Video from the trip is done! Check out some of the highlights from the trip in this video.
Huge props to my mate Jesse Nanton for going through all of the GoPro footage and composing an awesome original song to go with the video footage of this trip.
It was one hell of a trip. The grandiose plan was devised on a regular night while Mikey and I were hanging out. We decided to follow through and now have some memories that will last a lifetime. The final itinerary looks like this.
March 10: New Jersey. Cherokee, NC. Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Gatlinburg, TN
March 11: Knoxville, TN. Nashville, TN
March 12: Memphis, TN
March 13: New Orleans, LA
March 14: Houston, TX. Austin, TX
March 15: Austin, TX
March 16: San Antonio, TX. Roswell, NM
March 17: White Sands National Monument. Albuquerque, NM. Santa Fe, NM
March 18: Denver, CO, Lafayette, CO.
March 19: Rocky Mountain National Park
March 20: Boulder, CO. Lawrence, KS. Kansas City, MO
March 21: St Louis, MO
March 22: Louisville, KY. Magnolia, KY
March 23: Home
17 states (NJ, PA, MD, VA, TN, NC, MS, LA, TX, NM, CO, KS, MO, IL, IN, KY, WV)
A lot of time people hear of a trip like this and they think it’s impossible for them to do it because of time or money constraints. Sure getting two weeks off can be a little rough, but in half that time Mikey and I were able to make it from New Jersey all the way out to Roswell, New Mexico. And in only three days we were able to make it from Kansas City all the way back to New Jersey. You can definitely make time for an awesome adventure so don’t let that keep you cooped up.
As for the money, it didn’t end up costing a tremendous amount for what we were able to see and do. In the 14 days we slept in the car 4 times, stayed with people we knew three times, and checked out reviews online to get good deals on cheap places. Most were from $40-60 a night with only Austin and New Orleans being outside of that price. Gas is reasonable considering the cost of alternative travel options. If you don’t have a car you can score a cheap car rental price with unlimited miles. Grabbing a cooler and buying a bunch of good healthy food at the supermarket was great in many ways other than the low cost. It was fast and kept us fueled up. The hotels and motels always offered free ice to keep our stuff cool. When we went out to eat we usually went out for an awesome dinner. There’s a ton of great stuff to see in this country and a lot of it’s free or really cheap. The price break down looked something like this.
I overestimated on most things because I’m too lazy to go through all of the receipts. You could definitely take this same trip spending a ton more or a ton less money depending on what you do or don’t do. Adding some more travelers would let you chop away some of those costs as well. I’d think the price is fair for a once in a lifetime trip that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
If anyone has any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will follow up with the answer. Let me know about what adventures you have planned. Best of luck!
The original destination was Kansas City but we were tipped off that the University of Kansas located in Lawrence might be a more fun place. Either way we had a long drive through Kansas ahead of us.
Driving in Kansas is terrible. I thought seeing the flatness and the open sky would be awesome, but it was brutal. It doesn’t change. We stopped for gas and a sandwich from the cooler and saluted the West. The more east we drove the sadder it became that the trip was wrapping up.
Eventually it turned to night which I was almost happy for just so that I didn’t have to see the same monotonous background for hour after hour. Many hundreds of miles later we finally made it to Lawrence. We were pretty tired but there was some good college basketball games finishing up, so we stopped in The Sandbar to watch the ending on the big screens. It looked like everyone knew each other here and everyone seemed completely wasted so I figured it would be wise to just keep to ourselves and watch the end of the games.
