Roadtrip: Cross-country from L.A. to N.Y.

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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

Tripper Tips:

Make sure you bring a good camera - we recommend  Fuji XT2 or the Sony both mirrorless cameras. If you're looking for an instant camera, Fuji Mini 9  lets you take great photos.

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.

Thursday-Memphis

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!

Chile: A Few Days in the Atacama Desert

The stark desert landscape is a backdrop for constantly changing shows of extraordinary light and colors.  This is an active, adventurous vacation filled with hiking, biking and horseback riding through gorges, canyons, dunes and salt flats--an otherworldly experience suitable for all levels of fitness, and perfect for couples, families, or solo travelers.

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72 Hours on Safari W/Lederle Safaris

All photos courtesy of Lederle Safaris and Singita

All photos courtesy of Lederle Safaris and Singita

Greg Lederle, the charismatic travel specialist and founder of boutique Lederle Safaris eloquently states:  Nothing can prepare you for a trip to Africa: the birthplace of man, the home to the greatest wildlife on the planet and a plethora of cultures that change and vary with each turn in the road. The Dark Continent has lured everyone from adventurers to scholars, hunters and poets, writers, photographers and so many more. Each visit, every time, takes your breath away and leaves you with memories that only grow within the fields of reminiscence and over time. For was it not once written: “If you can only visit 2 continents in your lifetime, visit Africa twice.” (R. Elliot)

An African safari ranks high on many people’s bucket lists. It’s a trip that’s crucial to plan with the right outfitter, the right expert.  We listened when our good friend Robert, just back from a family safari in South Africa, raved about Greg and his wife Riana, calling them the equivalent of rock gods when it comes to luxury safari travel. In fact, he was so impressed with Lederle and their trip that we immediately got in touch with Greg and asked if he would share some of his favorite experiences and contagious passion for one of the world’s most captivating destinations. Here’s his first post for Daytripper: a true taste of a safari from a born and bred South African. 

Lederle Safaris: I am often asked what’s my favorite place to travel to on this vast continent of Africa? And my answer is simple: “The last place I have just been or the one I am currently in!” It is simply impossible to pin one place on the map and say, “This is it!” For who am I to say that hunting with the Hadza, the oldest tribe in Africa, on the shores of Lake Eyasi in Tanzania is better than seeing the Mountain Gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda? That watching a coalition of male lions in the Okavango, roaring in their brotherhood for all to hear, is more powerful than viewing a thousand buffalo in Tanzania, cloaked in a cloud of dust, arrive to slake their afternoon thirst at a waterhole? Or that drifting silently over the oldest desert on earth in a hot air balloon in Namibia, where one has the true sense of being a bird, is better than sitting with a glass of wine watching whales breach off the coast of South Africa? I could go on, but alas you will need to come and see for yourself… The reality is that the continent offers far too much to be able to say, “This is it!”

When Daytripper asked me for my ideal 72 hours in Africa, I was against the ropes to pick one place, one experience. So here is what I suggest for a first time visit:

Day 1:

Begin: After arrival at Johannesburg’s Or Tambo International Airport, you will be met and expedited through immigration and customs before transferring to your awaiting small aircraft flight down to the greater Kruger National Park and one of Lederle Safaris’ favorite properties, Singita. After touching down in the bush, it’s time to meet your guide and tracker who will drive you to the lodge for check in. You may find it challenging to tear yourself away from your luxurious suite! 

Eat: It’s time for lunch, your first incredible meal at Singita - complemented with a glass of wine. After, there’s time to unwind and relax and enjoy the property.  High tea is served before the first game drive. Choose tea, coffee, or perhaps a G&T (you are of course in Africa) to quench your thirst before you head out with your guide and tracker.

Drive: At first, on the drive, your senses will not be attuned to the subtleties and signs that allow only a trained eye and ear to locate the animals. Your guide will introduce you to elements of the bush; as well as some of the more common creatures and birds.This region of the greater Kruger Park is full of game and the big predators that everyone is so eager to see. On your first drive it is likely you will see more than one of the high profile animals of Africa! But remember, a safari is so much more than just seeing lions; it is one of the finest ways to recharge your batteries.

Refreshments: Before heading back to camp, stop for a drink, a sundowner, as you watch the sky turn shades of red, pink and orange. Using a spotlight on the return to camp, you might spot some of the more nocturnal creatures and hunting predators – particularly the cats. Back at camp, another gastronomic masterpiece awaits, paired with one of the finest wine collections on the continent.

Day 2:

Dawn Drive: The day starts before sunrise, so head down to the bar area first for a wake up caffeine fix! Grab a ‘to go’ cup and a snack and head to your open Land Rover for another adventure out in the bush. Early mornings reveal the nighttime movement and activity of the animals—your guide will point out the fresh tracks all over the roads and pathways. It is here that your exposure to the art of tracking reveals another world. Learn what makes a track older or fresher, how to recognize the differences between the mark of a cat and a hyena, the difference between a hippo and a rhino track and even the direction the snake was moving by looking at its smudgy track. All this and more are brought to light by the skills and perceptive eye of the guide and tracker. 

