Hawaiians like to use a lot of stops and skips in their words which usually make them fun to say. Today Keith convinced us that we should hike up a Pu'u. For those of you not fluent in Hawaiian like we are, a Pu'u is a volcanic cone. Not really the primary crater of a volcano but a little opening on the side that spews out molten hot rock all over everything. Fun right!?
For those of you that don't know Pele is the Hawaiian Goddess of fire and she lives in Kilauea, the most active volcano in the world!
We have been visiting a lot of major cities around the country in our travels. Today we decided to ditch the big cities and people and head to one of the cutest little towns that I have ever visited: Hawi.
Hawi (pronounced Ha-vee which really messed us up when looking at maps and street signs) has one little main street with a few shops and restaurants and that's about it. Everything around it is just rain-forest with a few little houses sprinkled in.
We got an early start on the day (I have no idea why). It maybe had something to do with getting a nice burn on at the beach the day before and going to bed early but that's a different story...
Anyways we got to Hawi around 10am. This is where we learned first hand about "Island Time." Back on the east coast everyone is about getting ahead. Businesses have to open up early or else they lose customers and therefore money. In Hawaii that's not important. Everything opens at 11am and closes at 8pm. Sometimes you're lucky to find a place that even has those hours. So naturally when we got there super early in the morning (10) nothing was open so we decided to head past Hawi to the really cool cliff that was just beyond the town.
Luckily that was open
The landscape here is so wild. It's like nothing you can find back on the mainland. The weather is too but you'll hear all about that in another post coming up. The most entertaining part of the cliff was listening to all the tourists. Okay okay we are tourists too but I mean the annoying tourists. We're the good tourists. There was one little kid throwing a fit about his family wanting to hike down to the bottom of the cliff to the beach. I mean a fit. He was pouting and yelling and eventually walked away as his family went the other direction. Oh, did I say little kid? I meant grown-ass man whose kids and wife wanted to hike. You just wouldn't have known that by watching him.
Me watching this all go down and not paying attention to the picture
So that was fun. On the way back to Hawi we saw a really cool stream on the side of the road and it was so pretty that we had to stop for pictures.
A couple of locals told us there was a cool waterfall just down the stream from there but I didn't think my dad's little CRV would have liked treking through the jungle so we just continued on to Hawi. Of course my Xterra could have handled it no problem!
Everything was open this time! Our first stop was for something called Kava Tea. I'm not really sure if it's just a Hawaiian thing or if it's a hippie thing but either way it's gross. I had some last time I was here but Rose didn't know how awful it was yet so naturally we had to get some for her to try.
Faces were made just seconds later
Kava is this gross root that they mash up and make into a yucky tea. The reason people drink it, aside from tricking people into making funny faces, is because the kava root has anesthetic properties. It makes you, and especially your mouth and tongue, feel all tingly.
Our lunch date
We also got some fudge as a chaser
After getting all nice and tingly we went for lunch across the street at a place that has "the best pina coladas." I feel like every restaurant around here has "the island's best" something or another. This one I might believe though. Yes, it cost $12 but it was really good. Rose, our resident ice cream-ologist believes that they put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in when they blend it. This is not for sure so I'm not officially giving away any island secrets but we are definitely going to try it ourselves later. It sounds good regardless.
After Hawi on our way home we saw a State Park (I think that's what it was) that looked fun so we stopped in. The parking lot had some old Hawaiian buildings that were like 600 years old or something like that and a lot of little lava rock walls.
It looked like your stereotypical Hawaii
The coolest part of the park was how the waves were crashing up on some of the rocks. We stayed here for almost a half our just trying to get the perfect wave crashing picture. We probably could have stayed longer. There's something weird about trying to get wave crashing pictures that makes you always want to stay for the next one. It might be better than the last!
We made the our way up the mountain to the house after that to relax for a bit before dinner. Keith was cooking so we didn't want to be late!
Rose's new favorite flower
When you come to Hawaii you think warm sunny beach time right? Well yes that is primarily what we accomplished on the trip. But what about the enormous mountains all over the islands that you can hike up and experience? Or what about a dormant volcano that looms over the entire island? If you have the chance to take the climb, DO IT. The whole point of the trip for Cameron and I has been to gain new experiences and not have any expectations. After college everyone sets out to start making money and begin a routine with a end view in sight. Sometimes you have to climb and not know what view you are going to end up with. Well the same goes for my trip to Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world. Standing 14,207 m. above sea level the peak is the highest point in Hawaii. Cameron had ventured up Mauna Kea on his last trip to Hawaii. He told me it was one of the most beautiful sites he had seen with an unreal sunset. Naturally I was intrigued.
As a family we trekked up Mauna Kea to enjoy the views together. We had to travel 13,800 feet up. It is one of the only places you can start at sea level and rise that high in two hours. Once you get to the National Park you make your way up the road and stop at the visitor center. When you break at the visitors center they suggest you wait a little bit to get acclimated to the altitude change. You definitely feel the air change the higher you go. After a short pause halfway up the mountain we put on our warm clothing and prepared for the winding climb above the clouds.
They aren't kidding about the steep roads..
