Monday, June 25, 2012

The Great American Road Trip

One week from today, we fly out of London back to the US.  Though I am leaving behind a city and country I have come to greatly appreciate, and a job that I love, love, love...I can now say I AM SO FREAKIN' EXCITED to leave and start our road trip!!!

It's been a desire of mine for close to a decade to drive across the country, and about this time last year, I mentioned this to Simon when we started talking about 'how' we would make the move.  We initially decided to be practical and find jobs first, but responses from that effort 6 months ago quite literally made it clear that we would have to be Stateside to properly job-seek.  So, we then thought we'd move, land in NC, visit my dad, and take a week or two to quickly get cross country.  Then you get reminded about how about how short life can be (Simon's dad wasn't even 60 when he passed away 7 weeks ago), and we decided-well, really Simon decided (I was always OK with it...) to take a proper amount of time off (2-3 months), and really make this a trip of a lifetime.

So, about this time next week, we land in Charlotte, NC. We'll spend a week with my dad-car shopping-and then go to the beach with him for 4 days.  We'll return, do some laundry, catch up with a few friends, and then on Sunday, July 15 begin what is currently shaping up to be a 6 week drive across the US!  We estimate that we'll arrive in Seattle around August 30, and I.can't.wait.

We'll potter in the South along the coast for over a week, but then once we hit Atlanta, it's on! :)  Nashville, Memphis, Oxford, NOLA, Houston..that's 2 weeks. Two more weeks gets us thru Texas (Houston, Austin, San Antonio), New Mexico (Santa Fe, Albequerque), and Arizona (Grand Canyon, Sedona, Phoenix).  Then we should hit California at San Diego, and begin 2 weeks pottering along the CA Coast.  We'll then spend the last week in Oregon-before finishing off 2 nights at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale (where we got married), then make a last drive to Seattle.

If anyone has any suggested things to see/do/eat/places to stay for under $100 (that hopefully have some "character"), give me a shout-I'd love to know! I'm familiar with everything up to NOLA, and then I've either not been-or it's been soooooo long, that I need a refresher.

Simon is concerned about the heat & humidity of the trip-and up to central CA, it is going to be a challenge for him-er...and a challenge for me. :)  He doesn't deal with heat very well.  So, erm...if anyone has traveled with kids in the heat, I'd love some suggestions as well!  hee hee...

Wish us luck!


  1. That sounds awesome! If you need any Atlanta advice let me know :)

    1. Thanks, Andrea. I lived in the ATL for a few years-but that was 10 years ago!
      Would love to know if Buckhead Diner is still open-and still good. I remember the potato chips with crumbled blue cheese...mmm..

      Also, is Cafe Intermezzo still a decent place to go? Used to go to the one on Peachtree (Midtown-ish), and loved it.

      Would love to go back to both of these places-but only if it's worth a revisit...otherwise, I'm happy to take suggestions!

    2. Buckhead Diner is still there! And they still have the chips, so good! Cafe Intermezzo is still there, but I think it is really run down now, and they are closing but I don't know when. Taqueria del Sol is awesome, and there are several (Decatur, West End, Cheshire Bridge). Iberian Pig in Decatur is SO good. Ecco, Fritti, Sotto Sotto, Wisteria, Floataway Cafe, all so good :)

    3. Oh, that makes me so sad about Intermezzo-it was always one of my favorites. Boo-but thanks for telling me. Guess we'll just have to pick something from your list and give it a try! :)

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  2. There is nothing you can do about the heat in Texas in July, especially Houston. Houston is miserable (hot and humid). I lived in Dallas for 4 years and was always miserable and could not take the heat when we went to Houston and San Antonio. Spend $200-300 prior to your trip and invest in dark window tinting.

    Hit up Acme Oyster House and order the Pecan Cobbler (which comes in a martini glass). Yum! Oh, and you have to have a grenade while in the French Quarter (not sure what the name of the bar is that sells it though!).

    While in San Antonio, you must stay downtown on the Riverwalk (or at least go there). I warn you though, it is going to be VERY HOT (100+ degrees with no breeze at the river level). Drown your sorrows in margaritas and appetizers from Zinc (street level, 207 N Presa St). Zinc's sister restaurant, Boudro's is also an excellent choice for dinner (river level), however, more expensive than Zinc. I suppose while you are in San Antonio, it would only be just if you visited the Alamo, however, you will likely spend hours waiting in line to see not much of anything. I suggest walking to it, looking at it, and then getting your drink and eat on the Riverwalk - that's what San Antonio is all about. Hotels along the riverwalk are going to be out of your budget range, however, consider splurging and staying on the riverwalk (I recommend the Hyatt Regency or Westin).

