Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – The Finale

Well, we have been home for 10 days now and I feel like I am caught up with life at home.

Looking back on this trip, it really was a huge undertaking and I am SO glad we did it!!!

We arrived back at home on Saturday, had our COVID testing done Monday (negative on Tuesday), and have resumed our normal lives; work, school, activities and catching up with the day to day.

Char will tell you that her favorite part was California!

My favorite part (besides spending so much time with my girl) was seeing all the beautiful landscapes the US has to offer. Even in their starkest times of winter, the amber waves of grain and purple mountains majesty didn’t disappoint.

Here is a “by the numbers” for our trip home, and then an overall tally for posterity.

I hope you have been inspired to do that road trip you have always dreamed of! The memories Char and I made are irreplaceable and will be cherished as a mother-daughter experience we will always share!

The way home, by the numbers….

Total Miles = 6068

States = Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine (20 total).

Hours on the road = 112 hours to include stops during the day

Food bought = $240 (the benefit of staying at hotels with Grab and Go breakfasts and making lunches everyday on the road)

Gas bought = $592.00

Extras = $258 (parking at Horseshoe Bend and Disney, Graceland and the Wildlife Safari)

Hotel = $1186.25 (9 hotel rooms)

Non-essential costs (trinkets and gifts for others) = $221.00

Total cost for The Big Eastie – $2497.25 for 14 nights (four of those with friends in Arizona) = $178.38 per day for two people.

The GRAND total – round trip US Road Trip to include 36 total states, 12 National Parks, over a dozen major landmarks, four major river crossings and countless memories made:

Total miles driven = 9944

Total hours on the road = 183.5

Total States driven through/in = 36

Gas total = $952.33

Total food purchased = $673

Hotel and B&B stays = $2521.32

Trinkets and non-essential expenditures = $829

TOTAL for 24 days of cross country travel for two people = $5,234.29 – That’s just over $100 a day per person. I will look back on this trip someday and know that I would have paid any price to do it again with my daughter. Thanks for coming along with us on this experience of a lifetime! I would do it again in a heartbeat….but maybe I’ll wait a couple years!

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 13

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.

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 12

Today could have been a bust.

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.

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 11

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!

I absolutely love this picture of Char!

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:(

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 10

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.

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 9

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.

Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona

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!

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 3

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!!!!

Destinations with Daughters – The Big Eastie – Day 1

We departed northern Washington early – 5:41am – and started our journey south! We have a big trip ahead of us – 14 days of driving, sightseeing, and enjoying each other’s company.

On our way, we made a three hour pit stop at the Wildlife Safari in Winston, OR – we had a great drive through safari – then enjoyed some time with the animals in their small walk through park. It is really cute and they have a ton of cool animals!

We arrived in California just before dusk and drove through some massive Redwoods as the sun went down behind the rain clouds – and that road – Route 199 – harrowing in the dark and the rain – twisty and turny – but I bet it is gorgeous during the daylight!!!

This part of California smells good – like cedar and earth – we like it!

Total Miles = 643

States = Washington, Oregon and California

Hours on the road = 13 (including 3 hours at the Wildlife Safari in Winston, OR)

Average Temperature = 48

Coffees = 3

Playlist = Hamilton (this is a given), The Beatles, Paul Simon to include Sion and Garfunkel, Don Henley, Fleetwood Mac and Twilight, the book.

Major Landmarks = Grant’s Pass

Speed Traps passed = 0

Gas bought = $67.00

Extras = $25.25 for food and CA postcards (dinner for the next 8 days – we hit Chester Chicken as it was closing and they gave us about 4 pounds of chicken fingers). Wildlife Safari – $48.00 – entrance and postcards

Hotel = Holiday Inn Express, Klamath, CA – $101.14

Destinations with Daughters – What’s In My Car?

You might be wondering what on earth I packed for a trip across the country. Well, everything but the kitchen sink – almost (you should see the vehicle)!!!

  1. There are some things I couldn’t live without, like emergency equipment. Traveling across country during winter can pose some interesting potential pitfalls; cold weather, snow, ice and wind to name the biggies! I made sure we had extra gas, extra blankets, emergency fire starting gear, water, food, jumper cables, flares and an emergency battery pack.

2. Maps of all kinds. I love Google Maps, but when we left Minnesota headed towards Badlands National Park in South Dakota, all Google applications were down – including my daughter’s Google classroom! So, we opted for some old school technology – MapQuest! It worked until Google came back on line, but what will we do when there’s no internet? Even older school maps. When you are driving 3000 miles, you need Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.

3. Chargers and a set up Bluetooth connection. We have really been enjoying listening to whatever we want on our Spotify account. We have listened to Hamilton about 14 times, the 90s, the 80s, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Eagles, and some 60s. We have also enjoyed listening to a couple of books via Audible. It makes the miles go by even quicker and we have a lot of shared laughs and fun! Chargers – well, for phones, Chromebooks, tablets and anything else we might need!!! What would we do without our connection to the world?

4. Activities for passengers. I’m a teacher at heart, so this opportunity opened some doors to provide Char with some cool National Park and cross country activities to do on the road. Oh, and we have had a few Travel Mad Libs that have had us rolling!

5. Food. If you know me well, you know that I get ugly when I am hangry! And I need proteins – so the sweets that Char likes just won’t cut it for me! I need yogurts, cottage cheese, baby bells, bars and lots of water!

6. Sanitizer of all sorts…..Lysol-type wipes, Lysol spray, hand sanitizer, and way too many masks to chose from!!

So far, we have had everything we’ve needed! Here’s to the homeward bound journey – full of laughs, love, coffee and witnessing the beautiful people and sights of this amazing country we live in!!!

My Christmas Vacation, by Denise Smith

Well, you read about the whole trip west – and I’m hoping you will read about the trip back east – but I wanted to tell you what we did for our two weeks in Washington!

But first – here are a few pictures I took on the way TO Bellingham, through the mountains and down the other side into a land of green wonder! Really, the pictures cannot do this justice – just the moss COVERING the trees alone was spectacular!

Vacation – I did a lot of sitting around (it is not in my nature to just sit around!!!! It is hard to be bored for those of us always on the move), eating, visiting, eating, interspersed with a few fun outings!!

To start out with, when we arrived – the same day and just about the same time as the boys arrived, we brought with us the snow! They rarely have a white Christmas in the coastal northwest – but this year, we shared the love!

We saw some gorgeous sunrises!!!

We exercised our Second Amendment rights.

Along with those granted in the First Amendment (what could be more peaceful than $600 worth of fireworks to ring in the New Year?)

We enjoyed tubing at Mount Baker as well as Axe throwing!!! Super fun for all!!!!

We met new friends/furry family members – Lucy the Bernesedoodle puppy, and Griffey the German Shepard puppy.

We kept some old traditions alive (the kids lining up to peek in the door seeing what Santa left….)

Remember I said I ate a lot? This is Rio – I feel like she looks!

The past two weeks flew by – between the food, playing cards, visiting, cooking, grocery shopping and sitting around and playing on my phone, it was a fabulous vacation with family. We are so blessed to be able to spend precious time with our loved ones knowing that, in our eyes, the quality of time we get to spend together outweighs the quantity of time. Live life to the fullest! Words to live by (and love by) in this New Year! May it bring you health, happiness, joy, and adventure!