Escape of the Week: America via iPhoneography

If there is one thing I did to an excess while driving cross-country, it was taking photos.

Between my new camera and my iPhone, I logged thousands of photos.

Because the iPhone was easy to tote around, there were so many instances when I simply pulled it our from my purse (or from the arm rest when I was driving) and snapped pics.

I like to think these photos help show the beauty of the lesser traveled/boring drives through the heart of America. For even more photos, be sure to click the links.

Enjoy the “iphoneography!”

The journey begins in Las Vegas. Dave and I head north on I-15 to Zion. Our drive through Nevada is flat, with desert surrounding us and mountains in the far distance.

The drive north on I-15 past Las Vegas, Nevada

A quick 2 1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas is one of the most spectacular spots I have ever visited — Zion National Park. Our first night, we grab dinner at the Bit & Spur, a cute Southwest restaurant with views of the fiery orange rocks from the patio.

The Bit and Spur at Zion National Park

The next day, we go and explore Zion. Walking from our moderately crappy motel, we hit the entrance to Zion on foot.

Walking in to Zion National Park in Utah

The entrance to Zion National Park in Utah

Pink blossoms hang from trees inside Zion National Park

Our next stop: Colorado.

We drive for 10 – plus hours. My eyes having a hard time to stay open as we go from high desert to the Mars-like landscape of barren red rock jutting out at different levels with the Rockies (or what I kept saying were the Rockies) in the distance.

Heading towards the Mars-like landscape in Moab, Utah

Finally, we cross Utah into Colorado and we get our first glimpse of the magnificent Rocky Mountains.

Driving on I-70 through the Colorado Rockies

Suddenly, I am awake. Thrilled to be in such a spectacular landscape.

I-70 through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado

From Denver, we head back up to Keystone for a conference. While I wait for our conference to kick-off, I spend time wandering through the main street of the charming ski town of Breckenridge.

The resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado

In Keystone, we are treated to high altitude and a sunset to rival some of the best I’ve ever seen. I’m sure that had something to do with the peak with little bursts of lingering snow set against the pine trees and pinks and blues of the sky.

The sun sets behind the Rocky Mountains in Colorado

I said “see you soon” to Dave in Keystone and then began the rest of my road trip with Erica. In the middle of the night, we drove from there to Denver, and in the morning we were off through the flat roads of Nebraska (and Colorado).

A photo from I-80 in Nebraska

Sunset off of I-80 in Nebraska

Eventually, we stopped in Omaha and enjoyed the awesomeness of the city and a dive bar tour.

A visit to a dive bar in Omaha, Nebraska

A visit to a dive bar in Omaha, Nebraska

The next day, we head out to Chicago via I-80 and Iowa. I’m surprised and delighted by what we see out of the window. It’s beautiful.

Driving on I-80 through Iowa

Driving through Iowa on I-80

Iowa from I-80

Of course, as we get closer to Chicago, traffic stops. Which gives me time to hang out the window and take some pics.

The Chicago skyline from a distance

A photo of the Chicago Theater in Downtown Chicago

Another look at the Downtown Chicago skyline

After Chicago, we headed south through Indiana …

Windmills in Indiana

… to Louisville. Of course, we took obligatory shots at Churchill Downs and of the charm in Downtown Louisville.

Downtown Louisville's main street

Our second night, we hit up Holy Grail, a church-turned-bar near my friend’s place.

The Holy Grail in Louisville, Kentucky

No visit to Louisville is complete without trying some bourbon!

A bourbon sampler in Louisville, Kentucky

After two weeks of driving cross-country, we finally headed to Maryland, stopping to see my brother first in Frostburg.

An old hotel on Frostburg, Maryland's main street

And then, eight hours later, we were to my house. And the next brief chapter of my life began.

Americas Blog Colorado Destinations Illinois Iowa Kentucky

Rocky Mountains, sigh

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the #winosontheroad series. Over Yonderlust and d travels ’round are road tripping and exploring America through June 27. Be sure to check out all of the posts of life on the open road.

The rustic smell of the wooden stairs hits me as soon as we walk in to Pine Ridge Condos in Breckenridge, tucked into the vast expanse of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

It smells spicy, like winter.

The view from Pine Ridge Condos in Breckenridge

I don’t think anything of it when Erica, Shaun and I begin our ascent up the six flights to our condo, carrying two suitcases (because you never know if the warm clothes are needed), my bag of toiletries, my bag with the hair straightener, and my bag with my electronics.

I take the first flight with ease. And the second, too.

Then, it hits me.

I can’t breathe very well. 

