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My 1,180 Mile Road Trip From Colorado Springs To Los Angeles

by Staff

Toward the end of 2023, I flew to Colorado Springs and then drove 1,180 miles back to Los Angeles via the southern route; my first true “road trip” in many years. The Southwest road trip was actually a lot of fun, though I was quite exhausted by the time I reached home about 30 hours later.

Southwest Road Trip

Why a road trip, especially with so much going on in my life right now? I had a meeting in Colorado Springs and clients in Albuquerque, NM Flagstaff, AZ, and Palm Springs, CA who wanted to meet (Award Expert has become so boutique that I will make “house calls” for long-term clients). It made little sense to fly to each one, so I opted to drive instead. And what an adventure it was!

First, I flew from Los Angeles to Denver then to Colorado Springs on United. I took early morning flights so I could get a head start on my drive. The flights were unmemorable, but thankfully on time.

That’s one way to get to Denver…
aerial view of a beach and clouds
Beautiful morning over Los Angeles
a cup of coffee on a napkin
Strong coffee
a tray of food on a table
United’s version of shakshuka

an aerial view of a city

an aerial view of a city
Flying over Denver

a plane on the runway

a screen on a plane
You’re welcome
a woman with luggage in an airport
Beautiful day for flying
an aerial view of a city
Colorado Springs
a plane on the tarmac
COS Airport

At Colorado Springs Airport, I picked up my rental car from Hertz. When I rent cars, I don’t want a fancy one and I certainly did not want an electric car or a gas guzzler for the journey home across Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

a sign on the wall

a group of cars parked in a parking lot
Perfect junker for the 1,180 mile trip

a car parked in a parking lot

a car parked in a lot

a close up of a car

a close up of a car

Despite all the preexisting scratches and dents, this was a trip I paid for the full insurance coverage just so I would not have to worry or deal with my credit card company in case of an accident or damage.

Like an idiot, I promptly locked myself out of the car (left the key in the trunk). It has been years now since I’ve had to carry a car key since my Tesla just uses my mobile phone. My wife drives a Toyota at home and her trunk will not close if it senses the key fob. But apparently not so on the Corolla…thankfully Hertz had a locksmith on staff who was quickly able to “break into” the car and get the key back.

I took care of business in Colorado Springs, then hit the road by 4:00 pm. My drive was not bad the first day: just to Albuquerque via I-25.

cars on a road with a mountain in the background

a car driving on a road with traffic cones

a road with mountains in the background

a view of a road from a car window

a bear crossing sign on a road
Caution

a road with a bus on it

The drive was…boring…and I was thankful for that. I stopped in Raton, New Mexico for a stretch and bathroom break then made it to dinner in Albuquerque at Cocina Azul, as recommended by road trip expert Sriram from Travel Codex. I did not make it in time for the original Cocina Azul, but quite enjoyed the enchiladas, though both the Hatch green chile and red salsas were quite spicy!

a sign in a field

a sign on a road

a building with a red object in front of it

a path in a park with trees and a building

a sign on a road

a bag of chips and a snack on a car seat
Yes, I snacked…

a road with a field of grass and blue sky

a road with a mountain in the background

a road with mountains in the background

a road with a yellow line and a moon in the sky

a road with a sunset in the background

a road with trees and a blue sky

a building with lights on the front

a bowl of salsa and chips on a table

a plate of food on a table

I slept at the Hyatt Place adjacent to Albuquerque Airport. The following morning, I had an early meeting and then was on my way.

a sign with numbers and words on it
Gas is so cheap outside California!

a car parked at a gas station

a road with cars on it

a sign on the side of the road

two trucks on a road

a close up of a gas pump
More than $2 less per gallon than CA…

I reached Flagstaff, had a productive meeting there, and was soon on my way again for the long stretch to Palm Springs, California. On this leg of the trip, I just stopped in Mayer, AZ to use the bathroom.

a view from a car window of a road

a road with a bridge and signs

a sign on a pole
I thankfully avoided the snakes!

a tree on a walkway

a landscape of a desert with mountains in the background

a landscape of a desert with mountains in the background

a sunset over a road

a road with a sunset in the background

cars on a road
Agriculture inspection at California border

a sign on the side of a road

a road with cars on it

After my meeting in Palm Springs, I was famished…and made a beeline for the Taco Bell in Cabazon, part of the Morongo reservation. I also got tax-free gas there.

a building with a sign on the front

a group of food on a table
My weakness…

a close up of a gas pump

I hit traffic and did not make it back to LAX Airport until nearly 3:00 am to drop off the car. I walked back through from the Hertz drop-off to my car and drove home, arriving home just before 4:00 am with my alarm set to go off for church at 6:45 am.

a car dashboard with a speedometer and a display
Late arrival
a parking lot with cars and a yellow tent
Thankfully the police have not shown up claiming I stole the vehicle #Hertz

CONCLUSION

A 1,180-mile drive with three meetings was taxing, but it was a very productive two days. And while I far prefer to fly than drive, I will take my family on a cross-country road trip at some point in the future (and probably in one direction on this same Southwest route). My wife Heidi has seen so little of this country and we all know that Los Angeles is hardly indicative of the rest of the nation.

This week I’ll also add a full review of the Hyatt Place Albuquerque Airport and of a couple great coffee shops I found in Colorado Springs and in Flagstaff.

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