Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Great Western Adventure: Days 18-24

Interested in what we did before we got to the Grand Canyon?
Days 1-4: Chicago, The Corn Palace, The Badlands, and Wall Drug
Day 5: Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Devils Tower 
Day 6: First Day in Yellowstone 
Day 7: First Camping/Kayaking Day in the Grand Tetons 
Day 8: Second Camping/Kayaking Day in the Grand Tetons 
Day 9: Back to Yellowstone and Visiting Old Faithful 
Day 10: The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Lamar Valley
Day 11: Kayaking on Lake Yellowstone
Day 12: The Roosevelt Arch and the Old Faithful Inn
Days 13-14: Driving to the Grand Canyon, Parts I & II
Day 15: Fossil Walk, Condor Talk, and Lightning!!
Days 16-17: Hike into the Canyon, Pictographs, and Four Corners

Day 18: Pike's Peak and Denver

We took a short drive over to Manitou Springs to take a cog train up to the top of Pike's Peak. The train was a really neat way to see the scenery of the mountain and the area below the mountain.


I couldn't believe that it was about 30 degrees cooler on top of the mountain than it was below. Thankfully I had my fleece!


We had a short break on the peak to take a look around and get a snack.


On the way up the guides were raving about the popcorn at the snack bar, so of course we had to try some. It was decent popcorn, but nothing you can't get anywhere else.


We saw more people doing stupid things on the side of the mountain, which sadly was par for the course for our trip across America.


Unfortunately the train ride down wasn't as enjoyable as the ride up. Shortly after getting on the train, I fell asleep, which isn't abnormal as I can fall asleep pretty much anywhere. I was jolted awake and then proceeded to feel lightheaded and started sweating profusely. After a struggle, Nick was able to take all of my things off of my lap so I could put my head between my knees. Needless to say, the people that were sitting across from us were a bit worried but thankfully didn't make a huge deal out of it and instead kindly opened the window so I could get some air. The biggest lesson we learned on this trip is that my body is overly sensitive to elevation, especially elevation changes.

Once we got off the train we were on the hunt for a good lunch spot. Manitou Springs is a small hippy town, much like New Hope if you're familiar with Bucks County, but more quaint. We found an organic cafe of sorts called Naturally's and I scarfed down the most delicious lunch. It was called a Black Diamond Burrito and had quinoa, millet, rice, beans, cheese, greens, cilantro pesto and a side of fruit. It was just what I needed after the cog train episode.

After lunch we drove to Denver for an oil change and then after freshening up at the hotel, took a cab into town for dinner at Table Six, which turned out to be one of our favorite meals on our trip. Everyone there was so genuinely nice and were super excited about our roadtrip. And the food was delicious. I got the best fried chicken I have ever had in my life! They tipped us off to a trail along a canal, so we headed there for a nice after-dinner walk before heading back to the hotel for the night.

Day 19: Driving from Denver to Broken Arrow, OK

Now we start the boring days of non-stop driving with the reward of delicious meals at the end of each leg to keep us going. To keep us interested throughout the drive, I downloaded Roadside America, an app that alerted us to quirky roadside attractions. Right outside of Denver, we came across the World's Wonder View Tower, which claimed that you could see 6 states from the top of the 65 foot tower.


This place is like the set of a horror film.


There are manikins in the windows of the tower and a bunch of crap on tables outside of the front entrance.


Despite the fact that the door said that they opened at 9:00am, it wasn't open when we arrived there at 9:30, and I quickly ran back to the car to get out of there.

Once we got into Kansas it started to get seriously hot. The temperature gauge read about 110 degrees and I was very thankful that our car was barreling through like a champ. We stopped in Oakley, KS, for lunch at Don's Drive-In Cafe, where apparently only Don was working as it took over a half hour to get our order of a grilled cheese, cheeseburger, fries, and their specialty, fried pickles.

By the time we got to our hotel in Broken Arrow that night, it was still in the 90s. Yuck.

Day 20: Driving to Jackson, MS

The drive from Broken Arrow to Jackson was pretty uneventful, except for our lunch stop in Little Rock at a restaurant entirely patronized by "ladies who lunch."

We stayed in the Hilton Garden Inn in Jackson, which I highly recommend if you happen to find yourself going there, as it has a locked parking garage. Jackson, or at least the part of Jackson that we saw, was pretty rough. The store space in the entire block across from the hotel was for rent. We got super lucky though as our hotel ended up being one block away from the restaurant that we had found for dinner.

Amen for Parlor Market, the saving grace of Jackson. We had the most delicious meal, complete with pre-prohibition cocktails (I had the Hemingway Daquari) and southern style. Everything we had was amazing: trout salad, strip steak, and rabbit, and then we got to the dessert. Oh wow, the dessert. We ordered the "Walk Down Memory Lane," which came in an old metal lunchbox and included assorted homemade childhood treats like an ice cream sandwich, pop rocks, a key lime push up pop, a brown butter Rice Krispie treat, and a chocolate mousse Snack Pack. If you are anywhere near Jackson, brave the frightening landscape and go to Parlor Market. You won't be disappointed.

