Taking a Spring Wildflower Hike

Taylor Hollow is a 163-acre nature preserve hidden away an hour outside of Nashville. The Nature Conservancy owns the property and they have done an excellent job protecting the land. Taylor Hallow is wonderfully secluded. In fact, you’ll have to drive for a good 15 minutes before you even come back into cell phone range. It is perfect.

I go hiking almost every weekend, but I have never gone on a wildflower hike. I didn’t know what I was missing out on.

They entire hike is lined with a crystal clear babbling brook which leads to a hidden cave. There is also a waterfall, but the water was too low for it to be running during our visit.

Taylor Hollow supports more than 380 plant species and is home to state endangered plants as the Blue-eyed Mary and the Ozark Least Trillium and several state threatened plants such as the Michigan Lily and the Butternut.

We picked the prefect weekend for a visit. Everything was in full bloom.

My crappy iPhone photos do not do the place justice, but it is just beautiful. It would be the prefect place for a spring picnic and an afternoon of seclusion.

Other than fluttering butterflies and busy bumblebees, there was not a lot of wildlife to be seen on the day we visited. However, I did make friends with a curious snail. (No snails were harmed in the taking of this photograph.)

Now that Spring is here, take advantage of the natural beauty that surrounds us and be sure to visit your nearest nature preserve or botanical garden.

The Great American Road Trip Part II: 3,000 Miles in America

Three years ago my best friend and I piled in the car for a 2000-mile drive from Knoxville to Phoenix. In an effort to constantly outdo ourselves, this time we embarked in a 3,032-mile, 11-day, 12-state journey.

Great American Road Trip

A vital part of any road trip is the right playlist. Jill and I put an unhealthy amount of time compiling the right tunes for the trip. Below are 50 of our favorite road songs. Crank it up and use it as the soundtrack to this post (or your next trip). Good tunes never get old.

 

St. Louis, Missouri

No trip to St. Louis would be complete without a trip to the Old Courthouse and Gateway Arch. The Old Courthouse was the site of the Dred Scott trial where, during a less-than-enlightened period of our history, Dred Scott unsuccessfully sued for his freedom from slavery in 1857. It is required reading for every law student’s first semester of law school.

St. Louis Old Courthouse

We got up early the morning to take the first ride to the top of the arch. We are total nerds who purchased tickets for our 8:10 a.m. ride in advance.

Horse St. Louis Arch

But just because we were in a hurry didn’t mean we couldn’t stop and make new friends.

Panorama View From St. Louis Arch

The Gateway Arch rises 630 feet (192 m) above the city and (after a very unique elevator ride to the top) gives gorgeous panoramic views of the city. You can see for 38 miles on a clear day.

St. Louis Arch Sunset

I loved my visit to the top so much that I decided to return for another visit at the end of the day. This time I was in the last car up to the top and in the last group to leave.

St. Louis Arch Night View Panorama

It was yet another great, but completely different, view of the city. I could see two different sets of fireworks in the distance.

St Louis Arch Night

Saint Louis has so much more to offer than the Arch.

Anheuser Busch Clydesdale

We next headed over to Anheuser Busch for a brewery tour. Jill was excited about the free beer samples. I don’t drink beer so I was mainly excited about the Clydesdales.

Anheuser Busch Tour

With our early start, we were able to fit a lot into our day. Our next stop was at the Missouri Botanical Garden. The grounds were beautiful, but it was hotter than Hades outside.

Missouri Botanical Gardens

However, they did have a boxwood garden, which, due to my odd obsession with the smell of boxwoods was my favorite part of the gardens.

Missouri Botanical Garden Boxwoods

After some time in the heat we went in search of the legendary Ted Drewes for a delicious concrete (try the turtle). It lived up to its reputation and was totally worth standing in the rain.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard

Jill lives in Arizona, and was utterly unprepared for the Missouri humidity. (Living in Nashville, it felt like a normal summer day to me–miserable, but something you just have to fight through). She headed back to the hotel and I took off for the City Museum.

City Museum 10 Foot Slide

The City Museum is a bizarre and magical place that blends an oddities museum with a multi-story jungle gym/amusement park and descends into caves below. Yes, really. One of the big draws is a 10-story slide, pictured above. For you legal nerds out there, this building was originally the home to the International Shoe.

Collinsville, IL

In the middle of our St. Louis day we took a brief excursion to Collinsville, IL to see the Chokia Indian Mounds. Chokia was the largest settlement of the Mississippian culture and was located on this site from 600-1400 A.D.