As you head up the mountain they caution you to have 4WD because lets just say its a tad bit rugged. Basically in addition to ear popping you have to go up a steep graded- gravel road for 12 miles. Just like life there are plenty of twists and turns and the occasional bump in the road. There were points that I was unsure how our car would even go up something that steep. 13,800 feet later and a few ear adjustments we made it to the top. And it was breathtaking....literally. Sitting on top of the mountain an hour out from sunset was probably one of the coolest spots I could ever be. Cameron and I walked around taking some pictures even though it was about 40 degrees. I couldn't grasp being on top of a mountain above the clouds. I felt like I should be flying in a plane looking out, except I wasn't. It was all right there and I was in the midst of it.
Twist, turns & clouds
We had about an hour to kill before the sun actually set. So we took some pictures and looked at the observatories. The coolest thing about Hawaii that is unique from the rest of the U.S. is that the stars are amazingly clear. When you are on top of Mauna Kea looking out you can see all the observatories that the scientists use to view the solar system. After some pre-sunset pictures we waited in the car for the sun to finally set. Each passing minute the sun, clouds and colors made a prettier and more incredible picture (be sure to view the gallery at the end of this post.)
One of the many observatories
I always half joke to Cameron that I live for sunsets. I probably told him 100 times throughout the trip that each sunset made me happy. I say half joke because in reality sunsets are at the top of my happiness list right behind dogs. A sunset closes out the day and is free to stop and enjoy but what is even more awesome is that no sunset is ever the same. The cloud arrangement and colors always appear different and what shapes them is the location they are in. I don't think we could have asked for a better location. Being above clouds to watch the sun sink down casting orange, blue and pink hues in the sky will forever be one of the most incredible sunsets I've seen.
With satisfied views and pictures we decided to head out and satisfy our stomachs.
So we officially made it coast to coast...
Playing in the Pacific
We have gone as far West as my poor little car could take us. In California we stayed with my cousin Heather and her family who were nice enough to let us take up their space. Especially Jayden who's room we stole... Sorry and thanks!
The night we got to California it actually couldn't be better. We got to my cousin's house around 4 or 5 and went to a pool party at my cousin's husbands coworker's house (that's a mouthful) where we just hung out for the majority of the night. It was a nice change from all the running we had been doing and it was cool to meet everyone.
The next day we went to San Diego to get our coast to coast shots. Of course we had to go play in the water since we had been in the Atlantic a little under two weeks before!
This is really the only place in California we took pictures so hopefully you like them, it's all you're getting!
We parked in this fancy area with nothing but yacht sales. I didn't bring enough cash to buy a souvenir unfortunately. Yachts can be quite pricey and they wouldn't let us test drive one...
Luckily there was plenty of shoreline to play on and lots of boats to look at. It turned out to be a fun adventure. We just walked around the waterfront for a while taking in the sights.
Downtown San Diego
The next day was definitely an adventure to say the least... We said goodbye to my cousin the next morning and headed into the city most dreaded by stick shift drivers... Los Angeles.
I'll give you a short timetable of our trip into LA. All we had to do was check into our hotel for the night and park the car in the long term parking lot that was already reserved. That's it. We left Heather's house around 10:30am and finished parking the car at 6:30pm. It was quite the mess.
Now for the long version...
Traffic sucked (go figure). It took us probably two and a half hours to get to the hotel that was only an hour or so from Heather's house. Once we finally got to the hotel there were three hotels all together that shared a gated parking garage with no outside parking at all. I had to park on the street (maybe illegally) so we could check in and get our bags in. Luckily there was still tons of parking in the garage so I didn't have to fight for that. Once we got situated and consolidated our bags for our trip within a trip we took the extra stuff back to the car and headed out to find the long term parking spot. This is where the fun begins...
It was a mile and a half from the hotel in the not-so-good-looking part of the town. The entry area was a narrow one lane road in front of this hotel with a lane of parking spots on one side and a big wall right next to that so there was no going around if you had to. Well we had to...
All the parking spots were filled and there was a car with its flashers on right in front of the door blocking the exit. I figured he wouldn't be long so I got behind the car and waited. About 10 minutes pass and Rose and I are starting to get frustrated. I'm thinking of backing out and thinking of a plan B for the car. That's when a bus comes in behind us. Now we are stuck in this stupid entry area.
Here's a picture of some pelicans to break up the frustration
So now we are stuck and still waiting. Finally after another 10 minutes the guy comes out of the hotel and gets back in his car. He pulls forward about 10 feet and takes the last empty spot on the side of this little entry way next to the big wall. I need to check my car in but don't have anywhere to park the car in the meantime. Already frustrated by this whole ordeal I pull forward and put my flashers on too so I could run in and check the car in. At least I pulled forward enough to open up the middle exit so the bus and the line of cars that had accumulated in this time to get out around me.
I ran into the hotel to try and make this as quick as possible so we could get back to relaxing at the hotel before our early flight the next morning but that, apparently, was just not in the cards.
There was a whole line of people in the lobby trying to check in as well and only one person behind the counter answering phones and checking people in. It took me 25 more minutes just to get to the counter. Rose was in the car waiting. Later I found out she was looking up other parking lots we could use because this one sucked.
At the counter I filled out a sheet with the usual stuff about my car. I wrote down my reservation number and the date I was returning. Then, between several phone calls, the lady behind the counter asked me for the keys and said they would park it in their lot. I told her that there were no spots outside and I was sitting in the middle of the road with flashers. She said to just leave it there and she would get to it. With the amount of stuff she was doing by herself I didn't entirely believe her but I was so frustrated by this point that I followed her instructions.