A couple minutes after sitting down we set up the GoPro to grab some video footage for our video. These girls to the left started asking us questions. “Are you recording for that video?” Umm. I have no idea what you’re talking about. “No, we’re from New Jersey, road tripping all around the country. We’re just stopping in here to catch the end of the basketball game and then we’re heading to Kansas City.” I’m not asking any questions because I don’t want any trouble. Out of nowhere, Paul Bunyan decides to jump on top of the table we’re sitting at, kicking a pint glass off the table in the process and plops down in between Mikey and I and these annoying girls. “Hi. I’m Paul Bunyan. This is my girlfriend. Who are you?” Alright, bro. “I’m Joe and this is Mikey and we’re from NJ and are road tripping.” “You’re from New Jersey, huh? Where at in New Jersey?” Now I’m in the middle of nowhere, USA, and someone’s asking me where in New Jersey I’m from. I’m pretty sure there are no places in NJ that people from outside of the state are familiar with. “I’m kind of by New Brunswick, nearby Rutgers.” “Oh. I have no idea about anything in New Jersey, but my buddy from the Army lives in Newark.” At this point all of Paul’s group of drunken bros are surrounding our table. I’m not too worried about it though. Mikey and I are ninjas and can dismantle this group with ease if we have to. “That’s cool. Newark is a little rough. I’ve been mugged in Newark, but there are some cool spots there.” Go Red Bulls, I’m thinking. “Cool.” Then Paul Bunyan and his group of mini-Paul Bunyan’s head to the bar to get some more drinks. I think they have a shot of the hour thing there where the bartender spins the wheel and whatever shot it lands on is sold for a discount. Whizzzz… tick, tick, tick. It lands on Fireball. Damn it, that’s just what Paul Bunyan needs.
We get back to watching the game. Of course it goes into overtime. Typical March Madness. “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Macklemore?” Omg, girl. Go buzz off. Stop instigating. “Oh yea, I get that a lot.” Which I don’t understand anyway since my hair and Macklemore’s hair are pretty different, so is our style of clothing and basically everything. The game finishes up and Mikey and I bee-line it for the door and hop in the car.
We head into Kansas City and drive around. It’s dead. There’s loud music playing from some club but there is no one around. We drive around some more and eventually make our way to a Wal-Mart for the night. It didn’t look like the safest place to spend the night so we left and headed eastward to St. Louis for another half hour or so to find a Wal-Mart that looks a little nicer. We knock right out.
When we wake up we make the drive out to St. Louis. We look for a place to stay. At the first place we get to the guy tries to tell us the rate is higher than the rate that I’m staring at on my phone. Alright. Well see ya. We go too another place that looks really sketchy. Nope. Finally we get to a Motel 6. It’s amazing. It must be some sort of flagship Motel 6. It’s three stories with an elevator and it looks like it’s brand new. Awesome. After freshening up, we’re off to St. Louis.
St. Louis is a neat town. The Gateway Arch looks pretty awesome as you drive in. Architecture like the Gateway Arch is great. There’s no purpose or need for it but it adds character to the city and generates a lot of awesomeness. The world needs more Gateway Arches.
One of the goals for the trip was to score some good bbq. St. Louis is definitely one of the top bbq places in the country. Pappy’s Smokehouse is the place to go for some good ribs. We got there and there was a huge line that wrapped around this side hallway of the building. It ends up being around a 40 minute wait. Wow, pretty busy we thought. The guy at the door said that it was a slow day. A lot of times you have to wait hours to get your food. After tasting those ribs I probably would wait in line forever for them.
We order a rack of ribs, some brisket, sweet potato fries, and some potato salad. Everything is good but the ribs are amazing. They give you four different barbeque sauces that you can add and they are all pretty delicious. Man, those ribs were delicious. I could go for another rack just thinking about them.
One of the places that we heard was great to check out was the City Museum (thanks cuz!). You can’t really explain the place. It’s not what you think at all. It’s awesome. And you can’t really explain it. There’s an outside which is sort of like this playground for people of all ages, adults included. If you look at this picture you’ll see there’s a plane hanging in midair. You can climb up to the plane. Also in the picture you can see people climbing off the wing of the plane. They’re heading to this huge slide that circles around the outside. There’s stuff like this all over. The outside has this huge dodge ball pit that is total ruckus. The museum itself has a school bus hanging off of the edge which you can climb out onto. There are slides all over this place. It’s like you’re living a game of shoots and ladders.
The inside is just as crazy. There’s this massive 10-story cave with all these crevices and tunnels and stuff. It’s huge. You can get lost in there. At the top is another slide that goes all the way down to the bottom. There’s a skate park inside that you can run around on. Rope swings. A human sized hamster wheel. Oh yea, a bar. There are actual museum things in there like old antiques too. And an aquarium. City Museum is a wild mish mash of eccentric things. It’s architecturally brilliant. I’ve never seen a place that could be enjoyed and appreciated by such a wide age range of people.
