In the past two years, with all the wedding planning, Dan and I haven’t gone on as many adventures as we would like to take. So when we were invited to a wedding in Napa this year, we went full road trip status. I splurged on a new vlog camera and we made sure to make time for some roadside attractions.
We seriously had VIP Access to some of the best petroglyphs in Utah, along with the amazing views of Natural Bridges.
I have a friend who is a park ranger. She is still at the start of her career, so she will jump from site to site until finding a permanent position. But the year Dan and I were driving around the country, she was working at Natural Bridges National Monument. I’d never heard of the place, but as I love nature and free lodging, we decided to spend a few nights with her.
Hiking is fun, but hiking with a park ranger is a flipping bad ass adventure! Without my friend, we would have hiked around the park following designated trails and such, seeing the sites but never going deep in the canyons. With my friend, we were opened up to a whole new world of Ancient Puebloans architecture and petroglyphs. My imagination swirls drawing up scenes of the Puebloan people carving their stories into the stone, messages for their community. We picked up two small books on deciphering the symbols, that I have tucked away somewhere, so well hidden I’m not sure where they are located. Perhaps I should have made a petroglyph map to them on my bedroom wall. (oh, the jokes!)
We seriously had VIP Access to some of the best petroglyphs in Utah, along with the amazing views of Natural Bridges. I’d love to return and explore more, this time in better shape. When we went I was way less fit than I am now. When I bemoaned I was in pain, my park ranger friend asked what I had hurt very concerned, I informed her oh nothing – I’m just severely out of shape. This trip also inspired Dan and I’s New Year Morning hike tradition. We were so inspired by the beautiful scenery and burn from the hike, we really felt alive. We feel the rush is the best way to start a new year.
Here are the photos from our awesome VIP hike.
The above image is the view from the ground of where the large collection of petroglyphs are hidden.
I love Santa Fe and I long for it in the golden hours of the morning, Santa Fe my old friend.
When I woke up in Santa Fe, I gazed out our hotel window on the desert scenery and watched the sun heat the earth. It was a soft blue morning and I could feel Santa Fe’s unique peaceful energy. From the moment we arrived the people were sassy but kind, everyone had an approachable vibe about them. One of my favorite moments was when the cashier at Whole Foods remarked that the residents of Santa Fe are all a bit kookie. A city filled with kookie people like myself. I daydream about returning for a sabbatical spending my days writing, painting, going to yoga and enjoying the delicious food.
Santa Fe was one of the most delicious cities I’ve ever been too. I can’t recall the specifics of the amazing meals we had, but I was never disappointed in any dish. Each restaurant we went to offered a red sauce or green sauce that would make an atheist believe in a god.
We spent one of our afternoons exploring every inch of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. At the gift shop I picked up Joan of Arc and St. Christopher medallions, discussing road trips and desert adventures with the nuns. One sister shared how in her youth, she and a friend traveled along the same journey she had read about in one of her favorite books. Her tale seemed to have been before she was called to the cloth and that only increased the intrigue. Seriously, one of my favorite things about traveling is meeting new people and hearing their stories. I hope when I leave this earth, I’m not just filled with my own story but bits of pieces of hundreds of stories.
My only disappointment from our entire time in Santa Fe was that I never had the opportunity to check out the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. Every time we tried to go, the doors were closed, bad timing. I did, however, take as many pictures from the outside as possible, yet it doesn’t heal the pain from missing out on the exhibition they had at the time.
Driving through Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado helped to open my eyes to the circumstances that Native Americans have been put into as a consequence of historic decisions.
As I’m sharing about Santa Fe and with Thanksgiving this week, I can’t help but remark on the double edge sword this national holiday has. After hundreds of years, this holiday has been watered down to represent family and gratitude. In grade school, it’s an opportunity to introduce the history of Native Americans to young children. It’s to honor the coming together of the pilgrims and indigenous people, but we all know life wasn’t all kumbaya for the Native Americans afterward. So with that said, hindsight twenty-twenty of course the English shouldn’t have come over to America raping, pillaging, and stealing land from Native Americans. Yet, at that time of the world – unfortunately, that’s how things functioned. Countries and tribes either fought with each other or traded with each other, it seems now a days the only reason we aren’t all fighting is because we’re trading, but I digress. This Thanksgiving as we do surround ourselves with our loved ones and reflect on the blessings in our lives, let us acknowledge that although we can’t change the past, we should try to rectify the sins of our forefathers by not committing the same arrogant atrocities again.
