Paul Simon’s GRACELAND was on our mind ALL day!!! Char and I both love this song and were happy to sing it all day!
Graceland!!! WOW! It was pretty cool and pretty empty!
I loved the adjustments that Graceland has made to accommodate COVID – we had temperature checks upon arrival and I loved the signage!!!
We totally enjoyed the tour of Graceland Mansion – it was grand and yet, it wasn’t. The personal stories shared by Lisa Marie Presley and others made Graceland feel like a special place. Here are a few pictures from inside and around the mansion – check out the kitchen!!!
We also toured around Elvis’ crazy collection of vehicles (WOWZERS) and also many of his personal items – Army uniforms, stage costumes, awards and so on.
We thought Graceland was super cool and a must see for us!!! We would totally go back!
After our time in Graceland, we drove to Nashville just to see the Grand Ole Opry. We were there for about an hour and really just popped in to the gift store!
It was a great “last” touring day on our trip! We loved every minute of our day and hope you will check back to see the Tally of our Big Eastie and the whole trip overall. I have enjoyed having you all along with us!
Total Miles = 624
States = Tennessee and Virginia
Hours on the road = 15 – this includes 2 hours in Graceland, then another hour in Nashville
Average Temperature = 52
Coffees = 2
Playlist = Hamilton and Lake in the Clouds
Major Landmarks = Graceland, Grand Ole Opry
Speed Traps passed = 0
Gas bought = $35.00
Extras = Trinkets at Graceland and Opry
Hotel = $92.00 – I wasn’t decided on whether or not I was going to be able to drive straight through from Nashville to home, so I did not book a hotel in advance. But as I approached midnight, I decided getting 4 hours of sleep was probably the best plan – and we stopped just outside of Roanoke, VA for a quick sleep.
We started out WAY before dawn in the windy plains of Texas. Do you know how scary it is to be traveling 75 miles per hour on the highway in the dark and see objects coming at you from the side…all the time…really fast? The “objects” are tumbleweed. It’s a real plant (the ultimate air plant). And when you are not used to it and it comes screaming at you in the dark, it scares the crud out of you! Trust me!
After running that gauntlet and overcoming the fear, we powered through Texas towards Dallas. Our overall goal today was Memphis, Tennessee, but Char REALLY wanted to see this sculpture that, as the website says, is on display in Dallas. This sculpture has something to do with a musical piece she payed in 7th grade and she has wanted to see the sculpture for almost two years. We drove FOUR hours out of the way to see the sculpture. We paid $10.50 to get into the Nasher Sculpture Center, walked around the outside display area, did not see the sculpture, asked the docent, and was told that THREE YEARS AGO it had been retired, but we could go see the copy at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. NO WAY, JOSE!!!!
UGH! So, off we went and we arrived in Memphis around 6:30pm.
Today wasn’t a total bummer because I got to listen to Matthew McConaughey’s memoir, Greenlights, in its entirety. I began with the intro chapter the night before, but all the way through Texas, I got to hear about the first 50 years of Matthew’s life and it was riveting! I have actually never read (or listened to) an autobiography or memoir before, and to have this one read to me by the author was cool. And “knowing” what I know about Matthew McConaughey, I had a pretty good idea I would like his no nonsense approach to life – and I DID!
Road trips make you think. This book made me think more. Over the past month, and mostly on the road, I have been thinking about a lot. My time on the road has really solidified my notion that I AM a First World Nomad. I don’t miss a darn THING in my house; I miss my people, my cats, and my dog. I crave alone time – just the road and me (and a busy teenager in the back) and I think this is one benefit of being an only child – I am happy alone and I like my own company. And you know those people you think are “crazy” for traveling? Doing something new? Living outside the box? Taking a chance? They are not crazy. They live without fear – or rather, they know that LIVING life (not just surviving it) happens in the absence of fear.
There were so many quotes I heard today in this book that I have to READ it and not just listen to it. One of the best ones was this: “We all have scars, we gonna have more. Rather than struggle against time and waste it, let’s dance with time and redeem it. Cause we don’t live longer when we try not to die. We live longer when we are too busy living.”― Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights
I want to be “too busy living” to be afraid. Our trip didn’t come to a screeching halt today because I couldn’t get over that fact that leafless plants were flying across the highway at me – I got over it – I moved on – and I learned not to be afraid of tumbleweed. Today could have been a bust – but it wasn’t. Today was full of laughter, tears, too many curse words coming out of my speakers and an unnecessary detour. If we wouldn’t have gone to Dallas to try to see a sculpture that is no longer on display, I wouldn’t have been in Texas long enough to hear the whole story of a Texas boy honing in on the values of life. Greenlight.