After hanging at the City Museum we strolled around town. Eventually we decided to check out Europe Night Club for some electronic dance music. I kind of never understood how to dance to EDM. I guess I’ll just always be a hip-hop head. The place was alright. Mikey and I threw down on the dance floor as best as we could. This really creepy kid was following me around the club so that was a little annoying. Seemed like he was having a pretty weird trip. We got out of there at close and headed back to our place and grabbed some good sleep for the drive to Kentucky.
The drive to Louisville was par for the course. We scoped out a place to get some good food and ended up choosing Hammerhead’s. Kind of lame that it was on the outskirts of town in the suburbs, but just as well. Louisville isn’t the best of towns. Nothing much to do there. Dinner at Hammerhead’s was good. I went with the Pork Belly Lettuce Tomato (PBLT) and Mikey got a burger. We also grabbed truffle fries which I thought were outstanding.
After dinner we drove around Louisville looking for a place to catch some more college basketball games. We ended up near the University of Louisville before deciding we were a little tired and just wanted to head out to my sister’s house in Magnolia. When we got there we had to wait around for a little because she was moving livestock with her boyfriend which was just as good with Mikey and I. We grabbed a nap in the car until they showed up. Mikey and I went right to bed and then we caught up with my sister and her boyfriend over breakfast buffet at the Iron Skillet buffet the next morning. On the way out we grabbed some Stage Planks, which are pretty mush just gingerbread cookies with a terrible name and product packaging.
We said our goodbyes and headed off for home. The drive home was fairly uneventful. We did run into the most dangerous situation of the trip. There was someone driving in our lane going in the opposite direction. They were in the left lane, we happened to be one lane over so we were alright. It was the sort of unexpected thing that your mind almost processes too late. Swerving out of the way of that car would have been disastrous.
As we got closer to home we made plans to meet up with some of the homies to share stories. We pulled up to a gas station right on the New Jersey border and I got out to pump my own gas (something I like to do way more than having it pumped for me like is required here in NJ) and the guy jumps over to me yelling that I can’t pump my own gas. “Oh. Are we in New Jersey?” “Yes. I’ll take it from here.”
After about another hour driving we were back in town. We grabbed a victory beer and some food and met up with some of the guys and told stories about the trip. All in all it was one hell of a trip. It kicked some serious ass. Video and details from the trip will be up soon!
Woke up in Santa Fe and had some dreadful coffee which was complimentary to the Motel 6 we were staying at. I couldn’t finish drinking it. But no worries, we were off to Colorado! We were thinking about maybe checking out Pike’s Peak or Garden of the Gods on the way up but it looked like we wouldn’t have time. The first place we stopped was Denver. We made our way over to Great Divide Brewing Company. Had to dodge a bum fight on the way there, but we got there safely.
Great Divide throws down with the beer that they make there. If you get a chance to have some, I recommend it. You just can’t beat the intense freshness and quality of a beer poured from a tap at the brewery where it was conceived.
Great Divide is my favorite brewery so I was pretty pumped to go through the samples with Mikey. His favorite was the Claymore Scotch Ale and mine was the Espresso Oak Aged Yeti.
After our quick stop in Denver, we were off to meet up with the family in Lafayette. They let us crash and provided great hospitality as always.
We went out and grabbed some grub at The Post Brewing Company (there are breweries everywhere in Colorado). It was nice to catch up with everyone but we had to get to bed a little early because everyone had work the next day.
When Mikey and I woke up the next morning we decided to check out Rocky Mountain National Park. But first I had to get a cup of coffee. Colorado throws down with their coffees so I knew I would be able to get that dreadful motel coffee taste out of my mouth. Upon recommendation from a local coffee expert (thanks Meliss!) we went to Proper Grounds Coffee Roasters. There’s a reason why this new shop has a 5.0 rating.
The beans are sourced from a variety of farms all around the world. Then they are roasted in house. Then they are crafted into whatever fine drink you like. I opted for a large coffee and a homemade pastry. Mikey skipped the coffee (for shame) but also went with a delicious bite. We discussed our plans to go into the Rockies over these delicious treats.
Before we bounced out of Proper Grounds, I fueled up on another cup for the road. There are a lot of places that we could have checked out but Rocky Mountain National Park is pretty unbeatable for a quick trip to the Denver/Boulder area. We ran into a little traffic on the roads because they were removing rocks and working on the roads that were damaged from the floods. We drove through Estes Park but didn’t have time to stop. We drove into Rocky Mountain National Park and were blown away. It was in beautiful form.
