Wrapping Up the Last Eight Months

We ended up on the road for eight months, almost exactly (we were technically without a permanent home for eight months and ten days), leaving for Jamaica on Wednesday, May 10 and moving into our new apartment in San Diego on Wednesday, January 10.  We went to 6 countries, visited or drove through 38 states (not visited on this trip: Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Louisiana), and drove (in the US, not counting the mileage we drove in Mexico), and drove 17, 538.9 miles (!!!!).  We swam in cenotes, saw Field of Dreams and Mt. Rushmore, went surfing in the Pacific, and hiked a volcano.  We had, aside from the very beginning and the very end, great weather.  I don't know that it changed my perspective on anything - I've always been a homebody, and I still am - but I'm so thankful that we had the opportunity to do this and that we did.  I'm thankful that Adam was able to find a job seamlessly, in a city that we want to live in (it's January and the temperature has been averaging around 75 degrees).  I'm not sure what the future holds from here, but I know that I have a partner in life who I'm excited to go through life with, and who will pick me up when I need it.

I'm excited to be settled in one place and to have a home.  I'm excited to have our bed and our pillows and our pots and pans.  I'm excited for the monotony of every day life, of having a job and a routine.  While running errands may eventually get old, it's been pretty nice for now.  And I'm excited to look back at this time fondly, and to tell stories to our future kids one day about how mom and dad weren't always so boring and un-exciting.

As for the future of this blog, I'll probably try and keep it up for any trips that we take - we're hoping to get to the Grand Canyon and/or Death Valley (the National Park in California, not one of the greatest places on Earth in Clemson, South Carolina) this year.

Thanks for reading!

Road Trip Part 14: Nashville, St. Louis, NJ and Wrapping up the Road Trip and Returning to San Diego

We got to Nashville on Monday night, checked into our Airbnb (it was AMAZING, the best one we stayed at over our 8 months of travel), and went to dinner at Butcher & Bee, a restaurant near our Airbnb in East Nashville.  The weather wasn't looking so great for our time in Nashville, and we were drained after months of travel, so we made the conscious decision to not push ourselves too much.  If we wanted to be lazy, we were going to be.  The only thing we made sure we were going to do was eat some Nashville Hot Chicken!

So, on Tuesday morning, that's what we did.  It was rainy and cold and overcast, but I dragged us out of bed and headed to Prince's for 10:45am - they open at 11:00am, but the reviews all say to get there by 10:50am.  We were second in line, and the line started growing more and more.  At 11:00am, they had not come to the door to tell us to enter yet, and some stupid people behind us declared they were going to just walk in since the people in the front of the line weren't.  They were quickly put in their place by the first person and others, saying, sure, try that, they'll kick you out and put you at the back of the line.  We finally got in and ordered around 11:05am, and we decided to get one Hot and one XXX Hot, the hottest they have.  The issue was, we got them and had no idea which was which, and couldn't tell even by taste.  But whatever, it was GOOD.

Nashville Hot Chicken

Prince's - an institution in Nashville

We spent the rest of the day driving around Nashville and checking out the city, and we really liked it.  We watched some TV and videos, namely Binging With Babish and he made pasta, which then made me want pasta for dinner.  So after a quick Google search, we settled on Pastaria, sat at the chef bar, and enjoyed some pretty good pasta.  Again, it's cold and rainy, so we went back and hoped for better weather for Wednesday.

And it was a bit better on Wednesday.  We didn't get an early start, but it was tolerable by the time we left.  We went to lunch, wandered around some neighborhoods, and went to a coffee shop to just relax for a few hours.  But AFTER the coffee shop, we decided to go to Broadway, the touristy part of town, to check out some honky tonk bars.  And wouldn't you know it, but we found the perfect area for the two of us.  I'm not much of a drinker, but I love country music, and Adam's not much for country music, but he likes bars.  And on Broadway (it's just a few blocks long), there are tons of bars, all with live music all day long.  And man oh man, are these people TALENTED.  As someone who isn't musically inclined, I can't fathom having that kind of talent.  Austin is considered the live music capital of the world, but for my money, Nashville blew Austin out of the water.  EVERY BAR.  We stopped at about five or so, and they were all great - the best was probably this band at Mellow Mushroom - yes, the restaurant.  We didn't stay out too late, but we had a great time and can't wait to go back.

