Be an au pair means that you have only two weeks of paid vacation through the year. I’m not complaining, two paid vacation weeks it is awesome, but for someone who wants to see as much as possible of the country in which is living for a strict amount of time, it is not that much. That’s why I came out with the insane idea of traveling thru the Midwest till Nashville in four days, touching six States: Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana.
I found the perfect companion in 5 German girls. Franzi, who lives in Madison and is an au pair as well, found out that her roommates from Germany where coming to the States the same time I was planning this road trip. Everybody accepted.
Thanks to my host parents we didn’t have to rent any car (which for under 25 is a nightmare, btw) and we drove that poor 2005 Honda Odyssey for something like 1200 miles. We had to change the oil along the way because, well, I hadn’t check anything before we left. But, we made it home, that’s what it matters.
FIRST STOP: ST. LOUIS, MO
I drove from Madison, Wisconsin, to Chicago, Illinois on Friday night after work. I met the Germans at my host family’s condo in the Windy City and we spend the night there. The next morning we left around 9 am, after having breakfast and put the gas into the car, we headed to St. Louis, our first stop. It was there, just entered the highway, that the orange sign that alerts you to change the oil popped out. Yeah, lucky us. We decided to drive till it dropped to 10%, only when that moment would have come we would have start searching for help.
I don’t know if you ever experienced the Wisconsin winter, it’s not nice. It’s really really cold. Chicago is basically the same. Driving south was amazing for us. We left our jackets in the car and we started to feel the spring and the warmth of the sun.
We arrived in St. Louis, MO around 4 pm. We found the Airbnb, a really nice house in a quite neighborhood in University City, just 15 minutes from the Gateway Arch.
We drove to downtown St. Louis and we spent a lot of time taking pictures at the Arch. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go on top of the Arch because it was closed because of work in progress.
SECOND STOP: NASHVILLE, TN
The next day we left St. Louis around 8. On our first stop, about 1 hour and a half after departing, we decided to change the oil. We found a Walmart with an Auto Center and in about one hour everything was fixed. We arrived in Nashville around 2 pm and we decided to head straight to Centennial Park before going downtown. It was a Sunday and there was a lot of people hanging out there. The weather was awesome even if cloudy. I think I was more attracted to the people having fun all around the Pantheon than by the Pantheon itself.
We drove downtown Nashville and we parked at the Public Library. Suddenly we fell in love with the city. Broadway, the main street, was amazing. There was music everywhere, people having fun, bands playing at 3 pm, country stores selling boots. Everything was like in the movies and we decided to stop at a bar and drink a beer before heading to our amazing Airbnb, just 10 minutes away from downtown.
The next morning, before heading to Louisville, KY, we decided to try to find one of Nashville’s famous graffiti.
THIRD STOP: LOUISVILLE, KY
After taking our Instagram pictures and a stop at Starbucks we headed to Louisville, KY. It was just a 3 hours drive, we were supposed to arrive by 1 pm but Franzi and I had this idea of stepping off the highway and try to find an Amish village. I was searching on Google and it was said that there was the biggest Amish settlement close to Munfordville, KY. I think we drove around 1 hour in the middle of nowhere, asking everyone where the Amish people were. The answer was always the same: “go straight, up the hill, you are going to see them”. Did we see them? Absolutely not. At one point we thought they were hiding from us. We just gave up and ate a burger at Wendy’s before driving another couple of hours to our third destination.
We stopped at the Airbnb first, it was around 4 pm when we arrived. The house looked pretty dodgy from the outside. It was an old house but it was ok for the amount of time that we were going to spend in it.
We drove downtown Louisville, to the Fourth Street. It was a Monday and obviously, nothing was going on. It was raining too but after looking around we had dinner in an amazing place suggested by our Airbnb host: Gordon Biersch Brewery.
Before going back to our apartment, we decided to take a walk on the Big Four Bridge. A really nice walk on the Ohio River where you can have a nice view of downtown Louisville.
FOURTH STOP: INDIANAPOLIS, IN.
We left a rainy Louisville to head to our last and quick stop, Indianapolis, IN. The weather, on the way up north, was terrible but as soon as we arrived in Indianapolis it stopped raining. Louisville and Indianapolis are about 1 hour and a half apart, not a big deal. We decided not to go downtown Indianapolis but look at the skyline from the White River State Park.
After lunch, we drove all the way up to Chicago and then to Madison, WI. We arrived at our last destination around 9 pm. We were in Chicago during the rush hour so our timetable got one hour delayed. Instead of 5 hours, it took us 6 hours.
This road trip was amazing and exhausting at the same time. We drove more than 1200 miles, we changed city every day and we saw so many things that sometimes it is hard to remember. But road trips, as much as they are exhausting, they are perfect to see, to go on an adventure, because they allow you to stop when you want. Yes, you have a timetable but everything can be changed based on your needs. I’m so glad I had open minded companions in this travel and I’m glad I’ve shared this experience with them.