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!
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!!!!
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!!!
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
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)!!!
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!!!
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!
Some folks think that domestic travel is inexpensive. I can tell you that it is not. There are certainly ways to cut costs, and the money and language do not create a comfort zone barrier as they can in other countries, but US travel is expensive.
I have been sharing our costs and daily details not only to provide a bit of Jeopardy trivia, but also to give you and idea of what it might cost for YOU to make a similar trip (which I am fully equipped to help you do).
We decided to take the more expensive of our two vehicles (we took the RAV4 which has all-wheel/4-wheel drive instead of our Prius) for comfort but moreso for safety – the Prius is not known to do well in snow and we did have plenty of opportunity to drive in snow during our northern westbound trip.
I packed TONS of snacks and a cooler full of breakfast options for us and every day we either packed our lunch or Char made it for us while I was driving, with the exception of our lunch in Leavenworth. We paid for two breakfasts (at Yellowstone) and had three provided for us at the B&Bs we stayed in and for dinner, one night we ate at Olive Garden, four nights we ate in and cooked, one night (our expensive meal) we ate at Yellowstone, one night we got McDonalds and one night we did takeout. Dinner was by far our most expensive meal since it always required us to get some type of food – but the other meals we really saved.
We did purchase some travel trinkets on the road, but our other non-essential expenditures were our cross country ski trip ($117), the reindeer farm ($42), and a number of gifts we bought for family for Christmas here in Washington.
All told, here is our trip by the numbers.
Total miles driven = 3876
Total hours on the road = 71.5
Total States driven through/in = 16
Gas total = $360.33
Total food purchased = $433.64
Hotel and B&B stays = $1335.07
Trinkets and non-essential expenditures = $608
TOTAL for 10 days of cross country travel for two people = $2,737.04
I know this is not an insignificant sum, but compared to some other expenses we have happily accepted for recent trips, this one is WAY worth it (we loved our stay in Charleston – the Governor’s House Inn was a HUGE splurge for us because our original trip was to Europe, so we stuck with the same budget – and those four nights in Charleston were approximately $2000.00)
This was about $137/per day/per person – FAR less expensive than a nice all inclusive AND the best part?
70.5 hours in the car with my teen age daughter – priceless! (I write about this in another blog coming shortly…)
Take the road trip. LIVE your life. And this has absolutely nothing to do with COVID and convincing people to not be afraid – this is a LIFE thing! How many opportunities do we miss out on because of fear? I will not live that way and I truly hope to instill a sense of responsible adventurism in my kids. One of my all time favorite movie lines is from Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne tells his buddy Red that folks should, “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin'”. I will live.
PS – my sister has a 3 year old and 5 year old and for her, the thought of being STUCK in a car with her little angels for this amount of time is paramount to purgatory – someday, Becks – the road trip will be for you, too. Love you!