Days 21-22: St. Simon's Island, GA

We had another day of driving ahead of us, but at least we would be arriving at a fun destination at the end of it: St. Simon's Island, Georgia, for a friend's wedding. We stopped in Montgomery, Alabama, for lunch at a farmer's market cafe. Montgomery was much cuter and nicer than Jackson and, from what we saw of it from the car, is what I imagine when I think of a southern town.

Along our drive, we saw this amazing sign.


Somewhere between Montgomery and St. Simons we encountered a bird dog statue marking the town as the Field Trail Capital of the World.


There were actual signs on the road pointing people to this statue.

We finally arrived at St. Simon's Island, where the groom grew up. It was such a cute, small beach town where everyone seemed to know each other. We cleaned up quickly at the hotel and then walked across the street to the lighthouse, where friends of the bride and groom gave speeches and told stories about the pair. It was a great time. Afterwards, Nick and I took a walk and ate a slice of pizza outside. It was the perfect summer night.

The next day, Nick and I walked over to a flea market, had some lunch in town, and then walked down the island to find a beach for a quick dip. The beaches are all eroded, so you had to walk up a set of stairs that led to a landing and then down another set of stairs that went directly into the water. It was so much different than any beach I have ever been to! The water was so warm and refreshing after our long walk. After a bit, we packed up and walked back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding.

The bride and groom are both ministers (the groom actually married me and Nick), so they pretty much did their own ceremony. It was so thoughtful and so them. The reception was held at an outdoor public park a short walk from the church. After feasting on a wide variety of ethnic foods, we danced like idiots for the rest of the night. It was a great night.

Days 23-24: Driving to Raleigh, NC and then Home!
After saying goodbye to St. Simon's, we were back on the road, only this time heading north! We stopped in Savannah, Georgia, for lunch, but being a Sunday, we had the worst trouble finding somewhere to eat that didn't have a crazy long wait.

We were originally bummed that we'd be in Raleigh over Labor Day weekend and wouldn't be able to go to our favorite restaurant there, Big Ed's. We happened upon Big Ed's the first time we visited our friend Steve in Raleigh and every time afterward we have made sure to go. You get a ton of delicious southern food for like $7. Thankfully Steve made it up to us by taking us to The Pit, an authentic Carolina barbecue place. It was seriously amazing. And I tried moonshine while we were there, which was surprisingly not strong at all. We are definitely going back there the next time we visit Steve. Along with Big Ed's, of course.

The next day was our last day of driving! We left Raleigh early not knowing what kind of traffic we would run into around Washington, DC. Strangely enough we ran into almost no traffic, so we decided to swing into DC for some quick sightseeing. We attempted to see the Lincoln memorial, but the traffic patterns there are so labyrinth-like that we ended up circling around 5 times and then gave up since there was no parking anyway.

Somewhere along that stretch of road, we saw this awesome sight. Yes, that is a dog on a motorcycle with doggles on. This was the most interesting thing we saw during that drive.


Thankfully we had dinner reservations at one of our favorites, Woodberry Kitchen, in Baltimore. We like Woodberry so much that we once drove there for dinner on a Saturday night without staying in Baltimore. Yes, we drove two hours there and two hours home just to eat their delicious, delicious food.

And they didn't disappoint this time. After being forced to eat so much fried crap in middle America (it was seriously all there was a lot of the places we went, especially for lunch), we were thrilled to eat fresh food. We ordered an appetizer that consisted only of slices of tomatoes and a few greens. The meal was almost like a cleanse. You may have heard of Woodberry if you watch the Food Network Show, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. For their dessert episode, Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes and Ace of Cakes talked about Woodberry's CMP.

The CMP is a delicious small glass layered with malt ice cream, chocolate sauce, marshmallow fluff, and wet peanuts, topped with a disc of sugar like the top of a creme brulee. We get it every time we go!

Back on the very familiar 95, we made the last two-hour drive in the rain, and then arrived home tired and happy with the thought of sleeping in our own bed. Flick was so excited that we were home that he drooled all over me (he does that from time to time) and didn't leave our sides for a second. All told we traveled 7,447 miles, which Nick was very happy about as it is a palindrome.


We had such a great time and created so many fun memories that we still bring up every now and then almost a year later. I'm so glad that we were able to see so much of the country by driving. We saw so much awesome stuff! We're in the process of brainstorming our next big trip for next summer. Any suggestions?


  1. Ooh, what about a trip north up the east coast, through Maine, New Brunswick, and Novia Scotia? We've been hoping to take that trip the last couple of summers, but haven't quite been able to sync up our work schedules.

    1. Good idea! We once took a cruise to New England and Maine, but I think driving it would be much more fun.


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