First Road Trip Cross-Country, USA (Part 1)
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
Hey! Hope you and yours are well out there during this epic, epidemic, pandemic, isolation, self-isolation, self-quarantine, and my all-time favorite billboard… #alonetogether. These are crazy times indeed. This is why I am so glad we can get together right here and enjoy each other’s company (from a very safe distance, of course).
What’s New With Untethered Family
A lot has happened since returning from our 3 month trip to Oregon, Washington, and Canada. We enjoyed spending time in Southern California for a couple of months catching up with mom, friends, and regrouping ourselves before heading out again. We had about 3 plans of action that started happening before Corona stepped in to rear its ugly head to all.
First, we booked tickets to Mexico, where we planned to stay for a while, but after hearing it wasn’t a good time to travel there we canceled. Then we had plane tickets booked for Portugal, but Corona stepped in and Trump announced a travel ban for Europe. Thwarted again, we opted for a road trip across the US to Florida and that is exactly what we did.
***Due to the CoronaVirus all hotel rooms were entered with extreme caution. Door handles were only touched by the use of the bottom of a shirt, gloves, tissue, or paper towel. Anthony entered before the family with a large bottle of spray bleach and rooms were thoroughly bleached and disinfected. All hands were washed before, during, and after physical contact with anything including but not limited to: air, vapors, and pretty much any other living or non-living organism. Most places in America were unoccupied so we had limited social contact but did manage a few lines of small talk here and there, from a megaphone distance apart.
First stop, Flagstaff, AZ for a quick overnighter. We really enjoyed our time there last summer, so we stayed over 1 night, got a quick bite at MartAnne’s Burrito House, and walked around downtown (this was prior to CoronaVirus lockdown).
The best part was taking a ride out to the Meteor Crater the next day. We did not enter the facility but parked off-road before it, where we climbed rocks, made sculptures, collected rocks, with not one person in sight as far as the eye could see.
Another cool stop was the Petrified Forest National Park. This place is an absolute treasure. The kids have always been fascinated by petrified wood and if you have never been to Arizona, I will say, there is just something magical about it. While we could have spent many hours there, we had to get back on the road, but it really is worth checking out if you’ve never been there.
Land of Enchantment, New Mexico
Things at our hotel were fairly busy when we arrived in New Mexico, but we knew it wouldn’t last for long. This is about the time CoronaVirus lockdown started kicking in. Our hotel room here was really nice and the staff was amazing. We were so tired after driving we ate from our cooler and chilled out in our room.
The next day, we drove around Old town and downtown Albuquerque. Everything looked quiet. It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning, but that was when it was apparent things were slowing down.
Howdy from the Lone Star State
Not a whole lot to report here. While it is a historic Route 66 area, I can’t say I would go out of my way to hang out in Amarillo. The most enjoyable part is the Cadillac Ranch off Route 40 out in the cow pasture. It is totally free to visit, and there are used spray paint cans everywhere, so feel free to pick one up and add your own masterpiece to these cars. The cars have been painted over so many times, they are squishy to the touch. Things get dirty in Amarillo, so wear your dirt-stomping shoes over to this exhibit, ya’ll.
Leaving our mark on the Cadillac Ranch
In Austin, everything went into full-on shut-down mode. It was take-out only for businesses that opted to stay open. Our plan was to visit family in Austin and Houston, before making our way to Florida.
Anthony’s uncle owns Jersey Giant Pizza, so we were on our way to have dinner and get a tour of the restaurant. Upon our arrival, he informed us, they were only doing deliveries and take-out. Even though things were on lockdown, our time in Austing visiting Anthony’s Aunt and Uncle was amazing. They were so hospitable and enjoyed seeing us and the kids so much. We got to nosh on some great pizza and learn some Texas slang-do what? (Shout-out to Uncle Paul). The kids got to work in the back cooking their pizzas after closing, and we got to tour Uncle Paul’s Dog Park and Food Truck lot.
After a long day of driving, time zone change, and hanging with family, we all passed out. We had a nice breakfast in the morning before heading to Houston to visit family, including Anthony’s 95-year-old grandma who we hadn’t seen in about 5 years.
We met up with Aunt Dee and her kids in a really beautiful park and nature center in Houston. Armed with Purell, wipes, disposable gloves, masks, and spray bleach, we bobbed and weaved our way around the park enjoying the fresh air. There were water snakes, herons, egrets, turtles, frogs, and so many cool living creatures. Aunt Dee brought the kids lunch and made smoothies for us, warning us we needed to save our appetite for Grandma’s feast. You know we were excited!
