And now... the very long post you probably haven't been waiting for. But it's here anyways. And it's got photos, videos, and lots of stories. Road tripping from Los Angeles to Nashville via Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri for two weeks will provide that.
This post is really dedicated to all the details from this crazy road trip back to Nashville I want to remember.
Here's a map to follow along with in case you get lost along the way:
And below is the journey, in full...
As with most travel plans, I like to wait until the last minute to pack. Maybe I didn't wait until the very very last minute, but I sure waited until the morning of. In my defense, I'd rather spend as much time with family and friends as possible and that's what I was up late doing the night before.
And luckily, Annemarie was running late too. So by the time she got to my house, I was pretty much done! So we packed up the car — attempted to fit my bike in it too but that didn't work out — and headed out!
Our first destination: The Donut Hole.
Best way to start the trip. It was also across the street from an In-N-Out but we decided to save that indulgence for later.
From the Donut Hole we went on to the Bottle Tree Ranch. It's almost become like a right of passage when I drive east to stop at the ranch, especially when I'm with people who've never been. Annemarie loved it too. And on our way out, a biker gang came! Which was actually a tour group, but almost same thing.
We stopped at the gas station for a nose straw souvenir — who needs Snapchat filters when you've got a straw that transforms your face?
And FINALLY, two and a half years later, I finally made it to Calico Ghost Town!! There was a little concern because we got there an hour before it closed, but we made the most of it. And we got gold! Fool's gold... but at least the experience was valuable.
It was too late by the time we got near Las Vegas to go to the Seven Magic Mountains, so we saved that for the next day and went straight to Annemarie's cousin's house where we'd be staying that night.
We were pretty hungry at that point as well, so after saying hi and grabbing a key to get in (we knew we'd be back pretty late) we went to Cafe Rio and then the Blue Man Group show. It was magical and most of the time I just kept thinking "What?! Wow! How did they do that???"
By the time we got out of that show, I was so mentally exhausted from everything that day, including driving for six hours and waking up early to pack. BUT, we're in Vegas. And despite it being almost midnight, we had one more purchased thing to experience: The LINQ High Roller! I was super stoked to do this. Alas, it'll have to be put on the "next time" list of things to do.
Because, once we picked up my car from valet and drove over the to the LINQ, I stepped out of my car and tried to lock it. But it wouldn't lock. (Some background: I have one of those keyless start cars, where you just push the button and it turns on, and you push a button when you get out to lock it without the keys. The keys do have to be present though — just somewhere in the vicinity of the car. So if the car doesn't start, I know the keys are not in the car. And if the car doesn't open or lock, I know the keys aren't in my purse or pocket.)
After some investigation, we deduced that the keys were somewhere in the car since the car was able to start. But they were not in my purse. They were not in Annemarie's purse. They weren't on the floor, they weren't underneath the seat, or in the glove compartment, or in the cupholder, or stuck in-between the seats.
At the point I started sounding like a Dr. Seuss book, I got a little worried. I couldn't go an entire trip without my keys. And I had no way to get to my spare key in Nashville.
We started checking the trunk and back seats — moving our luggage around and out so we could thoroughly check the car. I eventually called the valet when I realized that I was never actually handed the keys. But they were as clueless as we were.
We said a little prayer, and then, as a last resort, we drove back to the Luxor and the valet and they started to help us look. We figured that after a long day, maybe we had missed something.
I finally looked at our trash bag we had — I had checked it previously — but figured I should take it out of the car for some reason. Maybe throw it away.
When I took it out of the car, Annemarie tried to turn the car on. It didn't turn on. I could see this slow lightbulb turn on in my head as I realized what that meant.
So I looked in the little bag further, through the random and little amount of trash that was in there. And still didn't see the keys.
Finally, I looked inside of the Dorito's bag in the trash bag, and THERE THEY WERE. #hallelujah
It was almost 1am by that point, and we were so exhausted and felt like maybe this was a good time to just head back to her cousin's house, ready to call it a night.
But wait. It's not over.
We got to her cousin's — Annemarie was driving and pulled into their driveway — and proceeded to the garage door that the key they gave us was supposed to open.
After a couple minutes, Annemarie informed me that the door wasn't opening. The key didn't seem to work.
I tried it myself. And she was right.
So we went to the front door and tried that. It didn't work. We then went back to the garage door and tried it one more time before Annemarie gave her cousin and his wife a call — who were already sleeping by the way, and had to wake up for work and to take the kids to school in the morning. We debated for a bit about whether we should just sleep in the car and wait until the morning to get our stuff, but Annemarie's cousin's wife answered and was so so sweet about coming down to open the door for us.
It was at that point, as we waited, that Annemarie said how funny it would be if we were at the wrong house. HA. ha.
