We quit our jobs and went on a roadtrip in the summer of 2012. Unfortunately, we forgot to film most of the trip because we were focused on taking photos, so the video is lacking a lot of what we did. But it's a fun video nonetheless.
Alas, after seven full weeks on the road, we arrived in Woodbridge, VA, at Kristen’s parents’ house, marking the official end of our cross-country roadtrip. It was a fantastic vacation, an impromptu whirl around the contiguous states, visiting family, friends and lots of beautiful, scenic views along the way. Here are some stats to put it into perspective.
49 days 11,559 miles 25 state lines crossed $1718.65 spent on gas 19 nights sleeping in a tent 5 nights in a hotel 15 National Parks visited 1 parking ticket 0 speeding violations
The first thing we did was reunite with our two kitties who’d been under the careful care of Kristen’s family. To celebrate our homecoming as well as Carolyn’s 24th birthday, we set out to shop for some quality dinner ingredients, which was tough in this neighborhood. (We suppose beggars can't be choosers?) After failing to find humanely-raised chicken at Food Lion (boo), we walked out and drove further down the road to Harris Teeter. Stocked up for the evening, we returned eager to let loose in a kitchen! The celebratory feast consisted of grilled chicken, sweet potato and coconut milk mash, and a delicious strawberry goat cheese salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
For dessert, Gary made a chocolate cake with rainbow chip frosting, with big “24” candles on top. Few things evoke childhood memories like rainbow chip frosting...
It’s always bittersweet when a trip reaches its end. For us, it seemed like we’d been gone for about a week. We couldn’t have asked for a better return. And we can't wait to hit the road again, whenever that may be.
We arrived into our final roadtrip stop, Roanoke, Virginia, after 8 hours of driving, receiving big hugs from Carolyn and Gary (Kristen’s sister and her sister’s boyfriend) just in time for the clock to strike midnight (east coast time) - signaling Carolyn’s 24th birthday. Fueled by the stories we had to tell, we recounted a few of the highlights of the trip, since we hadn’t seen each other in over 6 weeks, before hitting the hay like two sacks of rocks. Not even Sadie the dog sleeping between us (on a double bed, no less) could keep us from our slumbers.
After rising rather early to the smell of coffee (Carolyn is a nurse and wakes up early on her days off), we made breakfast for the group - eggs with veggies from the previous night’s roast Carolyn had made in celebration of our arrival. Shortly thereafter, we packed up our three cars and caravanned our way north on Interstate 81, careful to keep our speed in check by using cruise control (Kristen was ticketed last summer on that highway and totally learned her lesson).
On a whim, we pulled off the highway at Markham, VA, which is home to Hartland Orchard. Kristen’s family has gone apple-picking almost every year since 2006 at this orchard, so we couldn’t pass up the chance to get a half-bushel, play lacrosse with the picking claws, and take in some of the warm mid-atlantic sun. Also, it was a way to prolong our roadtrip by another hour or so. The trip was coming to an end quickly, and we wanted to savor the last few tens of miles as much as we possibly could.
After a cheap night of camping at a state park in Kansas, we drove for what seemed like ages until we reached Nashville, eager to get out of the car. We pulled up to our friends’ house in the Germantown neighborhood just as the sun was making its descent, painting the sky in oranges, yellows and reds. We were excited to visit, especially after hearing from another friend that it is “the best city in America!” - this coming from a guy who rarely uses superlatives. We decompressed a bit at Andrew and Emily's house and met their two cats before heading out to dinner.
By the time we sat down at our table, we’d memorized our order: bone marrow, beet salad, and the pork loin entree. So tasty! Especially the (vegetarian) beet salad.
The next morning, we went to the huge, year-round Nashville Farmer’s Market, featuring tons of local (and not-so-local) fresh fruit and vegetables, pickled and jarred products, and pretty much anything else one could want. Our attention was railroaded by the peaches everywhere, which seemed to be calling our name, so even though they hailed from Idaho, we loaded up with about two pounds and started brainstorming recipes.
Next, we hit up the historical strip downtown, intent on visiting the world-famous Hatch Show Prints shop. This group has been typesetting and printing local concert posters for decades, with a recognizable style all their own. Inside, it was dark and smelled like oil-based ink, the walls covered floor to ceiling with a mix of awesome vintage and contemporary prints. We were both instantly overwhelmed and inspired, captivated by the subdued grandiosity of the operation. Walking around in awed silence, we took it all in while our creative urges came to a rolling boil. This Nashville institution is an inspiration, to say the least.
There were also two super-happy if somewhat overweight cats lounging in the sunny windows behind some prints for sale. In fact, the cats were the centerpiece on a recent Hatch print, and boast their own hashtag: #hatchcats. Adorable and hip. We didn’t end up buying any original prints since we're technically homeless, but we did pick up a t-shirt and a postcard.