Cahokia Indian Mounds

There are 80 mounds (originally 120) scattered around 2,200 acres, with the largest rising 100 feet. It is believed that either a temple or the residence of the chief was at the top.

Wolds Largest Ketchup Bottle

While we were there, we took a short drive over to see the world’s largest ketchup bottle. As we were finishing up, a gentleman pulled up to take pictures as well. He said he drove over 100 miles out of his way to see it and that he travels the country taking pictures of water towers. He is my spirit animal.

Independence, Missouri – Truman Library 

Truman Library

The next morning we headed West towards Kansas City. However, first we had to stop to visit the Truman Library. Our last road trip included an impromptu stop at the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was so enjoyable that we now try to incorporate any presidential library we come across into our itinerary.

Truman Oval Office

The Truman Library did not disappoint. If you have an interest in Truman, World War II, or the 1940s and 1950s, then definitely pay it a visit.

Truman Home

Just down the road from the museum is Truman’s home. He lived here with his wife as president when he was not at the White House.

Kansas City, Missouri

We were struck with a torrential downpour as we neared Kansas City and we worried that our sightseeing plans would be thwarted. Fortunately, the skies cleared for a very lovely day.

Unrelated side note: At this point, for an inexplicable reason, we started listening to Ace of Base’s “The Sign” on repeat for approximately 30 minutes. We had a few Ace of Base interludes throughout the trip. Please do not ask why. I don’t have an answer for you.

Kansas City WWI Museum

We started with a visit to the WWI Museum and Liberty Tower. From the top of the tower you get quite a lovely view of downtown. The WWI Museum has a wonderful collection and worth taking the time to see.

Kansas City Skyline Panorama

That evening we took a Segway tour of the town (read more about it and see pictures here) that took us through Westport, Country Club Plaza, and past several art museums. However, I wish I had more time to spend there and was able to see more fountains.

J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain Night

Kansas City is known for its fountains and apparently has the second most number of fountains of any city in the world, second only to Rome.

St. Joseph, Missouri – The House Where Jesse James was Shot

The next day we hit the road towards Sioux Falls, SD. The first stop of the day was the house where Jesse James was shot.

Jessee James House

It was a small museum, but really one of the cooler ones I have visited. I’d rank it as worth a detour. Jesse James was a notable Old West outlaw known for his bank, train, and stage-coach robberies. It is estimated that he killed at least 16 people.

Jesse James House Interior

On April 3, 1882, James took his guns off and stood on a chair in his home to straighten a crooked cross stitch pattern that hung on the wall. A member of his gang, Robert Ford, took the opportunity to shoot James in the back of the head in an effort to collect a reward. Instead, Ford was tried for murder and sentenced to death. Two hours later he was pardoned by the governor. (You can see the bullet hole in the top right of the picture).

Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha, somewhere in middle America . . .

Iowa Nebraska State Line Omaha

We made a quick stop in Omaha to go “bobbing” on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge (standing with one foot in Iowa and the other in Nebraska). Being on the bridge is an interesting experience because you can feel it moving beneath your feet.

Spirit of Nebraska Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park

We also took a few minutes to see a series of impressive statues in Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park.

Sioux City, Iowa

Just stopped in Iowa for a minute. Gas here is confusing.

Iowa Gas

South Dakota

First impression: 80 m.p.h speed limit? Way to go South Dakota!

Second impression: Your interstates are really loud to drive on.

Overall impression: South Dakotans are the nicest people I’ve ever met.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls was an unexpected delight. The Big Sioux River goes right through downtown and creates a gorgeous set of waterfalls.

Sioux Falls Train

Falls Park is just a quick walk from downtown. The pictures do not do it justice.

Sioux Falls Rapids

It was by far the most relaxing stop on our journey (which is really saying something).

Sioux Falls Rapids Panorama

Here is your own moment of zen:

Mitchell, South Dakota – Corn Palace

Whenever I told people about this trip, one of the first things they would say is, “you have to visit the Corn Palace.” It was supposed to be a-maize-ing. Perhaps we got there a little early, because while it is definitely good roadside kitsch, it was not the most exciting stop on the journey.

Corn Palace

Midland, South Dakota – 1880 Town

One of my favorite detours was to 1880 Town in Midland, SD. It has 30 buildings that date back to the 1880s to 1920s. It is great if you need to stretch your legs and walk for a bit.

