I hope you all were able to get some rest, as I did! It has been a good morning so far with a light workout, food, and sipping on some hot coffee, preparing how to tell you about my road trip! To re-iterate, I traveled through eight states and made five significant stops along the way with my amazing best friend!
Looking back, I wished I had more time to savor the stops along the way, but I had a total of nine days to travel and used up six to get from Virginia to California! It was a surreal moment because we’ve all fantasized about having that “this is a new chapter in my life,” and not everyone has the opportunity to do something like this! While planning this trip, I only thought about the locations, not where I’d sleep, which in any circumstance, is not a good idea! My friend and I envisioned that we would make pit stops wherever we felt tired; in reality, we booked an Airbnb or hotel on the same day of arrival at or near one of the significant stops. My best friend and I are chaotic individuals who live on the edge, so I don’t recommend this whatsoever, but it could lead to some funny stories to tell in the future. So to continue with today’s blog, our first stop was Nashville, Tennesee!
What a party city! It was a Saturday night in downtown Nashville; a concert was happening, and the strip was booming with people. We had an urge to party with everyone else, but it’s a no-go when we think about the long drives ahead. I’m not in the peak recovery stage like I was in college! However, I could totally see myself revisiting Nashville to party with friends, but other than that, I’m not sure what else to enjoy there. To my Nashville natives, I’m sorry if I had offended you, but let me know the local spots to go!
For dinner, we went to the Assembly Food Hall! It was a cafeteria-style with lots of different options, and they even had currywurst. For those who don’t know, currywurst is a German fast food dish consisting of fried and sliced pork sausage with fries, which happened to be one of my favorites when I studied abroad. The hall had an open stage area where live country music was being performed, and of course, I jammed in my seat and enjoyed the food. I mentioned that we didn’t party with the people earlier, so we simply went back to the hotel and rested after dinner.
Dallas was my least favorite stop because it lacked the character I expected. I figured that Texans had such great pride for their state and that each city typically encapsulates some energy, but it felt so generic. It’s also safe to say that any location will have its desirable and non-desirable traits, but I felt unsafe walking through downtown Dallas; it turned me off. However, a positive thing about heading to Dallas is that I got to try some Texan BBQ at Terry Black’s BBQ. I highly suggest this for anyone coming to Dallas late into the evening who needs a quick but good bite! To keep in mind, it’s a cafeteria-style where you will go through a line, select what you want, pay, and find a table to eat. It was nice seeing the barbeque smokers as you entered the establishment too.
We left Dallas in the morning and didn’t leave Texas until past midnight! This only shows how enormous Texas is – though, we had to make a dinner stop in Amarillo before driving straight to the Sand Dunes National Park.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Since learning about this stop, this was a major bucket list item for me! I always imagined that dunes, or large desert scenes, belonged in the Sahara or outside the U.S., so it was mostly to scratch my curiosity of being in a unique landscape. Unfortunately, we arrived super late, with no rangers, in sight, and the park gate was left open. Both of us figured that a machine provided parking passes when the rangers were not available, but we were wrong. We drove to the parking lot right before the dunes and saw its outline, but unsure if we could venture in at midnight. We sat there debating whether we should go or not, but with the possibility of getting into trouble and lack of flashlights, it was better to practice caution, so we left. Next thing you know, we drove through the night into Colorado!
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Oh, Colorado was so beautiful to drive through in the middle of the night! The roads were clear, the mountainsides were dusted or covered in snow, and it was a full moon, so I saw everything around us. Our destination was a small town known for its hot springs, and you already know that we had to indulge a bit since driving taxed our bodies. The fun and painful story about getting to Pagosa was that we arrived at 3 AM but were only allowed to check-in at 9 AM – that’s right. We slept in the car while it was ten degrees outside. I had to use my sleeping bag and jackets to cover all the windows to insulate the vehicle, shared the blanket, and on top of that, woke up every thirty or so minutes to start the car’s heater.
Was it worth it, you asked? Absolutely. We checked in early, settled, and couldn’t wait to get the hot springs pool – mind you, this was both of our first times going to a hot spring. The pools cascaded down the hill, making terraced pools and at the bottom was the cold river where one could do a polar plunge. It was shock therapy, and it felt both painful and good. The pools also overlooked the cute and small downtown portion of Pagosa Springs. The hotel was okay, but the main element was the hot springs. Also, I couldn’t forget the kind lady who worked at the hotel’s cafe because she comped our lunch and breakfast. I was so grateful that she showed us kindness, and everything about my experience in Pagosa Springs will be a core memory of this road trip.
The small town of Pagosa Springs won my heart over, and I joked about stopping my trip here and making it my new home. Now, we were on our way to the Grand Canyons, but like driving at night, the day views of Colorado – I was in awe.
Grand Canyons, Arizona
I hope I’m not redundant to use awe again, but there’s no other word to describe this natural phenomenon. Just thinking about all the forces required to create this natural wonder is breathtaking, so much so that I was shaking at every lookout point. Okay, to be fair, it might’ve been my anxiousness kicking in since I was so high up, but still, the realization of how small my existence is in the whole scheme of life and Earth is crazy. We spent the entire afternoon and night there taking in the sunsets and looking at the stars! I thought it would only be a three-hour break, but we spent over eight hours there and still felt it wasn’t enough. I can’t wait to come back and hike the lower trails near the river!
We saw a family of elks there too, which was cool and scary. An elk could easily ram my car and do severe damage, so at that moment, I was the deer in headlights. After that, our eyes were fixed to the road, in case another animal popped out! We struggled to make our way to southern California after using so much energy at the canyons.
Now, after all the copious amounts of caffeine and sleep deprivation, both of us took a gigantic nap in my new apartment before doing anything else! I had mixed emotions when I finally arrived because now all the hustle and bustle stopped, and I had to sit with my feelings about everything. We are never prepared for those moments, but I wanted to look on the bright side. I’m in a new environment with opportunities just waiting!
Oh my god, don’t even get me started on all the food and boba tea I’ve consumed already. Of course, I would always send pictures to my family to make them jealous, but the exciting part about arriving at the tail end of January was that Lunar New Year celebrations were right around the corner! Just in time too, when my best friend had to fly back home, my aunt flew to California to celebrate Lunar New Year and spoiled me with food. Now, I’m settling in my new home and taking one step at a time in this adventure!
Again, I’m not making any promises, but hopefully, I’ll share my experience going to my first Lunar New Year Festival in Costa Mesa next week! I’m signing off now, so stay tuned, and have a great week, readers!