Here's another pretty picture for you
I walked outside, turned the car off right where it sat, and went back inside to give her the keys. She didn't check anything in her database, she didn't talk to anyone, she didn't do anything to check if the reservation was there or if I was expected. She just took the keys and that was it. I wasn't feeling too confident that I'd see my car again in the same condition I gave it but figured that if something was messed up they'd be buying me a new car so we left.
The mile and a half walk back to the hotel was awful. It was hot and it was a semi-sketchy neighborhood. It was still daylight though so I wasn't really worried about our own well being, just about my car...
By the time we got back to the hotel it was 6:30pm and we had no interest in doing anything for the rest of the night. We were done with LA and anything that it had to offer. We just ordered a pizza and watched Netflix until bedtime. Things would be better once we got to Hawaii!
Update: it's been a week since the car parking fiasco. I got a call this morning from the mess of a hotel and they wanted to know if I was going to pick the car up. On the sheet and the reservation I gave them it said I would be back on July 6th to pick it up. They said that I was only paid up to the 25th of June and that they were going to charge me the standard hotel rates if I left it there any longer. After talking to 5 different people I told them my reservation number again and reminded them of the dates they seemed to have it all worked out. Seemed to.... I guess we'll see if I still have a car when I get back.
Anyways here's more pretty pictures from San Diego!
Today Cameron and I crossed another item off our bucket list. Take a helicopter ride over an erupting volcano. That was never actually on any bucket list but we did it and it was incredible so we'll say it was. Cameron's dad booked us a trip with Blue Hawaiian tours so we made a day trip around the island to the town of Hilo. Hilo is about two hours away so we set out early to stop at a few points of interest along the way. Island life is really cool, there are a few major roads that take you everywhere around the island and then the rest is just scenic views while you drive. It's quite fun during the day, quite long and dark at night. Along the road Cameron pulled over at Laupahoehoe point (pronounced Lap-a-hoy-hoy but I had more fun saying it how it's spelled.) Laupahoehoe is a scenic point where violent waves hit the rocks in spectacular fashion. We got out to take some pictures and I immediately regretted having my hair down. The wind was wild blowing it everywhere as the waves crashed into the shore were just as forceful.
He thought this was hilarious...
Finally got one after the 6th try..
Like Cameron has said before...there is something addicting about capturing waves hitting the shore with such strong force. We roamed around the point trying to catch a good shot and not to blow away. After plenty of pictures and some messed up hair we continued into downtown Hilo to the airport.
Once we made it to the airport and checked in that is where the fun began...
Blue Hawaiian had us watch a safety video on the helicopters that we would be flying in. The whole time I sat there anxious and sweating because I fear flying like no other. Cameron was super excited and kept teasing me. We were distributed by weight along with the other people attending the tour so the helicopters would be balanced. After heading out to the runway we waited for our turn up in the air.
Once we were secured and loaded into the helicopters up we went. We had a lovely pilot who informed us of everything we were flying over and he promised we wouldn't fly us too far into the volcano. We made our way over to the active volcano and got to watch the steam and lava from directly overhead. It had a fake look to it, but the strong sulfur smell confirmed any doubt of it being unreal. Our pilot spun us around and dipped down so we all could capture the volcano and lava flows which were insane.
Orange lava flow
more lava flow
The active volcano has been going for the last 30 years. This last year it has been incredibly active. Since it is a shield volcano it means that the lava just flows out from different openings unlike the composite volcanoes we think of that erupt and spew lava everywhere. This volcano just flows in different areas and it is unpredictable as to what and where it will travel to. It can destroy entire villages if it feels like it. We headed over to the cone to see the main part of the volcano. It looked like a huge steam room from far away. All you could see was the white smoke as you approached. We circled the crater and got to see how big it actually was with all the steam and lava cooking inside.
The volcano was definitely unreal to see and with some extra time before needing to land, we got to head over to the waterfalls in Hilo. The waterfalls were really cool to see up above but you can't tell how big they are when you are looking down at them. We snapped some great pictures from above and circled back to the airport for landing. The tour was absolutely phenomenal...if you ever visit Hawaii it is definitely worth the trip to fly over and see everything.
Writer change!!! Apparently we didn't get enough waterfalls from the helicopter so after we landed and tried not to blow away on the runway we went to Akaka falls state park (another fun one to say) to see one of the largest free-falling waterfalls in the world! I'm pretty sure that means the water doesn't touch anything during the 440ft drop from the top but the sign didn't really elaborate much when I asked it.
The "hike" around the falls area was amazing. It was a little rain-forest right off of the road. I think the entire loop was maybe half a mile of all paved trails hence the quotation marks around "hike" but it was beautiful nonetheless. Perhaps one of the best "bang for your buck" hikes because not only did you see a lot of rain-forest but also Akaka falls, Kahuna Falls (100ft) and two little falls all on that short trail!
Normally you have to pay to get into the park since it is state run. It's usually $5 per car and $1 per person if you just walk in. We got there right as they were closing the gates. Well, to be frank, I really had to pee so we parked on the side of the road outside the gates and walked through anyways. I asked the guy at the pay booth if we could go in. He just asked if we were parked outside of the gate so that he could close it and then let us go in for free! Then we had to do the long windy dark drive back home. All in all we had a heli of a good time!
