This time last month, I packed up my bags, put the majority of my possessions in storage and embarked on a trek across the US.
This came as quite a shock to me. I was finally getting settled in my new home in the glorious Pacific Northwest, and here I was – heading back to the East Coast. The reasons for the journey are manifold, but in short – We are spending some time in Charlotte, NC helping out Doodlebug’s family.
Let’s start at the beginning.
We didn’t realize that moving was inevitable until about 3 weeks before we had to leave. I work from a laptop and we were month to month on our lease, so the whirlwind of insanity that changing your whole life in 21 days can tend to create was not as bad as it could have been. I tied up loose-ends, finished up some big projects, and squeezed all of our non-essentials into the smallest storage space they had. In the midst of this I made a long planned trip to Philadelphia and my Mom came out to Portland to visit us.
Finally, the apartment was empty, the car was packed and we were getting our last meal in PDX when we realized… we never planned our route! How are we going to get the 3,000+ miles from Portland, OR to Charlotte, NC without getting lost somewhere in the bible belt and camping on the side of the road? There was no turning back. We entrusted our journey to the mighty GPS.
First stop: Pendleton, Oregon. We left late in the day and drove as long as we could stay awake.We came to a stop in Pendleton, home of wool blankets… or something like that. We crashed at a Holiday Inn Express and the next day was one of the most glorious days I’ve ever encountered. The sun was warm and the sky was cloudless. The breeze was perfect. Thus began a not-so-epic, pretty boring, kinda-life-changing roadtrip.
I have to admit, I didn’t really keep good track of where we went and what we did. Our mission was to get across the country as quickly as possible, so forgive my hazy recollection of places and events. The route ended up being devoid of any sightseeing spots and we didn’t stay long enough in any city to really explore. I think we probably took the most boring route you could possibly take across the US.
The next day we stopped in Boise, Idaho for some lunch at Shangri-La Tea Room and Cafe where I had a nice simple salad and some AMAZING freakin tea. The tea was called MateJuana, and was a euphoric mix of Mate and Kava Kava. I highly recommend it to anyone that loves Mate. They don’t have an online store, but you can contact the owner, Toni and she can sell it to you over the phone!
During our travels that day we made a pit stop in a small town in Idaho on the edge of Utah. I have no idea what the town was called but it looked like something out of a western! I sat outside for a while and patiently waited for a drunk to be thrown out the swinging tavern doors and be challenged to a duel. It never happened so I reluctantly continued my journey for the day.
That night, we decided to be adventurous and stopped off for the night in Tremonton, UT… population: 15. Although the town was tinier than my shoe, everyone was so very nice and the seemingly seedy hotel was actually very quaint and ran by a nice family. The best part about this place was that it was located at the base of the Rockies!!! The view was beautiful, the air was clean and the people were so nice it was actually kind of creepy.
At this point I came upon the realization that traveling cross country with no itinerary isn’t exactly the best idea for a vegan. And thus began my nutritional decline. That evening I had french fries for dinner.
The next morning we ventured into Salt Lake City, which was probably my favorite city of the whole trip! It was very artsy and unique, while still keeping a big city feel. There are so many vegan-friendly places to eat in SLC I couldn’t decide! However, we arrived a bit on the early side and many places were closed. We drove around for a bit before stopping at The Blue Plate Diner for breakfast. I had a massive breakfast burrito that was delicious. Our server was incredibly nice and chatted with us for a bit. I think I convinced her to move to Portland!
The rest of the day was spent driving through Wyoming which was an absolutely gorgeous state (although the most beautiful state by far is Oregon!). There were massive red rocks everywhere and wild horses! I believe the following photo was taken at the Flaming Gorge.
At one rest stop we were bombarded with ultra curious ground squirrels that made silly little noises. There were also roadrunners and little teeny chipmunks! Unfortunately travelers tend to feed the wildlife here and I caught this little guy munching on a Cheeto. Not cool, people.
We unexpectedly ended up in Cheyenne, Wyoming which is a city that Doodlebug has been obsessed with for a long time – although I have no idea why. He was so excited that we had to pull over and sightsee for a few hours.
So in Cheyenne, Wyoming they have big cowboy boots everywhere that are painted with different motifs. That’s about it.
From here on out, things got kind of rough. If you ever need to go to Nebraska – don’t. There is no reason for anyone to ever go to Nebraska. It is a vast nothingness. It is flat and boring. There is nothing to eat, an eerie lack of culture, and the people are weird. There are also super religious billboards every few miles, that make you feel like someone is watching you… judging you. I know this is a shitty generalization and I’m sorry if you live in Nebraska. I’m sure there are some nice places somewhere…maybe.
