Southern U.S.: 'We're Moving to L.A. to Follow Our Dreams'
A couple from Boston is psyched for their big drive--but with so many quirky sights on the way, what's the rush?
For most people, moving to another city equals stress. For Lisa Levine and her boyfriend, John Craig, it means adventure. Before relocating from Boston to Los Angeles in April, they're going to see the country.
John, a 30-year-old film school grad, is leaving his gig as a waiter at a fine restaurant to try and make a living doing what he loves best--acting--in L.A. Lisa, 32, is likewise following her dream of working with animals, as well as basking in southern California's great year-round weather. She's quitting her job in human resources to become a dog trainer, specializing in positive reinforcement. The couple met in Aspen seven years ago watching a local band. They have a shared passion for music, food, drink, the outdoors, and of course, travel--with trips to Moab, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, northern California, and the southeastern U.S. already under their belts. "We've driven cross-country before, but never the southern route," says Lisa. "We were hoping that you could point out some hidden gems along the way--a place we didn't know was there, the best local cuisine in Tennessee, or something like that."
Some days they'll do nothing but drive; other days they'll put in six hours at the wheel and six hours having fun; still others, they'll simply kick back. They're interested in a few cities in particular--Memphis, Austin, and Santa Fe--which gives the trip a basic structure, but they're not locked into a specific itinerary. "I like the fact that it's not a tour we have to stick with," says Lisa. "We're up for whatever."
If we planned out all the cool stops across the land, they might not get to California until June. So for their three-week trip, we're focusing on a few key places that they've never been, starting with Kentucky. John and Lisa can find inspiration for their big move and lifestyle change in Louisville at the brand-new Muhammad Ali Center, dedicated to the man known as much for following his ideals as he is for being a great athlete. For a true taste of the state, they could visit Louisville's Brown Hotel, where the gluttony-inducing "Hot Brown" was invented in 1923 ($11.50). Sure, the turkey sandwich smothered in Mornay sauce, cheese, and bacon makes fried chicken seem like a light repast, but in this case a full belly might be good. John's favorite drink is bourbon, and his favorite bourbon of all is Jim Beam. The distillery is but a half hour outside the city, and everyone knows about the perils of drinking on an empty stomach.
"We're willing to drive a little out of the way for cool side trips," says Lisa. Bearing that in mind, as well as the fact that Lisa and John mentioned their interest in food time and again, they might not want to take the interstates straight to Memphis. Instead, they should drive along the Western Kentucky Parkway to Princeton, home of Newsom's Aged Kentucky Country Hams--the best hams anywhere outside of Spain. John requests "great hikes with amazing views," and 20 miles north of Princeton, an easy walk leads to Mantle Rock, a 30-foot-high, 188-foot-long natural sandstone bridge.
One big reason this trip is possible is because John and Lisa are selling most of their stuff, particularly furniture. If it doesn't fit into their two cars, it isn't leaving Massachusetts. "We're pretty much going to be traveling with books, CDs, clothes, only the important things," says John, a musician as well as an actor, whose prize possession is a Martin guitar. John should especially dig Memphis. To really put him in a Memphis state of mind, we recommend he read Peter Guralnick's book Sweet Soul Music and pick up a few Stax-Volt CDs for the car.
Lisa likes museums that are "different or offbeat," so if Elvis's memorabilia-strewn racquetball court at Graceland doesn't completely fill the bill, the art, weaponry, and artifacts at the National Ornamental Metal Museum--a perfect picnic-and-sunset spot overlooking the mighty Mississippi--ought to do the trick. For John, the guitar factory at the Gibson Beale Street Showcase is a must. And for the required dose of Memphis barbecue, we suggest Cozy Corner, where they'll get not only the usual dry-rubbed ribs and falling-apart pork shoulder, but also Cornish game hen. There's enough to do in Memphis that they'll want to stay a night or two, and the spacious junior suites at French Quarter Suites come with a whirlpool tub for a mere $89.
Last summer, while dreaming of their cross-country trip, Lisa and John checked off the places they wanted to see, and New Orleans was high on the list. "There has been so much devastation, but we still want to visit," says Lisa. "We're hoping that maybe we could volunteer for a couple of days and help in some way, with animals or people." On Wednesdays and Saturdays, grassroots group Katrina Krewe welcomes volunteers willing to put rubber gloves and garbage bags to use in various neighborhoods. Contacting the organization ahead of time is a good idea. The city's needs change from day to day, so John and Lisa should remain flexible and proactive in seeking out volunteer opportunities. Another contact is Best Friends Animal Society, an organization that links volunteers to local outfits helping pets left without homes after Katrina.
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