I asked her what the house number was to double check.
Turns out, we really were at the wrong house. The house we should have been at was two doors down.
We laughed so hard realizing our mistake and how ridiculous the night had been. And also how funny it would have been if we had slept in the car and the people of that house came out as they were leaving for work to find us there. I'm just glad we didn't wake them up too.
Once we drove to the right house, were let in, and went inside, it was a quick ten minutes to get in bed and go to sleep grateful that we had at least survived.
The second day was more relaxed than the first. Especially since I didn't wait until the last minute to pack. And it felt so good to kind of sleep in before starting our drive to Ruby Valley where Annemarie is from. The plan was to drop her off there with her family and I would continue driving to Nashville by myself.
We needed all the spiritual guidance we could get after our craziness the night before, so being able to see the Las Vegas temple and walk around it was definitely a #blessing.
I seriously love temples. They always bring me such peace, even when I'm just walking around them.
And then, In-N-Out, because that's what a road trip is really all about. (This is also the moment that I found out Annemarie had never heard the In-N-Out theme song! #blasphemy)
Since we didn't have time the previous day, we made it a point to back-track a bit and check out Seven Magic Mountains. It's an art installation located near Jean Dry Lake where the lantern festival I went to (remember this?). It's hard to miss a big, bright, rock installation from the highway and it was pretty incredible to see in person.
Finally we made our way straight to Ruby Valley. It was a whole lot of land around us. Gas stations and towns and civilization were sparse.
Annemarie grew up on a ranch and so it was cool seeing that side of her life — the room she grew up in, the land that she spent most of her life on. I can understand why she doesn't like in-door pets now too since all their animals are always outside. (I grew up with more of a patio than a backyard so our pets were always inside and part of the family in a different way.)
We even went running as the sun was setting and I got to meet some of their horses that actually trotted toward Annemarie when they saw her! She was like the horse whisperer. The cows just ran away from us.
On the road again. On my own again.
It was pretty bittersweet to leave Annemarie. But it was the shortest drive of the trip and I was excited to see Brittney and her and Scott's sweet baby Kalai who was just about a month old!
This was now my FOURTH time in Utah in six months! (You can read about my four seasons in Utah here.) But my first time being there that year without Matt there. It was kind of funny to us how our planning worked out — I had to go to Los Angeles just about a week after he came back to Nashville, and then be gone almost two months. Luckily, he's supportive and just overall amazing. Long distance can be difficult at times but it's worth it.
On the drive to Herriman, where Britt lives, I made sure to stop by the Bonneville Salt Flats. It was really in tribute to Matt because that's the only reason I actually knew they existed, but I'm so glad I went because it was really incredible.
I also took a detour to try to see the "tree of life" sculpture but apparently didn't read the fine print that it's not the most accessible site. After driving for 20 minutes on a road that had a bunch of cracks and plants coming out of it, I finally resolved to turn back around and not go the 17 more miles I had. Which I'm very glad I did. There's actually no exit for this and not really any parking either once you figure out how to get there. I'm still not sure that you actually can. But you can see it as your driving past and that's really enough.
After driving through rolling hills that reminded me of The Sound of Music with the mountains in the distance and realizing summer Utah is it's own beautiful new season, making it to Britt's and seeing baby Kalai was the best end to the day.
Day 4 – 6
As I mentioned, summer Utah is amazing. The sky is bluer, the greens are greener, you can swim in the water or kayak down it, you can view waterfalls and go on hikes.
I'm grateful for Kalai's existence for many reasons, but also because it meant that we went on baby hikes — my current level of hiking.
We saw Bridal Veil Falls, and went up to Brighton and found a little half mile trail there that led to a small waterfall.
I also went to crossfit with Scott for the first time and he made me breakfast afterwards in apology for the hurt I knew would be coming. (Crossfit is intense.) We watched the Bachelorette, relaxed with Kalai, and one of my favorite parts: kayaked down Provo Canyon River.
If you can, please do this. I felt like I was in a National Geographic spread — the mountains in the distance, the fly fisherman to my left, the greenery surrounding us, and the gentle sounds of the river flowing. It was the most scenicincrediblebeautifulamazing kayaking trip I might have ever been on.
Getting to spend time with friends is the best. I also felt like a proud aunt that I was able to get Kalai his first bouncer and he really enjoyed it! (I noticed that if he started to get fussy and I just ran with him and bounced him up and down the house, he'd stop, so a bouncer seemed fitting — and it was a success!)
It was a bummer to leave Utah again and not know when I was coming back. Babies grow so quickly and it was still so miraculous that this little baby boy was growing in Britt's stomach just over a month before! And now he was almost able to smile and laugh!
