The warm rays of the sun draw me back. Into a place of peace, excitement, joy, abandon. I close my eyes and try to remember. The feeling of leaving. The feeling of going. To leave the cares and the constant. The constant flow of thoughts and to do lists. I am sitting here, back home in Tennessee, with the gentle breeze softly dancing across my bare skin as I sit under the hot sun. I cannot help but want to go. The stirring which I thought had stilled remains. Always the temptation. Always the dream. Of places yet traveled. Of places so little explored. My list keeps growing. The more I see, the more I want to see and explore and soak in. I want to feel the sun’s rays from a million different places. To smell. To taste. To listen to the world and understand its differences.
My heart seems easily wooed these days. One city after another captures it, if only in that moment. For mine is a fickle heart. Or maybe my love is not really love. Only infatuation. Only a crush. The thrill of the moment.
LA won my heart. So much so, I was ready to pack my bags and leave my life here in Tennessee behind and start a new. To find a new home. To make a new life for myself. But for now, I am here. Learning a lesson in choosing contentment. Sitting under the blue skies of Tennessee dreaming of our drive across the country and through the southwest. A drive to move my little sister out west. To her new home.
Our Route: Dayton, TN to Los Angeles, CA
Summers are not really the best time of year to take road trips through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California, but that is exactly what we did. Being the shortest route, there wasn’t much debate. We didn’t want to spend all day driving. We wanted time to see and do and explore. We didn’t want to feel rushed.
Day 1: Dayton to Memphis
We hit the road late in the day. Of course. We knew that we weren’t going to make it very far that day, so we didn’t feel pressure to head out early. First pit stop, Nashville. Dinner and conversation with my aunt. Followed by the first of many latte stops. Steadfast Coffee turned out to be one of the best stops during our trip. Not because of the delicious lattes, but more for the conversation had. We left happy and high, with a list of coffee shops to hit down the road and people to connect with in LA.
Day 2: Memphis to Stillwater, OK
So, our plan. Stop by 8pm each night and hit the road by 10am the next morning. Don’t think we ever really accomplished that, but we tried.
Memphis surpassed our expectations. The customer service and hospitality at the Double Tree in downtown was wonderful. Sincere service. And conveniently located, just minutes from the river walk which was perfect for a pre-drive exercise.
But, we couldn’t leave Memphis without two things: coffee and BBQ. First stop, City & State for lattes and some shopping. Then to Central BBQ for a brunch made of a BBQ sandwich, BBQ nachos, and ginger beer.
Pit stop: Little Rock, AK…we weren’t fans. Please, tell me what we missed and what we should have explored. We did take the time to walk across the pedestrian bridge and run the steps to get our blood going.
Final destination: It is amazing how quickly a day can pass. We only made it to a small town outside of Oklahoma City and late at night at that.
Day 3: Stillwater, OK to Santa Fe, New Mexico
Albuquerque was on route. However, we were so close to Santa Fe, we all thought an hour detour out of the way was worth it. Who knows if or when we will be back this way.
But first, pit stop in Amarillo, TX at Palace Coffee. Definite recommendation from Steadfast Coffee. Seriously such sweet owner and staff. Wish we weren’t running behind schedule because we could have spent some serious time here. But, we were hitting the road again to try to make Santa Fe before the sun went down. Which we did, but barely.
Day 4: Santa Fe, New Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona
We spent the morning in Santa Fe exploring the little compound we were staying at. Santa Fe is wild and natural. So much smaller than I expected, especially for a capital. We were happy to stay outside the city as it was way more touristy than expected.
Before hitting the road for Arizona, we made one quick stop at Iconik Coffee. I opted for tea. I am a tea girl first thing in the morning, and was thoroughly pleased. However, my sisters did vote the lattes as some of the best on the trip. So, definite recommendation.
Next stop: Flagstaff, Arizona and the meteor crater.
Pit stop: who knows where…we made a pact to stop every two hours no matter what to switch drivers and to do a set of five exercises. We didn’t want anyone to ever get burnt out or struggle with sitting in a car all day. The first couple of times might have been slightly embarrassing doing jumping jacks at a gas station but it was worth it. Definite recommendation for any road trip.
So, our trip got pretty wild at this point. We were headed to the meteor crater when we hit our first massive storm. Now, if we were at home, cozied up with a cup of tea, it might be one thing, but to be driving straight into a lightning storm in a seemingly deserted desert, pretty much we felt like we were either storm chasers or in some scary horror movie. None of us actually felt like staying at the crater, let alone pay, to be out in the middle of a massive storm. So back in the car and on the road we went. Maybe the one time I longed for a bit more civilization and humanity (maybe also when we tried jogging in the back country of New Mexico). There is something about feeling like we were the only ones out in the wild, that made us all a bit tense. There were some definite screams as the lighting crashed down around us, and as I was driving, some very white knuckles. But, then there was peace. Even amidst the storm, we finally embraced the storm and waited for the beauty of each lightning strike. God’s creation is amazing. Powerful and mighty. And so seemingly uncontrollable even though He is in complete control.
Final Destination: The Boulders outside of Phoenix
Hand down my favorite stay and probably my favorite stop on our trip. If only we have had more time. Such a peaceful respite. We spent the evening lounging at our abode and the morning swimming in the pool, along with enjoying all the spa amenities. This is a must return to.
We didn’t see much of Phoenix as we were on route to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs but we did stop at Cartel and loved it. Definite recommendation. Like I would take a trip to Phoenix based off of the vibe there.
Pit stop: Joshua Tree. How we thought this could just be a short pit stop, I am not sure. But we hit it at just the right time. Right before sunset. Enough time to take a hike and then watch the sun light up the sky as it slowly sank between the hills.
Final destination: The Avalon in Palm Springs. A perfectly cute boutique hotel. The morning was spent lounging poolside once again. Oh, if only more time, we would have been so sunburnt.
Day 6: Palm Springs to Los Angeles
Our final leg. And once again, L.A. Oh, just as good as the first time around, just more cozy. More like home. And lots of new favorites and recommendations.
Food: Kitchen Mouse, Leo’s Taco Truck, and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Truck
And then it came to a crashing hault. Back to life in Tennessee.