New Orleans haunts me. My experience there was good, yet I feel my time there is unresolved. I left a piece of me in New Orleans, and I want to return in order to explore and understand the city better. New Orleans is a living breathing city, it possesses a strong spirit. I came to a deeper understanding of my spiritual self while on the road, and in New Orleans it was challenged. The empath in me was beaten down and I’d like to return stronger. I believe New Orleans is one of the darkest and most vibrant cities I’ve ever been too. New Orleans (not Nashville) is music city, rhythm and melody flows out of the people there, from the man sweeping up trash on the sidewalk to a brass band in the middle of Jackson square. Jazz music rides on the wind in the French quarter and there is someone humming not too far from you.
Sadly, I wasn’t very good at taking pictures while in New Orleans – probably another reason why I’d like to return, but we did all the touristy things! We went on an alligator tour and fell in love with the scaly cuddly reptiles. Ate our way through the French Quarter ordering a little something here and there. Explored the St. Louis Cathedral, where I prayed and through some holy water on Dan. Stopped by Café Du Monde to enjoy fresh beignets and coffee before taking a long nap at our hotel the Maison Dupuy. At Dan’s request, we went on a ghost tour, Lord Chaz’s ghost and vampire tour to be exact and it pierced my soul. The stories we heard left me mourning for the sad souls of the past, and when Dan talked in his sleep that night – I ignored him and pretended I was asleep. On the bright side, our tour guide Alexander was amazing and we enjoyed talking with him post tour. My favorite part of traveling is meeting new people, so getting to know him and his Native American history was one of my favorite aspects of visiting New Orleans. The next day we went to the St. Louis Cemetery (1) in the morning and had lunch in the Garden District so I could see Anne Rice’s old home. I’ve been a fan of Anne Rice since I was in the first grade and fascinated with vampires until Twilight killed the allure.
In our last few hours in New Orleans, we roamed around Frenchman street waiting for The Spotted Cat to open. We’d been told that was the place to go for good music and we didn’t want to miss out on it. We had to leave New Orleans for Houston by 6pm, and the bars on Frenchman didn’t open til 5pm. I enjoyed a delicious bowl of jambalaya at The Praline Connection as an early dinner and then we killed some time at the Louisiana Music Factory record store. I was so thankful that we had waited till The Spotted Cat opened because the moving and powerful voice of Sarah McCoy washed away the sadness within me, and her band The Oopsie Daisies filled me up with the bright light that comes from unadulterated passion and art.
We drove away from New Orleans on an incredible high, headed for Texas where I finally felt a real peace within me. Texas is where the seed to who I am now was planted, but New Orleans was where the soil was tilled.
Most of my photos are from the alligator swamp tour.
I think I was too captivated by the city to remember to look like a tourist.
The movie Big Fish is my favorite Tim Burton movie, Edward Scissorhands being my second favorite, and when I was first planning our road trip across the south I had come across the fact you could visit Spectre. The magical town in Big Fish where Ewan McGregors’s character Edward Bloom stops in for just awhile, until he remembers the life he needs to return to. I had forgotten about Spectre until we were driving through Alabama on our way to New Orleans and Dan was looking at Roadtrippers. It’s a fantastic app for those that love detours. It tells you anything from points of interests to places to eat along your route, if you’re planning a road trip you must download the app.
Anyways, Dan had said there is this place called Spectre we could visit, and I lit up! I started to tell him all the things I had learned about the place beforehand and that we had to ask a little old lady for the passcode to get through the gate. He was up for the adventure and off we went to explore Spectre. It’s a solid 15 mins from the major highway and very secluded. We had no idea what to expect and after crossing over some train tracks we were in this little area with a few houses and a gate that clearly separated us from Spectre. Since the direction on Roadtrippers also confirmed the need to talk to a little old lady, we searched for one and found a woman who was muttering to her dog and picking up her mail. I walked up to her kindly and said that there is a rumor that she was the one who had a code to see Spectre. She asked me, “what?” and I explained to her what the app said and she confirmed she could give us the code. She told us the town was really run down since it’s just a movie set, and that they had to demolish a few buildings. That the church was still standing, but mostly everything else was sad looking. We didn’t care, we wanted to see Spectre.
After a friendly chat, we got the code and followed the one dirt road to Spectre. As we followed the road for a sign of the old set, we saw other trucks and people there fishing and enjoying a beautiful sunny day. Spectre is in the center of this private peninsula and once we spotted the church steeple, Dan and I pulled over and got out to walk around the dilapidated set. We didn’t go inside any of the building as there was a lot of overgrown plants and honestly, I was chicken, afraid of getting hurt. But still I was just thrilled to say I had made a stop in Spectre. I went to YouTube to find a clip of Spectre in all it’s glory and saw a few recent vlogs of people visiting the set, it seems like it has been cleaned up a little since we went 2 years ago. Makes me wonder if you still have to talk to a little old lady to get the code.