Once the kids were exhausted and thoroughly exercised, we made our way to Grandma’s place where she had been preparing all week for our overnight visit.
**Please note: we thoroughly decontaminated ourselves prior to entering Grandma’s place as well as followed the decontamination protocol upon entering her place, during our stay, and upon exiting.**
You may carry-on reading about dinner if you don’t salivate yourself into a frenzy first. She had a tray of macaroni ready (that’s the homemade sauce and pasta for all you non-Italians out there), a tray of sausage and peppers, a tray of baked zucchini, olive salad (mama mia), a homemade cheesecake, and homemade biscotti. We died and went to heaven.
We hung out and talked with grandma until after 11 pm. She loved hanging out with the kids, who learn a lot about family, history, art, religion, and so many interesting things about grandma.
If this wasn’t enough, she prepared us a beautiful feast in the morning, with fresh pancakes, eggs, coffee, and everything we needed to get us fueled for the road. She is one of the most fascinating people you will meet and quick as a whip.
After saying our last ‘until we meet again,' we had one more final Italian style arrivederci with Aunt Dee who came to see us off. It was such a wonderful couple of days. Let The Good Times Roll
New Orleans, LA
It was early evening when we arrived in New Orleans. All restaurants that participated moved to take-out only. Our hotel was virtually empty. The last of a group of face painters were leaving from a convention that had taken place earlier.
We drove to the French Quarter and found a lot of police walking around, a sprinkling of tourists, and some of the local residents sitting on their stoops with friends drinking wine and chatting.
The Big Easy
The troops were getting hungry so we ordered take-out po’boys and gumbo from Nola’s, on Bourbon Street. A cute little cafe in what I thought was a nice area of the French Quarter. There was one other customer taking out their order when we went in. All was eerily quiet. We walked and took photos in the middle of the street, as cars and people were so minimal. Some store owners were hanging out in front of their businesses and would wave as we walked by.
After grabbing our takeout and snapping a few photos, we headed back to our room to eat dinner and leave early the next morning. During better times, I would like to return here.
This was the part of our Eastbound trip the kids were so excited about. We booked a night of “glamping” at a goat farm in Tallahassee. This place was awesome. We had our own tent complete with beds, a rug, and a nightstand with a lantern, and lights.
Glamping With Our Furry Friends
The farm had a herd of goats and about 15 or 20 kids (one was only 2 days old). Guests were welcome to hold, pet, and play with any of the goats, who were also trained in the art of goat yoga. Additionally, there were chickens, roosters, a peacock, cats, and a giant pig.
There was a nearby lake you could easily hike to and use a community kayak. The bathhouse had a big stainless shower and breakfast included eggs from the chickens and homemade biscuits.
We grilled and sat by the fire the night we were there. It was such a different experience. Everyone enjoyed it very much.
Clearwater & Palm Harbor, FL
Anthony’s dad was snowbirding in Florida, so our timing was perfect. We made a visit to his place there, which for so many years he has wanted to show us. It was a nice visit to hang out together.
The next day we walked alongside the closed-down beach and longed to touch the sugar-colored sand, in all its flour-sifted texture wishing we could give it the love it needed.
Our place for the next leg of our trip was up North in Kissimmee. Our resort had so much to offer, but alas, everything was closed for Corona (pool, playground, community room with billiards, air hockey, and, of course, the splash pad). The gated community was a great place to get walks in for regular exercise at least. It was fairly empty, but you did see the same familiar faces, crossing paths on their walks.
The large lake in the community was home to herons, egrets, a 4-foot alligator, snapping turtles, red-eared turtles, and fish. There was a multitude of house geckos and anoles running wild everywhere. Every morning the male and female cardinals chased each other and the Star Jasmine was draped on trellises throughout. We enjoyed researching and studying different species.
The nature here is amazing. Vallen may have gotten a little too up close and personal with nature, though. He woke up one morning with a swollen foot and bites on his ankle. Apparently, he decided to stand on a red ant hill and the ants won. He babied his “fat foot” as he called it, making all of us laugh hysterically every time he said it. After a couple of days, he was good to go again.
On The Road Again
Before we booked a long-term place in Florida, the governor issued a 2-week ban on vacation rentals. So we decided to temporarily relocate to Tennessee until the ban is lifted. Anthony has always wanted to visit Tennessee and the timing couldn’t be better. Plus, there is an abundance of hiking, waterfalls, and national and state parks to go blow off steam and you can’t catch Corona from trees, thank goodness! Be safe and please stop hoarding all the toilet paper and save a roll for the rest of us!
By the way, no need to leave so soon. Check out what lies ahead on my second article leading up to our next journey, Road Trip Cross-Country (Part 2).