Posts tagged Road Trip
We arrived in our final destination, West Chesterfield, New Hampshire to Katelyn’s house on Tuesday night after our last stretch from NYC. 24 days, 4098 miles, 16 states and 3 parking tickets later, we have concluded what has been a road trip to remember.
It was a thought-provoking final stretch, with both of us considering what these last few weeks have given us and where we will go from here. During the drive, a thought came to my mind: “The trip may be over, but the journey never ends.” It made me think back on the Lao Tzu quote we came upon serendipitously on Day 1. “A good traveler is has no fixed plans, and is never intent on arriving.” Katelyn and I are both individuals who find peace in discovering new things and exploring the unknown, and this trip has been no different. Not only have we explored new areas of the country and new people, but we have also had time to reflect on our past, present and future paths, which is what I think of as the ongoing journey.
I feel like there are parts of this trip, emotions, feelings and depth that can’t be accurately conveyed in words, but have been experienced. All of our serious life contemplations have been balanced by spontaneity, creativity and goofiness. I’m so grateful for this interlude that has given me the chance to reconnect with people I love, think about my life’s course, and just let loose and have a good time. I wouldn’t have survived without Katelyn to share it with me for its ups and downs and for being each other’s sounding board for all our life debates, freak out sessions and hilarious episodes. All the conversations that have kept me up til early hours and entertained hours of monotonous driving, and the laughing sessions that came to dominate our exhausted, sleep deprived moments, have left me feeling re-energized and complete.
I had a wise friend in high school who coined the term “pure life moments”, a phrase that so entirely encapsulates the experiences I’ve had over the past few weeks, and reminds me of what I truly value in life.
I woke up in the morning after the rest of New York had entered the Monday morning rush. Everyone in this city (at least everyone I know) is incredibly busy and everything is really fast-paced. With Katelyn busy with a morning meeting, I had to tackle the problem of where to park my car. I was NOT interested in driving or parking in Manhattan again, nor was I interested in paying for a garage in Brooklyn. I decided to get creative and to google “non-metered parking in Brooklyn” and found a random message board posting that listed two cross streets with parking, got google directions to that area, and drove over there. I found a residential area with parking and felt a wave of relief to be released of my obligation to constantly worry about parking my car. With no street cleaning restrictions until Thursday, I could breathe easy.
I love public transportation and was happy to be able to use it once I parked to go to Manhattan. I met up with my step-cousin Jillian near her work for some delicious Cuban food. She’s a busy working girl, but I was very grateful she could take an hour to introduce me to a great little restaurant and catch up. Monday was an absolutely beautiful day, blue skies were a welcome contrast to the gray/white tones we’ve been getting used to for the last few weeks. After lunch, I went on a 30+ block leisurely walk uptown to meet up with Katelyn and her friend, David and just enjoyed the nice weather, people watching and the bustle of NYC. I eventually met up with Katelyn and David and enjoyed a late afternoon of chatting and bargain shopping in midtown. We wanted to get out in NYC, so we met up with my friend Sade (from Harvard) downtown who had discovered an almost too good to be true happy hour where we could enjoy a low-key New York evening. It was awesome to see Sade again and our hodge-podge group of mixed friends and social groups turned out to be entertaining as always.
And a picture of Katelyn and I with David.
The next morning was another lazy one for me. Katelyn had another meeting downtown for future professional pursuits. Our re-entry to the east coast has been a reminder of impending reality of non-road trip life with meetings for both of us in DC and NYC and trying to piece together our next steps.
I had to recover my car from Brooklyn, which to be honest was a little nerve-wracking. I am already jaded about my Car-ma after some of the issues we’ve encountered thus far and I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do if perhaps my car was not there when I got there. Thankfully, my worrying was not necessary, and I found my car in perfect shape and breathed a sigh of relief.
Once I got my car, I had to drive back to the upper west side to meet Katelyn where she had been staying with her friend to pick her up, but I had some time to kill so I decided to make a pit-stop in Harlem’s “Little Senegal” and see what I could find. I’ve been back in the US for just about 5 months (it’s hard to believe so much time has gone by), but I’ve spoken Wolof maybe 3 times since I’ve been back, so I was hoping for some practice. I immediately came upon a dollar store called “Thies”, which is the name of the city where I learned Wolof, so I went in to check it out. I entered the store and was immediately thrown back to Senegal with Wolof conversations all around me, prayer rugs folded in the corner, and beautifully bright Senegalese printed fabrics. I chatted a bit with the woman behind the counter, and continued on to a restaurant I had found online before I went. I wanted to have some Senegalese food, and I ordered myself Chebbu gannar (Chicken with rice) to go.
