Driving the USA on a Solo Cross Country Road Trip

 

Open Road to Where My Heart Desires
Open Road to Where My Heart Desires

Hello Road.  We haven’t been very close these past few years. I used to do California Road Trips – Giant Sequoia and Redwood trees, Big Bear, San Francisco, San Diego – but my tolerance for driving distances crashed and burned a few years ago.  With the exception of Las Vegas and Tucson, I haven’t driven much.  My 2014 car which had 12 miles when I purchased it in July 2014 has 6,650 miles 2 years later.  I know – why do I have a car?

I left my job of 7 years in February and one of my To Do before I started a new ‘real’ job was to drive cross-country. The last time I drove across country was in November 1991 when I moved from Orlando Florida to Los Angeles California.  It was 3 days – 2 of them in Texas (!), with stops to eat, use the bathroom and fill up.  It wasn’t a journey; it was a drive to reach a destination.

This time I want a journey – a solo Thelma and Louise, if you will, with a happy ending.  Hence my road trip adventure!  Me, my car – newly detailed and windows tinted for heat protection – and 3-4 weeks.

Road Trip across these good ole United States
Road Trip across these good ole United States

Starting Point: Los Angeles, California    Ending Point:  Bethesda Maryland

I’m not taking the same route on the both legs of the road trip but I’m not venturing too far north. It’s August, I know, but I’m not chancing freak severe fall/winter weather.   And, in full disclosure, I don’t want mountain driving.  I like looking at them, living close to them, even visiting them but I’m not keen on high elevations and winding roads. I guess I’d rather take my chances with tornadoes and heat.

Eastbound Trip:

Leaving LA heading to Washington DC
Leaving LA heading to Washington DC

My stops have a rhyme and reason that only I understand yet seem to fit into one of these categories.

  • Air and Space Museums
  • Caves, Caverns and Natural Wonders
  • Paranormal attractions
  • Civil Rights and American History sites

Granted, there is a side road trip to Ohio on the westbound trip to visit Amish country. Just because.  I also imagine I’ll be diverting to small towns along the way to check out vintage and/or antique stores.  Unlike airplane travel, my shopping is only limited by the empty space in my car!

Starting in Bethesday Maryland heading back to Los Angeles
Starting in Bethesda Maryland heading back to Los Angeles

(Source: https://roadtrippers.com)

There’s so much beauty to see, plenty of good food to eat and, most important, lots of people to meet.  This should be a well documented road trip.  I have multiple cameras and an iPhone!

I know I’ve over –planned and that’s ok.  If I decide I don’t want to see something, I won’t; if I decide to modify my route, I will and if I decide I’ve had enough, I’ll turn around and come home.  This is MY journey, after all.

LONDON on British Airways New A380

I am, without question, a plane freak.  I love them, loving being in them long-haul, and if I’m fortunate, loving being upgraded to business or first.  It was a no brainer that I needed a weekend in London when British Airways announced it was launching the A380 from LAX to London.  The A380 is superjumbo double decker that, from the outside, looks like a fat dolphin.

British Airways A380
Nose of British Airways A380

Since I have fond memories of Flipper, I don’t mind the resemblance. Flight booked and upgraded to Business, I headed to LAX under the brilliant light of a full moon.  Unfortunately the only British Airways flight with a A380 is the 9:30pm flight.  Oh the sacrifices I make.  Imagine my surprise when I realized I checked in and made it through security in under 20 min.  I guess one good thing about late night flights is the number of people is greatly reduced.  More time in the lounge.  Not complaining. IMG_1688

OneWorld Lounge including British Airways
OneWorld Lounge including British Airways

Yes, I know – I’m full-fledged plane geek mode!  But I haven’t been to LAX International Terminal since April and suddenly I was giddy at being ‘home.’  I used to love the British Airways lounge, especially when I entered the First Class lounge.  It seemed to have a sense of serenity that relaxed me in advance of a flight.

British Airways First
OneWorld First Class Lounge

Oh, times have changed.  First Class Lounge was Standing Room Only!  Circling around looking for a spot to sit isn’t relaxing;  thankfully, it was only 2 circles before a seat opened up. The lounge didn’t have Champagne but did have a nice sparkling wine from Bordeaux.  Ah, I feel “relax” coming on.

British Airways Lounge
Glass of Sparkling Wine with Cheese and Crackers.