The park offers some amazing views, but catching a herd of grazing elk is tremendous. They don’t mind the cars or the camera. We could have stayed around and watched them for as long as we wanted to.
Onwards we went. Upwards we climbed. Stunning views greet you at every turn. Rocky Mountain National Park is small enough that you can see it in a day, but also big enough that you can get lost in it and explore new parts if you have more time to spend here.
The road was closed off at the top so we had to turn around, but even with the road closure you can still get pretty high up. The views are just great up there.
We had to get out of the park because we had a kickball date for later on that night. After having a rough couple seasons, the team started off the year with a couple wins. It was up to Mikey and I to keep the team undefeated. Road closures slowed us down a little but we got to the house on time. It’s a drinking league which means you can drink beers in the dugout, so we stopped at Avery Brewing Company to grab a bite and a brew before the game. Had a banh mi sandwich which was delicious and a sampler of a few beers. The Chocolate Mint Stout is worth a sip and the Eremita VI is worth a glass. Game time was approaching so we got out of Avery and went to the field.
Mikey and I were pumped for this game ever since we heard about it back when we were in Austin. Finally we were here, ready to keep the undefeated streak alive. The game was close. Hits and runs were hard to come by. 1-0. 1-1. Then we went down 2-1. You had to fight for everything. Everyone on our team was kicking ass and making great plays though.
Eventually we tied it 2-2. Extra innings. Then another inning. Things getting sticky. Getting out of sticky situations. Yeesh. Bottom of the 9th (game was only supposed to go to 6) and we have a runner on 3rd. A little dribbler is hit and our guy sprints for home. Play at the plate. And he’s safe! We finally were able to taste that sweet, sweet victory in extra innings and won 3-2.
I was surprised at how well setup the league was. There was an ump and a scoreboard and everything. But mostly the league is about having fun. Co-ed drinking kickball is something that is very Colorado and I was happy to experience it.
We got back to the house and hung out for a little bit. Mikey and I said our goodbyes to everyone that night before we went to bed since they all had to be up early for work the next morning. We would be heading due east the next morning as our trip slowly was starting to wind down.
Before we left the next morning, we stopped in Boulder to hang out at the Pearl Street Mall. We grabbed some delicious Colorado coffee and checked out the shops. We took part in a silent disco at University of Colorado (you put earphones on and listen to whatever music you want to and dance in an open field on the campus). Stuff like this happened.
Some of the shops out here are tremendous. I was pretty tempted to buy a magic wand. The craftsmanship on these wands is great. They are all individually made. Seemed like a good deal to be able to use magical powers in exchange for $200 but I couldn’t justify it and kept the money in my wallet.
And like that, we were off. Eastward we went. Slowly making our way home.
We woke up, piled back in the car and got on our way. The first stop was San Antonio, a short drive from Austin. When you go to San Antonio you have to remember the Alamo. So we made sure we did that.
After checking out the Alamo, we were able to find an awesome Tex-Mex place for lunch. It was a goal to get some good Tex-Mex on the trip and Pete’s Tako House did not disappoint. Everything was fresh and delicious. We split two platter things that came with a bunch of different items. It was amazing. I felt like everything there was made by someone’s abuela. The beef empanadas were extremely fresh. Everything tasted delicious. We also grabbed this flan to split. It was tremendous. You can see and taste the freshness just by looking at this picture.
After we were all fueled up, we took a quick stroll along the San Antonio River Walk. If we had more time we would have walked this for longer. We probably would have spent more time in San Antonio. It offered a lot in such a short period of time.
But westward we went to Roswell. And went. And went some more. All the way across the state of Texas. One thing you notice about Texas is that the people don’t mess around. The have single lane highways that are 70-75 mph with no divider. These roads have curves and bends. It’s a little unnerving driving on those single lane back country roads and having a car flying at you at that speed. Texas does not mess around.
Texas is also a little weird. It’s hard to explain exactly. It’s just kind of different. We almost ran out of gas in Texas (we started looking for gas with 100 miles left on the tank) and found ourselves in this tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Everyone there was either working in oil or cattle. I felt really out of place there. It was cool to feel like such an outsider in your own country. The middle of nowhere Texas towns are weird, but I loved it. I wish I could have spent some more time in one to get to know it a little better.
