etc, travel

NY to CA: Road Trip Photos

Here is the story and photos from our road trip. If you’re wondering what road trip I’m talking about, you can read all about that in yesterday’s post HERE.

Road Trip Day 1: Brooklyn —> Virginia


Once the car was packed and our suitcases (and vacuum!) were tied to the roof, we took a few minutes and just stood in our empty apartment. I felt sad, and perhaps a bit scared, leaving the apartment we had called home for the previous six years. We had loved that apartment so much, it truly was a special place to us – filled with so many great memories we had made together. We both were obviously having similar feelings, and simultaneously went to hug each other after looking around and catching each others gaze. We froze in that hug for a while, then looked at each other once more, nodded, and headed down to the car. By the time we got to New Jersey the pets all seemed settled and calm in the car which was a huge relief. We pulled over for gas, and as we were leaving the station the battery gauge dropped down low. It was strange because Chad had gotten the car checked out and had done some work on it himself to prep it for the drive – everything had been fine the week prior. So, we just ignored it because the car wasn’t driving any differently and continued on our way. We drove straight through Jersey, passed through Pennsylvania, then Maryland, and had arrived to Virginia by the afternoon.

As we were driving past Harrisonburg our car started acting strange and sure enough, 20 or so miles later it broke down. We actually weren’t mad or frustrated though, we just kept on laughing…of course we break down on day 1! Ha! While many would just quickly become frustrated, we kind of embraced the situation. We had pulled off the freeway onto a small road and not even five minutes had passed when a nice man named John pulled over to help us. He guided us to an Advance Auto Parts down the road, and helped Chad test the battery and alternator once we were there. Sure enough, the alternator had broken but John (who happened to work for another Advance Auto Parts) got us a discount on a new one, which was way less than what we would have paid for one in Brooklyn. Also, not too get too into this automotive breakdown story on my DIY dessert and design blog here, but you know how rare it is for a small auto parts store in the middle of rural Virginia to have one alternator in stock…which happens to be for a 2000 Jeep Cherokee?! Luck truly was on our side. Chad fixes cars and was going to have to spend the next morning fixing the alternator because the sun was setting (the sunset was incredible btw!), and it would be too dark for him to fix it at that point. But, luck just happened to strike us again when another kind man at Advance said he had a mechanic friend named “Giggles” who lived down the road who just happened to own his own garage and would be able to fix the alternator for us that night. What are the chances!?! We pulled up to Giggles’ house and sure enough he fixed it for us right there. While Chad and Giggles fixed the car, I sat in the back with the dogs – we got to ride up in the car while it went on the lift, which I was way too excited about. Once the car was fixed, we waved bye to Giggles and headed back on the road. It really was the best breakdown ever, filled with the kindest, most helpful people. After that experience we drove for another hour or so, then pulled off near Lexington for the night.

BreakdownVirginia Sunset

Road Trip Day 2: Virginia —> Nashville

That next morning we drove around Lexington, found a fun pink Cadillac, and hit up a local diner for breakfast. The diner was one of those place where you feel like the record stops when you walk in. Clearly, we weren’t locals – but again, we were treated with such kindness and enjoyed a delicious (and very unhealthy) breakfast before we hit the road.

Pink Cadillac 2Rural Diner 1Rural Diner 2 Pink Cadillac


While Chad was driving, I found an airBNB rental for that night in Nashville. It ended up raining as we were driving, so our clothes in the suitcases on the roof of our car got soaked, but thankfully the airBNB had a laundry room. When we pulled into Nashville we washed what had gotten wet, which wasn’t the most relaxing activity after a day of driving, but was necessary. We then met up with one of our good friends who guided us around town and took us to a ridiculously delicious southern meal at Hattie B’s. Afterwards we drove through downtown and grabbed a drink before heading back to our airBNB. The home was so great, so much more comfortable than the motel we had stayed at the night before. It was affordable, pet-friendly, and adorable too – just look at this kitchen and bathroom! If you’re heading to Nashville, I would definitely recommend it – you can find the listing HERE.

Nashville AirBNBNashville AirBNB Rental

Road Trip Day 3: Nashville —> Memphis —> nearly back to Nashville (Jackson, TN)

Day 3 wasn’t our best day, to say the least. It also happened to be Groundhog Day, which made it ever more ironic.

The morning started off great, we packed everything back into the car, tied up the luggage/vacuum to the roof, and got back on the road. Before leaving town, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Dozen – a wonderful bakery in Nashville. We had a goal of getting to Memphis for lunch (only a 3 hour drive), so headed back on the road after our meal.