Well we have officially made it to Hawaii! After all of our interesting adventures roaming coast to coast we landed on The Big Island. The only thing I can say is: "holy blue." I have never seen so much incredible, gorgeous, bright blue all around me. Cameron and I flew Hawaiian Airlines and had a great time. The flight was incredibly accommodating, serving us awesome complementary breakfast sandwiches, fruit, coffee, cookies and even Hawaiian rum punch! It was a great way to pass 6 hours and to top it off Cameron taught me how to play the card game Rummy. As tired as we were, we both managed to stay awake and enjoy each others company. Flying over the Pacific Ocean for hours I eventually spotted island.
So much blue
We landed in Honolulu and had a slight layover which entailed grabbing some food and boarding our next flight over to Kona. Cameron prepped me for Kona airport saying how small and unique it was compared to all of our enormous city ones I was familiar with. He sure wasn't exaggerating. The airport was all outdoors and once you walked off the plane everything you needed was right there in one location. Since Cameron's family was still on their way over from Maryland we got picked up by one of his dad's friends and had a great journey to the house. On the drive all I could look at was the lava covering the ground. I felt like I was on another planet. There was blue coastline on the left side of me that just went for what looked like forever and black lava rock surrounded by mountains on my right side. It was definitely a quick drive with everything to look at. We made our way to Kohala Ranch to unpack and rested for a little bit at the house before having to head back to Kona to grab the rest of the family. On the way to the airport we decided to kill time with food and shopping. We went to a village in Waikiloa on the way and had a great dinner at Three Fat Pigs right on the water enjoying local local beer, pork sliders and salad.
Happy to be in Hawaii
With satisfied stomachs we roamed around the shopping area checking out all the items we liked but couldn't quite afford. Cameron hung out in a Ukulele shop where he priced out certain Hawaiian ones made out of Koa wood. After no purchases we ended by grabbing some ice cream at the Marble Slab, except the slab was broken so it was kind of a fail ice cream trip anyway. We hopped back into the car and headed towards the airport. Cameron and I seem to luck out when it comes to time of day and travel. We are always around for the best view. I love sunsets so naturally when I saw the most gorgeous orange color over the Pacific I begged him to pull over for pictures. We had plenty of time to kill so we stopped by a scenic pull over and also investigated a state park that had a little beach. The sunset down by the water was fantastic and we couldn't have asked for a more perfect ending to a long (two time changes and 20 hours being awake) but incredible first day in Hawaii. Hang on for more Hawaiian adventures!
I'm not sure if you knew this but as you drive through the desert there is a random city just sticking out of the sand with skyscrapers and lights and fountains and some of the most ridiculous architecture you would ever want to see! That's right, we went to Las Vegas.
The drive to Vegas was actually one of the shortest ones we had to do clocking in at about 4 hours from Phoenix. Before we actually got to the city we stopped at the Hoover Dam along the way. I had been to Las Vegas before but neither of us had ever ventured over to the dam so we decided to stop and see what it was all about.
Dam it's big!
It was really cool, aside from the giant blow dryer they have hidden somewhere around there (it was really hot and windy). I didn't know lake water could be that blue.
Another fun fact about the dam is that the river is what divides Arizona and Nevada so technically both shores are in different time zones. So as we walked around we gained and lost an hour depending on which side we were closer to... theoretically... Our guess is that one of the states doesn't participate in daylight savings time so when we were there both the times were the same (they have two clocks saying "Nevada Time" and "Arizona Time") but it was still a cool idea.
Can't see the sweat right....?
After we were nice and well done it was off to Vegas!
Unfortunately taking pictures in the casinos is frowned upon so we didn't take our cameras. All the pictures that we got are from Rose and her mad phone skills.
It all started by me getting mad at my GPS. Instead of bringing us down the strip and making a right into the parking garage it got scared of the traffic and brought us in on a side street. Well side streets aren't as important as the strip according to traffic lights so they didn't change very fast. We got caught in probably a mile of stand still traffic and every couple minutes we'd get to move for a few seconds before one of the lights turned red again. Also, we now had to make a left turn into our hotel. And just to top it all off we missed the famous fabulous Las Vegas sign to take pictures! Me and my left leg were not pleased.
But we finally made it to the Bally's parking garage and I chose to self park because we weren't feeling fancy enough for valet. Luckily my car fit in the garage. We did duck a few times though. Then we grabbed all our stuff and went into the elevator. When the doors opened at the bottom we were in Paris (the casino, there aren't teleporters in Vegas as far as we know). We were so confused. I knew we were in the Bally's garage but somehow got into the wrong hotel. So we wandered around a little bit (with all of our bags) a nice guy in the parking garage saw us and knew exactly what was going on. Tourists...
So now we are walking through the middle of Bally's casino, with all of our bags, looking for the check-in counter. After all of the traffic and parking and teleporters we were cursing Vegas just a little bit... Finally we found it, checked in, and got to our room. We joked about giving up and just falling asleep after that ordeal but we knew our faithful blog followers were waiting so we had to go out.
All for you guys!
First things first, we had to get some drinks. We went to the beer garden right outside of Paris. They had a funny way of filling beer. All of their cups had holes in the bottom that were plugged up by rubber tabs so they could fill the cups with this funky machine. They would sit the cups on a tube, the tube, would fill the beer from the bottom, and then when they pulled the cup off of the tube the rubber tab would sink and block the beer from falling out the bottom. It was a cool idea but what it really did was make me walk around the strip holding my beer as far away from me as possible just in case the tab slipped. I'm sure I looked goofy but at least I was dry!