Chicken was a rare treat in Senegal, but they didn’t have the more common fish option that day. It was the first time I have eaten Senegalese food outside of Senegal, and it was really fun to reconnect with such a familiar taste (plus I love Senegalese food).
One thing that stood out to me yesterday is even when I spoke in Wolof to the people I met, they barely even blinked. I might have gotten a mildly surprised smile or two, but there was no reaction such as, “did this white girl just walk into my restaurant in Harlem and start talking to me in my native African language?” I guess I have a little bit of a bias based on the reactions I’ve gotten when I’ve spoken Chinese to a Chinese person. They are usually surprised, curious and appreciative of my efforts to learn their language, which has often lead to interesting conversations in the past. From my experiences in Senegal, I didn’t expect anyone to be excited by my language ability in Harlem. I was just content to practice a language I had been using all day every day to 3 times over 5 months and reconnect with a culture that despite its challenges was my base of familiarity for the majority of 2009.
Once I picked up Katelyn from her friend’s house, we swung back through Harlem to give Katelyn a taste of West Africa because both of us wanted to share different cultures we had explored with each other. We walked around a bit and ate some fried plantains in a new West African cafe where we soaked in the mixture of heavily accented French fused with a wide variety of African languages from countries like Mali, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire. Spending more time in that area only reminded me of more cultural norms and situations like the prevalence of males compared to females in public and the style and mannerisms of greetings and interactions. Katelyn and I were definitely the minority, but it was a nice way to feel like we had traveled to a new place without leaving the confines of Manhattan.
On Saturday, Katelyn and I got ourselves organized before heading out for the second-half of my homecoming in Bucktown. As we approached “downtown” Bucktown’s main slash only intersection, I felt another nice wave of familiarity.
In the afternoon, we went out to see Shutter Island with my dad, which was fun. After that, we hung out at my dad’s house too. Alex played electric guitar and piano for us (he’s getting really good!), and we introduced Katelyn to the Martin Family Specialty that are Nerf Battles. These are a common occurrence at our house once we discovered that Dad could use the guns perfectly fine without moving his fingers. Usually it’s Alex and I against Dad, Alex and I crouching behind the recliner in the family room and Dad in the kitchen, firing as fast as possible until we’ve expended all of our darts. With Katelyn in the mix, we split boys versus girls and needless to say, Katelyn (despite being a novice) and I were victorious. We a picture was necessary to capture the real “tough” nature of these battles.
After staying at my dad’s, Katelyn and I headed to Philly to get Indonesian food (Katelyn’s birthday was the 28th, but we celebrated Saturday night). We had a great, long meal with some of our friends, then headed out to Old City Philadelphia. I called some friends from home and we pieced together a big group of people, which was a lot of fun. Once the clock struck midnight, we got a large group to sing happy birthday to our birthday girl.
On Sunday we started our trek to NYC, planning on making a pit stop in New Jersey to take my grandma to lunch. Our time schedule was a bit thrown off because yesterday was a very rough “Gee I miss my GPS” day. Thank goodness for patience and persistence otherwise we might still be crying somewhere in no man’s land Philadelphia having given up on our quest. Thank goodness also for Grandmas because once we actually did make it to our lunch turned early dinner, we had a wonderful afternoon eating delicious food and having some good old fashioned girl time. The restaurant even brought out a candle for Katelyn’s birthday with our dessert and I was glad we had such a nice afternoon to brighten our day.
After lunch, we continued to NYC and had a little more luck with directions than the first leg of the journey. With only minor complications, we reached our destination. Katelyn stayed with a friend of hers in Manhattan and I made my adventurous solo journey by car to Brooklyn to hang out with Khary (friend from Harvard). Driving in New York might have been added to my top 10 list of things I hate last night, but once I got there I was happy to have a low-key, enjoyable night getting to catch up and re-connect with a good friend. The last few fast paced days eventually caught up with me though, and I was grateful for a good night’s sleep.
