Rooted in Richmond

Adventures in parenting, travel, and life

A lot of people ask us about our road trip route from Seattle to Richmond.  And it’s a great question – there are so many good options!  If we had more time or weren’t traveling with a human kid and a fur kid, I’d want to drive down the coast to Northern California and then head east, with lots of time spent further exploring Utah and Colorado.  Some of my favorite road trip and adventure memories are set in Zion National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.  Time does matter on this trip, though, as does the toddler’s patience.  To travel the most efficient route while also exploring some new areas, we’ll head east on I-90 and jump up to I-94 around Billings, Montana.  We’ve spent a lot of time on I-90 in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, but I-94 will be new territory.  We’re excited to get to North Dakota, a state we’ve not yet visited, and check out Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  From there, we’ll drop down through Minneapolis, swing around Chicago, and head southeast toward Virginia.

The trip is 2,925 miles and 44 hours in total, including a stop in Roanoke, Virginia to pick up our smaller car, which is being shipped to my parents and will beat us there.  Check out our route on the map below.


We’re planning to make the drive in nine full days.  We’ll average about five hours of driving each day, interspersed with lots of stops for picnics, parks, and hikes.


Day Date Start Finish
1 5/30 Wednesday Seattle Coeur d’Alene, ID
2 5/31 Thursday Coeur d’Alene, ID Bozeman, MT
3 6/1 Friday Bozeman, MT Miles City, MT
4 6/2 Saturday Miles City, MT Bismarck, ND
5 6/3 Sunday Bismarck, ND St. Cloud, MN
6 6/4 Monday St. Cloud, MN Madison, WI
7 6/5 Tuesday Madison, WI Indianapolis, IN
8 6/6 Wednesday Indianapolis, IN Charleston, WV
9 6/7 Thursday Charleston, WV Richmond

There are no reservations and no specific plans.  Spontaneity is the name of the game!  I’ve started a Pinterest board to track ideas for places to stop each day and will keep adding to it through the trip.  Have travel tips or places you’ve always wanted to check out?  We’d love for you to comment and tell us what kid- and pet-friendly stuff we should explore along the way!

We have two weeks left in Washington, a few days of which will be spent on the coast, so the farewell tour has begun.  Upon learning we’re moving, a lot of people have asked me what things I wish we’d done or places I wish we’d visited while we lived here.  I wish we’d made it to Alaska and we’ll certainly have to vacation there in the future.  We’ve squeezed in recent visits to our favorite places, like the Olympic Peninsula and Cannon Beach, Oregon.  We find, though, that we’re leaving with no regrets or feelings of stones left unturned.  We spent a lot of our time here, including much of the early pre-kid years, adventuring around the region.  And wow, it’s hard to find a place more breathtaking than the Pacific Northwest!  The beautiful coast, lush rain forest, and majestic mountains… I could gush on and on.  A gallery of some of my favorite places is below and I highly recommend checking out any that you haven’t already visited.  You can click the images for captions with locations.  But as the move approaches, the Northwest bucket list consists more of people than places.  There is no place we’ll miss as much as the friends and colleagues that have made Seattle home.  We’re scheduling every coffee, lunch, dinner, and happy hour that we can between now and the end of the month, and we’re already looking forward to returning for many visits, vacations, and celebrations!

“True friendship is when two friends can walk in opposite directions, yet remain side by side.” ~Josh Grayson

This will be easy, we thought.  No problem.  We’ve done this before.  We last moved across the country in 2010, unexpectedly and with only a few weeks’ notice.  I was 27 and all at once hopeful, tearful, excited, and anxiety-ridden.  I simultaneously couldn’t wait to leave and didn’t want to go.  After the move, Chris and I were both struck by how easy it ultimately was to pick up our lives and relocate them to the opposite coast in a matter of weeks.  “It’s so easy!”, we told everyone, and we’d meant it.  “You  just pack up your stuff and go!  No big deal!”

It turns out that when you’re 35 with a kid who’s recently potty trained and a dog you won’t put on an airplane and a house to sell and a house to buy, it’s not so easy.  It’s actually not easy at all.  It’s HARD, you guys.  And exhausting.  There is So.  Much.  Coffee.  And.  So.  Little.  Sleep.  Lesson learned: your 27-year-old self is not to be trusted when it comes to the perceived exertion of major life changes.  Or starting new fitness regimens, but that’s a story for another day.  Anyway, here’s a quick summary of things that are making this coast-to-coast move a bigger pain than the last:

