The Great American Road Trip

By abbieredmon

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After I returned to the states from my travels in Spain, etc., I was able to spend ten days in Washington, DC, during which I sold my car, caught up with friends, and tied up some loose ends.

But then I had to leave again. Where to this time?

California!

I'm participating in Climate Ride California, which is a four-day, 250-mile-plus fundraising bicycle ride from San Francisco to Sacramento to support climate change awareness and bicycle advocacy. The ride starts on May 17, so my plan is to drive across the country with my bicycle, stopping along the way to see friends, see places, and enjoy a bit of Americana before I get to San Francisco.

My route goes vaguely like this:

Washington, DC (my home for the past decade. Crazy.)
Louisville, KY (my parents & lots of family live here)
Bowling Green, KY (more family here)
Nashville, TN (family and friends here)
New Orleans, LA (my brother lives here)
Austin, TX (friends here)
Albuquerque / the Grand Canyon / Phoenix (this part is fuzzy)
Yuma, AZ (an old friend here)
Los Angeles, CA (friends here)
San Francisco, CA (friends here, and the start of the ride!)

I'm very excited and can't wait for my first cross-country drive! Follow along for updates from the road!

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On Sunday morning, Dad helped me pack my stuff into a storage unit here in Louisville, then we returned the truck.

The rental office was in the same building as a dairy, and rows and rows of milk bottles greeted us when we walked in the door. Strange, huh?

I'll be spending about two weeks here in Louisville to visit family, sort and pack the rest of my belongings, and try to buy a car that I can fit my bike inside for the rest of this road trip.

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Well, new to me. It's a 2011 Honda CR-V, and I love it!

After a surprisingly brief search that took a turn for the awesome at the last minute, I abandoned my previous thoughts of a Nissan Xterra after I realized that my bike would not in fact fit in one, but it WOULD fit in a CR-V. What a pleasant surprise!

I think I got a good deal, and it was my first time getting a loan and buying a car, so I'm feeling pretty accomplished right now.

To celebrate, Dad and I went across the street to the Parkette, a diner that was on the Food Network Show, "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" -- I had a cheeseburger and Dad had some monstrosity with bacon and ham on it. Yummy and -- more importantly -- celebratory!

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Louisville's cycling culture is growing, and it's pretty cool to see the plans they have for a 100-mile loop around the whole city! It's not nearly done yet, but my uncle took me on a ride this afternoon and showed me a few classic Louisville sites, including the Belle of Louisville down on the river.

I was just glad to get a ride in! I hadn't been on a bike since my rides in Andalusia!

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For the past several days, I've been doing my taxes, sorting & packing up my things, selling some other things, working, and trying to get a few bike rides in, too!

I'm supposed to be training for Climate Ride, but on April Fool's Day, I caught up with my mom, Grandpa, and one of my aunts for a leisurely ride through Grandpa's neighborhood in the afternoon.

Check out Grandpa's sweet tryke! He rides in style.

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It rained on my first night in Nashville, but my friend took me to a fantastic dinner at Cantina Laredo, where I had the most delicious salad ever, with chicken, mango, sunflower seeds, chard, mixed greens, and a killer dressing. They also made guacamole at the table.

The guy with dreads from DC Talk was at the restaurant, too -- enjoying a birthday party for someone!

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We finished the night at the Patterson House speakeasy.

What an amazing drink menu. Classy place -- with old-school Thomas Edison lightbulbs and bartenders in black vests. Quite slick.

After narrowing down what I liked and didn't like, the bartender made me a citrusy gin-based drink that wasn't even on the menu. It was AWESOME. My friend Jeffrey had a bacon Old Fashioned. That was also awesome.

I've never been to a BAR that seats you. I guess they keep it from getting crowded by doing it that way.

Classy place, y'all!

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So, for the first half of this week, I'm staying with a friend of mine, Jeffrey who's a professional musician. Right now his main gig is traveling with Scotty McCreery as the band manager and guitar / keys / fiddle / cello / harmonica / etc. player. But he does a lot of other cool stuff around town, too.

Jeffrey helps his two friends, Josh Hoge and Ward Guenther, host Whiskey Jam every Monday night at Winner's bar (which is right next door to Loser's, obvs) on Division Street in Midtown. It's an evening of music -- usually six or so different acts -- where the guys open up the show, introduce each group, and close it down with something (usually hilarious) like a reimagined version of Miranda Lambert's song "White Liar" called "White Castle." It's funny. And good.