Nudie's Honky Tonk Bar

Nashville at Christmas


After a quick two days in Nashville, we set out on Thursday for St. Louis for a few days with Adam's grandparents.  But on our way, we had to stop at Pappy's Smokehouse, a famous barbecue restaurant known for their ribs.  We always talk about going there when we're in town, but hadn't gotten there yet and were dying to.  And again, it was worth it.  These ribs were GREAT.  Melt in your mouth delicious.

Pappy's Smokehouse

Probably the best ribs I've ever had.

After lunch, we went to Buko and Nancy's and settled in for a couple of low key days.  We cooked a few meals, visited with family, saw my cousin Kristin and her family, and just hung out.  It was nice to know that we were in the home stretch of our trip, with just visits to Iowa and NJ left. 

We headed up to Iowa on Sunday morning/afternoon, where we had an incredibly low key week consisting of baking cookies, cooking dinners, and Christmas shopping.  We stayed in Iowa for about 10 days, getting to spend time with Mark & Denise, Aunt Julie, Elise & Michael, Ann, and Julie.  It was great to relax and unwind for a few days before the holidays.

Adam's chocolate chocolate chip cookies with sea salt and pepitas.  I'm not a chocolate person, and these were GREAT.

We knew we had a couple of more days of driving in front of us, and we knew we were going to make a point to stop in Kentucky and West Virginia to cross those states off the list, but there were no set points or reservations.  We left Iowa on Tuesday the 19th, drove for a quite awhile, stopping in Indiana for lunch AND to get the stupid Sugar Cream Pie that we'd been on a quest for over the last 3.5 months (spoiler: it was SWEET and not really either of our favorites).

Iowa sunrise as we left.

Sugar Cream Pie.

We got to Frankfort, KY and bourbon country around 3:45pm, and we stopped at Buffalo Trace Distillery for a tour and a taste, and it was really interesting.  They make, I think, 21 different brands there, including Pappy Van Winkle, and it's the longest continuously operating distillery in the country (they stayed open during Prohibition due to a medical clause).

Bourbon Trace Distillery

Just some of what they carry.

West Virginia was a disaster.  We decided to try and get pepperoni rolls, the state food, and struggled finding them.  I found a place near where we were going to try and stop, we struggled finding it, and when we finally did, it was much nicer than we were expecting and did not have pepperoni rolls.  So we had a pretty good dinner, but no pepperoni rolls.  Then, when we headed to the hotel, I followed Google, which put me on the interstate approach ramp and really believed that the entrance was on this road.  It wasn't, we got onto the interstate, and the next exit was 7 miles away, so 15-20 minutes of looping later, we finally got to our hotel.  The night was fine, and we headed out for the last leg of the journey in the morning.

We got to NJ by 4:45pm - we made great time!  We had a nice evening catching up with my parents, knowing that the next 10 days was going to be pretty nutty.  I was able to head into the city the next day - I desperately needed a haircut! - and then met up with my former co-workers and friends for dinner at, of course, FIG & OLIVE.  It was so good to see Dalina, Wanda, and Barbara, and to catch up, and I'm so thankful that these ladies are in my life!

The next two days consisted of seeing family and running around getting ready for Christmas Eve, which my parents always host.  We had such a nice holiday, and I was particularly happy that I finally got to meet Luna, my newest cousin-pup - she's so cute!  Christmas Day was the first day that we had to just hang out and keep low-key, and it was great.  Adam and I took care of dinner, making the same pork shoulder that we made for Thanksgiving, and it came out really well, particularly when pairing it with a celery and apple salad that Adam made.


And then the deep freeze started.  I think it truly started the day after Christmas (or maybe the day after that), but WOW was it cold.  And somehow, I was so grateful that we weren't in Iowa for Christmas this year, as they were about 20 degrees colder than we were in NJ.  Adam and I talked often about how we were going to miss cold and rainy days when we're in San Diego, but this weather made that thought go away.  It was awful.  We stayed in for New Years Eve, playing Cards Against Humanity and watching the ball drop with my parents and family friends - the last two years, NYE has consisted of watching Clemson victories in the College Football Playoff.  This year, the game was on New Years Day night and the result was not nearly as good.  But hey, it was a rebuilding year.  Adam finally made it into the city on January 2 and got to see some friends before we moved.

