Adventuring (and Eating) our Way Through the Black Hills

Nestled in the west of South Dakota are the Black Hills, a small mountain range rising from the Great Plains that’s quickly becoming one of our favorite places to explore. More than the stunning landscapes and friendly locals, the Black Hills boast an array of adventuring opportunities AND charming local spots to quench your thirst or satisfy your cravings. (Because let’s be real, we live for experiences, but we equally live for our next meal. #Foodielife) Here’s a little recap from our most recent trip to the Black Hills!


BIKING ALONG THE MICKELSON TRAIL

What once was a railroad, The Mickelson Trail is over 100 miles of breathtaking scenery and gentle slopes, passing right through the heart of the Black Hills. No matter where you enter the trail you’re bound to have a blast, but we recommend renting bikes at Rabbit Bicycle in Hill City and riding north. We went a few miles, got hungry for lunch (like we said - live to eat), and pulled a quick u-turn back. We passed through tunnels, rolling hills, tree-lined paths, and the cutest little log cabins. It’s the perfect way to start your morning! (Just don’t forget to pay the $4 entrance fee!)


LUNCH & WINE TASTING AT PRAIRIE BERRY

The famous Prairie Berry Winery is a must when you’re in the Black Hills. Family owned and operated, they’ve been making South Dakota wines since 1876. Many of their “untraditional” wines are made out of fruit, like “Red Ass Rhubarb”, but they do carry traditional varietals like Chenin Blanc and Meritage. Beyond their wines, the kitchen at Prairie Berry is EXCELLENT. Homemade soups, sandwiches, flatbreads, loaded salads… they have something for everyone. Everything is fresh and everything is delicious. (And don’t forget to join in on the free wine tasting after lunch!)

KAYAKING ON THE PACTOLA LAKE

Some of our favorite lakes are nestled in The Black Hills. The combination of crystal clear water with sprawling green hills makes them incredibly picturesque and peaceful. We went kayaking on Pactola lake on a day that was overcast, and it was still beautiful. Whether you rent kayaks for a couple hours or for a whole day, there’s so much to see and explore along Pactola lake. Next time we’ll pack a picnic and find a spot on the shore to stop and eat!

DINNER AT THE ALPINE INN

Located in downtown Hill City, the Alpine Inn is a historical landmark that possesses one of the best steak dinners in the area - for under $12! You read that right - it just might be the best deal in town! Word is definitely out about this iconic place, but don’t let the crowds scare you away, the wait goes quickly. Have a drink (or two!) in the adjoining bar until your name is called, and you’ll be diving into your bacon-wrapped filet in no time. Note to the picky eaters - there are only two things on the menu for dinner… steak and potatoes or German dumplings and veggies. Make sure to leave room for dessert, because there’s definitely more than 2 options (Probably 20+ dessert items!). If you need help, their peanut butter pie is life changing. (Also, the Alpine Inn is cash only, so plan accordingly!) 

HOT AIR BALLOONING WITH BLACK HILLS BALLOONS

Name a better way to see a place than by hot air ballooning - we’ll wait. The team at Black Hills Balloons makes the entire trip a breeze (literally), and the view from the balloon is jaw-droopingly beautiful. Once landed, you drink mimosas and snack on cheese and crackers with your new-found friends. It was definitely the highlight of our trip!

LUNCH AT BLACK HILLS BURGER AND BUN

We’re self proclaimed “burger-holics”. No matter where we’re traveling, we try to find the best burger in that area. It’s just what we do. Black Hills Burger and Bun in Custer came highly recommended by several of our followers, and… wow. It may be some of the best burgers we’ve ever had. Ever. It’s something about the homemade buns, juicy burger, fresh toppings and sauce that’s honest-to-goodness perfection on a plate. It’s worth a drive to Custer just to try these mouth-watering burgers. They’re that good.

HORSE BACK RIDING THROUGH BLACK HILLS NATIONAL FOREST

Whoa Nelly, this was fun! The team at Rockin’ R Trail Rides are total rockstars, making even the most city-type folk feel comfortable in a saddle. We embarked on a two-hour ride through the picturesque Black Hills National Forest. We learned about the surrounding foliage, rode past deer-filled meadows, and scaled rocky mountains with ease… it was perfect. We now want horses. Anyone have a stable we can use?

