2014: Road Tripping USA

It has been 5 months since I left New Orleans. It has already been two months since I arrived in my new ‘hometown’ of Melbourne, Australia. They say that time flies when you’re having fun. It never ceases to amaze me just how fast though.

Before we know it, 2015 will be coming to an end, and I haven’t even told you about 2014!

Now that we are somewhat settled into our new life here in Australia, I have started looking back on my time in the United States. I realize that the 1.5 years I lived there have flown by in the blink of an eye. I also realize that a report on my US adventures is incredibly long overdue.

One report will never be able to cover all the amazing people I met, places I visited, and the foods I tried (!). Not to mention the countless random situations I got myself into. I am aware of that, but this post is a start. Probably of many more posts to come. :)

In need of some ‘inspiration’, I asked myself:
How would you best sum up your time in ‘Merica?
The answer came to mind almost immediately. If there is one thing that stood out during my time in this – literally – great country, it would undoubtedly be the road.

Now, I am not talking about the horrible condition of almost all roads in New Orleans, ridden with holes, crumbling asphalt, and construction zones. That would probably be worthy of a blog post of its own. 😉

Nope. The road I am thinking about refers to US Highways.

Many, many, many miles of US Highways…

USA: the land of the road trip

Leaving New Orleans, Louisiana
Leaving our home in New Orleans, to hit the US highways… Road Tripping USA!

New York

My new “American life” started by getting stranded in New York. Upon arrival at JFK, the airport was shut down due to the extreme winter weather conditions across the entire Northeast of the US. There was no way that I, or anyone else, was going anywhere.

New Orleans would just have to wait for me a little longer. I was ‘forced’ to stay in New York City until further notice. Boo, what a horrible punishment…
[I love love love NYC!!! 😀 ]

After a night in the Hilton Hotel in lower Manhattan (again, what a horrible punishment), I was getting ready to roam the streets, squares, parks, and bridges of Manhattan. In other words, I put on every single piece of clothing from my hand luggage that somewhat allowed itself to be layered into a subzero-temperature-resisting-without-having-a-winter-coat outfit.

By the time I was fully dressed, I think I was literally wearing at least 20 different items, from tops, t-shirts, and long-sleeves to leggings, jeans, and at least 3 pairs of socks.

My strategy?
Walk until I could no longer feel my legs, then pop into the nearest coffee shop to warm up again, and so on and so forth.

New York in January
Whenever I am in New York, I have to visit Central Park. And always pop into the Natural History Museum.
Hudson River in January
Walking along the Hudson river in snow covered New York. Almost magical!

Texas

After Mardi Gras and St Patrick’s Day had hit the town of New Orleans, I was once again bitten by the relentless travel bug. The bastard never seems to leave me alone for more than a few months at a time.

No matter how much fun I was having, I had to get out of the city!

So… I took a week off from work and decided to dedicate myself to the business of random exploring.

And where do you go to get the All American Experience? That’s right.

TEXAS, here I am!
Yeehaw!!

Texas Road Trip

Downtown Houston

Downtown Austin, Texas
Downtown Austin, Texas
Downtown San Antonio Texas
Wow! Did I just take this photo?! Downtown San Antonio, Texas.

 

Arizona

Well, that did it. Give me a little taste of travel, and I become insatiable.

Less than a month after the Texas adventure, I called up a buddy of mine in Arizona and told her I was coming to visit.

To give you a better idea of my definition of a ‘buddy’ (just kidding!): I had not seen or spoken to this girl in five years.

We had met over a cup of coffee somewhere on the South Island of New Zealand some time back in 2009. A few months after this random but lovely meeting, I found myself in a cold and rainy Los Angeles (just my luck?) taking her up on the offer of calling her parents, “because they are awesome” [her words]. Turns out, she was absolutely right. They are a hoot. So nice and caring, not to mention hilarious (!), that 4 months into my solo-backpacking adventure around the world I decided to spend a full week at her parents house in the desert of Arizona.

