Back to Where the Drawl Comes From

We entered into Arkansas through Texarkana where the main drag is also the state line, Texas and Arkansas license plates intermingle, and the state flags on lampposts to each side of the road remind you, just in case you forgot, which side belongs to which state.

Stopping here only briefly we continued to drive east as the sun set and a gorgeous harvest moon rose up, peeking from behind the increasingly dense forests. Only relatively dense of course, nothing like those evergreens up North 🙂

We made a short stop in Hope, Arkansas to drive past the Birthplace of William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United States. Your grandparents had a nice house Bill.

Our destination for the night was Hot Springs which has been a resort getaway for a hundred years, the main attraction: Hot springs! We pitched our tent in the campground at the state park, made some food, and hunkered down for the night. It wasn’t suppose to rain but it was so humid and moisture just seemed to hang in the air. No rain came but plenty of noise did. I don’t think I’ve ever been at a less peaceful campground!

First, Rachel and I both woke up to our campsite neighbor starting their car at 5:00 AM. OK they are getting an early start OR just moving their car, turning it on or off (and they should get that engine looked at). God only knows what they were doing. Meanwhile, some other campers arrived later than us, set up camp, gone to sleep, and left their yappy dog outside tide to the car. Yip yip yip YIP YIP YIP the moment anyone walked nearby.

For some reason I felt incredibly well rested pretty earlier and got up. I made a makeshift yoga mat and went through some sun salutations, a few poses, boy has it been a long time since I did yoga! Boy did I feel sore later from the little I did!

After breaking down camp we headed in to town to see the old bathhouses, taste the hot mineral spring water (I liked it!) and eat at McClard’s, Bill Clinton’s favorite boyhood BBQ place. Good call Bill.

McClard’s was delicious! We split an order of ribs and I lay claim to the baked beans while Rachel took care of the cole slaw. Don’t worry we traded a few bites, cole slaw is even starting to grow on me.

From Hot Springs we drove into Little Rock and visited the William J Clinton Presidential Library to culminate our tour of Bill Clinton in his home state. We both enjoyed the LBJ library better but we didn’t have as much time to spend there.

The Clinton library was extremely interesting as he was president when I was growing up, but that’s about all I knew. He definitely had more of a presence in the library’s design than LBJ did and I still can’t decide if I like that personal touch more. I would have like to see a more unbiased presentation but hey, its his library.

The best exhibits were about Bill and Hillary’s childhood as well as life in the White House. However, downstairs there was just too much information. Good bye attention span. There was a really cool lego art exhibit though.

We walked along the river to the gift shop and to see the revamped downtown area (that is quite thing to do these days it seems). It was beautiful out so we decided to grab a drink outside and reveal in the “mild” Arkansas weather.

Although we enjoyed Little Rock we weren’t done traveling for the day. Two more hours of driving would take us south to a much smaller town called Monticello where my grandmother Kittye Mae use to live and where she is now buried. I hadn’t made a trip back since Kittye Mae’s funeral in the summer of 2008 so it was good to be going back, even if the family isn’t there anymore.

With love from the road,

Cara

The Texas Triangle

In the past five days we hit up three major Texan destination: San Antonio-Austin-Houston. All were strikingly different.

San Antonio

View on Commerce Street

To our great surprise we emerged from our hotel room to a torrential, humid downpour. Not exactly what we are use to. We loaded up the car once more on Friday morning and set out to explore San Antonio, what a day it would be! For breakfast we followed our guidebook’s recommendation and went the Guenther House Restaurant at the former mill. It was a beautiful setting, the house is kept in immaculate condition and the river is just to the side.

Rachel and I had agreed on a big breakfast and a big breakfast it was. I ordered biscuits and gravy, one of my favorites and it was quite good. The second best yet (nothing has trumped PJ’s in Reno, NV yet). Their coffee was also a pleasant surprise, the house coffee included a blend of seasonings that were tangy and tasty but not overpowering (sorry Starbucks). Perhaps best of all was our table, outside on a covered veranda we could watch the clouds shift and shape, would it pour or would it hold off so we could enjoy sunny San Antonio?