DINNER AT SKOGEN KITCHEN

Not only is this the cutest, most stylish restaurant in all of the Black Hills, it is also the best. Skogen Kitchen has only been open for a little over a year, but already they’ve won recognition as the best restaurant in all of South Dakota - and it’s easy to see why. Their food is fresh, thoughtful, and flavor-filled. It’s the kind of restaurant where we consciously eat as slow as possible, to make every bite last… It’s that good. Make reservations, as it fills up quick!

While we blitzed around seeing and eating as much as we could, what’s pulling us back is that there is still so much more! If you have any suggestions about spots we should explore on our next trip, leave a comment! We can’t wait to go back.

Why We Keep Coming Back to South Dakota

“You’re going where? South Dakota? AGAIN?” 

That’s the reaction we got from our parents when we recently told them we were heading back to South Dakota. Being self-proclaimed “wanderlusters”, it’s not often that we go to the same place twice. We’re always keeping things interesting and exploring new destinations… so needless to say, returning to South Dakota just a year after our first trip came as quite the surprise to our family!

Here’s the deal with South Dakota. There is SO MUCH TO SEE. It definitely takes more than one trip to experience everything that this grand state has to offer. Whether you’re an adrenaline junky looking for the next thrill, or a hiking enthusiast looking for the next scenic peak, or a history buff, fascinated by American history and folklore, South Dakota has something for everyone. Still hesitant about it? We’ll prove it to you.

THE TOWNS

South Dakota is filled with gems (literally and figuratively). Little iconic towns that slip under the radar, but shouldn’t be missed - like Deadwood! Deadwood, South Dakota is straight out of a country western novel. Legends like Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok roamed the historic streets of Deadwood, looking for gold and a good time. And it’s still a darn good time!! You can catch a free Wild West re-enactement, get your game on at the many casinos in town, and grab a drink at the notable Saloon #10

Custer is another one of our favorite towns, located in the heart of the Black Hills. Its Western roots also run deep, and is filled with gift shops, galleries, delicious restaurants, and an overwhelming amount of rock shops. (Bobby’s favorite!)

THE DRIVES

We love nothing more than blasting some country music and exploring new scenic roads. Pretty much EVERY road in South Dakota is scenic, and there wasn’t a time Alli didn’t exclaim “Wow! So pretty!” when we were driving. 

On our first trip to South Dakota, we were blown away by Needles Highway. It’s 14 miles of twists and turns through sprawling granite spires, and located just 30 minutes south of Rapid City. 

This time around, we ventured through Spearfish Canyon, a DREAM of a drive for anyone that loves wildlife, outdoor activities, and breathtaking waterfalls. Built on an old rail bed, the views from this drive are fantastic, and filled with photo opportunities along the way. 

THE MONUMENTS

No matter how many times we see it, Mount Rushmore continues to amaze us. There’s no doubt that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln would be in awe of this epic mountainside memorial. The sheer magnitude and precision of Mount Rushmore is jaw-dropping, and it’s no wonder that it attracts over two million visitors annually! 

And then there’s Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse is the world’s largest mountain carving, and even though it isn’t yet completed, it’s a monument that can’t be missed! Crazy Horse was a Native American war leader that earned great respect from both his people, and his enemies. He’s one of the most iconic Native American warriors, and participated in several famous battles during his lifetime. The memorial is funded entirely by private donations, and to this day there is no set completion date. But you can go visit this incredible monument, and even watch a laser show there at night!

THE ADVENTURES

From horse back riding, to hot air ballooning, to kayaking and mountain biking, the opportunities for adventures in South Dakota are limitless. On the last day of our trip we went zip lining with Rushmore Tramway Adventures, and it was EPIC!! You fly over a mile of forest, reaching heights of up to 400 feet, and unobstructed views of Mount Rushmore! The guides are friendly, knowledgable, and full of wit and humor. Our two hour tour flew by! (Literally) It’s absolutely a South Dakota adventure you do not want to miss. Oh, and did we mention how comfortable our harnesses were? They use top-of-the-line equipment, making the entire process a breeze. We’ll be back!


