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.

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