17 July 2015

2015 Road Trip | Day 21: Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana

My parents and I are hitting the road this summer for a three-week road trip out west. Our main purpose is to deliver furniture and other belongings to my oldest brother, Kevin, who recently moved to Washington for a job. We'll be doing some extra sight-seeing along the way, as well as making stops at other family members' houses. This is the day-by-day record of our 21-day road trip.

Our final drive was a 733-mile one, traveling through Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois, finally bringing ourselves back home to Indiana just before midnight. The only sights we really saw today were the Mississippi River, St. Louis from afar, and a billboard for Uranus Fudge Factory with the horrible slogan of "The best fudge is found in Uranus" (photo is from the Internet, not my own). Since there isn't really much to report for our last day, I'll leave you with some general facts, opinions, and observations from the trip as a whole.


By the Numbers

Number of miles traveled: 6289.1
Number of days: 21
Number of states visited: 16
Number of flat tires: 1
Number of times Bailey peed next to a "No pets in this area" sign: 2

Superlatives

Hotels

Best hotel breakfast: Quality Inn Homestead Park, Billings
Best hotel location: Comfort Inn University, Missoula 
Best hotel pool: Paris, Las Vegas 
Nicest overall hotel: Comfort Suites, Moses Lake
Hotel that most resembled an insane asylum: Comfort Inn & Suites, Seattle 

Restaurants

Best overall restaurant: tie between Brickhouse and Whiskey Cake (both had an outstanding interior and atmosphere; Brickhouse had better food, but Whiskey Cake had better service)
Restaurant that served the least appetizing food: Steelhead Diner (unappealing green oil for bread and fish served whole, head and eyes included)
Best dessert: Madonna Inn Café (we recommend the chocolate cream pie)

Rest areas

Best rest area: Missouri Welcome Center traveling eastbound on I-44
Scariest rest area: somewhere in Arizona (sign next to pet area that read, "Poisonous snakes and insects inhabit this area")
Simplest rest area: various rest areas in Iowa (only dumpsters)

Drives

Most scenic drive: western Montana and Idaho
Most boring drive: desert areas from California to New Mexico 
Best company interstate marketing: Wall Drug
Scariest place to get lost/break down: Wyoming (no cell phone service and no gas stations nor signs of real civilization for miles) 

Observations

Everything west of the Mississippi is historic (e.g. historic routes, historic landmarks, historic districts, historic parks, etc.).

The reflectors on the road go from in-ground to glued on above the ground a few miles after low elevation traveling south down I-5 in Redding, California.


Strangers in Washington are the friendliest (I received three compliments in one day).


One will see more junkyards in a day driving through the Mojave Desert than he/she will see in his/her entire lifetime.

More people were interested in reading/watching updates on our trip than I anticipated, so thank you for following along.

15 July 2015

2015 Road Trip | Day 20: New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma

My parents and I are hitting the road this summer for a three-week road trip out west. Our main purpose is to deliver furniture and other belongings to my oldest brother, Kevin, who recently moved to Washington for a job. We'll be doing some extra sight-seeing along the way, as well as making stops at other family members' houses. This is the day-by-day record of our 21-day road trip.

Seeing as we're losing time as we head into the more eastern time zones, it goes without saying that we are back to struggling to leave on time. We didn't necessarily have a set departure time today, so we weren't technically late. However, we only had ten minutes to spare before the breakfast closed (my dad was actually the only one who made it, but he brought back some food), and we ended up leaving right at check-out time. 

The drive was mundane, as usual it seems. We drove through more desert in New Mexico and through farmland in Texas and through grassy plains in Oklahoma. We made it as far as Oklahoma City today, leaving a long final drive for tomorrow. 

My brother Kevin lived in Oklahoma City for a few months when he was going through air traffic control training, so he recommended Whiskey Cake Kitchen and Bar for our dinner stop. Whiskey Cake had impressive rustic décor, and it even had a few lounge areas with sofas, which I don't think I've ever seen in a restaurant. The bar area had an exposed brick wall with bottles stacked on floor-to-ceiling shelves. It was even equipped with one of those rolling ladders stereotypically seen in libraries. The restaurant itself is "farm to fork" and "garden to glass," meaning they use food from local farms with no preservatives and all their juices are freshly squeezed from locally grown fruit each day. All garnishes, like basil and mint, are grown in a garden right outside the building, too. It was all extremely impressive, and it greatly surpassed the standard required for a recommendation from me.