  1. Potty training. Any book you read on potty training will tell you not to even think about embarking on the sacred journey near a vacation, road trip, or major life change.  So naturally, exactly one week into potty training we found out that we’d soon be relocating.  Thankfully, potty training was much faster and less painful than the books led me to believe.  However, I’ve yet to find one parent of a young child that thinks a sane person would drive 44 hours, largely through the middle of nowhere, with a newly potty-trained child strapped into a car seat and limited access to laundry.  My acupuncturist (yep, any and all advice is welcome!) sent me an Amazon link to a portable potty for the inevitable emergency side-of-the-interstate-in-Montana pit stop.  It “opens quickly and easily for on-the-go potty emergencies” and “soft, flexible flaps hold disposable bags securely in place.”  Hold on to your gag reflex, friends.  Parenting is a glamorous job.  Stay tuned for related mishaps.  Or, run for the hills.  Either way, we’ll understand.
  2. Lodging arrangements. In the past, road trips have included a mix of hotels and camping. However, with a sure-to-be-out-of-sorts two-year-old in tow, we’ll be exclusively sleeping in hotels this go around.  (See note above on exhaustion.)  Zoe is just at the tipping point of being too big for a pack ‘n’ play, yet too crazy for a bed made for regular humans.  This means hotel rooms will include two beds: one for Chris and one for me to be punched in the face and kicked in the kidney all night by Zoe, while hanging off the side of the bed to accommodate the big mutt all the way under the covers.  This is the stuff sweet dreams are made of, folks.
  3. Movers. “Ok, so we’re picking up your stuff on May 29 and you move into your house on June 8.  That means you should expect to have your stuff by, oh, June 22 or so.”  In short, it sounds like aside from what we can carry in our car, we’ll be living sans clothes, furniture, household items, toys, etc. for several weeks after we get to the new house.  But really, beds are overrated.
  4. Housing merry-go-round. We rented out our old Richmond house when we moved to Seattle and waited six years to sell.  It turns out that was the primary reason the last move was so easy!  Who knew that getting a house ready to sell, living in it while it’s on the market (also known as having a lot of long mid-day picnics in public parks), and buying a new house long-distance would be so much work?!  Well, probably you.  But not us.  We optimistically over-simplify everything.  Don’t be us.  Luckily, the Seattle house sold quickly.  So quickly, in fact, that I’m writing this from a piece of patio furniture that is now in our family room… the only piece of furniture in our family room.

Thankfully, things are moving along about as well as it turns out you can expect when you’re uprooting everything.  Our realtors in both Seattle and Richmond are nothing short of miracle-workers and deserve most of the credit for keeping this crazy train on the tracks.  Our house in Seattle is under contract and on track to close May 30.  We’ve accomplished our two most immediate priorities in Richmond: Zoe is registered for preschool and we’re under contract to buy a house on June 8.  Our Seattle house is already just about empty because we staged it for sale, meaning movers picked up almost everything we own in April and took it to storage.  Now, we’re just enjoying our remaining time in Seattle, visiting our favorite places and relishing time with friends.  See you soon, I-90 rest stops, Hampton Inns, and small town Dairy Queen bathrooms!

The beginning of this blog comes to you from 30k feet, somewhere over farm land between Seattle and Chicago.  We’ve been talking about this for months and the adventure is finally underway.  I’m en route to Richmond, Virginia for a fast and furious house-hunting, preschool-touring long weekend.  Seattle has been a seven-year season of growing, blooming, and reaching for the sun.  The Virginia roots run deep, though, and we’re answering the call of the Commonwealth and returning to Richmond.

Rooted in Richmond will chronicle our relocation adventures (or misadventures?) from Seattle to Richmond with a recently potty-trained toddler, giant mutt, and loaded-up old SUV that has seen its fair share of I-90.  After all, if we’re taking this circus on a cross-country road trip, we might as well document the shenanigans for some laughs down the road!  This will be the fourth time we’ve driven coast to coast in the last eight years.  I’d prefer a southern route but, in our quest to explore all fifty states, we’ll once again be logging long hours on I-90 so that we can hit Roosevelt National Park and check North Dakota off the list.  Because honestly, who wants to plan a vacation to just North Dakota?

The last time we made the drive from west to east, things were a little different.  We were halfway through a month-long road trip around the country.  We’d been to the top of the St. Louis Arch, hiked in the Colorado Rockies, wandered through Zion National Park, raced through the desert at night to reach Yosemite, spent a weekend in San Francisco, and driven up the Pacific coast from California to Washington.  We’d camped, lived out of the car like a couple of gypsies, and splurged on the occasional night of luxury in a Comfort Inn.  We listened to countless hours of The Black Eyed Peas and Dave Matthews Band on our iPod Nano (hey, it was 2010).  And we visited Seattle, arriving via ferry on a glorious and dazzling June day.  Leaving Seattle was the first time we’d turned east on that trip and I cried when we crossed the Washington state line into Idaho.  Chris, who was a sworn Virginian for life, said “I could maybe see us living there someday”.  We didn’t know at the time that “someday” would come approximately eight weeks later, after an unexpected job offer from Amazon.  We loaded up the cars and turned back west, retracing our steps and miles of a few months prior.

What was supposed to be a year or two in the Pacific Northwest turned into seven, and the adventures, personal friendships, and professional growth we found here far surpassed our greatest expectations and made it almost impossible to leave.  Almost.  We’ve always been torn between Virginia and Seattle and feel so fortunate to be able to call both ‘home’.  After driving all around this great country over the last decade, I truly believe they’re two of the best places to settle down.  But as Zoe gets older, the pull of the Virginia roots gets stronger.  We’re excited to be closer to family and reintroduce ourselves to a city and region we’ve always loved.

This time, our drive east will be quite different from the last.  It will be broken into two-hour chunks spanning nine or so days.  We’ll have a chatty, opinionated two-year-old who will negotiate plenty of Moana music and stops for playgrounds and ice cream.  Her partner in crime and trusty backseat sidekick, our 75-pound pup Laney, will keep her company and steal snacks and kisses every chance she gets.  And each night, we’ll watch the sunset in the rear view mirror as we trek the 2,800 miles between our two favorite cities.  Thanks for reading and we hope you’ll follow along on our adventure and share everything from road trip recommendations to suggested pit stops to inspirational words of wisdom when it’s clear our sanity is in short supply!

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“Behind you, all your memories.  Before you, all your dreams.  Around you, all who love you.  Within you, all you need.”