Total Miles = 816
States = Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee
Hours on the road = TOO MANY!!! LOL 13 hours
Average Temperature = 55
Coffees = 3
Playlist = Greenlights, Lake in the Clouds (Char did school a lot of the day and then watched movies – I had the radio to myself!)
Major Landmarks = Dallas, Little Rock, the Mighty Mississippi, Memphis!
Speed Traps passed = 4 – seriously, Texas – you kept me on my toes.
People not wearing masks in public places = everyone in Arkansas other than employees! LOL
Gas bought = $95.00 – that’s what 800+ miles will do for ya!
Extras = $18.00 at subway for dinner
Hotel = $92.00 – just a half mile from Graceland and apparently not in the best neighborhood, but the hotel is pretty new looking and parking is in a secure area, so I think we’re cool.
The days on the road are blending together. For the most part, we just drove and drove today (tomorrow will be more of the same) – but we totally had some highlights!!!!!
When we passed into New Mexico, there was no sign, so we ran across the street and grabbed the “Thank you for visiting” New Mexico sign and called it good! hahahaha
After heading through Albuquerque, we weaved back and forth between Interstate 40 and Historic Route 66 – there are definitely some fun Americana sights to see on that fabulous road.
The highlight of our day was Cadillac Ranch – just west of Amarillo. It was super cool to see and Char asked over and over again what the heck these cars were doing out here like this and if it was ok that we were here! There were other visitors – and this iconic stop on America’s most iconic road was a must!
Friends of ours had visited in October and told us to bring spray paint – and we were prepared. Char left a message for her BFF Lizzy, and I tagged a car with some classic initials, “KS + DS”.
Speaking of our spray paint, Char and I picked these colors (hot pink and Caribbean blue) out at Wal-Mart before we left. Today, we tried them for the first time and Caribbean blue color was NOT what we thought is was….we talked about how this can of spray paint is certainly a metaphor for life…..just because the flashy parts look like something you really want, you don’t really know what is on the inside until you give it a try…and you may be disappointed! Also, make sure you read all the labels! lol
There were recepticals for spent spray cans, and people made their own piles, but there were some “professionals” there collecting cans to throw away, so that was nice. Overall, we loved this quick stop on our journey and I love the pictures and memories!
Just 5 minutes from our hotel was the BIG TEXAN Steakhouse! Char’s BFF’s dad told us we should stop here and we sure are glad we did!!! We both LOVE steaks and HELLO!!! If you are in Texas, isn’t steak a requirement? We each got sweet tea (YUM), shared some fried dill pickle spears, I got a 16oz ribeye and Char got an 8oz sirloin (both rare, of course). We both had salads and our choice of potato. Holy smokes, I might explode!!!! Best meal on the trip so far! Thanks, Jay!
Total Miles = 551
States = Colorado, New Mexico and Texas
Hours on the road = 10
Average Temperature = 53
Coffees = only 2
Playlist = Hamilton, Dawn on a Distant Shore, we finished Twilight and started Greenlights – the Matthew McConaughey memoir. We also listened to some Paul Simon, Sting and the Police, and Janet Jackson.
Major Landmarks = The Rio Grande, Albuquerque, Amarillo and Cadillac Ranch
Speed Traps passed = 3 right as we passed into Texas
Gas bought = $51.00
Extras = $65.00 – dinner at the Big Texan at the recommendation of Char’s BFF’s dad! It was GOOD!
Hotel = $107.06 – Holiday Inn in East Amarillo, TX. Nicely done – new – but no free breakfast:(
Sensory overload. That is what I have after today! We traversed FOUR out of the BIG FIVE national parks here in Utah and all I can say is WOW!!!!
We started out today in Zion – zooming through the park just as the sun was rising.
We took the most amazing “back roads” for most of the day – following Scenic Route 12, then we hopped on to Route 24 to Interstate 70.
Route 12 took us through Bryce Canyon National Park where Char and I hiked to the Mossy Cave. We saw some amazing ice formations (and ice/water fall) and the Mossy Cave has ice stalactites and stalagmites that last well into June!!!
