William & Whitney http://williamandwhitney.com American Family Adventurists Mon, 28 Jul 2014 01:50:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.20 Day Seventeen: Getting to the gulf http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=247 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=247#respond Wed, 16 Jul 2014 02:58:49 +0000 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=247 read more]]> We left Vicksburg fairly early for us out of a hotel… we knew we had some driving to do but it wasn’t going to be our longest day yet. We weren’t exactly sure how time would work out and if we were going to stay in Pensacola Beach or stay in Mobile so we just pointing the Mazda southeast and started surfing maps and websites.

We took a pit stop in Hattiesburg, MI after stopping through a visitor center – it’s actually a really nice old town. Apparently it was the first of it’s kind in the south to have a formal Police department and academy.. it is still well respected and accredited to this day making it a pretty safe place to hang your hat I suppose.

We walked the historic downtown area and got some lunch at Brownstone’s Cajun Bistro. They sat us on the 2nd floor balcony and we had the entire place to ourselves (it was 2:30.. lunch rush was gone). I ordered traditional jambalaya and loaded potatoes and Whitney had the crab cake sandwich. Both of which were the best examples of said dishes we’ve ever had. The crab cake was awesome. The server was a great conversation as well as we had time to kick back for a while. We learned of his living in Oregon for a while and what a change that was being indigenous to MI – he still loves OR, but MI has his calling for now. The girls thought he was hilarious too – which for Lily, is saying something!

Before we headed out, we checked out the owner’s personal collection of autographed guitars from a number of famous rockers from the 60s to now.

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On the way back to the car, we stopped into “Southern Fried Comics” as we know somebody who would have appreciated some cool local swag – but unfortunately, this store was all comic, no local.

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Back on the road, Whitney found a KOA in “Lillian” Alabama – wrong spelling, but we figured we had to stay there. It’s a good thing we did. When we arrived they said they had tent sites right on the water…. SOLD! After setting up camp, we still had time to take the girls to the salt water pool and enjoy the bay for a while.

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Day Sixteen: Sunshine… sort of http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=240 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=240#respond Tue, 15 Jul 2014 14:38:47 +0000 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=240 read more]]> Wichita Falls seemed pretty nice, but we weren’t going to stick around to find out. We had travelled through another time zone the day before and it took its toll on us. We overslept (yes, even the girls slept passed 9am) and completely missed the free breakfast! Frustrated and hungry, we hit the road…

Made our way to “Sweet Boy’s Diner” off the beaten path in Bowie, TX. First “real” Texan styled food we’d found. Another good find for sure. The loaded potato was great and the girls got their chicken and mac ‘n cheese they desired so much. Each lunch comes with dessert too… no doubt we were eating well.

Sweet Boys Diner

We started to see the sunlight and were trying to find out if maybe, just maybe, we could get a camping night in Texas before it was all said and done. With the drive to Dallas coming up, we thought it would time out well enough to have some fun in Dallas and find a campsite.

Nope – Dallas was a bust. All construction, roads are terrible… places we wanted to see were impossible to get to in traffic and didn’t really seem like much fun. We kept driving until we found a place for a snack and regroup on what the next stop would be.

Somebody recommended to check out Canton, TX. So we did… apparently, it’s a great place to check out, during the last weekend of each month as that is when the “Market Days” are in affect. Those keeping track should know by now, this is Tuesday… not a weekend. We did find a cool old downtown and antique store to browse through. Amazing how much cheaper things are out of VA.

Should also note that Texas has the cheapest gas thus far, even as low as $3.23 at one spot.

We ended up making the drive into Louisiana with the plan of staying in Shreveport. Yea.. about that, Shreveport is only nice if you stay in an expensive hotel and even then, it’s questionable. We drove to the next town and found a really nice spot – got all the way through check in only to be told they don’t have a room after all! Ugh… so we drove to Mississippi instead and got a room in Vicksburg for the night, right off the river. This is the second time we’ve crossed the MSR this trip, which is pretty cool really.

Tomorrow, we’re thinking of making it a beach day and HOPEFULLY camping out if the weather holds.