The weather held off, at least rain wise if not humidity wise. We checked out the Blue Star area which hosts a brewery, several artists’ galleries, a bike shop, and the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center which seems central in the community.

Chuck Ramirez, Broom Series

The Blue Star Contemporary Art Center was a nice change from art museums. It was small and featured mostly local San Antonio artists. All of the art was modern and highly visual. My favorite piece was a series of photographs of brooms. Highly detailed, surprising colors they really turned the ordinary into something unexpected.

We also made a new friend at Blue Star, Daniel. At first we thought Daniel was working at the museum but soon found out from his meandering dialogue that he was in fact an artist picking something up from a previous show. Not only was it fate that Daniel and Rachel have the same birthday (December 5th!) but we had plenty to talk about; old nautical posters, estate sales, the Alamo, natural remedies for eye cysts, etc. All in all it was an thoroughly enjoyable twenty minutes in the Blue Star parking lot and we left laughing with many new treasures from Daniel’s collection of odds and ends.

Time to tackle some history. We parked at the mall (go figure) and wandered over to the Alamo. Now, if I were a professional historian asked to create the tour and exhibits for the Alamo well, I wouldn’t do it the way they did. The most interesting thing about the exhibits was how the Alamo was “rescued” from commercial interests and returned to its rightful place of historical importance. Especially to Texans.

After the Alamo we wandered around downtown San Antonio and found ourselves on the famous Riverwalk. Like several other things I’ve seen the Riverwalk brings to mind Disneyland in the well paved, people-funneling, almost too perfect, sense of things. After a quick bite to eat we entered the mall in hopes of getting our parking validated but left with no such luck, and several new purchases.

From San Antonio we drove about two hours (with traffic) to Austin, Texas which many people have to both Rachel and myself we would love.

See how we liked it in The Texas Triangle Part 2 (dun dun dunnnnnnnn)

With love from the road,

Cara

Out of this World: Aliens, Caves, and West Texas

Greetings from rainy Houston! Lucky Houston, they haven’t rain in 9 months! Lucky us as we are from the NW and have rain jackets at the ready.

Roswell, New Mexico was as unusual as we had hoped. The town is largely centered around a long commerical drag appropriately called “Main Street” but without the quainter attributes many other towns have had.

We stopped at the International UFO Museum and browsed the extensive history and continued pursuit of UFOs. Did we see aliens? You betcha.

After our tour of Roswell we rented a movie at the Redbox and headed south of town about an hour and a half to our campground. We spent a quite Wednesday night in our tent with Katherine Heigl and Josh Dumahel’s romcom “Life As We Know It.” Just a good old fashion sleepover!

Thursday we got up early, loaded the car and drove another hour south to the Carlsbad Caverns. I had heard nothing but good things about the caverns and they were indeed very cool.

It took us about forty-five minutes to walk from the cave entrance down into the Big Room of the cavern. While the trail was eerily reminiscent of the some lines at Disneyland it took us through some of the most amazing natural formations I’ve seen yet. Some of it looked pretty gooey though! We spent a little over an hour wandering around the Big Room looking at stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, popcorn, and a whole heap of other out of this world looking things with unique names.

Click above for more photos from the caverns, taking pictures down there was tricky!

We “cheated” and emerged from the caverns elevator before noon. It was time to go to Texas.

"Hey Rachel, I think the tumbleweeds are taller here." Courtesy of Google Maps

From Carlsbad it would take us about seven hours to reach San Antonio. In between there was, well, not much. We listened to music, napped, documented things we noticed were different about Texas. For example: The welcome to Texas state sign is way bigger than the New Mexico one, most gas stations are patriotic colors, there are A TON of TRUCKS, no one has roof boxes on their cars, there are BIG American and Texas flags, the whole “Driving friendly” thing doesn’t really happen, the signs are HUGE. We could go on but we are trying to avoid generalizations, kind of. However, if we notice something enough to comment on it then it must be worth noting. After seven hours on a flat, straight road anyone’s attention would wander.

