Photo courtesy of addison who is standing in front of Devil’s Punch Bowl in Oregon.

I interviewed addison shortly after they returned from an approximately 150 hour cross-country road trip. addison is a self-described nerdy, Black, fat, queer, agender, Socialist, Unitarian Universalist, who loves video games, picking up and discarding hobbies, and travel (as you will see in this interview).

They drove for a total of 8,294.5 miles from Durham, North Carolina up north, down the west coast and back home–plenty of time for reflection, excitement, and tips to share with readers.

A road map of addison’s cross-country road trip

For addison, their travel philosophy is planning everything around a good meal. And while that is a travel philosophy I can rock with as someone who loves to travel, eat, and travel to eat, this interview provides some practical tools as well, especially for brand nubians to cross country adventures.

What went into planning your cross country trip?

addison: I asked myself several questions, including what is there to see? Where is there to stop? Where can I eat along the route? After collecting all of that information, I used roadtrippers to then plan out my route and to determine where I was going to stop. I decided to drive each day for a maximum of six (6) hours. My road trip lasted from August 7-September 6th, and I spent one to two days in each city.

Ultimately, I would describe the trip as once in a lifetime. And when I say that, I truly mean it. It was a wonderful experience, and I loved waking up and seeing new sights. But by the time I got to Dallas, Texas, approximately 1400 miles from Durham, I was just ready to be in my own bed, under my own sheets.

How did you decide your route?

addison: I started out with this website called Road Trip, USA and checked out options for historic trips one could take across the country. There was the Great Northern Route, Route 66, and the Oregon Trail, to name a few. Once I chose Highway Two, I used a different website that talked about the attractions you could see along the way. And that’s how I found places like Glacier National Park in Montana; Devil’s Lake, North Dakota; Sandpoint, Idaho; and Long Beach, Washington where there just so happened to be an international kite festival during the time I visited. Next, I used to map out my trip, including where I would stay overnight and places I would stop to visit.

Photo courtesy of addison. Bighorn sheep in Glacier National Park in Montana.

What did a typical day look like for you on your road trip?

addison: So I would of course eat. My whole travel philosophy, whether it be for this road trip or in general, is planning everything around a good meal. So for me, it’s figuring out where I want to eat first, and then figuring out what to do around the city from there. Next, I asked people that I knew who had been to or lived in those places for recommendations, or I went online and searched Reddit because I found that hidden gems were shared there.

When I was in San Diego, I was going to go to Legoland, but it was too expensive. So I ended up exploring Old Town San Diego.

Photo courtesy of addison. Lobster ravioli from an Italian restaurant in San Diego, California.

When I was in Seattle, I went to the Museum of Pop culture. And while in Minneapolis, I went to some bookstores and mostly ate because Minneapolis had a weird vibe. I only stayed overnight in Oakland, so the only thing I did there was get coffee. One of my other big things beyond eating, is going to coffee shops and rating cities based on how good or bad their coffee tastes. So I definitely went to coffee shops in every city I visited.

Photo courtesy of addison holding an ube latte in their hand from Wesley Andrews in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

And I went to a gay bathhouse in Dallas, which was interesting. It was the first time I had ever been to one. And it was exactly what you think a gay bathhouse would be like. It was just people in the sauna, relaxing, and some were on the prowl.

What were some challenges from your trip, if any?

addison: The Midwest is very white, and a lot of the towns gave me Sundown Town vibes. In North Dakota, for instance, I went to this bar to get food, and the food was phenomenal, but when a group of white men came in, I quickly packed my food and left because I no longer felt safe. And that’s how I felt traveling through a lot of the Midwestern towns I stayed in.

I live in the South where there’s more racial diversity. And I missed that while traveling through the Midwest. My other big challenge and learning is that sleeping in a different bed every night or every other night is actually really taxing on my body. One last challenge was sometimes arriving at an Airbnb and not feeling safe in the neighborhood, so I learned to look for or request pictures of the outside. Outside images of your Airbnb can help you get a feel for the neighborhood and what’s around you. It’s important, especially in big cities.

What were some highlights from your trip?

addison: This is people’s favorite question. So I have a few on deck. Glacier National Park in Montana was a highlight. Redwoods National Park was a highlight. I got to hug a tree which was spiritual and fun.

Photo courtesy of addison who is hugging a redwood tree at Redwood National Park in California.

And the whole Pacific Coast highway in general, really, it is just beautiful to be driving along and seeing the ocean right next to you in different places. Being able to take a picture at the Bixby Street Bridge was also a highlight. That bridge is just so well known, and to be able to have my own pictures of it in the sunlight is very special to me.

Photo courtesy of addison. Bixby Bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway.

