Chicago, IL >>> Kernersville, NC >>> Winston-Salem, NC
Drive Time: 11 hours and 17 minutes
Miles: 707 miles
Knowing our last day on the road consisted of no exciting stops, our only goal was to get home as soon as possible. Thus, we followed Rob’s suggestion to leave Chicago at 6a.m. in order to beat the traffic. We woke up and left Rob’s apartment in the time it took him to shower. With him occupying the bathroom, we only lasted an hour or two before we desperately needed to stop to go to the bathroom ourselves. Thankfully, signs on the highway directed us towards the Indiana Welcome Center, where we thought we would find both a bathroom and the state sign to carry on the selfie tradition. However, much to our disappointment we were not strong enough to rip the lock from the door at 7a.m. Across the street, I spotted a Wendy’s and literally ran to its doors seeking both a bathroom and a breakfast frosty, however they were locked as well. Next we sped to the closest gas station, which of course with our luck had no restrooms. We finally made it to a Dunkin Donuts just in time. I bought myself a muffin as a thank you for their hospitality and we continued on our way home.
You would think that after 26 days on the road, the driving becomes a piece of cake, but when the destination is home, the highway begins to feel endless. 15 minutes feels like an hour and an hour feels like five. It felt like we would never make it home. We passed state signs without stopping and ate lunch in the car, willing ourselves to get home into our mom’s arms as fast as possible. Our last day of driving was filled with storms, the worst ones we had encountered yet, which slowed us down and prolonged our day even more.
Finally, we could smell the dogwoods and hear the cardinals as we approached the North Carolina Welcome Center and quickly home felt within our grasp. I forced Michael to stop the car to take a picture at the state sign to complete our collection despite his anti-enthusiasm.
Just beyond the border, as we finally began to feel like we were home, of course there was traffic. What a better way to end our trip? An accident forced us to sit tight in completely stopped traffic for an additional hour. Determined to make the best of our last hours together on our adventure, Michael turned off the engine and we played crazy eights.
Driving up Michael’s driveway to see his mom, Sissy, Gran and Grandad, there was no doubt he was happy to be home. They had so kindly decorated the garage with streamers and a poster than read “Welcome home thrivers and survivors.” Michael’s mom gave us each a mini cake, obviously she knows how to make me feel like I’m home. His aunt so kindly gave me an air freshener for the car and a bar of Ghirardelli Chocolate since we told her that we ate all of the chocolate we had bought for her in San Francisco. They all gave us big bear hugs. It was such a kind welcome home, for not only Michael but me too. I felt so loved to be included in their welcome home celebration.
After dropping Michael off, I had an entire ride home to anticipate my home arrival. I couldn’t wait to see my family and my dogs and eat some of my mom’s fantastic cooking. But I also couldn’t help be sad that our trip was over. We had both learned so much about each other, how Michael pronounces my name differently than anyone else, how I am always craving sugar and how to make each other upset. Yet, the biggest thing I learned was how great of a team we make when we are together. Through stressful situations, through packing and unpacking the car, through taking care of each other, we make a really good team. And, I was sad to have to leave that behind.
I arrived home 30 minutes later to find my family awaiting with open arms. But it wasn’t quite home yet as I went without a hug from my sister. I’ll have to wait for July 20th before my sister returns and makes it truly feel like home.
Our adventure of a lifetime has finally come to an end. We survived without any interactions with the police, without going to the hospital or without having to come home early. Friends, you don’t have to travel abroad to see cool things. The USA holds so many treasures that I feel like so many people blatantly overlook, turning instead towards study abroad programs and worldly adventures. I hope from the pictures and experiences on this trip that you all will appreciate our country more and be proud to be America, the USA has so much to offer.
Total Miles : 9446
Average Miles per Gallon: 46.1 (thanks to our trusty Prius)
And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to the conclusion of our trip. No need to stay tuned this time.