Monday, June 29, 2015

Cross Country USA (LA to MIA)

have so much to say about every single place I went to on my drive from Los Angeles to Miami, but mostly this, since I'm typing on my iPhone from a twin bed in England with a snoring Floridian in the twin bed next to me. Update: I went from typing in an English twin bed to typing on my iPhone in a Parisian twin bed with a snoring New Yorker next to me. (Second update: Now I'm on my iPad in a decent-sized bed in Prague, typing again with a snoring New Yorker next to me.)

When headed to Phoenix from LA, Joshua Tree isn't really on the way, but I decided to go there anyway for breakfast and coffee as our first stop. Joshua Tree Coffee made me so happy, I decided to bring back a bag of beans for my parents. JT Country Kitchen, which has been featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, wasn't nearly as good, but it's hard to mess up scrambled eggs and chocolate chip pancakes, isn't it? The little Asian (Vietnamese?) lady who runs the diner puts insane amounts of butter on anything and then watches over your shoulder to make sure you eat it all. She wasn't shy about touching us and telling us to take "one--just one--more bite."

Phoenix and New Mexico can be grouped together because there's literally nothing there. A girl in England was polishing my nails the other day and told me she goes to Phoenix on holiday with her family. "To do WHAT?" I asked her. She said they rent an old Hummer and drive around in it, and I'm not sure if that really sounds fun to me at all.

Scottsdale is worse than Phoenix; the girls there dress like it's 2005 and a good amount of bar patrons think it's OK to get on their knees in front of all the other bar patrons in order to snort a line of coke off a cocktail table. Drove through New Mexico on a Sunday and everything except McDonald's was closed. I haven't cared to research it, but is New Mexico a particularly religious state? I'm assuming that Sunday is God's Day there, and that's why we couldn't get a decent meal. NM is a prettier state to drive through than Arizona, though it felt at times like my litle Fiat might blow away. Spotted dust devils in the distance more than once. Experienced a moment or two of terror remembering Twister and a couple tornado scares I had while living in Savannah. 

I could spend a lifetime driving through Texas and never get bored. You can see Juarez from the freeway. You may get stopped by border patrol. You are instructed not to pick up hitchhikers. You also lose two hours in Texas when headed west to east (which is the one, unavoidable, thing I do not like about the state). I can't wait to explore Texas in the opposite direction.

I chose Marfa over Amarillo, and it wasn't all I expected it to be. But I also think it needs a second chance to be fair. You can't judge a town really by the transplants who work/live there. And you definitely can't judge a town on a Monday when that's the one day everything is closed. We had dinner at Cochineal, drank at our hotel bar (El Paisano) and grabbed coffee/juices at Frama--a cute little shop attached to a laundromat--in the morning.

Made a pit stop in Austin, where the food, for the first time since California, gets really, really good again. A little out of the way, but Salt Lick has the most amazing barbecue everything (cash only) and it's BYOB. Get the sampler that has pork ribs, sausage, cole slaw, potatoes, bread and brisket.

Loved New Orleans. It felt like it took forever to get there, but it's everything everyone said it would be and also, not at all the same. We drove in at 2 AM; it was pitch black out and the roads were super bumpy. It immediately reminded me of Savannah and I got goosebumps. They're two individual cities--so different. But little things made me feel that one and the other are somehow intricately entwined. I lost a hubcap in New Orleans and also a little piece of my heart. The burgers and muffuletta pizza and to-go drinks at Port of Call are insanely delicious. No one asks for your ID anywhere. Cafe du Monde is a beignet cliche, but a must nevertheless. Bacchanal is a cool wine/jazz spot in the Bywater, a neighborhood I'd like to see more of next time I'm in Nola. District Donuts has a donut-take on the Cuban sandwich; it's called the Dulce Cubano and it blew my mind. 

Alabama and Mississippi: I drove through both in a matter of hours, only stopping once for gas. Those are two states I didn't give any thought to while planning this trip. In retrospect, I should've mapped out a couple food spots, but there will be a second chance for all of that.

Lastly, Jacksonville Beach: I went for what was supposed to be rest and a visit with an old friend. Didn't turn out quite as I'd expected since we took shots of whiskey instead of just the "one glass of wine" that I'd originally wanted. Then St. Augustine, the oldest city in the U.S., for a quick morning tour before my final destination: Miami. St. Augustine is a lot smaller than I remember, but I guess I was a lot smaller the last time I was there. I drove through town, spent five minutes meditating by the water and got a Dunkin Donuts coffee (Why DD when there are other options?) on my way out. Quite the trek, but well worth it. All of it.

Next time around, I'm thinking seven nights instead of five. One each in Savannah, New Orleans, Austin, a town called Alpine I discovered while driving through Texas (it's a little more centrally located than Marfa), possibly Amarillo, the Grand Canyon, and a wild card.

*This is still pretty rough considering I'm about to jump on a train to Berlin, but I'd prefer to share now rather than later. Updates and links coming soon.

7/22/15 UPDATE: Finally added links a month and a half later. Don't. judge. me. 


  1. I'll take a # for the ride back to the west. ;)

  2. I really love those pics! Good to know about you Allison!

  3. I read this article, it is really interesting one. Your way of writing and making things clear is very impressive. Thanking you for such an interesting article. family road trip itinerary


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