As I mentioned earlier, tomorrow will be our last day on the road, as we drive the final 733 miles home to Indiana.

2015 Road Trip | Day 19: Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico

My parents and I are hitting the road this summer for a three-week road trip out west. Our main purpose is to deliver furniture and other belongings to my oldest brother, Kevin, who recently moved to Washington for a job. We'll be doing some extra sight-seeing along the way, as well as making stops at other family members' houses. This is the day-by-day record of our 21-day road trip.


We left Las Vegas today without an idea of where we were headed besides "east." Our first stop was the In-N-Out Burger in Las Vegas, one of the top three busiest In-N-Out locations, for one last great burger. This Las Vegas location is also home to one of only two merchandise stores, where you can buy more In-N-Out merchandise than just the typical T-shirts sold at each location. We spent so much money there that we got three free clearance shirts (part of some promotion they were having). All the clearance shirts were the exact same shirt, and they were all size small. So, we ended up three of the exact same shirts: all size small Utah In-N-Out shirts. 

As we headed out on the road again, we quickly came upon Hoover Dam, where we stopped to walk along an observation bridge alongside the highway that parallels the dam. I've been to the Hoover Dam once before in my life when I was much younger, and all I could remember was that it was extremely hot. Nothing has changed. It was a dry 100 degrees as we climbed the stairs to the observation bridge, where we were then greeted with strong winds at the top, causing so much resistance that it was hard for me to walk at a normal speed. We pushed through the heat and the wind, though, and we saw the dam. 

Shortly after crossing by the dam, we entered Arizona, where we saw the first real raindrops in about two weeks. We drove right on through to New Mexico, where eventually stopped for the night in a town called Moriarty, about 40 miles east of Albuquerque. 

13 July 2015

2015 Road Trip | Day 18: Nevada

My parents and I are hitting the road this summer for a three-week road trip out west. Our main purpose is to deliver furniture and other belongings to my oldest brother, Kevin, who recently moved to Washington for a job. We'll be doing some extra sight-seeing along the way, as well as making stops at other family members' houses. This is the day-by-day record of our 21-day road trip.

My mom and I started off the day with a trip to the rooftop pool. Don't let that deceive you, though. Instead of sitting 30 stories atop the city, the pool is on the roof over the lobby and casino, just three stories high. It is still a very nice pool, with a view of the "Eiffel Tower," which the pool partially surrounds. The sun was scorching, radiating beams of more than 100 degrees, so we were only able to last for about an hour and a half before heading back inside.

After we cooled off and changed, we headed for New York, New York to ride the roller coaster there. It was probably the bumpiest steel coaster in existence, leaving us rather sore afterward. Had it been significantly smoother, it would've been a great ride. 

We leave Las Vegas tomorrow, and I'm honestly not sure what we have planned nor where exactly we're headed for our next stop, so I'll be just as surprised as you.

2015 Road Trip | Day 17: California, Nevada

My parents and I are hitting the road this summer for a three-week road trip out west. Our main purpose is to deliver furniture and other belongings to my oldest brother, Kevin, who recently moved to Washington for a job. We'll be doing some extra sight-seeing along the way, as well as making stops at other family members' houses. This is the day-by-day record of our 21-day road trip.


Why anyone would want to leave the happiest city in American beats me, but we had to eventually start the drive home. We left San Luis Obispo in the morning, leaving lunch open for In-N-Out, arguably the best burger place in the world and available only in the western states. After a scrumptious lunch, we headed for Las Vegas.

The drive took us through the Mojave Desert, a barren, dry land that can reach 120 degrees in the summer. This long stretch of heat had me Googling questions like, "Why do people live in the Mojave Desert?" There were a few occasional sights, though, like a vast expanse of windmills, which turned out to be the largest wind farm in the country when it was built, providing energy for more than 600,000 homes. 

We also saw a memorial for actor James Dean, who died in a car accident along the highway (before it was reconstructed to make it safer). The memorial is a stainless steel sculpture around a tree of Heaven, designed by Japanese James Dean fan Seita Ohnishi. As it turns out, James Dean is actually buried in Indiana, so perhaps we'll have to make a visit to his grave as well. 

