One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

On the road again! Road Trip USA

Hellllo to everyone who likely forgot they got emails from me when I put new posts on my blog. 🙂 ha It has been a WHILE since we’ve been able to go anywhere. For most people, it was COVID that has limited their travel ability…but for me it was a long client project I committed to for 2019-2020 (and then extended into 2021 with COVID)… so my travel moratorium was initially self-imposed…but then lengthened for the same reason as everyone else’s! I don’t know about you but I am DYING to go somewhere new! I have always loved travel, but these last 2 years have really proven to me that travel is a lifestyle…and I’m a much better person when I have a vacation to plan. ha I don’t know how it is for other people… but for me, just having a trip coming up on the horizon makes the monotonous or boring days go by so much easier knowing I’m working towards that goal. I’m sure for others its a hobby meet up or a quiet weekend where they can finally fish or read that novel they’ve been dying to read- but for me… its experiencing someplace new. For sure.

Life isn’t much different for us than a couple years ago… still live in the house in Freetown, its still a bit under construction (3 years later) but really close to being done. Norah completed 3rd grade this past year in online school and did really well- but she misses her friends and clubs at her school, so has she opted to go back in the fall. (Much to my dismay because I was REALLY hoping she wanted to keep doing online for my own selfish travel reasons! ha)

I just finished a couple client conversions from one medical record system to another…and I was looking forward to NOT working 50+ hours a week for the first time in 2 years starting with this road trip…and then last week I took on a new job role for an existing client running projects for their IT department. So, now I get to road trip and juggle work. Fun…but necessary.

Kegan has been very busy with his home remodel business. We haven’t done any advertising yet because with my work schedule and Norah’s school schedule, there are days he still has to be home to supervise her…and he’s staying plenty busy with word of mouth references! Just so far this year he’s completed 6 total bathroom renovations, a new kitchen, a whole house of new flooring and about 15 other projects. Sometime this year we’ll likely activate the Facebook feed and start actively marketing some of his before and after work. He’s on Instagram as @mckinneyhomeservices if you want to check out any of his stuff.

Our trip this summer is focused on the US- mostly because of COVID restrictions and too many unknowns leading up to the summer months, but also because Norah has never seen much of the US that she can remember. Most of our USA travel occurred either before she was born or when she was too little to remember. She barely remembers just tiny glimpses of our house in California or Florida…she remembers just a couple things about our house in Georgia before moving to Ireland. (She remembers Ireland ha) so this kid has seen way more of Europe that most adults, but nothing in the US. Her top things to see were: Grand Canyon, Mt Rushmore, Washington Monument and the Statue of Liberty. We’ll at least be knocking out 2 of those this trip.

We initially planned to do a full US road trip… but the more I planned it out, then more green flags I kept adding to Google Maps and I quickly realized that to do it justice there was just no way we could cover the whole country in two months without just hitting the highlights, and that’s just not how we roll! So, we revised our plan to break down the whole country into 4 road trips. One each summer. Up first this summer: The “Inner West”!

We’ll start out with a drive to Memphis- shoot across Arkansas,Oklahoma and Texas to really start diving into “the west”. Northern New Mexico and Arizona, all over Utah, a trip out to Vegas, a bit of Southern Idaho, a lot of Wyoming and South Dakota… and then a few days working our way back home via Minneapolis and A bit of Iowa.

Future trips (dates to be determined):

The “outer west” – West Texas, southern NM and AZ, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin

The Northeast – Up through Michigan into Canada over to the Canadian side of Niagra Falls, Montreal, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania

The South – Starting in Washington, DC, down the coast into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, ending in Texas and back home

Not sure of the order of these yet, basically depends on if after this month of travel (we’ll be gone 24 days for this trip) we want MORE of the west or if we’re ready to switch it up for another side of the US.

So, now would be the time to unsubscribe from emails or alerts if you don’t want them as we are headed out and I’ll be posting almost every day so I can record everything we are doing. I anticipate a lot of landscapes and photo ops with various “Americana” – world’s largest wooden nickels and things like that. 🙂 Lots of food photos because we have scoped out meals in about every town we are staying in…not much to note on the hotels though. One of the reasons we could plan this is because with all of the client travel I did pre-Covid, I was staying at a Holiday Inn in a small town in Missouri. By getting the Holiday Inn credit card that had some huge “first 12 months” bonuses- I racked up CRAZY hotel points, and we were able to book EVERY NIGHT for free for the entire trip plus a week coming up this fall in Times Square in Manhattan… and STILL have enough for the next summer trip (once I make sure they don’t expire before then!) So, while it doesn’t thrill me that we are staying in 21 different Holiday Inns across the country… you just can’t beat FREE. A very rare opportunity that I do not take for granted that we have the ability to do. So by driving our own car and having free hotel- the cost for this month long trip is literally gas, food, admission to attractions and the sunk cost of wear and tear on the vehicle. Plus whatever USA souvenirs I come home with. I’m sure there will be a few. We’re giving Norah her own “souvenir budget” as well. She got cash to start in a little pouch and she has to budget and figure out how bad she wants something along the way. Economics is cruel but so is life. ha Maybe we can squeak out a life lesson or two on this trip 🙂

I’ve been planning this trip since February. I knew if we were going out west, that I would need to be on my game. We knew we wouldn’t be the only family with an idea for a go-west road trip in this year of COVID. I knew the national parks would be one of the last places to ease restrictions and there would likely be limits to entry and hotels would be hard to book if I didn’t do it early. I had all hotels booked by the beginning of March and still struggled to find a room at Yellowstone for July! Zion National Park was limiting entries into most of the park if you didn’t have a shuttle pass, but they stopped that just a couple weeks before we had to compete for a pass. I’m really going to have to work on my zen some of these places. haha We’ll see how I do with the crowds and completely unaware and obnoxious tourists.

