Tag Archive | Cross Country Roadtrip

Lighter Moments

April 15-19, 2010

Warning: This post is not to be read on an empty stomach. Also, this post is heavily laden with images. It’ll take some patience, but it’s worth the wait.

It was emotional weekend, but it was also filled with moments of levity. It should be no surprise that these lighter moments involved food.

Our first full day in Canada was spent at Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls. My cousin GeeVee, his wife Rachel and their daughter Kammi frequently go on short jaunts in the areas surrounding Toronto. They were ready to take us all on a culinary expedition. No one was left hungry or disappointed.

Our first stop was Kurtz Orchards and Country Market.

Grilled Southwest Turkey Sandwich

World-renowned Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup that was $22 a bottle

Turkish Delight

Myles hangs out while we have lunch

Our next stop was Picard’s Peanuts.

Of course, we had to stop for dessert. We stopped by  Pie Plate Bakery and Cafe.

The desserts are as divine as they look. We ordered several slices of pie so that we could sample a bit of everything. I am glad we did. Every pie is tantalizing. Each had its own nuance. The crust was flaky without being too dry. The pie fillings were sweet without being overbearing. Their reputation of being the best dessert shop in Ontario is justified.

Cherry Pie

Lemon Meringue

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Apple Pie

After having dessert, we headed over to see Niagara Falls, which I had never seen before. It is definitely worth seeing.

Cousins GeeVee, Marnie, Rachel and niece Kammi

Myles and I at Niagara Falls

While I was Canada, I had to try Tim Horton’s coffee, the Canadian equivalent of Starbucks. Tim Horton’s is far superior to Starbucks.

Perfect duo for the damp cold weather - Tim Horton's Coffee & Timbits


Nate and Myles

For dinner, we stopped to get some Phở


Spring Rolls

Fried Spring Rolls

My absolute favorite - Vietnamese iced coffee

On Saturday night, we went out for burgers.  Per Khurram’s suggestion, we went to Harvey’s burger.

I had to try Poutine. It is a dish consisting of French fries topped with fresh cheese curd, covered with brown gravy and sometimes additional ingredients. The verdict? It’s a meal unto itself.

On the night after Melanie’s Memorial Mass, we decided to go to Hooter’s. Sounds like an odd choice, but it wasn’t. Melanie and Khurram had this tradition of going to Hooters in whichever city they were visiting. When I first heard about it, I thought it was quirky, but funny. Going to Hooter’s seemed like a perfect choice.

GeeVee and Rachel

Marnie and Me

Nate aka Mr. Personality

Because we were out so late and had such a good time reminiscing, I had to grab a few of these while on the road home.

Although we were only in Canada for 4 days, I’m fairly certain I left 5 lbs heavier 😉


A Year Later

April 15-19, 2010

The Birthday Girl - Aalia Sabine is 1

One Year. 365 days. There are points in life when a year seems to pass slowly and other times when a year passes so quickly. In this instance, it feels like both. It is hard to believe that it’s been a year since Aalia’s birth and her mother Melanie’s passing. In the past year, I have had the pleasure of watching Aalia (via Skype and Facebook) reach her baby milestones – babbling, smiling, eating solid foods, etc. There have been fleeting moments where I forget that Melanie is gone. I have caught myself thinking, “I wonder if Mel would like this..” or “I bet Mel loves that Aalia does {insert random thing}”. This is not to say Melanie is forgotten, but that the loss is still hard for me to accept and acknowledge.  Of course, the loss is more acute and difficult for Melanie’s immediate family. After the funeral last year, my brother Nate and I promised to be at Aalia’s First Birthday to help celebrate. Being at the funeral forged an inexplicable bond.

When it was decided that Aalia’s Birthday was going to be celebrated in Toronto, Canada (Khurram’s hometown), there was no doubt that we were going to be there. We’re always looking for an excuse to get out-of-town. Initially, we were going to fly to Toronto. Upon researching plane tickets, we discovered that perhaps that wasn’t the most cost-efficient way to go. We decided to drive… 12 hours with our mom and Myles!