1880 Town

I think we stayed here for close to an hour sightseeing.

Longhorn 1880 Town

Eventually I wandered up to an old church to visit with some longhorn. They were not particularly into talking to me and wandered away shortly after I took this picture. Rude.

Badlands National Park

If you ever get anywhere close to Badlands National Park, definitely take the time to pay it a visit.

Badlands National Park Sign

This was the first location we got to use a National Park Annual Pass I purchased while in St. Louis. The pass gets you free admission to national parks for a year and paid for itself on this trip alone. (I just have to be sure to use it once I get home.)

Beware of Rattlesnakes

The Badlands have been a work in progress for the last 500,000 years.

Big Badlands Overlook Panorama

It is full of beautiful and colorful buttes, deep canyons, and towering spires.

White River Valley Overlook

Every stop along the loop had a different and spectacular view.

White River Valley Overlook 2

I only wish we’d gotten there earlier in the morning. The heat made staying out in the sun long periods very uncomfortable.

Badlands Panorama

To give you some context for the scale of the Badlands, this is a picture of me admiring the landscape.

Wall, South Dakota – Wall Drug

Unlike the Corn Palace, Wall Drug did not disappoint. Wall Drug is the ultimate tourist stop and has a little bit of everything. Those who told me to pay it a visit definitely undersold it.

Zoltar Fortune

The best part was my psychic reading from Zoltar, who gave the most on point fortune ever told.

Deadwood, South Dakota

Deadwood was one of the stops I looked forward to the most. Deadwood is an Old West town that was home to legends like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. It is nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Dead Wood Overlook

The historic downtown area is a mix of tourist kitsch and beautiful old buildings. I never get tired of the look of small town South Dakota.

Deadwood

I got to meet Wild Bill himself outside of the legendary Saloon No. 10. The walls of the saloon are covered with Old West memorabilia and it was a fun place to see a show and enjoy a cold sarsaparilla.

Wild Bill

However, things did not end well for Wild Bill. About 30 minutes later he was shot by Jack McCall, who you see trying to escape below in a good ole fashioned shootout.

Deadwood Jack McCall Capture

We made our way up to Mt. Moriah Cemetery to visit Wild Bill’s grave.

Wild Bill Calamity Jane Graves

Calamity Jane’s dying wish was to be buried by his side. As you can see, her wish was granted.

Mt. Rushmore

We started the fifth morning of our trip with a visit to one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.

Mt. Rushmore Flags

There were only a few people in the park when we arrived which provided a pretty intimate setting for viewing the monument.

Mt. Rushmore

It absolutely lived up to all of my expectations. George, Tom, Franklin, and Abe are literally larger than life. The faces of Mt. Rushmore are 60 feet high.

Mt. Rushmore Mountain Goat

After leaving the park we met a friendly mountain goat and her kids. She complimented my hat, but otherwise didn’t have much to say. She went on with her breakfast and we continued on with our journey.

Mt. Rushmore Lake

Our entire drive through the Black Hills was filled with wonderful beautiful surprises.

Crazy Horse Memorial

The Crazy Horse Memorial is just a short drive from Mt. Rushmore and worth putting on your list. Crazy Horse was the leader of the Oglala Lakota, the tribe that called the Black Hills their home.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Once it is completed, it will be the largest statue in the world. It is significantly larger than Mt. Rushmore and all four presidents will fit inside Crazy Horse’s head.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park is just a stone’s throw from Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse and it is not to be missed. In addition to beautiful scenery, there is a wide variety of wildlife. We saw prairie dogs, burros, and 2 herds of buffalo.

Custer State Park Prarie Dog

The burros, commonly called “begging burros,” went on a car-to-car hunt looking for treats and some friendly face scratchings.

Custer State Park Begging Burrow

One burro would not budge from in front of our car. Below is a picture of my failed attempt to reason with the burro to get it to move. Lesson: Lawyer skills will only get you so far if you do not have fresh apples with you.

Custer State Park Begging Burrow in Road

Despite the adorableness of the burros, the highlight of our journey through the park was spotting the buffalo.

Custer State Park Buffalo Panorama

There were a few hundred of them right off of the road. Custer is home to 1,500 buffalo, which is one of the largest herds in the world.

Custer State Park Buffalo

The buffalo are mammoth in size, weighing in around 2,000 pounds, which I am pretty sure is more than our car.

