The Mostly La Quinta Roadshow Tour

So My Lovely Bride™ Ten and I are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary this year, and we decided to do something really special. We are taking three, two week vacations this year, the first  coincided with our anniversary last April, the last is our usual Halloween break, and we just completed our vacation around the 4th of July.

In April we did something Ten wanted to do, so we went to the California Redwoods, and happily got lost in Northern California. In November we will be camping on the Oregon coast. So that left the July trip.

I was allowed to choose where we’d go. Oops.

So I wanted to take a road trip. You see, with my failing health, I have been making a bucket list of things I have never done, places I want to visit, etc. My interests are pretty simple, really: I have only been to a few states, so I wanted to visit the ten western states outside of California, since we were just there.

And that is just what we did. We kept finding ourselves staying in La Quinta Inns (pet friendly, quiet, and pretty much everywhere), eschewing normal tourist spots, in favor of just driving through the countryside and sharing road snacks. Good times, just like we had when we first got married and couldn’t afford elaborate dates, so we’d drive around and snack on deli takeout. Anyway…

July 2nd: Salem, Oregon to Butte, Montana

  • Oregon (Not the total shit hole people think it is)
  • Washington (The Maryhill Stonehenge is awesome)
  • Idaho (Spud Dud. Just boring as Hell)
  • Montana (“No Services”)
  • Nearly 15 hours on the road

July 3rd: Butte, Montana to Cheyenne, Wyoming

  • Montana, part deux (Those hills were the Rockies? Really?)
  • Wyoming (God’s Country, by which I mean Thor’s Playground)
  • “Short” day, only 12 hours of driving

July 4th: Cheyenne, Wyoming to Albuquerque, New Mexico

  • Wyoming 2 (Not really a thing, since Cheyenne is basically on the Colorado border…)
  • Colorado (I will never – NEVER – return to Denver. Pretty skyline, though)
  • New Mexico (Almost as great as Oregon)
  • Total drive time a relatively short 10 hours!

July 5th: Albuquerque, New Mexico to Kanab, Utah

  • New Mexico II (Gold Cockroaches)
  • Arizona (The canyons are grand, and we loved driving through the Hopi reservation)
  • Utah (Kanab is really nice. The La Quinta was the best we’ve ever stayed at. Would come here again.)
  • Another short day (10 hours), so we could actually see the Grand Canyon some. Also, hot.

July 6th: Kanab, Utah to Winnemucca, Nevada

  • Utah, again (One word: Breathtaking)
  • Nevada (One word: Boring. Also, Mormon Crickets. So… many… crickets)
  • About 11 hours on the road, a long but necessary trip

July 7th: Winnemucca, Nevada to Salem, Oregon

  • Nevada, The Final Chapter (Only non-La Quinta stay of the trip (Candlewood Suites), but it was fine)
  • Oregon (HOME!)
  • 12 hours on the road. We left early, and it still took forever.

Basically, Ten and I had a good time on our trip, but there was a lot of disappointment, too. Some states were just miles and miles of “rolling hills and grassland”, which is beautiful except for a couple of things: We can see that in Central Oregon, and it gets a bit old after you’ve seen it for three states straight.

Washington is great, and we always have fun there, but the highlight of our trip through the eastern part of the state was (as stated earlier) the World War I “Stonehenge” monument. That led to an absolutely boring trip through the Idaho panhandle, although they did have the best rest stop of the entire trip. It had a dog park, which our pup Simon enjoyed immensely!

Speaking of boring, let’s talk about Montana. Now, I have always heard about how awe-inspiring Montana is, especially the mountain views as one passes through the Rockies. Yeah, I have a lot to say about the Rockies, but I’ll leave that for a bit later. Instead, let’s just focus on Montana overall for now. The main thing I can take away from this state is how Montana is anything but awe-inspiring. yeah, the rolling hills and fields are nice, but I live in Oregon. I’ve seen that before, and it looks better here. Plus, you don’t see signs that say “No Services” at every single offramp along I-90, other than for the major cities. Even the campgrounds don’t offer you at least a restroom, apparently. Not exactly visitor-friendly.