As a ModCloth affiliate, I was super excited to receive the request to create a blog post around their new romantic road trip styles. Since I am a certified road trip junkie I thought about what adventures I’d like to re-do with a stylish Modcloth wardrobe. When I packed for our cross country road trip, versatility and comfort were my top priority. I wore a lot of t-shirts and jeans, but seriously wish I had a few cuter options. Here are my Modcloth curated outfits I’d like to wear and re-do these particular adventures in, purely for better photo-ops!
AFTERNOON AT THE OPRY // We went to the Grand Ol’ Opry’s 89th Birthday show and if it wasn’t raining that day, I would have totally worn this instead!
Meet Me In Muscle Shoals // Visiting Muscle Shoals recording studio in Alabama will go down as one of my favorite memories of my life. It was just Bowerbird, myself, and the “museum” manager – it was awesome!!
A Reservation for Two // I packed one nice outfit for a fancy dinner at Husk Restaurant in South Carolina, there are two parts to this story (Part 1 / Part 2) and if I would have gone in the summer, I’d love to have worn the above.
The items I selected for my road trip re-do outfits are also all completely realistic! I took into account how the material wrinkles, how that external battery would be essential in the middle of nowhere, and I know it’s crazy – but I did back a whole bag just for shoes on that trip. Although I did try to pack the basics on my road trip, a girl still needs her options. Go check out the rest of Modcloth’s Romantic Road Trip looks for Spring on Modcloth.com. Also if you purchase anything from the site through my links, thank you in advanced for helping to fund my next adventure! <3
We woke up before the sun and filled our bellies with the slim pickings at our motel’s continental breakfast. On this trip I started putting Cheerios in my Yoplait yogurt to make it more filling and fuel me for our adventure. Plus one can never go wrong with a little extra fiber. The Northern California coastline is like no other, especially in the morning when the low clouds and mist of the waves combine to create an ethereal landscape. The soft pastel colors of the sun rise is accented by a pearlescent lining above the sea foam.
Seeing deer signs are not uncommon while on a road trip, but seeing a deer grazing by the road can be unique. When we came upon an Elk sign we figured it was the same thing, until we noticed dozens of Elk all around us, munching on their breakfast right along the road. My car was rolling along at a snail’s pace as we tried to take pictures and not explode with cuteness overwhelm. Then about 20 miles after the Elk party, we saw a perfect “Back to the Future” DeLorean drive past us. Sadly, I couldn’t snap a picture of the car but talk about an insanely cool morning drive!!
We arrived to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park around 9:00am and aside from the park ranger cleaning out the bathrooms, we were first on site. I’ve expressed this on the blog before, but I LOVE being the only couple or person at a place. I enjoy the feeling of privacy and it makes the moment extra special. Even just arriving to an event before everyone else, so I can take in the silence, the electric hum before the world starts up. We took the river trail in Stout Memorial Grove and lost ourselves in nature; looking up at the tall trees, finding wild mushrooms, and letting the birds and river be the soundtrack. After walking along the marked river trail and ending up at the side of the road, we turned around and upon inspecting some interesting moss found an unmarked trail that led right out onto the river. Inside the trail the tall trees created a shadowed canopy and walking out onto the river bed was like opening up the blinds to let the sun shine in; white rocks made the sun brighter and the sky appear bluer. We played along the river for a while and if we weren’t pressed for time, I could have seen us lay down a blanket and read beside the rushing water.
As we walked back to the parking lot, the trail started to fill up with other tourists. We really had the Redwoods all to ourselves.
It was 11am by the time we returned to the car and our next stop was Grants Pass, Oregon to grab lunch before heading to our campsite in Bend, Oregon – four and half hours away. The rest of our drive was beautiful and fun, filled with singing and naptime. We were starved by the time we reached Grants Pass. Bowerbird had looked up a cute organic restaurant on Yelp called Ma Mosa’s. The coffee was self-serve and we ate a delicious brown rice bowl filled with black beans, blackened salmon, avocado, tomatoes, corn and some other yummy real food. It’s funny because the bowl is totally something we could make at home but of course, would never taste as good.