Jeffrey usually sings backup / harmony for Ward and Josh, and sometimes a few other acts, too, in addition to playing bass, guitar, cello, fiddle, keys, harmonica, or whatever else someone needs. Jeffrey is awesome and can play ALL THE INSTRUMENTS. Not a joke. Tonight he forgot his slide for one song, so he used a beer bottle... and still killed it. He is kind of the man.

There were a lot of great acts tonight -- a couple of dudes from a couple of (different) seasons of American Idol played, and one not-country band who I really loved.

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Like the Allman Brothers song, on Friday morning I truly was:

"Headin down to New Orleans this mornin
leavin outta Nashville Tennessee..."

-- Ramblin' Man

After the morning bike ride, I drove most of the rest of the day to end up at my brother's house in New Orleans, where my parents were already waiting. In a rare occurrence, my entire family was in one place, and we were ready to enjoy the French Quarter Fest and celebrate my brother's birthday over the weekend!

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After a morning run and a tour of Andy's office, my whole family went down to enjoy the French Quarter Festival. We had perfect weather. We heard some jazz, some funk, and some blues, and sampled some of the best food!

I wish you could share videos on Bonjournal -- some of the smaller, "no-name" bands that just played in the street were the best! My dad and I stumbled across a little band with a female clarinet player who was KILLING it! So good.

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For dinner, my whole family met my brother's girlfriend and her parents at Boucherie for dinner, which is down the street from my brother's place.

The menu was really interesting, and everything I sampled was fantastic. They also let us bring our own dessert in, which was cool, because we were celebrating my brother's birthday AND his girlfriend's birthday -- they're one day apart!

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Sunday morning, we went back for more festivaling. We parked a few chairs at the brass bands stage, which was great, but we also caught a piano player down on Bourbon Street who had an amazing band with him, especially the bass player.

The weather was even more perfect today -- some nice cloud cover and breeze, which kept it from being too hot.

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After a breezy morning run in beautifully flat New Orleans, I hit the road again, headed for Austin, Texas.

I-10 between the two cities is eerily flat, and sometimes you feel like the interstate actually sits LOWER than the land (and the water!) on either side of it.

This drive was pretty boring, but it was nice to feel like I was finally making progress in the westerly direction instead of continuing to go south, haha!

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Met up with my freshman-year roommate from college tonight for dinner. We hadn't seen each other in probably eight years! She's in Austin for law school.

We went to Valentina's, a food truck behind Star Bar on 6th Street downtown. It was delicious! The guac was awesome, and the brisket was perfect. I also had some nommy Tex-Mex corn.

Austin is full of food trucks!

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Met up with an Instagram friend at Medici's, on the west side of UT, and we walked through west campus checking out all the neat houses over there.

He's an architecture student, so we talked a lot about the different styles of houses, and even stumbled into a conversation with a women who owns two houses next to each other in this neighborhood that she runs as an inn / B&B.

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Donut? Doughnut? No matter how you spell it, Gourdough's has a donut for everyone.

This is a donut food truck that parks on South Lamar and serves donut concoctions that include fried chicken, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Usually not all at once, though I wouldn't put that past them.

I ordered one with bananas, cream cheese frosting, and brown sugar, and I could only eat half of it before I felt like I was going to die.

You've been warned! (But go get one anyway and share it with someone!)

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This place got good reviews on Yelp and on Google, so I stopped in for dinner. They don't open til 5, and at 10 til 5, there was a line at the door! Always a good sign, haha.

I sat at the community table and ended up chatting with a nice local and some other visitors. I got a few tips for the area and enjoyed a FANTASTIC meal! I got the papusas and the soup of the day. Everything at the table looked delicious, though!

(Again -- no photo. I ate it before I remembered! Like always, sigh.)

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The staff were really kind and helpful, but this place is not wonderful. I wouldn't stay again.

My bathroom had no hot water knob, so you couldn't use the hot water. I'm not sure they wash the blankets between guests (though the sheets are clean). There isn't great lighting outside, so at night it's kind of creepy. Some other issues, too, but yeah.

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Driving into "national park territory" today! Very excited to explore.

On the way over to Utah, I stopped by the 4 Corners monument -- the place where New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah meet. It was kind of unimpressive, haha, but still cool to see, I guess, since I was driving right by it.