Rest Stop: Stretch your legs as you stop in a picturesque location and alight from the game viewer to soak up some sun with more needed coffee, tea or hot chocolate – add a splash of Amarula, a South African cream liqueur, for good measure.

Other Activities: Back at camp you can enjoy a relaxing massage to rid your body of any lingering stress or jet lag. For the seriously active there is a gym to keep the pounds off that most camps are trying to get you to gain. Or head out on a mountain bike, with an armed guide, to see a different side of safari from 2 wheels. Community visits and shopping at the Singita Boutique and Gallery can be arranged, as well as archery or perhaps an intimate wine tasting with the Singita sommelier. Although the options are endless, however, having an afternoon siesta is often the order of the day for most considering the early morning start.

Afternoon Drive: Your afternoon finds you once again heading out in search of more that Africa has to offer. For anyone, no matter how often you have been on safari, it is always with amazement that you find yourself spending time in the company of Africa’s animals. Of course the Big 5 are the main draw—the lion, elephant, cape buffalo, leopard and white/black rhino—a term coined by America’s 26th President Teddy Roosevelt.  (Not in reference to their size but rather to their ferocity during a hunt.) Yet, seeing giraffes, entertaining mongooses, and hippos lazing on the riverbank can be just as much fun, in addition to one of the greatest varieties of birdlife in the world.

Dine: On your way back to camp under the searching beam of the spotlight you’re in for a treat as you round a ‘corner’ to a scene almost mythical in appearance: over a hundred lanterns hanging from the trees, a roaring fire and a dining table set for a king and queen. Dinner under the stars, Singita style! The fully stocked bar and chefs preparing your meal over hot coals add to the comfort you feel, as you suddenly remember that one never knows what may be watching you from just beyond the realm of the firelight. Back at camp you retire to bed with a gentle smile on your face after enjoying another spectacular day in Africa.

Day 3:

Walking Safari: Once again you rise before the sun, but this time with a different objective - you have your walking shoes on! To spend time on foot is one of the greatest thrills one can do on safari. It levels all playing fields and tunes your senses beyond what you have previously experienced. Your armed guide and tracker provide a quick briefing of do’s and don’ts before setting off down a pathway to see what the morning has in store for you. You are not necessarily in search of big game; rather the focus is on tracks, medicinal plants, traditional folklore and the smaller creatures that make up the complex workings of the ecosystem. As with most first time walks in the bush, you are accompanied by a little extra adrenalin, as you quietly become part of the wilderness. Your guide will point out hidden signs and treasures of being in nature, and then your guide gestures for you to drop down. He points ahead, and you search to make out what it is through the bush and grass. Suddenly your eyes pick up the shape of the creature you have been tracking all morning. It’s ears turning trying to pick up any sound, the long front horn moving from side to side as it searches the air for any feint scent drifting on the wind and then finally, as you hold your breath, the rhino lowers its long head to once again continue grazing. In silence, using only signs to communicate, you share time with this large and iconic animal as it goes about its business of grazing, only occasionally raising its head to allow its own senses to pick up on any potential dangers.

Afternoon: On the afternoon drive everything comes together, you have become more aware of the African environment.  Your ears have become accustomed to the subtle calls of a tree squirrel or the shrilling call of an ox-pecker revealing the presence of kudu, buffalo or rhino. What was at first a canvas painted in a single dimension now reveals subtle shapes and outlines of the animals that reside in the bush. 

Finale: Your last evening as you sit by the fireside listening to the guides tell stories of close encounters and close shaves with the animals in the bush. Stories of once-in-a-lifetime sightings unfold. And so you sink deeper into your chair, enjoying the crackle of a warm fire, the voice of the storyteller as you stare deep into the dancing flames and burning coals.The following morning as you take off from the airstrip with a vault full of memories and stories from the last few days, your only thought being: …when am I returning to this remarkable continent?

Details: Lederle Safaris will arrange everything-- all your travel details from flights, transfers, accommodations—everything! You just have to get to Africa and then all is expertly taken care of till your flight back home. Lederle Safaris will create a unique itinerary for you, tailored to your tastes and desires—say fly-fishing for tiger fish in the Zambezi or gorilla trekking in Rwanda. Greg or one of Lederele Safaris' private guides can accompany you on privately guided trips adding to your experience and threading your trip through continuity to provide the best wildlife experience possible anywhere on the continent. Roots set firmly in Africa, and a combination of over 25 years in the business, the team at Lederle provides the very best in luxury travel to Africa. 

 


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