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.

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The quickie Chicago Tour of Awesome in photos

Chicago is no small city, especially after spending time in Omaha.

It’s huge. Huge.

I grew up in a suburb of Washington, DC, which basically doesn’t have any skyscrapers. Then, living in Las Vegas, the closest thing to skyscrapers we got were the resorts on The Strip.

So, coming in to Chicago and seeing those tall, lanky buildings shooting upwards towards the clouds bordered on absolutely awesome.

This isn’t my first visit to Chicago, but it is my first time as an adult.

Waking up following a good night’s sleep inside my “blanket burrito” at the Hyatt Regency is bliss. It’s the first time in days that I’ve felt well-rested.

Erica and I pack up our belongings, grab the car from valet and head to the ‘burbs to meet Katie, a dear friend of mine from my previous travels.

Then, we head back to the city via her quaint little town of Hinsdale (with a stop for a Chicago Hot Dog) and  the Metra, landing us at Union Station.

With budget in mind (we didn’t have much), Katie crafts a nearly-free tour of the Windy City.

We start by passing the Sears Tower (yes, I know that is not the name), with a walk across the Chicago River, then walk to the financial district …

… and Garrett Popcorn Shop for some of the famous popcorn.

The cheddar and caramel is the popular Chicago Mix for all you lovers of the puffy kernels wanting to try something truly “Chicago.”

Even with clouds hanging low and the chance of rain lingering, we continue on to the gorgeous grounds of the Art Institute and then Millennium Park.

Our first stop at the park is the Crown Fountain. It’s actually two glass towers that feature LED lighting and images of more than 1,000 Chicagoans’ faces. On this day, even with the lingering clouds and threat of rain, children and adults alike frolic in the shallow water.

When a stream of water comes out of the mouths of the images, children giggle with delight while we sit back and watch.

After the fountain, we stroll over to the famous Cloud Gate, a huge structure that visitors flock to daily.

We stick around Cloud Gate for a good bit, taking photos and exploring the area immediately surrounding it.

In true Winos on the Road fashion, after Cloud Gate, we head to the Fairmont Chicago for a quick glass of wine at Eno Wine Room before its time to return to Hinsdale.

On our train home, somehow we end up in the “quiet car.” Of course, keeping three giddy travelers high on the city quiet is no easy feat.

 

Just before the train begins its chugging, I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn around.

“This is the quiet car,” the woman behind me says sternly, pointing to the blue sticker that looks as if it was just slapped on the wall of the car yesterday.

I close my mouth, along with the other girls. For the remainder of the trip home, we silently make faces, do little dances in our seat and send each other text messages.

Katie’s mom picks us up from the depot in Hinsdale and we head back to their house, where champagne, wine and the most amazing lobster pot pie ever awaits us.

In the morning, Erica and I begin our journey to Louisville, Kentucky … the last stop before we arrive to my parents house in Maryland.

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the #winosontheroad series. Over Yonderlust and d travels ’round went road tripping and exploring America from Colorado to Maryland in June 2012. Be sure to check out all of the posts of life on the open road.

 

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The art of a good night’s sleep

I can feel myself getting sick. I’ve felt it for days, but originally brushed it off as altitude sickness when I was in the Rocky Mountains.

But now … in Chicago … I can feel a gland pop up on the side of my throat. I can feel my head begin to thump.

This is not good.

Erica and I had wanted to go out on our first night in town. Wanted to explore the city beyond just the Hyatt Regency, but, after dinner and drinks, we just couldn’t move beyond the safe confines of our plush hotel room.

And, for both of us, that is just fine.

Our trip en route to Chicago from Omaha was uneventful, just like our drive through Nebraska.

Crossing into Iowa from Omaha was absolutely beautiful.

Fields of green and yellow, dotted with trees against a bright blue sky and fluffy, popcorn clouds provided for those special moments of awe. With so much gorgeous out of our windows, it made the trip fly by.

Clocking in at around 470 miles, we figured we’d get there in less than six hours.