Back on the east side, we met Emily for lunch at Five Points Pizza. We each got a slice, split a salad, and splurged big-time on some garlic knots - garlicky dough twisted up into fist-sized knots - served with a tomato sauce dip. Apparently this place is fairly new but is already getting raving reviews. We agree with the praise!
Across the street, we browsed a row of cool shops, including a tiny, well-curated menswear store called Hello Boys, where Kristen bought Loren a belated birthday present: a pair of tie clips, which she’d been on the hunt for.
Before leaving the area, we popped into Bongo Java Roasting Company, a Nashville staple that takes pride in roasting coffee beans in-house and serving delicious caffeinated concoctions. The chalkboard specials, we came to find out, are invented and voted on by their own staff members. Loren got a special pumpkin-spice iced espresso, and Kristen got the regs (black iced coffee).
It was a quick yet fabulous visit to Music City, and we can’t wait to come back (and hopefully see Andrew next time too!) Thanks for the southern hospitality, Emily!
Even though we wanted to make it as far east as possible, we had to turn in around midnight after driving for the better part of the day. We'd only made it a little more than halfway through Kansas to Milford Lake State Park. Turns out the state is deceptively large. No wonder Oz seemed like worlds away, it probably took Dorothy a full day to get out of Kansas!
We drove around the park which was pretty desolate in this post-Labor day season, and found a spot near the lake but tucked away in the woods a bit to protect us from the famous prairie winds. Thankfully, the winds cooperated and we were able to sleep fairly uninterrupted.
The next morning, we got up early enough for Loren to cook up the last of our bacon before we hit the road again, stopping to gobble gobble at the family of turkeys crossing the park road.
With barely two hours to spare in Denver, we beelined for the hip LoHi neighborhood, another stop on our could-we-live-here tour. LoHi, so-called because it encompasses the lower stretches of Highland, was beckoning us with its foodie haven small restaurants and bungalow houses. We’d been through here once before during Kristen’s business trip back in February, but this time we couldn't wait to sample some of the local fare.
So we got straight to business, settling down at Linger restaurant just in time before the kitchen closed during the lull between lunch and dinner. After noticing sweet potato waffle fries on the menu, we knew we’d arrived at the right place. In addition to the dream-come-true sweet potato goodness, our lunch consisted of braised goat tacos, and a delicious and beautiful salad.
We stopped in a coffeshop around the corner where we ordered some energy to go before winding through the neighborhood, checking out potential properties. While Denver isn’t quite Boulder, it still seems like a great place to live.
And from there, we turned east with our sights set on Kansas, where we’d hope to camp. Colorado, we hope to see you (and your prairie dogs) again soon!
During our stay in Colorado, we made Broomfield our home-base due to its central location between Boulder and Denver. Plus, it's where Loren’s friend from middle school, Jordan, lives in a spacious apartment. A few hours after we arrived, the air mattress was beckoning to us, partially owing to our climbing extravaganza a few hours earlier. And once we started sleeping it was hard to stop! We woke around 11am, still feeling like it had to be 8ish, and quickly got movin’.
Our mission for the day was to see as much of Boulder as possible and to scope out potential areas where we might want to live. Checking out Trulia searches (for rentals) in every neighborhood we drove through, we quickly realized that Boulder is a pricy place to live. Makes sense, because it seems like one of the best places in the country.
We also wanted to check out a nearby town called Longmont, which is about 15 minutes northeast of Boulder. While in our opinion Longmont is a tad in the wrong direction (um, hello? the mountains and outdoor Meccas are to the west!), we totally fell in love with the quaint and historic-looking neighborhoods that are WAY more affordable than their Boulder equivalents. Paying a visit to a bulk foods store on the main strip in Longmont, we again stocked up with some roadtrip-friendly noshing foods, and then made our way back to Boulder.
Any visit to Boulder is not complete without a stroll down Pearl Street, which is dotted with hip restaurants, bars, outdoor outfitters, knick knack stores, and performing street musicians. By then, we were ready for lunch and our timing couldn’t have been more perfect - it was happy hour! Grabbing seats outside at a restaurant called Hapa Sushi, we enjoyed a few appetizers and some fruity sake in the warm afternoon sun. We normally love raw fish, but instead opted to save some dough by ordering the half-priced happy hour fare, which was nonetheless delicious.
Afterward, we continued down the strip and landed in a Fro-yo and mochi shop called Smooch, but ended up ordering a delicious homemade coconut lemongrass popsicle. Gotta try that recipe someday with our popsicle molds! Next, we found a European market called Bayleaf that was a wonderland of chocolates, specialty foods, and beautiful books, among other things. We instantly noticed a huge display of our favorite brand of chocolate, Chocolove, which is made just a few miles away in Boulder. For a couple years we have been buying their almond and sea salt dark chocolate. But, this shop boasted a flavor we'd never seen - we found out the chocolate bar is named after the store (the only place it's sold), and that it's almost the same as our favorite bar but with the addition of toffee. Of course we picked up a bar to try later.