As I was driving it started raining, and then started pouring and I’m not a fan of driving in that kind of weather, so we pulled off at a gas station in Brownsville so Chad could take the wheel. It literally poured/monsoon-ed the entire way to Memphis, up until 5 minutes before we got there. As we pulled into downtown, I got out to walk the dogs in this adorable public dog park (“the barking lot”) that we had stumbled upon. Once I got back to the car I could tell something was wrong by Chad’s expression. He let me know that we needed to drive back to Brownsville because one of the suitcases had fallen off the roof (and it just so happened to be my suitcase). He thought he had seen it intact while we were stopped in Brownsville, so we were going to retrace our steps and look for it along the I-40 for the 70 or so mile stretch until we were back there. I could tell he felt horrible and my immediate reaction was super positive, but as I started to remember what I had lost I became a roller coaster of emotions. As we turned around and began scanning the interstate for my suitcase I began to recount the items that had been in it. Literally every single pair of underwear/socks/tights I own had been in there (annoying, but replaceable), also all my comfy pjs/sweats/yoga clothes (again, totally replaceable), just a few adored pieces and vintage items (luckily I had moved the majority of my clothes to my duffle bag that sat in the car with us after the rain debacle the day prior), a couple of jackets, and my swimsuits…a bit of a bummer, but okay…my mood was still fine at this point. I accepted that they were just things, and were all replaceable for the most part. But then I remembered something super valuable that had been in there…a little box with the 3 pieces of jewelry that mean the most to me – a necklace my dad gave me, a bracelet my mom gave me on my 16th birthday, and a very verrry sacred/special ring that is so unbelievably special to me from my late grandmother. These were the only belongings I was too nervous to send with the movers, so I chose to bring them with us. Now you’re probably thinking why would you put something super valuable up on the roof of your car?! See, the worst I was imagining was that my stuff would get wet…a suitcase flying off the roof without us hearing or seeing it…that thought NEVER evcn came to my mind. Apparently the rain had loosened up the rope, which then most likely caused the suitcase (which was wrapped in a plastic to prevent it from the rain) to just slip off. I became a little emotional / completely hysterical at points during that drive.

We hadn’t spotted the suitcase by the time we got to  Brownsville, so Chad went into the gas station (where we had made the switch) and had them check the security footage to see if the suitcase had been on the roof when we initially pulled over, and that’s when we discovered it wasn’t. So, we now knew it was lost on the I-40 somewhere between Nashville and Brownsville. It was getting dark, but we had decided to drive back to Nashville and that we’d look again in the morning. Unfortunately it was raining so hard that conditions were dangerous and we had to pull off in Jackson for the night. At the motel, we made a plan to go meet with the Department of Transportation the next morning to see if any of their cleaning crews had picked it up and we posted lost ads all over Craigslist. I then sulked my way over to Target to pick up some underwear before we called it a day.

Road Trip Day 4: Jackson, Tennessee —> Texas

We woke up, re-packed the car, and drove over to the Dept of Transportation where we met with Ross, a manager at the Tennessee DOT, who was so incredibly kind and offered to help us however he could. He called all of his contractors who manage the I-40 cleanup but unfortunately nothing had been found. Ross’ kindness really blew me away…he had just gotten into work, had a meeting that morning, but regardless came down to talk with us – two strangers who had lost a bag on the road – and then he spent a good amount of time making all these calls to help us. He was sympathetic and genuine, and that meant so much to me. Even though nothing turned up, my attitude was on the up. And getting to encounter these kind strangers who were all so compassionate was really what was shaping this experience, not the fact that I had lost a bag. I had accepted the suitcase was gone, and had realized that these were just all things…even the meaningful pieces…the meaning of the gift of them to me by three of the most special people in my life – well, I’ll always have that. I was pretty surprised how quickly I had truly come to terms with it. So, on we headed.

We even giggled as we passed through Memphis again – the fact that it was the day after Groundhog’s Day helped us find the humor in it all. We then drove through Arkansas and stopped at the border of Arkansas and Texas in a town rightfully called Texarkana. Texarkana was just incredible…it had the vibe of a Friday Night Lights-esque town, with the addition of some insanely historic, frozen-in-time streets. We found an old main street that was lined with buildings in their original early 20th century state – not one of them had been updated! Some had closed down abruptly, leaving everything inside intact just as it had been left, while some other shops had turned into newer stores, but the architecture itself had not been updated at all. It was absolutely picturesque, but I didn’t have the urge to capture any of it…I just wanted to lock it up into my visual memory box in my head. If you’re ever passing through that area, I’d strongly suggest a visit to Texarkana, it is such a cool two-town city to explore.

Just as the sun was beginning to set, we got back on the road and drove until Weatherford, Texas where we stayed for the night.

Road Trip Day 5:  Texas —> Alamogordo, New Mexico

Waking up in Weatherford, Texas might not be considered that exciting by some, but I personally was looking forward to the morning because there was a Waffle House across from our motel where we were going to go for breakfast, which was my first Waffle House experience to date. Is it sad that these kind of things excite me?! As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we had packed a bunch of healthy snacks with us for our lunches each day…and as you can see, that was a very good move considering how our breakfast decisions weren’t always the healthiest!

