road trip

Spring Break Road Trip (Day 6: Bend to Park City)

It was another early morning to start another long day of driving, and with the events of Saturday still looming in the far back corner of our minds, we figured it was only logical to start our day with Starbucks.

Unlike Friday’s departure from Vegas, the drive out of Bend didn’t involve buildings shrinking out of sight in the rearview mirror. It was more of a peek-a-boo. A now you see it, now you’re back in the middle of nowhere type deal.

Fortunately, the drive out was beautiful. The highway cut through a lake, thus sandwiching us between still, glassy surfaces that reflected the slow moving clouds overhead. Green surrounded us. I almost felt out of place amongst the flourishing trees and plants and seemingly endless grass.

About three hours into the drive, we made our first stop for gas, figuring you could never be too safe. And while I won’t bore you with the details of what made getting gas at this station a minor struggle, I’ll share with you the accidental lesson we took from it.

Amongst the frustration, my sister, who was doing most of the grunt work (i.e. getting out to pay for the gas), made the statement, “I hate this 10 minutes!” I, of course, started laughing, so much that I nearly honked the horn with my face. When my sister returned however, she clarified the statement, making it less hilarious and more meaningful.

“You hate this 10 minutes?” I said between laughs.

“Well yeah, I don’t want to say, ‘I hate today’, because it’s really only these 10 minutes that have been bad, the rest of the day could be great!”

Resulting tip: if you have a bad part of your day, don’t assume the whole thing is a wash.

Over the next few hours, we made a new friend in the form of the Snake River. As we made our way through Oregon towards Idaho, the Snake River ran alongside us, constantly making us “ooh” and “awe.” When we started nearing the border (which is also known as “Onion Country”) the land got flat. Trees became rare and mountains ran out into the distance. Seemingly every patch of land was freckled with cattle, some of which moved so slow (or not at all) we thought the Idaho-ians may have planted them there for good looks.

After officially crossing the border, our (no longer lonely) highway turned into an actual freeway, which brought me more joy than I would have expected. There were speed limit signs, there were billboards, there were the occasional brake checks from surrounding cars, it felt like home.

We stopped for lunch at Subway, then stopped for gas, where we met arguably the nicest man in the world. He pumped our gas for us, which is not uncommon outside of California as we’d come to find out, and asked us about our day and our trip. My sister and I were both in agreement that he was, as stated previously, the nicest man in the world, but it was hard to tell if this was true or if we were just so used the cold attitudes in Southern California that any motiveless kindness seemed unfathomable.

Side-Tip: If you’re passing through a town you think might offer a good souvenir, but don’t know where to look/what to get. Find the town’s Wal-Mart and grab yourself a hat. Not only will it make you fit in for a low price, it will also hide the fact that you’ve been sitting in the car for 8 hours and your hair is greasier than a fried Twinkie.

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As a whole, Idaho looked mostly the same. We sped down its highways gawking at the (real or fake?) cows and horses and the snowy mountains far in the distance. If I were to describe it in two words, I would probably have to say its “unmistakably Idaho”, meaning that if you blindfolded me, put me on a plane, drove me out into the middle of Ida-nowhere, I’d probably be able to identify the state. If you’ve been to Idaho, maybe you know what I mean. It just feels like one of those girls in high school that knows who they are now and who they’re going to be later. Idaho is Idaho, and I’m a fan.

Upon entering Utah, we did what anyone (and by anyone I mean only us) would do: we took a side trip to see the World’s Largest Fishing Fly!

If you’ve seen this post, you’ll know that I’ve made it a mission of mine to see all of the World’s Largest Roadside Attractions (or as I call them: WRLA’s), so when I heard we’d be passing right by the only WRLA in Utah en route to our 3rd stop, there was no other option but to pay it a visit.

 

Some tips if you ever decide to visit a WRLA:

  • It will probably be in a very strange, very random and not-always-easy-to-stop-in-front-of location
  • You will undoubtedly receive strange looks from people while you’re taking a picture in front of it
  • You should definitely ignore all those looks
  • Always buy a souvenir when available.