We kept driving through the Mojave, traveling over the San Andreas Fault Line. We luckily made it through unharmed, but it was an eerie feeling seeing how calm things were in the immediate area of such a dangerous feature in the Earth. Later, we even traveled down the historic Route 66, which I know mainly from the movie "Cars."

Our next stop was the Tehachapi Loop, a spiral railway over a two percent grade, allowing trains to pass over themselves. According to a plaque at the sight of the overlook where we stopped, the Tehachapi Loop is one of the seven wonders of the railroad world. After a little research, I couldn't find an official list, but several train fanatics seem to enjoy making their own lists of the seven wonders. We got to the overlook at a perfect time, as we were able to watch two trains go around the loop, one going up the mountain and the other going down, in a fairly short amount of time. 

After that last stop, we continued on toward Las Vegas. We arrived at a decent hour, giving us plenty of time to explore. We checked in at the Paris hotel, and my dad went to watch the World Series of Poker as my mom and I walked around among the hoards of people (seriously, I think Las Vegas is more packed than New York City). We watched the famous fountain show in front of the Bellagio, this show to the song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." At the time of the show, it was about 9:30 p.m. and 94 degrees. Needless to say, we went back inside the air-conditioned hotel after that.

The Paris hotel is adorned with slightly domed ceilings painted to look like blue skies with wispy clouds. The ground is a fake cobblestone, mimicking the common street style in Paris, France, and lined with fake storefronts designed in traditional Parisian architecture. It's pretty impressive, and it definitely does not feel like a hotel lobby, but I regret to point out the major flaw of incorrect French plastered all over the building. Now, I know my French isn't perfect, but I certainly can recognize incorrect accent marks and words, not to mention the grotesque strategy of putting "le" in front of something to make it seem French. Staying at the Paris hotel is beautiful and fun and an awesome experience, but it might be a little rough for you fellow French speakers. 

11 July 2015

2015 Road Trip | Day 16: California

My parents and I are hitting the road this summer for a three-week road trip out west. Our main purpose is to deliver furniture and other belongings to my oldest brother, Kevin, who recently moved to Washington for a job. We'll be doing some extra sight-seeing along the way, as well as making stops at other family members' houses. This is the day-by-day record of our 21-day road trip.

Today was another relaxing day spent on the beach, this time accompanied by an intricate sandcastle that looked more like a phallic object. We got a lot of sun, seeing as we were out there for several hours, so we finally look more like the tan locals. When we had finally had enough, we shopped around a little bit in some stores along the beach and even watched part of a wedding right at Avila. Since I was filming it, we were secretly hoping something horrible (like a bird pooping on the bride) would happen, but, alas, it went smoothly. 
Dinner tonight was at Old Juan's Cantina, a favorite for our family. They passed the service test, so they escaped negative reviews from me. In fact, I'd actually recommend this place if you're into Mexican food.

We leave California tomorrow for Las Vegas, and we'll finally eat some In-N-Out Burger! Needless to say, I'm definitely looking forward to tomorrow. 

10 July 2015

2015 Road Trip | Day 15: California

My parents and I are hitting the road this summer for a three-week road trip out west. Our main purpose is to deliver furniture and other belongings to my oldest brother, Kevin, who recently moved to Washington for a job. We'll be doing some extra sight-seeing along the way, as well as making stops at other family members' houses. This is the day-by-day record of our 21-day road trip.

After a tough day yesterday, we spent most of our time today at Avila Beach, where the weather was perfect (warm but slightly windy, so you never got too hot nor too cold) and the waves were overwhelmingly tall. 

When we finished our much-needed relaxation time, we met up with some family friends for dinner at The Great American Fish Company in Morro Bay, which is recognized by the towering rock bulging out of the water. Our dinner there topped them all as far as bad service goes, though some of our party who eat there more often said this was a rarity. It took 30 minutes for any alcoholic beverages to arrive, including bottled beers that could be grabbed out of a refrigerator in a total of maybe five seconds, and it was more than a full hour before the soups and salads arrived. Soups, as I overheard, that tasted like they were from a can and mediocre salads that didn't look intricate enough to take an hour to put together. By the time we got our food, our stomachs were growling and our legs were cramping from being seated so long. However, I think the general consensus was that the food tasted delicious (but I still don't think that's any compensation). 

Overall, it was an easy-going day with not much on which to report. Just beware that Melissa the Great Restaurant Critic is on the loose and could be headed to your place of business next.