Route 24 took us through Capitol Reef National Park (I could see Capitol Reef from above as we approached but the pictures just don’t do the overview justice).
Our final National park was Arches, in Moab, Utah.
We so wanted to hit Canyonlands National Park but it would have added almost two hours to our trip and we were toast. But WOW – I just cannot believe how much we saw today!!!
We crossed the Colorado border as the sun was just about to set and added another amazing day into our treasure trove of memories for this trip. I would be lying if I said we weren’t excited to be homeward bound – we love our home and our people – but make no mistake; we are savoring these days on the road TOGETHER!
Total Miles = 496
States = Utah & Colorado
Hours on the road = 10
Average Temperature = 21
Coffees = 3
Playlist = Twilight, Dawn on a Distant Shore, Lake in the Clouds, Hamilton & Paul Simon
Major Landmarks = Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Capitol Reef, Arches National Park, Dixie National Forest, Colorado River, Moab, Utah.
Gas bought = $55.00
Extras = $16.00 for dinner
Hotel = $77.00 Holiday Inn in Cortez, CO – just outside Mesa Verde National Park.
Today was mostly meant to be a driving day – but as always – we had some great opportunities to stop and do some cool and unplanned sightseeing.
As we ventured north from Tucson, the dramatic high mountain desert got even higher (I think we peaked around 7000 feet a couple hours north of Phoenix) and as we left the land of Saguaro Cactus, we entered the land of ponderosa pine and canyons as far as the eye could see.
A particular highlight of my day was our unexpected stop at Horseshoe Bend in northern Arizona near Lake Powell. We paid our $10 to park, hiked in the half mile (approx.) and were greeted with such an amazing view that we just sat there in awe for a LONG time.
The perspective is so hard to relate in these pictures – and I was trying to relay this to Char – finally, at the base of the bend on the far left, she spotted a stone house structure and realized just how deep Horseshoe Bend canyon really was (about 1000 feet). The scale is so immense that it is hard to reason it in your mind – words cannot describe how stunning this was to see in person and up close!
Shortly after we left Horseshoe Bend, we crossed the border into Utah (Char is getting sassy in her pictures:) and the landscaped changed once again – not so much the canyon-type features, but the land itself. We went from the adobe rust colored soil/sand in northern Arizona to a pasty white granular blend in Utah. I wish I knew more about geology and the WHY behind this color change, but I sure did appreciate it!
As the sun was fading, we finally made it to the east entrance to Zion National Park. I got a few great pictures on our way to our hotel for the evening – and again, any words I choose would be doing this landscape a disservice. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
Total Miles = 504
States = Arizona and Utah
Hours on the road = 10 (including an hour at Horseshoe Bend and countless minutes for me to stop and take pictures of the amazing landscape)
Average Temperature = 46
Coffees = 3
Playlist = My Book (Dawn on a Distant Shore) since Char did school for most of the day on line and then Hamilton when she was done.
Major Landmarks = Phoenix, Flagstaff, Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River, Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell, Zion National Park
Speed Traps passed = 4 – Arizona is really stepping up their game.
Gas bought = $50.00
Extras = $8.00 – postcards and a sticker for Char’s water bottle
Hotel = $96.00 – Holiday Inn Zion – Springdale, UT – GORGEOUS setting just outside the South Entrance to Zion National Park. The hotel is very nicely appointed with craggy mountain peaks as the backdrop. They also sport three large fire pits for outdoor evening enjoyment! It was a GREAT stop over!
Today was a strange day schedule wise – we stayed with our friends until around noon, then headed up to Tucson to do some hiking amongst the Saguaros and enjoy some nice weather before heading back to the colder weather of Utah.
It’s always hard to say goodbye to good friends – but these friends are the kind that you may not see for a few years, but when you do, it’s as if you were together the whole time! I am blessed to have people like this in my life!
We arrived near the David Yetman hiking area (not far from the Sonoran Desert Museum) and headed UP!
I just can’t get enough of this landscape – and Char is the same way – we hiked here briefly two years ago when we came to Arizona and really wanted to return.
We spent nearly three hours wandering around the hillsides and climbing the crumbling terrain. We dodged lots of cacti and took some great pictures. Tomorrow we start our journey home in earnest – heading towards Utah and Zion National Park – We’ll be home in six days – and in between that time, we have a lot of miles to cover and a lot to see!
