We are firm believers of the somewhat clichéd statement that it’s all about the journey and not the destination, and that road trips, more than most other trips, make the destination almost secondary. Time on the road promises spontaneous discoveries, wide-open landscapes, time to think, perhaps catch up with a friend or yourself, all the while listening to great music, podcasts or books on tape. We were thrilled when Sophie Barnett agreed to chronicle her recent cross-country jaunt from LA back to NY for Daytripper365. Follow along, we had a smile on our face the whole time, and so will you. Sophie reminds us that mishaps sometimes occur when you travel, but with a sense of humor and a good spirit it still makes for a fun trip nonetheless. For great book recommendations, on the road or on the couch, follow Sophie on her blog, Covers to Covers.
You can't go on the road without the right apps! iExit lets you see what restaurants, hotels and restrooms are off every exit on your road trip. Yes, we know you already know about Waze, but we have to reiterate how great this community based app is! This is the absolute best tool to help beat traffic and save you time. Gasbuddy is super helpful on the road. This price-comparison app helps users find the cheapest gas options on the road.If you want to try and match a book to the state you're visiting, Business Insider rounded up the most famous book set in every state across the country - read their article here.
Tuesday-LA to New Mexico
My boyfriend, Jamie, runs a pants company called Pkok. This spring, he’s been traveling to different colleges across the country and throwing events in conjunction with fraternities at which he sells the pants. I met him in Los Angeles after the USC event, and after a few days relaxing in Venice, we headed East on a road trip. Our destination: Washington and Lee in Lexington Virginia for another Pkok event later in the week. We had a lot of ground to cover!
On day one of our road trip, we set out from The Rose Hotel in Venice around 11:00 a.m. Sustained by a brioche breakfast sandwich from The Rose Café (previously mentioned on Daytripper here), which just so happened to be one of the best things I ate during my entire stay in L.A., we steeled ourselves for the longest leg of our trip. Our plan was to drive to Santa Fe, which would take about twelve hours. While in L.A., we barely left the Venice/Santa Monica area, so I was pleased to discover that our route took us past downtown L.A. It was our final view of a sprawling metropolis for at least another three days.
Our Tuesday drive spanned California, Arizona, and New Mexico. While the California landscape we traversed was essentially all deserts, it was Arizona, which surprised us the most. Considering Arizona generally conjures images of cacti, we were both surprised to encounter densely wooded area on our way to Flagstaff. For a good hour, we were also greeted with a view of a snow-capped mountain range, which a quick Google search revealed as Humphrey’s Peak, the highest natural point in the state of Arizona.
Fortunately for efficiency’s sake, but unfortunately for that of my content, our stops on the first day of the trip were essentially all gas stations. Word to the wise: if you’re planning a cross-country road trip on a tight deadline, pack a 12-pack of bars (I like these “kid friendly” ones, don’t judge me) and bring a cooler with flavored Polar seltzer (you’ll drink it slower than you would water, thus warranting fewer roadside bathroom stops, and it’ll, at least partially and temporarily, quell the inevitable hunger that will crop up at inconvenient places along the route.)
Soundtrack: Along with a lot of heavy rap to keep Jamie awake, we listened to “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson. While Manson’s book was nothing revelatory; you’ve heard it before from the likes of Tim Ferris, Tony Robbins, and Gabby Bernstein—just C.Y.O.G. (choose your own guru, proud of that one), it was an entertaining way to pass five hours.
Wednesday-Santa Fe and Amarillo
On Wednesday, we departed our hotel (okay, highway-side motel) in Gallup, New Mexico and set out for Santa Fe. Our first stop? Modern General. Founded by Santa Fe mainstay Erin Wade, Modern General is, as you might expect, a modern general store. It is a store that has everything: gardening seeds, hand-thrown ceramic bowls by local artisans, local cheeses, and popular books. The piece de resistance of Modern General, though, is the full-service juice and smoothie bar. They sell all the juice and smoothie varieties you can imagine, plus a highly intriguing blend of coconut, pineapple, and basil—definitely trying my hand with incorporating Basil into a smoothie when I return.
After a quick browse at MG, we headed over to Vinaigrette, the popular Santa Fe restaurant also owned and operated by Wade. For 2:00 pm on a Wednesday, the place was packed to the brim; we were seated at a corner table, one of the last in the house, which served as the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy an excellent hibiscus grapefruit lemonade and a chopped Greek salad. As an added bonus to the delicious fare, Wade focuses heavily on sustainability: seventy percent of the produce served at the restaurant comes from her farm, and all food waste is composted. Whether or not you make it all the way to Santa Fe, Wade’s principles are worth checking out.