My legs turns stiff. My heart races. What would normally take a quick minute to climb the flights of stairs lapses into a story in and of itself. Pauses. Moments where I feel my pulse in my ears. Lots and lots of curse words and mumblings about why the hell the condos are missing an elevator.

I’m not in THIS bad of shape.

High up and feeling ... awful

I like to think I am exempt from all things that suck, like jet lag.

I learned my lesson about jet lag back in September when I crashed and burned hard after arriving to Las Vegas from Thailand (and a disgusting 14-hour time difference).

And, now, this.

I get altitude sickness.

Granted, Breckenridge, where our condo is located, is more than 9,000 feet above sea level.  But, I don’t expect to feel … so entirely shitty.

The three of us clamor up the stairs, heaving by the time we traverse the entirety of the building.

Later, we attend an event a top Keystone, some 11,000 feet above sea level.

“Be careful and drinks a lot of water,” warns our friend. “If you don’t drink water and drink a lot of booze, you could end up in the hospital.”

Gondola rides

I quickly recount the start of our evening, which included two gondola rides with my old friend Anna, Dave (who was my road trip partner from Vegas to Colorado), Erica, Shaun and me. On the second, we were handed champagne as we hovered a good distance above the life on the slope below.

As soon as our friend mentions getting sick so high up, I look down at my glass of wine. At the plate of food I have barely touched.

I don’t want to be that girl.

Even later in the evening, when our group heads down to River Run to drink at Kickapoo, her words repeat in my head.

The entire weekend, my body feels the effects of being in such thin air.

I can’t form sentences correctly. I know what I want to say, but the words just don’t come out right.

I can’t walk great distances without feeling winded.

Stairs? Forget about it. Instead of walking through the tunnel to cross the street safely from the Keystone Lodge to the Conference Center, I opt for risking it and hauling it across Route 6 instead of having to climb the little beastly stairs.

I moan. I complain. I feel like someone is punching me repeatedly in the stomach.

On our last night, as Erica and I discuss the merits of leaving the Rockies a few hours ahead of schedule, the final decision is made because both of us are not only excited to start our cross-country road trip, but to get the hell out of the high altitude and back down to some place where we can feel more normal.

As we crawl into bed, down in Denver, at 2 a.m., it feels incredible to take a big breath of air into my lungs.

Yes, the Rocky Mountains are gorgeous. And yes, by Day Three of being at such a high altitude, I was able to feel more like normal, but in order to get the most out of the region, more than three days are definitely needed.

When the two of us loaded into the car Monday morning, I gave the mountains one last glimpse in my rear view mirror, then smiled.

It’s time to go to Omaha, where we can breathe (a lot) easier.

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Daily Wanderlust: Breckenridge, Colorado

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the #winosontheroad series. Over Yonderlust and d travels ’round are road tripping and exploring America through June 27. Be sure to check out all of the posts of life on the open road.

Summertime in the Colorado Rocky Mountains is nothing like in the winter.

In mid-June, snow clings only to the highest, bare gray points of the peaks. Below, life is everywhere. In the bountiful green-leafed trees. In the rushing streams carrying the last of the melting snow from the Continental Divide. Even on the streets, where instead of ski-booted, bundled people walk the streets, those in warm-weather-attire wander or bike.

It’s beautiful. It’s a reminder that we need to love the beauty that surrounds us in our every day life.

I spent the past weekend enjoying this gorgeous world, splitting my time between Breckenridge and Keystone.

Breckenridge, which is home to the famous Breckenridge Ski Resort, is more than 9,000 feet above sea level (and believe me, you feel it).

Summer below the Breckenridge Ski Resort

Destinations

On the open road …

It’s dark, but above me I can hear the pitter patter of little feet on the floor. Little voices delighting in the morning.

I roll over.

It’s too early. I’m too tired.

But, I’m awake. Awake. In Denver. Starting Day Four of my Life After Las Vegas.

Laying in bed at my aunt and uncle’s house in Colorado, it has yet to hit me the huge life change I have just endured. The decisions I have made. The hole in my heart.

None of these things have hit me yet, but I know I can feel something.

Movers empty the van

My last days in Vegas came and went with only a little fanfare. My going away party a few days before I left was calm, spent with some of the people in my life I love with all of my heart. The second-to-last night in town, I spent with my best friend and her family, watching a boxing match in the comfort of their home. And my last night in the life I have lived since 2010 was spent with Dave as we prepared for the start of our road trip exploring America and my life as an expat.

Over drinks at the dive bar across from my house, he and I sat together, talking travel.