Then there was Wyoming. Look, I’ll be honest here. I was very disappointed in Wyoming, as the areas we passed through look pretty much just like eastern Montana, and I’ve already discussed my thoughts on that. So I was really looking forward to getting to Cheyenne, so we could rest and just be clear of these damn rolling hills and plains, until the weather changed. We got caught in a thunderstorm a couple of hours north of Cheyenne, and it was absolutely amazing! In my nearly 56 years on this earth, I have never been in such a spectacular weather display!

10/10. Also, Cheyenne is charming as Hell.

Then there was Colorado. Y’know, I’ve heard a lot about Colorado in my life, have family that live in the Denver area, and I have to admit I was more than a little disappointed. Denver is in the Rockies, huh? Nope. It’s in the middle of the same rolling hills and plains that we’d been seeing since Montana. Also… I thought the Rockies were supposed to be this imposing, massive set of mountains? While I have no doubt that the range is indeed taller on average than, say, the Cascades which pass through Washington and Oregon, that is only because the land they spring from is already over a mile above sea level. This must be the explanation as to why the Rockies we passed through in Idaho and Montana, and which we could easily see while in Wyoming and Colorado were, and I say this with all sincerity, SO DAMN SMALL!

Take a drive along Highway 26 from Portland, OR into central Oregon, or along Highway 22 to 20 from Salem to Bend, and you will see some majestic mountain views, even if the pass elevations are mostly below a mile above sea level. Again, when your mountains are poking out from high plains that are already above a mile in elevation, yes, your mountain range will have higher peaks. But the Rockies were still fairly pathetic.

Sad, really. I expected more from you Colorado. But I got to see a glimpse of Mile High Stadium in Denver as we drove past, so that was cool, I guess.


New Mexico. Started with some cool, hilly views, which led into some frankly beautiful vistas. I was absolutely flabbergasted at how beautiful New Mexico was! Yes, our stay in Albuquerque was married by a horrible excuse for a hotel (La Quinta, you can do better!), and it was the 4th of July, so the fireworks were going on almost all night, freaking out my dog to no end, but the city itself was really nice. Traffic was not too bad, the buildings were very nice in many places, and the people were amazingly friendly. Ten and I met a very nice couple at a dog park, and talked for over an hour about all manner of things, but mostly travel. Good times.

Then there was Arizona, land of my birth, although I only lived there three years and didn’t remember any of it. The areas of Arizona we went through really don’t fit the stereotypical “desert views” most people expect from this state. We drove through the Hopi reservation to the Grand Canyon, and it was all sweeping canyon views, down into beautiful valleys, then into another set of canyons, over and over again. Truly amazing stuff!

Now, I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting much from Utah. We went there for only a couple of reasons: First, because it was one of the western states I’d never been to before, and then because Kanab was the closest place to stay at, after visiting the Grand Canyon. But I’ll tell you, Kanab was a really charming little town, with the best hotel we’ve ever stayed at (La Quinta Inn and Suites in Kanab). Also, Ten and I agree that Utah is tied with New Mexico as the 2nd most awesome state in the western USA.

Oh, Nevada. I was expecting desert views, and was not disappointed. But we also got a replay of the “rolling hills and plains” of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, only worse. The Candlewood Suites hotel in Winnemucca wasn’t bad (other than the beds, which were mediocre at best), so I guess there’s that. All in all, I have no plans on ever going back to Nevada, unless we must in order to go back to Kanab, Utah.

Finally, let’s talk about Oregon. I really do love this place, it has been my home for almost all of my life. After making this trip through the west, including California in April, I know I could have saved a lot of money and just driven around here, instead.

Best Western States, per Ten and I (Worst to Best)

  • 11. Idaho
  • 10. Colorado
  • 9. Nevada
  • 8. Montana
  • 7. California
  • 6. Wyoming
  • 5. Washington
  • 4. Arizona
  • 2. New Mexico and Utah (Tie)
  • 1. Oregon
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