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

Omaha: somewhere (awesome) in Middle America

“Why are you going to Omaha?”

Nearly every person who I told about my road trip asked in the days leading up to the cross-country adventure.

It’s an easy answer, really: two of my closest friends who know me very well told me to go. That’s it. There was no research. There was no hemming or hawing. It was simple. They said “go.” I put it on the itinerary.

So, trusting them, Erica and I pulled up to Howard Street in Downtown Omaha. Running perpendicular to the river, Howard Street is this little hamlet of quaint, restaurant-lined adorableness.

Old brick buildings baring marks of decades past with faded paint and rickety awnings give way to a patio-lined street on a brick road dotted with restaurants and bars with ample outdoor dining to take in the summer weather. And, as Erica and I sit at one of the town’s award-winning (and inexpensive) restaurants, Indian Oven, we are delighted at the charm this city oozes.

People here are friendly. Even when a driver cuts me off as we turn out of Super 8 and onto the main road, she waves, smiles apologetically and keeps going. (Which of course delights the two of us, resulting in comments to the extent of “Oh, what a sweetheart!”)

When we walk inside the restaurant to take the obligatory photos, Erica and I meet Kim Reid Kuhn, a local artist who is about to have a show there.

As we look at her work, she politely asks us if we would like to see her studio down the street.

Of course, we oblige.

 

Kimberly, along with another artist, Sarah Rowe, guide us on a walk past antique shops, vintage stores and restaurants, before we arrive to her studio. The old building with brick walls and corridors that end with huge windows letting in blankets of light, is home to numerous studios and apartments.

We enter her space and both of us smile with delight.

We are in Omaha. And have already met people to make this trip memorable.

“You all want to come out with us tonight?” Kimberly asks as we walk around her studio, taking in her latest work — a huge piece of canvas secured to the wall. “We can show you all of the cool dive bars in town.”

Erica looks at me like she just got the best present in the world — eyes wide, smile encompassing her entire face. I am pretty sure her delight at being asked mimics mine.

Why, yes. Yes, we do.

We spend a few more minutes chatting with the two artists, learning about their work and marveling at their talents, and then head out.

Later that night, after dinner and a quick walk through a little slice of downtown, we find ourselves sipping PBR for $1.75 in Midtown at a punk rock bar, Brother’s Lounge.

The bathroom at Brother’s, complete with a false lash.

“Let’s do this tour!” Kimberly exclaims as we scoot out of the first bar and head to the next, Bud Olson Bar.

When we pull up and parallel park in front of the bar, she give us a friendly warning.

“This bar … it is old men and old hookers, plus an ugly mural in the back room and birthday cake on the ceiling.”

You have to see it to believe it.

We walk into Olson’s and the smell of cat piss permeates the air. Tonight, there aren’t many old men or old hookers there. But, just walking in and sitting at the long, smelly bar seems oddly comfortable. It is a neighborhood bar, a place that has long since vanished from many cities I have visited.

Kim and Sarah know the bartender and when we go in the back to take photos of the mural, no one questions us or our loud laughter.

Then, it’s on to the last stop of the night, Oleavers, a “club” with a mix of artists, musicians and hipsters.

“Careful, you can get an STD here just by taking off your shoes,” Kim warns, laughing.

Yes, I did sit on this chair.

For a couple of hours, Kim, Sarah, Erica and I hold court at the bar, learning about the music and art culture in Omaha. We chat with the bartender, a skinny guy with thinning hair and a full beard who wears a red and blue tasselled shirt and proudly pulls out a calendar featuring the Oleavers staff. His photo instantly draws smiles. He’s perched on a motorcycle, shirtless, doing his best “rawr,” complete with a come hither look.

When it is time to go, the owner of the bar takes us into a back room to give Erica and I “gifts” to take with us — a LP, a torn poster, his employee’s Christmas stockings from last year. When he tries to give us a bottle of lighter fluid, we pass. Arms full of these little tokens of our night, we head back to our hotel on the other side of town.

As we drive home, late into the evening, Erica and I take it all in.

What an amazing night, we say to each other on repeat.

One meal, one little decision, changed our entire time in Omaha.

And, that, my friends, is the beauty of travel. And Omaha.

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.