For dinner, we met up with our host at Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery, a microbrewery on Pearl Street. The beers are made here and only served in-house. They were fantastic, and so were the burgers we ate to soak it up!
We had a great stay in Boulder, which confirmed our previous ideas that we could (and should) live here. Awesome mountains that offer climbing by summer and snowboarding by winter, a great food scene with emphasis on local and sustainable ingredients, a small-town feel supplanted by the University... what more could one want?
The second pinnacle of our roadtrip (if there can be such a thing) was spending time in our possible future-home-state of Colorado in the summertime (a first for Kristen). Adding to the awesomeness was a chance to meet up with two of our friends and fellow climbers, Berto and Bern, who live in the area. Bern took the four of us to an awesome cliff in Golden, just a ten-minute hike from the roadside parking area.
We aren’t super comfortable lead climbing outdoors, so we let our friends start off, and then belay us as we top-roped. We got to send four different routes, ranging from 5.8 to 5.10 in difficulty, which, for us, definitely boosted our confidence a tad for our next outdoor climbing trip.
Afterwards, we soaked our feet in the cold creek just down the hill, and then drove into the historic downtown of Golden for some eats. Not far from where we were, the Coors factory, the largest single-site brewery, churns out millions of gallons of watery beer each year. Bern insisted on taking us to D’Deli, a cool little gourmet sandwich shop on the main street, with such sandwich names as The Oinker, Maui Waui, and The Jackwaggon. Bern and Berto both got a Buffalo Chicken sandwich, while the two of us split a Prime Time and Piggly Wiggly.
For dessert, even though we were already full, we made a stop two doors down at Golden Sweets for delicious homemade ice cream. We both fell in love with the same sample and each got one scoop of the coconut chocolate chunk. Delish!
Thanks to Berto and Bern for showing us a great time (and climbing spot)! Hope to be back soon.
After a quick pop-in visit to the Grand Tetons, we had to get crackin’; our next stop was the Denver area, and at the rate we were going, we wouldn’t arrive until 11pm. Just south of the mountains, we found ourselves in the way cool-looking resort town of Jackson, famed for amazing snow sports, restaurants, and celebrity residences. Again, we couldn’t linger long, we had to get into Colorado, but what we saw, we liked. This town is definitely on our list of places to get back to, especially in the wintertime for some snowboarding.
Then we drove for, like, 10 hours through one of the most boring parts of the country, west to east across southern Wyoming. There were thousands of snowdrift “fences” all over the landscape. There are probably more of those wooden structures then people in this state (it is, after all, the state with the smallest population). The only real saving grace of this super boring drive: there are pronghorn all over the place, right near the road in spots.
The one other notable stop we made was in Pinedale, where we yelped to seek out a coffee shop. However, we were led astray and we walked into a health food store, which ended up being pretty cool: it had a great selection of foods plus an adorable and playful dog that was determined to play fetch with us as soon as we walked through the door. Of course we obliged. At one point while Kristen was talking to the store owner, the dog sneakily stuck the tennis ball into the space between her knees, slowly backing away and waiting for the throw. Apparently the dog was a red heeler, and was raised right there in the store as a tiny puppy. After stocking up on a few roadtripping snacks, we drove down the street to the real coffee shop (and restaurant), Rock Rabbit Coffee & Bistro. Seemed like a pretty cool place for a sleepy town like Pinedale.
Eight hours later, our mission was to find a campsite in the mountains west of Boulder, but (again) we’d neglected to realize that it was Saturday night, so we'd be competing with outdoorsy Boulderites to find a spot. Around 11pm, after driving past three campgrounds with their signs reading “FULL,” we lucked out with a spot just south of Nederland. Fourth time’s a charm, right? So we set up our tent and sleeping bags, burned a tiny fire to basically finish our firewood, and finally got to bed sometime around midnight. Phew, what a long day!
The Grand Tetons, french for the big tits (no joke), are so picturesque, so memorable... at least, that’s what we’ve heard. We didn’t have much time to spend wandering and hiking around these stunning mountains, so we had to defer to the guide books on this one. It’s true, the mountain range is indeed spectacular from almost any vantage point, as they abruptly rise out of the fairly flat Wyoming prairie, allowing onlookers to gaze at the mountains in their full glory. But we’re sure it would have been even better close up, on a long hike or a nice boat ride on Jenny Lake. This park is going on the list of places to revisit for longer than a couple of hours.