Absent was the large amount of pain I was feeling about my decision to leave this world. But, the next morning, as the movers hauled my material possessions out of the condo I rent and into storage, as I dropped my cats at their new home, the tears fell freely. Dripping down my face, drying in the desert sun.

This is pain. This is change. This is life.

But then, as quickly as those tears seared their way down my cheeks, they disappeared.

At my last meal in Las Vegas, sitting at the bar at the local wing joint, Dave turned to me.

“This is the start of your new life,” he said.

How can tears fall when there is something so joyous beginning?

Even now, three full days into life post-Las Vegas, I have yet to really cry. The adventure we’ve been on the past few days has been spectacular.

We’ve wandered through Zion National Park, just outside of St. George, Utah.

The entrance to Zion National Park in Utah

During our visit to Zion, we stayed at the “budget” motel, Terrace Brooke Lodge. For a mere $83 (plus tax) a night, we got two beds, slow (and often times non-existent wifi) and quite possibly the worst free breakfast I’ve ever had (including the 60 plus hostels I have stayed at). But, it was fun!

Nighttime at Terrace Brooke Lodge

Aside from the lodging, Springdale, which touches the entrance to Zion, is filled with beautiful restaurants that let guests enjoy the surroundings with huge patios. We checked out Bit & Spur and Oscar’s. Both were great, albeit pricey.

Bit and Spur reflects the stunning Zion

The view from Oscar's

We’ve driven through desolate (and still beautiful) parts of the desert southwest in Utah, complete with obligatory stop in Salinas for Denny’s at 10 a.m with an old friend (it’s the last stop before hitting Colorado, some 100-plus miles beyond).

Denny's

We’ve even cruised through the Rockies.

The Colorado Rockies

Yes, there are times when my heart feels that tinge of pain. When I long to have my cats snuggle in the crook of my arm and fall asleep together. When I realize I don’t have a bed, a home, a life in America anymore.

Then, I remember this is the start of the next amazing adventure. That I am seeing America. That I am going to Thailand. That I am living my life according to my own set of rules.

And that, my friends, is an awesome thing.

30 Life Crisis Americas Blog Colorado Nevada Utah

Exploring America

So, what does one do after making the decision to leave America and become an expat?

Plan an epic, massive, awesome road trip.

That’s right.

My time as a Las Vegan is coming to a bittersweet end in a mere few days (the movers come Monday, June 11). Then, I’m off on a cross-country road trip adventure before I head to Thailand and Elephant Nature Park.

Who is coming along for the ride?

First, Dave, of What’s Dave Doing, will be joining me.

He arrives Sunday to Las Vegas and gets to deal with an emotional D for a few days. (Yes, I feel bad but he has promised alcohol to take the sting of leaving my cats and driving north on 15.)

Where are we going?

No trip through the gorgeous southwest is complete without a stop in Utah at one of the stunning national parks. For this journey, we are parking it for two nights in Zion.

I’ve lived in the area for a total of five-plus years, so Zion isn’t new to me. But, it is to Dave! While I’m not going to be doing any death defying Angel’s Landing adventures, I do plan on re-visiting this gorgeous enclave of nature … and chilling by our hotel’s pool for a bit.

Then, we’re off to Colorado and TBEX — with a stopover to chill out in Denver and possibly drink some Fat Tire.

After getting some travel blogger conference time in, Dave and I will part ways and the passenger seat will open up to one of my favorite travel bloggers in the universe, Erica from Over Yonderlust.

#WinosontheRoad

Like Dave, we’ve never actually met in person, but through e-mail and phone conversations, I know I already adore the girl.

After Colorado, we are heading to Omaha (someplace in middle America, you’re welcome), then Chicago to see one of my best travel girls, Katie, and to make sure Erica crosses off “eating a hot dog” in the Windy City from her bucket list.

From Chicago, we are going to bop on down to Louisville, Kentucky to spend a few days with a good friend of mine, don fascinators and check out the Churchill Downs and even embark on a little bourbon tour.

Then, we’re in the home stretch and headed to Maryland to drop off my car, go sailing with my dad and raise a glass in our nation’s capitol.

What does this mean for the site? Well, for the next few weeks, as I pack, move and road trip it, there will be some guest posts to entertain. Then, once I’m back in the 301, it will be back to a more normal routine again! And, likely, tales of our epic adventures!

Want to follow along on the journey? Be sure to check out #winosontheroad on Twitter, Instagram and our blogs.

Have you done a cross-country road trip through America? Any places we should stop along the way? Leave a comment below and share your story!

 

30 Life Crisis