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Notes From The Road: 5 Things I Learned On This Roadtrip

I’m spending March roadtripping through the south, seeing friends and clients and eating my weight in, well, everything. You can read previous Notes From The Road (which are more international in nature) here.

I’m a fairly experienced roadtripper. I’ve got a Garmin, I can assemble a healthy(ish) meal from gas station food, I know which outfits to wear when I’m going to be sitting for seven hours. (Here are my six suggestions for road tripping by yourself)

But life is nothing so much as one learning experience after another (note to self: don’t order the “sweet, effervescent” wine at Olive Garden) so here are five things I learned on this trip.

5 Things to Know Before Roadtripping

1. Bring cash and quarters

Did you know that Illinois and Indiana have approximately one million toll roads?  And that some of them only take cash?  If you’re roadtripping through a toll-heavy area, get $20-30 in small bills and keep them in your glove box or cup holder so you’re not rummaging around in your purse when you pull up to the toll booth. Also?  Lots of those quaint little towns you happen upon will have quarter-only parking meters – none of these fancy, schmancy credit card parking meters.  Be prepared.

2. OMG, get AAA

For the longest time, I thought AAA was “for old people.”  Maybe because my parents had it?  Regardless of its target market, IT IS FANTASTIC.  Not only because you’ve got peace of mind for $66 a year, you get discounts on pretty much every hotel and motel in America and lots of tourist attractions.  In one trip, my membership paid for itself.

3. Use OKCupid to meet locals

As you probably know, OkCupid is a free online dating site.  Though it’s usually used for finding lovahs and wrestling partners, you can totally use it meet locals, make friends, and get travel advice.  I met up with no less than five lovely dudes who tour guided me around their cities (not a euphemism!) told me about the reality of living in a beautiful place totally overrun with tourists and took me to places I wouldn’t have gone otherwise (again, not a euphemism.)If you feel a little nervous about going out with the stranger in a strange town, email a friend your date’s photo, phone number, and real name or try the strictly platonic Invite For A Bite.

4. Get a usb car charger

You probably already have one of these, right?  For the longest time I didn’t.  Because who cares if my phone goes dead when I’m two blocks from my apartment?  But it’s a bit more dire when you’re in the middle of nowhere, by yourself.  You can pick up a usb phone charger at any Walgreens or CVS.

5. Use Airbnb

I think I’ve sung the praises of this home/room rental service before, but let me clear my throat. It’s cheaper than any motel, it’s a million times homier, and it’s kind of a built-in friend if you’re traveling by yourself.  I was in Savannah and Asheville by myself and each time I stayed in the spare room of a home owned by a single woman.  We drank coffee together and talked about creativity, Heather told me the backstories of her two cats and Gert invited me along to dinner with her boyfriend (ages 64 and 67 respectively).  So lovely!What are your roadtripping tips and tricks?

Notes From The Road: 5 Things To Eat In Virginia

I’m spending March roadtripping through the south, seeing friends and clients and eating my weight in, well, everything. You can read previous Notes From The Road (which are more international in nature) here.
5 things you must eat in Virginia
Things to eat in Virginia
Must eat foods of Virginia
Virginia's Must Eat Foods
What to eat in Virginia
Best foods in Virginia
Best travel eats in Virgina
I’ve been having The Most Fun in Virginia – catching up with old friends, hiking, poking around antique stores like a yuppie, enjoying 60 degree weather and – most importantly – eating everything that’s ever been cooked. Here are five things you must eat if you visit Virginia.

5 Things to Eat in Virginia

Things to eat in Virginia

1. Chicken and waffles

Over the last year, I’ve become something of an ‘opportunarian’ – if I have the opportunity to eat chicken or bacon in a restaurant or prepared by a friend, well, I will happily take that opportunity. I would be remiss in my visit to the south if I didn’t try Thelma’s Chicken and Waffles. Our waitress helpfully instructed us on the protocol (bit of buttered/syruped waffle on your fork, bit of chicken on your fork, dip it in gravy, top it with hot sauce.) Oddly delicious!
Things to eat in Virginia

2. Fruit cobbler

The world is divided into those who appreciate fruit CRISP and those who appreciate fruit COBBLER. As a third generation Minnesotan, I fall firmly in the camp of crisp (I worship at the altar of strawberry rhubarb crisp.) But I was more than happy to eat my friend’s amazing homemade cherry cobbler. Fruit? Good! Sweet carbs? Good!
Things to eat in Virginia