Custer State Park Buffalo Calf

Wyoming

Torrential rain and tumbleweeds.

Colorado

Nothing prepared me for the sheer massiveness of the mountains in Colorado. Even if all you do is drive down I-70, this state is worth a visit. I don’t know what I liked more, the dramatic rocky cliffs or the tree Bob Ross-esque tree-lined mountains.

Estes Park, Colorado – The Stanley

We spent the night at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The Stanley was the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. It was built in 1909 and is legendarily haunted.

The Stanley Panorama

I initially intended to do an entire blog post about my stay at The Stanley, but despite taking a ghost tour, staying on the “haunted” fourth floor, and being told by two different hotel staff members that I would “definitely experience activity,” I have absolutely nothing to report.

Rocky Mountain National Park

We woke up the next morning and decided to skip time in Denver for an impromptu trip into Rocky Mountain National Park. (Yet another good use of our National Park Annual Pass.)

Rocky Mounatain National Park Overlook

The detour was definitely the right decision.

Rocky Mountain National Park Elevation

The drive up the mountain took about an hour as we winded through steep drop offs and scenic views. We passed several people on bikes on the way up, which was ridiculously impressive.

Rocky Mountain National Park Elk

On our way we encountered a heard of elk resting and grazing in a field and we pulled off to chill with them for a while.

Rocky Mountain National Park Snowfield Sign

Despite it being late June, there was still plenty of snow on the ground. If you know my love of snow, you’ll know that I was extra excited about this.

Rocky Mountain National Park Snowfield

We drove to the top of the trail and then climbed the rest of the way to the peak. I think things might taste better at 12,000 feet because the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had was at the visitor’s center at the top of the trail. I’m talking serious chocolatey deliciousness.

Rocky Mountain National Park Panorama

Morrison, Colorado – Dinosaur Ridge 

What is a trip out west without dinosaurs? We stopped at Dinosaur Ridge to satisfy our inner 10-year-old nerdiness.

Dinosaur Ridge SIgn

Dinosaur Ridge is home to dino bones, dino footprints, and a variety of interesting geological formations.

Dinosaur Bones

The highlight for me was seeing dinosaur footprints up close. Growing up on the East Coast this was not something I had access to.

Dinosaur Footprints

I was even allowed to climb the rock face and touch a fossilized alligator claw mark. It was huge.

Touching Dinosaur Footprints

Idaho Springs, Colorado – Whitewater Rafting

We finished our time in the Denver area by going whitewater rafting in Idaho Springs. You can read an entire post on it and see more pictures and a video here.

Whitewater Rafting Class IV

Glenwood Springs, Colorado – Doc Holiday’s Grave

To wrap up our Old West tour we stopped in Glenwood Springs, Colorado to visit Doc Holiday’s grave. Doc Holiday was one of America’s most celebrated gunslingers. The grave is part of a rather unkept cemetery and it took a little bit of a hike to get there, but it was worth it. They are actually unsure exactly where Doc Holiday is buried, but they know he is somewhere in the cemetery.

Doc Holiday Gravesite

Moab, Utah

One of the trip highlights was our time in Moab. Not only did we get to spend time in the area parks, but we did a little glamping while we were there. There are additional pictures in a glamping post that you can read about here.

Moab Under Canvas

Dead Horse State Park

Dead Horse State Park gets its name from the use of the mesa top as a corral for wild horses.  Cowboys herded the horses across the narrow neck of land and onto the point.  The horses were then fenced off with branches and brush. Legend has it that, for some unknown reason, the horses were left corralled without any water and they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River 2,000 feet below.

Dead Horse State Park Panorama

You may also recognize it from the final scene of Thelma and Louise where the ladies go crashing into the river below. (Sorry for the lack of spoiler alert, but you’ve had 25 years to see it.)

Dead Horse State Park

Cayonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is yet another jewel Utah has to offer. Short hikes can can get you to some truly beautiful sights. However, the trails can be pretty poorly marked leaving you to guess as to whether you are actually on a trail or wandering aimlessly through the park.

Canyonlands Arch

The park is full of a wide variety of geological formations including arches and (possibly) meteor craters.

Canyonlands Metero Crater

Arches National Park

Arches National Park has over 2,000 natural stone arches. We started our day by seeing the famed Delicate Arch.

Arches Heat Warning

The hike is listed as one of Arches “difficult” hikes and should be done early in the morning and with plenty of water. In fact, two people died on the trail the week we were there.