The day time was for wandering. We went into most of the casinos around the strip looking at their crazy statues and unnecessary architecture.
Surprisingly the hardest part of Vegas was finding drinks we felt like paying for. Every place had some dumb souvenir cup that you had to get making your drink like $20 or something ridiculous. We just wanted some normal plastic cups you could throw away!
Finally, after some hardcore touristing, night fell and The Strip came alive.
We got a big, giant plate of Nachos from Margaritaville and headed back to Bally's to do some gambling.
Since neither of us know what we are doing we decided that slots were for us. We could sit alone and goof around without bothering
Driving through the desert....
We set out from Texas on Monday morning to start our trek through the desert. This was going to be the longest driving stint of the trip; a simple 16 hours to Phoenix. We decided to drive 12 hours to Las Cruces, New Mexico and then another four the next day to Arizona. Whenever people ask me what my favorite part of the trip is I always say watching the scenery change and it is exactly because of drives like this one.
12 hours is a long time to drive through one state but everything is bigger in Texas and I guess that means the drives too. Houston is right on the water so they have a temperate climate with lots of green. Heading west that all changes very dramatically. We started to see less and less plants and more and more of... nothing. Lots of nothing. For hundreds of miles.
It was really cool to watch everything change. The oddest part, we thought, was the lack of "proper" cacti. You know, the ones with arms that always wear sombreros in the cartoons. We actually didn't see a single one until Tucson. Must be only an Arizona thing. We had a contest going on who could find the first one. Rose won because I was being a safe driver. Solid excuse for losing if you ask me. But once we found one they didn't stop until we left the state again.
Anyways, we didn't really do anything but sleep in Las Cruces so there isn't much to tell about that. Once we hit Arizona it changed from the nothingness of the Texan desert to the rocky mountainous terrain that we both love so much.
I don't know what it is but both Rose and I find the South West to be about the coolest place in the country. It makes for a really nice (and quick) drive.
In Arizona we were staying with some of Rose's relatives. Her uncle John and Aunt Marcia. We got to their house around 4 or 5 and her uncle John was making dinner for us. He was showing off his brick oven stove by making us homemade pizza. Sorry there aren't any pictures of it. It didn't really last long enough to take any. You'll just have to believe me that it looked and tasted amazing.
We also met our buddy for the next few days Ace.
"Acey Baby!" -Rose
He loved to go swimming with us every day. Including standing up in the shallow end like a person and scratching his back on the side which was easily one of the most entertaining things I have ever seen.
For our first full day in Arizona we decided to take on downtown Phoenix and visit John and Marcia's frozen yogurt shop "A Touch of Yogurt" to take some pictures for them. If you're ever in Phoenix be sure to stop by. It is quite delightful. They brought some home for us every night!
Of course we also got some free yogurt as payment for taking pictures for them. That officially makes us professionals right?
After that we went to Tempe, a little town about 20 minutes outside of Phoenix. It was a college town with tons of restaurants and shopping. The only downside was that it was 105 degrees... Not really shocking for Arizona in the summer. We walked around for a while and went shopping in a couple stores before deciding it was too hot. So we went back to the pool and drank until dinner time (Steak and potatoes). It was a good day.
A cool fountain in Tempe
For our last day in Arizona I wanted to go to a restaurant that I remembered from when I visited as a kid. I had to do some research to find it because all I remembered is that we took a long dirt trail to get there, the population of the town was 6 people, and the chili cheeseburger was amazing; lots to go off of. After some googling I found it: Tortilla Flats.
To get to my cheeseburger we had to drive on the Apache Trail. It is an old trading trail that winds around for about 20 miles through the Superstition Mountains, rocks, and cliffs circling Canyon Lake. It was an amazing drive. It didn't feel like 20 miles at all.
Coming down a steep hill on the trail you come into Tortilla Flats where, yes, the population is officially 6. It is just a little old west storefront with the restaurant and gift shop. The interior of the restaurant is covered in dollar bills decorated by the travelers that come through. It is a really cool place and yes, the burger was as amazing as I remembered. It takes a special burger for me to remember it from when I was a kid.
We left our mark
After the 20 mile dirt trek back to the main road we stopped at a "ghost town" on the way back to the house. I use apostrophes because all of the "ghost towns" here are the busiest places in Arizona. There were always tons of tourists and shops in them. I don't quite think it's fair to call them real ghost towns. They definitely look cool though.
On the way back to the house we stopped at a REAL ghost town called Cave Creek. It's not really a ghost town. It's just a little tourist town just down the road from where we were staying with Rose's aunt and uncle but nobody was there. It was almost creepy. The only people there were the shop owners. There weren't any customers or tourists at all. It was probably too hot for them. Hardcore adventurers only!
We only stayed there for a short time before heading back to the house for our daily swim with Ace. We ended the night by having our last home-cooked meal in Arizona (BBQ chicken and ribs), frozen yogurt for dessert (not desert we've had enough of that for one day), and our first game of chess since we started the trip. All in all a wonderful pit stop in the desert. Thanks to John and Marcia (and Ace of course) for being great hosts! We had a blast.