Americas Blog Nebraska

There’s more to Nebraska than flat roads

“Oh my god,” I moan, pounding my head against the steering wheel as Erica and I drive east towards Nebraska from Denver. “It’s flat … forever!”

I look towards the horizon and see nothing but straight road, surrounded by flat farmland as we progress away from the Rockies and towards America’s Bread Basket.

“This is going to suck,” I say, half under my breath.

I’ve done road trips across America twice already and one thing has remained consistent: the middle of America is one hell of a boring drive if sticking to the interstates.

Two lanes on each side. A few trucks. Lots and lots of flat land that give way to gentle rolling hills.

I’ve seen it on I-70. I’ve seen it on I-40. And now, I get to see the same, in all of its flat glory, on I-80.

Only, this time, Erica and I have a plan.

Well, a little plan.

We’re going to make it fun.

So, as I kick my left foot up against the dash and roll my eyes at the landscape, Erica pulls out her iPhone and we start to shoot video of our ramblings.

When, after hours of driving, we hit the Nebraska border, I pull over and we get out to celebrate at the Nebraska sign. We have a little photo shoot. [Note: if you want to see even more cool photos of our cross-country trip, check out Erica’s post that features some amazing pics from out the window of the car.]

Then, we hop back in the car until we see a place to stop to film a “must see” spot along side the road. As trucks whizz by, she and I treat ourselves to a little break from the monotony and have fun with our stop.

We giggle like teenagers at our own silliness. (Editor’s Note: I’m pretty sure only Erica and I find any of this funny, but still!)

Hey, whatever makes the trip fly by, right?

Outside, in the heat (hello, 100-plus degrees) and humidity (I’m so very sorry, hair), we notice the beauty around us.

Yes, the road may be flat, but within that flatness is a still and a calm. A piece of nearly untouched land that is home to roaming cows, fields that will soon spring to life, and views that, on a stormy day, must be nothing short of simply spectacular.

When we finally reach Paxton, Neb., the two of us, only on our first day of our trip, are achy. Hungry. Ready to go and see this little town that has earned itself a niche for one particular spot — Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge.

As we roll through town in the Prius, we are greeted to a little snapshot of a simpler life where one main road crosses through fields. Where a gas station has painted on its side the offerings, including ammo.

“Oh my gosh,” we both say softly as we park the car on the side of the main road.

Across from Ole’s is a winery. It’s not open, but we press our faces to the glass, longing to try a pour of the Nebraska wine. Then, we cross back over to Ole’s and step inside and are instantly transported to another world.

The restaurant, known for one of the largest collections of taxidermy in the world, is dimly lit with a long bar dotted with stuffed ducks, birds and more. While I am not a fan of hunting for sport, and certainly got the creepy crawlies eating with these once-living mounted animals on the wall, I did appreciate where I was and the fact that not everyone agrees with my particular point of view.

Over a late lunch, we figure out a place to stay 300 miles down the road in Omaha, and book a hotel (Super 8) just outside of downtown.

And then, we are off … again. This time, into the Nebraska sunset, alive with glorious colors that dance off the fields of green.

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.

 

Americas Blog Nebraska

Daily Wanderlust: Iowa from I-80

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.

Nebraska may have been flat, but it was beautiful.

As I-80 goes on its epic straight track through Nebraska and Iowa, the scenery changes only slightly. Flat farms give way to fields with large crops growing in the early summer.

Puffy white clouds mingle against a bright blue sky. And, the green bursts of vegetation below only add to the inherent beauty this part of the world offers.

Sure, we may not have made any stops in Iowa en route to Chicago, but just looking out the window provided us with enough breathtaking moments to remind us America truly is one stunning country.

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: The Middle of Nowhere, Nebraska

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.

Driving through Nebraska is … boring. Like really, really boring.

After leaving Denver, it’s nothing but straight. Straight. Straight. Mind-numbingly straight. Flat land against straight roads that gives way to rolling, desolate hills against straight roads.

Fortunately, as the sun sets, the scenery in Nebraska comes alive.

En route to Omaha, we were treated to this stunning image as the bright orange sun sunk into the horizon in the distance.

It was a fluke actually. Erica spotted a great roadside attraction and I turned around and got back on the highway so we could loop back to it. As we crossed the overpass, there was this …

Who says road trips are always boring? Even in Nebraska.

Nebraska

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