Delicate Arch Hike

Part of the hike was pretty strenuous and was directly uphill. (Those tiny things are the people ahead of me).

Delicate Arch Trail

Many of the trails in the area parks were marked with cairns, or piles of rocks, as a guide.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch was a pretty impressive sight (it is the one you see on the Utah license plates). It is 65 feet tall and basically in the middle of nowhere. (I am in the bottom right of the picture, for a size comparison).

Arches Petroglyphs

There were also some petroglyphs right off of the trail that date back to between 1650-1850.

Arches Double Arch

But Delicate Arch is just one of thousands to see. My favorites were the double arches in the windows section of the park.

Zion National Park

We made a slight detour on the way to Vegas to see Zion National Park. We didn’t have time to do any hiking or take the park shuttle, so instead we just drove the 12-mile road that went through the park and stopped to take pictures as we went.

Zion National Park Sign

But even though we could not see much of it, the park was still beautiful.

Zion National Park Panorama

And the sights we did get to see were absolutely worth the detour.

Zion Chekerboard

Las Vegas, Nevada 

We finished our trip in lovely Las Vegas! We turned the car in and finished our vacation on foot.

Las Vegas at night

Most of my trip was mostly spent either at the spa or taking a relaxing stroll down the strip in my introvert gear (floppy hat, big sunglasses, and Sinatra pumping though my earbuds). However, the highlight was a doors off helicopter ride right after sunset. You can read about the ride and see pictures and a video here. It was a wonderful way to end our journey before flying home.

Las Vegas Sky

Overall impressions of the trip

This was my first vacation in 3 years and it absolutely exceeded all of my expectations. There was not a single let down. I love traveling, I love seeing the countryside, and I love getting out and experiencing new places. I feel very lucky to not only live in such a beautiful country, but also to have the means to be able to see it.

One of my favorite parts was seeing the landscape change as we crossed the mid-west. Traveling through the Ozarks, the plains, Badlands, the Black Hills, farm country, Rocky Mountains, and the desert shows just how big and vast the country really is. Specifically, I don’t think I fully appreciated just how much farming is done in this country until I spent hours and hours driving past it.

Now that I can cross these places off of my travel list, I just have to start planning the next road trip. I am thinking about the Pacific Coast Highway or a tour of the North West.

Trip Tips  

To plan this trip I used one of my favorite websites, Roadside America. It is a great travel guide for unusual attractions, tourist traps, and all things kitsch. Trip Advisor’s lists of the top things to do in each city filled in our itinerary nicely. We were able to fit in so many amazing things because every stop, except Rocky Mountain National Park, was planned in advance using one of those two websites.

If you plan on doing any traveling this summer (or any other time) get a National Park Annual Pass. It is only $80 and gets you in to all National Parks for free. If we paid for each of our stops it would have cost us over $115. The pass paid for itself in about 9 days. It lasts 12 months from the month you purchase it, so you have plenty of time to get in as much adventure as you’d like.

If you plan on doing a trip like this I suggest investing in a good thermos for water. I got a 40oz Hydro Flask (in Vol orange) that kept my water icy cold all day long. I am not sure what I would have done without it. Many of our hikes would have been miserable, if not dangerous, without ample amounts of water.

Hydro Flask

The Great American Road Trip

For Week 24 of my 52-week journey, I took the great American road trip with my best friend. She was traveling from Boston to Phoenix, and when she got to Knoxville I hopped in the car and went with her the rest of the way. We drove almost 2000 miles, and through 6 states, with a few stops along the way.

Road Trip Map View

Memphis, TN
Our first major stop was in Memphis. You can’t visit Memphis without seeing Graceland. Well, I guess you can beacuse this was my fourth time in Memphis and I’d never visited Graceland before. We didn’t have time for a tour because we had to hit the road early, but we were able to see the meditation garden and Elvis’s grave before the rest of the estate opened.

Graceland
We had the entire place to ourselves. I guess there aren’t a lot of Elvis fans up at 8:00 AM.

Elvis's Grave
After Graceland, we made a quick detour to go visit Sun Studio. Sun Studio was run by Sam Phillips and is considered to be the birthplace of rock ‘n roll. Greats like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Howlin’ Wolf recorded there in the 1950s. Again, we were too early to talk an actual tour, so visiting the outside had to suffice for this trip.