The scenery kept getting better as I got closer to Kanab. I think I drove through the Grand Staircase National Escalante park area.

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This is hands-down the only restaurant worth eating at in Kanab, Utah.

Okay wait, let me back up. Maybe not the ONLY one, but definitely the best one. And I say that having only tried three restaurants in this town. I still think it's probably true.

I don't think I've ever ordered fish tacos before, because they've always sounded mildly unappetizing to me, but I had them here, and DAMN they were good! I also had a fantastic tomato-basil soup, and the complimentary bread is made in-house and accompanied by a balsamic dipping sauce that is the shit. For real.

Go here. Eat the food. Then come back the next day. And eat it again.

Note: I took the photo halfway through my meal. But -- progress! :)

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Left my motel early (early!) this morning to get to Zion in time for sunrise. I'd read that one of the nice spots to watch the sun rise in the park was behind the history museum, where you can see the "Watchman" towering over the canyon and the sun shining on the rock faces as it comes up over the ridges on the east side.

There were a couple of other guys with tripods there when I showed up, and about eight or ten other people showed up within a few minutes -- some with tripods and cameras, and some with blankets, just hoping to catch a few pretty colors. The sky was pink behind us, but nothing too spectacular was happening in front of us.

A bit of a bummer, but it was still nice to enjoy the park that early in the morning, when it was quiet and cool. Being there before 7 also meant I got an awesome parking spot (under a tree!) at the visitor's center, where I parked for my hike.

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After parking at the visitor's center, I took the park shuttle up to Weeping Rock, where you can access the trailhead for the Observation Point hike, the one I'd decided to do on my day in Zion.

The hike starts off with a bang -- switchbacks that lead you up the side of the canyon wall, with a view that keeps getting better and better as you go up! In the morning, this entire stretch is in the shade, too, which is nice!

Then there's a flat stretch in the hike, where you walk through a few tighter cave-like spaces and, it seems, switch from hiking up one mountain to hiking up a different one. There are some sunny sections in this part, but since I'd started early, it wasn't too bad.

What I'd call the third "section" of the hike takes you back to the switchbacks -- this time more exposed ones. You start to get glimpses of what you're going to see when you get the top, and it's exciting!

The last stretch is a flattish, sandy walk over to the viewpoint, which is truly immense.

It was a hazy when I did the hike which was a bit of a bummer for photos, but it was still spectacular! I couldn't stop looking at the view. I definitely think I chose the right hike for Zion since I really only had time for one.

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Before leaving Kanab, I got up early to see if the Coral Pink Sand Dunes were pretty at sunrise.

They were.

Although, I almost died of cold. I thought I was prepared, but the wind on the dunes was worse than I predicted -- my hands almost froze right off my arms!

Seeing the dunes glow pink at dawn was really quite nice, though. That would be a cool spot to camp.

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After the dunes, I came back to my hotel in Kanab to have breakfast and finish packing up. Parry's Lodge was a great place to stay -- they used to host lots of celebrities back in "the day," like Frank Sinatra and Ronald Reagan.

Breakfast was okay -- I had a Denver omelet -- but the rooms were really spacious.

I heard from other people that Kanab was kind of a homophobic town, though, which made me feel bad about giving it my business, ha. Next time, I might stay in Springdale, which is basically a few yards outside the entrance to Zion National Park.

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This is a quick leg -- just an hour between these two towns.

I stopped at Lake Powell on the way, just because it was right there. I thought there might be a nice view.

It was a bit umimpressive, but I think that's because the water level is so low right now. It looks like the lake has the potential to be really cool, with all the rocks and natural formations around. I'd like to see it again in the summer to give it another chance. :)

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So, Upper Antelope Canyon is the most famous half of Antelope Canyon. Confusingly, Lower Antelope Canyon is north of Upper, but they name them by elevation, not cardinal direction, ha.

I chose to tour Lower, which has some ladders and a fair bit of scrambling involved. You can get a photographer's pass to tour it, which means you have more time in the canyon (2 hours instead of 1.25), and you don't have to stay with a guide.

MAN I took a lot of photos.

It was truly beautiful. The light was magnificent! I'd love to see it at all different times of day. I'm sure it changes so much.

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After touring Antelope, I checked into my room at Lake Powell Motel, where I got an AMAZING rate because I took his only room that wasn't a full apartment with a kitchen, etc. But it was everything I needed, especially at that price!

