Chicago to California Roadtrip

2,344 miles. 5 nights. 1 speeding ticket. WE MADE IT!

In case there is anyone else out there as crazy as us and driving from Chicago to San Fransisco, let me tell you… yes, it’s long. It’s really, really long. But you will see breathtaking scenery, experience some fun cities, and if you’re lucky like we were, stay with friends along the way. This is the route that we took:

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A couple things that were important to us as we started planning our trip:
1. 8 hours maximum of driving per day
2. Taking slightly longer, but more scenic routes
3. Finding pet friendly hotels
4. Making stops in cities to see friends
5. Finding ways to stay active, despite being in the car the majority of the day

On Monday, our movers came, we packed our car, celebrated Sydney’s 2nd birthday and said goodbye to our apartment in Libertyville.

Tuesday: Chicago to Lincoln, NE
I woke up early to get a 6 mile run in (did I mention this was my peak week for marathon training??) and had a homemade breakfast with my folks before we started the drive to Lincoln, NE. Our GPS was set to Eugene Mahoney State Park, a park 30 minutes outside of Lincoln. We got to the park after about 7 hours of driving. It was conveniently right off the highway, and was a beautiful place to get some exercise and stretch our legs.

Eugene Mahoney State Park
After spending about an hour at the state park, we drove into Lincoln and checked in at the Lincoln Marriott Cornhusker Hotel. We walked to a part of the city called the Haymarket District, where there were lots of little bars and restaurants to choose from for dinner. We ended up at Lazlo’s Brewery and both tried their famous beer cheese soup. We walked back to this… our room had two beds and Sydney had already claimed on of them.

Wednesday: Lincoln, NE to Denver, CO
Before starting the second leg of our journey, we walked to get coffee and crepes at Cultiva. Their in-house roasted coffee was very good, as well as the egg, feta, mushroom and spinach crepe that I ordered. Mo went a sweeter route and tried their Nutella banana crepe. You can’t go wrong with that combo!

We had another 7 hours of driving ahead of us, but stopped midway at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge for lunch. Ole’s “hobby” was big game hunting and he had quite the collection after 35 years of it. A giraffe, moose, polar bear and elephant are just a few of the 200+ mounts he has on display.

We finally arrived at the Sunnyside neighborhood in Denver, where our newly married friends are living. It was so much fun seeing their new house, eating outside at El Jefe together, and catching up since we had last seen them at their wedding!

Thursday: Denver, CO to Breckinridge, CO
After an 8 mile run on the Cherry Creek Trail, we all went to the gym. Both Erin and Mo are participating in the B2BFit Challenge so I joined them for a workout! We stopped for brunch at Sunnies before saying our goodbyes and heading to Breckinridge. I tried my first acai bowl and I’m hooked!

Because our drive to Breck was only an hour and a half, we decided to do a hike that afternoon and chose the Mohawk Lake Trail. The only problem… it was covered in snow! And we were wearing Nikes. BAD COMBO. It couldn’t be that bad though, right..? That’s what we told ourselves at least! We unfortunately didn’t quite make it all the way to Mohawk Lake, but still got to see some stunning views and get 3 hours of hiking in! The Nikes + hiking combo? DON’T “just do it.” Let’s just say we went out and got hiking boots the next day.

That night, Mo and I met up with a former client of mine, his wife, his nephew and nephew’s girlfriend. We met them for drinks at their house in Breckinridge- a very quaint house with a lot of history and character. The original owner built it to look like the French city of Eze and it was fun to see it in person after hearing John tell me about it. We all enjoyed an Italian dinner at the Blue River Bistro in town. The perfect ending to an active day!

Friday: Breckinridge, CO to Salt Lake City, UT
We stayed at The Lodge that night and woke up to a beautiful view of the mountains. I set out on my 4 mile run, which started at an altitude of 11,000′. I went up the mountain for the first two miles- those 2 miles felt like 20! I took it easy with a run/walk combo and the 2 miles back down the mountain felt much better. We ate breakfast, stopped for coffee at Cuppa Joe in Breckinridge and started the 8 hour drive to Salt Lake City.

The scenery change during the drive was incredible. We left the mountains behind and drove through desert canyons. We unfortunately didn’t get in to The Hyatt Place in Salt Lake City until late so we decided to stay in, relax and order room service. We’ll have to come back soon to try out the restaurants on this blogger’s list!

Saturday: Salt Lake City, UT to Lake Tahoe, CA
Saturday mornings while training for a marathon = long runs. What will I do with my Saturday morning when I’m not running for 3 hours?? No idea. I started the morning with a 21 mile run and although I had researched and planned on running on the Jordan River Trail, I honestly didn’t feel great about doing it at 5:45AM. I ended up scrapping my plan and running through the city instead. I ate a big ole’ breakfast at the hotel, jumped in a tub of ice water and we hit the road for the 8 hour drive to Lake Tahoe.

The drive was long, but we stopped at a couple rest stops to stretch our legs. Sydney had her first experience playing fetch on a salt flat!

When we were planning our trip, we thought about staying in Reno vs. Lake Tahoe. Even though Lake Tahoe was a little further, we figured it would be worth it… and it absolutely was. We ate dinner at the lakeside dog-friendly Artimis Cafe and got gelato for our walk back the the Beach Retreat and Lodge for the night.

Sunday: Lake Tahoe, CA to Sunnyvale, CA
The last leg of the journey! We ate breakfast at the historic Red Hut Cafe and went on a short hike before loading the car for the last time.

We are so thankful and excited for this adventure ahead. Thanks for coming along on this journey with us! 

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