The Best and Worst of America

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In 2014, I drove–well, let’s not lie, my husband drove–across all 48 states. We’ve explored each state, getting to know the people, seeing the sites, and experiencing all of their highways. We’ve seen some amazing parts of the country with jaw dropping beauty, but we’ve also been to some of the crappiest parts of our country.

In this post, I want to share with you the best and worst of America from what we experienced in our 200 day road trip across the country. Let’s start with the bad, because it’s always fun to laugh at the bad stuff.

Atlanta traffic

Worst Traffic: Atlanta, Georgia. The picture above is from the Walking Dead, but the traffic on the left side of the image is a very accurate depiction of what it’s like to drive in Atlanta. This picture could’ve been taken at any time of the day in Atlanta, where six-lane roads look like mall parking lots at Christmas time.

Worst Roads: New Jersey. Don’t get me started. Potholes, tolls, trash, graffiti, grass growing through every crack in the road, incredibly confused road layouts. I’m not entirely sure that they don’t shoot all apocalyptic movies in New Jersey where the road system looks like it was abandoned 30 years ago.

Worst Construction: Indiana. With careful planning, Heath and I largely avoided traffic and road blocks. But in Indiana, we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic mid-day on a Tuesday for hours in the middle of the nowhere fighting lane closures. Plus, the lanes that were open were filled gloriously with potholes.

Scariest Drive: The Bay Bridge in Maryland. Imagine a five-mile bridge soaring high enough over the rough waters for ships to pass beneath you. Add clouds, strong winds, and a single guardrail keeping your RV from being blown into the dark bay waters. We crept across the bridge with cars zooming past us at 60 mph. I tried to refrain from looking out the windows.

Heath says this scary drive ties with the drive from Hartford into New York City, where Heath almost took off the top of our RV by taking an exit with 8-foot clearances.

Worst Tolls: New York. The entire state of New York seems to be made of toll roads. Unlike Texas, they don’t let you pay by mail. If you don’t have the cash, they write you a ticket for you to mail in a check. Obviously, they aren’t aware that it’s 2015.

Worst Scenery: Iowa. I shouldn’t need to explain this one. Picture nothing but corn fields for six hours straight. I’m bored just typing about it.

Worst State for RVers: California. Everyone knows that California’s prices are inflated, making RV parks cost anywhere from $60 to $175 a night. But the entire state seems fairly against RVs, complete with small roads, fewer RV parks, and no overnight Walmart parking.

Worst State in the Entire USA: New Jersey

There is nothing good about New Jersey. Run down buildings, bars on all the windows, that uneasy feeling that on any given corner someone is waiting to mug you. The entire state feels like it’s been declining for years, and we saw no hope of it ever coming back. We drove the entire length of the state from NYC to Philadelphia, a miserable drive.

If you’ve ever seen How I Met Your Mother, every anti-New Jersey joke is entirely true. Never go there. Also, our cab driver in New Jersey hit a baby carriage. So there’s that. (To be fair, we drove through Princeton University at night and it felt like driving through the set of Hogwarts.)

States to Never Visit Again, So Help Me God:

  1. New Jersey
  2. North Dakota
  3. Iowa
  4. Kansas
  5. Nebraska

Okay that’s it with the bad, let’s get into what was awesome in America:

Best Roads: West Virginia. I know what you’re thinking. West Virginia is a state? A lot of people have asked us this on the road and yes, it’s a state alright. And hands down, it has the BEST roads in the country. Wide open, smooth, no construction or traffic, just plenty of room to cruise. (Texas ranks second on this list)

Best Scenery: Pacific Coast Highway in California. Oceans, mountains, beaches, state parks. There is no shortage of beauty. In fact…

Best State Park: Kirk Creek Campground in California. “Camp Awesome” as we call it is a small state park along the Pacific Coast where the sound of waves crashing into the cliffs can lull you to sleep. There’s a short hike from your campsite down the cliffs to the coastline, where you can climb on rocks out to the water and pose dramatically.

Kirk Creek Campground California

Most Unexpectedly Beautiful: Alabama. There are some places that you expect to be beautiful like Montana or Colorado. But we were surprised by the beauty of northern Alabama. The southern tip of the Appalachians provided a beautiful hill country on our drive from Atlanta, plus the southern coast of Alabama has a handful of beautiful white sand beaches. Who would’ve thought?