Sunday marked 3 weeks since we’ve begun our adventure, it seems very hard to believe. We’re going to make the most out of our last few days.
Our first full day in DC turned mostly into a day of relaxation and work catch up. Josh and I got a chance to work a bit on SPINALpedia stuff without being relegated to the phone for the first time in a while. It was nice to have a day to lounge though and be entertained by Josh’s cute 3 year old niece Briana.
By the end of the day though, we were ready to meet up with some of our friends and get out in DC. Katelyn and I met up with my friend Scott (from studying abroad in Beijing in 2005) in his apartment and hung out for a bit.
We ended up driving around downtown for a while and taking some cool night photos of the tourist hot spots, and the absolute bitter cold (the wind has been relentless) forced us to actually run back to the car after not too long because we couldn’t bear it.
We then dropped off Katelyn to hang out with another friend of hers, and I went back with Scott for an early night because he had to work and I actually had an early job interview the next morning. It was another great night for catching up with an old friend though, I’ve felt very lucky for the people that I’ve gotten to reconnect with on this trip.
On Friday morning, I got up earlier than I had in a LONG time to get out to a meeting outside DC in regards to a permanent substitute position for a Chinese teacher in a private middle school for boys. I have been interviewing over the phone for this job intermittently throughout the course of the trip, but was waiting for my arrival to DC to meet all the necessary people and attempt to “seal the deal”. After all the formalities, I found out that I actually got the job and am starting March 11th! I’ll be teaching 4 different sections of 3 levels of beginner Chinese between 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I had an awesome day at the school and really loved the atmosphere and the people, and got to observe and interact with some of the Chinese classes. I introduced myself in Chinese to two of the 6th grade sections and it was so cute to see their enthusiasm to learn and their impressions of seeing that their new Chinese replacement is not in fact Chinese. Even watching the class, I felt compelled to want to start teaching. I have had different types of teaching experiences in the last few years, and I love the dynamic of sharing knowledge and getting to see someone else absorb it. I’ll be teaching until the end of the school year and after my day today I feel really excited for it!
After my day at the school, I picked up Katelyn downtown (only getting slightly lost on the way), hung out with her and her friend for a bit before getting back on the road to get back to Pennsylvania and my mom’s house. The last leg of our PA drive stunned both of us with easily over 10 ft high snow drifts along the side of the road— I couldn’t have been happier I missed out on these series of blizzards and hope that they’re all done! We arrived with Nick’s family to celebrate his birthday and had a nice dinner with delicious food. It was great to be reunited with family too, and of course Rylee was excited for a new friend.
Exciting note of the evening: I EMPTIED OUT MY CAR!! Once we got back to mom’s house, I was able to feel the relief of clearing out and organizing the horrendous mess that has become my car. I wasn’t kidding about losing my motivation for keeping any kind of order in my car after the Kansas tire incident (See Day 13- Bad “Car-ma” for the dramatic details), and emptying my car only made that more obvious. This is what my bedroom looked like after bringing in most of everything out of the car:
Mom’s only reaction was shock at how on earth we had fit so much into my little Civic. Now that the car’s nearly empty, I can actually replace my spare tire to its proper location and only pack the essentials for the northeast segment of our trip. I feel like a new woman. Although we’re now treading in familiar territory, Katelyn and I refuse to lose our road trip vibe. It’s not over yet ladies and gentlemen!
We spent the day Tuesday exploring Chicago with recommendations from Helena for the best tourist spots. Despite being cold and windy, the weather actually held out pretty well and so long as we warmed up in stores every once in a while. We took the metro from Helena’s house straight downtown to check out the sites around there.
We checked out Millennium Park, which was awesome, especially the gigantic reflective “bean” (I don’t know if there’s a real name for it). It was an awesome site and great for interesting pictures, as you can see below.
We loved walking around and taking in the sights and sounds of Chicago. The architecture is awesome and the people that we interacted with were really pleasant. One of the most important things on our list of things to do in Chicago was eating real deep dish pizza. We were recommended to Giordano’s and found one in the heart of downtown. We ordered one of the small deep dish pizzas, and it was absolutely delicious. I have never had anything like it.