 

The World’s Largest Fishing Fly is in the parking lot of a flea market. There is no sign, or souvenirs, and my sister and I got the attention of a number of passing cars as we took pictures in front of it.

Here I am totally caring what they think:

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After our 5 minute, yet totally worth it stop at the Fishing Fly, my sister and I cranked out the last hour and a half of the trip to reach our friend Mel in Park City. It was just about sunset when we pulled up to her house, so we spent the next few hours talking, laughing, eating Taco Bell, and watching Friends. And like our two stops before this, Mel’s house instantly became a haven for us. We felt welcome and loved and thankful to be there, but most of all, we were excited to see what adventure this next leg of the trip would bring us.

Spring Break Road Trip (Day 3: Vegas to Bend)

Even with my best attempt to go to bed relatively early, the 6:00 alarm I set for Saturday morning still hurt…a lot. I hobbled around the dark room, hearing Cory’s words ringing in my head, “is there a reason why we’re awake right now?” Only this time I knew the answer was “yes”, because today, we were driving to Bend, Oregon a.k.a Stop #2.

My sister and I were on the road by 6:45, and with most of Vegas (including Cory, Amanda, and Ashlynn who were staying behind) still asleep, we saw it shrink in our rearview mirror relatively quick. I was first up on driving duty, so my sister curled up in the passenger’s seat and fell asleep, and I put my iPod on shuffle and watched the highway open up in front of me.

The world was quiet in those first few hours. Only a few cars peppered the road with us, and the only sound I heard besides the low hum of the radio was the light rain that rattled against the windshield. I sang lightly along to the different songs coming through the speakers, sometimes breaking to let my mind wander and create and question and think, and my sister slept, allowing herself to recharge, both from the two days in Vegas, and all the exhausting work days before that.

At about 12:00, we stopped for gas, and I found a t-shirt in the minimart that explained a lot about the last 5 hours of my life.

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As it turned out, that road (otherwise known as U.S. Route 50) that had almost no one on it, that road that was so quiet and serene and yes, now that I think about it, quite lonely, had been nicknamed “The Loneliest Highway in America” by Life Magazine in 1986. Needless to say, I bought that t-shirt, obviously. I felt like it described me as I truly was in that moment: heroic.

Spoiler alert: this is where things started to get a little…less heroic.

In the hours leading up to the t-shirt discovery, my sister had started to feel a little car sick. And while I’d hoped the stop at the gas station would give her body a break, when we hit the road again 15 minutes later, she looked just as distraught, but insisted we keep moving.

Fast-forward 45 minutes.

There we are, sitting side by side. My sister appears calm, possibly even feeling better, when suddenly her face makes 3 major shifts in expression.

Calm ➡️ queasy ➡️ panicked ➡️ terrified.

Let me explain.

The calm was mostly denial, which led to the honest queasiness, which made her quickly proclaim, “I’m going to be sick!” which led to the panic of puking in her lap, which caused her to roll down the window and stick her head out, which led to her quickly pulling it back in looking terrified because her prescription sunglasses had flown off and hit the pavement.

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It is here that my look matched hers, causing me to make a U-turn in the middle of the (empty/still lonely) highway, and drive back a hundred yards or so. We then spent a solid 5-10 minutes wandering down the side of the road, her on the pavement, me in the bushes, trying to locate these glasses, which, against all odds, we did!

We then got back in the car, slightly traumatized, yet neither of us blind or covered in puke, so we took that as a win and carried on.

About 5 hours later, after the events of the afternoon and a few key gas stations lay behind us, we realized we were low on fuel. And by low, I mean exponentially low. Throughout the day, every highway proved to be just as empty and lonely as the first, thus making pit stops few and far between. So when my sister’s car notified us of the mere 39 miles we had until empty, and a quick 360 look at our surroundings suggested we’d find little more than a snake and a sketchy trucker named Bob in that distance, we pulled off and turned to technology for help.

Spoiler alert: technology did little to quell the bubbling panic attacks.

A gas station? It asked. Sure, how’s one 130 miles away? Terrible, thanks.

Mind you, we were still a solid 3 ½ hours from Bend, a.k.a our second destination, a.k.a home to my best friend, Allison, who was anxiously awaiting our arrival, and had no interest in hearing about us getting murdered by a sketchy truck driver named Bob after running out of gas in the middle of a remote Oregon highway.