I was glad I had 2 glasses of wine because I was unprepared for the NEW TERMINAL.    The only words that came to mind as I exited the up escalators:  STUNNING, GORGEOUS.   As I got my bearings,  I realized this is a Rodeo Ave/Beverly Hills shopping experience in an airport.  All of the high end designer labels seemed to be represented. IMG_1693 IMG_1694 IMG_1695

Shopping Area - International Terminal LAX
Shopping Area – International Terminal LAX

I hadn’t realized that the NEW terminal opened in mid-September along with the inaugural British Airways A380.  If I wasn’t awestruck by the sight, I might have felt clueless! Surprises still abound — boarding the A380 was different experience.   Depending on your seat, you enter through 1 of 3 doors for main level or you go up a flight of stairs for upper level.  WOW, just WOW.

IMG_1698

British Airways A380
Boarding – British Airways A380

And then ….. it all fell flat.  The interior of the A380 is not spectacular.  The one well-thought change is the bathrooms is at the back of the cabin, away from the galley.  Brilliant.  I was seated across from the bathroom — a godsend for me.

 

British Airways A380

British Airways A380 Bathroom – Club World

 

Take off was AMAZING as was flying.  During takeoff, the wings flex up and you can see the air curving up and over.  SO COOL!

The plane was so smooth and quiet.  We were aboard a cloud.

Meh. The food was mediocre and the portion sizes ridiculously small.   The champagne was delicious and the entertainment options were fantastic.   I was thrilled to watch all episodes of Broadchurch and 2 episodes of Doctor Who.  British drama at its best and well worth viewing.

London England
Welcome to London!

I’ve forgotten how much I love London — its energy and diversity.  And it’s Fall.  Crisp, breezy and the trees are dropping their leaves.

Would I make an effort to fly the British Airways A380 in the future?  Probably not.    Heck, I’m not sure I’ll remain loyal to British Airways after this year.  Overall, I’m not impressed with the plane or the reductions in service.

Onto the shopping and museums!

IFBC 2013 – Day 3

I’m sore.  The hills and 6.43 miles I walked yesterday won the debate with my butt and thighs.    No matter, I managed to drag myself out of bed and to breakfast for one of the highlights of the conference — breakfast by Pastry Smart @PastrySmart! Was it delicious? Fantastic? Filling?  A resounding yes to all 3.  For Francophile, it was heaven, charcuterie, freshly made biscuits, yogurt and fruit (who cares?  it was about the biscuits) and other deliciousness.  I stopped at 3 biscuits filled with black forest ham!  Oh my.IFBC 2013 Breakfast

Let’s see this from a different angle. 🙂

IFBC 2013

The breakfast topic was “What Matters Most: Conversations on Humane, Organic & Sustainable Food Production Practices in a Millenial World”  Choosing the food we eat is no longer about going out in the yard and selecting what’s available — it’s a trip to the market to pick from thousands of choices of good-looking food-type products.  But most of us don’t consider where it comes from or, in the cast of protein sources, how it was raised.  I enjoyed hearing about the Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) and its certified program.

The special part of the evening was dinner.  Urbanspoon Dine-Around Dinner ! Urbanspoon sponsored over a dozen tables at some of Seattle’s best restaurantsQuite a feat on a Saturday night at prime dinner time.  Somehow I was grouped with a Gluten Free table but it didn’t matter.  IFBC 2013

The meal and wine pairings were delicious.

 

IFBC 2013 – Day 2

IFBC 2013 – Day 2!  Weather in Seattle remains perfect so I spent the morning walking and wandering the city, looking for thrift stores.   Should’ve thought about Seattle being a city of hills – steep ones.  I made it back to the conference in time to 1) register, 2) grab a bite to eat – chipotle sponsored bowls and 3) hear the keynote speaker, Dorie Greenspan.

I’m sorry I didn’t know of Ms. Greenspan before her speech.   She is self-effacing, modest, a genuine personality with a subtle wite.   Her success is the result of hard work, a passion for baking and also a desire to share great chefs and their recipes.  Her message was clear:  BUILD COMMUNITY.

A great benefit of IFBC in general is a chance to meet other bloggers.  Definitely one of the conference’s best benefits.

Following Dorie and her uplifting message, we had a live blogging session, sponsored by Amazon.com Grocery.  This was similar to last year’s live blogging where small business owners presented their products to each table.  I preferred last year’s format, to be honest.   This session felt as if we were being sold products, not introduced to new exciting products.