Then, Katie, who we were visiting the next day, called. When we thought we were about half-way there.

“So, I will think of you in six hours when you get in to town,” she said before we hung up the phone.

“Oh, no,” I corrected her. “We only have three hours left. We’ll be there before five.”

About two hours later, I realize she’s right.

We are stopped. In horrific traffic. For more than 20 miles. For two hours, we creep along as cars snake their way in front of us. The skyline of Chicago teases us in the far distance.

I just want to get there.

Finally, we exit off of the highway and being our drive through the city.

Coming from my home of Las Vegas, entering Chicago is like another world. The buildings here tower over us as people begin to leave their offices and head home. There is this hum … a pulsing energy that reaches up through my car and wraps around me.

I can feel the city in my bones. That hum of excitement. That LIFE.

It’s simply magnificent.

When we finally arrive to the Hyatt Regency, we have 10 minutes to freshen up and meet someone for dinner and drinks.

Erica and I walk into our room and immediately love it. It’s spacious. It’s got two inviting beds. And, the view is nothing short of fantastic.

We rush through getting ready, throwing a little color on our faces, changing out of our driving clothes and into less casual clothing.

The two glasses of wine and food are just what we needed at Big Bar, one of the drinking and dining options at the hotel.

We sit at a high top as we look out onto the city, thanks to one entire side of the restaurant being made of glass.

We have enough energy for one more drink before we head back to our room.

Tucked into the 31st floor, she and I both sit and stare out the huge window at the night sky. Dotted with twinkling lights that reflect into the Chicago River.

It’s nearly magical.

After showering, I climb into my own bed. And bliss.

My head sinks in to the mountain of pillows under it. I curl up, pulling the thick comforter under my neck. I’m tucked in without even having to exert any effort.

It is absolutely lovely.

The next morning, we are supposed to wake up early and head to Hinsdale, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, to go and meet Katie.

But, I cannot move. The bed has wrapped its sweet arms around me and won’t let me out. It has nearly removed the sick from my body.

Finally, two hours later, Erica and I both get up and head to Hinsdale. Refreshed. Relaxed. And extremely well-rested.

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the #winosontheroad series. Over Yonderlust and d travels ’round went road tripping and exploring America from Colorado to Maryland in June 2012. Be sure to check out all of the posts of life on the open road.

I was a guest of the Hyatt Regency during my stay, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy 

 

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Daily Wanderlust: The view from Hyatt Regency Chicago

After spending quite a few nights in dodgy hotels and motels on our road trip, checking into the Hyatt Regency Chicago was pure bliss.

A secure door! More than one bed! A clean bathroom! And, of course, all of the amazing amenities that fancy hotels in a big city have.

Perhaps the best part about our stay at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, other than the beds (and they were amazingly comfortable) was the view. We were fortunate to have a room on the 31st floor of the hotel, which is located a stone’s throw from Millennium Park. From our huge window, we could see the lake which stretched out into the horizon.

By night, when the city’s towering skyscrapers are lit up, looking out our window was nothing short of absolutely breathtaking.

 

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the #winosontheroad series. Over Yonderlust and d travels ’round went road tripping and exploring America from Colorado to Maryland in June 2012. Be sure to check out all of the posts of life on the open road.

I was a guest of the Hyatt Regency during my stay, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy 

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Chicago’s Cloud Gate

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.

I have seen it many times in photos, that iconic silver nugget located in Millennium Park in Downtown Chicago’s Loop community.

Formally, the name of this gigantic mass of metal is Cloud Gate. But, Chicagoans and its visitors have dubbed it a more fitting one –The Bean — for its similarity to said legume.

Designed by artist Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate was built between 2004 and 2006 from 168 stainless steel plates.

Have you visited this popular spot in Chicago?

Do you like this photo of Cloud Gate? Want to see more shots from my road trip? Be sure to follow along on my Instagram — @dtravelsround — for an inside look at my travels and more!

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