We arrived in San Antonio a little after dark, checked into the Motel 6 and were pleasantly surprised by the hip decor! Although a little heavy on the orange, Motel 6 did a pretty nice job. Who knew?!

The first priority was to get the Ducks game on, Oregon vs. Cal in Eugene. Just the thought of all the rowdy students and other fans watching across the country brought a smile to my face. It doesn’t matter where I watch the game, it helps ease the shock of not being in Eugene this fall. Luckily the team played well while we munched on pizza and enjoyed the contrast of a hotel room with two beds to the two-person tent we slept in the night before.

The next morning we set out to see San Antonio, boy were we in for an adventure!

With love from the road,

Cara

Navigating New Mexico

Last I left off, Rachel and I were comfortably ensconced in a tipi in Taos, NM. I wish I could say that of more places.

The next morning, October 3rd (HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAKOTA), we got up and headed back in Taos to browse the shops and see some of the famed art galleries. Rather indifferently we sat down at Graham’s Grill for breakfast. We left in a food fervor! The menu was extensive, my mouth watered at most all they had to offer. A decision had to be made.

I gorged on the eggs benedict, one of the best hollandaise sauces I’ve had yet. Since I was so torn between trying the hollandaise and trying the biscuits the waitress was kind enough to bring me a side of biscuits. Cute and scrumptious they were quality comfort food. Somehow I found room for it all! Rachel ordered a unique type of benedict where instead of an English muffin and Canadian bacon the eggs lay on roasted tomatoes and artichoke bottoms with an added pesto sauce over the whole thing. Drool.

Taos had certainly livened up from the night before, we took some time meandering through the idyllic streets and plaza, visiting cute shops and hip galleries alike.

Content with our taste of Taos, we hit the road again. We needed to make our way to Albuquerque to get Rachel’s bag. She had braved it one night, no need to torture her anymore 😛

Again we followed meandering backroads which took us through Los Alamos where the atom bomb was developed and Jemez Spring which had a charming saloon. Along the way we saw large swaths of forest that had burned and numerous signs for closed areas. We learned later that fires had raged in the mountains. While the grass has already begun to grow back the charred trees still leave quite the impression.

Luckily we had no problems securing the bag and then making our way into Santa Fe. Despite our initial plans to camp the forecast resulted us in staying at the only hostel in Santa Fe. It was nice because our cheapest option was to share a private room and we could repack our bags and the car, and start getting use to traveling together.

Unfortunately Santa Fe’s weather simply did not fit our mood! Overcast skies in the morning became intermittent showers that then drenched us as a torrential downpour set in for the evening. What the heck New Mexico?! Far sooner than I would have liked we broke out our rain jackets, no Northwestern goes anywhere without one.

We didn’t let a little rain slow us down thought. We visited the Santa Fe Farmers Market, the Second Street Brewery, Mission San Miguel, the oldest church in the U.S., the Loretta Chapel, home to the mysterious spiral staircase, and the exterior of the St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral as it was closed early for the saint’s feast day.

Before we even ventured far from the parking lot we stepped in to Kakawa Chocolate House and sampled some of their drinking chocolates. It was so fascinating. They served traditional Mesoamerican and European/American style elixirs some of which have recipes that date back centuries. I enjoy a mix of the Aztec and Modern Mexican drinking chocolate while Rachel opted for the Marie Antoinette concoction. They perfectly complimented the dismal weather.

Although the Loretta Chapel was pretty the highlight was by far the staircase. Fun fact: I LOVE spiral staircases, I think they are so cool and get overly excited when I spot one. When I get to go on one, whoa, watch out for new levels of enthusiasm.  Now I was not aloud to go on this spiral staircase that lead from the sanctuary to the choir loft BUT it was almost as exciting as if I had gotten to because the staircase is TWO COMPLETE SPIRALS. Its all mysterious because no one knows who built it and its debatable how it is even structurally sound, that’s neat. What is even neater is looking at the thing. You see the normal spiral you expect but then it keeps going and seems to just float there, a holy stairwell, its quite a mind trip.

