How I moved from Miami to Denver in my little black Jetta
Do you ever dream of selling all your furniture, packing up your things and moving across the country? Well, two years ago I did just that.
In 2021, I was living 20 minutes north of Miami right near the beach. Throughout the pandemic, I spent my time like most of us did – inside. Sometimes I'd spend a day by the water, do yoga in the park, go for a really long walk. This routine wasn't so bad at first, but eventually, inevitably, I began to feel that un-scratchable itch – the need for change.
For years I had thought about moving to Colorado. I pictured living near the Rockies and experiencing the seasons, and now as a freelancer working remotely, I could finally do it. After a year-and-a-half in quarantine, I was stir-crazy enough to seriously start planning my move from Miami to the Mile High City.
After carefully plotting out each stop, booking hotels and Airbnbs, researching routes and coordinating calendars, the time had come venture out west. On my journey, I was joined by my sister Shana, my friend and local Denverite Danny, and my dog Lucy. Below, I'll map out our 2,000-mile voyage across the United States and cover where we stayed, what we ate, what we saw, and how we worked from the road.
Stop #1 - Ocala, FL
Shana and I left South Florida early on a Friday and drove towards Orlando where Danny had flown in to meet us. Once we got into town, we had a few hours to kill so we met up with some friends at Seito Sushi. We ate, we laughed, we caught up, and finally, we said our goodbyes. They wished us luck as we headed to our first stop, Ocala – AKA Florida’s “horse country." It was pretty late by the time we arrived, but luckily the start of our trip coincided with my best friend’s birthday who was having a weekend getaway out there.
What’d we see? Saturday morning we were all up bright and early to spend the day at Silver Glen Springs in the Ocala National Forest. The water was crystal-clear – perfect for swimming, hiking, and picnicking, which is exactly what we did. It was a relaxing start to our westward adventure. (If you want to go, make sure you get there early. We arrived around 7 a.m. and there was already a line of 50 cars waiting at the entrance.)
Stop #2 - Atlanta, GA
After celebrating Mally's birthday, we were back on the road Sunday morning and heading towards Atlanta. The city’s food, people, and history would be one of the highlights of our Great American Road Trip.
Where’d we stay? The Forest Dome in Stonecrest, GA. This unique Airbnb is located off the beaten path around 25 minutes from Atlanta in the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area. The surprisingly large dome had two beds, a portable AC and a firepit. Cons: It was a bit damp and the only restroom was an outhouse.
Where’d we eat? As soon as we passed the Florida-Georgia line we were all struck with a craving for peaches. We ended up making a slight detour to check out Lane Southern Orchards, a peach and pecan farm in Fort Valley, where I had the peach cobbler a la mode. As I recall, it tasted like summer.
The real foodie star of our ATL stop, though, was ABC Chicken and Waffles, probably my favorite restaurant on our trip. I ordered the waffle flight with “the so fresh,” “the dirty bird,” and “the georgia peach.” My mouth waters just thinking about it!
What’d we see? Atlanta is so rich with history that you can literally stumble upon it. Before leaving for our next stop, we decided to explore a bit and came across Martin Luther King's childhood home. I highly recommend paying it a visit if you're ever in town.
Stop #3 - Nashville, TN
Following a night in the Forest Dome, we left for Nashville early Monday morning. As we switched off driving, I answered some emails and edited some drafts in the car, but since it was Labor Day work was quiet. We stopped in Chattanooga for a quick hike and, after eating some of the greasiest BBQ I’ve ever had, we continued onto I-24. Within a few hours we were in the Music City.
Where’d we stay? Comfort Inn Downtown Nashville Vanderbilt – not the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at but it got the job done. Plus, we got free breakfast.
What’d we see? The night we arrived in Nashville we were all eager to go to Broadway and see where the country stars are born. From what I can remember, we went to Tin Roof, Tootsies, and even tried some karaoke at Ms. Kelli's. Walking up and down the strip, I was genuinely blown away by the amount of talent at every single venue.
Where’d we eat? I know I said ABC Chicken and Waffles was my favorite restaurant on the trip, but it actually might have been Hattie B's. I still think about their crinkle cut Dirty Bird Fries loaded with mac and cheese, chicken bites, pickles and special house sauce.
Honorable mentions to Merchants, a delicious upscale bistro on Broadway where we ate for dinner on Monday night, and Daddy's Dogs, which made for the perfect late-night snack after visiting the honky tonks.
Where’d we work? After eating our continental breakfast and checking out of the hotel Tuesday morning, Danny went to WeWork on 18th & Chet in Midtown, which offers day passes for $29. Shana and I decided to work over some coffee at Ruby Sunshine, and in the afternoon we took our laptops to The Parthenon – a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens.
Stop #4 - Belleville, IL
Tuesday afternoon we packed up the car and started towards Belleville, IL, which is around 30 minutes outside of St. Louis. The drive wasn't too bad, but it was dark out by the time we pulled up to our Airbnb.
Where’d we stay? The Historic Garfield Inn. As we walked through the charming garden and up to the door of the quaint brick cottage, we were greeted by our host, Linda – who was quite hospitable and perhaps a bit garrulous. She graciously presented us a bottle of red wine and then chatted with us for quite some time.
Where’d we work? Since the cottage was so cozy and Linda extended our check out time, we mostly worked from the Airbnb. For a quick change of scenery, we also visited an eclectic cafe on Belleville’s Main St. called Pour @ 322, located right next to a cute flower shop.
Where’d we eat? Around lunchtime on Wednesday, we decided it was time to get back on the road. Stomachs growling, we remembered a friend of ours had insisted we try St. Louis-style pizza, so we made a pit stop at a spot called Biggie's. The waiter presented us a pie that was cut into squares with crust that was cracker thin and Provel cheese (a St. Louis delicacy) that stuck to the roof of my mouth and the back of my teeth, a tactile sensation that haunts me to this day. Sorry to my St. Louis readers, but it was the worst pizza I’ve ever eaten.
What’d we see? On the way out of town, we passed the famous Gateway Arch, AKA the "Gateway to the West," which felt like a significant milestone on my journey to Colorado – a symbol of westward expansion and exploration.
Stop #5 - Kansas City, MO
It was only a four-hour ride from Belleville to Kansas City, where we arrived just before sunset on Wednesday. At this point we were all admittedly a bit tired of traveling, but we were excited to be on the last leg of our trip.
Where’d we stay? A two-bedroom Airbnb in KC. The layout of this property was pretty interesting. Even though the house had multiple Airbnbs, each had its own private entrance. For instance, to get to our suite on the top floor, we entered through the back of the house and up an outdoor staircase that led directly to our door.
Where’d we work? After we arrived on Wednesday, we set up shop in our Airbnb and worked from our respective rooms. The next morning, we briefly went to Cafe Corazon before buckling up for the 8-hour drive from KC to Denver, which gave us plenty of time to check emails.
What’d we see? Lots of corn and windmills on the drive from Kansas to Colorado.
DESTINATION: Denver, CO
Late Thursday night – after traveling 2,000+ miles across eight states over seven days – we finally arrived at our final destination: Denver. Approaching that iconic "Welcome to Colorful Colorado" sign after driving through hours of isolated farmland in Kansas was the happiest moment of my trip.
It's been two years since I made it to the Mile High City and it's incredible how fast the time has flown by. If you ever feel like selling all your furniture and moving across the country – I say go for it.
And thank you so much to Shana and Danny for taking this journey with me. I literally could not have done it without you two!