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Friday, June 17, 2016

My Cross Country Drive (Moving East Recap!)

Driving across the country is an experience. While you are driving, you keep saying to yourself "Why did I do this to myself.  Why didn't I just give a moving company all my money, my left limb and my first born to move all my crap across the country so I could just have a nice leisurely cross-country drive with company and a comfortable easy car".  But then looking back, I can look at a few photos, remember a few funny moments, and laugh.  And then I look at the bills and the money I saved and say it was all worth it (The moving truck along was going to run me >$5,000).  In the moment its always a stressful situation, a WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF, but looking back, it all worked out for the best.  A drive of this length, with all of your stuff in a pretty big Penske moving truck will come with a lot of laughs, some tears, and a wholllle lot of coffee and bathroom breaks. 

Like I said above, the moving company just to move my stuff was going to run me over $5,000.  And we would still have to drive one car back with the animals, paying for gas, hotels, food etc. After doing a lot of math, stressing out, and calling various companies, I decided to rent a truck. Once I decided I was going to rent a truck, I had to figure out which truck (what size), what company, and if we would tow the second car or drive it. There is a lot of work in moving across the country and after 2 big moves, I think I have the process down to a science. 

Truck Rental-- Penske was the cheapest option for a moving truck rental (with AAA and online discounts), furniture pads, a hand truck, and taxes (no insurance) came to $1208.65 (we decided not to tow the car as there would be no room for the critters in the truck, a longer rig to drive, and more expensive).  I denied insurance because my credit card company (Citi) offers car rental insurance and I called them 4 times to confirm they covered the size and weight of the truck.  Citibank did cover the insurance (except they did not cover the contents inside the truck, that was taken care of by my renters insurance that I set up before I went). Always check to see if you have insurance through your credit card or normal insurance, so you do not have to pay an additional fee at the rental company.  The key is to use your Citi card to pay for the rental, and deny any insurance by the rental company.  I also made sure to get the truck a few days early in case I had any issues with the truck, or god forbid the truck wasn't there when I needed to pick it up.  Having the truck a few days early also gave me time to pack the truck, with a few days to sell anything that didn't fit.  Luckily the process went smoothly, with the rental company calling me to tell me I could pick up the truck a day earlier than planned, and giving me a brand new truck that I never had a single issue with.  I spent a day or two driving my truck around Salt Lake City getting comfortable with its size an turning radius. 

Food- Food is one of the most important parts of a road trip.  I spent about $80 at Trader Joes, getting a ton of snacks, salads, sandwiches, fruits and vegetables.  This was key when we got into hotels late and nothing was open for dinner, or for when we needed a snack on the road.  We also bought cold brew concentrate which allowed us to mix up some coffee on the road.  This also kept the food costs down, and allowed us to eat healthier on the go options. 

Hotels-  Hotels were fairly easy and I had a good strategy.  I tried to stick to only Motel 6s because I knew they were cheap, pet friendly, and did not have an additional pet fee. All of the hotels were clean and our most expensive hotel was when we had to settle for a Super 8 in Murdo South Dakota when we were dodging a nasty storm. 

Tolls-  Tolls were an issue that I tried to prepare for. I knew there would be a ton of tolls, so I made sure each car had plenty of cash.  Thankfully, most tolls took credit cards so we never ran out of cash.  The bigger issue was getting off the highway and having to pay an "unmanned coin only toll".  Like no cash no cards, throw coins out your window into a basket. I did not have enough coins to throw into the basket but thankfully, I took a picture of the tolls I missed and could pay them online when I got back. 

Gas- I know gas can be hard to come by in the middle of the country.  Thankfully, there were always a lot of options in the busier spots along I-90.  I made sure to never let my gas get below a 1/4 of a tank, often filling it when it was still half full.  I was very on top of the gas gauge to make one less stress for the long haul East. We relied on our walkie talkies (best $40 purchase) to communicate when we were getting low on fuel, and the best places to stop (cell service can be spotty!). 

Total Trip Costs
Food:               $258
Rental:           $1208.65
Toll (car):      $37.05
Toll (truck):  $57.65
Gas (car):      $230.48
Gas (truck):  $574.80
Hotels:           $259.61
Park fees:      $52 
TOTAL:  $2678

2014 Route from CT to UT along I-80
The first time I decided to move all my stuff across the country was in 2014, when I packed up my life into my Nissan Armada and a U-Haul trailer and left Connecticut behind in my rear view mirror to head to Utah.  I did the trip in 3 days (2 nights in hotels) with Thatcher, Olive (dog) and Abby (cat).  The drive felt long but I was so excited, and having company in the car makes 3,409,098 x the difference.  You can read all about that trip here.  During that trip, I took the most direct and fastest route, with no scenic stops.  Leaving Connecticut and basically driving interstate 80 all the way into Salt Lake City.  