Like in Taos we wandered through the main plaza where all the tourist distractions lay including (drumroll please) the Marble Brewery Tap Room. Again, food was an issue so after lunch we wandered into the Tap Room. Partially because the rain had reached a new level of pouring and mostly because we couldn’t wait to try the next brew!

Rachel ordered their Wildflower Wheat which is unfiltered and sweetened with honey, nummy nummy. I ordered their IPA which is listed as their trademark brew. This is pretty much what happened in my mouth/brain: Marble Brewery IPA, I would like to introduce Ninkasi Total Domination, you guys are soulmates. (In addition to my passion for spiral staircase I would like to make a disclaimer that I am unnaturally passionate about the following items: Ninkasi brewery, hammocks, Rainier, pepperoni pizza, Mumford and Sons, recycling, sweaters and Scottish nationalism.)

We very much enjoyed our stop in at the Marble Brewery Tap Room, the beer was great and the staff was incredibly fun and friendly too. Time to trek through the rain. As cute as they were my red flats seemed a disaster waiting to happen and Rachel’s sandals didn’t seem pleased with the abundant puddles in downtown Santa Fe. So, we hoofed it bearfoot, jeans rolled up, and rain jackets snug. “Don’t look at us like that good sir!”

The weather decided for us, camping was out again. We returned to the hostel, worked on these blogs that are our main ties to back home, then cleaned up for a nice dinner!

The Cowgirl BBQ grabbed our eye when we first read about it in the guidebook and its menu only sealed the deal. Our little table was covered: Margaritas, Five Pepper Nachos with Salsa Diablo, and a Pulled Pork BBQ sandwich with sweet potato fries AND French fries (they brought those on accident). The food was good and we felt nothing short of gluttonous. The dĂ©cor was as full as our table. Photos of cowgirls all of the walls, which were painted with glitter paint. We stayed for one more drink after dinner and enjoyed some banter with a
quirky inventor who works at the National Lab in Los Alamos, his friend who plays “Indians” in movies, and the inventor’s dog. Rachel and I could hardly stop laughing as the inventor stole the show retelling his great deeds with a hint of social awkwardness and a helmet with a built in light on his head. All that laughter helped work off some of dinner. After saying our goodbyes we returned to the hostel as we planned to take off early the next morning. Some initial googling confirmed that the inventor from Cowgirls was not actually making it all up, he was just bragging that much haha.

This morning we got up as planned, packed up and entered the vastness of central New Mexico. We’ve already driven through one practical ghost town. The place we are stopped now is only slightly more promising. I do love the older signage in these places, even though it often graces the front of an empty building.

Just about an hour now until Roswell and provided we aren’t swept away by some aliens we’ll be in Carlsbad by tonight!

With love from the road,

Cara

Roaming the Red Rocks

I have been in four states over the past week!

From Sedona I traveled North to Flagstaff where I stayed for the night. There, I sampled a couple of the Flagstaff Brewing Co.’s beers which I really enjoyed. The next morning I enjoyed my free breakfast than hit the road to the Grand Canyon.

When I was younger I visited the Grand Canyon with my family and of course it left an impression. This time I was looking forward to seeing and learning more. Once in the park I stopped in the Visitor Center and then headed to the packed Mather Point, the first breathtaking view of the GC.

After visiting several national parks I have noticed two trends in visitors 1) a lot of retirees and 2) a lot of Europeans. It makes for pretty good people watching.

My favorite group at Mather Point were about a dozen French people, one of which had a stunningly Parisian hat on that completely blocked her peripheral vision. Once they had all gathered they popped open a bottle of celebratory champagne while they chattered away. It seemed a proper celebration.

My campsite lay 26 miles East of the Grand Canyon Village in Desert View. The drive included a ton of great stops including viewpoints, the site of a former hotel and mining claim, as well as Native American ruins and a museum. I took my time traveling this route and taking many pictures of rocks trying to figure out how to use my camera.

courtesy of amazon.com

I also picked up the book “It Happened At the Grand Canyon” which was a thoroughly entertaining light read and gave the Grand Canyon a much more personal context.