Myles is clicked in and ready to go

Nate behind the wheel - iPhone pic

There was a lot of apprehension over bringing Myles on the trip. There were concerns over how well he would travel and what to do with him once we got to Canada. The trip went smoother than expected. I suspect it’s because I dosed Myles with Rescue Remedy and he slept most of the way.  It was a good thing we brought him. Myles’ presence created a lot of lightness and fun to the trip.

iPhone picture

A highlight of this trip is that it was my first time in Canada! Woohoo! Stamp in my passport…. not quite. Although they now require a passport to travel between the U.S. and Canada, no stamps are given.  {My new passport still has no stamps.}

We arrived at our hotel without incident. Exhaustion hit us and we were asleep within minutes.

Our first full day in Canada was spent sightseeing around Niagara Falls, which will be covered in a separate post.

The birthday extravaganza for Aalia was on Saturday. There was not one, but TWO birthday parties.

The first party was a kids’ party, which we attended towards the end. The party was held in the morning at indoor playground.

Khurram (daddy) and Aalia - photo by Rachel

photo by Rachel

photo by Rachel

Kammi gets in on the fun

Aalia and Khurram

The second party was held for family and close friends and was hosted by Khurram’s sister Seema and his brother-in-law Harry.

Delicious birthday cake

Party favors and Memory Box for Aalia

More Party Favors

Mom and Auntie Lilly

Cousin GeeVee, Nate, Mom, and Auntie Lilly - photo by Rachel

Rachel, Kammi, and Geevee - Photo by Marnie

photo by Khurram

The following day, there was a Memorial Service for Melanie and a reception at a local Filipino restaurant.

photo by Rachel

Melanie's Immediate Family - GeeVee (brother), Marnie (sister), Kammi (niece), Aalia, Khurram (husband), Aunt Lilly (mom), and Rachel (sister-in-law)

It was somber weekend with moments of levity sprinkled and lots of noshing in-between. It was good to spend time with family and to celebrate Aalia’s birthday. Despite the circumstances following her birth, Aalia’s birthday is still a happy occasion. After all, she is Mel’s greatest legacy.

At Journey’s End

February 22-23, 2010 – Cross Country Trip – Day 5 & 6

Our spirits were high, but being on the road was taking its toll. Exhaustion was causing us to hit the road later and later. Day 4 had us waking up at around 11AM.  Our hostess Jennifer was very gracious and made us breakfast despite recovering from surgery. After brunch, we said “goodbye” to Jennifer and moseyed on.

Cicely and Jennifer

Since we missed our last two cupcake stops, we were determined to go to a cupcake bakery while in Atlanta. We surmised that there had to be several bakeries to choose from. This time, we made sure to do our research first. Our search brought us to Sweet Pockets Cupcakes.

Sweet Pockets Cupcakes
4338 Paces Ferry Road,
Atlanta, GA  30339


photo by Cicely

The cupcakes were delightful. Although, I was relieved that they had mini cupcakes. I don’t think my body could handle the sugar overload of the last couple of days. Fueled by an enormous sugar rush, we set out for Cicely’s mom’s house in North Carolina. We had barely gotten out of Atlanta when we got sidetracked {read:seduced} by another outlet mall. Don’t ask my why they are so alluring. I can only say that I am enthralled by ridiculous discounts.

After our latest shopping frenzy, we were starved. Cicely gleefully suggested we go to Krystal Burger. I had never had Krystal burgers before. As a Burger Aficionada, I enjoyed them.

With all of our stops, we arrived in North Carolina at an almost ungodly hour. I was so excited to see Cicely’s mom Evelyn. I hadn’t seen her since Cicely’s nuptials, which was 5 years ago. Evelyn has a way about her that makes you feel as though you’re instantly family. She also has a wicked sense of humor. In the same breath, she welcomed and admonished us for arriving so late. At least, we were armed with a peace-offering. We picked up some barbecue from one of her favorite restaurants.

We all stayed up late and chatted all night. It was hard to believe, but the Cupcake Tour was over. Cicely was headed back to Texas from here and I had the last leg of the trip to drive on my own. After spending days in the car and numerous snafus, our friendship was intact, if not better for having taken the trip together. Truth be told, I’m not sure I could have survived such an emotional trip without Cicely’s help.

