The Other Way Back: The Ups and the Downs
Editor's Note: This is way overdue, thanks to my laptop battery puffing up and forcing me to hand my baby over to the geniuses at the Apple Store, who have now had it for over a week. I've lost a lot of my train of thoughts about the trip, but I hope this gives you some idea about the trip as a whole. I'm currently at the Apple Store finishing this post up on a demo laptop; hopefully I'll get my baby back at some point and can write something a little better.
2nd Editor's Note: Okay, laptop has been returned to me, but now I've got the much more important task of working on my non-existent resume and finding a job, so here's what I've got, hope you like it!
It's taken me a few days to get to this because I wanted to think about it more. I decided to write this today because I realized that I would never be done thinking about this trip. Not only is it a great memory full of awesome sights but it was over the course of this trip that I had time to think about the change I was making. Much of that thinking wasn't conscious, but there were a few moments of clarity that were interesting. I've also had a few different ideas about how to write this, so instead of doing all of that hard work of deciding on what to do, what you're going to see is a potpourri of the various directions I was thinking about.
First let's start off with some good old fashioned numbers!
On the last leg of the trip we started brainstorming what some of the highlights and lowlights of the trip were. We started by listing top three and bottom three and we came up with a few good categories.
Top 3 Surprises
- Meow Wolf- This wasn't planned at all and the only thing we learned about it before going was a video of people describing how much they couldn't describe the experience. It was easily the highlight of the trip for both of us.
- Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky- Another thing we weren't planning on but we knew we would love when we found it. It was overwhelming and something we could have done 2 or 3 more times in the same day if we had the time.
- Bass Pro Shops at The Pyramid- Loved discovering this through a tourism themed escape room. There were some many interesting facets to the place that we spent way more time there than we ever thought we would.
Top 3 Disappointments
- Kà- Or rather, not seeing Kà on the first night. We're lucky this is the only time we really hit traffic on the whole trip and I reallocated the money we would have spent on this to a better hotel in New Orleans, so all in all it was a win.
- Martin's BBQ in Morgantown, WV- The fact that we changed our plan just to hit this place, only to find it closed when we got there was pretty annoying. We did learn a valuable lesson(even if it was on the second to last day of the trip). Always call places you're planning on visiting. In addition to confirming them being open, you'll also find out relevant information like "We're all booked up"(thanks Holbrook, AZ).
- Holbrook, AZ- We were planning on staying in this town which looked really cool as we drove through, but it was apparently cool enough that it was completely booked up. We were going to see the Petrified forest but instead we pushed through to Pine Top. There is a good chance though, that if we had stayed at Holbrook, we would have made it to Albuquerque much later and we may not have made it to Meow Wolf.
Top 3 Eats(I'm skipping the order because it's too hard to do)
- Corky's BBQ- The pulled pork nachos were absolutely amazing.
- Verti Marte- Our po' boys didn't exactly feel like traditional po' boys to me, but they were darn good.
- Central BBQ- Balson said they were the best ribs he'd ever had and I really enjoyed my brisket.
- Pierogies Plus- It was a very simple, one menu item type of place(although they did have other things on the menu), but their one item was really, really good.
Bottom 3 Eats
- Whataburger- We were both very excited about trying this southern chain, and while I really like their color scheme, their food and their service was very lackluster.
- Raising Cane's- While we actually enjoyed the food quite a lot, it had been hyped enough that it was a little disappointing.
- Pie Town- While I really enjoyed myself with the atmosphere and the idea of it all, the fact is that the pies in Pie Town weren't really anything that special.
How about a word cloud, everyone loves those! This is based on a list of things we ate on the trip.
It wasn't all about eating and seeing individual sights, a lot of this trip was about the drive and the road. Although I didn't make a concerted effort to think on the trip, inevitably I found myself thinking about the transition I was making to my new life on the east coast. Sometimes this was very clear in specific thoughts like on the way from Pittsburgh to Ephrata I realized that I needed to bet back in the habit of checking the weather on a regular basis. Living in Los Angeles you very quickly stop looking at the weather every day because it's always the same. Other times it was much more abstract thoughts about the different types of areas that make up the country and how my new area differs from my old one.
The drive also helped me calm down from the chaos that was my last few weeks in Los Angeles. Properly saying goodbye to everyone and having a good going away party were very important to me and ended up taking up a majority of my time in the last month I was there. Ten days of doing nothing but driving, sight seeing, and sleeping in hotels actually brought a sense of regularity back to my life that I had been sorely missing. That being said, by the end of the trip I was really ready to stay put for a few weeks in one place.
The comparison of the drive out to Los Angeles in 2004 to this drive was always on my mind and I can't decide which I would rather do again. Pre-planning everything like we did in 2004 made for a very stress free trip. We never had to worry about where we were going to stay the night or where the next gas station would be, but we also didn't have the ability to pivot and do something different if we felt like it. On this trip that flexibility was great, but we also spent a lot of time in the car on our phones(just the passenger obviously) looking for the night's lodgings or figuring out what we could do the next day. I can't speak for Balson, but that was very taxing to do every day. It was also hard to be the driver while the passenger was looking up things like that. As the passenger you wanted to narrate the things you were looking up so the driver can feel a part of the process, but I think we all browse faster than we can narrate.
Lastly, thanks to the very hard work of my co-pilot, here is a map of every place we stopped along the way as well as a rough approximation of the route we took.