And the sugar – Most of the products were overwhelmingly full of sugar.  Does it matter if the sugar is organic or not when there’s too much of it?  Of the 10-15 products, I would buy 3 and yes, made sure to have extra to pack in my luggage.

Sahale Snacks

Sahale Snacks
Sahale Snacka

Manuka Doctor Honey

Sujacleanse

After the sugar rush, most of us needed naps.  Instead I sat in WordPress session.  Oh my.   Where the heck is my pillow?

On a positive, we each received coupons for a free 3-day cleanse from Suja Juice.  Can’t wait.

As usual, IFBC 2013 had an incredible assortment of items for SWAG.  Old favorites and new exciting products (lagrima vanilla, anyone?) Bob’s Red Mill is always a favorite and I’m thrilled to have a bag of their granola.  Don’t know why I only eat granola in Scandinavia.  Maybe Bob’s Red Mill granola will change that.  🙂

From gift bag to food — some of the best in Seattle!  I cannot lie.  I didn’t experience all the fine restaurants represented but I did find 2-3 favorites and went back repeatedly!  I mean repeatedly!   My personal favorite being huitlacoche tamales!  I lost count at 4.

Stuffed with SWAG and food, off to bed I went. (no there are stories of crazy late night adventures.  I save that for my European trips!)

IFBC 2013 _Day 1

Jetting off to Seattle Washington for IFBC 2013 in Seattle from Sep 19-22, 2013.  Very excited to visit Seattle again and hopeful I’ll get re-energized with my blogging.    Summer has taken a toll on my desire to cook.

The main point of heading to IFBC 2013  early to join an excursion to Chateau Ste Michelle.  I have to go to pay my respects to the winery that gave me my first wine love, its Reisling.   I was barely a drinker of anything alcoholic and when I did imbibe it was rum & pineapple.  At some point after 1991, I tried a Chateau Ste Michelle wine, fell in love and it’s been a fun ride ever since.  I seldom drink Chateau St Michelle now but I can’t forget my first love, who can?

Arrived SEATEC and took the light rail into downtown.  Gosh, love these!  I’m happy that LA finally has a metro to downtown but a train to LAX would be fantastic.   Just enough time to grab a quick lunch before the bus headed out to Chateau St Michelle.

Without much detail, let’s say I had to TELL my server I wasn’t paying for my sushi because of the fruit flies all over it.  Really?  Why would I pay $20 for a roll I’m not eating and you, Miss Server, clearly saw the 4-5 fruit flies flying and landing on it.  Ugh.

Could only get better.

IFBC 2103
Waiting to board

A lively group boarded the bus, heading to the winery.  Chateau Ste Michelle is approximately 15 miles SE of Seattle and the day was perfect!

IFBC 2013
Mount Rainer from the bus

 

Folks living in Washington warned us visitors that the weather was atypical.  Atypical or not, I see why people fall in love with Seattle, its greenery and its water.

Woodinville, Washington would make a great day trip for wine tasting!  Even with rush hour traffic (3p?), we arrived at the vineyard in less than 35 minutes.

IFBC 2013
Chateau Ste Michelle

Turning into the winery grounds was being transported to a chateau in France.  Such a welcoming feel as we drove down the drive.  The welcome continued with our tour guides graciously offering glasses of Domaine Ste Michelle Brut Rose, a refreshing salmon colored bubbly.   If you’ve ever gone on a wine making tour in France, then you’ll appreciate the similarities.   Wine is wine everywhere in the world!

It was the end of the tour that impressed me.  The group was treated to a wine/food pairing session with John Sarich, Culinary Director.  What a charming highly knowledgeable man with a clear passion for Chateau Ste Michelle wines.   I found his approach to pairing food and wine more open than most pairing rules.  One quote “There’s hardly a food that doesn’t go with Riesling.” I’d agree with that!

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Wine Pairing
Wine Pairing

 

The wines were delicious and perfectly paired with John’s appetizers.  I fell in love with the lamb and hummus appetizer, can’t wait to try that recipe from John’s cookbook.  Oh yeah, the parting gift was a  signed copy of John’s latest cookbook, “Chef in the Vineyard.”

The lively group settled down for naps on the return trip to Seattle.

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IFBC 2013
Sunset over the Lake, Seattle

What a start to IFBC 2013, spending an afternoon with my first love and finding it’s still something special.  Thank you Chateau Ste Michelle.