Thursday, July 13, 2017

La Femme...from Las Vegas to Alexandria

Nevada/Arizona Border
After K and I left Las Vegas, we both felt that the fun part of our trip was over.  We had already covered approximately 1,500 miles but we had done it relatively leisurely, and had taken three days to relax in Palm Springs and another in two in Las Vegas.  Now, Monday morning we had to cover approximately 2,500 miles in six days.  Our first stop was in Flagstaff, Arizona. We chose it because it was on the way, nothing more.  K and I both wanted to stop at the Grand Canyon, but we were already feeling fatigue.  One thing when you drive all day, is all you want to do is get there.  We had plans to stop at fun restaurants on the side of the road (we also had our two pups in the car, so that makes things way more complicated), but lots of days, we ended up just eating fast food in the car.  We wanted to be able to enjoy and explore the destinations on our route as much as we could in the short time we had.  I guess we’ll leave the grand canyon for when we eventually return home to the West Coast!  The drive from Las Vegas to Flagstaff was a beautiful one though, we passed the Hoover Dam and saw the wide open dessert of Arizona.  We also made a fun stop on Route 66 for lunch in the town of Seligman Arizona at West Side Lilo’s, a delicious diner.  It was nice to sit down and relax and check out the atmosphere, there were taxidermied animals on the wall, and friendly waitresses and huge never ending refills of soda.  The food was hearty and amazingly delicious, plus there was a tourist trap across the street of a fake western town and you know i had to check it out for Instagram and to get a picture of Rufus in the “town” jail.

Downtown Flagstaff, AZ
Wigwam Motel
When we arrived in Flagstaff, tiny snowflakes were falling on our car, for the first (and last time) we found the our room wasn’t ready.  After driving seven hours, that isn’t what you want to hear, especially when you have arrived after check in!  Nevertheless, we took the dogs to town to explore and used it as an opportunity to find a bar to return to pre dinner.  Flagstaff is a railroad town, it didn’t look anything like what I thought Arizona would.  Of course, I learned that it is actually very high up compared to other parts of the state and so the landscape is much different.  The town reminded me of what I think Alaska would be like, a little rough, all wood buildings, like a gold rush town.  A very grizzled homeless man saw us walking up the street with our dog, Snooker, who was nearing the end of her life (she died in November last year) and was undergoing cancer treatment, she was old, but she looked ancient.  Snooker was a happy, happy girl though and loved the trip so much.  She loved getting out of the car and sniffing around and exploring all the different places.  As we walked by the man exclaimed, “Look at that old timer!  She must have had lots of adventures and she still has a spring in her step.”  Of course, Snooker being the aloof dog she was, she trotted past him as he reached out to touch her. Later, K and I went to a dive bar, that had a fantastic neon sign in a hotel.  I was really into Manhattan’s and they had Michter’s whiskey, so I ordered one.  K had a Martini.  I think everyone else was drinking beer and to be honest the only scary moment we had the whole trip was when the other patrons in the bar, who were quite rough and tumble types, I mean I guess they were Flagstaff’s version of hipsters, only a lot dirtier and meaner, were like, why is that guy drinking that, he comes here and gets a martini!  In fact, they tried to come up to K, but luckily he is pretty oblivious and so when they said something to him, he didn't respond.  We finished up our “fancy” drinks and picked up a pizza for dinner in order to relax before our next day.

Santa Fe, NM

The next morning after a pit stop at the famed Wigwam hotel, where I totally would have stayed if I could.  I mean, how cute are those rooms, we arrived in Santa Fe. Santa Fe, was a place I have always wanted to visit.  I’ll admit, it probably came from one of my favorite movies as a child, Newsies (to say favorite is maybe a slight understatement, obsession is more apt).  Christian Bale’s Jack “Cowboy” Kelly, an orphan newsboy in New York City, dreams of moving  to the high desert to start a new life, and sings a beautiful and poignant song about it.  As an adult, I knew it more as a sophisticated get away for the artsy set.  And it didn’t disappoint.  If I had done one thing different on this trip, I would have spent one more night here.  We didn’t have nearly enough time to explore!  K and I seen the afternoon wandering around the adorable downtown area with the cutest adobe buildings looking for some native pottery.  The native sellers at the Palace of the Governor’s market, a central plaza in downtown, was just shutting down as we got there and I didn’t spot any, maybe a week day in March isn’t the best time.  So we wandered around and I eventually settled on a couple fun souvenirs.  We spent the rest of the afternoon drinking margaritas and chilling in an adorable hotel bar (La Fonda on the Plaza) before heading to the best dinner the whole trip at Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen.  I had been really excited to try Tex Mex in Santa Fe and I loved the food and drinks, the atmosphere was fun and lively and the sopapillas are amazing.  I wished we had more time to explore this fun town, and I definitely plan to return. 