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Day Fifteen: More rain http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=237 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=237#respond Mon, 14 Jul 2014 05:17:09 +0000 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=237 read more]]> With all the rain the night before, we weren’t out of it yet on the next day either. We left ABQ after eating at the Aztec Restaurant which had some pretty decent food, but pretty terrible coffee.

We made the way straight for Texas. With all the bad weather, we’ve begun sticking to the freeways with the most direct path to the next destination. No use in being stuck in the middle of nowhere if we don’t need to be.

The coolest thing about the storms though is being able to see the storms from miles and miles away. At one point, we could see the three different storms across the open land. It was at that time we thought… how frequent are tornados in this area? Pretty common it seemed… luckily, we saw none.

We drove from ABQ to Amarillo where we had got ahead of what seemed a bad storm and decided to find a place to eat and wait it out. While waiting on our food, I started looking around and got that “feeling” about Amarillo. Looked up the crime stats… definitely one of the highest crime cities in the nation… G R E A T. Time to leave… we walked around a bit until the storm rolled out and we jumped back in the car and made our way to Wichita Falls for the night. Again, another camping night cancelled due to the rain. When will it end?

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Day Fourteen: Desert to Rio Grande http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=231 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=231#respond Sun, 13 Jul 2014 05:09:11 +0000 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=231 read more]]> We checked out a few more open houses on Sunday morning in the PHX Metro area before making the drive out of AZ to NM. Taking the north-easterly route through scenic state parks was amazing. Arizona has way more mountains than I expected, and they were awesome! So many tall cactus and very picturesque skylines with a storm that we chased through the mountains for a few hours. Even saw lightening from miles away catch “something” on fire by the time we caught up to the spot…

Only camera phone shot of the day:

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Rain, rain and more rain. The drive to Albuquerque took us through more state parks and after climbing 5,000 feet of elevation, we were presented with “Elk Crossing” signs as a surprise since none of us realized, or even thought about, that Elk live so far south. The drive went on for hours in horrible thunderstorms, slowing us to 40MPH for some spots. Several cars appeared to be heroic in their attempt at passing, only to hit deep standing water and end up “off course”.

We eventually made it over the Rio Grand in ABQ and grabbed a hotel right on the water. Worse part is, with the terrible weather, we lack photo evidence.

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Day Thirteen: Home away http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=226 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=226#respond Sat, 12 Jul 2014 18:06:57 +0000 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=226 read more]]> We always wanted to live in the Phoenix area. I almost had to move here about 8 years ago and I was hooked on that idea every since. Obviously, we stayed in VA but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t take a minute to look around at Phoenix to see what we’ve been missing.

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We grabbed an early hotel and searched some open house listings. We wanted to get “local” in this city and really see what it would be like to live here during the summer. Verdict – perfection. It was 116 degrees in the middle of the day and it felt great. The heat is NOTHING like VA. You can jump in the pool and cool off and the breeze becomes really refreshing!

We stayed in Old Town Scottsdale, which is way more youthful than I expected it to be and the schools systems around here actually seem pretty well rated!

We found some dinner at Tortilla Factory in old town before heading back to the hotel for the night.

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Side note – staying in Scottsdale is surprisingly affordable. Hotels under $100/night are easy to find and they all seem clean and have all the amenities.

 

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Day Twelve: Lions and Tigers and Bears… http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=217 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=217#respond Fri, 11 Jul 2014 17:55:08 +0000 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=217 read more]]> Oh my… Friday was the ZOO day. The unofficial turning point in the trip. We got up and left the hotel to go straight to the San Diego Zoo for breakfast. The girls got to have their favorite food: Avery had pancakes, Lilian had her Mac n’ Cheese.

Breakfast at the zoo

Giving Avery her own map of the zoo, she attempted to navigate us to where she wanted to go, which consisted of only seeing giraffes and tigers before we had to take over the routing. The zoo is very nice, plenty of shaded areas and very active animals, even during the mid afternoon hours when most are napping after their lunches.

By the time we got to the lions, they had moved to their den which is more accessible to zoo goers to get up close to the animals. The female was lounging out and had her paw against the glass… Only 1″ separated her paw from my hand.. closest I ever care to get to one of these guys, wild or domesticated, lol.

The pandas were also on display. First time I’ve actually got to see them. Momma panda was apparently tired.