Once again, we were trying to beat the sun and get to our campsite before dark, so we made very little stops or detours. I had to be the grump and tell Bowerbird we couldn’t make a 2-hour detour to Crater Lake. When you’re used to packing adventure into every hour while on the road, a 2-hour detour doesn’t seem like that much but it makes a huge difference if you’ll be setting up a tent while there is still light outside. The one stop we made was at a little café at the end of the highway, a mountain range in front of us and the merging freeway running North and South. We darted across the empty highway to the Diamond Lake Junction café in order to use the restroom. I have no idea who would go to this restaurant as there wasn’t a city or town close by, it was basically made for travelers. We went inside and I ordered a muffin and coffee to be able to use the restroom. I went first but as Bowerbird was relieving himself, I talked to the owner/cook/waiter about Time Life magazines and almanacs. The owner was a sponge for knowledge and loved knowing about different decades and history. He looked like he could easily be a member of the Sons of Anarchy and that café might moonlight as a clubhouse.
As we reached our Tumalo State Park campsite the sun was starting to set. This was a very posh campsite and not very far from the bustling city of Bend. We were slightly bummed that the campsite wasn’t as removed from civilization as we had hoped, but while I was setting up our air mattress in the tent, Bowerbird went to Trader Joes to get us dinner and find some fire wood.
This was my favorite night of the entire road trip, aside from the day we got engaged. We sat by the fire drinking red wine and eating French bread with brie. Bowerbird and I talked about our future together, our plans, hopes and fears. We had fun adding wood to the fire and shifting where we sat on the bench depending on where the wind was deciding to blow. I put away my phone and computer, I unplugged for the night and was present in that moment. Sleeping on the air mattress bundled under multiple blankets and sleeping bags I fell asleep instantly in Bowerbird’s arms and we let our bio-clock wake us up instead of our phones. It was perfect, pure bliss.
After an amazing night out with Bowerbird’s pal drinking and eating at Cavalier, I had to wake up early the next morning to do some work. While Bowerbird slept, I got ready for the day and followed up on emails and scheduled content for my clients. After Bowerbird woke up he decided to be a sweetheart and walk over to Blue Bottle coffee down the street and pick us up some good black brew, he left and I continued to work. Twenty minutes later, he returned to the hotel room frustrated as he couldn’t find the coffee shop. We both hate google maps and how it decides to change directions on a whim or decide to say you’ve arrived when you’re still 500 feet away from your destination. So I understood his frustration and pulled out my phone in order to get a better sense of where the coffee shop was on the map. Staring out our hotel window, together we finally figured out where Blue Bottle was located. So he went down for round two of mission “Blue Bottle Coffee”. I continued to work.
Twenty minutes later, Bowerbird returns even more aggravated and stressed. He had waited in the long line at Blue Bottle, only to discover his wallet was missing at the crash register. When he got back to the hotel room, the wallet was fortunately left on the bed and obviously our blue bottle experience was not going well. Bowerbird ate a Luna bar as we both sipped on crappy hotel room coffee, waiting for me to finish working and we could grab a bite at Cowgirl Creamery. One of the most delicious cheese makers EVER!
Spam spotted on our walk to Blue Bottle Coffee
Our friend had told us that the Blue Bottle location next to our hotel was the absolute best, so hoping third times the charm, after I was done working we walked to Blue Bottle together. The line was ridiculously long and as time was running out, we decided to give up and just walk to Cowgirl Creamery inside the Ferry Building. It’s important for me to note that there is no parking in San Francisco. It’s not a very street parking friendly city, so we decided to walk everywhere in order to save money. We had decided to leave our car parked at the hotel and just be charged for hotel overnight parking. And since I didn’t want to pay for any additional hours outside of our hotel stay, it was really important we left the parking structure by check-out time (noon).
The Ferry Building was a 25 to 30-minute walk from our hotel. I love the architecture in San Francisco. I feel like the city was built for me! The entire city was interesting and captivating, the wires and cranes. I could wander around that city for days. The Ferry Building was AWESOME!! I have yet to visit Grand Central Market in Downtown LA, but I have a feeling it might be like the Ferry Building. Vendors were pushing large carts filled with fresh produce. I snapped a blurry photo of a man holding two ginormous heads of lettuce up to his ears as he moved through the crowd. There was an entire section devoted to mushrooms. I was completely awe-struck and falling in mad foodie love.
We found Cowgirl Creamery and order a grilled cheese and cheese platter. While I waited for the food, Bowerbird hopped on over to Blue Bottle to stand in line for coffee. At this point, there was no way we were leaving San Francisco, let alone go on in our day, with our proper *caffeination from flipping Blue Bottle. I found him in line and we devoured our warm grilled cheese. I honestly don’t remember what it tasted like, but I’ll assume good. Then I abandoned Bowerbird to explore the Ferry Building more and drop off my fun postcards. I fell in love with this adorable cake and sweets shop called Miette, where I picked up my nieces and nephew gummy brains and pumpkins for Halloween. By the way, I’m terrible at buying souvenirs and feel I’m failing as an aunt, but more on that later.