After setting up camp I wandered back over to the Desert Rim Viewpoint and the Watchtower to join the other resilient visitors who wanted to see the sunset. It was stunning.

I found a perch just west of the Watchtower. For half an hour I witnessed parts of the canyon gradually fall into darkness and the shadows deepen where the plains began. As the horizon grew deeper and more colorful the distinctive shapes of the canyon became silhouettes. It was so clear that I saw two planes making tracks far far above. Finally, it changed from a warm, rosy skyline to a deep blue twilight. Time to head back to camp.

Sunset from Desert View

That evening before bed I took my road atlas and traced all the roads I had driven since leaving home. What a wiggly path has brought me this far!

Saturday I packed up once again and got an early start to Utah. Along the way I passed through Monument Valley and bordered the Navajo nation. It was a stunning section of country that I hadn’t expected to enjoy so much. Along the way there were tons of Navajo craft booths/tourist stands. They didn’t tempt me at all and seemed to cheapen the landscape.

The most exciting part of the drive was along Arizona highway 163 when the winding two-lane road all of a sudden headed straight towards a very tall cliff. The only way to go is up! The road changed from a flat empty road across a plain to a slow and windy gravel drive with turns that intermittently had pavement. Velma and I handled it like pro, way better than the rental RV. It was like taking an elevator straight up and the view from the top was awesome. We came from that squiggle?!

The road that zigzags on the bottom right is where we had come from

From the top of the cliff it was just a bit farther to the Natural Bridges National Monument where I learned it was National Public Lands Day so park entry was free! Hurray! Save six bucks.

The Natural Bridges monument was very cool. It included three separate natural bridges (different from arches, as they are formed by a windy river wearing through the banks to take a more direct route) and several trails. I took the time to hike down to the first bridge which towered overhead. The river that had formed the graceful, colorful bridge was not even a trickle! Below the bridge it was much greener and lovely. The hike included a couple of interesting wooden ladders and hand rails bolted into solid rock!

I drove to the other two bridges and check them out from the view points, then it was time to get on the road again. My stop for the night: Moab, UT

I have to admit, I only dashed through Utah, I didn’t even take a shower there (I was camping after all). I did enjoy Moab and would LOVE to go back, perhaps as a badass mountain biker.

While I was in Moab I checked out the Moab Brewery, camped in the Sand Flats Recreation Area, and had a delicious breakfast and snack from The Love Muffin. There may be more gearheads here than many places in the NW. Wow, right?

Sunday I made the short trip to Arches National Park from Moab. I spent most of the day in the park doing about 6 miles worth of hiking and seeing all sorts of scenery. The coolest hike I did was the last one, an all terrain scramble to the Double O Arch. It was incredible, the trail led up solid rock fins, gave you glimpses into canyons and the more remote parts of the park, and most of all it was challenging!

At the top of a "fin" in Arches

After all this exertion I returned to the car pretty grimy, basically coated in a nice film of red rock dust. Luckily, I was heading to a homey stop next!

Sunday evening I arrived at my cousins’ in Fruita, Colorado beginning my time in state #4!

With love from the road,

Cara

Cleansing Energies

On Thursday morning I left Phoenix feeling light and free! After all I had just posted a fatty blogpost, solved a problem of scheduling, AND I knew Velma (the valiant vehicle) was stoked to be on the road again. Little did I know what a day it would be!

First, I stopped by Cave Creek just north of Scottsdale based on my hosts’ recommendation. Boy, I wish I had more time there! I think I chose my stop well, I perused The Town Dump a wonderful and mesmerizing store. When my good friend Lisa buys a ranch off-yonder we will be going here for the decor. I will attempt to describe the store but god help me if I do it a shred of justice,

First of all, the sign that beckons you from the road reads, The Town Dump: One of the World’s Most Unusual Stores. Sold.