I'm sure ya'll are familiar with the famous quote "Everything is bigger in Texas." Well the reason people say it so often is because it is very much a true statement. As soon as Cameron and I arrived in the Lone Star State we realized how valid of a statement it was. Trucks, gas stations, shopping centers, food...you name it, and Texas does it bigger.
As we got out of New Orleans we made our way into League City, TX we got a chance to stay with Cameron's side of the family. Not only was Texas a wonderful place, his family was just as awesome. What was supposed to be a weekend of rain and thunderstorms turned out to be just the opposite.
Clearly no thunderstorms were present.
Upon arrival Friday at dinner time, we were greeted by four friendly pups and two wonderful family members: Lesley and Prentice. After some brief catching up we made our way into the town to a restaurant bar where we enjoyed a night of laughs and big beers with Cameron's cousins. The best part about being around family is reminiscing on all of the things you did when you were younger and what you have been up to. Being able to recall old stories and jokes is part of what makes each visit just as great as the last, especially when you can't see each other often.
The big beers.
After a fully satisfying meal and some drinks we were told we had to check out
"Buc-ee's" and try a "Kolache." Boy did we not know what we had in store. In case you are as unfamiliar with Buc-ee's as Cameron and I were you might want to Google it just to get a visual. Buc-ee's is a gas station that lives up to the quote I started out with....everything is bigger in Texas. Basically Buc-ee's is the size of a Walmart and carries just about anything you could ever want from Texas. Not to mention the 24 or so gas pumps they have outside. There is food, clothing, toys and anything else you need in one stop. They pride themselves for having the cleanest bathrooms...so naturally we had to check them out! And they sure did live up to their claim (and had more stalls than an entire airport.) After getting some Kolache to try we made our way back home to rest up for the weekend.
Saturday we woke up to sunshine and hung out by the pool for most of the day to soak up the sun. We tried our delicious Kolache which are similar to pigs in a blanket. The bread is super soft and wraps the sausage with cheese and whatever else you want inside. I highly recommend trying them if you visit Texas. In the afternoon we headed into town again this time on a mission to find me some cowboy boots. I've always wanted a legit pair of boots but could never find the style I wanted back home in Massachusetts. Well being in the heart of cowboy country you bet I could find a pair here.
That night we celebrated Cameron's cousin Lesley's birthday. We had a wonderful dinner at Opus Bistro which was a elegant restaurant right on the waterfront of Kemah, TX. It was a beautiful dinner with amazing food and drinks for a perfect weekend and we were so happy to be there to share Lesley's birthday.
Sunday was our last full day around Texas so Cameron and I did a little bit of everything. We went out for coffee and had another failure at Dunkin Donuts (seems to be the theme of this trip) and then proceeded to look around the area. Cameron tried WhatABurger which is a famous burger chain out west. After some exploring on our own we went back home and met up with Lesley and Prentice to take some pictures and enjoy our last day with family. We stopped by a friends graduation party and got to try some real Louisiana- style homemade cooking. It was amazing! The boiled shrimp, gumbo and jambalaya were all fantastic. I'm surprised Cameron hasn't turned into Gumbo because he's had it to eat so much lately. For the night we headed down to Kemah Boardwalk where we enjoyed an evening walk and got to see another breathtaking sunset. We strolled around the boardwalk enjoying the view (Be sure to check out pictures in the gallery at the end) and settled on an aquarium restaurant that Cameron had remembered from when he was a kid. The walls of the restaurant were a large tank and all the different types of sea creatures swam around while we enjoyed the last bite of Texas.
Our spectacular dinner guests.
Monday morning we loaded up the car and prepared for 12 hours of driving across Texas. We felt well rested and excited to see the land change as well as all the amazing views. Our plan was to drive across I- 10 (the Wild West) and end up in Las Cruces, New Mexico one night before making our way to my family in Phoenix. The drive was nothing short of incredible. We saw dust storms swirling and mini tornadoes along the open land that were scary yet impressive to see in person. The land was absolutely beautiful full of blue sky and mountains that looked like paintings in the distance. I hope you enjoy the pictures, but keep in mind that they don't do justice for just how amazing it actually was and it is an area everyone should travel along once in their life. Thanks for traveling along with us, stay tuned for our Phoenix adventures!
The rock formations were a Geologists dream.
When you head south on a road trip there is always one place everyone wants to stop: New Orleans. I always joked (kinda) that when I went I'd find a jazz club, eat gumbo, and drink until I was too big to get back through the door. I didn't quite follow my plan but it was fun anyways!
We made our plans to stay in the French Quarter so that when we "partook" in the city we wouldn't have to drive anywhere and could always walk back to the hotel. Great idea on paper, terrible idea in your manual car driving down the narrow crowded streets of New Orleans looking for the parking garage. But once we found the right spot and got the car tucked away safely it was great.
What's the first stop once you get into the city? Hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's! They were delicious but we couldn't really afford to have too many drinks there (at $14 per drink) so after our first round we went to one of the cheesy, cheap daiquiri bars and got to drink out of one of those long plastic tourist cups and wander around the city.
New Orleans is better when you're drinking. We learned that pretty quick. You take one step out of the hotel and it's hot, and humid, and busy, and dirty, and smelly but you forget all of that pretty quick after your first Hurricane. No wonder they make them so strong.