Texas definitely gets a little weirder and spookier as you get closer to Roswell. The roads are really flat out that way. When the night rolls in your eyes start to play tricks on you. There was this one slightly uphill road that was straight for a long time. We were just driving along when I thought I saw something in the middle of the road, like a light or something. I tried to shake it out of my eyes thinking I was tired. As we approached what was in the road it grew bigger. The light shown brighter and brighter as we approached it and the size if it got bigger and bigger. The light looked like this massive construction light structure that was on fire. At this point I’m slowing up the car and Mikey and I are asking each other “dude, what the hell is that thing?” I pull over to the side of the road because I don’t want to hit this huge structure in the middle of the road. And then we realize that there isn’t any massive construction light structure that’s on fire. What it was was three cars that were evenly spaced coming at us on this really long sloped road. The headlights were reflecting off of the road in such a way that it formed this crazy light mirage. It’s the same effect like when you look down a long straight road and you think you see water at the end of a road but really it’s not there. It was apparent what had happen when the first car zoomed by us. Weird. Once we knew that the phenomenon existed our eyes would adjust to it.
After seeing that, we started to get excited for Roswell. We hoped we could score some awesome UFO footage. When we finally got to Roswell it was late. It was also freezing out at night. Sleeping at Roswell Wal-Mart was a bummer because we had to turn the heat on at times. If we knew it would have been that cold we would have grabbed a room. Oh well. Roswell is a place where you want to sleep out under the stars to try to get some good alien pictures. We didn’t see any that night, but after fueling up on some Wal-Mart fried chicken we headed over to the International UFO Museum and Research Center. It’s pretty gimmicky but something you should see if you’re in Roswell. The admission was worth it because they have real aliens there like this guy.
They also have some cool UFO stuff in there and some more aliens. The aliens were really nice and friendly. So if you ever see them in real life, know that you can easily chill with them and they won’t bother you.
After Roswell we drove off to check out the rest of New Mexico. New Mexico is a gorgeous state. We swung out to the White Sands National Monument. Although it is mostly just white sand, it’s a cool place to see.
They say that it’s very easy to get lost in a sandstorm. The sand covers up your reference points and disorients you and it’s hard to tell which direction you should go in. Luckily we didn’t run into any sandstorms and were able to grab some nice pictures.
It’s neat how the wind always keeps the dunes fresh. People walk all over the dunes but over some time the wind will always return the sand to its untouched state.
And one more shot with some mountains in the back.
After we left the White Sands National Monument, we headed north to Albuquerque. Our stop in Albuquerque was the most west we would end up going on the trip. It was a little drive but the beautiful New Mexico scenery made the drive enjoyable. We kept ourselves laughing with this or that.
It was St. Patty’s day so it was necessary to find an Irish place that was open. We stopped at Kelly’s Brew Pub in Albuquerque.
After resting up we swung over to Santa Fe for the night to continue the Saint Patrick’s Day festivities. Santa Fe is a cool town. The buildings have a nice reddish clay style and the places to hang out seem fun. The people seem pretty friendly. We talked to this one guy about life but he had one beer too many and ended up taking a nap in the bar. It was getting late and we had a long drive ahead of us the next day so we ventured off to grab a place to crash at for the night.
We woke up in the morning ready to head to New Orleans. We were making great time. Day four and we found ourselves in New Orleans. The rates for rooms were pretty outrageous. The cheapest hotel looked to be around $500. Due to the massive amount of water that surrounds New Orleans, the closest hotels with reasonable rates were 30 miles away. Not very ideal. I figured since this was going to be my fourth time in the city that I would just be designated driver so that Mikey could enjoy all of the cocktails that the city is known for. We tried getting a hotel but there was some problem with the reservation system. We got fed up of waiting and decided to spring for a hotel in the city. We got an awesome deal for the Sheraton on Hotwire, which easily ended up being the nicest hotel that we would stay in on the trip.
After we got our parking and dropped off our gear at the hotel, we ventured off into New Orleans. We needed some grub. An oyster or shrimp po’ boy would be just perfect. We passed Acme Oyster House. The line was out the door so we figured we would pass on it. I went to this place on Bourbon street that I usually go to. They no longer carry seafood po’ boys. Hmm. Ok. They recommended Pat O’Brien’s. Hmm. They have great hurricane drinks but I don’t think they have good po’ boys. They didn’t have them. They sent us across the street and that place didn’t have them. Ugg. Let’s just go to Acme Oyster House and wait in the line. The wait turned out to be only half an hour and it was worth it. Oyster shooters, crab cake, grilled oysters, and shrimp and oyster po’ boys. Perfect. This goes down as the best meal on the trip. It lived up the Acme’s legendary status and turned Mikey into an oyster eating champion.
