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Lessons From The Road: Insights From My Cross-Country Move

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By Melanie VanDerveer on June 19, 2024 at 5:00 PM EDT

Long road trips across the country can be a fun adventure, but it can also be a huge learning experience. I recently did a four-day road trip to move clear across the country from PA to NV and I learned a lot along the way. 

I’ve never driven that far before and knew going into this I was winging it in every way possible. While it was a successful trip with only a few minor issues, it’s not a trip I’ll ever do again. And because I learned so many things that I was totally unaware of during this trip, I wanted to share my experience in the hopes that if someone is about to take a long trip, they don’t have to learn the things I did the hard way.

Here is some useful information and a breakdown of what I learned on my cross-country road trip!

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Road Trip Lesson 1: Pet-Friendly Hotels Don't Necessarily Mean Cat-Friendly!

pet friendly hotels
Melanie VanDerveer

If you’ve ever traveled with cats, you know just how tough it can be to find a cat-friendly hotel. I had no idea that this was such an issue until it was too late.

I can’t tell you how many hotels I called and asked if they are pet-friendly. After they reply yes, I ask if cats are welcome. I ended up booking a hotel on day two that was not cat-friendly, or even pet-friendly, even after being told on the phone that they were.

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We drove nearly nine hours, and arrived at the hotel to check in, only to be told we couldn’t stay there and wouldn’t get a refund on the cost of the hotel for up to 10 days. I had to quickly find another hotel that would accept the cats. I did thankfully (and they were cheaper and much better!) so it all worked out, but not before some anger set in on how the front desk woman treated me. 

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Gas: 85 Vs. 87: Who Knew? (Not Me!)

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One thing I learned the hard way, but also kind of funny way, was that 85 gas is the same as 87 gas in higher elevations. While we were getting gas near Denver, CO, we were met with 85 gas labeled “Regular” instead of 87, which was labeled as a premium gas option.

Imagine my surprise watching my son pump gas, I look over at the pump for some odd reason and see he is pumping 85. I screamed out of the car, “You’re pumping the wrong gas!”

My son then flings the gas pump out of the truck spewing gas everywhere. We had a moment of panic. But we all could see that the 85 gas says “Regular” so I figured maybe I should google it and that’s how I found out that 85 gas is often used in higher elevations. Phew!

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Speaking Of Higher Altitudes...

Denver
Melanie VanDerveer

I never really thought about higher elevation areas because I’ve lived in NJ, PA, NV, and AZ all my life. I remember seeing instructions on a box of cake that higher altitudes need some adjustments from the norm, but that’s about it when it comes to differences. 

On the way to a ski lodge that we stayed at just outside of Denver, a bag of chips sitting in the back seat unopened exploded! We assumed it was in direct sunlight for a while and that’s what caused it to burst.

But then the next day, my liquid eyeliner exploded in my hand. That’s when we put two and two together to realize that the higher altitude is to blame. We later found other things like liquid soap, lotion, and shampoo had also somewhat exploded making a mess in the bag!

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Gas Station Proximity Through Certain States Gave Me Extreme Anxiety During Road Trip

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Melanie VanDerveer

While driving through Kansas, I realized that gas station options were limited. Stopping every three or so hours to fill up became a struggle through the nothingness of the flattest state I’ve ever driven through.

Then when we hit Utah, it just got worse. My anxiety was through the roof seeing that we had to travel hundreds of miles before seeing any type of civilization.

And while some people love an open road, I’m not a fan. I need to know there is a way to get help if something happens on the road. I need to know we aren’t going to run out of gas because there are no available gas stations. I barely breathed through the entire state thanks to this.

While Utah has some seriously beautiful scenery, it wasn’t worth the anxiety I felt. Will I ever drive through these desolate states again? Not a chance!

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My Road Trip Conclusion And Final Thoughts

road trip
Melanie VanDerveer

I was not excited about the four-day road trip. Everyone I talked to about it knew I was not excited. I tried to psych myself up to make this a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and try to enjoy every moment possible. It didn’t start out so great with the cats hating the car, but once I gave them a sedative that the vet gave me, they were pretty good. I didn’t even have to drug my older cat after the first day, and my younger cat only needed a pill before we got in the car in the morning, then he was good the rest of the day. 

The scenery was pretty in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. I could have done without Missouri, Kansas, and Ohio, but honestly have no hate for them. They were just familiar and boring. 

If you’re going to go on an extended road trip, here’s my advice. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Make sure you have enough water and snacks in the car so you don’t have to stop often. Eight to nine hours of driving seemed like a good amount of time for us, and it honestly went way faster than I originally expected. If you’re traveling with pets, be sure you double-check with the hotel if they are pet or cat-friendly, even if the website claims they are. 

If you plan your route ahead of time, and I suggest you do, be flexible if changes pop up. For us, driving further than planned worked better. We originally didn’t expect to arrive in Vegas until Monday morning, but ended up making it there on Sunday evening. 

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It was certainly an adventure and we made the best of it every chance we got, but driving cross country isn't something I think I'll ever do again!

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