Best National Park: Glacier National Park. If California ranks first in scenery, Montana is a close second. Glacier National Park takes you all the way up to Canada, although we didn’t get that far. Once reaching the top of the mountains where it was 40 degrees and raining with piles of snow already on the ground–in JULY–we decided we wanted go back down to warmer weather. But we did enjoy hikes through the beautiful mountain scenery up to this beautiful place called Avalanche Lake where, as you can see from the waterfalls coming down the mountains, the lake is created from melted snow.

Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park

Best National Park Campground: Jacob Lake in Kaibab National Forest, Arizona. Located about 40 miles north of the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, this campground is at a staggering 8,000 ft elevation. (Our poor RV engine.) Since we visited Arizona in June, we spent the day at the Canyon in 100-degree temperatures to be greeted with a cool, 50-degree evening at this campsite nestled in pine forest. Confusingly enough, there is no lake here and the rangers will laugh if you ask them how to get to the lake.

Best Place to Visit This Summer: Pacific Coast Highway in California. Are you convinced yet? If there is one road trip you need to take in your life, it is this one. Bring jackets and a camera.

Best Place to Visit This Fall: Vermont. Apple orchards, maple syrup, adorable old towns. Everything about Vermont is adorable and beautiful. The mountains are all adorned with colorful trees carved out by gentle streams. Visit during the first week of October, go apple picking, and eat as many apple cider donuts as you can find. Also, don’t be afraid to park in the middle of a bridge, where you can take pictures of beauty like this:

Vermont in October

Best City: Nashville, Tennessee. History, music, culture, beauty, plus some of the nicest people we’ve met all reside in Nashville. Nashville is the city that reminded us most of home, complete with plenty of southern food, plus they all say y’all–something we missed hearing in the northern states!

Best Small Town: Jackson, Wyoming. Hands down, Jackson is the most adorable town in America. It is the idyllic small town nestled in the middle of ski resorts and a quick drive from Grand Teton National Park (Our 2nd favorite park) and Yellowstone National Park. We worked at Persephone Bakery while in town, the iconic small town bakery that you can smell from a mile away. Their gluten-free chocolate cookies are to die for.

Best RV Park: This is such a tough category, but two stick out above the rest: Nugget in Montana and Wild Acres in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Upon arriving at Nugget, the owners greeted us, got us all set up in a mountain view site and pointed out walking trails through the forest. They also gave us tips for where they most often see bears and where we could watch the deer come out at night. Nothing like a possible bear sighting to get you excited to sleep at night.

Wild Acres in Maine is a short five minute walk to the Atlantic Ocean, but the RV park itself is in a dense pine forest that smells like Christmas candles. Most importantly, this RV park had screaming fast Internet and the best hot tub of my life.

Top 5 States We Hope to Revisit in 2015:

  1. Tennessee
  2. Montana
  3. North Carolina
  4. South Carolina
  5. Colorado

California was our number 1 state to revisit, and since we just moved here last week, we absolutely love the golden coast! There is nothing like watching the sun rise over the mountains and set over the ocean.

So those are our best and worst places across the country. Honorable mention goes to Kansas for having the second worst toll roads and to Delaware where we didn’t bother staying the night. Also, shout out to the Carolinas for being extremely beautiful, but our schedule prevented us from spending more than a couple days there.

To see our exact stops on our road trip and a map of our trip, check out our travel page.

Oh, and how could I forget!

Best State in the Entire USA: Texas
As if there were any doubts.

3 Responses

  • I can agree with you on a lot of your best and worse categories, but Texas???? It is boring and flat and there’s no way to pay for a toll road (and there are a lot of toll roads) unless you have the Texas tag which most of us who live elsewhere don’t have.

  • So appreciate your honesty! Even though I’m sure you may get some nasty responses on some of your comments, the truth is that some places are just better than others! My husband & I were both recently laid off & want to use this “forced sabbatical” as a chance to do the same thing you & Heath just did! Your blog is a great resource!!

    • Rondale, that is so awesome–awesome that you’re using this time to your advantage, that is 🙂 Shoot me an email if you have any questions. I love talking travel!

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