Sun Studio
If you look carefully, you can see a sign below the giant guitar that says, “Do not stand in street.” When I saw that my first thought was “what idiot would stand in the middle of the street?” A few minutes later I look over to see my friend standing in the road taking pictures during rush hour traffic.

Little Rock, AR
As we headed West from Memphis we discussed what our next stop would be. The only place we could think of before Oklahoma City was Little Rock. We tired to figure out what there was actually to do in Arkansas. The only thing that occurred to us was the Clinton Library.

Clinton Library

As we pulled into the parking lot my friend asked whether parking was free. I replied, “of course it’s free. He’s a Democrat!” Just a little humor there, kids.

Oval Office

We got there just as a tour was starting so we decided to hop on and join. The library was very interesting. It featured full-scale replicas of the oval office and cabinet room, thousands of historical documents, policy alcoves featuring various administration initiatives, a timeline of his years in office, and gifts to the Clintons during their time in the White House. I hope I can visit more presidential libraries in my future travels.

Okemah, OK
Our first roadside stop was in Okemah, Oklahoma, home of Woody Guthrie.

Woody Guthrie Statue

Woody Guthrie was an American folk singer who sang “This Land is Your Land,” a song I refused to listen to in the car out of fear it would get stuck in my head and never leave. Even as I type this I am trying not to think about it.

Woody Guthrie Mural
There was also a mural honoring him and three nearby water towers that said “hot,” “cold,” and “home of Woody Guthrie.”

Oklahoma City, OK
We spent the night in Oklahoma City and got up early the next day to visit downtown and the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial and Museum. Oklahoma City is absolutely beautiful. I wish I had more time to explore.

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Panorama

The Clinton Library tour guide recommended that we visit the museum and told us how well it was put together. He was right. The museum walked you through the minutes leading up to the bombing to the terrible aftermath.

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial

Outside the formal memorial, the public has created their own wall to remember those who lost their lives in the bombing. The fence lining the grounds is covered with mementos left from people all over the world.

While this wasn’t exactly a feel-good tour stop, I am glad we did it. Traveling is supposed to give you perspective and teach you what it is like to walk in another’s shoes. The museum definitely opened my eyes to what it might be like to have your community torn apart by such a horrible event.

Hydro, OK

If you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way, take the highway that’s the best
Get your kicks on Route 66

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to travel the Mother Road. Route 66 has been around since 1927, a time long before modern American highways. It runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, a route I hope to follow in full some day.

Now you go through Saint Louis, Joplin, Missouri,
And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
You see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona. Don’t forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernandino.

We first met up with Route 66 on the other side of Oklahoma City.

Route 66 Oklahoma
We stopped at Lucille’s, a historic pitstop on Route 66. It was built in 1929 and purchased by Lucille and her husband Carl in 1941. It is merely a monument now, but serves as a reminder of what it was like to travel the country before the existence of modern interstates.

Lucille's
I wanted to stop at more abandoned towns and gas stations on the route, but I know my friend would have killed me and left me at one if I tried.

Groom, TX
Route 66 was where it was at for roadside kitsch. We couldn’t stop at every attraction, so I picked the ones I liked best. Of the ones we visited, only a few for them are on the blog.

We stopped at the leaning water tower in Groom, TX. It used to be a functioning water tower, but was eventually slated for demolition. A local business man purchased it and used it as a sign for his gas station.

Leaning Water Tower

Eventually the gas station burned to the ground, but the tower remains.

Conway, TX
Just East of Amarillo we reached the Slug Bug Ranch, which features 5 VW Beetles burried in the ground just off the interstate. Conway, TX is a tiny town of approximately 20 people. The origin of the Slug Bug Ranch isn’t entirely clear, but it was supposedly erected around 2002 to attract people to a service station. However, like many roadside attractions, the bugs survived and the station did not.

Bug Ranch Full View

Just like at Cadillac Ranch, people bring cans of spray paint to leave their mark. Unfortunately, we did not think to do this.

Bug Ranch Pose
It’s really a great stop that shouldn’t be missed.

Bug Ranch
Who doesn’t love Sara!

Amarillo, TX
Next, of course, was Cadillac Ranch the inspiration for the Slug Bug Ranch. Cadillac Ranch was installed in 1974 and features 10 Caddys half-buried in the ground. The angle of the cars replicates that of the Great Pyramid in Egypt. The place was crawling with visitors, all leaving their mark on the cars.