After some brief goodbyes and a few more photo ops, I headed on to Virginia.  It was a mere 4.5 hour drive, but it felt like the longest leg of the trip. I was on my own and left to contemplate what had transpired and what was to come next. It was overwhelming. I’m not ashamed to admit that when the enormity of it all hit me I cried. Just when I thought I was going to cry myself dry, I had arrived at my destination.  After 6 days, 10 states, and 3,050 miles, I was back in Virginia. Leaving L.A. was the closing of a major chapter of my life and this trip was the perfect way to close it. It had been an exciting, hilarious, and cathartic trip.  In short, it was the trip of a lifetime.

iPhone picture

Keep on Rolling

February 21, 2010 – Cross Country Trip – Day 4

After another night of heavenly sleep (courtesy of my friend bourbon), Cicely and I went on the road again.

Great sleep = Happy, Sunshiny Anne (photo by Cicely)

Our first stop was Lila’s Cakes and Chocolates. We didn’t do our research again because it was closed. I was heartbroken. I was looking forward to having some beignets and a mini kings cake. No luck. We trudged on.

photo from Film Shreveport/Bossier

The Hello Kittys & I pause for a photo op at the Log Cabin Grill (photo by Cicely)

I hoped to have Cajun food. Some time in the middle of the afternoon, I pulled off of the highway in search of some Louisiana style cooking. We noticed a restaurant called the Log Cabin Grill had a crowd waiting in front. We took it to be sign that perhaps there would be good local cooking to be found. When we sat down and looked at the menu, we realized we were wrong. It was a Tex-Mex restaurant and its popularity is based on the fact that it is DIFFERENT from the local flavor. {Sigh} The trip was turning into a comedy of errors. Being the clever gal that she is, Cicely reminded me that Louisiana has great seafood and that I should order the fried shrimp. It would probably be delicious. I’m glad I took her advice.

Fried Jumbo Gulf Shrimp with Cajun Roasted Potatoes

Crabcake Appetizer

The Hello Kittys try to blend in with the scenery

Cicely presents the ever versatile Hello Kittys

After our filling lunch, we journeyed on. Since her cold was worsening, I forced Cicely to take some Sudafed and rest.  With Cicely asleep and the iPod fully charged, I sped through Mississippi. Once we crossed into Alabama, Cicely took over. Because we spent the previous day lolly-gagging, we were all business and drove straight through Alabama, only stopping to refuel the car. We were on a mission. We wanted to make it to Jennifer’s (a high school friend of Cicely’s) home in Atlanta at a decent hour. After 9 hours and 597 miles, we made it.  True to form, we got there at a less than decent hour. Jennifer is a gratuitous hostess because she didn’t mind our very late arrival. Once we were there, Cicely and Jennifer caught up with one another and I passed out in Jen’s easy chair. The trip was taking its toll.

Taking it easy

February 20, 2010 – Cross Country Trip – Day 3

I am well-rested. Can't you tell? (photo by Cicely)

After 8 hours of much-needed sleep, we started the day bright-eyed and busy tailed. Or rather, I started that way. Poor Cicely was fighting off the beginnings of a cold. I think the 16-hour day where she did 10 hours of driving did her in. I offered to take the first shift of driving.

photo by Cicely

photo by Cicely

We headed off to Dallas. Somewhere en route the piece of crap Magellan Roadmate 1440 I purchased at Best Buy decided to stop working. When I say stopped working, I mean total malfunction. The damn thing would not map ANY address in the Fort Worth/Dallas area. We’d put in an address or do a search and it would tell us that the GPS needed to be restarted. Of course, this would happen when we are in the first major metropolitan city on this trip, a time where we needed the GPS the most. I called Magellan Tech Support for assistance. They told me I needed to download an update. I explained that I was on the road. They told me that I could send it in for repairs. I asked if I could exchange it at another Best Buy. They explained that it would probably also need to be updated. At that point, I gave the customer service rep an earful. That poor pathetic thing had no idea what hit her.

Thankfully, we used my trusty iPhone as plan B. As part of our taking it easy plan, we decided to meet @KyraTX from Twitter at the Grand Luxe Cafe in the Galleria Dallas.

Cicely had a Pomegrante Margarita

I played it safe and just got a strawberry lemonade

Cicely was smart and got a few tapas plates

I had the Chicken Picatta, which was terrible.

We both REALLY enjoyed the crème brûlée

Even the Hello Kittys wanted in on dessert

Cicely with Kyra, and Kyra's husband

After lunch, we did a little browsing around the Galleria.

I used my trusty iPhone to find a cupcake bakery nearby - photo by Cicely

The Hello Kittys shopped at Sephora until a crazy sales associate ran us out while screaming gibberish - photo by Cicely

Cicely and the Hello Kittys

We found this awesome shirt, but unfortunately it only came in kids sizes... Boo!

