.Heather and I agree on most of the critical issues in life: communication and flexibility are core to a relationship, kindness to others should be a priority, Deadwood was the greatest television series ever, and that the answer to “Do we have a bottle of wine tonight?” should always be “No, absolutely not!” at 10am and “Where’s the corkscrew?” at 7pm. You know, the important things.
Despite our overlap on key values, we do have our differences. Especially when it comes to driving. We covered our different approaches to cross-country travel recently, and years ago discussed our different perspectives on whether we’d survive RV living. Oh, and there are other bugaboos in our driving life, such as Heather’s belief that when Waze says “WTF, I didn’t know a car could go that fast!” I should probably slow down. And then there’s my soapbox speech that driving in the passing lane without passing – even on an empty highway – should be punishable by death.
One discussion that has cropped up repeatedly recently is “Which is the worst state to drive through on a long trip?”. These states are not destinations – endpoints that may in themselves be a nightmare, like Florida. These are states that you just endure to get somewhere else.
It has been a while since Paul and I have participated in a good Throwdown. I believe our last was close to a year ago when we reflected on our experience with Tru by Hilton. We have some big travel days coming up, however, and our natural inclinations are once again putting us at odds.
Let’s say you have about 600 miles to travel today. About an eight-hour drive in a theoretical universe. Some people say, well that’s a long day, let’s get to our destination as fast as we can. No muss, no fuss, put the hammer down. Other (insane) people might want to stop (frequently) and smell the roses. Read the road signs. Visit roadside attractions. Perhaps even sit down in a non-vehicular location to eat a meal. I think you can already tell which side of this particular coin I prefer…
Paul: What’s the point of traveling the country if you skip 80% of it? Even in the places where the top-flight attractions are minimal, there’s almost always something to see that is unique, compelling, or interesting in some way. Certainly more interesting than buzzing through a rest stop, and manhandling a Roy Rogers 3-piece and biscuit in under 5 minutes, only so you can get to a hotel and crash from the exhaustion of racing down Route 80 like it was Le Mans.
Heather: Driving is a way to get from here. To there. If something is really worth seeing, well that’s going to be a destination. Why stretch a tolerable 7-hour drive into a 10-hour hell scene just to be able to eat a meal in a quaint midwestern diner with adorably slow service?
Paul: Hey, but then we had your long-awaited stop at Cracker Barrel (we won’t admit to the general public that we actually liked our lunch there). Wasn’t that a pleasant surprise? Or how about if we blew by the Cadillac Ranch in Texas? We would never have experienced the joys of spray painting our initials on a vehicle vertically embedded in the ground. Stopping yields unexpected surprises that can never be duplicated.
Heather: Pulling out the Cracker Barrel is dirty pool. I have been trying to get you to go to a Cracker Barrel for a decade now. Finally, when it’s the only open lunch place in the state of Arkansas, you concede. And now you’re holding it up as an example of slow travel?! Cheater.
The Cadillac Ranch is an example of my mid-trip destination argument above. We planned that stop long before we were anywhere near the state of Texas. Found it in my trusty Atlas Obscura, (which I highly recommend).
So no, not conceding.
Paul: All this Cracker Barrel talk is giving me a preternatural chicken and dumpling craving!
Planned or not, Cadillac Ranch was a stop that broke up a drive and gave us a chance to see something unusual and stretch our legs. That brings us to the “stretch the legs” part of our show. If we spend 8-9 hours in a car with minimal breaks, we exit the vehicle at night and play the game “What punctuation mark does my posture most resemble?” (praying it is more comma than question mark). We’re in our 50s and our bodies just do not unfold after lack of use very easily. Midday walks, leisurely dining, etc. allow us to retain something at least resembling homo sapien form.
Heather: First of all, we can very well walk when we stop for food, gas, amenities etc. No reason for extra stops just to walk around. Secondly, if you would just use cruise control like I keep telling you, you would not get so cramped up driving. And thirdly, if we get to our destination faster, there will be plenty of time at the end of a day for a REAL walk, that doesn’t leave one of us (ok, me) antsy to get back in the car and make more distance.
Paul: Yes, because there’s nothing like the end of the day after a 9-hour drive that says “Let’s go for a stroll/walk/hike.” Let’s get honest here. The most we’ll hike after a drive like that is to the top of a bar stool for a couple of IPAs and fried food we had vowed never to eat again. You have to spread the exertion out to stay fresh, not grind it out with some elusive fantasy of post-death-drive square dancing.
Heather: Thinking back over our many long drives, you may possibly be right about the walking part.
But I still stand firm that the best way to get from Point A to Point B is AS FAST AS POSSIBLE. It is a law of the universe that a body in motion tends to remain in motion. As it should be. Until it gets to its destination.
Paul: And then at the destination prays for a sweet, sweet death from exhaustion.
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On our road trip from Las Vegas to Boston last fall, we stopped for two days in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As we mentioned in that article, we were quite taken with Santa Fe and with all of the wonderful experiences that we had there.
Traveling to or from Santa Fe through Albuquerque
If you are visiting Santa Fe via road trip, as we did, we highly recommend choosing a route that takes you along the Turquoise Trail. The Turquoise Trail consists of about 50 miles of highway 14 in New Mexico where you will experience gorgeous views and visit the old mining towns of Golden, Madrid, and Cerrillos. Today these towns are full of arts and crafts stores, museums, and restaurants. In Madrid, we visited a number of stores, including our favorite, Carnival Azatlan. Carnival Azatlan displayed a wide variety of fascinating arts and crafts, including some funky furniture we might have picked up if it had fit in our small car. We also visited a number of jewelry stores and attempted to visit Shugarman’s, a famed chocolate store, that was sadly closed on the day we visited. Our chocolate needs would have to wait.
One of our bucket list items has always been to spend a month in Las Vegas during the World Series of Poker. The problem was that we could not imagine spending a month in 100-degree heat during June and July when the WSOP has been traditionally held. That kind of extended heat exposure is just not our thing. Then, in one of the many twists of these bizarre times, the 2021 WSOP was moved to the fall. Suddenly, everything fell into place. Our two youngest children had just entered college, our primary jobs are portable, and we had saved up enough for the trip. So, last October, Vegas it was! We chose to drive to Vegas, in order to have our car. You can read about our poker road trip from Boston to Las Vegas.
Where to Stay
The array of hotel options at various price points in Las Vegas is obviously endless. However, if you’re spending a month in Las Vegas and are at all worried about cost, you’re going to want to look for a condo rental via AirBnB, Vrbo, or other rental site. The two primary advantages of renting are: 1) the cost per night will be much lower for the quality you can get, and 2) having a kitchen will save you a lot of money. An extra bonus is the lack of Resort Fees, that are very difficult to escape in Vegas hotels these days. In our Airbnb on West Flamingo Ave, we ate most breakfasts and lunches at home. We also cooked 2-3 dinners a week, plus leftovers.
We recently stopped in Charleston, South Carolina for three days on our way from our home in New England to our winter escape in Florida. Neither Paul nor I had ever been to Charleston before and we were looking forward to a little of that Southern charm we have heard so much about. I am happy to say that we were not disappointed. We loved Charleston and are already thinking about how we can spend some more time there in the future.