I chatted with Jake, the owner, about other things to do in an near Page. Jake grew up in Page, and when I told him I'd toured Lower Antelope, he told me that when he was in school, he and his friends would go there to hang out, goof off, start fires, etc. He said they called it "upper crack" and "lower crack" back then -- haha!

Jake also gave me a few nice recommendations for places to eat in Page, too, which was helpful!

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I knew I'd probably prefer Horseshoe Bend at sunrise, but I wanted to see it at sunset, too, especially since it was so close to Page. A 5-minute drive!

The "hike" from the parking lot to the overlook is really just a sandy, mostly downhill walk.

It was crowded, and there were quite a few folks with tripods and cameras staking out their spots and waiting for the nice light.

The place was literally SWARMED with gnats, though, which was a huge bummer. I kept running around like a crazy person trying to get away from them, haha. I'm sure I looked insane to anyone watching.

I did get a chance to try out the Olloclip my friend gave me when I passed through Nashville!

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I befriended a couple from Salt Lake City in the parking lot at the trailhead, so we ended up doing most of the hike together, which was nice.

This was another slot canyon, which I am starting to really like! They're fun to hike, and often shady, which is nice when it's so hot out! There are also such neat rock formations in theses canyons -- we saw one that looked like an elephant. And the layering of the rock and the patterns -- everything -- it's so cool.

Oh, and we saw a rattlesnake!

OH, and we ran into a couple I had met on my hike to Observation Point in Zion. What are the odds?! It was too funny. They are nice people.

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And what a drive it was.

I drove through three hail storms and a snowstorm. Fact.

Two hailstorms hit before I'd made it more than an hour and a half south of Page. The snowstorm started in northern Coconino National Forest, north of Flagstaff. It was snowing REALLY hard in Flagstaff, though. I stopped to get a few things from a grocery store -- wearing flip flops, mind you, totally unprepared! -- and when I came back to my car after only 10 or 12 minutes, I practically needed a shovel to get the piled-up snow off my windshield! Crazy!

The third hailstorm hit while I was looking for a place to have lunch in Sedona. (More photos in the next entry.)

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I was really only passing through Sedona to see it, because people told me I should, and I can see why! There was snow on the ground from the storm in the northern sections, and man was it pretty. A winter wonderland in late April!

What a unique and beautiful place! I'd love to come back.

EVEN though the third and final hailstorm of the day rained on me here. I forgive you, Sedona.

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You know that movie "3:10 to Yuma"?

Yuma, Arizona, is nothing like that. Haha!

What Yuma is:

hot
flat
windy
hot

I'm stopping in Yuma for a week because a very good friend from middle school lives here (for now). We don't get many opportunities to see each other now, so I thought this would be a good excuse for a nice visit.

I plan to get a lot of work done, and put in a lot of miles on the bike! I need to put my nose to the grindstone since Climate Ride is coming up in three short weeks! Can't believe it!

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Morgan took me to LAB (LA Bouldering) this morning -- it's a climbing gym. My range of emotions within 30 minutes of arriving:

1. Excited to try something new!
2. Crap, this is scary!
3. Crap, this is hard!
4. Okay wait, it's kind of fun!

By the time we'd left, I was thinking it would be fun to do it again.

Sadly, there are no photos of me totally killing it*, but I promise, it happened. My hands are a little sore now, and I have some scrapes I can't account for, but it was actually really fun!

There were some people there who were really good. People put headphones in and just sort of do their own thing. I never thought about it before, but it seems to be a really good full-body workout.


*By "totally killing it," I obviously mean "finishing the beginner climbs on the third try."

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This is a highly touristy, well-manicured, and tightly controlled field of neatly planted flowers on a hillside in Carlsbad, south of Los Angeles.

Honestly, it was underwhelming. The flowers were pretty to look at, of course, but there were no real authentic photo opportunities since they control where you are allowed to go -- and it's not far. There are also condos in the back, and a huge parking lot in the front, so the background in any shot, if it's not all flowers, isn't great.

ESPECIALLY because they charge $12 for admission! And they wouldn't give us a discount even though we arrived an hour before they closed.

Meh, I didn't love it.

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Lesson: The bike trails along the beach in L.A. SUCK.