Cadillac Ranch Full View
I look like I am rocking a diva pose here, but I am just desperately trying to get my hair out of my face. It was incredibly windy that day.

Cadillac Ranch
While we were at the Slug Bug Ranch we noticed that part of the car, likely the splash guard, was hanging down and dragging the ground. I tried to reattach it, but couldn’t get it to snap back into place. However, my dad taught me well and I knew exactly how to fix it. We stopped at a gas station after Cadillac Ranch and I purchased some cable ties. I was able to secure the piece back into place and we were on our way!

Fixing the Car
I was really excited to feel useful.

New Mexico (Various Locations)
I really shouldn’t make fun of my friend too much for standing in the road in Memphis. When we reached New Mexico we pulled over to take a picture of the state sign rather than attempt to take a shot out the window of a moving car. I was very responsibly taking a picture from the side of the road when I realized that no traffic was coming for at least a mile. I ran into the middle of the road and snapped this. When I got back in the car my friend said “I can’t believe you were just standing in the middle of I-40! If I’d known you were going to do that I would have taken a picture.” She is always looking out for me. I admitted that it was probably not one of my more responsible photo-taking decisions.

New Mexico State Line

We discovered that New Mexico is pretty empty. Other than in the cities, there is absolutely nothing there. We drove for hours without any cell service and had to use maps the old fashioned way to get places.

Windmills

Since we didn’t have any roadside stops, I snapped a few pics out the window as we drove.

New Mexico Train

I loved the long trains out in the desert, they seemed to stretch for miles.

Santa Fe, NM
We spent the night in Santa Fe so we could explore the downtown in the morning. It was much cooler there than our other stops, and it was a nice break from the 100-degree-plus weather we had been experiencing so far.

Oldest Church
Santa Fe is home to the San Miguel Mission, which is thought to be the oldest church in the country. It was constructed in 1610 by the Tlaxcalan Indians, and is still in use today.

Oldest House

Just across the street from the oldest church is the oldest house in America. It is adobe-style and dates to at least 1646, but it is thought that it could have been built as early as the 1200s. It is amazing to think about something in our country being that old, usually you have to travel abroad to experience such history.

Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque was just a short drive from Santa Fe so we took a short detour to walk around Old Town. I really liked it there, better than Santa Fe. (Sorry, Santa Fe.) It just seemed like there was a more to see there and the layout was a little more open and scenic.

Old Town Albuquerque Panoram

This post might as well be subtitled “Sara learns to use the panorama feature on her iPhone.” You can click the pictures to enlarge them.

Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
We detoured off of the main road to visit the Petrified Forest in the Painted Desert. If you are ever near here, definitely take the time to see it, its beauty does not translate well to photographs.

Painted Desert Pose

It’s a 28-mile drive though the park. The road is lined with scenic overlooks of mountains, valleys, and petrified wood.

Painted Desert Tepees

My favorite part was the tepees. They are layered in blues, purples, and grays created by iron, carbon, manganese, and other minerals. They were breathtaking. I hope to go back to the painted desert someday and see the rest of it.

Painted Desert Tepees Panorama
The park also has hundreds of petroglyphs and pictographs, which clearly depict ancient aliens.

Petroglyphs
Actually, many of the sites were used as solar calendars. Most of the petroglyph sites date to 1000-1350 A.D.

Holbrook, AZ
After exiting the park we drove through Holbrook on our way back to the interstate. If you love roadside kitsch or Route 66, this is the stop for you. It seemed like much of the town was frozen in time. We stopped at one of the most iconic roadside stops in America, the Wigwam Motel.

Wigwam Motel

You can actually stay in the wigwams! I had no idea. If I ever make this trip again I definitely plan to stay here.

Meteor Crater, AZ
Our last tourist stop was the Meteor Crater. We were growing tried so we only stopped long enough to take a few pictures.

Meteor Crater Panorama 2

The crater was formed 50,000 years ago when an asteroid stuck the earth at 26,000 miles per hour. It is almost a mile across and 550 feet deep. Because it is the best preserved meteor crater in the world, I knew this might be a once in a lifetime sight. It was indescribably huge, yet only a small fraction of the size of the meteor that likely killed the dinosaurs. It is a little sobering to think how little control we have over our destiny.

Meteor Crater Panorama 1

We spent 4 days driving 2000 miles and had an absolute blast doing it. One day I hope to drive the entire Mother Road and stop and visit all there is to see.

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