Total Miles = 106
States = Arizona
Hours on the road = 1.5
Average Temperature = 62
Coffees = One that I brought from our friend’s house.
Playlist = I listened to my book (Dawn on a Distant Shore) while Char watched a movie.
Major Landmarks = the gorgeous high mountain desert!
Gas bought = $0
Extras = $83.00 – dinner and some cool gadgets at Cracker Barrel – that store is dangerous!!!!
Hotel = $111.14 – Holiday Inn Express, Tucson, AZ – really nice! They are renovating this one and we are in the finished new section. It is at a great location right off Interstate 10 and we are comfy with two queen beds and even a sitting room!!!
One of the highlights of this trip was the opportunity to spend time with our family and friends in Sierra Vista. My uncle has lived in Sierra Vista for 30+ years and I had a chance to hang out with him and my cousin and her family. We had a great visit and it is so nice to have a chance to catch up.
Our friends we have had for nearly 20 years – Army friends we met in California and we bonded immediately! We did church together, we did weekends together, we did life together. Amy and I were pregnant together and she stayed by my side during my whole labor with Kelton. Six weeks later, she had her own bundle of joy!
These friends have been a continual blessing in our lives and although we went our separate ways 17 years ago, we have stayed in touch through visits, camping trips and Amy is almost always my room mate for girl’s trips! I wouldn’t want to do life without them!
Our friends have a “Hobby Farm” called the Crazy Chicken Farm, and Char and I have so enjoyed learning about their animals and helping with chores, riding, and generally having a great time while we chill and relax at a home away from home! On the farm, there are about 40 chickens, a dozen or so ducks of multiple varieties, a miniature donkey named Button, a cow named Sampson, six goats and two horses named Cherokee and Sierra.
While visiting, we played games (Telestrations – a cross between Pictionary and Telephone – a SUPER fun game), Char had a bout with Altitude sickness – UGH! We had a lot of down time, enjoyed the warm weather and admired the views. We visited a horse rescue our fiends volunteer at and the kids did puzzles and played some Mario Cart. It was a wonderful three days!
We always look forward to time with our friends and family – especially those we don’t get to see as often as we would like. Until next time, Sierra Vista!!!!!
Our last day in California and it seemed as though she was sad to see us go. The weather was cool with low lying clouds and although I promise we WERE in San Diego (La Jolla Shores), you wouldn’t know it based on the weather – but there were a ton of surfers!!!!
Before we headed east, we had to stalk Jon Foreman – again – Char is sure this is his house! She was hoping he would be outside so she could say hi, but alas….
We headed east on Highway 8 towards Yuma, AZ and I cannot even describe the differences in landscapes we encountered! Just 30 minutes outside San Diego we entered the Cleveland National Forest and the rolling hills were stunning in their simplicity! From sea level to 4100 feet, up and down through the contours of the land – just beautiful.
Then as we approached a section close to the Mexican boarder, the hills turned to boulders! MASSIVE boulders everywhere you looked and it was something out a sci-fi flick!
Coming off the bolders was miles upon miles of flatland – cultivated in some places and barren in others – equally as stunning in its own way.
And finally, as we approached Arizona, we encountered the Imperial Dunes. It was like something out of Star Wars and my picture does not do it justice, but all of a sudden it was like the Sahara and then just as quickly, it was gone.
We arrived outside of Tucson as the sun set and Char snapped this picture while we were cruising at 75 miles per hour. The Saguaro cacti were growing more and more abundant and we were so happy to be arriving at our friend’s house for the next 3 full days! There will be lots of visiting, horseback riding and enjoy our friend’s little farm.
As we were leaving California, Char said, “If I could relive any 3 days in my life (because I loved them so much), it would be these days in California”. I love that she is making these memories – postcards in her mind of what she loves (the diversity of the landscape) and what she doesn’t (the smog); storing away these snapshots for her future. I am cherishing every minute!
Total Miles = 612
States = California and Arizona
Hours on the road = 11
Average Temperature = 68
Coffees = 3
Playlist = Switchfoot and Twilight
Major Landmarks = Imperial Dunes, Colorado River, SO MANY cacti!!!!!!