On Wednesday morning, we started our last long haul from Chicago to DC and it marked our official re-entry to Eastern Standard time and everything east coast. The drive was relatively uneventful, but actually pretty pleasant. Our longer drives are always fun despite being in the car for hours simply because we get the most time to talk about anything we feel like, sing, and usually by the end we get a little slap happy from cabin fever and end up laughing over nothing. Unfortunately, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, western Pennsylvania and eastern Maryland really don’t have much to offer in terms of winter scenery.
We arrived at Josh (my partner working on SPINALpedia)’s house in Maryland later in the evening. I had been staying here for a bit before I moved out west to work with Josh on the website. In some ways arriving here last night made me feel for a moment like I never left, unless I stop for a minute and think about the last 3 months of my life and how much has changed. I know it hasn’t been an incredibly long time since I’ve been on the east coast, but I still feel like it’s another world since I was last here. We’ll be in DC Thursday and Friday before heading north Friday afternoon.
We’ve been covering some serious ground in the last few days. Well into the Central Time Zone, we’ve covered about 2400 miles since we started our journey in San Francisco. We had a few hours on Sunday morning to get a little of a feel for Kansas City despite the horrendously freezing weather complete with ice and snow. Katelyn’s friend, Pierce took us to the historic City Market, which was conveniently located right near his house.
It was an awesome area, complete with shops from all sorts of cultures from Middle Eastern to Korean to Italian. We walked around a bit, and also explored the Chinese market before sitting down for some Ethiopian food for lunch (it was delicious!)
Both Katelyn and I were pretty surprised by the diversity and culture of Kansas City, and definitely wish we had more time to explore and better weather to make that actually possible. We only had a few hours though because we had to make to to St. Louis, Missouri (Katelyn’s original hometown) to have dinner with her aunt and uncle. We dug out my car and snapped a picture before hitting the road.
Interestingly enough, Kansas City has already expended its plowing budget for the year, so we had to take our time getting out of the city, but once we hit the open road, it was smooth sailing (but pouring the entire time) until St. Louis. Once we arrived, we had a really nice dinner with Katelyn’s aunt and uncle, and had a nice relaxing evening.
The next morning we got to sleep in, visited Katelyn’s grandma, and hit the road again bound for Chicago, where we are now. On the way, we stopped at a midwest hot-spot, Steak ‘n Shake for some of their famous burgers and milkshakes.
Here in Chicago we are staying with my friend Helena from Madrid who is a friend of my friend Alicia who’s older sister was a foreign exchange student with my family when I was 6 or 7 (confused yet?). I know Helena from my last two trips to Spain in 2004 and 2007, so it was great to see her again.
Once we chatted and caught up a bit, the three of us plus Helena’s boyfriend and his roommate decided to hit up a kareoke bar and spice up our Monday night. It wasn’t too busy, and all of us were pretty hesitant to take the stage. That was until a man named Nester approached our table wondering if anyone would duet “Love Shack” from the B-52′s with him. Unable to resist this random but almost too perfect opportunity to break the ice and get on stage, I accepted. It was my first attempt at kareoke outside of China (the style of kareoke there is a lot different), but I had a blast. After that, Katelyn and I shared a duet of All Saints “Never Ever” (circa Spice Girls era) and I sang Kesha’s “Tik Tok” (a pretty annoying, but undeniably catchy pop song that I’ve learned by default by driving so much and listening to FM radio) and it got some people dancing and singing along. Tonight felt great because I was getting over being nervous singing in public and just reconnecting with my inner Britt– a few things out of many that I’ve wanted to get out of this road trip.
We are excited to explore Chicago tomorrow! Even just driving in, the city seems awesome. There’s great architecture and diversity, so we’re going to try to brave the freezing cold and do our best to be good tourists. We’re going to check out the sites and definitely get some Chicago deep dish pizza!
