Sam and Sandy Carroll visited 21 states during their 25-day journey. They traveled more than 7,300 miles, almost exclusively on back roads.
“We spent two days on an interstate and decided, ‘We have to get off of here’,” said Sandy Carroll, an avid photographer who captured more than 1,500 images of everything from mountain vistas to roadside barns.
The Carrolls’ drove their Honda rather than a motor home to save on gas. The most they paid to fill up was $3.99, but they saw gas being sold in Death Valley for $5.05
The couple’s original destination was Glacier National Park in Montana. Then they decided to continue on to the West Coast.
“We’re trying to visit all 50 states, and we were missing several out there,” Sam Carroll said. “We got all of those, so now we’re down to just one state we haven’t been in — Rhode Island.”
The length of the trip was unusual for the Carrolls, who typically stay gone no more than a week or two on their summer vacation.
Sandy Carroll said she made the month-long committment after much prayer and realizing that she could keep in touch with family and friends through Facebook.
The Carrolls visited such popular tourist destinations as Zion National Park, Redwood National Park, Four Corners, Columbia River Gorge, Mount Rushmore and Death Valley.
While they enjoyed their day at Hoover Dam, they were underwhelmed by the night they spent in nearby Las Vegas to see the lights come on along the city’s famous strip.
“We had been on the road for a couple of weeks by that time and were used to being out in the open with plenty of room. Vegas was just swamped with people. The next morning, I was glad to get in the car and head out,” Sam Carroll said.
The couple agreed that they couldn’t have asked for better weather for their road trip. They drove through some rain shortly after leaving Alabama and didn’t encounter another storm until they were heading home through Hamilton four weeks later.
The Carrolls somehow managed to miss the heat wave that baked the nation’s breadbasket this summer.
“It was either ahead of us or behind us,” Sandy Carroll said.
“Everywhere we went, it was cooler than we expected. It was 111 in the shade the day we stopped at a golf course in Death Valley. He said, ‘This is unusually cool. Last week it was about 125 in the shade.’”
The Carrolls frequently visit golf courses while on vacation but not to play a round; Sam Carroll collects score cards as souvenirs.
Although it was Carroll who convinced his wife that a month was needed to really “see America,” he showed signs of homesickness as well.
In Death Valley, for example, he became excited when he saw a car with an Alabama license plate. One of the women in the group lived in the Birmingham area.
“Sam said, ‘I told my wife a while back that I was going to hug the next person I saw from Alabama.’ So he did,” Sandy Carroll said.