The Great American Road Trip

The Trip of a Lifetime

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to claim this was a “trip of a lifetime”.  First, my apologies for not having my hands on the keyboard for the last several months, but as I will explain during this post, we had a lot going on!

We left our Julian cabin on February 17th on our way to South Bend, IN.   We returned home to Julian, CA on June 2nd.   Joy, Rocco and myself traveled all over this beautiful Country of ours for 106 DAYS!  Let me repeat that our family has been on the road in our little two door Jeep Wrangler for 106 DAYS, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  While I was glad to come home, the Great American Road trip is not something any of us will ever forget!

The reason I started this blog was for events and moments like this.  I wanted this blog to be a digital archive for our family.  Something that we can all look back on for years (generations?) to come and share our collective history and lessons that I feel are important to remember.  Adding the section on travel was a stroke of genius (thank you Joy!) and over the next several weeks, my plan is to write a blog post on each segment of our trip.  I plan to add photos, commentary and key things that we either learned or really enjoyed.  Being able to write about our experience, will hopefully add much more richness and story telling then looking at a photo can portray.  

I also want to take a moment to thank Joy for not only supporting but going all in on making this trip possible.   From the time Notre Dame won the National Championship in 2023, the idea of this trip had started brewing in my head.  While it was amazing, the flying back and forth from San Diego to the tournament games was exhausting.  Given my work was fully remote, and we had been thinking about selling our house, for me the trip made all the sense in the world.  But for Joy, she had to give up a lot.  The home where we raised our kids.  Her friends that she had made over the years.   Her career that she worked HUNDREDS (thousands?) of hours to build as the “Jedi Knight” master trainer.  Moving across the country from her closest friend, Gabriella. Around October of ’23 we developed a plan.  This plan was something that we worked on together, and it made all the difference in the world as we both fully embraced our first true journey as Free Birds!   We executed the plan (and then some)!  I could not be more appreciative of my wonderful wife for not only allowing this trip to happen, but for making it something neither of us will forget for the rest of our lives! 

Facts and Figures

I should have done a better job of documenting this along the way, but here is my best shot at some interesting facts about The Great American Road Trip:

  • 15,000+ miles driven. (Car had one oil change, tire rotation and connector replaced).
  • 250 hours in the car together.
  • 20+ States stayed in overnight, another 10+ States driven through.
  • 30+ cities visited.
  • 2 times pulled over by police (New Mexico and Maryland) for speeding, ZERO tickets! Just be cool!
  • 4 Airbnb’s (South Bend, IN, Long Beach, NY, Charlotte, NC and Philly, PA).
  • 25 nights in hotels.
  • 2 “mini road trips” of 10+ days.
  • 75+ times did the “walk” on Notre Dame campus. (I will dedicate a post to the “walk”).
  • Countless tolls paid.
  • Unknown Fireball shots consumed during 15 Notre Dame Lacrosse games attended!
Back of the Jeep. I got pretty good at the loading and unloading process. I never forgot Rocco in the car!

While we were away....

It was a remarkably quiet 106 days while we were away, not much happened. But I thought I would just jot down a few things from memory:

  • Sold the Carmel Valley house where we raised Marco and Gabriella.
  • Joy put her extremely successful Pilates and Jazzercise instructor career on hold.
  • I retired from corporate work.
  • Gabriella turned 21!
  • Speaking of Gabriella, she flew out FOUR times during our time away. Two of those times completely solo – you GO GIRL!
  • Marco graduated from Mendoza School of Business with a MSM degree.
  • Gabriella finished her junior year at LMU. (Only 2 more tuition payments, baby!).
  • I think Notre Dame Lacrosse won a few games, maybe even the National Championship again, but I am not completely sure.

General Observations and Key Learnings

I will cover this in more depth as I write about each segment of our trip, but there are a few general observations that Joy and I discussed along the journey that I wanted to share.

  • Small cities are really nice. We enjoyed Memphis, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Charlotte in particular.  They provide all the variety in terms of food and fun places to visit without all the “nonsense” of a big city.
  • I became a “lake guy”! We loved our time in Glen Arbor, MI which is on Lake Michigan.  We visited Lake George, NY.  Granted, we visited in the off season, so it was not crowded. But the idea of being on the water, with a small boat, sounds very appealing.  TBD on what the future holds, but I am now officially a “lake guy”.
  • The United States is massive. There are so many beautiful places to see that while we saw much of the Country we had never seen before, there is so much more to see.
  • You appreciate a location so much more when you drive there and stay there for a few days. While we had traveled to many of these same locations previously, it was often for a weekend. You fly in, you got to your event, you fly out.  You don’t really get a chance to appreciate the local culture.  Living in an area, even for just 3-4 days you get a much better feel for the city.
  • Some of the most beautiful places we either stayed in or drove through: West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina.  I can see why these are popular destinations for people to mirgrate to.
  • I think sometimes people make up their impressions of a place just by what they hear or read about, that is a mistake. Every place we visited had something amazing to experience.
  • Every State has wineries. We visited many, but every State has something.  I am not saying it is good wine, but they have wine.
  • Gas station food is good. It is not like in California.  These rest stops have legit food!
  • Beef is 10X better in the Mid-West and the South than in CA.
  • Food ALWAYS comes out hot in a restaruant! Not one single time did I have to return food for being cold.
  • Mid-West people are so unbelievably nice. One example is that one time I was walking through a crosswalk, and the car that was nearest to theline actually backed up.   I am not joking!  
  • The Jeep Wrangler is a great travel car. Maybe not the most comfortable, but it can handle any terrain and weather condition without a worry.  There were many times we were thankful to be driving that little Jeep Wrangler.
  • Many States have Service Plaza’s. They are fantastic.  Right off the freeway, great bathrooms, multiple food options, gas station and snacks.  Back on the road in under 10 minutes.  Ohio has the hands down best Service Plaza’s.  Just about the only nice thing we can say about Ohio (sorry!).
  • Joy is an amazing travel partner! She is so easy-going and so much fun to travel with.    We spent 250 hours in a car together and she was amazing, and we had so much fun!  Not only are we still married, but I think we are closer now than ever.
  • Rocco is a stud travel dog. Never had to stop and let him out the entire trip.  Was great in the Air BnB’s and hotels, I never got a call to come get him because he was barking.  Hats off to you Rock!  Remember, “Don’t’ F&ck with the Rock.”
We stayed on Rockne Drive while in South Bend. A few lacrosse players lived down the street, so they had these shirts made and gave me one.
This picture was taken the moment we pulled up the driveway in our Julian cabin. Home sweet home!

5 thoughts on “The Great American Road Trip”

  1. Hi Anthony,
    I enjoyed reading the first description of you and Joy “The Great American Trip”
    I smiled knowing that both of you made the decision together as a couple.
    Looking forward to read the next chapter.

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