Panda at San Diego

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We left the zoo a little later in the day and decided not to try driving though Yuma in the dark hours. Instead, we headed north to HWY 10 and stayed overnight in Indio, CA. The desert is awesome at night. The entire area is an Indian reservation and there is no shortage of casinos, super cars and dust. It was actually a nice drive for the evening.. with the wind behind us for the first time, the Mazda started really pouring out the MPG with an average HWY cruising MPG of 45….

 

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Day Eleven: Seeing stars… http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=214 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=214#respond Fri, 11 Jul 2014 05:41:31 +0000 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=214 read more]]> With the extra time in CA for this trip, we figured we would see what was going on in LA for a few hours. We drove down from Santa Maria through Santa Barbara getting Avery her favorite breakfast at the “pancake restaurant” AKA – IHOP. It’s funny how menus are different coast to coast, and the taxes… ugh.

We made our way to Beverley Hills, CA and just cruised through Rodeo drive and toured around some of the houses. It took a hot minute to find a parking garage we could fit in (regardless of what the attendant told us as he tried to tell us to leave AFTER we’d already driven a few levels down…). We took a walk around Hollywood and looked at the stars listed there. It reminds me of a few small blocks of Manhattan – only a bit more “Californian”.

We only stayed around LA for a few hours to start the drive to San Diego as we really wanted to get some sleep before the Zoo the next day.

After driving through the traffic, the girls were ready to take a break and we pulled off in Irvine for some dinner. We found “Spectrum” which is a large mall in Irvine just down the road from Mazda North American Operations.

We took some time to walk around the massive outdoor mall before eating, and heading out a bit later after dinner than expected. Unfortunately, San Diego was a bit painful to locate a decent hotel that wasn’t booked. We actually stayed at the Best Western “Plus” down by the marina. It was the first Best Western I’d stayed at but was actually a really nice hotel. Even had a walk out balcony making getting the bags in/out a lot easier.

 

 

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Day Ten: Down at the docks… http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=198 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=198#respond Thu, 10 Jul 2014 17:10:08 +0000 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=198 read more]]> Regretfully leaving Tahoe the day before, we made our way towards Sacramento and ended up staying the night in Vacaville, CA. We started early after breakfast to make our way to San Francisco. It was a pretty easy drive over to the bridge by the way of San Rafael and touring a little on the outskirts of Sonoma.

We came up on the bridge in the colder foggy late morning, which I guess is pretty normal in SF. It was 80s before coming to the city, and the temp just fell to 64 within a few short miles.

The bridge is pretty awesome. The tops of the beams vanishing in the fog made for the drive over the bridge really amazing – even if Whitney doesn’t think so :)

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We parked down by the Warf and started playing tourist around Pier 39. My immediate take away was that I didn’t realize how “close” Alcatraz was to the piers. It was pretty nice being able to see if clearly without having to hop a boat to go check it out.

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We ended up grabbing lunch at Grotto’s where fish and chips and clam chowder bread bowls satisfied our hunger. We had to meander through a few city blocks after lunch to find a Walgreens since supplies were running low… gave us an excuse to see more of SF anyway.

We heading out of SF towards LA, with no real plan in mind other than I wanted to drive the Pacific coast highway at some point. I also wanted to see Mazda Laguna Seca raceway as well. We decided to find the raceway first. The navigation thought it was better that we see a private gated community instead so we turned around and using just plan maps and road signs, found the track far more easily.

This track is AWESOME. Best facility I’ve ever seen honestly, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Mazda geek. It is actually in a park with camping, playgrounds, etc. It is far better maintained then some facilities I’ve been to. I went not really expecting to be able to see the track, but we were able to get in and drive all around the grounds. No event was running, so we had pretty much the run of the place. The only downside was the store closed 30 minutes before we got there!

 

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We left Salinas (where the track is) towards Monterey to pick up HWY 1 and ride the Pacific coast for as long as we could.