THE STEAK DINNERS

You read that right. We’d be lying if we said the steak dinners in South Dakota weren’t one of the main factors for our return trip. If you love a good steak and you love a good deal, make note. Some of the best steaks we’ve had (at some of the best prices!), are in good ol’ South Dakota. 

One of our favorite places for steak and all the fixin’s is the appropriately named Legends Steakhouse in Deadwood. Located in the historic Franklin Hotel, Legends is one of the best places for steak in the state, and the long lines and rave reviews will prove it. Reservations aren’t required, but we recommend you make one. And be sure to get a side of the truffle mac n cheese… we’ve been craving it ever since!

If these five factors haven’t solidified your need for a trip to South Dakota, then we give up!

Just kidding. But quite frankly, we could keep going! The friendly locals, the abundance of wildlife, the campgrounds, the museums and amusement parks… South Dakota has it all. We can’t wait to return and adventure there again - who’s joining us next year?!

Forever Honeymooning - Even With a Dog in Tow!

Every once and awhile we get some slack about being the “Traveling Newlyweds” when we’ve been married for over four years. “You’re not newlyweds!”, they say — and to that we reply, “It’s a mentality, not a time frame!”

And that’s become our motto. We believe that no matter how long you’ve been married, you can forever cling to that “newlywed mentality”. Traveling is bonding - and why not spread out the fun with more than one honeymoon?! Keep the party going!!

We’re seeing more and more actual newlyweds do this too. Sometimes it’s hard to take off work for an extended period of time, so they take multiple weekend trips instead of a traditional honeymoon. You don’t have to use up all of your vacation time, and you’re able to explore more than one destination. It’s genius! 

It’s time for y'all to enjoy “MANYMOONS”.

One of our favorite hotel brands, Kimpton, just launched a Manymoon” campaign targeting these kinds of travelers. Millennial couples (like us!) that are more interested in the long weekend trips to hip, urban cities. Several of their properties in Portland, Austin, Pittsburgh, and Nashville have what’s called a “Manymoons Rising” offer, where couples get hooked up with all of the honeymoon perks and a free night stay at their fourth stop! And let’s be real, who wouldn't want to honeymoon in all four of those cities?!

We recently stayed at a couple of the Kimpton properties, the Hotel Monaco Portland (included in the Manymoon campaign), and the Palladian in Seattle. We absolutely loved both properties - they’re stylish, conveniently located in their respective cities, and instantly became our home-away-from-home. We’ve said it before, and this trip solidified it - Kimpton absolutely has the best customer service. Their attentiveness and attention to detail makes you feel not only like a valued guest, but like an A list celebrity! (Which is exactly how you want to feel when you’re honeymooning!!)

DON’T FORGET THE PUP!

Having a hard time leaving your “fur baby” behind on your Manymoon adventure? Don’t!

All Kimpton properties are extremely dog friendly, and the pups get the same royal service we do (if not more)! From dog-friendly wine hour, to treats and toys in the room, to the fact that there is no additional pet fee (let that one sink in), it’s a win/win for dogs and owners alike. Our pup Sally lived like a queen during her stay at both Kimpton hotels, and we joke that it’s spoiled her for life!

Whether you’re actual Newlyweds, or just taking on that “newlywed mentality” like us, we highly suggest that you consider a Manymoon weekend adventure with Kimpton. You’ll have the time of your life, you won’t miss too much work (if you make it a true “Weekender”), and you don’t need to find a pet sitter!

Let us know when you plan your weekend getaways… we’ll come meet you in Nashville. ;)

Touring Ireland with Adventures by Disney - Day by Day

We’ve had SO many questions about our trip to Ireland with Adventures By Disney. Questions about how the tour works, what you do, where you go, how you get there, what’s the food like, does Mickey Mouse make a surprise appearance… you get the picture. We figure what would be most helpful is to give you a clear snapshot of our Ireland Itinerary, day by day. Be forewarned: this blog is long. There’s just too much to share!! So grab an Irish coffee, turn on some celtic tunes, and let’s get started!