With that, we were ready to go spend the night on Bourbon street. Sazeracs at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the oldest continually running bar in the country. It’s lit only by candlelight. Hand grenades at the Tropical Isle. Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s. Dancing at Razzoo’s and The Beach. With hundreds of miles to drive the next day, the alcohol transitioned into waters and gatorades. We passed on the Ramos fizz gins, the absinthe frappes, the frozen daiquiris, the grasshoppers, the huge ass beers, and all the other drinks they have in New Orleans. We eventually made our way back to the hotel very late in the morning but Bourbon street was still carrying on when we left it.
The next morning was started off with some awesome complimentary Starbucks coffee at the Sheraton. We checked out and hopped in the car. Westward still we went. On to Houston, Texas. If you’re wondering what we did while driving all of these hours, it was a combination of music and Spanish lessons. Mikey was using the Duolingo app to up his Spanish game, so that kept us occupied. Snapping picture and getting GoPro footage also occupied some time.
We were greeted in the H-Town by James Harden’s beard, which is how you always want to be greeted. Surely this was a sign of good things to come. But it wasn’t. We got into Houston and grabbed gas. We couldn’t use the restroom there for some reason. We ended up in the ghetto. Some high school aged boy was twerking on a street sign. Ok. We went into the city to check out place to hang out. I’m not sure if we missed the mark on Houston or if the city isn’t anything special. It’s forgettable. It’s lifeless. It’s boring. Supposedly the strip clubs are good, but Mikey and I are respectable mates and we don’t partake in all those shenanigans. We swung over to the University of Houston. It was even more dead than the city. We stopped at Subway to grab a quick bite. We ordered subs. We couldn’t use the bathroom there either. Jeez. Ok. Went into some college bar to finally use the restroom and ate our sandwiches on the top of our car. We decided to get out of Houston and head to Austin. We found out a couple days earlier that South by Southwest (SXSW) was going on. That was a way better option than hanging around Houston. So we hopped back in the car and made our way to Austin.
As we pulled into the outskirts of Austin you could tell we were in for a good time. I can’t really relay to you just how much of a party SXSW is. This is what is looks like.
There is music everywhere in the city. It’s in the streets. It’s on the roofs. It’s in the restaurants and the bars. It’s down side streets. There are full makeshift concert venues set up. People are playing out of garages. People are driving by in cars and vans and performing sets while driving around. We walked past some crew loading Soundgarden’s equipment into a van. Stages are all over the place. After about an hour or two of strolling the city we were pretty exhausted from all the driving and walking. We decided to head to Wal-Mart to camp out and found this sweet isolated spot in the middle of a the parking lot that we referred to affectionately as The Cove. I recommend it to anyone staying in Austin.
We crashed and when we woke up we made our way out to a motel to shower up and get ready for some more South by Southwest. We were going to head over but we decided to first watch the New York Red Bulls play a frustrating 1-1 draw. Oh well. We got out of the motel and headed back into Austin. It looked as crazy as the day before.
We went to some place for happy hour and decided to make our next great audible of the trip. We had San Antonio, Dallas, Oklahoma City and Wichita up next. Not the most stellar lineup. We decided to keep San Antonio and chop the rest and add in New Mexico and Colorado to the trip. This extended our miles quite a bit but we were used to the pace and we decided to go for it. Trading Dallas, OKC, and Wichita for Roswell, White Sands National Monument, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Denver, the family in Lafayette, Rocky Mountain National Park and Boulder was really a no brainer.
