I recently returned from a trip to Arizona, helping my daughter, Allie, move to Phoenix to pursue a PhD at Arizona State University. We drove from Rhode Island to Arizona. We drove 2,699.3 miles, over three and a half days, with two cars, a UHaul, four adults, a cat, and, a hedgehog.
Day 1 - Bristol, RI to Springfield, OH - 764 miles
Day 2 - Springfield, OH to Emporia, KS - 764 miles
Day 3 - Emporia, KS to Albuquerque, NM - 674 miles
Day 4 - Albuquerque, NM to Phoenix, AZ - 419 miles
With the first day being the longest drive, we traveled approximately 12 hours on the first three days and 6.5 hours on the last day. We lost an hour each day with the time zone change. Choosing "no tolls" when planning the route took us off the main highways and only added an hour to the overall trip. I believe we took a more scenic, rural route.
While I expected the drive to be tedious and exhausting, it was relaxing and enjoyable. We switched drivers about every 3-4 hours and stopped for bathroom breaks and gas every few hours. As we started each day at 5 am, in the dark, we ended each night around 5 pm, had dinner after the day's drive was complete, and got proper rest each night.
Traveling with Pets
Draco is a 20lb, easy-going, cool, black cat, but we didn't know how he would tolerate a four-day road trip. Fortunately, he remained cool, thanks to his mom's preparation. Allie outfitted the back seat with a pet hammock that covered the backseat and prevented Draco from getting on the floor. He had comfortable blankets and a portable litterbox, which he never used in the car. Draco and Winston, a hedgehog, slept all day, which is what they do anyway. We stayed in pet-friendly hotels each night. Some charge a fee, and others are free. Winston had a full setup each night with a five-foot cage, running wheel, heat lamp, hay, food, and water. It was easy, but I didn't do anything.
The year 2020 will be memorable for the global pandemic, Covid-19. It wasn't the best time to drive across the country, sleep in different hotels every night, have an extended stay in the country's hottest zone, and fly home. Each US state has different guidelines and is in various phases of re-opening. To our dismay, there were no indications of a serious pandemic in our mid-west stops. Many, maybe most, people did not wear masks. We stayed at national chain hotels, and they were all excellent at following guidelines. My wife, Erica, did a thorough cleaning of the room each night, and we were all cautious.
New Mexico was the standout for implementing guidelines. Everyone wore masks and stores strictly enforced distancing. In Arizona, we had the impression they just realized the country was in a pandemic. There was a sign in the hotel indicating masks are required as of June 20. Really? In Rhode Island, they have been required since April.
Thanks to a doctor friend, we had two N-95 masks for the trip home. Both flights were full, with not an empty seat to be found. We wore the N-95s for 11 hours, with only a few minutes of relief for water and a small snack. Moving to the exit row with just two seats for the five-hour flight made is feel safer, but it likely didn't make a difference.
Unfortunately, the most entertaining moment was provided by me. Each day started with coffee and a gas fill-up. I pulled into the gas station, started the gas pump, and went into the store for milk. After paying for the milk, I hopped back in the Jeep and pulled away, taking the gas line with me. The hose, which was once connected to the pump, was now dragging behind the car. As gas poured from the pump onto the pavement, I ran inside to alert the attendant of the pending 'breaking news' explosion. I was a little panicked. Little did I know this was a regular occurrence; the hose has a quick release and shutoff. The attendant casually walked out with a bucket of sand to clean up the gas and had the hose reconnected with a minute or two. In the other car, my daughter was disappointed she didn't get a photo of the event and proceeded to laugh for 20 minutes and share the experience with family via text.
The last day's drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona was fantastic. While the terrain changed by the day during our journey, it changed by the hour for the last 420 miles. We went from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 117 degrees in six hours traveling from the flat desert of New Mexico through the mountain ranges and into the desert of Arizona. We didn't see cacti until we started to descend from the pine tree rich 6,000 ft mountain elevation into Phoenix's valley. As the temperature rose, the cacti appeared. It was a breathtaking view for us New Englanders.
Because the purpose of our trip was moving, not sightseeing, we are thinking about a more leisurely trip across the US in the future.