I was also really grateful Aubrey and Krew were able to come by and hang out before I left onto my next leg of the journey: Utah to Pueblo, CO.
My first stop on the drive was to the World's Largest Watermelon. It wasn't a real watermelon, so not sure if that actually counts? But it is quite large. And it sits in a parking lot.
And then I made it to Colorado. I tried to make stops like the watermelon and then to this Dinosaur Hill to get outside and stretch my legs. It was actually pretty hot outside but the fresh air felt good. And so did the air conditioning of my car when I got back in.
Driving to Pueblo was the hardest drive of the trip. And also one of the most beautiful. The windy roads and scenery and mountains made it new around every curve. The hard part was having spotty signal so it made it frustrating, if not just merely impossible, to talk to anyone while driving (which, when you're driving by yourself, is preferred for some parts of a trip).
And those windy roads that are sort of fun to drive on during the day get really scary at night. When I was thirty minutes from my destination, driving through the little town of Cañon City, the speed limit changes really quickly to 30 MPH. And there just happened to be a cop late at night on the lookout for drivers like me who didn't slow down enough. So I got a speeding ticket.
You have been warned.
The main reason I was stopping in Colorado is because my mom's brother and his family live in Pueblo. And I had never visited them! They're the only members of my immediate family that live outside of Los Angeles and aside from seeing Julia because she started attending Pepperdine University in Malibu a couple years ago, I really haven't been able to hang out with them all these years.
We didn't have any set plans so after figuring out everyone's work schedules, Molly and I were the remaining people in the house the first day. I had to pay my speeding ticket back in Cañon City, so I asked Molly if she wanted to go after I researched some things we could do there.
I don't recommend taking a visit to the court to pay a ticket if you don't need to, but it was kind of fun. It made me feel a little like I was actually from there.
The big attraction that we drove through was Skyline Drive. It's a route that leads you up a hill and at one point the hill drops off both sides. It's pretty crazy. This YouTube video gives you a good experience of it all.
We also visited the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center which included a lot of fossils (the town is known for the dinosaur fossil findings nearby) and some cinematic history as well. The best part was the rainstorm that came while we were in the museum. Just a complete down-pouring. It was amazing.
We returned to Pueblo after and hung out with the rest of the family at night. The next day we had a full day planned!
Julia and Sheri were both off work and school so them plus Molly and I were able to go to Manitou Springs and see the Cliff Dwellings.
There's actually quite a lot to do in this little area, and the Cliff Dwellings are just one historically preserved thing. We also went to an arcade to take in another part of history. It also rained again. This time it was the whole shebang: thunder, lightning. And this time we had to go through it.
When we returned back, we all went out to dinner and then Sheri, Molly, Julia and I walked around downtown Pueblo and raced to the top of a parking garage to watch the last bit of sunset. I am so grateful for the time I was able to spend with all of them!
Every time I told someone I was driving through Kansas, they gave me a look like "good luck with that." It's probably because of the flat land that goes on and on and on. But all the green and golden fields are something to appreciate. And the sunset? One of the most beautiful of the whole trip. The flat land made the perfect setting for the horizon. When I tried to get out of my car to take a picture, the humidity was so thick it fogged the lenses.
But there are some cool things to check out along the way. Including the highest point in Kansas: Mount Sunflower which really just makes you realize how flat Kansas actually is. And the Big Easel — a very large replica of Vincent Van Gogh's "Three Sunflowers in a Vase".
Day 11 – 12
I've spent a pretty good amount of time in Missouri with Whitney. She always knows about the coolest hippest places. Like the Museum of Toys & Miniatures! Also a sno-cone place.
Since I've visited Whitney in Kansas City a couple times before — maybe I should make a guide? — we've done a lot of things there already so after wandering around a bit and going to some swanky coffee shops and cool arcade-bars, we mostly just hung out at the apartment and enjoyed time together.
You know you're good friends when you can just sit and read or journal together.
THE FINAL DAY OF THE TRIP!!!!!
Whit and I parted ways early in the morning. We got the only picture together of the whole time we spent together! I'm so grateful for her!
This final day I didn't make any stops. I drove straight through to Nashville. It was crazy to pass through Tennessee state line and to think that less than a year before I was passing this same spot with no idea what life in Nashville would be like: no job, no place to really live after working on a farm, no friends, and no idea what I was supposed to be doing here. Just that I needed to be here. And now, I was coming back home to my roommates in this amazing house, to friends that I love so much and missed while away for two months, and a boyfriend (now fiancé!) that I got to spend the next six weeks with PLUS a new full-time job!
It's really taught me that faith — like the Apostle Paul taught "faith is the substance [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1) — is everything. To believe that you can do it, trust God that He's with you and knows what you need, and take that leap.
I'm so glad I did.