When you first walk in they have their bases covered. Quirky quotes printed on every available surface, Southwestern art, off-beat fashion pieces, etc. What first caught my eye were paper flowers that unfolded and were really quite stunning. I got Velma a couple, this gal deserves to be treated well after all! The first sign that the store is more than you expect comes at the edge of the “main” store front. Tiles of all patterns, shapes and sizes then hinges, nails, all in the Southwestern style. Rather quickly things begin to grow and you enter a room filled with wall decor: a cross made of Texas license plates, copper in every shape and size!

The real treat comes when you step outside into the labyrinth of a courtyard and barn converted to display unique statuaries, garden furniture, decorative fencing, rough hewn ladders and stools, I could list the wonders for days. So many items reminded me of people. The fleur de lis fencing- for Eve! The colorful tiled garden bench- must be Rainey’s someday! And the giant sized cowboy boot lanterns? The center piece for Lisa’s back terrace, right next to the firepit. Won’t they be cute when the peep up out of the snow?!

Whew, calm down Cara. As much as I adore decor I had to drag myself away with only a few photos and my paper flowers. Next stop, SEDONA!

And by next stop I mean next destination. There were several great scenic views of the red rocks I stopped at along the way but my main goal when I reached Sedona: The Cowboy Club.

Not only did I read about the Cowboy Club in both of my guiding texts but its own description drew me in faster than a rodent to bait. As focused as I was on this mission there were only two things I had to order, fastest I’ve looked at a menu in days.

I’ll have a prickly pear margarita, rocks with salt and the appetizer sampler.

What is so intriguing about this appetizer sampler you may wonder? Well I will dispel any confusion momentarily. First, though the margarita. My prickly pear margarita came out and it was a sweet pink shade, its taste subtle yet potent (I had to take a walking tour before my next stop!). All in all it brought to memory a family favorite, Eve’s pink drink.

Now, to sidetrack even further, I am going to take this opportunity to dub Eve as my role model in many ways. Badass, check. Independent, check. Lighthearted and silly, check. Tequila lover, check check check. As a result of the last category Eve developed The Pink Drink (for which there is a special fixin kit).

The Pink Drink made perfectly is a rare treat. Ask a bartender to replicate it and you may with you’d gone with Bud but when it is right oooh man it is a tasty slippery tequila slope cleverly disguised in Barbie colors. Have I romanticized it enough? The reality of it all is quite simple but its all about proportions: a good amount* of Petron silver, a tidbit* of cranberry juice, soften* with Petron citronage, plenty* of ice, shake in whatever container available, add lime and serve. God help you if its anything short of fabulous. (*all terminology refers to exact amounts)

Back to my story. This prickly pear margarita gave the pink concoction of the tiara a run for its money, utoh! The appetizer sampler was an exquisite pairing. With an appetite for adventure I sampled the following:

Nopales fries with a house-made chili dipping sauce

Buffalo Brochettes cooked in a glaze

Snake Brochettes with a house-made orange ginger sauce

Braised Beef Taquitos with rich pico de gallo

Cilantro Flatbread with “Southwestern peanut butter”

It was all very good. My least favorite actually was the Buffalo, the texture was too chewy and the flavors just didn’t come together in the same way the others did. The snake was curious but enjoyable. The taquitos were delightful, the beef was so tender. The nopalitos were the powerhouse of flavor: beat strips of cacti, lightly breaded in a cilantro batter and then dipped in a custom sauces, mmmm if only I had more room in my stomach! Lastly, I sampled the “southwestern peanut butter” which as a diehard Skippy Creamy fan practically went against my religion. It was damn good! My compliments to the Cowboy Club and my server Felix. Not only were my tastebuds delighted but it was an incredibly pleasant Sedona experience surrounded by the towering red rocks, tourist passerby, and the dry heat I’ve come to expect in Arizona…until Flagstaff that is.