Walking down Bourbon Street, sipping on our giant hurricanes, we passed a house of voodoo. I had to go in and look around. The people working there were... weird to say the least. But what else would you expect? Yes, I bought a voodoo doll in case you were wondering. It's supposed to help with creativity so get ready for some great blog posts in the future! I asked the guy what I could do to make the doll happy just to hear what he said. It was almost hilarious to hear how into it and serious he was about everything. They wouldn't let us take pictures in the store. It put off "bad vibes" so I'll have to show you the doll in person later.
Upon leaving the house of voodoo we were taking some super cute selfies and ran into Pete.
Then we met Pete!
Pete played the washboard and was actually really good at it. We talked to him for a little while, he played us a song and we went on our separate ways. We should have gotten a video of it but didn't think that fast. Or maybe couldn't remember how to work our phones....
New Orleans Goals
The gumbo is awesome in case you didn't figure that out from the picture. We went to the Gumbo Shop for dinner. It was supposedly the best gumbo in the city (I know they all say that) but I won't argue. It was wonderful.
Actually we did find something that rivaled how awesome the gumbo was and that was the daiquiris!
I got a cantaloupe daiquiri and Rose got a honeydew daiquiri. I didn't even know that those fruits could be made into daiquiris but I'm very glad they were. I think we might have to go back just for that. Rose is still talking about them.
Next stop was the river! But before we could visit all that running water Rose had to make a stop for the bathroom. And since the bathrooms were for customers only naturally we had to buy some more drinks!
Just a couple of drinks....
The brewery was also really cool, as was pretty much everything that we had come across so far! They brewed all their own beer and the bar itself had a amazing atmosphere with the breeze coming through across the river.
And the drinks were really good too
After a few drinks in our favorite brewery the sun was starting to go down and we decided to head back to the French Quarter and see what happens at night.
The thing I found odd about the city was the almost complete lack of jazz music. Yes, we were there on a Thursday night so maybe all the good stuff comes out on the weekends but still, this is THE jazz city! Every club was playing rap or pop or some other dumb genre of music. We couldn't find jazz anywhere! But we did find a really cool piano bar.
This guy was the man!
I don't remember what song they were playing to get us in but there was a live band and they weren't rapping so we stuck around to listen to a few songs. Three hours later.....
They were awesome! It turned out to be a request band so I requested some Dave Matthews (of course). Only one of the guys in the band knew the song ("the man") and he killed Ants Marching! So we had to stay and listen to a few more songs and... maybe.... have a few more beers...
The greatest part of the night was yet to come. After listening to the band for a while we heard a familiar sound filling the bar. Could it be? A washboard...? It was!?! Pete was here performing. I still don't know if he was officially with the band or if he was just here being annoying but he definitely helped make the night.
He even invited some people to play with him on stage
And would happily hand off his washboard to some aspiring percussionists
After a few hours and a few beers we left the piano bar and took one more trip down Bourbon street before heading back to the hotel and calling it a night.
The next morning I wanted to see what Bourbon street looked like in the AM. Spoiler, not a good plan. We headed down from our room with our headaches, wobbled through the lobby, opened the door, took one whiff of the city and went right back up to the room to rest up before our long drive to Houston.
New Orleans is a great city but one night (if done correctly) is plenty. And you have to have plenty to drink... On to Houston!
Such a creative title I know but if it's good enough for Alabama's welcome sign it's good enough for my title.
Alabama was not an official stop for our trip but Wilmington to New Orleans was way too far to drive in one day and still be awake to enjoy anything so we decided to make a pit stop somewhere in between. Originally we had just planned on driving until we were tired, stop for sleep, then wake up and go again. That sounded like a waste of a perfect night so we looked for a cool seeming city in between the two destinations and Montgomery, Alabama was the winner.
But before we get to Alabama I just want to share our Georgia experience. I drive a stick shift car so I had no interest in going anywhere near Atlanta or its traffic which, apparently, takes up pretty much the entire friggin state! Rose collects shot glasses from all the different states she's been to so we had to stop and get one in Georgia. We found a Wal-Mart right off the interstate and decided to stop. It wasn't too far into Georgia and a decent distance from Atlanta so I thought we would be fine...
Wrong... At least one of us is having a good time with their new selfie stick
It took about 25 minutes to just get out of the parking lot and of course the traffic light that we were stuck at through three different green lights was on a decently steep hill. My left leg got quite the workout and the person behind me in line learned to not tailgate people so much. I didn't hit them but after they saw me rollback a couple times they got the idea.
Also we have never seen so many broken down cars and shredded tires on the sides of the road. Apparently the zombie apocalypse isn't what made the road look like that in The Walking Dead; it just really looks like that.
But finally, we made it to Alabama!
We didn't have too much time in Montgomery. We had about enough time to check in to our hotel, grab dinner and have maybe an hour to take some pictures around the city before dark hit which actually turned out to be perfect for us.
We looked up a place for dinner that was in a hotel in downtown Montgomery. The reviews were great so that's where we went. It was really weird because it was so empty. We were the only ones in the restaurant but I wanted that bacon wrapped meatloaf in BBQ sauce! It was delicious by the way. The weird thing was that they charged us $1.50 for "rocks" in our drinks. Didn't understand that one but oh well.
The funnest street name to say
Montgomery was a really cool city. I might have to go back sometime to check out the rest of it. It was really quiet which made it even better. Coming from Baltimore and Boston we are used to cities being crowded and obnoxious. It was a nice change. Driving was no problem and walking around we had plenty of space to do what we wanted.