Reasons:

1. Covered in sand, so you can't go very fast for fear of your wheels sliding out from under you at every turn.

2. Covered with joggers, roller bladers, skateboarders, and toddlers whose parents aren't paying attention, so you can't go very fast for fear of running all of them over.

3. Curved ridiculously for no reason, so you can't go very fast.

Basically, you can't go very fast. I abandoned those "bike trails" pretty quickly and got back on the roads. Also, my Garmin was apparently not charged, so I couldn't track this one. Bummer.

#forearmcuesheets

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When I woke up the day after climbing, I realized how sore I was -- at least everything except my legs is sore. As a runner and cyclist, I know my arms are underutilized, but seriously! Muscles in my arms and all across my back are sore. Climbing really is an awesome full-body workout.

So obviously, I went again today.

I was a little less scared, but it was still difficult. And also still fun!

I started wondering if it would be worth it, in the future, to get a membership to a place like this. It might make sense in the winter; if I end up living somewhere with cold and snowy winters, this would be a fun thing to do indoors that would keep your fitness up a little. When the weather's nice, I think I still prefer to be outside :)

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I should preface this by saying I'm not really a sandwich person. I think they're messy, usually either too dry or too mayonnaise-y, and I don't really eat bread anyway.

This place has delicious sandwiches.

I honestly don't even know what all was on mine, but it was nommy. And the crab chips they have are pretty legit, too. Everything comes in tiny black paper bags, which for some reason I loved.

And they sell water in a cardboard container.

I'd go back.

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I finished work for the day and got ready to go out on the bike this afternoon, only to discover my rear tire was completely flat.

Bummer.

I was planning to take it to a bike shop once I got to San Francisco to get new tires and a tune-up before starting Climate Ride, but I figured this was a good a time as any to do all of that since I had a flat anyway.

So I loaded it into the car and brought it over to Beverly Hills Bike Shop. Conveniently, they were offering a deal on tune-ups, presumably to convince everyone to get their bikes out of winter storage (winter storage? in L.A.? questionable.) and get riding.

I should get it back tomorrow, and I'm planning to go for another L.A. ride on Friday afternoon.

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I went to grab burgers with four Instagram pals tonight. We tried to go to Plan Check, but they had a 45-minute wait, and we were only about 13 minutes away from gnawing off our own arms, so we went down the street to Golden State.

The special they had was the lamb burger, and we all got one -- it was GOOD. I opted for sweet potato wedges as my side, and obviously that was a brilliant idea.

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After burgers, we walked a few more blocks to Neveux for organic ice cream. I had one scoop of hot cinnamon chocolate and one of something mild and creamy that I forget the name of. It was a good mix, though.

The guy behind the counter was hilarious, too. Taylor asked what kind of stuff they had to put in the ice cream (like chocolate chips or sprinkles or whatever), and he goes, "Not a damn thing." Ha!

It was pretty good all by itself!

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The final leg!

I wanted to stop to camp in Big Sur for a night on my way up to San Francisco, but all of the campgrounds I drove by were full. That shouldn't be a surprise -- it's a weekend in mid-May with awesome weather!

It's crazy to think I reached my official destination today, 50 days after I packed up my stuff and left Washington, DC.

That's 12 days of driving, and lots of exploring.

I'm doing a recap of my drive in an Addendum soon -- miles driven, cities slept in, and the cost of my trip in gas.

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Had to share some more photos of the drive up CA-1.

I wasn't really familiar with the Bixby Bridge, but damn if I'm not now! It's beautiful! I'd love to see it in some fog or something :)

It just so happened that I drove up to it right at sunset, so that was handy. It was INCREDIBLY windy on a few of those overlook points, though. Like, shaking my parked car and literally blowing me off my feet. Crazy!

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50 days.

March 22 to May 10.

DC to SF.

12 of those days in the car, driving from one city to the next.

14 cities slept in. (DC, Louisville, Nashville, New Orleans, Austin, Amarillo, Santa Fe, Farmington, Kanab, Page, Phoenix, Yuma, Los Angeles, San Francisco)

4,983 miles driven.

21 gas stations visited.

Over $600 paid in gas.

It was a wonderful experience, and I imagine the only way it could be even more fun would be to have a partner in crime along for the ride. I enjoyed traversing the country by myself, though, and I learned a lot about some parts of the U.S. I'd never been to before.

I might be in for Road Trip Part 2 later this summer, if I don't decide to stay out here on the West Coast! Stay tuned...

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