    Rivercenter Comedy Club in San Antonio is a good option if you are beat and just want to sit down and have someone entertain you for a night. I will warn you that the venue is not that great but the comics are pretty good (and there is a drink minimum but that includes Coke, water, beer, etc).

    Whether outside of Houston or in San Antonio, be sure to eat at Grimaldi's Pizza ( Grimaldi's is a chain, however, is super excellent, so you must eat there! Seriously!

    Also based in Houston is Pappas Restaurants ( While they have restaurants all over Texas, Houston is probably the best place for the different types of restaurants because they are based in Houston. Just pick any restaurant, you will not be disappointed but if you can't choose, eat at Pappasito's Cantina and get the fajitas (to share). It is what they are known for and they are absolutely delish. I miss Pappasito's dearly! If you want to splurge, eat at Pappa's Steakhouse. My mouth is watering. I miss Texas! The food in England sucks!

    As for Austin, I've been many times, however, don't fancy it. I always feel old there (I'm 34). The main party area in Austin is 6th St. This is where most of the live music is, however, you can find live music pretty much anywhere in Austin.

    While in Phoenix, it may be worthwhile to head over to Scottsdale and eat at 5th and Wine. Also, consider taking a hot air balloon ride (search Groupon for deals) or a tour of the desert in dune buggies. I hear that FireSky Resort and Spa in Scottsdale is incredible (but probably out of your $100 budget).

    Another cool area of Scottsdale is this little outdoor mall called Kierland Commons that has a ton of shopping and lots of neat restaurants with huge patios - great for enjoying a glass of wine or a cocktail with an umbrella in it.

    I'd also recommend checking out Diner's, Drive-ins, and Dives website for each city you are in. The show visits some great places that you may be interested in.

    I could go on and on and on but I'm going to cut myself off now...

    Good luck!

    1. Hi Cammie, Thanks for such great suggestions-especially about Phoenix & San Antonio. Diners, Drive Ins & Dives, have started airing in the UK in the past year, and I've already printed out a list of all the restaurant's he's been to on our trip (as well as the Man v Food restaurants). Lord, we're going to gain soooo much weight on this drive!
      Thanks again!

  3. Good luck with your travels; it sounds amazing. If you need any advice on Nashville, please let me know although, being a NC girl, you have probably been here before. I have kept up with your blog from the time you left Seattle. It's been great in my plan and preparation for London.

  4. Wooooooo!!!! That sounds like a blast! I live in Houston and would be happy to chime in with suggestions. You're even welcome to email me privately if that would be helpful. It's funny, when I meet Londoners who live (or have lived) in Houston... they LOVE coming here for the food. Houston is a great food town. The Pappas restaurants are great, but there are so many other wonderful places as well. Goode Company BBQ is a classic. And Tex Mex here is the real deal. I will post more suggestions when I've had a chance to think about it. I'm so excited for you both!

  5. Another thing... a resource I've used quite a bit for my European and Asian travels is Tripadvisor. Their website is really comprehensive, and they also have a great app for both iPhone and iPad. It will be very hot in Houston/Dallas/Austin, but Austin especially is not to be missed!!!!

  6. Here's a fun list that might help inform your Houston food adventures...

    Houston is a very ethnically diverse city, and the food reflects that. Bon Appetit!

    1. Thanks for the comments, Karen; it's funny, but in the past few months, I have started turning to Tripadvisor more & more for info. Thanks also for the foodie link. Making me really sad we've only got one night in Houston!

  7. Wow, sounds amazing. I've always wanted to do that...hope you keep everyone posted on your travels on your blog!

  8. Excellent plans, it sounds like a blast. Lots of time on the California coast is definitely a good idea! :)

  9. That sounds amazing! I want to do that trip too in the future. I have some San Diego tips for you:

    Go to the San Diego Zoo, it isn't exactly cheap but it is really worth it! You can spend a whole day there if you want.

