I went for a morning trail walk with my dad on the desert trails behind his house to start off the day. It was so cool to have so many great trails right outside the back door. But it was SO HOT. Then we went out to breakfast with my dad before heading back out on the road. Each stop on this trip has been so short, but it has really given us a taste of each of the places we would love to visit more now that we are back West.
It had been quite a few days since my last Chick-fil-a diet lemonade, which I fell in love with in the Southeast. Luckily, we found one in Flagstaff, AZ!
Next we made a few new friends on the way out of the park…
On the way to Vegas, we stopped at the Hoover Dam. Brendan had never seen it before, and I hadn’t been since I was 7 or 8.
Check out the water line! Crazy!
Only in Vegas…
And then we went to sleep in our super awesome hotel room. We definitely recommend Nobu in Caesar’s.
We went into Historic Santa Fe for brunch and window shopping around the town. I was pretty excited to have Huevos Rancheros in Santa Fe, and Brendan had a smothered breakfast burrito. We have tried to really experience the food of the region everywhere we’ve gone. Unfortunately, it is sometimes hard without a local guide. For example, we feel like we were less successful in New Orleans than we would have liked to be, and we wish we had more time to experience the food in Austin.
Brunch in Santa Fe was very tex-mex…
We have definitely become experts at walking around without a purpose other than to try and experience an area.
We spent the next 6+ hours driving through the desert, which can be pretty draining. I think this was the first day where we both slept while the other person was driving. We were surprised to see how often the geography changed during this drive through West New Mexico and East Arizona. It went from cool high desert to mountains with pine trees to bare desert to cactus covered hills.
We finally arrived in Scottsdale, where my dad lives, and it was 104 degrees! I had just shivered walking down the street in Santa Fe!! It is SO HOT in Scottsdale, but much more tolerable than the humid heat in the Southeast. Before dinner, we walked around the outdoor shopping area in the misters…
My dad took us to one of his favorite restaurants – True Food Kitchen. I seriously recommend it. They also have locations in Atlanta, Dallas, Colorado, and various locations in Southern California. We all got super cool drinks. I got kale-aid, which had kale, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger. So Good.My dad got the other drink I almost got, which was pomegranate limeade – lime juice, evaporated cane, pom juice, chia seeds. Brendan got Hangover Rx – Coconut water, pineapple, vanilla, orange juice. They were all so fun, fresh, and refreshing.
For dinner, Brendan and I shared the best Bison burger we have ever had and a kale salad. We loved this place. My love of all things yuppie became very apparent. I love clean places with trendy food and boutique workout classes. As much as I don’t like to admit it, I would probably love to live in LA.
We left Fort Stockton pretty early for our drive to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. I recommend bringing Starbucks Via on a road trip because the middle of the country tends to have less appreciation for my fancy coffee preferences. My only choice was McDonalds, and it was awful.
In the evening all of the bats fly out of the cave in a huge swarm. They have theater style seating in front of the entrance for people to come watch. We hiked down into the cave with our audio guide. I loved being able to walk around on our own and learn about all of the different formations. We hiked for about 2.5 hours in the cave. It was about 50 degrees, quite humid, and very dark , but they have it lit up. It was super stinky from the bat guano at first, but we got used to it really quickly.
Then we were off on the next leg of our trip, driving to Santa Fe, NM to visit Brendan’s aunt. We stopped in Roswell on the way to Santa Fe. Roswell is the closest town to Area 51, so they have a bunch of alien stuff everywhere. It was mostly just weird. We just stopped for a few minutes to take some pictures with our new friends.
We spent the evening at Brendan’s aunt’s house, which was a beautiful Adobe-style home in Santa Fe. She made us buffalo tenderloin and salad, which was right up our ally. We sat outside and watched the desert sunset. It was wonderful to meet more of the family I am marrying into, and I loved the high dessert! It was surprisingly cool and crisp.
We had a slow leisurely start in Conroe. It was so nice. Nancy and Papa D were amazing hosts! They even went out and got bagels for us while we were sleeping. We went on a late morning walk around the neighborhood. I’m pretty sure Nancy was cursing us for waking up so late… turns out it gets pretty unbearably hot, but she was so sweet and chatted us up while showing us her morning route around the gorgeous area. We were surprised by how woodsy East Texas is. It is more like what we think of as Louisiana than New Mexico. It was really green and beautiful!
Tons of handmade very expensive cowboy boots… we saw some on sale for $2,000!!! We also got ice cream! Obvs. Brendan got rice krispie treat ice cream, and I got caramel with a sprinkle of sea salt topping. The vibe was definitely hipster and foodie, but it was the super expensive hipster type… designed hipster jeans, $50 t-shirts, etc. I really enjoyed it. I thought my brother might like it. BUT IT IS SO HOT. TOO HOT. I like to eat my ice cream at my own pace, rather than competing with the speedy melting rate in the 100 degree heat. Austin is on my list of places I’d like to spend more time in on a future trip.