3. Moonshine

Does one technically ‘eat’ moonshine? No, one doesn’t, stickler. Regardless, it’s awesome. This hard corn-based liquor isn’t nearly as scary as you’re imagining. Sweet and burn-y, but it (probably) won’t blind you and it’s even better when you drink it out of an awesome ‘hillbilly wineglass’ I got my moonshine the old-fashioned way (from a friend who made it themselves) but it’s widely available in liquor stores throughout the south or, of course, online. (Look at the cute packaging on this!)
Things to eat in Virginia

4. Cheddar pecan wafers

My life will probably always be divided into Pre-Cheddar Pecan Wafers and Post-Cheddar Pecan Wafers. They’re that good. You know when a little bit of cheese leaks out of your quesadilla onto the frying pan and gets all crispy? Now imagine that, on purpose, with little bits of chopped up pecans. Done. Boom. 25 pound weight gain, right there.


Things to eat in Virginia

5. Fried green tomatoes

But then you already knew that, right?  Did you know they’re even better if you have them with a little dab of spiced mayonnaise on a butter milk biscuit?  Because they are.
What are the specialties where you live?  Leave recipes and links in the comments!  In Minnesota we love wild rice soup, lemon bars, and I grew up with a lot of broiled walleye for Sunday dinner.
photo one by pointnshoot // photo two by ralph and jenny // photo four via apples artichokes asparagus // photo five girl interrupted eating 

Notes From The Road: 4 States, 2 Days

For the month of March I’m road tripping through nine states, visiting friends and clients and – most importantly – going to Dollywood.  You can read about previous travel adventures (which are more international in nature) here.

Oh, friends.  Road trips are The Best.  Really, I think they’re slowly becoming my favorite form of travel.  I love pulling over whenever I see anything interesting.  I love watching the weather and landscape change as I drive.  I love buying All The Cheese That Wisconsin Has To Offer.

Whenever I tell people that I’m navigating nine states over 25 days all by my lonesome, the inevitable questions are:1) “What do you, like, do?  I mean, after you’re done listening to the radio?”
2) “What’s your rate of Combos-eating per hour?”
3) “Isn’t that sort of dangerous?”

I’m going to ignore questions 2 and 3 (and point you to this post about roadtripping solo).  Here are the totally ridiculous things I do while roadtripping.

1.  Practice my southern accent

2.  Listen to 8 million podcasts
I love BBC Great Lives, Desert Island Discs, Jordan Jesse Go, and My Brother, My Brother, and Me.  Also: anything by Paul F. Thompkins.

3. Listen to Actual Compact Discs that I bought in 1998
For the record, So Much For The Afterglow tooooootally stands the test of time.  (Sidenote:  I spent much of high school writing Everclear lyrics on white, child-sized Hanes t-shirts with a sharpie.  Oh, godddddd the angst of a middle-class white girl in rural Minnesota!  How could anyone understand my pain of juggling both speech team AND danceline?!)

4. Buy bags of roasted almonds.  Promptly dump them all over the floor

5. Have a series of  imagined conversations in which I am unfathomably witty/articulate/wise

6. Play Radio Roulette
Push the ‘scan’ button.  You are now required to listen to one entire song on that station. While playing this game I spent 45 minutes listening to a weird 1940s radio drama, a teen abstinence speech, and discovered this country song that I’m now totally into.

7. Pull over whenever I see anything interesting
Feel smug and joyful.  Thus far, ‘interesting things’ have included: the covered bridges of southern Indiana, an awesome diner that charges $3.18 for breakfast and only accepts cash, the hilariously named Butt Drugs, The Shrine To The Passion of The Christ (an outdoor attraction that features bronze statues depicting the story of the crucifixion, accompanied by an audio guide – also: they sell scented candles and caramel corn), The Colonel Sanders museum.  So much awesome stuff!  So much more to go!

By the time you read this, I’ll be in Asheville, NC eating my way through the city, knee-deep in hippies. 

Notes From The Road: NYC

I’m spending six weeks traveling through Ireland/Sweden/Poland/Iceland/NYC visiting friends and clients and bakeries. You can read about past travel adventures here or learn how I manage long-term solo travel here and here.

orange dress in top photo c/o Lily and Violet

Oh, New York.  You charmer!  You really pulled out all the stops this time, didn’t you?

I quite like New York City. But this trip?  I loooooooved it. My college roommate lives in Manhattan with her charming husband and two awesomely snurffling dogs, so any time I spend there is sure to be stuffed with great conversation, amazing food, and poking through boutiques we can’t afford.