After Bowerbird had our coffees we headed outside to scarf down the rest of our cheese platter, because as I looked at the clock we only had 30 minutes before check out. Oh and our hotel is a 30 minute walk away!! I feel like Bowerbird and I are pro-sightseers, we try to absorb as much of our atmosphere as possible, like dry thirsty sponges that found a puddle in the desert. So we walked back through the Ferry Building making mental notes of our surrounding and snapped a few photos of it from across the street, then we walked as fast as our legs could carry us. We only stopped if the intersection was red, throwing caution to the wind if only the hand was red. Checking my phone periodically to see what our estimated time of arrival was, just as we gained time we lost it because we stopped to take pictures of the architecture. We managed to get to our hotel, out of breath, ten minutes before check out. Running up to our hotel room, I grabbed my client’s products to shoot in the lobby and Bowerbird took our bags down to the car. We were back on the road by 12:15pm.
Please check out the vlog I made of our adventure to the Ferry Building. I still dream of that hall of wonders.
*caffienation – is not a real word, but it is today!
With belly’s aching from the delicious meal we indulged in the night before at Husk, we rolled out of our Charleston hotel bed around 10 am and leisurely headed straight for Atlanta. We were planning on getting to Atlanta by 5:00pm, but as we drove down the freeway, I spotted a sign for Magnolia Gardens. A running joke with Bowerbird is the fact that if he hadn’t come along, my mother and I would end up in a Grey Gardens situation. The fact this historic landmark of Magnolia Gardens had ‘gardens’ in the name, made me chuckle and want to visit this place. So with no previous knowledge of this plantation, we just followed signs leading to the home.
A ticket into the property included access to their petting zoo and a tour of the home. An authentic Southern plantation, whose original building was burned down during the Civil War, was steeped with a fascinating history. The tour guides were very descriptive in explaining the family from their financial history to romantic entanglements. Known for its stunning gardens on the property, the owner John Drayton planted the romantic gardens in order to please his wife. What a romantic! Also, I’m not sure if it was John Drayton’s sisters or daughters, but two women associated with the property were prolific abolitionists.
Although we were visiting the plantation during October, the grounds felt like a forever Spring. Beautiful flowers were in bloom, Spanish moss hung down from strong tall trees, and the property was slow enough that at times it felt like Bowerbird and I were the only ones there. Bowerbird and I spent a lot of time in the petting zoo, playing with deer, petting pigs, and chatting up the onsite zoologist who explained how this petting zoo was a rescue. Many of the animals onsite were wounded at one point and are now unable to go back into the wild. We had planned on Magnolia Gardens only being a quick stop but ended up exploring the grounds and petting zoo till closing time. There was a wedding being set up for the evening and can’t lie, I’m jealous of those that have Magnolia Gardens as a wedding venue option. We left Charleston around 5:00pm, picked up coffee at a local place, and then OFFICIALLY headed out to Atlanta; arriving in the city around 10:00pm. It was really cool too because the local college radio station was playing a band Bowerbird had recently opened for back in LA, Xeno & Oaklander.
I miss the cute animals and the beautiful grounds of Magnolia Gardens, and am so thankful to be introduced to this gem without even looking.
One of the fun things about traveling during October is seeing all the different Halloween festivities. Last year, we got to see how Halloween was celebrated across the country from Kentucky to Lousiana. Luckily, when we were in Atlanta we got to experience their annual Little 5 Points Halloween parade. It’s a pretty big deal for that part of town, it seems like everyone dresses up and goes out to see it. A middle school friend of mine, who now lives in Los Angeles, at the time lived in Atlanta and turned us on to the event.
Earlier in the afternoon we had parked our car near an Urban Outfitters to explore the cool hipster shops nearby. We discovered the gnarliest antique shop, it seriously deserves its own post. But anyways, where we were was only a thirty-minute walk to the parade and I knew it would be foolish to try and find parking closer. We weren’t the only ones walking to the parade either, the streets were filled with people! A mixture of characters in personality and costume, most of the time we were walking behind a “Robin Sparkles“. When we arrived at the parade’s main street, there was no doubt we were in the right place, people were sitting on top of buildings and holding themselves up on street signs. Every inch of sidewalk was taken up by a spectator.
Thankfully, we had a local to meet up with because I think I would have been insanely overwhelmed if I was on my own. We met her and her friends up on a hill for a great view of crazy floats. Trucks with trailers were decked out with riders in DIY costumes. My friend even gave me the lowdown on different floats, the small business that were behind it or who it was in memory of. You could really tell this was an event for a fun thriving community. As tomorrow is Halloween I figured this would be the perfect time to share my photos from the parade.