Excited by our awesome switch-up we ventured out of the happy hour and into the ruckus of SXSW. Music, music, music. We got a hand out from this one promoter who told us Talib Kweli was playing a secret show later on that night. We walked a little bit and hear Snoop Dogg playing on the roof. Artists are playing songs that you recognize from the radio all over. It’s incredible. We get handed a bunch of mixtape cd’s that we hang onto for the car ride. There’s no time announced for Talib so we just keep checking the place every once in a while. He’s playing an announced set down the block. Turns out Talib and his band broke their entire set down and moved it two blocks over to this secret venue of about 30 people. It’s after 2 AM. Someone comes upstairs and cuts the power. We’re over curfew and there’s no sound allowed. The DJ gets the sound back on. Somehow it all works out and Talib Kweli hops on stage. He has a girl singing with him. So they both need a mic but only one of the mic works. They play a half an hour set, which I’m pretty sure was the last music of the festival. It’s disastrously awesome. When we got out onto the streets they were empty of the massive crowds of people that had been there not long before.
We bounced back to the hotel to grab some sleep. Our idea to switch up our itinerary would require driving a bunch more hours. SXSW rocked. I always thought if I ever made it out there it would be for the technology events and not for the music. But I would definitely go back there for just the music. It was a killer time.
I have been trying to convince people to travel with me for some time and have been pretty unsuccessful. Everyone is understandably busy with life. I was hanging out with some buddies one night and my friend Mikey said he was interested in some travel. We figured out when we were both free. I had the wedding in Charleston and I would be back from that on March 9th. Mike had classes that he had to finish up. He had to be back home by March 24th. This gave us a two week window from March 10-23 that we could travel.
With a two week window we devised an elaborate plan of road tripping the United States. Hopping in a car and driving where ever we wanted to go. Growing up on the East Coast our whole lives we both have seen most of the East Coast, as far north as Maine, Nova Scotia, Canada and as far south as Florida, the Keys, and the islands. Going more east from New Jersey requires a long plain ride to Europe so the logical decision was for us to go west. Our elaborate plan included a bunch of incredible cities mixed in with some epic nature. We decided we were going to road trip the US in the most glorious way possible.
Everyone makes crazy awesome plans, especially over a beer. The next morning usually makes you reconsider your most brilliant ideas. You know. We slept on it. Maybe we even slept on it a couple nights. Eventually we got in touch and decided, sure let’s continue to plan it out. Flesh out the details of the route and the trip. So we came up with a solid itinerary of places we both wanted to go to. We included some audibles in case we were feeling adventurous and wanted to pick up the pace or feeling like slowing down.
Initial Itinerary (this changed quite a bit)
Perth Amboy, NJ
Little Rock, AR
San Antonio, TX
Oklahoma City, OK
Kansas City, MO
St. Louis, MO
Perth Amboy, NJ
Some more time passed. Our excitement grew. It was almost like planning this trip was a long running joke. Everyone makes crazy life plans while grabbing a beer. We were about to follow up on ours. I went to Charleston for a wedding. While I was down there I saw a GoPro for sale at the market. I bought it. I texted Mikey about my sweet score. It was on. No backing out now. We’re doing this.
I got back from the wedding. I went to Mikey’s and we grabbed a bunch of goods from the supermarket. We grabbed a bunch of healthy food so we wouldn’t have to always be stopping for food. Our diet would be fast but healthy. Hummus, nuts, fruits and veggies, Greek yogurts, Kashi bars, deli meats (ok, it wasn’t all healthy), cereals, cheese and crackers, a bunch of beef jerky. We almost were able to convince a third to join the party in the last minute but that fell through.
The morning of March 10, 2014 came and we were off. Off to realize a dream concocted while grabbing a brew on a very typical night.
Off we went. Out of New Jersey. Through Pennsylvania. Then Maryland. Onwards to Virginia. Into Tennessee. Then North Carolina. We stopped for gas somewhere and realized that if we kept up a good pace that we might be able to catch the sunset in the Smoky Mountains. We kept up a great pace. Back into Tennessee. We got to the Smokies in time.
The Smoky Mountains are beautiful. We got a little glimpse of them on the first night and we would be back the next day to explore some more. First we had the night ahead of us. We hopped into the town of Gatlinburg. It’s an odd little town. There’s a lot of spookiness and magical themes throughout the town. It’s got a neon space needle.
We tried to find a nice place to grab a beer at but Gatlinburg is a family town and it was out of season for the park. We passed on the moonshine and settled for PBR’s at an Irish pub. While we were there we decided to call our first audible of the trip. Scratch Little Rock, Arkansas. Swap in New Orleans. This was really a no brainer. I’ve been to New Orleans three times previously but Mikey had not. We had to go if only for him to see it. It’s too great of a place not to go to.