    La Jolla is a good place to spend a day too. La Jolla shores is a great beach to hang out at and avoid the crazy (sometimes drunk) crowds of Mission and pacific beach. The town above the beach is very pretty and has some great buildings. The area is wealthy but it is fun to walk around the shops and see the amazing houses.

    Hodads in Ocean Beach is a staple, there might be a line going out the door but the food is great and they have lots of good beer too. Also in OB: Pizza port.

    Phil's BBQ is amazing and has been on the food network and travel channel.

    Go to Old Town for some mexican food! It doesn't really matter which restaurant you go to, but I like Old Town Mexican cafe. If you go on a tuesday they have great Taco Tuesday specials that include street tacos, margaritas, etc. You can do Taco Tuesday in Pacific beach too. Old Town also has great spanish buildings and you can learn about how San Diego was founded. The Whaley House on the main street is supposedly one of the most haunted houses in America, and is affordable.

    If you are coming into San Diego from Arizona, then stop at one of the Indian Casinos on the way in. Viejas (off the 8 freeway) has gambling, buffets, and an outlet shopping center that is really good.

    As you head up north along the coast, you could stop at the Del Mar Fairgrounds to see some horse racing, or visit one of the cute beach towns like Solana beach, or San Clemente and Dana Point which are right on the other side of the Orange County border.

    Don't forget to stop at an In n Out somewhere along the way, and get some burgers, animal fries, and milkshakes!

    Good luck and have fun!

    1. These are great suggestions, thanks! We will (er..I think...) be coming from Arizona to San Diego-so we'll defo use that tip.

      And also Mexican..The past few days, I've been craving Mexican, BBQ, and Burgers, and I'm determined not to eat those foods here any more, as I'm just *days* away to better & cheaper versions! yum.

  10. When you are in San Antonio you should check out the Alamo Cafe. It is a favorite of my families and they have the BEST tortillas. HEB (their grocery store) also has tortillas which are pretty fantastic too.

    If you are in the Sedona you should also check out the Slide Rock State Park. It is a lot of fun just make sure you bring your bathing suit. Have a great trip!

    1. Thanks, Morgan. We will be in Sedona for a few days. Been there before, but it was really a 'drive thru', so looking forward to spending some time there-I remember it being beautiful.
      And, thanks for the Alamo suggestion!

  11. Houston: Beef Fajitas at Lupe Tortillas

    You'll thank me later.

  12. Thanks for this information about the place. It is very nice place to spend the vacation. for more information cheap hotels in san antonio

  13. My sister and I want to make a similar "trip of a lifetime". We would drive across the country, hit I-90 in Boston and take it all the way into Seattle stopping whenever/wherever we wanted with no plan and just meet people and see things. I think what you and Simon are doing is EXCELLENT! And it's a great way to introduce him to the U.S.
    I'm no fan of the heat myself, it's been in the 90's here in Cleveland for over a week now and I've pretty much just hid in my apartment the whole time. Fortunately for you once you get out of NOLA and into the West, you'll hit dry heat, which I'm sure you know, is much less suffocating than heat with humidity.
    When I was kid, we took a family holiday to Washington DC in the middle of summer, it was about 110 and I passed out on a city bus. My dad had to carry me off, haha! So my mother spent the rest of the time taking extreme measures. Stopping for ice cream any chance we got (I'd say frozen yoghurt these days) keeping ice packs in the cooler and wrapping them around my neck with a towel, getting cool showers as often as possible. Of course keep the AC in the car on full blast, and we'd dunk my head under the sink anywhere we had a bathroom. I remember being in the Smithsonian bathrooms with my mum holding me upside down by my waist cuz I was too small to bend into the sink, I'm sure it was quite a sight. (Is this woman trying to drown her kid?) :) But keeping your head cool helps regulate the rest of your temperature. To this day I still use the sink routine. :)

  14. Hi Kristina,

    I'm in a similar situation, UK expat wanted to return to the US and finding job-hunting very fruitless. What finally pushed you to the realization that you needed to be home to properly find a job?

    1. Hi There,
      The decision was actually pretty easy: responses I received from recruiters I was reaching out to basically said....'yeah..that's us when you're actually *in* the country'


  15. Have an amazing trip! I actually hope to follow in your footsteps next year and do a road trip too - so excited! Although, I think I will miss London, but it will always be here right?!