On the journey from Boulder, CO to Kansas City, MO Kately coined the new term “Car-ma” to describe the challenges we encountered on the road on what became an over 13 hour affair. We left Boulder at 7:30am, planning to make it to Kansas City by the evening to meet up with Katelyn’s friend named Pierce. Exhausted, we hit the road and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, we couldn’t escape our bad Car-ma. It was snowing in eastern Colorado and we had to take it slow (no more cruising at 75 mph), and knowing we had at least a 10 hour drive ahead of us it was far from encouraging. Slippery roads and spinning out on the highway kept us going at a good 35mph. We finally broke out of the snow and made some good time crossing into Kansas, but then our bad Car-ma kicked in again and Katelyn and I heard what we thought was a helicopter. After searching relentlessly for this elusive helicopter, I finally smelled burning and pulled over. Still hoping to find a helicopter, we only discovered that my rear right tire was entirely flat.
I do have AAA, so we made the call and waited on the highway already late and about to be even later for our dinner plans. Thankfully, Katelyn and I have been getting really good at healthily diffusing frustration. What started off as us screaming to relieve stress as we waited for our AAA man transformed into hysterical laughter when we considered the ridiculousness of our situation. Our repairman arrived very quickly and was incredibly pleasant, which made things a lot easier, except for the fact that to retrieve my spare tire, I had to excavate the contents of my trunk. Normally this isn’t a big deal, but I had my trunk packing down to a science– everything fit perfectly without an inch to spare. I purposefully packed my trunk before I left Seattle with all of my things that I wasn’t going to need on the trip with every intention of not touching them again until Pennsylvania, but I never considered having to access my spare tire. We created quite a site on the side of I-70, with me hauling the necessary bags and boxes onto the roadside to let our buddy dig out the spare tire.
Needless to say, I did not methodically repack my trunk, but only haphazardly threw things where they fit and threw the rest in the backseat, adding to the chaos of our day’s adventures. Once we had the spare on, we had to follow our repairman to Wal-Mart in Hays, Kansas to buy a new tire. Frustrated and annoyed, but trying to rally a positive outlook, we parked at the auto shop and went shopping in the store. Like a gift from the heavens, we stumbled upon two racks of discount clothing, $3 zipper sweatshirts and $1 (yes, really only $1) leopard print tights! Katelyn and I felt like we struck gold and jumped at the opportunity to garner some happiness out of our otherwise dismal day. Once my car was done, we eagerly got back on the road, and began planning our leopard tight debut (we’re still trying to figure that one out).
Katelyn knew just what I needed to brighten my day and offered to buy me a Dairy Queen blizzard if there was one the next time we stopped to get gas. My tank was too low to bypass the next rest area, so as we approached the road sign that tells you what food/gas/lodging options you have, I strained my eyes to see if there was that recognizable DQ logo. Katelyn didn’t see one at first, but I wasn’t about to lose hope. As we got closer, I made out the DQ sign and immediately screamed an excited, drawn-out “YES!” (It was an incredibly exciting moment for me).
Once I had my large Reese’s cup blizzard, things were pretty smooth for the next few hours, but about an hour or so outside of Kansas City, we hit more snow. Almost completely without wind in our sails, we begrudgingly pushed forward, already cautious after our morning snow driving issues and getting more and more exhausted. We were so close, yet so far away. Cue more stress-relieving screaming and making up song lyrics about not liking Kansas, its luck or its long stretch of I-70. As you can imagine by what I’ve told you thus far, this also often sparked laughing fits that motivated us even more to make it to Kansas City and make the best of the rest of our evening. Our persistence paid off and we finally crossed the border out of Kansas and into Missouri, taking a moment for high fives and applause before arriving to Pierce’s house a little after 9pm. Our cabin fever was almost oppressive by that point, so after a delicious meal and chatting, we decided that we’d all go out dancing (surprise surprise). Pierce really came through, taking us to an awesome bar in downtown Kansas City that played only music from the 80′s and 90′s. Katelyn and I once again owned the dance floor, and successfully redeemed our long, exhausting day.
This trip has been incredibly interesting in learning how to take everything in stride. Our compatibility as road trip companions definitely makes this easier, but it’s been a good lesson in not letting the little things get you down and to find the hilarity in otherwise unpleasant circumstances.
Arriving in Boulder meant reuniting with Geoff, one of our close friends from studying abroad in China in 2006 (where Katelyn and I met, for those of you who didn’t know). We arrived late Wednesday night after a grueling drive, but despite our exhaustion, it was still wonderful to be reunited.
