Category Archives: Road Trip

USA Road Trip, Part 2 of 5 New Orleans, Houston, Austin Texas, SXSW

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.

Thirty stories up
Thirty stories up

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.

Just go to Acme Oyster and wait in the line
Just go to Acme Oyster and wait in the line

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.

James Harden's beard greeted us
James Harden’s beard greeted us

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.

Getting to SXSW
Getting to SXSW

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.

Back at it again
Back at it again

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.

Epic seeing the legend at this venue
Epic seeing the legend at this venue

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.

USA Road Trip, Part 1 of 5 New Jersey to Tennessee

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
Smoky Mountains
Knoxville, TN
Nashville, TN
Memphis, TN
Little Rock, AR
Houston, TX
Austin, TX
San Antonio, TX
Dallas, TX
Oklahoma City, OK
Wichita, KS
Kansas City, MO
St. Louis, MO
Indianapolis, IN
Pittsburgh, PA
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.

So long New Jersey
So long New Jersey

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.

Nothing beats the open road
Nothing beats the open road

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.

We made it
We made it

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.

Gatlinburg is full of odd stuff
Gatlinburg is full of odd stuff

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.

Cades Cove
Cades Cove

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.

Market Square in Knoxville
Market Square in Knoxville

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.

Strolling through Nashville
Strolling through Nashville

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.

The signs here confirm that I know Nashville
The signs here confirm that I know Nashville

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.

Titans stadium
Titans stadium

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.

Beale Street at the start of the night
Beale Street at the start of the night

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.

Fuzzy Jeffries & the Kings of Memphis
Fuzzy Jeffries & the Kings of Memphis

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.