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.

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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!

 

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