Most importantly, if for some god forsaken reason you find yourself in Nebraska, DO NOT STAY AT THE FORT SIDNEY INN in Sidney. We were driving for a long time and it was quickly getting dark. In the midwest part of I-80, you have to get off of the highway at night because there are no streetlights and no nearby city lights to compensate. We pulled over and found that all of the major hotels were booked and the next town was over 40 miles away. We drove farther into the actual town to look for a room and came across the Fort Sidney Inn. It looked kind of crappy on the outside, but only in a Jersey Shore Motel kinda way, so I wasn’t too deterred. Doodles, on the other hand, had serious apprehension. I convinced him that we needed to get some local flavor and enjoy a new place. Plus it is always good to support local business – right?
The lobby of this place looked like a 1980′s porno set, and I feel like it probably smelled like one too. The owner stared us both up and down before giving us a room and told us we “had 10 minutes to look at the room and ask for a refund” as he looked at the clock. The room smelled like beer, smoke, decay and sadness. The bathroom looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in 17 years. As soon as we put our bags down, Doodles warned me to not look at the online reviews. I agreed that it was probably a bad idea and as soon as he got in the shower (yuck!) I did just that. The tales of bugs, mysterious bite marks, smells, leaks, and shady activities sent me over the edge. At this point my only other option was sleeping in the car and I was about to do that. I mean, they WROTE the hot and cold water settings on the shower wall with MARKER.
Instead of spending the night in the car, I decided to man-up. I placed all of our bags on a high table and attempted to sleep in my clothes, on top of the sheets with my own blanket. I didn’t get in the shower because I didn’t want the towels to touch my body… and I’m pretty sure I would have came out dirtier. And even with all of these precautions I only slept about 2 hours because the worst storm I had ever encountered was going on outside. I spent the whole night in a horrified panic. Needless to say, for the rest of our trip we stayed at the Holiday Inn.
After we escaped the evil clutches of Nebraska, we landed for the evening in Kansas City, Kansas. Early the next morning we headed over to the more eventful side of the Mississippi – Kansas City, Missouri. Up until this point in our trip the weather had been amazing. But now we were paying our dues with a torrential downpour, which was sad because Kansas City seemed pretty cool! We were finally back in vegan food territory, and I really wanted to head over to the vegan/raw cafe, FÜD but it didn’t open until 11am and we had to get on the road. Time was not on our side! We ended up stopping at Mud Pie Bakery, a super awesome vegan bakery. I got a giant cupcake and Doodles got a scone. They were both yummy! Nothing like rain, coffee and a vegan bakery to make a girl feel like shes right back home in Portland.
Next stop: St. Louis! I was really excited to go here because one of my favorite old movies is Meet Me In St. Louis… but that turned out to be completely irrelevant. We stopped here for lunch and got some pretty decent Vietnamese in a little hole in the wall place. As we were heading out I got a quick glimpse of the Gateway Arch, which was pretty cool even though we were heading in the wrong direction. Someone should construct a gateway to the East. It should look like a huge middle finger.
We crashed for the night in Nashville, and ended up staying right across the street from the Grand Ole Opry!! The next morning we did some sight seeing and ventured over to the Grand Ole Opry and to The Hermitage (Andrew Jackson’s Estate). This would have been a truly exceptional day except for the fact that there was a crazy storm going on. I thought the apocalypse was approaching – it looked like fire was about to rain from the sky. Needless to say, I didn’t get any good pictures this day. Nor did I get to go to Jack White’s record store. Boo!
We were now on our 5th and final day of travel! And what a day it was. The evil storm chased us across Tennessee and into North Carolina. We had to pull over a few times it was so bad. Eventually we drove through the Smoky Mountains and we knew we were in the home stretch. The Smokies were very pretty, but not very photogenic in the rain (we could hardly see out the window.. hazardous!). I plan on heading back there in the fall to go hiking. There will be photos a-plenty then!
The last stop on the not-so-epic roadtrip was Asheville, NC. Asheville is totally awesome! It’s a very artsy little city with tons of food and a good amount of culture. We strolled down Wall Street and grabbed a bite to eat at Laughing Seed. I was so happy to have a healthy vegan meal for the first time since Boise. I got the raw manicotti and a huge green juice and almost passed out from the rush of enzymes. I’ll also be heading back to Asheville a few times during my stay here, since it is only a 3 hour drive.
Finally, we landed disheveled and exhausted on the doorstep of Doodlebug’s parent’s house. And eventually we moved into a sweet-ass apartment in Charlotte, NC – but that’s another story for another time.
All in all, I wish we had more time to explore he cities we stopped in, but we did great with the time we had! The whole journey was pretty relaxing and it was nice to take a break from technology for a week. I feel like the trip allowed me to get in touch of my more spontaneous side and allowed me to relax and go with the flow a bit. Sometimes I get so whacky planning out my whole day, I forget what it is like to just go on an adventure. I was happy we arrived on the East Coast in one piece, with clear minds and open hearts. We are ready to embrace the new adventure that life has planned for us!
Here’s to a totally mind-blowing, epic trip back to the West.