I have been on some amazing roads in this country, but this one is up there if not number 1 to me now. The only thing that would have made the drive better is if I was in a two seater, rotary, rear wheel drive sports car or at least a roadster. A little more sun wouldn’t have hurt either, but still… what a site. Even Whitney had a blast while fighting a bit of a bridge and cliff “issue”.
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We stayed on the 1 for over a hundred miles… snaking through small motel towns and resorts along the way. Drove out past the Hurst Castle (closed by the time we got there) and ultimately finding our way back to the 101 to grab a hotel for the night. We decided we’re going to extend the CA portion of the trip an extra day so we can have a full day at the zoo on Friday.

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Day Nine: Lake and Family http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=182 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=182#respond Wed, 09 Jul 2014 16:40:17 +0000 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=182 read more]]> Waking up in Tahoe to a somewhat chilly 64 degrees, we weren’t sure if getting in the lake was going to be an option. We had spoke with our waitress the night before about good places to take the kids and she recommended Regan Beach which was only a few minutes from the hotel.

Regan Beach

It was a great choice since it really was more of a park than the beach. It had a really nice playground, plenty of level walking trails and a small sandy area the girls could have got in if it was warmer. Met some kayakers and some locals walking their dogs in the lake as it maintains a shallow 1-2 foot depth for a long way into the water. It seems like a very chill place and everybody was really welcoming.

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Morning at Regan Beach

We knew that around 1, we’d be having lunch with my cousins who live on the NV side of the lake, about 35 minutes from where we were so we decided to pack it up and see what we could find on the way. We came to a state beach “Sand Harbor” on the lake, about 15 minutes from my cousins house and decided we would stop there to check it out. Out of state guys get charged $12 to get in! Crazy… it was nice though since the sun had come out and the beach was actually warm. The sand is not like our typical east coast sands and lacks in castle building ability but is easy on the feet still.

We left the state beach and found my cousin’s home fairly easily. Jamie and Catharine were very welcoming – even had a great lunch prepared when we got there. The boys met us at the door and I’m surprised how big they are now! The home is settled in a quiet neighborhood and they even have their own bears who live in two dens in the back yard.

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After lunch we went down to their community’s beach and pool where the girls actually got in the lake and had a great time. Getting to hang out by Lake Tahoe, catching up with family in the sun and breeze… pretty nice day for sure. Currently Carson City/Lake Tahoe are ranking high on a choice place to return to for us and having family there would make it easier :)
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State Beach Lake Tahoe

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Day Eight: Snow, sand, free hotel? http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=173 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=173#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 15:44:38 +0000 http://williamandwhitney.com/?p=173 read more]]> Our eighth day starting pretty well. The overnight temperatures were great in Rawlins and the wind was pretty minimal so everybody slept soundly. I’m still on east coast time though and still got up at 5 in the morning regardless.

We’ve appreciated the cleanliness and amenities of the KOA campsites we’ve been staying at, but we’re learning their locations are not the best for viewing the night sky or having annoying sprinklers running in the adjoining neighborhood backyards. We’re going to stay at a few National or State parks the next time we camp just to mix it up a bit. We’ll still keep using KOA as needed though :)

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We made the drive into Wells, NV seeing our first snow capped mountains along the way, and found Bella’s Restaurant for breakfast. THIS is a find. Everything is home made, they even have their own coffee – everything is fresh. It was probably the best place we’ve eaten on the entire trip for breakfast so far.

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After filling up at Bella’s, we kept making our way towards Carson City, NV with no real plan of exactly where to stay yet. We originally thought about just finding a campground or hotel near Carson City but we really wanted to see Lake Tahoe as soon as possible. Whitney started looking around at hotels in the Tahoe area. Then, realizing there of course was a Harrah’s hotel on the lake, she called our Total Rewards customer service number to see if a discount could be had based on our points. Sure enough, they were able to use both Whitney and my rewards points and got us a free room at the Harveys/Harrahs hotel on the lake! Can’t say no to that!

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The drive around the lake was awesome, if only freaking Whitney out a little bit with the drop off slops near the guardrails! It took us about 30 minutes to loop the lake to the south California side for our hotel. We arrived with enough time to check in and get the girls to the pool before some rain showers started rolling in.

We wrapped up the night with dinner at Harrah’s American River Café and some arcade games for Avery.

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We did get in touch with my cousin who lives on the NV side of the lake and plan to meet for lunch tomorrow before heading towards San Francisco!

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