I’ve always loved being on the road. When I was little I’d spend hours in a car traveling with my dad between the southwestern states. He’s a musician and would drag me around with him to gigs. I’d just sit in the car watching the desert and cities come and go. Once we got to where we were going, my dad would work and I would do a little exploring. Then we’d be in the car again on to the next place. Sometimes we would sleep for a few hours in the car at rest stops, but most of the time I’d just chatter away trying to keep my dad awake for long enough to make it to our destination. To this very day I can not sleep in a moving car.
The first time I made a cross-country trip wasn’t until I was 18. My mom decided she had grown sick of California and wanted a new start. She was moving to Florida and asked me if I wanted to go. I didn’t really have any desire to live in Florida but I went with her anyway. I didn’t want her to make the trip alone and we agreed that if I didn’t like it I could always go back to California. It was me, my mom, my friend, and 2 dogs, all crammed into a Uhaul cabin in the middle of July for 4 days. I think I’m the only one that enjoyed myself even a little bit. We took the 10 all the way and only stopped for sleep and food. No fun stops and definitely no sightseeing. Bummer city.
The next time I made the trip was under similar circumstances. I ended up staying in Florida for way too long because I met and fell in love with Jvee, but we were ready to move and devised a haphazard plan of moving to California. We packed up our Jeep with whatever would fit and hit the road. Jvee loves to drive and we’d spent many hours on the road together, but he’s also one that likes a plan and a certain destination. We had neither. Once again I was on the 10, in the summer heat, gunning it for the other side of the country. I think we only stopped at one hotel because we were low on money, but that’s when I was able to teach him the ways of roadside napping. It was a great experience and one that I treasure, but once again, not the fun road trip we desired.
When it was time to plan our yearly trip back to Florida to visit family and friends, Jvee suggested driving. I gave him the best side-eye I could muster but he was dead serious. My only stipulation was that we would enjoy ourselves and make it part of our vacation. We wouldn’t be on a time crunch and we would stop to see the sights. It would be just as much about the journey as the destination.
I pled my case for taking Route 66 part of the way and then we planned our route in order to take advantage of visiting a few places that we knew we would only be able to visit during this road trip. Roswell, NM and Lubbock, TX to be specific. Two places so completely out of the way of our normal travels that we had to make it happen this time.
We planned to leave LA and take Route 66, stopping in in Albuquerque for Breaking Bad sight seeing and then spending the night in Tucumcari, NM. From there we’d travel down to Roswell for alien things and continue over to Lubbock for the Buddy Holly Museum. Then we’d head to Houston, spend the night, and continue on to Florida taking I-10. Everything looked good on paper.
We wanted to leave around midnight so we could drive through Arizona and New Mexico during daylight hours and check in to our hotel in Tucumcari that afternoon. The plan was great. The only problem was that we were stupid the day we were set to leave. We woke up at 8am, Jvee worked and I finished sewing a few outfit pieces for my roadtrip wardrobe. We took care of other errands and by the time we were done it was already late afternoon. We were supposed to pack and nap but we ended up going to a mini-concert at the Jimmy Kimmel show. By the time we got home we had no time to sleep. We only had a couple hours to pack up and get on the road if we wanted to stick to our schedule. We threw everything we needed into our bags, grabbed the dogs, and headed out. That’s what I like about traveling by road though. We can throw anything we need in the car and roll out like a band of gypsies. No worries about neatly packing every item in approved luggage.
We drove for a very long time and were awake for even longer, but luckily I had all that experience keeping the driver and myself awake for what ended up being over 36 hours. We were exhausted but Arizona and New Mexico still looked beautiful through our tired eyes. We saw the most amazing sunrise, landscapes, and even wild horses. It’s amazed us how fast the landscape changed from desert to forest and then back again.
We finally reached Albuquerque, where we visited the Breaking Bad car wash, got pictures in front of Walter White’s house, and had fries at Los Pollos Hermanos (aka Twisters). It was about 104 degrees and and we were reaching the point of exhaustion.
A couple of hours later we got to the hotel. We stayed at a nifty little retro place on Route 66. It was true to the whole vibe of Route 66 road tripping. I loved the outside design of the place. Just my style. The rooms are old but the vibe is cool. The attached cafe next door makes a damn good coffee.
Tucumcari is a popular stop along Route 66. It’s full of vintage restaurants, motels, and signage. I wish I had a little more time to explore the town. It’s the vintage lover and photographer’s dream.
They’re really dog friendly, which is great for road trippers who are just passing through. Plus we were able to take ridiculous pictures of the dogs and ourselves with the creepy alien displays. They even gave us dogs treats and toys to take home.