States Crossed
New York

2016 Route from UT to CT along I-90 to I-80
This time around, I wanted some different scenery, to stop at some National Parks, and to never have to drive along I-80 through Nebraska or Iowa ever again.  So this time around, I left Salt Lake City, headed North and across Wyoming, before hitting South Dakota and following Interstate 90 across to Pennsylvania.  Once in Pennsylvania, it was 84 to 9, avoiding 95 and all the traffic from New York City and down the Connecticut coast (yep, we decided to move on Memorial Day weekend).  

States Crossed
South Dakota

New York


All in all the trip was a huge success.  No accidents, no tickets, no traffic, no running out of gas.  I mean, if you know my luck, you would expect something catastrophic to happen.  A blown tire, an accident, someone running out of gas, or getting horribly lost.  I am glad to report none of that happened and maybe I need to have a little more faith.  Just a little bit of dog puke, stress, and not a lot of sleep. Oh and lets rejoice that everything (well, almost everything) actually fit IN the truck.  

Day 1: Monday May 23, 2016
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah to Casper, Wyoming
Time: 4:15 pm to 11:30 pm
Miles: 407
Co Pilot: Abby - Cat is angry and meowing incessantly. Got a little better towards the end. Let the beast out of its carrier and used a cardboard box to create a wall and protect the driver (me) from attacks. Audiobook is key to tune out the cat songs
Hotel: Motel 6- clean, newer, $54
Notes: Driving the truck (16' Penske box truck) around Salt Lake City, through my apartment complex and out of the city at rush hour was interesting (nothing like driving a horse trailer....). I learned quickly how to deal with the truck, and did not enjoy driving it through highway construction, or the winding climbs along 80 through Park City. I have to admit, I still clutch the steering wheel for dear life as I pass truckers on the highway. The seat doesn’t go back due to the wall and its wrecking havoc on my lower back. Walkie talkies are awesome and keep morale higher/ we have borrowed Lauren and Robs code names of "booty shaker" and "long dong" (thanks for the tip guys!). Everyone was exhausted by the time we reached the hotel (much later night than planned with a delayed start). It is still a miracle everything fit perfectly in the truck. The area before the Utah and Wyoming border was quite beautiful. Tuesday will be a good day filled with National Parks and a first time through South Dakota.

Day 2: Tuesday May 24th, 2016
Location: Casper, Wyoming to Murdo, South Dakota. Stops at Wind Cave National Park, Mount Rushmore, and Badlands National Park.
Time: 8:15 am to 10:15 pm (Central time zone change)
Miles: 423
Co Pilot: Abby - Cat is doing better, we found a happy spot (a cardboard box in the middle of the truck between the seats) and she seemed to settle on the seat. Added a lot of water to wet food and fed her that mid day to make sure she had some water in her. Still meowing loudly but less.
Hotel: Super 8 Murdo- clean, comfortable (free wifi and breakfast!) $88
Notes: The day started getting out of Casper Wyoming and into South Dakota. It was a Mcdonalds coffee and on the road. Our first stop of the day was at Wind Caves National Park. We didn't have a ton of time, and the cave tours were sold out, so we had a nice lunch in the picnic area and walked around the park. SO many of the CUTEST prairie dogs across the beautiful landscape. Next we stopped at Mount Rushmore where we saw the carvings up close, and learned more about the artists and the area. The drive up to the monument was beautiful through the Black Hills of South Dakota. We continued another hour to Wall South Dakota, where we began our 30 mile drive through Badlands National Park. The clouds were stormy, and lightning striking in the distance, making an amazing backdrop through this moody landscape. Abby came out of the car to see the Badlands, and Olive decided to throw up in the car. By the time we were out of the car and onto the highway, the craziest storm I had ever seen let loose on I-90. Complete downpour, intense lightening, no visibility and large hail came battering down on my pour Penske truck. Here in South Dakota, the exits are far and few and pulling off the highway wasn't safe with decreased visibility. I drove 40 mph in the right lane with my hazards on, white knuckled holding my steering wheel for dear life as semi's flew by, throwing a monsoon over my vehicle, blinding me, and a gust of wind that shook my truck. The 20 mile drive to the next town was one of the scariest drives of my life with the monsoon, all the water on the road, the hail, and the semis. Needless to saw we didn't make it to our target destination of Sioux Falls, but instead spent the night in Murdo, South Dakota, where we had trader joes salad, as well as cheese and crackers for dinner as everything was closed (lost an hour crossing into the central time zone). A crazy day filled with National Parks and Monuments, and one of the craziest storms I have ever driven through as we cross the highway just outside Tornado Alley.