Cicely and I with the Dallas skyline WAY OFF in the distance

Even though we had dessert, we headed off to get some cupcakes. We went to Society Bakery, which was highly recommended by many Dallas locals.

photo by Cicely

Because of the malfunctioning GPS, we got there right as they closed. I tried to park the car and Cicely got to take pictures of the storefront. She even got to wave at the people closing shop inside.

The place closed at 5PM. We got there at 5:05. photo by Cicely

The Hello Kittys hanging out at the door - photo by Cicely

To console ourselves from our failed cupcake purchase, we went for the next best thing… Outlet Shopping! There was even a Best Buy. I was able to exchange the terrible Magellan for the incredible and reliable TomTom XL 340s. The difference in the two gadgets was surprising.

The Hello Kittys at Allen Premium Outlets - photo by Cicely

After some retail therapy, we headed to Shreveport, Louisiana. Cicely’s cold was worsening. So, I happily drove. I even tortured her with some off-key singing. I make even the worse American Idol contestants sound gifted. A secret vice of mine is 90s Slow Jams. I know the lyrics to most Jodeci songs. When they come on, I will sing them as badly as I want.

For Cicely’s sake, we made it to Shreveport in fair amount of time. I’m not sure her eardrums could have handle anymore of my bad singing.   We tried to get Popeye’s Fried Chicken because supposedly it’s really good in Louisiana. I can neither confirm nor deny this since they were closed. It was a failure kind of day. At least our room was nice.

photo by Cicely

I was so starved that I settled for a dinner of a Spicy Chicken Sandwich from Wendy’s and bourbon, which turned out to be the best way to end Day Three.  It really was a laid-back day. We only drove 6 hours and covered 350 miles.

photo by Cicely

Longest Day

February 19, 2010 – Cross Country Trip – Day 2

We started out bright and early. By 7AM, we were on the road. For those that know me well, that  is a superhuman feat. Our ability to get up and go may have had something to do with the sketchy Motel 6 where we spent the night. We left Tempe, AZ and headed East.

Oh-so-classy decor

We stopped at the Horseshoe Cafe in Benson, AZ for breakfast. We got a little more than we bargained for…

At first, we were all smiles and kidding around. We thought the waitress was a little grumpy, but we didn’t think anything of it.

photo by Cicely

Then, we received servings of the most sour orange juice either of us have ever tasted. Keep in mind we were the ONLY customers in the restaurant at this time.

photo by Cicely

It wasn’t until a caucasian couple arrived that we realized that our waitress wasn’t grumpy… we just weren’t welcomed in their establishment because we weren’t caucasian. She was all smiles and bubbly with the caucasian couple. Whenever she returned to our table, she was sour and rude. We couldn’t complain or leave because quite frankly there wasn’t anywhere else to eat for miles.

Cicely discovers that "our kind" isn't welcomed.

The irony is that they had the best country-fried steak and biscuits and gravy Cicely has had in a long while.

My scramble was ok. I think the horrific service ruined my meal.

We quickly paid our bill and headed out. While on the road we stopped to take a few pictures of the Arizona landscape. The desert is more picturesque than most people realize. The sky was clear with amazing cloudscapes.

photo by Cicely

Cicely admires the unusual signage

We blew through New Mexico. {Read: I sped while Cicely snoozed} By lunch time, we were in El Paso, Texas. To play it safe, we had lunch at Red Lobster. We had some Hurricanes to take the edge off our unpleasant breakfast.

We also stopped to get cupcakes at Cupcakes and Cookies by T.

photo by Cicely

Cupcakes by T has cake and icing flavors of the day. You can mix and match your cake and icing. They ice all their cupcakes as you order. We sampled their Pink Lemonade, Red Velvet, and Slamming Chocolate. We were quickly reminded that cupcakes make everything better. Even our Hello Kitty driving mascots got in on the delicious fun.

Cicely enjoys her cupcake

After nearly putting ourselves into diabetic comas, we continued on. Cicely drove while I enjoyed the scenery. We noticed the houses seemed really rundown in El Paso. I jokingly commented that El Paso was a dump. Then, I looked at the GPS. I wasn’t looking at El Paso. I was staring at the shanties of Juarez, Mexico. We had no idea that I-10 took us that along the Mexican border.