 

DAY ONE: ARRIVE IN DUBLIN

We arrived at the Dublin airport to an Adventures By Disney representative, holding a bright sign with our names in bold (not sure why we are always so thrilled by that, but something about it makes us feel important). We were instantly whisked away to our hotel, The Westin, located right in the center of town. It was beautiful. Out of the corner of our eyes we saw two jolly looking men, sitting at a colorful table filled with props, toys, and gadgets. Judging by the smiles on their faces and the disney pins on their shirts, we knew they're our guides.

Meet Stephen, an Irish local, who’s had a lengthy career of giving luxury tours of the Emerald Isle. He’s smart, witty, obsessed with Irish culture, and is a walking, breathing, wealth of information (If you ever meet him, have Stephen tell you about the fairies in Ireland. Fascinating stuff.). Then there’s Landon. He’s a veteran Adventures By Disney Guide who has guided groups all over the world. He’s kind, goofy, and knows your needs before you do. Hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Cold? Hot? Landon to the rescue!

It only took about 20 seconds of chatting with Stephen and Landon to know that we were going to be instant BFF’s… and that this trip was going to be unlike anything we’d ever done before!

That afternoon we toured around Dublin on our own. We grabbed pints of Guinness at The Temple Bar, we danced to live music, and “oo-ed and aww-ed" at the colorful flowers lining every street. It really is an incredible city!

Before we knew it, it was time to meet our Adventures By Disney group for dinner back at our hotel. We were both a little anxious/excited to see who we’d be spending the next seven days with! Not only did they have a feast prepared for us, the room was sparkling with elegant decor, and a harpist serenaded us with traditional Irish tunes! We made fast friends with the other families and couples, and talked for hours about our lives, what we do, what we were excited to see/learn, and how amazing this experience already was. And it had only just begun!

DAY TWO: EXPLORING DUBLIN

Day two started with a breakfast buffet feast our hotel (still dreaming about their croissants!) and an early call time to begin our day of sight-seeing. First stop was The Epic Museum, which chronicles the history of Irish emigrants who have left their homeland and gone on to impact countries all over the globe. We’re not always big “museum people", but we didn’t want the tour to end! It was fascinating, interactive, and beautifully displayed. Oh, and the best part? We had the whole place to ourselves. When you travel with Adventures By Disney, you’re basically traveling like a movie star (Or in Disney lingo - you travel with an everlasting Fast Pass). No standing in lines, no fighting crowds, no hassle. Ever. We were in and out before the museum even opened!

Next stop was tea, coffee, and pastries galore at Bakehouse Dublin. ABD (Adventures By Disney) knows the way to our hearts.

Next, it was time to walk off all of those said pastries on a walking tour around the city. We wore nifty little earpieces that made us feel like secret agents, and allowed for us to clearly hear our guide - even from hundreds of feet away! We saw government buildings, walked through farmers markets, explored Dublin Castle, walked by a Kanye mural (obviously), and kissed in front of the palace. Dreamy. We ate fish and chips in a famous old pub, and then hopped into a roomy, air-conditioned bus to head to one of Bobby’s favorite places in Ireland. The Guinness Factory!

WOW. If you haven’t been, it’s worth a trip to Ireland just to see that! It’s huge and at first glance rather overwhelming. But like we said before, nothing is overwhelming when you’re with ABD. They had a tour guide ready for us, and we followed them as they taught us the history of Guinness, how it’s made, and even how to properly pour a pint! (It’s an art, and we passed with flying colors. We have the certificates to prove it) 

That night was dinner on our own, and after a much-needed nap (partially because of jet lag, partially because of Guinness), we went off to explore the city. We found a cozy little Italian restaurant just a few blocks from our hotel (we know what you’re thinking - Italian food in Ireland?! We were craving pizza, ok! Sue us.), and had a romantic carb-filled dinner. YOLO.

Later that night we met with the adults in our group for a traditional Irish Pub Crawl. Filled with Guinness, music, dancing, Stephen’s quick-witted sarcasm, and Landon’s punny one-liners. Oh, and Murphy’s Ice Cream. We’d go back to Ireland just for a scoop of that creamy, flavorful goodness.

