3rd June 2011

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Days 7-9: NOLA and Texas

We left Biloxi around noon on Tuesday, but not before we visited a small souvenir shop, headed up by this woman named Mary (we had to stop in so that we picked up a shop glass, which we’ve collected everywhere.  She told us that we had to stop at the Katrina Memorial before we left, and also, there was an artist who created wooden statues throughout Biloxi.  There was a huge painted marlin that was next to the Katrina memorial.  Finally, before we left, we drove up to the docks to check out the shrimp boats that were lined up to go out to sea. 

After about a hour and a half drive, we arrived in New Orleans to check into our hotel in the French Quarter.  We met up with my friend, Rachael, in NOLA, and she took us to a famous Po’ Boy restaurant named Domilse’s.  This hole in the wall has been made famous as this is the favorite restaurant of the Manning family. Dana and I both got shrimp po’ boys, and we then went back to the hotel.  We walked through the French Market when we got back (and of course got more decorations for our apartment), and also walked along the walkway along the Mississippi River.  Dana fulfilled one of her life long dreams of dipping her toe in the river, not before almost falling in.  We walked to the old Jax brewing company, then to Jackson Square which has a statue of Andrew Jackson in the middle of it, and the St. Louis Cathedral at the one end of it… very, very nice place.  We then took a stroll to Bourbon street, got some beers and daquiris, then headed to the hotel to get ready for the night.   After dinner, we met up with Rachael again and spent the evening bar-hopping on Bourbon street.  It was definitely a late night, and I also befriended a homeless guy who I actually saw taking my money and buying food with it… this made my night!  Oh, and lastly…. New Orleans is very famous for their ghosts… well, we were convinced that the hotel that we stayed in was haunted.  You can even see in the chairs the outline of a body sitting!

We rolled out of bed on Wednesday, checked out, and then went to the famous Cafe Du Monde for beignets and INCREDIBLE coffee.  After purchasing some other souvenirs, we finally headed out of the NO.  The day was spent mostly driving, with our final destination being Austin.  We were making great time when we were just outside of Houston, sitting in traffic, and then… BAM, someone rear ends the Acura.  I was literally at a standstill, and got hit.  I was very scared that my bumper was severely damaged, but luckily there is only a small crack in the bumper.  Guaranteed that the girl that hit me was on her cell phone.  Regardless, we were lucky to be safe and walk away without much damage, and off we went.  We got dinner at Junior’s Smokehouse in Hempstead, TX, where we both got the brisket meal…. very traditional Texas BBQ.  Both being exhausted, we got to Austin late that evening and crashed.

Today, we took a walk through Austin and the State Capitol.  We toured the inside and also took a look at some of the monuments outside of the Capitol Building.  We ate some Mexican outside of Austin, and got on our way.  The drive through West Texas was what you could expect… a lot of nothing but ranches, cattle, and the occasional windmill farms.  We stopped in Lubbock for a late dinner and then finally landed in Clovis, NM, but not before a CRAZY lightning storm.  You have never seen anything like this, as the lightning strikes light up the entire sky.  Tomorrow, we get up early to continue the venture to Albuquerque….

31st May 2011

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Days 3-6… Florida, Florida, and a little bit of the Bayou

After leaving one of Florida’s greatest (aka shadiest) towns, we continued our trip down the Eastern coast.  After a few hours, we started on “Alligator Alley,” the stretch of 75 that connects the two coasts of Florida.  We hit 3 different monsoons on the 2 hour stretch, one which was the heaviest rain that I’ve ever driven in… at least it gave my car a much needed car wash.  Dana insisted that we pull over to look for a gator.  So, I pulled over and stayed in the car while Dana went down to the fence to the swamp that ran parallel to 75.  She was out there for about 3 minutes when I beeped at her, and sure enough, she caught a glimpse of a giant gator and snapped a few quick photos. 

The entire reason of us driving to south Florida, which of course is not on the way to California, was to spend a relaxing weekend with some friends.  That being said, we arrived in Naples at about noon on Friday, and spent the weekend laying out at the beach (and interacting with the turtles that lived there), playing beach golf (great invention Pete) and putt putt (you already know who won…), enjoying great food (still can’t believe Karl ate lobster brain), and of course being the first in line Friday night to see Hangover (seriously, we were the first in line).  Naples is definitely one of Florida’s most relaxing towns, and we left early Monday AM being fully relaxed and ready for the Western journey that we had left.  

We knew that Monday had to be one of our longest driving days, and leaving at 7AM put us in Gainesville for lunch.  The University of Florida is another beautiful campus that definitely reminded me of Penn State located in a warmer location.  We walked around Ben Griffin Hill Stadium, I posed with the Tebow statue, and we grabbed some lunch at the popular U of F hangout, The Swamp.  About a half hour after Gainesville, we hopped on route 10, which will be one of our main roads for the trek out West.  Once we FINALLY got out of Florida, we drove through Mobile, AL, and then stopped at a local dive restaurant outside Biloxi, MS, for dinner.  Now, my grandparents temporarily move to Biloxi every winter, so they know the town like the back of their hands, and they insisted that we goto Mikey’s for dinner… which is right on a swampy bay.  Their recommendation, of course, was spot on.  The seafood platter that I got had shrimp, crabcakes, oysters, fried catfish, and hushpuppies… and Dana had the shrimp platter.  The shrimp, as you can imagine, was fresh as can be.  After dinner, we set up shop in our casino hotel room, and hit the sack before our short drive to New Orleans in the morning.  

