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?
Some of the Big Easy is ready for visitors, so John and Lisa can even be tourists, checking out the Rebirth Brass Band or Walter "Wolfman" Washington at the Maple Leaf Bar, and having a beignet--or three--at Café du Monde. When it comes to accommodations in New Orleans, the options certainly aren't as plentiful as they once were. Vacancy rates and prices are a bit unpredictable, so John and Lisa should absolutely book in advance and not be picky; neworleanscvb.com lists "rebuilding status" among the hotel features.
"I don't necessarily need to spend a ton of time in Texas," says Lisa. "I'm curious about Austin and the desert and really good barbecue, but don't need to see Dallas or George Bush's ranch or anything." In that case, the bad news is that there are 800 miles of Lone Star State between Louisiana and New Mexico, so Lisa and John will have to spend a fair amount of time in Texas.
The good news is there's tons to enjoy. Using the Austin Motel as their home base in the state capital, John and Lisa can try migas (eggs scrambled with tortilla chips, $5) next door at El Sol y La Luna and listen to blues or roots-rock across the street at The Continental Club. John says he's an "indie-rock guy," so he should also check the calendar for who's playing at Emo's. The shops at the corner of 6th and Lamar seem right for the couple: Waterloo Records (heard the latest Spoon album?), BookPeople (Karen Olsson's 2005 novel Waterloo defines contemporary Austin), and the flagship Whole Foods Market, where customers gorge on free samples and marvel at the chocolate enrobing station, where workers will cover almost anything requested in chocolate. Lisa enjoys yoga, and she can work out the kinks from too much time in the car at Yoga Yoga, which has four locations in the city, classes almost around the clock, and Yogi Tea so good she'll want the recipe.
Highway 71 out of Austin means bluebonnets, brush, and yes, more barbecue. They'll have to decide between the huge pork chops at Cooper's, in Llano, or the brisket plate, which combines a choice of brisket and one other meat, beans, potato salad, peppers, onions, and bread, at Mac's, in Brady, because few stomachs could handle both. After a long drive through the austere landscape of West Texas, they can reward themselves with wine in...Lubbock? The truth is, there are more than 80 wineries in Texas, and the vintages aren't half-bad. "I always enjoy going to little vineyards and just checking them out," says John. "It doesn't matter if they're not in famous growing areas." Set on the wide-open plains, Llano Estacado is one of the area's most prominent wineries, with daily tours and free tastings.
Continuing on, John and Lisa will head to one of those "hidden gems" that they'd never heard of: Palo Duro Canyon, just outside of Amarillo, is the second-largest canyon in the United States. The couple thought they'd wind up camping at some point on the road trip, and this is as good a place as any; a basic site is $12, and there are miles of hiking trails. After leaving the natural wonder, they should keep an eye out on the left side of I-40 for an unnatural wonder: Cadillac Ranch, built by local eccentric Stanley Marsh and made famous by Bruce Springsteen.
"I love to cook, so a cooking class would be fun," says Lisa. "John, too--he likes to cook, but I usually hog the kitchen." Hopefully they'll be able to share space and work together at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, where the Chile Amor class introduces students to all things red and green, plus tortilla making. John should be able to fulfill Lisa's wish for "cute but not too expensive clothes" by getting her something in Santa Fe at Double Take, a hip consignment store.
John and Lisa are intrigued by the groovy vibe surrounding Sedona, Ariz., though they're not sure they'll have time to visit. Just in case, we refer them to the comprehensive feature story on the town in last June's Budget Travel, available in our archives at BudgetTravelOnline.com. After a stop at Lisa's father's home near Kingman, Ariz.,the couple will be just five hours from Santa Monica. To finish the journey, we recommend a nice, long walk on the beach to stretch their legs.
After a long couple of weeks on the road, John and Lisa will certainly be ready to unwind. Thanks to a gift from Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs spa in New Mexico, they're being treated to one night's lodging and access to several hot springs, including a private, clothing-optional pool. Go on--nobody else can see.