Adam had gotten his stuff in order pretty quickly, but I had to spend two full days just going through stuff at my parents' house.  Despite living in Brooklyn, I always kept a lot of stuff in NJ just because, well, I could, and space in NYC is always at a premium.  With my mom's help, we got it done, and had everything ready to go for the movers on January 3.  We got an email on January 2 saying that they'd be there between 9:00-11:00am, and we tossed around the idea of leaving on January 3 due to the impending storm that was scheduled to hit early on January 4 (our original day we wanted to leave).  Amazingly, the movers got there at 8:50am and were gone before 11:00am.  We had a really nice lunch with my parents, and, after a quick discussion (in the words of my dad: "You know I love having you guys here and you're always welcome, but you need to leave today, even if it's just a few hours of driving you do."), we were on the road by 2:00pm, headed for our new home in California.

We got just past Wheeling, WV, stopping for the night at 8:00pm. We could've gone a bit further, but decided to not push it too much.  Thursday and Friday were long days of driving - almost 900 miles on Thursday, and about 820 on Friday.  I did get to cross off two more states, though - we stopped in Kansas City on Thursday for dinner, and stayed the night in Emporia, KS, and then on Friday, we stopped for lunch in the panhandle town of Guymon, OK.  Friday night, we stopped in Gallup, NM, a town off of Route 66, and had dinner at a New Mexico diner, leaving ourselves about 9.5 hours of driving for Saturday in order to get to San Diego.  We did stop for lunch at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, a pizza place that is supposed to have some of the best pizza in the US.  It was very, very good, but it seemed just as good as Neapolitan pizza I've had in NYC.

Burnt ends and brisket from Q39 in Kansas City

Lunch at The Pub on the Bricks in Guymon, OK.  Seriously good tater tots and okra.

Oklahoma! being performed at a local theater in Oklahoma.

Sopapillas at Jerry's Cafe in Gallup, NM

Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.

Lunch our first day in San Diego - Crack Shack!

We booked an Airbnb for four nights, hoping that we'd find a place by the end of that, although the place was not booked for the two days after our check-out, so I left us options.  We got there around 6:00pm, settling in for a few days of apartment hunting.  Thankfully, we were able to find a great place in our price range and in the neighborhood we wanted, and were able to move in on Wednesday, January 10 - exactly 8 months after we set out for Jamaica.  And in our new, empty, apartment, we also got engaged.  It was perfect.

Road Trip Part 13: Florida

After an easy drive to Florida, I got to Aunt Carole & Uncle Pete's house around 3:45pm.  While there were excited to see me, Noah, their AWESOME golden retriever, was VERY excited to see me.  He must know I'm related to my dad!  I had a pretty relaxing, easy couple of days there - did some laundry, ran some errands, etc.  My Uncle Joe lives about 10 minutes from them, so on Tuesday, I went to see him, his wife Grace, and my cousins Joe & Anthony.  My cousin Joe is 13 and has gotten interested in cooking, so he was my sous chef while I cooked dinner there - we made cod & snapper, grilled some beets and broccoli, made our amazing cauliflower fried rice, and individual berry shortcakes for dessert.  It was a really nice evening, and I'm so glad I got to see them.

Aunt Carole was amazing and drove down to West Palm Beach Airport with me to pick up Adam at midnight (it was nice to have an hour in the car to catch up with Aunt Carole, anyways).  Thankfully his flight got in without an issue, but we hit pouring rain on our drive to the airport.  We got back around 1:00am and promptly fell asleep!

After a nice breakfast, we left Port St. Lucie for a quick drive to Miami to see another friend of mine from college, James.  We decided to stop in South Beach on our way into town to cross that off the list, and we had a late lunch - Adam got a cubano and mojito, crossing off cubano on his list of things he had to do in Miami.