Next update will likely come tomorrow AM again… stay tuned!

26th May 2011

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Day 2: Charleston and Savannah

After nailing the arrival/departure times of Day 1 on the head, Day 2 wasn’t quite the same.  The original “plan” for day 2 was to spend a few hours here and there in Charleston and Savannah and to end up in Fort Lauderdale later that evening.  Well, here we are in Palm Bay, Florida, 2 hours from the Fort (it’s a little shady here, but isn’t that what road trips are about?)… but that can only mean that we spent more time in Charleston and Savannah… and not even close to the amount of time we would have preferred.

We left our hotel outside of Downtown Charleston at about 9:00 or so, and arrived in the Charleston market area at about 9:30.  Once we crossed the bridge into town, we were blown away by how nice the little town was.  We drove around for a little and noticed the tons of shops, and also took a drive through the College of Charleston, which is also located right downtown.  We parked and walked down to Market Street, which has tons of street vendors, the most prolific being the basket makers.  The baskets are all hand made, and are priced accordingly (the one maker mentioned that it took him 26 hours just to make one of the larger baskets).  Dana purchased a smaller basket, which I am assuming easily took about 3 hours to make.  Other vendors included unique Charleston paintings, alligator heads, and of course Benne Wafers, a snack that is about a size of a quarter and is some sort of mix of a praline and sesame seeds.  We stayed in Charleston only for an hour or so, but definitely did some souvenir damage.  On the way out, we took in the scenery of the Charleston Battery, including the famous Edmondston-Alston House, where from across the way at Fort Sumter, the Civil War begun.

After leaving Charleston, our next stop was Savannah, and the first order of action was finding a place for lunch.  And of course being in the middle of the south, we had to find a top notch place to eat.  The famous Mrs. Wilke’s Dining Room would have been ideal, but we weren’t going to make it on time.  We found a great spot called Sweet Potatoes Kitchen.  Their specialties, outside of the obvious, is fried chicken… so my meal included chicken, greens, a sweet potato with pecan butter, and a biscuit, while Dana had the chicken, mashed taters, and mac and cheese.  We both took one bite of the chicken and just looked at each other… and were blown away.  It’s going to be tough to find a better meal on this trip, but we are still going to NOLA and Austin, so maybe I will wait to give Sweet Potatoes Kitchen the top prize.  After we ate, we drove (tiredly) to historic Savannah, where we took in some more scenery and admired some of the architecture (many different places of worship, including the oldest congregation of Reform Judaism).

Another day in the books, and now it’s time for rest before a relaxing weekend in Naples with Pete, Amy, Karl, and Alyssa.  We likely won’t post again until Monday when we leave the house, so expect the next post to be from either Pensacola, Mobile, or Biloxi, as we finally start the trek out West! 

25th May 2011

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Day 1… and a little before

The road trip officially started this morning when my phone alarm went off at 5AM.  Sure, we had stops at Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Pat’s in Philly and the National Aquarium in Baltimore earlier this week, but the true trip started today.  We left my parents’ house in Harrisburg at officially 6:01 AM, and I believe the good luck started when I saw a fox dart across our yard (first time I ever saw one in our vicinity).  

After a quick Starbucks stop, we drove straight down 15 and got off towards Washington DC… and of course the traffic started.  We were in the DC area for about an hour and a half before we actually got parked and out of our car.  We stopped and saw the White House, the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial,  and walked down the construction-ridden Mall to the Lincoln Memorial.  They are re-constructing the water areas due to a concrete leak… Dana felt that this was historical since we were there during the rebuilding; me, not so much!

We left DC after about our 2 hour tour, and exited the city rather (surprisingly) quickly.  After a quick stop at Chick-Fil-A (shout out to Dan!), we caught 95 for the first time.  We were on that road, for a long time… until we stopped for gas and an unidentified energy drink… and then to JR’s “everything” outlet, where I felt that it was a good idea to purchase a humidor (when we already have no room in the car), and Dana bought a toy for Kobe.  Oh… and it was nearing 100 degrees.  We then got off in Fayetteville, NC, in hopes of catching a solid Carolina BBQ stop.  After some a solid 30 minutes of Yelping this past Sunday, I found the BBQ Hut.  Well, we rolled up to the place with no one in the restaurant.  We both got pulled pork sandwiches, hush puppies, and sweet tea.  Definitely a solid meal, but the pork, while very tender and tasty, didn’t capture our BBQ need (we’ll wait for Texas for that).  We took 95 for another 2+ hours and have now set up shop in Charleston for the evening.   After 16 hours and 665 miles of driving, we’re taking it easy tonight… we will update again tomorrow!

-Brad and Dana

10th May 2011

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Roadtrip

Dana and I will be keeping a blog as we travel across country… we will try to post an update from every place that we stop!