DAY THREE: JOURNEY TO KILLARNEY 

Time for our next destination! Landon and Stephen instructed us to have our luggage out of our room by 8am, so that they could have everything loaded up and in the bus. 

You’re probably thinking “Cool story”, or “That matters because…?” but just let that sink in. The ABD team does EVERYTHING for you. They handle your luggage. They give you water bottles and snacks. They educate you. They give you hand wipes. They even SING to you. It’s glorious. Well, maybe not Landon’s singing but that’s beside the point. It’s stress-free travel at its best.

We hopped back onto our beautiful air-conditioned bus to start the trek to the quaint little town of Killarney. Prior to our destination, we had a hurling lesson, ate lunch in Kilkenny, and we toured the famous Rock of Cashel. We’re telling you, these days are crammed full of adventure!

First things first, let’s talk about hurling. It’s way harder than it looks. Alli’s dream of being a professional hurler went out the window the second she picked up a hurley, but we had a blast learning the history of the sport and playing a good old fashioned hurling match. Even with Alli’s poor form and lack of skill, our team still managed to win. The Irish fairies were on our side!

We celebrated our victory at a Irish sports pub in downtown Kilkenny, followed by celebratory Murphy’s ice cream (thanks Stephen & Landon, we’re hooked). We walked up and down the colorful streets, took photos along the water, and worked on our Irish accents. The accents improved daily (don't ask us to prove it).

Next was a tour through the Rock of Cashel. The little ones in our crew went on a shamrock hunting adventure, and the “older folks” learned the history of this iconic place. The buildings date back to the 12th and 13th century, and it reputedly was the site of the conversion of Aenghus the King of Munster by St. Patrick in 5th century AD!

Our “home” for the next few nights was the gorgeous Great Southern Killarney. Our ABD team had our luggage sent to our hotel, and hosted us for another beautiful dinner in one of the grand ballrooms of the hotel. Yet again, we felt like movie stars. It was exquisite.

DAY FOUR: THE DAY BOBBY DISCOVERED HIS SECRET TALENT: CHOCOLATE MAKING

The mornings in Ireland were early, but we have never been more eager to get up! Every day the itinerary just kept getting better… and day four is no exception.

After breakfast at the hotel, we headed off to the breathtaking Ross Castle on Lake Leane. There we split up onto a handful of fishing boats, where local Irish fisherman took us on a scenic boat ride down Lake Leane, the “Lake of Knowledge”. It’s the largest of the three lakes in Killarney, and is home to the famous monastery on Innisfallen Island, where our boat tour docked and let us to explore. 

There’s something so enchanting about seeing old ruins, running your hands across so much history. We could imagine monks walking through each room, praying alongside the water. It was beautiful.

We took the boats back to shore and headed to the quaint town of Kenmare, where we explored on our own and grabbed lunch at our leisure. We found a restaurant with salads and avocados (we sure do miss avocados when we travel!), and spent some time meandering around the cobblestone streets.

As if this day couldn’t get any better, next on the agenda was a chocolate tasting and workshop at Lorge Chocolatier. We spent the rest of our afternoon not only learning how to make fancy chocolates, but we got to make our own as well! (Bobby would like everyone to know that he won the chocolate making competition and you can call him the “Chocolate Master”, thank you very much.)

The night ended with dinner on our own Killarney. We stumbled upon a cute little pub with live music, and spent the rest of our night snacking on french fries and singing along to Journey covers. Basically living our best lives.

DAY FIVE: FLYING BOATS, IRISH COFFEE, AND LIFE IN A CASTLE

Chances are you’ve never heard of Foynes before. You’ve probably never heard of Foynes Museum either. Neither had we. One of the many reasons we love Adventures By Disney is that they take you to places you never knew existed… and they blow you away.

Day five began with a trip to Foynes, home of the Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum, the only aviation museum in Ireland and the only “Flying Boat Museum” in the world. Flying boat? That’s ok, we’d never heard of one either! From 1937 to 1945, Foynes was the hub for these gigantic flying boats that would be flown across the Atlantic. They have a replica of one of the boats (or planes?), and it is incredible! Especially for over 75 years ago!