Before I get ahead of myself I had another sizeable adventure in Sedona. As many people know, Sedona is a very popular place for many New Age beliefs and practices. For me it began with the urgent need to pee. I had been toying with the idea of seeing a psychic or getting my aura photographed, if not here where else?! Instead I stopped at the visitors center to use the restroom and saw right next door two different New Age centers with a variety of offerings.

Here is where things get interesting. I was parked in the visitor’s center parking and although it was later in the day it said “Visitor Center Parking Only” I’m a naturally guilty person I guess so I decided to back my car up into a parking space on the other side of the lot in front of one of these centers. Then I could go check it out worry free.

Apparently, while I was considering all this, Eric, who gives energy massages, was preparing to leave for the day. One of the shopkeepers said, “Wait, don’t go yet. That lady is going to want a massage.” Meaning me. At this point I get in my car, back up and at the point when most people pull out and carry on their way, I pull back into another parking spot.

OMG

So then I walk into the store, it has every time of imaginable rock with properities I can’t even imagine. One type of quartz that was a little too close for comfort was priced a $1,000. My interest lay in human interaction. The psychic isn’t in? What was the sign about massages out front? What’s an energy massage? $10 off? O.k.

Bam. Mine and Eric’s paths crossed as they were meant to be. Probably because of the acacias singing their hearts out in the nearby trees. So I had a 15 minute energy massage, boy did it feel good! Cross a massage with meditative breathing with mental will power and it was like I’d never spent hours in the car.

I left Sedona with a huge smile on my face. Yes I may not have gone on any hikes or seen the Chapel of whatever but I had gone on a limb in a culinary, spiritual and physical sense. Sure it may be an adverts technique but I left Sedona calm, collected and above all content.

Fleeting Moments in Flagstaff to come!

With love from the road,

Cara

East East East!

Greetings from Phoenix! While I have a comfy place to sit and internet I’ll give a full update of my travels.

I spent a wonderful Sunday in LA! Nikki, Jared and I hit up the flea market nearby at Fairfax High School and then wandered through The Market and The Grove (if Disneyland made a mall). After sitting for maybe 15 minutes I headed down to Venice to meet my “Oregon” friends Ryan, Nicole and Justin. Fun fact: Ryan was the first person I ever met at UO, at Introducktion. Now we get to kick it in LA 🙂 While I didn’t stay in Venice long it was definitely its own scene and the Chinese food we had was great AND you got to bring your own booze. Love it when you can do that. To complete my day I grabbed a beer with another friend, James who sailed with us at Oregon when I was a freshman! So long ago. So many embarrassing stories. The kitty, Garcon, and I spent one more evening snuggling on the couch (I had to clarify again that it was not o.k. to sleep on my face).

Monday, I had planned to leave early-ish in the day for Joshua Tree but…plans change! Instead I ventured through Beverly Hills to Rodeo Drive. Whew. For my thoughts at the time read more here. Then I meandered to Santa Monica for lunch and a stroll along the pier. All of this adventuring helped me pass the time until I went to UCLA to meet with a professor in the Geography department. I only cited him like six million times in my thesis so the little nerd inside of me was jumping with joy to meet him and seek guidance from his wise Phd-self on the path to graduate school (dundunDUNNNN). You Bruins have a pretty sweet campus, reminds me of UO but warmer.

Tuesday morning was go time! Unlike the first few nights where I was fortunate enough to stay with my friends in LA (thank you guys!) in Joshua Tree it was time to camp. Camping is not my forte but apparently all that time around gearheads in the NW paid off and some stuff sunk in. I arrived in Joshua Tree early afternoon, swung by the Visitor’s Center and then decided to grab food across the street at the Joshua Tree Saloon. It was pretty rad! The bartenderess was very friendly and helpful as were the locals that were hanging out in there. My chili cheese dog filled me right up.