“Wait, I found one that says it’s 12 miles from here,” my sister said just as I was about to consider crying as a solution.

She’d forewent Apple Maps and went straight to Google with a blunt cry for help: “GAS STATIONS NEAR ME.” This had brought up Rome Station, which supposedly sat on the other side of hill in the (not quite but might as well have been) opposite direction of where we were headed.

Recap: we only had 39 miles left of gas, so if Rome Station was a bust, we’d waste 12 miles, and possibly put us somewhere even more worrisome than our current location.

To try and counteract further destruction, my sister made a phone call:

Rome Station,” a man’s voice said on the other line.

Yes, hi, are you really a gas station?

Uh, yeah.

Good, I’ll be there soon.

The next 12 miles were almost completely silent. We both kept our eyes on the road hoping, praying something would appear in the distance. At one point the navigation said, “2 miles to go” and with still nothing in sight, I was sure we were just going to find a guy standing on the side of the road with a phone and years’ worth of anticipation to finally say, “You just got pranked!” At about the half-mile mark however, a building materialized seemingly out of nowhere, with a sign out front that read “Rome Station.”

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It was old school. We parked our car next to a gas pump the 60s left behind and walked into the café/store combo to find one guy talking on the phone. It was undoubtedly the same gentleman who, 12 long miles ago, had answered a very important question, and when he turned to face us, I wondered both if he knew it was we who called him, and if we looked as desperate as we felt.

Thankfully, he proved to be polite and normal and completely lacking the grimy requests, murderous tendencies, or persistent meth offerings crime shows had prepared me for. So after we filled up, we said our thank you’s and left without having to self-defense murder the guy with the high heels we had in the backseat. I also bought this magnet to commemorate one of the most terrifying hours of my life. So all in all, it worked out.810D0723-4AA9-4C5D-A4E6-EA48D9529DAC

A few hours later, after post-traumatic/12 hour drive delirium had completely set in, my sister and I entered the town of Bend to the styling’s of Aaron Carter (a.k.a a road trip staple) and we spent a half hour describing our day to Allison and her boyfriend, Mike, who looked at us the way I imagine I would look at us if I heard the story rather than told it.

That night as I lay down, I thought of all that had happened since the last time I had lay down. Was that really only 24 hours ago? Was I even the same person I was then?

This road trip was in full swing.

Spring Break Road Trip (Day 1 & 2: Vegas)

Thursday started out normal. It was just your average, run of the mill Thursday, complete with an aggravatingly early alarm, a satisfying lunch break, and a 1:30 pm food coma. But then, we escaped.

At around 5:30, me, my sister, and our cousin Ashlynn packed up the car to head to Vegas, a.k.a Stop #1. The drive was pretty standard: lots of desert and budding anxiety. One highlight included us getting off the freeway to get gas, where we passed by a “motel” that, while open, was completely pitch black. It looked like the kind of place that might feature a guy walking around asking, “hey, you wanna see a grave sized hole I dug out back?”

We arrived in Vegas around 11:15, and immediately rallied ourselves into public appropriate attire, went downstairs and lost a few dollars playing craps. Then, in an attempt to put off the impending mouth-open exhaustion sleep, we went upstairs to the Toby Keith country bar and danced our hearts out for a solid few hours. Ashlynn and I hit it especially hard, here’s a picture of us chugging pints of straight up H20.

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Let’s just say we woke up the next morning feeling prettttty, you know, hydrated

One thing that always takes a little getting used to about being in Vegas, is that it’s an afternoon to night type of town. So when we all started to move around at a normal time the next morning, despite being out late, my cousin Cory countered the movement with an appropriate, Vegas-themed argument: “Is there a reason why we’re awake right now?” And after thinking about it, we realized the answer was “no.” Thus, we commenced with prolonged lounging, and only gave this up to find food around 12:30.