We had a blast at this place and spent way longer than we ever thought. If you’re an alien geek, this is the spot. The walls were plastered with pictures and info about the UFO crash in 1947. There were cheesy scenes of autopsies and encounters. They even have a complete research library and film viewing room. We could have probably spent all day in there. We were having so much fun I split my pants down the back and didn’t even care.
After all of that we had to hurry and make it to the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock before it closed. We got there just in time and were able to walk through the center and museum.
You’re not allowed to take photos inside but they had a huge collection of Buddy Holly memorabilia, including his iconic glasses that were recovered at the crash site where he died. It was a really impressive collection and the display was well done. What a cool cat he was. I’m really glad I was able to visit. The center does a lot for the community and the arts. It’s a definite must see for any fan.
On the way to Houston we discovered Slaton Bakery, a fantastic little bakery in the small town of Slaton, Texas. They have the best thumbprint cookies and homemade vanilla wafers I have ever had. Total game changer. The thumbprint cookies were tender and sandy and the buttercream frosting on top was classic and perfect. I’m just sad we didn’t get more. I dream of those cookies.
After spending the night in Houston we caught the 10 and headed east. We were feeling a little hungry so we planned to stop in New Orleans for a quick bite but after arriving and realizing it was Saturday night, we regretted our decision. The city was filling up with people and we couldn’t find parking anywhere. It wasn’t meant to be. We gave up and headed back out of town. Lucky decision because there was a random mass shooting a few hours later. We dodged that bullet, literally.
We ended the first part of our trip in Orlando where we spent time with intended friends and family and had a fun Fourth of July with our favorite pals. We ate good meals and drank good drinks. Then it was time to move along. We wanted to visit Savannah, a city near and dear to our hearts, before heading back west. We left Orlando and drove straight to Georgia where we had a southern dinner and spent the night in a beautiful room overlooking the river.
After spending some time walking around town the next day, and visiting my favorite store The Paris Market, it was time to hit the road again. We originally planned on making our way back down to the 10 but I wasn’t feeling it. We did a little map studying and decided to instead head to Birmingham for the night and then take I-20 west to Dallas, sleep, and continue on the 20 until it met I-10, about 175 miles before El Paso.
Birmingham was cool, except everything seemed to close at 10pm, but we found a nice little restaurant that had fried green tomatoes so everything was alright after that. There’s no mood that isn’t lifted with fried green tomatoes. We drank sweet tea and ate our fried foods and talked about where we were stopping next. In the morning we discovered that most things in Birmingham are closed on Sundays, something we’re not used to at all. I wanted to visit some of the antique stores and a coffee shop I heard rave reviews about, but they were closed for the day. Instead, we found a Starbucks and left Birmingham behind. I tried to convince Jvee to take me to Graceland in Memphis, but that was a no-go. Our next stop was Dallas. We had an enjoyable drive toward Jackson and stopped at two Piggly Wiggly stores on the way. I love Piggly Wiggly.
We drove straight on through Mississippi and Louisiana and landed in Dallas for the night.
The thing about Texas is it takes days to get through it. You never realize just how big that state is until you have to drive across it. But it has some killer sunsets.
Thanks to time zones we hit Tucson at a decent time and stayed at a bummer of a hotel. After that we were ready for the final stretch home from Tucson. As soon as I woke up and saw the lightning flash in the sky, I remembered it was monsoon season and there were thunder storms brewing all over the desert. This is serious business because flash floods and extremely slippery roads are a major concern whenever it rains in the desert. Just our luck, the car started slipping and sliding once we hit the wet road. Suddenly we found ourselves hydroplaning crazily through the interstate. The car just would not stop sliding. It was like the teacup ride at Disneyland but absolutely terrifying. Jvee was a pro and got the car under control and glided us into a safe spot. We all calmed down, took a few deep breaths, and got back on the road, only slightly traumatized until the rain stopped a few miles ahead. Then, not surprisingly at all, we got pulled over near Phoenix. What’s a road trip without a ticket? We didn’t realize the speed limit changed but the cop was cool and let us go with a warning. After all of that it was smooth sailing all the way back to LA. We listened to our ‘On The Road’ audiobook and complained about the heat as we hit the California desert. Indio was nearing so we stopped to get a date shake at Shields Date Garden and then drove through Palm Springs before catching the 10 again all the way back to LA.
We made it home. Safe and sound and tired, but with a little sadness that it’s all over. 5,700 miles of sing alongs and conversations and American landscapes to remember forever. Can’t wait for the next time.