Cubano in Miami. Good but I've had better in New York

Mojito in Miami

Quick note about Miami:  After spending almost 4 months and 15,000 miles driving around the USA, I can confidently say the worst drivers and pedestrians in the USA, WITHOUT A DOUBT, are in Miami.  Examples include a man with a red light just deciding to make a left turn and a pedestrian just walking RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME WHEN I HAD A GREEN LIGHT, and not caring at all that he was in the wrong.  And stuff like this happened the entire time we were there. (Editor's note: we sat outside for lunch one day near a four way stop intersection. Watching Miamians trying to negotiate this space would have been funny if it weren't scary)

We got to James' house around 5:45pm (traffic was NOT good), and Adam had another phone interview at 6:00pm, so James and I were able to catch up while Adam was on his call.  Continuing with our streak of staying with people with pets, James has a cat named Kitty since she was a stray and he didn't plan on keeping her - so he refused to give her a name.  Two and a half years later, she's still Kitty :).  Kitty was a bit shy, but definitely one of the nicer and more curious cats we've encountered over the past few months.  Anyways, James recommended this great tapas place for dinner, Sugarcane, and the three of us had a great evening - the brussels sprouts there were some of the best I've ever had (and we eat a lot of brussels sprouts!).

Since we only had one full day in Miami, we needed to make it count!  We left James' place around 9:30am or so and went first to Calle Ocho -- the heart of the Cuban district.  We were going to find a coffee shop and have some Cuban coffee (more on this later), but we ended up just driving down the street and right into Brickell, where there's a new, outdoor mall that is gorgeous.  GORGEOUS.  Also in there was a high-end, Mexico-based movie theater called CMX - it's similar to an Alamo Drafthouse, but nicer.  We spent an hour or so wandering around, checking it out, before we decided we were really hungry and went to a pizza place near where we had parked - it had looked great when we walked by it earlier and had awesome reviews.

View from Brickell Center

Mister O1 was AMAZING.  They have star pizzas, which is a description of what the pizza looks like after they cut the crust, put ricotta and a slice of salami in, and fold it.  IT WAS SO GOOD!  We actually split a pizza and a Greek salad, and looking around, we were the only ones to do that - almost everyone else, in appearance obsessed Miami, got one pizza per person.  If you're ever in Miami, I would suggest going there.  Really really excellent.

Star Luca pizza, with spicy salami, san marzano tomato sauce, mozarella cheese, and ricotta cheese. 
Also pictured and delicious, but not nearly as important: Greek Salad

After lunch, we headed to Wynwood, a neighborhood which is supposed to be the "Brooklyn of Miami."  Our first stop was Fireman Derek's World Famous Pies for what is supposed to be the best key lime pie in Miami - and it probably was.  Steve's Key Lime in Red Hook, Brooklyn is still my favorite, but this was a close second.

Key lime pie.  They also had tons of other pies and cakes, including a cookie dough pie.

After pie, we decided to walk around the neighborhood for a bit, stumbling across this Art by God Museum Store.  Adam LOVED this place.  It had taxidermied animals, dinosaur bones, rocks, etc.  He was like a kid in a candy store.  When I finally dragged him out of there, we drove a bit further into Wynwood and checked out the Wynwood Walls.  They were getting ready for Art Basel, an international art fair held annually in Miami.

Adam had a lot of fun here!

Dinosaur bones

The Wynwood Walls were so cool.  They're huge, colorful street graffiti, and it's awesome.  We got to see artists working on their craft - people are so talented.  I got so sleepy after the pie; I sat down in a chair while Adam wandered around and fell asleep.  At this point, I just wanted coffee, so we settled into Panther, a local coffee shop, relaxed a little, and then headed back out to wander around and explore the Walls.  It's hard to emphasize how cool and exciting the art was here; Adam may have stayed all day but we had more things to do.

Before ending our day in the city though, we saw the Miami Mojito Company right across the street from our parking spot. It was a unique space fitting for the neighborhood: practically jungle-like in the front with plants, a giant gorilla statue, a tiki-like mojito bar on street level and a burger bar on the roof. We stopped in there so Adam could get a mojito before we went back to James' house (I was driving) where he got the pineapple mojito, and confirmed it was really good.

I was sleepy...

Wynwood Walls. They were still building this jungle cat / helicopter  and car bumper installation when we left.

