking and you could walk to everything, including a private trails.
We took the short cut trail from behind the Visitor Center -straight up hill – to the NP Mountain tower and paid $8 each to ride the elevator 50 floors to the viewing deck. We were rewarded by 360 degree views of the rolling hills of Arkansas and a panoramic shot of Hot Springs. We were there at 7:15pm and had the viewing platform to ourselves. It closed at 8pm. With more people I’m not sure it would be worth it and it’s a pretty quick stop.
We hiked back down and walked Bathhouse Row. There are only 2 bathhouses that function as bathhouses currently. They both close between 5-6 pm, so we did not partake. However, Superior Brewery (former Bathhouse) is open until 9pm, and they offer 19 different beers brewed using thermal water. It felt like a good compromise.
We then stopped at the Ohio Club, mostly because we are from Ohio, but it’s a cool bar with live music and was frequented by notorious mobsters back in the day.
Day 6: Arkansas to Ohio
This was primarily a driving day. We left early from Hot Springs and drove around Memphis to Southaven, Mississippi to have delicious pizza at Lost Pizza and visit with a friend. They warned us to not go into Memphis because crime is getting worse. We opted not to go to their civil rights museum and continue through to Nashville. We hit the city and rush hour in the middle of a severe thunderstorm, so we hightailed it to Elizabethtown, KY to spend the night. We finished up the next day driving through Louisville, Cincinnati, and Columbus to arrive at our destination in Northeast Ohio. If it wasn’t day 7 of a road trip, we probably would have stopped along the Bourbon Trail that’s sprinkled around the Louisville area, as well as try the Shawshank Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio.
Traveled in June 2019