Her answer to my call in 2014?
“Sure thing”
, she said, “why don’t we go on a little camping trip? That’ll be fun!”

Yes! Why don’t we?
I love my friends. Spread out all across the world, but always happy to see me. :)

Arizona Highways
Arizona Highways: truly something else!
Camping Trip to Tuscon, Arizona
The truck that took us on our camping trip to Mount Lemmon, Tucson area, Arizona.
Arizona Highway Scenery
The awesome scenery along Arizona Highways

North Carolina

What happens when Marly starts a new adventure? She meets someone.
Usually right before, so that it becomes much harder to leave. Not this time though.

This time, I have actually found a life partner who turns out to be a great travel partner too! :)
We passed the “Texas Test” with flying colors, so now we were driving to his home state of North Carolina.

On the road to North Carolina
On the road again! I absolutely love going on road trips…

We were going to a wedding! Of one of his friends I don’t even know!

I’d like to say that this is totally normal for my lifestyle, but when it comes to weddings I am still very much inexperienced. I once attended a wedding of a good friend in Buenos Aires, and another beautiful wedding celebration of a lifelong friend back in my hometown in the Netherlands.

So what was I supposed to expect? Will it be awkward not knowing anyone?
But more importantly, what shall I wear? And how to do my hair? 😉

Going to a wedding in North Carolina
Going to a wedding in North Carolina… Loving the look!

Mississippi – Tennessee – Arkansas – Missouri – Illinois – Indiana – Kentucky – Alabama

Summer had come and so we decided to step up our game. It was time for the Road Trip of all road trips!

Or… at least as much as we could cram into 9 days. And we sure gave it our very best shot!

Starting in New Orleans, we drove straight across the United States of America. From South to North, from the Mexican Gulf to Lake Michigan. What an amazing adventure!

Jackson, Mississippi

Memphis, Tennessee

Sun Studio Memphis
Sun Studio, Memphis: Where Elvis and Johnny Cash (among others) were first recorded!
Peabody Hotel, Memphis
Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee: watching the ducks together with two super cute “all American girls”.

Hernando de Soto Bridge, Arkansas

Welcome to Arkansas
Shortly but certainly, we have officially gone to Arkansas!

St. Louis, Missouri

Skyline St Louis, Missouri
Approaching St. Louis, Missouri
Gateway Arch St Louis
I am fascinated by the Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri! What a world of photographic opportunities.
Cahokia Mounds Illinois
Just outside St. Louis, and actually just in Illinois, lay the holy hills of the Cahokia Mounds

 

Chicago, Illinois

Fountain in Millennium Park, Chicago
Fountain Fun in Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois
Wrigley Field, Chicago
Celebrating 100 years of supporting the Cubs at Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois

[In case you started doubting my capabilities as a photographer: I chose the above picture on purpose. Love those classic panorama blunders!]

What was the plan for the way back South?

We came up with a different route to take. The country route.  Just because we can. :)
From Chicago we drove through Indianapolis, to then haul all the way to Cave City, Kentucky.

Yes, the absolute middle of nowhere. Hosting a very impressive system of caves though.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Road Signs, Indiana
With the sun almost setting, we better hurry down to Kentucky if we still want to catch some sleep. Going East!
Indianapolis, Indiana
Thirst things first: We made it to Indianapolis, Indiana! Just enough time to have a drink [except for the driver], and hit the road again!

Cave City, Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky: Longest cave system in the world!

Inside Mammoth Cave

Relaxing Scenery, Kentucky
The red barns form a nice distraction in the relaxing scenery of the state of Kentucky: Iconic elements among the endless corn fields

After visiting the Mammoth Caves early in the morning, it was again time to hit the road!

On the schedule for the rest of today?