Day 3: Wednesday May 25th, 2016
Location: Murdo, South Dakota through Minnesota to La Crosse Wisconsin.
Time: 9:15 am to 8:45 pm 
Miles: 501
Co Pilot: Abby - ups and downs. Quiet calm moments mixed with the cat attempting to jump on the dash board, meowing nonstop, and sleeping on my lap. Used the litter box in the car and finally drank some water in the car.
Hotel: Motel 6 La Crosse ($42)
Notes: It was Thatcher's "day to sleep in" resulting in a very late start. We were on the road by 9am, already 3.5 hours behind schedule as we did not make it to Siox Falls due to yesterdays storm. We left Murdo and made our way to the Minnesota border. We did not have any fun plans on this route, but friends suggested we stop at A: The Worlds Only Corn Palace and B: The Giant Jolly Green Giant statue- both in Minnesota. The corn palace was cool, dogs were allowed in the building, and we got some corny touristy gifts and a corn dog. The Green Giant was really underwhelming, but nonetheless a chance to stretch our legs. We had lunch (trader joes salads, bagel, hummus) at a rest stop in Minnesota. We were supposed to make it to Janesville, but ended up stopping in LaCrosse. We had dinner at Huck Finns outside (dog friendly patio) with a view of the Mississippi. We had Catfish Cheeks and Walleye, with a smoked salmon appetizer (all great!). Mosquitos were awful, and we were back in the hotel by 10. Thursday's plan is to make it to Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio.

Day 4: Thursday May 26th, 2016
Location: La Crosse Wisconsin to Richfield, Ohio 
Time: 7:00 am to 9:30 pm 
Miles: 640
Co Pilot: Abby - ups and downs. Quiet calm moments mixed with the cat attempting to jump on the dash board, meowing nonstop, and sleeping on my lap. Used the litter box in the car and finally drank some water in the car.
Hotel: Motel 6 Richfield ($62) 
Notes: It was our longest day of driving yet. We had to catch up on the 2.5 hours we were short on from the past few days, making it all the way across Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and most of Ohio. I knew this was also going to be the most boring day of driving, with minimal stopping at sights. The rest of Wisconsin was pretty, and my impressions is that the state is full of rivers, mosquitos, cheese, road construction and apparently "Water Park Capital of the World". Illinois was a place I never want to drive through again (although I do want to spend some time in Chicago). The issue was planning on how to get AROUND Chicago and all it's traffic. I decided to go I-294 instead of 90 through the city, and it seemed to work. Minimal traffic but MAN were there a lot of tolls. I am pretty sure I stopped at a toll every five miles and probably gave that state at least $30. After the stress of getting two vehicles (one a moving truck) through Chicago and dealing with their tolls (some were literally baskets you had to throw COINS ONLY into), we were glad to move onto Indiana. Indiana was also insanely uneventful, with boring scenery, road construction and again, more tolls. Then it was into Ohio for... You guessed it MORE TOLLS. Crossing these three states has definitely been the worst part of the trip, with its lack of interesting scenery and insanely high priced tolls (some as high as $20 to get through Ohio, per car!). The most exciting thing about Ohio was passing by a church with a sign stating "Free diapers and pregnancy tests". Because church is really where you want to go to see if you are pregnant and evaluate your options.....We got in late to the hotel and plan to check out Cuyahoga in the morning. Thursday night was spent planning routes on how to get AROUND New York traffic and the I-95 corridor on a Friday before a holiday weekend (hello Memorial Day weekend!). The plan is to jump on I-84 in Scranton PA and avoid 95 all together. Connecticut here I come! Friday is our fifth and last day of driving.

Day 5: Friday, May 27th, 2016
Location: Richfield, Ohio to Stonington, Connecticut 
Time: 10:00 am to 8:00 pm 
Miles: 640
Co Pilot: Abby - Cat has lost its patience.  And so has the driver.  I put her in the crate and put her in Thatcher's car for the day (in her crate).  Turns out she was quiet and just slept in her crate in his car.  I think she didnt like all the noise and the bumps from the truck and was happier in the front seat of the Toyota.  

Notes:  It was an easy drive, cutting through Ohio and Pennsylvania.  We decided to do a short detour north so we could come down 84 and route nine, avoiding all the traffic of New York City and the Connecticut Shoreline (I-95 corridor) on a Friday evening of Memorial Day Weekend.  We didn't have any stops planned, just straight driving alllll the way home. 

Overall, the move was smooth and an overall success.  I am glad I decided to take the route I did, seeing some amazing sites, and saving a lot of money by driving the truck myself.  I got to see three National Parks, Mount Rushmore National Monument, and some goofy sites along the way.  The drive was just one hurdle, and then there was the projects of unloading the truck, and then the worst part, unloading all the boxes.  Its a slow game of trying to get your life back in order, making your new house a home, and adjusting to life in a new place.  We have been back for a few weeks and so far, I love being back home but of course, I miss the mountains, the trails, the west and friends.  I am so excited for this new chapter of life, and can't wait to share my love of New England with you all.  Happy weekend and thanks for reading,


  1. I love how you broke all this down and took us along for the ride. This seems much more fun than I-80 straight across. :) If I ever have to do a long haul move, you are the first person I will come to! I hope Connecticut has welcomed you back with open arms!

    1. Thanks for reading! It was fun to track my journey in a "Dear Diary" sort of way! I think that's why I love blogging so much! And I hope this post helps someone else with their cross country move one day (because man it is a big task!).

      When are you coming to CT I would LOVE to plan a get together!

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