After we made our first audible we retreated back to our chariot. We were looking to save some bucks on the trip so we figured we would try sleeping in the car every once in a while. Our car was parked kind of out of the way of everything so we put the seats back and nodded off.
About an hour later we’re awoken by a knock on the window and a flashlight in our face. It’s the police. “You two just sleeping it off?” “No officer, we’re not drunk. We’re on a road trip from New Jersey and we want to check out the Smoky Mountains in the morning.” “You can’t sleep here. There’s a lot of thefts recently.” “No problem, we’ll head up the road to one of the hotels.”
Well that was unsuccessful. No worries. Rates were really cheap because it was out of season. We found a place that was $38 bucks. And when we got there the guy gave us a couple of coupons for a free pancake and drink breakfast. This was an incredible deal.
The pancakes were awesome the next morning. The coffee and orange juice was free, even the refills. I paid $3 for some hash browns. What a steal. Tossed a couple bucks down for a tip and hopped back in the car to head into the Smokies. We went into Cades Cove and it was a stunning drive. We hopped out and tossed the frisbee at bit. It was 70 degrees and sunny. Back home the forecast was a bunch of snow and temperatures in the teens.
After exploring the Smoky Mountains for a couple hours, we decided to move on to Knoxville. Knoxville looked like a nice place. We strolled around and grabbed some lunch in a park. We walked around Market Square. This place definitely looks like it can host a good party, but we wouldn’t be able to find out. Westward we went.
On to Nashville for the night. The home of country music. Country and honky tonk and all it’s variations are everywhere here. There’s a ton of live music at all of the bars and restaurants.
If you love country music, you have to go here. If you don’t then this isn’t a must stop. It’s alright. It’s a bit gimmicky and commercialized. Trust me on this one. I know Nashville. But you don’t have to take my word for it.
We had a Titans fan in the car, so it was pretty much mandatory that we had to stop at the stadium, which is very close to the town. It was really late at night and you can just go right up to the stadium and take pictures and no one bothers you. Back at home at Giants Stadium you would be arrested for such behavior.
For the night we figured we would try our luck at a Wal-Mart parking lot. We heard Wal-Mart allows you to sleep in their parking lot. In exchange for offering a free place to crash they know you will buy some random odds and ends. It worked out for both of us. We grabbed some sleep, and stocked up on beef jerky when we woke up in the morning. After grabbing some cereal we were off to Memphis.
We arrived at Memphis and immediately checked in to our hotel. The plan for the trip was to sleep in the car and then check in to the hotel immediately the next day. Once you check in you can grab a fresh shower. Then when you leave that hotel the next day you can grab another shower before you hit the road. This way you are getting a shower every day even though you are only staying at a hotel half of the time.
Memphis was a gem. The dreadful country music was replaced with heavenly blues. Walking down Beale Street you can hear music everywhere, but it is in the form of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix covers. There are a ton of awesome places to grab a bite or a beverage.
We eventually ended up at Huey’s Restaurant and grabbed a killer burger with the best onion rings. I’ve never quite had an onion ring that good. We were fueled up for the rest of the night. Our favorite musical act was Fuzzy Jeffries & the Kings of Memphis. They put on a great show, and we stuck around all night until the place closed watching them jam out.
At this point the road trip was going mostly according to plan. The first three days took us a long way from home. Memphis was a great city. We retreated back to the hotel and grabbed some sleep. With our audible of New Orleans on deck, we needed the rest.
Had a fun couple days in Charleston, South Carolina. My cousin got married at Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, SC. You may be familiar with the plantation if you have ever seen The Notebook, as it hosts Allie’s family’s summer home in the movie.
It was great to have the whole family down in Charleston. We spent some time hanging in Charleston during the trip.
I loved the menus. They names were beautifully hand drawn.
Although the weather was unexpectedly cold and rainy, everyone had a great time. I’m happy for my cousin and her husband and wish them the best.
It was nice and relaxing to spend time in a cozy bed and breakfast for a couple nights. Charleston offered some great food at the many nice restaurants. Strolling around the old city provided some nice charming scenery.
Charleston is a nice old place to get lost in. You can spend a lot of time strolling around the city and exploring things that have been there for centuries.
After a nice couple days in Charleston I had to get back and unpack, and then repack so that I could be off on my two week road trip of the United States.