Following our Vinaigrette visit, we drove around town to observe the incredible architecture, and then set out for Amarillo, TX. We arrived just as the sun was setting, and made our way to Cadillac Ranch. Not only was this one of the most unique sites we visited, it was also the location at which my phone decided to die right as I attempted to capture a photo. If you ever find yourself on I-40 with creative energy in need of an outlet, bring a can of spray paint and get to work on the Cadillac’s—it’s not only allowed, but also encouraged. The story of Ant Farm, the collective behind the project is worth a read.
Later that night, we were raring for some good old-fashioned Texas BBQ, so we headed to Robinson’s per a local’s recommendation. When we arrived, the woman essentially shut the door in our faces, proclaiming she had already locked it and “had no idea how [we] got through the damn door.” In the end, we settled for chicken nuggets and vanilla milkshakes at Chik-Fil-A. You win some, you lose some.
Soundtrack: as we made our way towards Oklahoma on Wednesday and Thursday, we listened to Killers of the Flower Moon. Killers of the Flower Moon follows the Osage Indians, a tribe forced to relocate to a parcel of land in Oklahoma that happened to sit on some of the most valuable oil deposits in the country. In 1923, payments to the Osage from those who wished to access the deposit totaled $400 million in today’s currency. As the Osage net worth continued to rise, prominent members of the tribe began to go missing. Not only were we driving almost directly through the Osage territory, the story also seemed like an incredible, gripping murder mystery. However, Gann got so bogged down in the historical context and switched so frequently between present and past that you’d blink and miss an entire plotline.
By Thursday, we were starting to get weary, and, though I had grand plans to visit “The Womb,” billed by Atlas Obscura as “a psychedelic arts center founded by the frontman of the Flaming Lips, I had to cast them aside as we decided we’d be better off driving straight to Memphis. If you’re a fan of the Flaming Lips, it is by all accounts worth checking out. Had we stayed overnight in Oklahoma City, we’d have headed straight to the 21C Museum-Hotel, a hotel boasting nearly 15,000 ft. of space for contemporary art exhibitions, and billed by Travel + Leisure as one of the Best New Hotels in the World [It List 2017]. 21c also contains Mary Eddy’s Kitchen + Lounge, a place I made a strong case for stopping at once I saw their mouthwatering photo gallery. Alas, traffic triumphed, and we continued to head east.
We arrived in Memphis around 9:00 pm, and headed straight for Hog + Hominy in East Memphis, a “Southern-Italian” restaurant helmed by famed Tennessee chefs Andy Hudman and Michael Ticer. The cuisine is an effortless blend of Southern comfort food (beef & cheddar dog) with Italian flair (the incredible flatbread pizza). A highlight? The door to the kitchen also functions as a bookshelf, just in case you’re dining alone or your companion doesn’t suffice. One of the best meals we had on the trip.
Friday –Memphis to Virginia
On Friday morning, I was in desperate need for anything that wasn’t a Nature Valley Almond Butter Biscuit. We headed to City Silo Table + Pantry, a funky health food store and café serving things so nutritious; I haven’t seen them on shelves in the East Village yet. After consuming the best green smoothie I’ve ever had (though I’m often guilty of it, this is not hyperbole) we headed towards our final stop: Lexington, Virginia.
Twelve hours of driving later, we arrived in Lexington at midnight, where we happened upon a cute, colonial inn, where we were instantly turned away. “Good luck getting a reservation anywhere,” the night manager called after us. We laughed, wondering how and why Lexington, Virginia, could possibly be at full occupancy. The answer? The combination of a Virginia Military Institute reunion and a horse show. After weathering three more hotel rejections, we settled on what must’ve been the last available suite in town: a smoking room in the Best Western. Armed with an “odor-eating” scent spray bottle to combat the fumes, we set up in our final destination. I don’t think I breathed through my nose for two days, and my throat is still recovering, but nonetheless, Lexington is worth a trip.
Soundtrack: Crimetown, a fascinating podcast about political corruption in Rhode Island. Great for fans of Serial & S-Town; I personally enjoyed it more than both of them.
Saturday - Virginia
Our Saturday event at Washington & Lee was the whole reason we drove across the country. The event, held off-campus, was a success, so much so that a man of about 70 wandered towards the table we were selling at and purchased himself a blue seersucker shirt for his Virginia Military Institute reunion that evening. The verdict: PKOK: fit for all ages.
As a post-event reward, we finally treated ourselves to some excellent Southern BBQ, courtesy of Foothill Momma’s BBQ & Juke Joint. The place was exactly as you’d expect an excellent, no-frills BBQ place to look: red-checkered tablecloths, plastic chairs, and menus on the napkin box. All of the meat is smoked in a smokehouse behind the restaurant, and the smokehouse nachos, which are served on potato instead of tortilla chips, were the best I’ve ever had. All in all, a satisfyingly Southern end to an epic cross-country road trip.
Have you ever given/will you ever give a cross-country road trip a try? Let me know!