Road Trip

We’re Here!

We’ve been in Hollywood for three weeks!

I’ve definitely been slacking on keeping our blog updated ever since we arrived.  It’s literally been a whirlwind; so much has changed so fast and we accomplished so much, and we’re still working on settling in.  Here’s a quick recap of our last day on the road and our first few days in California….

Our last stop on the road trip was Las Vegas, which was absolutely incredible.  We were able to snag a room at the Bellagio hotel (the one with the famous fountains!) and from the moment we stepped foot in the lobby we knew it was going to be a spectacular time.  Our room was exquisite and the view of the fountains was a dream. We didn’t even have to leave the Bellagio grounds! We played roulette before dinner and ate on the balcony of Todd English’s Olives, overlooking what else but those fountains!

In the morning, we had coffee and breakfast in the cafe overlooking the pools and took way too many complimentary jelly preserves for the road. We milked our room for all it was worth and checked out right at 11:00 a.m. What an incredible and relaxing end to our journey.

It took under four hours to get to Los Angeles from Vegas. We were tired, yet so energized with the excitement of, “We made it!” And boy, did we need that excitement for our arrival.  As we were rolling into Hollywood at 5:30 p.m., our friends were getting ready for Halloween night, where they shut down Santa Monica Boulevard and tens of thousands of people pour into the streets to celebrate. We drove less than a mile up the street to the costume store on Hollywood Boulevard to find something last-minute and joined the festivities.  Needless to say, we will never forget the fact that we dove head-first into Hollywood from the moment we got here – and we haven’t stopped since!

We stayed with our amazing and gracious friends for about a week and a half until we found an apartment…on the same street as them! We are within walking distance to the grocery store, restaurants, shops, farmer’s markets, the library, Hollywood Boulevard and several parks. Our apartment building is pretty small with only three floors, but boasts a sweet rooftop with a heated jacuzzi.  All in all, we lucked out in many ways, and are very grateful for our experiences thus far.

Right now, Austin and I are both working to find full-time employment. We’ve had a few interviews and will hopefully be able to find one or multiple flexible jobs that allow us to do what we want to do and enjoy living in this area as much as we can.

As the holidays near, we miss our family and friends back home dearly and it’s very strange to not wake up to a snowfall or feel the chill in the heart of a New England autumn descending into winter. Although things are going to be very different this year, we feel blessed for everything we’ve been able to do and for all of the amazing people around as at the moment.

Peace & love.

A&K

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The Majestic, The Breathtaking…The Grand Canyon

On our second to last day on the road, we headed west and then north from Santa Fe to the Grand Canyon. We drove through most of the day and early afternoon, finally embarking on a quiet and winding back road that wove through rural northern Arizona, chasing the sinking sun that slowly melted beyond the dark outlines of the canyons.

At 6:30 p.m., the Mather Campground on the South Rim was already enveloped in darkness, so we set up our tent and fire by lamplight. This time around, there were no gates to be locked; the Grand Canyon is open 24/7/365, with people coming and going at all hours of the day and night.  A minute away from our campsite there was a short road that led to a huge general/grocery store and a trading post shop and cafe.

Our campfire was wildly successful and burned late into the night. We drank wine and beer and made s’mores with peppermint patties for chocolate. Despite the roaring flames from the fire, when we looked up into the sky, there were more stars than we thought ever existed and each one shone brighter than the next. Several carloads of new campers arrived after us, a comforting contrast to the desolate emptiness of Lake Norman campground in North Carolina.

On Sunday morning, we packed up our site early and drove a few minutes toward one of the overlooks to the canyons. The photos simply don’t do the landscape justice, but they give you an idea of just how vast and beautiful the Grand Canyon truly is:

We left the Grand Canyon with a sense of awe, feeling blessed for experiencing something so exceedingly beautiful. When you see a part of the Earth, a part of nature, that literally takes your breath, you feel small yet inspired at the same time: small for being so close to something so vast and immense; inspired to become as beautiful as what you’ve seen.

Our journey continued on.

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Getaway to Santa Fe

While we were still in Texas, we still had no idea where we were staying when we arrived in Santa Fe on Friday, October 28. We had intended to camp but after seeing light snow in the forecast for the desert, we decided to look for a hotel. We hit up Groupon Getaways to see if any Santa Fe hotels were listed and, lo and behold, an amazing deal was found.  The Lodge at Santa Fe was listed as a $112 deal (from $232) for a deluxe suite room and included a bottle of red or white wine, museum passes and restaurant coupons.  Luckily, they had availability for Friday night and we booked it immediately. 

The city of Santa Fe appeared as if a desert mirage. One minute we were driving through the canyon passes, surrounded by boulders, sand and cacti, and the next we were seeing stucco buildings and homes built into the hills as if they were floating above the tree line.

The Lodge was located on a small hill close to the Sangre de Cristo mountains, where the setting sun often shines a brilliant blood-red as it sinks below the mountain line. Our room was comfortable and beautifully decorated with authentic Southwestern decor, and with a bottle of Merlot and some light music on the balcony in the late afternoon sun, we felt right at home.

Before dinner, we drove 2 miles to the Santa Fe Plaza, an area packed with shops, art galleries and restaurants. In a bead & jewelry shop, Ritual Adornments, Austin and I made memento bracelets from wooden and plastic skull beads, each hand carved or painted.

After the Plaza, we went back and ate enormous helpings of Mexican food from the hotel restaurant and, leaving in food comas, walked to our room and fell asleep by 8:30 p.m.