If that wasn’t enough, Foynes is also where the first Irish coffee was made! We learned how to make real, authentic Irish coffees (shoot us a DM for the secret recipe) and they were absolutely delicious!

Now it’s time for our favorite part of the trip. The whole ABD team really hit it out of the park with this one… three nights and three days in a castle. Yep, a castle!! 

We arrived at the historic Dromoland Castle wide-eyed and jaws-dropped. It’s everything we could’ve dreamed and more! Built in the 15th century, Dromoland is not only dripping with history, but with luxury as well. The rooms are stunning, they treat you like royalty, and the amenities are endless. We’re still pinching ourselves that this place is real!

Day five ended with an authentic Irish farm dinner, complete with cheese tasting. scone making, sheepherding,and a traditional Irish sing-along. Is that the dream or WHAT? Alli kept repeatedly thanking Stephen and Landon for taking us there - it was something out of a movie!

We honestly can’t put into words how incredible the night was. So, we’ll let these photos do the talking. It was an evening we’ll never, ever forget.

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DAY SIX: A LEISURELY DAY AT THE CASTLE 

This morning began with a leisurely breakfast in the castle (obviously), and a Birds of Prey Demonstration complete with hawks, owls, and falcons. Dromoland Castle has a team that is dedicated to the art of falconry, and their knowledge and care of the birds is truly remarkable. Not to mention they’re absolutely stunning creatures! (The birds, not the staff.)

Mesmerized by the sheer vastness of the property, we then embarked on a walking tour around Dromoland Castle. Our quirky and charming guide taught us the history of Dromoland, showed us around the grounds, and entertained us with his quick Irish wit. And this was all before noon!

The rest of the day was spent at our leisure. The ABD team gave us a plethora of entertainment options… We could go golfing, partake in archery, go on a  “Hawk Walk”, go fishing, indulge in a spa treatment, and so much more. Being the over-achievers that we are, we tried to cram in as MANY activities as possible. And we did a darn good job.

Bobby Golfed…

Alli went to the spa…

And together we went on a hawk walk, where we got an advanced lesson in falconry and learned how to train a falcon. We definitely scored a few cool points for that!

Dinner was in a formal dining room in the heart of the castle. The layout of our trip was a little different than typical ABD Ireland adventures (since many guests were media/staff), so what they call the “Farewell Dinner” happened tonight. We were greeted with bagpipes, entertained by the Irish version of The Von Trapp family (they were AMAZING), and traditional Irish dancers. Bobby’s been attempting to imitate their dance moves ever since! (Still not close)

The ABD team even put together a special slideshow with photos from our trip so far. Reflecting on how much we’d done in 6 short days was unbelievable. It truly was the trip of a lifetime. And we still had one more day!

DAY SEVEN: CAN WE PLEASE EXTEND THE TRIP?

Day seven. The day we’d been dreading because it meant our ABD adventures in Ireland were about to come to a close. Even now it brings tears to our eyes. But nonetheless, we went out with a bang.

Our ABD family ventured to a spot that’s been on our bucket list for years: The Cliffs of Moher. Standing 700 feet above the sea, it’s one of those places that instantly takes your breath away. 

In true ABD fashion, we rolled right up before the crowds (Everlasting Fast Pass!), had tickets in hand, and explored the majestic cliffs before half of the tour buses and groups even arrived in the parking lot. We spotted puffins, took hundreds (maybe even thousands) of photos, and sat to take in the sheer greatness of these cliffs. Photos don’t do them justice. (Even though we have enough to fill five photo albums!)

Even though we didn’t want to leave the Cliffs of Moher (we’ll be back!), it was time for lunch. The ABD team brought us to a traditional Irish pub in the small town of Droolin, that’s been run by the same family since 1867. How they find such hidden gems we’ll never know!

We ended the afternoon with a tour through Ailwee Cave - one of the oldest caves in Ireland. Our private guides taught us about the history of the caves and how they formed. They even turned off all the lights inside and has us stand there in pure, black darkness. It was terrifying and totally awesome. 