And it’s always lovely!

But for some reason, this time was nigh-on perfection.

Blue sky days.  $22 mani/pedis.  Bagels and Pinkberry and Shake Shack and pretzel croissants and roasted Mexican corn.  Pawing through Kate Spade bags.  Emma Watson spotting.  Dean and Deluca deli treats.  Eves-dropping in the Jonathan Adler store (Mom to 9-year-old “When we redo your room, do you want this footstool in blue or yellow?” Said footstool was $700.) Reading F. Scott Fitzgerald in the park.  Watching rollerdancers on the sidewalk.  Seeing my NZ bestie not once – but twice!  Drinking limencello on a 23rd floor rooftop.  Dancing to 90s era Whitney Houston in a hipster basement club.  Being mistaken for a local (it never gets old!). Strolling through the High Line at night.

I’m not sure that I could ever live in New York long term, but gosh it’s lovely.

Have you ever been to New York?  What do you love/hate about it?

Notes From The Road: Iceland

I’m spending six weeks traveling through Ireland/Sweden/Poland/Iceland/NYC visiting friends and clients and bakeries.  You can read about past travel adventures here or learn how I manage long-term solo travel here and here.

photos courtesy of my boyfriend and the talented Meredith Westin

Here are two things you should know about Iceland:
1.  It is magical
2.  It is so expensive you will find yourself calculating and re-calculating the exchange rate and thinking “No.  Wait.  Surely I didn’t just pay $18 for two slices of mediocre cake, right? Right?!”

But you did.

But it sort of doesn’t matter.  Because where else can you lay on cushions of geothermally warmed moss and befriend shaggy little horses and eat something called ‘bread soup‘ which seemed to be mashed up, sweetened, moistened rye bread, topped with a mound of whipped cream.   You can go to a phallus museum, see a million waterfalls and geysers, and warm yourself in the sulfer-scented waters of The Blue Lagoon.

You could also spend a week night drinking and dancing with actual Icelanders to your new favorite song and admiring their Bjork-esque fashion sense and Style Parkas.

You know.  If you wanted to replicate our itinerary.

Next up: New York!  In Autumn!  The actual best, no?

Notes From The Road: Poland

I’m spending six weeks poking around Ireland/Sweden/Poland/Iceland/NYC, meeting up with friends, clients, and
pastries. You can read about previous travel adventures here.


A moment of honesty, friends.  The only reason I included Gdansk, Poland in my travel itinerary was that a good friend was going to be there for two weeks. 

I certainly wasn’t anti Poland, but it just wasn’t one of those countries I was aching to visit.  I was fairly sure that it would be full of terrible architecture and grumpy old women in dumpy grey dresses and chunky shoes.

Apparently I really absorbed all that anti-Communist propaganda that came out when I was in primary school.

Well, be ye not so stupid as me.  Poland is awesome and you should go there. 

Here’s why:

* Fantastic beaches and good weather.  As we’ve established, I love me some Sweden.  But their summer ends mid-August!  When I arrived in Gdansk, summer was still going strong and there were still people hitting up gorgeous beaches.

* The food. Oh my God, the food.  In four days I ate: Belgian waffles with whipped cream and raspberries, Russian pierogis with borscht, tons of great vegetarian food (from a cheap, chain restaurant!), vodka + pickles, vodka + black current syrup + Tabasco sauce, cherry vodka + hot fruit tea.  Annnnd a million other lovely things.  I will be rolling my way to Iceland rather than flying.

* The people.  Helpful, sweet, and wonderful number of middle aged med with big, bushy mustaches.

* The history.  Did you know that The Solidarity Movement – which eventually help end communism’s grip on Eastern Europe – started at a shipyard in Gdansk?  There’s a great interactive tour you can take, lead by people who actually worked in the shipyards and took part in the movement.  I’m not usually one for history, but it’s amazing to realize that these changes took place within my own lifetime.  My Polish friends talked about standing in line for hours for bread or being stranded out in the countryside at relatives’ houses because martial law and curfews were in effect and their parents couldn’t come out and get them.  Mind blowing, right?

* The prices. Poland isn’t cheap cheap, but it’s much, much, much cheaper than Sweden and just as lovely.   My friends and I had shared two appetizers, three cocktails, one main, and two soups at a nice-ish restaurant to the tune of $40 US total.  Pretty good, eh?

Have you ever traveled to a country or city you were pleasantly surprised by?  Or surprisingly disappointed by?