And I would say that Roswell, New Mexico was a highlight, which is where the UFOs and the aliens supposedly landed. And as a sci-fi nerd who watched Roswell, it was super fun to be there and go to museums.

Photo courtesy of addison standing between two alien figures in Roswell, New Mexico.

Saguaro National Park was also a highlight because I got to see 35 foot tall cacti, and just marvel at the fact that animals and plants and foliage can survive in 112 degree Fahrenheit heat.

Photo courtesy of addison who is standing in front of a tall cacti in Saguaro National Park in Tuscon, Arizona.

Tillamook, a diary based company in Oregon, was a highlight. There’s a production facility where you can go and shop in their merchandise store, which I got lost in because they have great items. I also ate there. I ordered the mac and cheese and it might be the best mac and cheese I ever had. Fellow southerners may come for me, but it was phenomenal.

Photo courtesy of addison. Mac n cheese from Tillamook in Tillamook, Oregon.

The Devil’s Punch Bowl, which is a natural rock feature in Oregon, was pretty cool.

Photo courtesy of addison. Devil’s Punch Bowl in Oregon.

And stopping in Aberdeen, Washington to visit the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park– that was a highlight for me. It was also a lowlight because unfortunately the park was full of used needles, so it was also like, “damn y’all come to the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park to do the things that drove Kurt Cobain to leave this world.” I don’t know. But it was a highlight for me because I loved Kurt Cobain and I loved Nirvana.

Photo courtesy of addison sitting in the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park in Aberdeen, Washington.

What did you learn about yourself during your road trip?

addison: The trip made me realize that I am very capable and can do well on my own and not in a “I don’t need people” way, because that’s not what I mean at all. But more so that I’m self sufficient, and before this trip, I used to question that about myself.

Being able to go on a month-long road trip where I planned and booked everything myself, never ran out of gas, or went without a place to stay revealed to me that my grandmother, who I affectionately called Nana, was right about me being very self-sufficient, and that I can make it. I also learned that I like audiobooks– I was able to listen to audiobooks on my trip and they helped get me through the driving. I also learned that I can drive without speeding. It’s possible. Yeah, when you have the fear of getting pulled over in another state that is really far from home, it will make you drive slower. So I learned that about myself.

What advice do you have for readers?

addison: Share your location with trusted people so they can track you as a safety measure. Check in with people every day. Make sure you have a reliable car. Take care of your physical needs. Bring your ice chest filled with some of your favorite snacks that are nourishing. I made sure I had sandwiches in case I got hungry, or didn’t feel comfortable or safe enough to stop. Bring your favorite snacks. They’re going to help you. However, don’t just bring chips, bring protein bites, for example, so that if you get super hungry and you’re in between places, you have something that will actually stick to the ribs, as my Nana used to say. I would also add to try not to focus too much on the fact that you might be the only one, or one of few, when it comes to your identies. In some ways, it sucks to think about that, but in other ways, if you do think about that, it might limit you on what you’ll do, and where you will stop and where you will go.

And like I said earlier, there were definitely towns I went through where I felt like I needed to be in my Airbnb before sunset. But at least during the day, I got to experience something, and do something that I thought was cool, and I didn’t let white supremacy deter me too much from experiencing things. Find the local queer bookshop, find the underground queer bar or club or whatever. If you do dating apps, ask some locals, what would you do? What would you suggest a visitor do? Dig deeper, find the queer things. Find the Black things, or the things that are of interest to you. For some people, their identity might not be the thing they want to connect with when they go to a new city, but maybe this place has an awesome bowling alley that’s retro theme or something. That might be your jam.

Don’t do things that people say you should do. Do what the hell you want to do.

Photo courtesy of addison holding soft serve yogurt from SomiSomi in Los Angeles, CA

Any other feedback?

addison: Do the things within your budget and prioritize. I chose to prioritize my accommodations, which meant that was where I spent the most amount of money. But maybe lodging isn’t as important to you. Figure out what is and plan your budget accordingly. And don’t be afraid to cut shit out. I planned to go to Legoland and changed my mind because it cost more than what I wanted to spend.

In general, just have fun. Plan your trip in a way that makes sense for you. Take tips from multiple people. Even if you don’t know anyone who’s done a cross country road trip, you probably have friends who have driven across a few states who can share some travel advice. Seek driving tips from people who drive regularly. Maybe don’t ask your friend who doesn’t even get on the highway to go to Target to give you the road trip advice. You know what I mean? That might not be the one.

Follow addison on instagram for more pictures from their epic road trip.

Additional resources used by addison:

  • One woman’s guide for the Pacific Coast Highway
  • The Southern Pacific guide

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