Wynwood Walls

Pineapple Mojito

Miami Mojito Company

When we got in on Wednesday, James said his mom was having people over Thursday night and wanted to know if we wanted to stop by.  He said this hesitantly, saying we didn't need to stay long, I guess forgetting the fact that he has the BEST parents and OF COURSE I wanted to see them (ended up just being his mom, his dad was still in the Carolinas visiting James' brother since it was right after Thanksgiving).  So on Thursday night, we headed to James' parents' house and had a great time catching up with Susan and meeting her friends, who were just as fabulous as her - I'm so glad Adam was able to meet her!

Adam, me, and James

Me with Susan and her friends.

We had another long day of driving ahead of us on Friday - this time we were headed to Tallahassee to see the Clapps!  Before we headed out of town, we stopped at Mojito Grill (another recommendation of James' that ended up being spot on) for a breakfast sandwich and a Cuban coffee on our way.  Cuban coffee was not my cup of tea (ha!) - it was incredibly sweet. The little cup was just a few swallows, and we didn't even finish it before deciding to stop at Starbucks on our way out of town.  The breakfast sandwich and the croquetta, however, were great, and we drove to Tallahassee with full bellies.

Breakfast before our drive to Tallahassee

We planned on taking our time getting to Tallahassee so that we didn't get there too early in the day while Sus and Chris were both still working, and yet we still got there by 5:00pm.  It was so good to see them - and more importantly, to meet Boomer, their awesome golden retriever!  We got to hang out for a couple of hours, catching up, before heading out to dinner at Kool Beanz Cafe, which was very tasty.  I should mention that before we went to dinner, Adam got his phone call with a job offer from the company in San Diego that he had been interviewing with - which was exciting, but also made us a bit preoccupied for the next few days.

After dinner, we went to the Maclay Gardens for their Camellia Christmas celebration.  It was beautiful and festive, with caroling and decorations.  Sadly, no pictures from that day, but we did head back to the Gardens on Sunday for a full moon kayak evening.

Saturday was pretty low key, hanging out, getting some lunch, and getting ready for the ACC Championship game that night - Clemson vs. Miami, in Charlotte.  Chris made some awesome tacos for dinner, and we watched Clemson demolish the Hurricanes and earn their place in the College Football Playoff for the third straight year (we don't need to discuss the subsequent game that was played on New Years Day)!

Sus & Boom watching the Tigers play!

Snuggle time with Boomer!

After watching the Playoff announcement on Sunday, we went for a tour of their property - this is particularly cool because they live on a cove, but they haven't gotten much rain since August and everything is dried up, which meant that the five of us (Chris, Sus, me, Adam, and Boomer) got to walk through all the areas where they could normally kayak.  Chris found a turtle shell, which Adam thought was so neat and took, hoping to plant something in it when we finally settled somewhere in January.

This is usually filled with water.

Beautiful day in Tallahassee!

Sus found this cool full moon kayak tour for Sunday night, and I agreed to go.  I say agreed to go because while Adam and I don't normally fight, we have fought every time we try and kayak or canoe together.  This turned out to be a bit better because, 1, we all had individual kayaks (Chris and Sus were gracious enough to let us use theirs since they were easier to maneuver).  We decided to buddy up as Mel & Sus and Adam & Chris, and this was probably what made the trip easier.  Regardless, it ended up being a lot of fun and really pretty, although it took the moon much longer to rise than the guides were planning on.


Me getting ready to head out!

Sunset time


After a great weekend in Tally, we headed up to Nashville for the last "new" place to check out on our trip.  But before we got there, we had two stops to make:

Waffle House!  Adam had never been to one and really wanted to try one, so we stopped at one in Tallahassee on our way out of town.  This was the cleanest, most spotless, best service Waffle House I've ever been to.  SPOTLESS.  I feel like Adam may not have gotten the full Waffle House experience, but it was pretty damn good.  Adam got the pecan waffle, and I got a hashbrown bowl.  Seriously, best Waffle House meal I've ever had.

Waffle House time!

Saw's Soul Kitchen, AGAIN.  It was a bit out of the way, but it was so damn good the first time that we added an extra 15 minutes or so onto our trip to have those wings again.  And it was worth every minute.

Lunch in Birmingham.

If you're ever near Birmingham, AL, head here.