I stalked the dining reservations for a couple restaurants for the exact day the reservations popped open for the day we could dine and had a recurring calendar reminder twice weekly to remind me to check in on a couple things that still werent open- like Las Vegas shows and Navajo Reservation Parks like Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon.

All in all, I’d say about 120 hours went into just planning and research for this trip. I hope its an amazing time to remember. 🙂 (and I hope I didn’t miss planning to see anything along the way!)

I was going to rent an SUV for the trip…but as its the year of the summer road trip… I found rental prices to be ridiculous so we prepared our chariot. ha

The 2014 Honda Pilot will be our carriage. When we bought it, I said I was driving it until it broke down…then I was fixing her again and driving her some more. ha It currently has 120,000 miles but I still enjoy driving it and its pretty comfortable. I think it’ll do fine..but you never know. We at least have the option that if it does break down, to leave it somewhere to be repaired for a couple weeks and rent a car at that time to continue our road trip, circling back at some later point. (We’ll deal with that- hopefully unlikely scenario- if we have to).

She got a full service inspection and an interior cleaning and I researched how to best outfit an SUV for a month long trip to keep things within reach and somewhat short of disaster two days down the road.

I bought seat back organizers for both of the backseats with built in USB ports and tray tables as my mother will be joining us for 7 days of the trip, meeting us in Salt Lake City and leaving in South Dakota. Even if we had a rhythm of where things went and which electronics charged where, adding another adult to the mix two weeks into the trip might mess it all up, so now she has her own space and charging spots!

Also bought a backseat middle seat organizer for all of our snacks. Front seat “crack” fillers since I always have my phone slide off my lap and into the abyss under the seat. It’s been a joke for a while. All of a sudden you’ll just hear it *clunk clunk* on all the seat parts on the way down. “Byebye, phone…” lol

Also, a cargo area organizer for the things we likely wont need much but need to take anyway: Binoculars, bug spray, a battery jumper, first aid kit, etc.

But really, the Pièce de résistance is the Apple TV I managed to rig up in the rear. The Honda has a rear entertainment system because it was FANCY back in 2014. lol But, it was 2014… so it only has RCA cable inputs. But my friend Amazon had this HDMI to RCA adapter setup… and luckily, there is a full 110v outlet in the console- allowing Norah to have the entirety of the world on the TV as long as we have Verizon internet reception! I also had a nice pair of comfy over the ear headphones with a long cord that I used to use at my desk that will allow us to listen to music up front or just talk without being subjected to whatever YouTube ridiculousness she decides to stream in the back. ha

For me, in the front- since I will likely have to do some work here and there while driving in between towns-or at a minimum catching up on my blog post that I fell asleep without finishing the night before- I bought a cigarette adapter power converter and mounted it on the front passenger area for plugging in my phone and my laptop. High tech fancy. The car can now charge 11 devices via USB while powering a laptop and an Apple TV. Rolling space station! ha

I’m excited to hit the road and excited to share all of our finds along the way! Thanks for following our caravan!


  1. Donna Strickland

    Awesome!!! Enjoy your adventure! I can’t wait to join you in a few weeks!!

    • Erin McKinney

      Its going to be a busy first week for me.. but then it should be smooth sailing and fun adventures 🙂

  2. Sherri May

    Cute shirts! Looking forward to hearing all about your trip.

    • Erin McKinney

      Thanks! Andrea made those for us! Her family has them on too for their trip to Michigan! We were swapping photos earlier today ha

  3. Deana Mabe

    Some day I need you to organize a trip for us, you’re awesome at planning trips. What parts of Texas will you hit?

    • Erin McKinney

      Just hitting the panhandle this trip shooting across to New Mexico. We are staying in Shamrock Sunday night. Next out west trip-we will spend some time in Southwest Texas- definitely want to include Big Bend National Park. That’s probably next summer 🙂

      • Deana Mabe

        Big Bend is HOT in the summer, but let me know your dates in advance because I’ve been wanting to go back there for a long time, I love the middle of nowhere feel of it. We took the kids for one spring break & they weren’t impressed- to quote Trenton “I hate people but there isn’t even enough people out here for me!” Lmao. The Fort Davis mountains were a hit & the McDonalds Observatory-definitely make reservations for one of their sky night parties – the stars are so big & bright you feel like you can reach up & touch them there. Make reservations at the least 6 months in advance to stay at the Indian Lodge in the Ft Davis mountains and probably a year in advance to get that lodge inside Big Bend National park. Unless you’re camping (I’ve done that too).
        We had to stay at a local hotel inTerlingua & that was ick! enough to cut our vacay short. TheMarfa lights are really something to see but once again, the kids were unimpressed- and we stayed a night in Marfa in the Elizabeth Taylor suite -the same hotel where the cast stayed for that old movie they filmed out there. It was nice but because it was historical the kids thought it was haunted
        The Panhandle has Palo Duro Canyon which is still on my Texas bucket list, it’s supposed to be something to see.
        Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing more about your adventures! I would’ve traveled like you when I was younger if I had the money then, now that I have the $ I don’t much have the urge! I did love Sedona & would go back there in a heartbeat if I had an RV

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