The drive from Nashville to New Orleans was our longest so far – 7 hours or so, so after breakfast in Nashville we hit the road. Tip – I found a great place in Nashville for breakfast and coffee called The Frothy Monkey. Their menu for lunch, dinner, and dessert looked awesome as well… I had the California breakfast, which was sourdough toast with fried eggs, avocado, sprouts, and salsa. Brendan had an egg white omelet that included kale, sausage, and avocado, and toast with homemade jam. Go there!
On our drive, Brendan used Yelp to find lunch in Birmingham, AL. We went to a taco truck in a gas station parking lot that is super popular. People literally came there with chairs and filled the parking lot to eat there. It was nice to have real Mexican food from Mexicans! The tacos were amazing. Plus, $10 for lunch for two is a pretty good deal.
We arrived in New Orleans just before dinner. Our hotel was right on Bourbon Street, so it was exciting from the moment we pulled up. We went to dinner on Royal Street, which runs parallel to Bourbon. We went to Royal House and we sat on the balcony! The balcony was tiny and slanted down, so I had a minor panic attack throughout dinner.
We ordered redfish beignets as an appetizer…
And then we went to the famous Cafe Du Monde, which I have wanted to go to since I was a little girl watching the Travel Channel.
We got six beignets covered in powdered sugar! They were piping hot, crispy on the outside and doughy and warm on the inside!I also found this great outfit at one of the nearby shops if anyone still needs an outfit for the Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon on the fourth!
I LOVE ASHEVILLE! I knew I would like it before we came because it is a lot like Santa Cruz or Berkeley, but in a mountain setting – yoga, music, hippies, and lots of good food. It was so easy to find a breakfast place that we would absolutely love. We ended up going to a local cafe that had an emphasis on local and organic foods. Then we headed about 45 minutes outside Asheville to Pisgah National Forest for a hike. We hiked to John Rock in Pisgah National Forest. We picked the hike based on blog posts I’d read from Peanut Butter Runner. It was gorgeous.
The view from John Rock…
Mushrooms along the way…
Tiny tree frog… We were hot, sweaty, and hungry for another good Asheville meal when we were done, so we headed back into town to Chai Pani. This was another tip from Peanut Butter Runner. Chai Pani is Indian street food with an emphasis on local ingredients.It was SO GOOD. Their motto written on all of their shirts is Namaste Y’all, which I think pretty accurately describes the whole city!
Next we went to French Broad Chocolate Lounge, which is a SUPER popular dessert and coffee shop, which I also read about on Peanut Butter Runner. We got a chocolate snickerdoodle and a slice of carrot cake. They were both so good, and they had approximately 100 other things I wanted to try!
Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Asheville and continue on the journey. I really want to go back to Asheville for a weekend (or week) to go hiking and yoga-ing and eat at all of the amazing restaurants. The next stop on our trip was Nashville, TN. Unfortunately for us, our trip coincided exactly with the Country Music Festival and the Country Music Awards, so Nashville was CRAZY. We walked down the street a couple blocks from our hotel and we were outside the arena where they were holding the awards live. The streets were full of people with several concerts going on, and the awards were being played on huge screens in the streets. It was definitely not our scene, but a really cool thing to witness.
I woke up in Richmond, VA bright and early with a packed day planned. I ran a few miles to a local barre class at 7am. It was a little barre studio in a cute neighborhood. The weather was amazing at 6:30am! It was starting to get too warm for me at 8:30am when I got back to the hotel to wake Brendan up!
After breakfast, we headed to Starbucks and the Museum of the Confederacy. The museum is next door to the former White House of the Confederacy. We walked through the museum, which had a nice collection of original uniforms, weapons, and personal items from the Civil War, and then we toured the White House. We went on a guided tour of the White House, which was led by a wonderful older Southern man… who I could not understand! Quite the accent. Next we went to the Maymont Estate, which is a huge mansion and property from the early 1900s that was donated to Virginia. It is now a public park with amazing gardens, including an herb garden, Italian garden, and Japanese garden.
We also toured the mansion, which was really lovely. We learned that the drawing room, the sitting room near the entrance to a Victorian-style home, comes from “withdrawing room”. After dinner, the men would go talk about politics, drink and smoke. It was not considered appropriate for women to take part in that, so they would withdraw into their own sitting room.
On our way out of Virginia, we stopped for lunch at a road-side BBQ stand that I found on Yelp with excellent reviews. It was literally in a dirt parking lot in a small town. We now whole-heartedly recommend Saucy’s Walk-Up! It was late for lunch, and there was a constant stream of locals pulling up for some BBQ.
I think Brendan was in heaven when he read that one of the menu items was two pulled chicken sandwiches!
I got pulled chicken with slaw!
We ended the drive with some late night pizza in Asheville at Standard Pizza Company. Asheville is a foodie, yogi, hippie town, so the food was AMAZING, and I can’t wait to eat as many meals as possible here.