Driving through the park you can see a lot of the scenery and there are plenty of places to pull over for an impromptu photo shoot. That afternoon I did two loop hikes. One called Hidden Valley, which indeed led to a valley that had much more greenery than the surrounding area. The second, lead to Barker Dam where I got a great view of some Big Horn Sheep grazing near the puddle of water that was behind the dam. The king of the heard had some pretty freaking BIG HORNS. I would not want to mess with that. I also spotted some quails and a few sneaky lizards. With about an hour of daylight left I staked out a campsite in the Jumbo Rocks campground and climbed some big ol’ boulders to watch the sunset. It was a quite evening with lots of stars and distant planes overhead, quite a contrast to the greater metropolitan region of Los Angeles. But still California.

Wednesday it was time to head East. First, a 20 minute detour up to the Keys View where you can literally see the San Andreas Fault. The fearful, fitful point where the North American Plate and Pacific Plate choose to tango. The smog was also very obvious from up there and although yesterday morning you could see Palm Springs apparently some days you can’t even see that far. It’s just truly mind boggling.

I love all the little info signs and self-guided tours they have in national parks, its like Wikipedia in real life!

From Keys I drove through the rest of the park, refueled in 29 Palms and headed East on route 62. As a result of flooding in Cottonwood, the South entrance to the park, I had to meander on some smaller state routes before joining back up with I-10. It was quite the drive, way out there in the desert, seeing a car every once in a while. I’ve come to decide that I like the desert a lot more than I would expect but it is a place that’s good to visit, with air conditioning.

To be honest I thought for a while that I was already in Arizona and had simply missed the signage because of my detour. It was only mildly disconcerning not knowing which state I was in, I had been very excited about leaving my home state, but when I finally did cross into Arizona I knew it. The welcome sign was colorful, although I had no camera at the ready, the signage changed, I think the font might even be different here. Arizona plates and ASU stickers were everywhere. Hurray! State #2

Phoenix is a sprawling as it description suggests. To figure out where I was and where I was going I stopped at a Starbucks. My barista asked me how I was doing, what I was up to for the day and I told him.

Oh, yes on the sweetener, I just arrived. I’m on a road trip around the U.S. for three months. What should I see in Phoenix?

His jaw dropped a little unnecessarily but he did give me a good tip, it was the free night at the art museum and the new exhibit was Modern Mexican Art, supposedly very good. To the museum I went! I explored the Modern Mexican Art which is from a single individuals collection tracing Mexican art since the revolution. Walked through (and got yelled at for taking pictures- there were no signs saying I couldn’t!) the fashion gallery. The Phoenix Art Museum also has the largest collection of miniature rooms made by this one lady, all historically accurate and itsy bitsy.

Phoenix Art Museum

By the end of my exploration into art I had gotten in touch with my future PiC (Partner in Crime) Rachel’s aunt and uncle who were kind enough to host me in Scottsdale. Once I found their home we grabbed some delicious green chile bacon burgers (say that five times real fast and see if you’re not hungry) at a very cool burger/bar/ranch/former bunkhouse/cool music venue place. There is no better compliment to an Arizona meal thank donkeys braying in the background. Well, except great company and conversation! Luckily I had all of the above.

Now today, after a much needed shower= CLEAN), I am heading North, to Sedona/Flagstaff and then tomorrow to the Grand Canyon. I am still a day behind my posted route but I think I am going to make that up in Colorado, there is just too much to see here!

I will upload my photos soon as well, hopefully before the Grand Canyon.

With love from the road,

Cara

West Hollywood Homies

Officially on the road! I made great time to LA after a nice breakfast with the parental units.

My friend from high school Nikki (tpf whaaat) welcomed me when I arrived and I got to meet her bf Jared and their new kitty, Garcon (I keep accidentally calling him Gaston, maybe it’ll stick).

They indulged my tourist needs and we headed down to Hollywood Blvd for dinner and see the sights. It was probably best we went later in the day, the crowds were overwhelming enough as it is. Grrrrreat people watching.

My favorite sight was the Chinese Theater. It inspired some Wikipedia research on Sid Grauman, quite a character. Donald Duck has left his mark there, almost as good as Puddles.

Afterwards I got a driving tour of West Hollywood, Sunset,
Beverly Hills, and Melrose. All from the back of Nikki’s Jetta 🙂 thanks guys!