Hit the Road with this Epic Southwest USA Road Trip

Dreaming of hittin' the road? Ride along on this road trip romp and discover America's two lane gems.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to take an epic, month-long, cross-country road trip across the USA?

It was 8:37 a.m. when my husband and I pulled onto Big Timber Road. As we drove out of the parking lot, I went through the checklist in my mind, but I knew that if we’d forgotten anything, well, we were out of luck. For the next 31 days, we would be exploring America. Or, at least, a good-sized part of it.

It was a Friday in February, and we were headed towards San Diego. We had a good idea of how we were going to get there. We had no idea how we were getting back. We just knew we had to be home again on March 19.

Why, you’re probably wondering, were we doing this?

Besides the fact that road trips are awesome, I had a deeper purpose. The reason for this journey was to discover the good in America. Three days before we left I’d written in my journal:

I want to believe there is good everywhere. This is not a scientific endeavor, and if it were, my thesis would be suspect from the start. I’m seeking the good, so I’ll find it.

Boy, did I ever.

From an exuberant Mardi Gras parade in the Ozarks to hometown passion in Kansas, from a red flag day in New Mexico to the silent sand dunes in Colorado, we found wonder. As we left our home, I knew I wanted to experience unadulterated joy and share it as publicly and loudly as possible.

I did.

What we experienced on that cross-country journey was an American stream-of-consciousness through a joy-filtered lens. There were moments of sorrow, like driving the Trail of Tears and stepping foot on a Japanese internment camp, but those experiences added depth and complexity, making the happiness more poignant and our understanding of this country more profound.

I tried to capture it, capture all of it, in “Two Lane Gems, Vol. 1.” It’s a love letter to the American road trip, meant to share that joy.

Below is a day-by-day itinerary, a map showing the places we visited, and links to several stories from this journey.

I hope you’ll love exploring this American road trip with me, and that it might inspire you to plan your own adventure.

Related: planning a road trip? Check out my tips on road tripping on a budget

Day-by-Day Itinerary

From start to finish, here’s our day-by-day itinerary for our Southwest USA road trip:

  • Day 1: Elgin to Pulaski County, Missouri, 457.3 miles*
  • Day 2: Pulaski County, Missouri to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, 194.9 miles
  • Day 3: Eureka Springs, Arkansas to McAlester, Oklahoma, 219.3 miles
  • Day 4: McAlester, Oklahoma to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma, 210.4 miles
  • Day 5: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma to Palo Duro Canyon, Texas, 238.4 miles
  • Day 6: Palo Duro Canyon, Texas to Santa Rosa Lake, New Mexico, 217.3 miles
  • Day 7: Santa Rosa Lake, New Mexico to Albuquerque, New Mexico, 133.3 miles
  • Day 8: Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico to Albuquerque, New Mexico – Red Horse B&B, 126.9 miles
  • Day 9: Albuquerque, New Mexico – Red Horse B&B to Winslow, Arizona, 334 miles
  • Day 10: Winslow, Arizona to Cottonwood, Arizona, 111 miles
  • Day 11: Cottonwood, Arizona to Yuma, Arizona, 277.2 miles
  • Day 12: Yuma, Arizona, 37.2 miles
  • Day 13: Yuma, Arizona to Oceanside, California, 333 miles
  • Days 14 – 19: Oceanside & San Diego, California
  • Day 20: Oceanside, California to Joshua Tree National Park, California, 203 miles
  • Day 21: Joshua Tree National Park, California to Bishop, California, 324.5 miles
  • Day 22: Bishop, California to Tonopah, Nevada, 117 miles
  • Day 23: Tonopah, Nevada to St. George, Utah, 364.3 miles
  • Day 24: St. George, Utah to Deer Creek Campground, Utah, 214.2 miles
  • Day 25: Deer Creek Campground, Utah to Ken’s Lake Campground, Utah, 284.9 miles
  • Day 26: Ken’s Lake Campground, Utah to Alamosa, Colorado, 341.1 miles
  • Day 27: Alamosa, Colorado to Las Animas, Colorado, 250.5 miles
  • Day 28: Las Animas, Colorado to Wichita, Kansas, 396.5 miles
  • Day 29: Wichita, Kansas, 50.6 miles
  • Day 30: Wichita, Kansas to Keokuk, Iowa, 486.5 miles
  • Day 31: Keokuk, Iowa to Elgin, Illinois, 268.8 miles

*The mileage numbers don’t quite add up to the total of 6,479.5 that was on the tripometer when we got back. I cite user error (mine), even though I tried to be diligent about recording our daily mileage.

Epic Southwest USA Road Trip Map

Click on each number to see where we went. Not every location we visited is included, but every destination is. For example, we visited several spots in Yuma, Arizona, but only the city destination is on the map.

Epic Southwest USA Road Trip Itinerary

Follow our 31-day journey from the Chicago-area to San Diego and back.

Are you inspired to visit any of these places, or have you been to some of the same destinations? Please leave a comment below!

And, if you wouldn’t mind sharing this to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, I’d be forever grateful.

Love and wanderlust,

Theresa L. Goodrich signature
Have you ever wondered what it's like to take an epic, month-long, cross-country road trip across the USA? Includes day-by-day itinerary and stories from the road.
Suggested description: Have you ever wondered what it’s like to take an epic, month-long, cross-country road trip across the USA? Includes day-by-day itinerary and stories from the road.

3 thoughts on “Hit the Road with this Epic Southwest USA Road Trip”

  1. Some how, it never dawned on me just how many hundreds of miles you clocked EVERY DAY on this journey when I read Vol. 1 until I saw the table above. I’m not sure if it’s because you packed so much into each day in addition to being in the car, or if it’s because I’d totally dawdle if I had 30 days to design a road trip. When we drive from KC to PHX (about 1,200 miles), I always make it a three day trip so we don’t spend more than eight hours a day in the car and we can stop all the time. You guys are amazing!!!

  2. I’ve been to Chicago but it was so long ago and never to San Diego! You’re definitely making me want to plan a trip!

  3. Theresa,
    You have outdone yourself, what a fantastic trip both of you had. So much information and beautifully written.
    Thank you so very much it was definitely worth waiting for.

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