And just like that, we reached our final dinner with our ABD family. As amazing as our itinerary, lodging, meals, and experiences were… the people we met during this week-long adventure were the real highlight of the trip. There’s something so bonding about experiencing new cultures with a group of strangers. Even though we’d only spent a week with these people, they already felt like family! We hugged, cried, exchanged information, and cheers-ed to the trip of a lifetime. It really was just that.

5000 Miles, Podcasts, and a Heated Steering Wheel :: Driving Through the US & Canada in our Acura MDX

Over 5,000 miles of driving. 

One whole month on the road. 

Just the two of us. Oh, and our 60 pound dog. 

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Are we crazy? Probably… but these past four weeks have been some of the craziest/best/most rewarding times of our lives. When we started planning our journey, we knew we needed to do this whole thing right. After all, that’s a lot of time just the two (err.. three!) of us, and that’s a heck of a lot of time in a car. We both have smaller, older cars that are great for getting from A to Z, but when it comes to driving cross country, we weren’t sure they would make it. Thankfully, our friends at Acura let us try out a brand new, bright red, 2018 Acura MDX… what we affectionately titled “Red Rover”.

With Red Rover, it was love at first sight. From the shiny, sleek exterior to the spacious, luxe interior, the Acura MDX is the perfect mix of sporty yet efficient. When you’re driving the MDX you feel more like you’re gliding, and every feature (and there are so many features!) is perfectly placed on the dashboard. The seats - oh, the seats. They’re like butter. Not like sticky and gooey butter, but like soft, comfy, airy butter. Too much? Regardless, we were instantly obsessed - suddenly somehow the idea of driving 5,000 miles cross country didn’t sound too bad!

It didn’t take us long to realize that once you have an MDX, you’re a part of the “club”. We’d pass other Acura MDX’s on our journey, and they’d all smile and wave at us - like we were already friends! One campground we went to, the cabin next to us had an MDX as well. We spent a solid thirty minutes talking to them about road tripping through the US, and how they wouldn’t do it in anything but their MDX. We whole-heartedly agreed!

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We found ourselves driving through all sorts of terrain with Red Rover - through windy, cliff-lined roads along the California Coast, to chasing waterfalls along bumpy dirt roads in Alberta, Canada, she handled it like a CHAMP. We felt safe in our Acura MDX, it’s sturdy, reliable, and even though it’s big, it’s incredibly easy to maneuver. In the entire month we were gone, we never had a single problem (except Bobby might have gotten pulled over once)!

Fast-forward to the end of our trip, and even our Bernedoodle Sally was obsessed with Red Rover. Using a set from Kurgo (highly recommend!) we transformed the whole middle row (there’s three rows - we’re telling you, it’s huge!) to accommodate our 60-pound fur ball. We weren’t sure how Sally was going to handle such long days on the road, but she LOVED it. (These pictures are proof.) There were plenty of air vents to keep her cool, and the row was big enough for her to stretch out, lay down, go from one window to the next, and even rest her head on our shoulders. (Our personal favorite.)

Looking back, we remarked how amazing it was that we never once got homesick. Not once! We 100% attribute that to the fact that Red Rover really became our home! Even though we stopped at over twenty cities along the way, we always had a “home base” in our Acura MDX. We’d have our little “things” placed right where we’d need them - both pairs of sunglasses had their home, our mints were in a hidden compartment in between the seats, the XM radio was programmed to our favorite stations, and our seat heaters (and coolers!) were set to just the right temperature. It may sound silly, but these little routines gave us a sense of normalcy throughout our trip that really made a big difference. Not to mention our luggage fit perfectly in the back - and we had a LOT of luggage!

There’s a lot we already miss about life on the road - the constant adventure, the random stops places we’d find ourselves in, the friends we’d make… but we especially miss Red Rover. Yep, even after 5,000 miles in the Acura MDX, we’re still every bit as obsessed as we were on day one. Maybe even more so. It was the PERFECT adventure car. And would be the perfect family car one day… maybe in the not-so-distant future. :)