We were so close to Mexico that my iPhone picked up a Mexican mobile carrier.

Driving through east Texas felt endless.

That is until we got to a section of I-20 where the speed limit was 85 mph. This, of course, meant Cicely drove a touch faster than that.

I was so jealous. She got to drive MY car at racing speeds for a prolonged period. I told her to let me have a turn. No dice. There was no place to stop… unless you count the five prisons we passed along the way.

Again our stomachs chose an inconvenient time and place to begin growling. We stopped in Odessa, Texas at a Sonic Drive-In.  It was a poor choice. Without getting into details, we got another taste of racism, only this time it was a touch scarier. Thankfully, we were safe and continued on for another 4 hours. We thought we could make it to Forth Worth.

Somewhere around 2AM, we decided that 16 hours on the road was enough. We found a La Quinta Inn in Eastland, Texas where the night manager felt sorry for us and gave us a room at a discounted rate. A hot shower and comfy bed never felt so good.

In a day, we were on the road for 16 hours and covered about 956 miles. Despite the long day and the crazy run-ins with the locals, we kept our cool, didn’t kill one another, and managed to enjoy ourselves.

Discoveries on the Road

I’ve arrived safely at my destination in Virginia. Cicely is back in Texas. I am sorting through the 600+ images that Cicely and I took. That’ll definitely take me a bit. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few realizations.

  • I am not a good travel blogger.
    Or rather, I’m not good at blogging while on the road.  I don’t have the stamina or wherewithal to write after a long day of traveling or sightseeing. Also, the perfectionist in me won’t let me post my photographs without editing them first.
  • Do not count on staying with friends when you don’t have a set travel schedule.
    In theory, we weren’t going to have to pay for any accommodations while on the road. In actuality, we made so many stops that we were arriving at our destinations later than we expected. We didn’t think showing up on someone’s doorstep at 12AM was very polite or proper.
  • Racism is more blatant and rampant in some parts of the country.
    I’ll go into more detail in my day-to-day posts.
  • Everyone should travel across the United States at least once.
    The view from your car window is far better than the view from your airplane seat. We saw some amazing things and gained a great perspective of the diversity of the country. I’d love to do this again, but really take my time and travel during a warmer part of the year.
  • Do not buy a Magellan GPS.
    We started our trip with a brand new Magellan Roadmate 1440.  On the way to the Fort Worth/Dallas area, it decided to stop mapping addresses. I got an error that stated I needed to restart the GPS. It would not map any address in Forth Worth or Dallas. This was frustrating since I got the GPS primarily for use in metropolitan areas. I called Magellan GPS for assistance. The customer service rep told me I needed to download an update. I explained that we were on the road and had no internet access. She then suggested I send the unit back for repairs. At that point, I gave the woman an earful and found the nearest Best Buy to return the unit.
  • Do purchase a TomTom XL 340S Live.
    The TomTom was on Sale for $10 less than the Magellan.  It worked 100x better. It gave us the traffic and weather reports. In other words, it did exactly what a GPS should do.
  • When going on a Cupcake Bakery Tour, check the operating hours of the bakeries you’re visiting.
    Two of the bakeries we visited were closed. One closed as we got to the door.  The other wasn’t open on Sundays.
  • Do not stay in hotels with numbers in their names unless you’re absolutely desperate.
    We stayed at a Motel 6 in Tempe, AZ. That was the sketchiest place I’ve been in a long time. That’s saying a lot considering I lived in L.A. for some time.
  • Outlet Malls are fantastic and dangerous for your wallet.
    This is self-explanatory.
  • I cannot eat at McDonald’s.
    I haven’t eaten at McDonald’s in over 5 years. I ate some French Fries and got a terrible reminder why I don’t eat at that establishment. Blech:P
  • Bourbon is a useful friend.
    After a long day, a little nip of bourbon can help you sleep or make a rough day on the road melt away.
  • Cicely and I are great travel companions.
    We’ve been friends for a long time, but I wasn’t 100% certain we wouldn’t want to kill each other at the end of the trip. Even Oprah and Gayle were sick of each other at the end of their trip. We are even better friends after this trip. After 18 hours on the road, neither of us snapped at the other. We also work well as a team. I’m eternally grateful that she joined me on this adventure. I can’t wait to plan more trips.

That’s all I the observations I can muster. I’ll get back to editing pictures.