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Arkansas, Dallas, Fort Worth, Amarillo, Santa Fe…Lots of Driving

THE MOST INTERESTING THING IN ARKANSAS - HAY STUCK IN THE WINDSHIELD

Wednesday was our longest driving day yet with a total of 12 hours on the road. This included multiple gas stops in Memphis, West Memphis (which is actually in Arkansas) and dinner in Texarkana (I thought this was a made-up name, but it turns out it’s a real place). Arkansas was very, very rural. Driving past the endless acreage of cattle pastures, corn and cotton fields and undeveloped flat land made us feel very small and very lonely.

SKY STREAK IN TEXAS

We found strange comfort upon entering Texarkana’s highly-developed highway stops, with brand new hotels and chain restaurants.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the local Outback and continued on down Rt. 30 to Dallas, Tx, then on to Fort Worth. We arrived sometime after 11pm and needless to say we were beat. We weren’t sure what to expect upon arriving at Tara’s apartment, which was in this huge, old building, but the place was incredible. It was one of 47 unique loft-style apartments that had been reconstructed in an old Catholic convent. It featured much of the original interior of the building – Tara had a part of the original elevator shaft on one side of the loft near the air duct. Of course, we were so content on relaxing outside of a car on Thursday that we didn’t snap any photos of the building.

DRIVING INTO TEXARKANA

During the late afternoon, we drove 30 minutes into downtown Dallas, picked up some turkey and grilled apple sandwiches at a local market, and on the way back to Fort Worth, stopped at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium to pick up a hat for our friend, Mr. Andy Redfearn.

Later Thursday night, we went to downtown Fort Worth with Tara and her boyfriend Eddie to watch the Rangers/Cardinals game at a local sports bar that had more TVs than employees. The food was great, the fans were loud and we witnessed an epic, albeit, brief, fight between several guys and one seriously angry girl who took a glass beer mug in both hands and smashed it against one guy’s head. We left in the sixth inning, and were glad we did since the Rangers lost and we did not want to be anywhere near those fans at the end of that game.

We crashed on Tara’s couch again to wake up at 3:30 a.m. and begin the drive to Santa Fe.

SUNRISE ON OCTOBER 28, 2011

With the sunrise at our backs and the vast and changing New Mexico landscape that left us speechless, we realized just how close we were to the end of our vacation week, and how close we were to finding our place in the Hollywood firmament.

NEW MEXICO

CLOUD COVER DRIVING INTO SANTA FE

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Camp Night

Yesterday, we headed southwest from Virginia to North Carolina.  We had booked a $20 campsite at Lake Norman State Park, about 40 miles north of Charlotte, and after a solid seven hours of driving, we were ready to make camp.

DRIVING TO NORTH CAROLINA

We headed off I-40 into the long and lonely back roads of Troutman, NC in the direction of Lake Norman.  I thought it was pretty creepy but wanted to make the best of our camp night. We agreed that we we wanted an early night since we were hoping to be on the road by 6:00 a.m. to get an early start on the drive to Tennessee.

When I had booked the reservation last week, I was told that the campground entrance gate closed at 8:00 p.m., so all campers had to be in the park at that time in order to camp the night of their reservation. What they weren’t so clear about was that the entrance is also the exit, which means that at 8 o’clock on the dot, the park ranger literally locks the entrance gate until 8:00 a.m. the next day.  Needless to say, this stifled our morning driving plans. And if I had a heart attack, I’d likely have to wait it out until morning. Nevertheless, we got to our site, bought three bundles of firewood and settled in for the night.

By the time we found our site, it was completely dark, so Austin and I set up the tent with a headlamp and a flashlight.  Then we moved on to starting a camp fire, which turned into a thirty-minute ordeal of blowing on quick-dying embers and getting excited every time a small flame appeared.  We gave up after we realized the wood wasn’t completely dry and the air was so still that it was probably killing any chance of a fire.

Then the real fun started.

We crawled into the tent after combating hundreds of Daddy Long Leg spiders just waiting until our tent flap opened up so they could race inside and torture me.  I even had a minor panic attack after one got in, but thankfully Austin doesn’t have any irrational fears so that fun only lasted a few minutes.

Once we turned off the lantern, I could hear Austin start to breathe deeply, falling into a peaceful sleep.  On the other side, I lay with my eyes wide open, jumping at every sound I heard (which was EVERYTHING).  There was no breeze so the tiniest leaf or acorn falling from the trees landed on the ground with a loud CRACK.  So many things were falling, that it started to sound like footsteps all around the campsite.  At least a dozen times during the night, I was convinced that an axe murderer had crept into our camp and was circling our tent waiting to kill me.

Around 12:45 a.m., we heard loud police or fire sirens, probably a good distance from the park grounds but loud enough to sound like the forest was on fire.  Then the cracking noises of the leaves began to sound like fire, and I thought for sure we were all goners because the park ranger locked us in for the night.  Shortly after the sirens died away, Austin woke up and told me he couldn’t sleep either and then we both heard what we’re almost positive was a speedboat racing back and forth across the lake.

LEAVING CAMP ON TUESDAY MORNING

The restless sleep, coupled with some crazy-ass dreams, left me wide-awake at 7:00 a.m. ready to hit the road.  So we packed up and left the park at quarter after 8, happy to know that a hotel was in our future for tonight.

THE FIRE THAT NEVER WAS

We just arrived in Nashville, the City of Music, and are about to do some exploring and eating. Updates to follow.

Peace & Love.

A&K

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