Thursday was one of those days where you feel like nothing is quite going your way, but thankfully we had some redeeming moments that kept us sane. We planned lunch with Katelyn’s cousin who works in downtown Denver, but since we are GPS-less, we had to google map the directions beforehand. It wasn’t until we had “arrived at our destination” in Aurora, CO did we realize that Katelyn had mistyped the address and we were lost. As we neared the supposed destination, we couldn’t help but laugh as we realized that the nearly deserted area with scattered buildings was far from what Katelyn remembered of downtown Denver. Thankfully, we didn’t end up too far from our actual destination, made it downtown, and despite minor parking frustrations, had a nice meal with her cousin. We even tried to invigorate downtown Denver with some street dancing…
Disenchanted with navigating deep in a city, we decided to head back out towards Boulder after lunch in search of a cafe and shopping while we waited for Geoff to get off of work. The skills I’ve developed for finding WiFi proved useful because we had a hard time finding what we were looking for. Once we made it to a Starbucks, we realized that they don’t have free WiFi! Plus, it started snowing. Feeling a little defeated (and really cold), we did finally find a store and pick up some of the essentials we were looking for. We redeemed the frustrating afternoon by meeting up with Geoff and his girlfriend and their friends for a delicious fondue dinner and called it an early night and came back home to reminisce about our days in China and look at old pictures.
Reminiscing about our days in China (which was over 3 years ago now!) has been an awesome experience. Collaborative memories come out with much more detail than when you are left remembering all on your own. Despite the passage of time, it’s still so nice to see that some things (and people’s personalities) never change. Katelyn and I have both seen a LOT of friends on this trip and it’s been a similar experience, realizing how much we value the people who have impacted our lives at different points along the way.
On Friday, Katelyn and I took some time to regroup (and do laundry) and explore a bit of downtown Boulder. We wanted to minimize our chances of getting lost so we parked ourselves in an awesome cafe, had some wonderful coffee and caught up on various things. Once the evening came, we met back up with Geoff and his girlfriend and cooked a delicious dinner of fajitas as we danced around the kitchen and had a great time.
After dinner, we wanted to relive some of our fondest memories from China and went out in downtown Boulder to go dancing. We had an awesome night, dancing until we were completely exhausted.
We left Boulder this morning en route to our next destination: Kansas City, MO, but we had a great time in Colorado despite the bad weather
We woke up Tuesday morning and toured a bit of Flagstaff, AZ. It was a great looking town, but provided some interesting surprises including Katelyn being scammed into buying some “local” earrings. See her side of the story here:
We otherwise just walked around and snapped some shots before moving on.
We were anxious to get moving and see some of the scenery so we drove to Sedona, AZ to check out the sites. Here’s a video of some of the drive:
Getting to Sedona was our first non-GPS frustration, but we managed with a combination of gas station directions and good luck. Thankfully, Katelyn and I have done pretty well at seeing the bright side of frustrations and keep ourselves laughing. Here’s an example of how we do this:
Once we enjoyed some time in Sedona, we decided to try to make it to the Grand Canyon before dark and get some good pictures. We weren’t quite sure what to expect because neither of us had been there, but we prepared to be amazed. We got a little lost and confused actually getting to the canyon (we didn’t think it’d be so hard to find something so incredibly huge), but we made it! (For any Radcliffe players reading this– check out my sweatshirt!!)
The Grand Canyon is in fact, very grand, and was really breathtaking.
This photo below is especially for you, Mom!
We drove around to some other vistas around sunset and took in more sites before we ran out of daylight.
After we were done, we drove to Page, AZ, a small town right near the border of Utah and spent the night in a motel. This little town was pretty quiet, hampering our plans to be social and meet some locals, but thankfully Katelyn and I are still creative and always able to find fun in the most unexpected circumstances.
The next morning we woke up and decided to just see where the day took us. We headed towards Lake Powell, which ended up being only a few miles from Page. We stumbled upon a deserted park area with an awesome view of the lake and the surrounding landscapes.
We found these amazing rock/sandstone formations and had some room to hike around and explore. We were less than prepared for intense hiking, but still managed to climb around.
I managed to make it to the top of the tallest formation around us, and got an awesome 360 view of the area.