After lunch, we walked around a bit, taking in the (mostly sun faded) sites Vegas has to offer during the day, before eventually settling on outlet shopping as the afternoon’s desired activity. One valuable lesson I learned there:

“High heels are good. The higher the heels the closer you are to God.” – Amanda

Later that night, after my Fitbit was thoroughly satisfied with all the steps we’d put in while shopping, my mind took that as a sign to go ahead and do Vegas up right for the remainder of the evening. And by “do up right”, I mean “do it as best I can because Vegas isn’t really my thing but I want to be a good participator.”

So, I lost money at keno, I lost money at craps, I bought a slushy alcoholic drink called a Fat Tuesday and shamelessly walked around with the souvenir cup. I stared confusedly at a Willy Wonka slot machine my cousin played on and then went nuts when it lit up lots of colors and somehow calculated that he won $500. We walked to the Bellagio to get a crepe, we took touristy pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower and made bad jokes about “going to Paris for the day”, we went back to the Willy Wonka machine with high hopes, only to walk away disappointed and kind of nauseous from watching it spin for so long, and then finally we decided to call it a night.

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Back in the hotel, I packed up my suitcase and gathered all of the miscellaneous items I’d managed to volcano around the room in only two days, then I got in bed and looked up our driving time for the next day: 12 hours 30 minutes. We didn’t really know what to expect from the drive. Would it be smooth? Would it feel quick or slow? Would it be scenic? But as I lay awake in bed, I realized that the whole draw of a road trip is the unknown. It’s a learn as you go, think on the fly, be totally vulnerable and free type of an experience, which is exactly what we were looking for.

How to: See Portland in One Day

So it was 9:14 pm on a Friday and we’d just arrived in Portland, Oregon. It had been a long (fun, beautiful, delirious, 14 ½ hour) drive and we wanted nothing more than sleep.

Why were we here? Pancakes.

If you read any of my posts about my trip to Hawaii last summer (especially this one), you’ll know that in our time there, my family and I came across a restaurant named Slappy Cakes, which is like the Korean BBQ of breakfast. You choose the batter, the fillings and the toppings, and then you cook them in various creative shapes on the griddle installed in your table. A few weeks after we returned home, I found the T-shirt I’d purchased while we were there and decided to Google the chain to see if there was a closer location. Turns out, the only two locations in the United States are Maui, Hawaii, and, you guessed it, Portland, Oregon.

Sure, it was a crazy plan, driving 1000 miles for breakfast, but when it came down to it, it was a trip I couldn’t resist, and luckily, I convinced two other suckers to take it with me.

When we arrived at our hotel, we all agreed we needed sleep, and lots of it. So, we set our alarm for 9:30, and all died beautiful, instant, fluffy pillowed deaths.

10 1/2 hours later we were up, and we were starving. But upon arriving at Slappy Cakes, we were quick to discover that it was not unknown to the people of Portland. There was a line out the door, and the wait time was around an hour. It went quick though. After some walking around, trying our best not to look touristy (though our pointing and aweing did little to make that case) we received a text message that our table was ready, and we all rejoiced.

Once seated we decided that, since we’d come all this way, we might as well go all out on our order. Thus we opted for three different types of batter (buttermilk, chocolate, and peanut butter), six toppings (chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, blueberries, strawberries, bananas and whipped cream), and an order of breakfast potatoes. Here is our attempt at commemorative pancake art  (with some assist from Snapchat):

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Once we were back in the car—and 10 pounds heavier no doubt—we all kind of paused.

“So…where to now?”

In the midst of the long drive and pancake elation, we’d done little in the way of planning what to do with the rest of our day. So, like any smart-phoned humans of the 21st century, we asked the Internet.

Things to do in Portland?

And with a few key sites jotted down we set off, hopeful to see as much as we could, but completely uninhibited by plans or time schedules. We were going to window shop Portland, stopping anywhere and everywhere we felt like and this is what we found:

 

1) The Pittock Mansion

A home consisting of 46 rooms that was originally built in 1909 for Henry Pittock and his wife, this was by far the highest rated attraction in Portland. People Yelped their hearts out for old Henry. And after taking the $10 tour of the grounds, it was not hard to understand why.FullSizeRender

 

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2) The South Waterfront

This was an accidental find provoked by our seeing a green sign with an animation of water on it. (I’m serious) It was a, “Let’s see where these arrows lead” type of thing. And lucky for us, the arrows led us to one of the most beautiful views we would come across.