Speed Traps passed = LOTS (there was an Amber Alert as we approached Arizona and I am sure this is the reason). And LOTS of Border Patrol.
Gas bought = $63.00
Extras = $51.00 in trinkets at La Jolla Shores
Hotel = NONE!!!! The joy of staying with friends!!!
Even though today was our shortest day distance wise, I feel like we crammed 3 days of touring into the ONE day!!!!! Holy Smokes!
We stared out early (Char had school) in Monterey and HAD to take a quick jaunt down to the Bay for some early morning rays of sun (after the raining cats and dogs of the day before).
Then we hit the road! We took the Pacific Coast Highway 1 from Carmel to San Simeon-ish and enjoyed every single inch of this stunning drive. It reminds me so much of driving along the Amalfi Coast and the breathtaking views and vistas are indescribable!!! Please – if you ever have a chance to take this drive, you will NOT regret it!
Near San Simeon, we stopped along the road at a pull off so Char could go in the water, but we got a special surprise when we reached the burm….ELEPHANT SEALS – whole families of them!!!!!
We continued onward towards Hollywood (after a quick stop so Char could go in the ocean without disturbing the seals) and popped into Fox Studios for a quick picture, then we stalked Johnny Depp’s house (Char is VERY certain this is his house location), then we drove up to the Griffith Observatory for some sunset pictures and to see the “Hollywood” sign. We drove to Anaheim – where we went to Downtown Disney!!!!
See what I mean – it was a DAY!!!!!
Total Miles = 378 miles
States = California
Hours on the road = 12 including SO many stops!!!!
Average Temperature = 65
Coffees = not enough
Playlist = Hamilton and Switchfoot
Major Landmarks = Monterey Bay, Carmel-By-The-Sea, Big Sur, Hearst Castle, HOLLYWOOD & DISNEY!!!!!!
Gas bought = $78.00
Extras = Let’s skip this part (Downtown Disney – LOL)
Hotel = $88.14 – our cheapest stay so far – Holiday Inn Express in Garden Grove – it was okie dokie – but it was clean and safe and that is what matters – oh and the location was great!!!!
Back to school this morning before we hit the road for Char – she is dedicated – I’ll give her that!!! 5am wake up call to get on her classes on time!
When we left Northern California this morning, it was raining BUCKETS – like the raining cats and dogs type rain that you hear about! It made for fast pictures, dodging rain drops, misty photos, white knuckle driving and lots of laughs! We saw amazing redwoods along the way – a drive-thru tree (maybe with a Herbie car), drove a portion of the Avenue of the Giants, saw some elk, dreamed of seeing Bigfoot, and passed through some beautiful wineries on our way to San Francisco.
We arrived in San Francisco shortly after the skies cleared – just like the Golden Gate Bridge was waiting for us!!!! It was my first time seeing it and it was everything I thought it would be!!!! A great landmark to make time to see!
We boogied over to Lombard Street – you know the one? It is the famous zig-zag street in San Francisco… the pictures I took don’t do it justice, but we walked up and down the street, then drove down it! Char videoed the whole thing from the moon roof (don’t tell).
Finally, just after dusk, we arrived in Monterey Bay. We walked around a bit before checking in to our hotel – ordered takeout from Bubba Gump’s (Char was BESIDE herself – she LOVES Forrest Gump) and hit up an old school candy shoppe!
It was 19 years ago almost to the day that I arrived back in Monterey after Christmas break (Exodus) when I was stationed here in the Army. I met up with my new beau for a couple days before we both had to sign back in after our leave was over. We got married 3 weeks later and the rest is history. Monterey is a special place – I hope Char enjoys it, too.
Total Miles = 476
States = California
Hours on the road = 10 including lots of stops and detours
Average Temperature = 55 – getting warmer
Coffees = 2 (I could’ve used one more!)
Playlist = Quite a few chapters of Twilight and Hamilton (surprise!)
Major Landmarks =Giant Redwoods, San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, our old house in Seaside, CA, Cannery Row, Monterey Bay.
People not wearing masks in public places = This is CA – people where them even in their cars…while they are alone!
Gas bought = $37.00
Extras = $80.00 – trinkets
Hotel = Holiday Inn Express Monterey Bay/Cannery Row – a nice hotel – small – but fits the area – also a little dated on the outside, but we had a room with two double beds and it looked like it has recently been renovated – we had a nice stay. $100.14/ night