The solitude and peace of the area were amazing (one of the benefits of touring areas on the off-season). The sun was shining and warm, and we spent some time just relaxing on the rocks.
We’ve been taking a lot of pictures obviously, so I wanted to get creative. You gotta spice it up right?
After getting our fill of Lake Powell, we decided to get a move on and drive towards Monument Valley to get more of a taste of the southwest. Apparently Monument Valley is where a lot of the western movies were filmed, and it was conveniently en route to our final destination for the day (Boulder, CO), so we could hardly resist stopping for some more photos and scenery.
Monument Valley was also gorgeous. This part of the country was honestly hard for me to wrap my mind around. It was hard not to feel like I had walked into some dream world. These landscapes are so unique and different from everything I’m familiar with, yet they exude this incredibly feeling of nature and its power. It was also interesting to see a bit of the Native American culture. We visited a Navajo market, and I found myself incredibly curious about their culture and also just was hit by the reality of how little I know about their lifestyle, culture and history. I felt the same curiosity that I’ve had for other cultures in Asia and Africa, but realized that these cultures are in our own backyard.
Despite the intellectually intriguing conversation that was sparked between Katelyn and I about the situation of Native Americans, we still saw Monument Valley as the perfect backdrop to our next Roadside Dance Party. Although we got a few less honks than the first time in California, we still had a blast. We’re still hoping that one of these days someone will actually join us. (And we’re still shamelessly trying to get on the Ellen Show!)
We also stopped off at a few more places for photos with the scenic backdrop, but again, we’ve felt compelled to make our pictures more interesting.
Once we lost daylight though, we had to focus on getting to Boulder, which was a good haul.
We spent probably a good 13 or 14 hours in the car, hit some snow going through the Rockies, and kept ourselves entertained with lots of music, Dairy Queen (Reese’s blizzards are lifesavers) and other antics to break up the monotony and keep us laughing. We finally made it to Boulder at about 1am, tired but triumphant after a long but awesome day.
We woke up this morning to another beautiful California day, and after a final hurrah of soaking up the sun, drinking some of our favorite LA coffee, and hitting up Trader Joe’s for some road snacks and cheap California wine, we hit the road and began the actual journey east.
We cruised on I-40 most of the way, rocking out to some old favorites like Ace of Base, Robyn and other classics… yes, classics. Get ready for more videos on the way! (All videos thus far are on YouTube, just search for FeminineAdrenaline)
Before we crossed out of California we stopped at In-N-Out Burger, a California staple that we had been wanting to try for a while.
The place only has 3 options on the menu, but the place was packed. It’s probably comparable to the popularity of Wawa’s in Bucktown, except for fast food.
We got a dose of some “middle of nowhere” culture at some rest stops and gas stations on the road, complete with a pair of cowboys and Route 66 memorabilia. One gas station had a sign up requesting that patrons didn’t complain to the employees about anything “because it costs a fortune to run this place in the middle of nowhere”. Something I never really considered but can totally believe after driving for hours and seeing how sparsely populated this part of the country is. Katelyn and I are looking forward to parts of our drive when we’ll get to explore more of these places (like rural Kansas) where we can get a taste of what life is like and see some local culture. Everything is a huge reminder of how huge and diverse our country really is.
Once we hit Arizona, we were welcomed with a 75 mph speed limit and that, in addition to the good company (Katelyn and I are extremely compatible road trip companions), made the miles fly by and before we knew it we found ourselves in Flagstaff, Arizona. Flagstaff immediately struck both of us as a cool area with a lot to explore. The only problem is there are huge piles of snow lining all the streets (I thought the only blizzards were in Philly and DC…?) and I arrived in my flip flops and short sleeves. We both thought we’d get a chance to hold on to warmer weather a little longer, but I guess it’s goodbye palm trees and hello winter because apparently it’s only getting colder from here.
We had to find a place to stay and we heard word of an international hostel and that’s where we are now.
As travelers, Katelyn and I were immediately struck by the hostel vibe like a breath of fresh air and were reminiscent of our previous travels and the overall travel culture that she and I have been so familiar with at different points in our lives. Our plans to mingle were dashed only because we’re too sleepy right now, but we’re hoping to explore a bit of Flagstaff tomorrow before making our way to the Grand Canyon and more adventures.