Coming out from dinner it was almost sunset so naturally we had to find a good spot to watch. I saw a sign that said "Riverfront" so we headed that way. I didn't even know that Montgomery was on water. Guess I don't really know my geography to well...
The riverfront was amazing. I couldn't believe we nailed perfect sunsets two nights in a row in two different cities. We took plenty of pictures again and enjoyed the warm southern night on the water. After we took our fill of pictures we headed back to the hotel to rest up and prepare for our trip into the Big Easy!
Montgomery is definitely a place I'd like to come back to someday.
In seven hours you can make it from Maryland to the coast of North Carolina. Wilmington to be exact. Neither of us had been to the coast of North Carolina before so we figured what better place to get this trip started. However, seven hours is a long time to sit in a car without any stops. We did at least make it to North Carolina before Rose needed her (second... or third) morning coffee so we made a short pit stop in Fremont, North Carolina.
Fremont is one of the cutest little towns you've ever seen. We actually found it by accident. Rose saw a Dunkin sign off of the interstate and almost grabbed the wheel to pull over (only slightly kidding). So we had to make a stop. When we got off the interstate there was nothing but old coke signs and a little main street with storefronts and the whole bit. It was like something preserved from the past.
But anyways, long story short, it wasn't a real Dunkin, the coffee was gross, and Rose wasn't happy about it but at least we got to see this cool piece of Americana.
Now on to Wilmington! Of course it had to rain during the drive. If Rose and I are together there can be no other weather activity besides rain. Actually it was a tropical storm conveniently named Colin (same as my brother). Isn't it so fitting he'd be here to try and mess up my trip!? But it was no match for my brand new Rain-X windshield wipers so we got through it no problem.
The rain continued for the first day and looking at my radar on my phone I was worried it would last through our entire stay in North Carolina so we decided to make the best of it and explore anyways.
When in a tropical storm, we go to the beach!
Luckily when we woke up on day two it was bright and sunny. The radar showed one little sliver of the storm where nothing was coming. Wouldn't you know it that Wilmington was right in that sliver! So we decided to head downtown and see the historic district and see what kind of pictures we could get there.
It was a perfect example of a southern town with tons of willows with those droopy leaves coming off of them (no clue what they're called but they're really cool). It was nice. My favorite part was that there wasn't much traffic or people around. I'm used to Baltimore and our NYC trips where there are people everywhere and you can't even move. Cities down here definitely go at a slower pace.
Naturally we had to go shopping. It was a new city and we (Rose) had to see what was there to buy. There were a bunch of cute little shops that we saw on the way to the beach the night before so we thought it would be fun to see what they had to offer. Well we sort of ended up in our own Pretty Woman situation. The first store we went into wanted $200 for a simple (and rather dumb looking if you ask me) necklace. The lady in the store didn't even talk to us because she knew we wouldn't buy anything. And she was right! We just took some pictures around the shops and made fun of everyone shopping there. We did stop at a coffee shop there that is apparently a big thing in the Carolinas called Port City Java. It was pretty good and reasonably priced which was nice considering where we were.
After laying by the pool for a while to relax from our big shopping experience we wanted to go to dinner. We kept seeing billboards for a restaurant called Front Street Brewery and figured that was a good spot to try. We were right! It was incredible! The only spot around to park was street parking that said no parking before 7. Well.... it was 6:30. So I did it anyways and we periodically left our drinks to make sure it was still there. It was.
The food and the beer was delicious! I would highly recommend it to anyone going to Wilmington. It's in the old historic district right up from the waterfront. I may have bought a souvenir that was too expensive but too awesome to pass up. How often do you take a trip like this right?
The real finale for the day was after dinner. Sunsets are something that we both really enjoy so we wanted to go to the beach and get the sunset over the ocean. Then I realized that we are on the east coast and that the sun wouldn't set over the ocean. When we left dinner we saw that it was next to an inlet with a battleship and some bridges. Maybe it would set that way?
We stayed here taking pictures for a very long time. I bet we took over 50 pictures each. I won't bore you with all of the results but it was amazing. I'll post some more of them at the end.
And that was our Wilmington, North Carolina adventure. Next stop is Montgomery, Alabama!
“Don't spend money on things... spend money on experiences. You'll enjoy life a lot more!”
-Ziad K. Abdelnour
So here we are. June 6th. We have been talking about this date for a while now. This is the day that Rose and I will be starting our cross-country road trip! It has been this mythical being, our unicorn if you will, for so long that we never really thought it existed. Yesterday it started to sink in and today we set off on our epic 6 week (ish...) journey! I would say once-in-a-lifetime but I really hope not.
How it gets real...
After a hearty breakfast we set off for our first stop on the trip, Wilmington, North Carolina. Our basic outline is to take a southern route to California, hop a plane to Hawaii, then come back and do Route 66 as far as we can before getting off and heading back to Maryland. Driving over 6000 miles total.
On the way out we plan on stopping in Wilmington, NC; New Orleans, LA; Houston, TX; Phoenix, AZ; Los Angeles, CA; and Kona, HI. Route 66 is basically a free roam with no structure whatsoever besides go east. Stay posted for tales from the road and all the countless adventures we face along the way. I can't wait to get started!!!
Life is all about experiences. You can't take it with you when you go so you might as well enjoy it while you can. So while we are still young and responsibility-less, it's off we go!
Here we go!
He likes pizza.