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http://www.southwaterfront.com/

 

3) Portland Aerial Tram

This was another point and find. While we were admiring the miraculously clear sky, we saw a pod floating above us, headed into the face of a mountain. I mean, how do you not seek that out? Better yet, how can you pass up a $4 ride that gets you a view like this:

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http://www.gobytram.com/

 

4) Tilikum Crossing

While oohing and aweing at the city from OTTSU (the tram’s drop off point) I saw what appeared to be a group of red balloons and for no good reason, became obsessed with them. I could not go on without knowing what they were. So, after taking the tram back down, we finagled our way over to them, only to discover they happened to be at the entrance of this exquisite pedestrian bridge. And, going with the theme of the day, we said, “What the hell, let’s cross it.”

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This is me finding my beloved “balloons”

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5) The USS Blueback

Across the bridge we found a few fun tidbits of Oregon history, including this submarine, which served in the Vietnam War. We didn’t get a chance to go inside, but it was a humbling reminder of how lucky we were to be living such a joyous, spontaneous day.

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https://www.omsi.edu/submarine

 

6) Saint Cupcake

When you’ve been driving around all day and you’re hungry but not, you know, hungry hungry, a dainty cupcake shop is practically irresistible. Especially when the pastries are this adorable.

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7) Multnomah Whiskey Library

Besides Slappy Cakes, this was our only other must see destination going into our road trip. And in case you’re wondering, yes, we did hear about this place on The Bachelor, but the 5 minute slot on ABC did little to prepare us. For one thing, the place is HARD to find. We did about 5 trips around the block before we noticed its small, understated door. Also, the wait time was 2 hours, so we put our name in and gave the host our phone number before leaving to find something to eat.  We were warned however, that when he called we had 10 minutes to show up or they would move on to the next party. Harsh.

 

A few extra notes on MWL: The menu is practically as big as the Bible, which makes sense after you look at the literal wall of whiskeys to choose from. Also, the bartenders know EVERYTHING, including how to not shoot a dirty look at someone like me, who flips through the vast menu quickly, and then orders a beer.

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8) Pok Pok

This was one of the highest rated eateries in Portland, thus making it our first choice after we put our name in at the whiskey library. We thought we’d just pop over for a quick bite, check another big name off the list, but, if you’ve ever been to Portland, you’ll know this was a hilarious thought. The wait time was 2 1/2 hours, so we politely smiled and moved on. (I’ll be back for you Pok Pok!)

http://pokpokpdx.com/

8.5) Wicked ‘Witches Food Truck

Down the street from Pok Pok was a group of food trucks, a food truck gathering if you will, and we opted for the stylings of this sandwich truck. I got the Cuban, and long story short it was a beautifully crafted high five for my tongue.

http://www.wickedwiches.com/

 

9) Voodoo Doughnuts

This was another highly recommended, must try Portland local. And since we had a long drive back on Sunday*, it was the perfect way to start our morning. Just look at these masterpieces:

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http://voodoodoughnut.com/

(*In case you’re keeping track, we woke up at 7:30 on Sunday, and since we woke up at 10:30 on Saturday, the whole “Seeing Portland in One Day” thing still stands. HA. If you weren’t keeping track, just take this note as further proof that I am an honest and trustworthy tour guide.)

 

10) “Keep Portland Weird” Wall

This is located right across the street from Voodoo Doughnuts. That being said, there’s not much else to cover except that, 1) it’s awesome, and 2) you simply must take a picture in front of it, especially if it’s a little too early for your liking and you didn’t get a lot of sleep last night and you have a 14 ½ hour drive ahead of you. The weirder you already feel, the better the picture will turn out. Proof:

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Overall, my review of Portland is 40 thumbs up. This may sound weird, as I am only one person with only two thumbs, but it deserves more than that. So just picture me and 18 other people sitting around talking, when suddenly Ryan Seacrest pops out and asks us what we think of Portland. Then picture Ryan agreeing with us, offering up his own thumbs and then signing off with, “Goodnight America, especially you Portland.”