Waffle HouseWaffle House Order

We felt like we had our routine with the pets and the packing of the car pretty set at this point. Once back on the road we listened to some podcasts, and before we knew it we were in New Mexico. Almost immediately, the beauty of New Mexico blew me away. As we coming over a mountain range and pulling into Alamogordo at sunset I was overcome with just how beautiful it was. The sky was magnificent and the landscape was just incredible. We had planned to stay in Alamogordo from the git-go due to it’s proximity to White Sands National Park, so we were really looking forward to getting to explore the park the next day. We enjoyed a nice dinner that night and slept so well in our Alamogordo Motel 6 room!


Road Trip Day 6:  Alamogordo, New Mexico —> Yuma, Arizona

White Sands 4

As I mentioned, we were both very eager to get out and explore White Sands this day, so we checked out of the motel fairly early and headed to Plateau Espresso for some delicious lattes before heading to the dunes. White Sands was absolutely incredible. It is insanely beautiful – picture-perfect white sand dunes that stretch for miles. You can drive right out into the dunes and there weren’t many people there…it felt like we had the entire park to ourselves. The pets all got out and did a little exploring as well. The pugs loved running on the sand and Chad even took the cat out of the car for a few minutes to let him explore a bit. The skies were so blue that day. While we were there, I remembered that I had a blue wig packed in the car so threw that on for some photos, which I’ll post separately since there’s so many.

White Sands 6 Pug in White SandsDesert Cat 1

These cat photos KILL ME!

Desert CatDesert Cat 3 Desert Cat 2

Oh hey, there’s our Jeep – the one with the vacuum on top of it! lol

White Sands New Mexico

White Sands was one of our most anticipated destinations on the road trip and it certainly did not disappoint. We both could have spent the entire day there but were also looking forward to getting to see more of the beautiful desert. So, on we headed!

I loved all of the interstate rest stop advertising – those places that are so far and few between really go all the way to get cars to notice them! This one that was somewhere in New Mexico (or maybe Arizona?) was my fave.

Arizona Road Trip

We drove into Arizona and could quickly feel that we were getting close to Southern California, perhaps primarily due to the familiarity of food options like In-N-Out (yes, we stopped there for lunch!). We continued through the desert during sunset which provided the most beautiful cacti sunset views I’d ever seen!

On The Road Again Saguaro

With only 3 hours to San Diego, we could have kept on going but weren’t ready for our trip to end just yet…we were enjoying it too much. Honestly, being in a car with my favorite human and our 3 pets and getting to take in the most beautiful sights and meet the kindest strangers who we crossed in our path…it was just the best. We ended up pulling off in Yuma, stopped at our favorite pet-friendly Motel 6, and settled in for our last night on the road.

Road Trip Day 7:  Yuma, Arizona —> San Diego

In the morning, Chad and I walked to Penny’s Diner, an adorable little spot near our motel for breakfast.

Pennys DinerArizona Diner

On our walk back we came across a roadrunner, which was so fascinating to get to watch. First roadrunner I’ve ever seen! Wow, am I really taking about birds here – sorry, this is probably so boring for you guys! ha!


Then, like clockwork, we packed up the car and checked out of the motel. The pets were clearly getting used to the motel life! While all the Motel 6’s were pet-friendly this one was definitely the most pet-friendly of the ones we stayed at – they even had designated dog bathroom areas complete with complimentary cleanup bags. I feel like I should begin to be paid for all these Motel 6 references, but honestly, there is no other place I’d stay with our pets after the wonderful experience we had with them on this trip. In case you missed it, I talked all about the pet travel in yesterday’s post HERE.

Pug MotelMotel 6

Twenty minutes outside of Yuma we had entered California and then finished the short drive to my mom’s house in San Diego. Just like that, our road trip was finished, and we really were sad to have it end. With all the ups and the one down (which in hindsight wasn’t even really a “down”), it was the people we met along the way who made our trip so special. The kindness of people was overwhelming. What a beautiful world we all live in. I feel so lucky that we got to be reminded of the beauty and kindness that always surrounds us during such a monumental transition in our lives.

Welcome to California Sign

PS – As I was editing these photos just now I noticed that there is a note that says “Build Your Dreams” on the bottom of the Welcome to California sign that I had never noticed before. As I write this, I’m looking out the window and watching Chad clean up our NEW backyard (we have a backyard now!)…but more on our new home, my new kitchen, and the baking that is about to go down in this new kitchen all next week.

  1. jessica maria

    February 22, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Great photos, per usual. And amazing how you were able to travel with all the pets! I’m so sorry you lost your suitcase.

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