Some good old honky-tonking in Nashville, Tennessee! 😀

Nashville, Tennessee

Photo bombed at the Guitar on Broadway in Nashville
Great photo bomb by some local honkytonk fans at the funky guitar on Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee
Broadway Nashville
Goodbye Nashville, you were too much fun! It’s getting dark, let’s hit the road again…

However hard it was to leave that party place, we did manage to arrive in Birmingham, Alabama, for a very late dinner.

Birmingham, Alabama

Road Sign Birmingham, Alabama
Late at night, but I still tried to get a good shot of the road sign for Birmingham, AL
Five Points Birmingham, Alabama
Five Points in Birmingham, Alabama: Nice area to go for late night dinner!

And then finally, we got back to the city of New Orleans. I think it was around 3 AM.

Good night!

Or should I say, good morning?

Back in New Orleans at 3AM
Cheers! We made it all the way back to New Orleans around 3 AM…

Louisiana

Being our home base in the United States, we made it our priority to hit Louisiana roads whenever we had a chance. Throughout 2014, we made many short and longer road trips around this historically French and Spanish state.

Remnants of its interesting past to be found everywhere!

Ford Mustang
Loving the road trips in our good old Mustang! My baby with his baby Maybelline. ;-)

Nottoway Plantation

Nottoway Plantation Louisiana
Nottoway Plantation, Louisiana: Beautiful American style plantation home

Laura Plantation

Laura Plantation Louisiana
Laura Plantation, Louisiana: Classical French Creole style plantation home
Slave Quarters Laura Plantation Louisiana
Slave Quarters at Laura Plantation, Louisiana

Avery Island

Avery Island, Louisiana
Avery Island, Louisiana: Home of the Tabasco sauce!
 Gift Shop on Avery Island, Louisiana
You can find literally anything Tabasco in the gift shop on Avery Island, Louisiana!

Florida

Summer came and summer went. I was having so much fun, and time was flying so incredibly fast, that I didn’t even stop to realize that fall had come along. Not that surprising though, when temperatures don’t drop and leaves don’t change its colors.

Welcome to Louisiana life, where the sun smiles at you year round. :)

But however sunny and funny, there is one thing the magnificent state of Louisiana cannot offer its visitors or residents.

White sandy beaches. We are going to Florida, baby!

Destination Florida
I got this beautiful Lonely Planet book for my birthday, time for yet another road trip!
Road tripping to Pensacola, Florida
Road tripping to Pensacola, Florida!
Fall in Pensacola, Florida
Fall in Pensacola, Florida: still warm enough to enjoy the beautiful (and deserted) beaches!

North Carolina

Holiday season in America.

The time of year that Americans hit the road en masse.
Airports, bus terminals, and train stations are flooded with people trying to get “home”. Whether it is your parents’ house, your sister’s, your uncle’s, or your cousin’s, Thanksgiving and Christmas just have to be celebrated in the presence of family.

Home Sweet Home.
Sit back, relax, and bring on the food. And the booze!

Nothing excites my boyfriend more than food, so obviously we were driving up to North Carolina for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Two road trips from New Orleans to North Carolina.
One at the end of November, the other towards the end of December.

Nothing strange here, we are just two people taking a nice little 850 mile / 1350 kilometer drive – one way! – to make it to the dinner table in time.

Gotta get that turkey! And that ham! 😛

Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving Dinner is served! A 23 pound turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato, pineapple casserole, and bacon broccoli salad. Not in the picture: several pumpkin and pecan pies for dessert. Bon appétit! ;-)
Christmas Tree Shopping
Shopping for a Christmas tree: “We need to get just the right one!”
Christmas 2014 in North Carolina
Christmas 2014 in North Carolina, USA: A beautifully decorated and colossal (!) tree with a massive amount of gifts underneath. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

What is your dream road trip?
Did you get stuck in the planning stage or did you go out and hit the road?
Any favorite (US) locations? Tell me! I can always use more inspiration for future travels! 😉

 

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