Somewhere in the Texas panhandle

 Frankly the rest of our trip was pretty uneventful, we wanted to get to Alexandria, Virginia and we wanted to get there quick.  And after leaving Santa Fe, the landscape got much less interesting at least through the Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.  The next day was a long driving day to Oklahoma City, where a dear friend of mine lives.  K and I left early and only stopped to have barbecue in Amarillo, Texas at Spicy Mike’s BBQ Haven.  It was amazing, I hadn’t really Texas barbecue before and it was so delicious!  I had pulled pork, K had brisket, and the baked beans were amazing, smoky and delicious.  That evening, we had a lovely visit with friends before heading out on the last leg of our journey.

When I think of the last two days of our journey, I can’t help but think of the line in Book of Mormon, “And here’s the part of our story that gets a little bit sad”. K and I had originally planned to stop in Memphis one night, Nashville and next (a relatively short drive) and then push it all the way to Alexandria in an epic 10 hour final day.  But at this point, we were exhausted.  We had two dogs in the car, we were getting up super early and trying to not stop so that we could enjoy the cities and towns we arrived in.  We were done.  And the drive to Memphis was another seven hours.  I wanted to see Graceland and the Civil Rights Museum, but I also wanted the trip to be over.  So we made the decision to go straight to Nashville, making the day a grueling ten hours.  When you drive that long, you both want to get out of the car and stop and you don’t, because you just want to get there.  I have never wanted to drive across the country and I will probably do it twice in my life.  The drive was the only day that was miserable, it rained all through Arkansas, a driving, heavy rain.  We stopped for gas in probably the grossest little town ever and drove straight through Little Rock.  We got off the freeway to go to a Sonic, a place we had never tried and the sign indicated it was five miles away.  No thank you, too much of a diversion.   So back on the freeway we went.  Within a few miles, there was a sudden slow down.  An accident had happened moments earlier.  As we approached a semi on the right side, we saw a pick up truck, completely ruined and people standing around.  And then I saw it, a man lying in the road, thrown from the truck.  It was horrible, he was clearly dead.  We made it through even before the cops which I was thankful for because the road was actually closed overnight.  Wear your seatbelt each and every time you get in a car, it can save your life. That man didn’t wake up that morning thinking today was the day he died and if he worn his seatbelt, perhaps it wouldn’t have been.

We were so wiped out that we just went to a quick dinner by our hotel and spent the next morning exploring Nashville, which wasn't nearly enough time. Nashville is cute!  It really reminded me of the Portland of the South, lots of cute shops in East Nashville, with adorable craftsmen homes.  We really only sent the morning walking around but I definitely hope to return to Nashville soon.  As we crossed from Tennessee into Virginia (well, right before the border thank you very much) we saw a huge confederate flag on a hill.  We definitely weren’t in Seattle anymore!  We spent our last night in a town in southern Virginia in Wytheville, a cute, if definitely podunk town. The contrast between Northern and Southern Virginia is pretty stark.  It is definitely the south down there! We managed to find an adorable old hotel (The Boling Wilson Hotel, a gorgeous building) with a decent bar to snack in and eventually just got pizza for dinner.  On our final day, we drove the five hours up to Alexandria and arrived in our new home.

Overall, our trip, which we dubbed #kandjacrosstheusa was so memorable.  I’m so glad we drove even though some parts of the trip were boring, tiring, and even terribly sad.  We got to see the incredible beauty of America and spend that time with Rufus and Snooker, our two wonderful pups. I got to spend two weeks alone with my husband.  I thought that I would cross a bunch of places off my list to visit, but in fact, I added a ton instead.

From Alexandria,


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