After graduating from The University of Alabama this past May, I made the decision to pursue a Master's of Science in Marketing degree at the University of Southern California. The program was set to start a whopping 2 weeks after my undergraduate graduation, so I had to get myself, most of my belongings and my car from Birmingham, Alabama to Los Angeles California -- and quick! Realizing that I probably wouldn't have a chance to take a cross country road trip anytime soon, I decided to make a real event of it. So, I grabbed a friend, packed my car and set out for Los Angeles with stops like Hot Springs, Arkansas and the Grand Canyon along the way!
I spaced out my trip over 7 so that I could make the most out of the trip and see as much as possible. Over the week, my friend Brenda and I traveled through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and finally California (and in that order). It was a convoluted and long route but it allowed me to see as much as possible in a short amount of time. I definitely found some hidden treasures along the way and hopefully whoever is reading this can take their own trip to see and experience for themselves!
I had my friend Brenda meet me in Birmingham, and just three days after graduating from college I was on my way! Our first stop was Hot Springs, Arkansas. I'm sure you're wondering, what's in Hot Springs, Arkansas? Honestly, its just a quaint town and it was a perfect resting point between Birmingham and Tulsa. But, I must say, Hot Springs surprised me! We arrived around early evening and by that point it was too late to visit the actual hot springs. Although, I wasn't too disappointed about that, seeing as my expectations were quite high as just a few months previously I had lounged in thermal baths in Budapest, Hungary and swam in natural hot springs in Santorini, Greece. Nonetheless, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then made our way to our Airbnb. Our Airbnb host was absolutely amazing, incredibly hospitable and super helpful in making our short stay worthwhile (If you ever find yourself in Hot Springs, make sure to book your stay with Shannon)! He told us about a beach nearby where we could watch the sunset, and though we didn't find the beach, we stumbled upon a lakeside area within the village that took our breath away. While we were watching the sunset, the locals were fishing and sparked up a nice conversation with us -- they were some of the kindest and most genuine people I'd met! After the sun fully set, we headed back to our Airbnb to get a good nights rest before our drive to Tulsa, Oklahoma in the morning.
The next morning we headed on our way to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa is actually where my dad grew up! It is also where my Uncle Jimmy, his wife Stephanie and my cousin Hope live. My family is so spread out, and living in New York for the majority of my life didn't make it an easier to visit family. So, I was long overdue for a reunion, especially with my Aunt Stephanie who I had not see since I was basically a toddler. We spent a few days in Tulsa and I was able to not only bond with my family but see the plaque commemorating my grandfather's store on Black Wall Street, experience the interactive and innovative ahha Tulsa Museum, and also enjoy lots of deliciously unhealthy food! It was a great stay and I wish I could've stayed even longer.
On Friday morning we left for Amarillo, Texas. Again, you might ask, what's in Amarillo, Texas? well, there's a monument/art exhibit/pit stop location called Cadillac Ranch there. The name is pretty literal, it's just Cadillacs that are planted into the ground and covered in spray paint. I really don't know the origins of it, if there's any meaning to it, or really any information about it other than that it was another good midpoint location to stop at before heading to my next destination. Being that it had rained the past couple of days in Amarillo, the muddy clay leading up to the Cadillacs was definitely an adventure as Brenda slipped all over trying not to fall. If you know me personally, you know how clumsy I am, and it was a proud moment for me that I managed to keep my balance the whole time! We took a few pictures in front of the Cadillacs, tip-toed back to the car and went to our Airbnb to rest. This Airbnb was quite nice too! It was called Sadie's getaway (Sadie being the owner's sweet and laid-back dog) and the host, Nick, had great tips on things to do and places to eat. If you find yourself traveling to Amarillo, book with Nick!
After spending the night in Amarillo, we head to my most highly anticipated stop, the White Sands National Monument. Located in Alamogordo New Mexico, we had quite a drive from the northern tip of Texas. But, it was more than worth it because the endless dunes of white sand cascading of into the horizon was one of the most tranquil and jaw-dropping views. Brenda and I made sure to take full advantage of the beautiful landscape, but more than anything we just sat and marveled at how beautiful this world is. While it is an incredibly peaceful location, there's also a lot of opportunity for fun as you can actually sled down the dunes! Unfortunately we didn't have enough time (or actual sleds) to do so but I definitely plan on making my way back at some point in my life. In fact, the park closes at dusk and after watching the sunset, we had to run back to our car in order to get out of the park on time!
After leaving the park, we checked into our hotel and headed to get some food. To our surprise, there was actually a fair going on as we were driving to our chosen restaurant, so we stopped for a minute to watch the bright, colorful lights shine and get a whiff of all the carnival food. Again, unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to enjoy it all since it was closing very shortly after we arrived. Nonetheless, we got our dinner, headed back to the hotel and prepared for an even longer drive to Kanab, Utah in the morning.
After a full day of driving, we made it to our Airbnb late in the evening and it was once again an incredibly pleasant experience. Our hosts, , had our UK inspired room ready with treats and a personalized welcome sign. Not to mention, the house was absolutely beautiful! Again we were checked in and checked out in a short span of time, and I didn't get a chance to meet either of our hosts. But I did get a chance to say hello to their donkeys in the back field before we headed out for our hike. The reason for being in Kanab, Utah was to hike the Wire Pass Trail along the Buckskin Gulch. When I was doing my research for places to visit in the mid-west, the Antelope Canyons immediately popped up. They are absolutely gorgeous (look it up, i'm not lying), but also incredibly popular and a bit out of my price range. So, as the innovative broke college student that I am, I found a cheaper and more convenient alternative. Buckskin Gulch is a slot canyon, and as it narrows, it mimics the Antelope Canyons as the light reflects against the clay walls and it showcases the beauty of nature. It's a short and easy hike from the Wire Pass Trail to enter the canyon, and it's easily one of the hidden treasures of the midwest.
Following our short hike, we drove a few hours to our long awaited stop, the Grand Canyon! We made it around late afternoon and we had time to drive through a few of the main lookout points before settling into one spot to watch the sunset. My dad told me that when I got there and just saw it I would understand why the Grand Canyon is such a national treasure. And he was right! It is certainly grand! it's almost unbelievable how beautiful nature can be, and I really didn't think id be as impressed with a huge whole in the ground as I was! If I could have only made one stop on my trip, I would have been more than satisfied if thats all I was able to see.
Following the breathtaking view of the grand Canyon, we spent the night in Flagstaff and in the morning we made our way to our final destination. After being on the road for 7 days, LA seemed like it was just around the corner. A few of hours later, and we made it! My long journey came to an end as I checked into my dorm and began to unpack. Though it has taken me a while to write this blog (grad school id really keeping me busy), the memories of this trip are still as fresh as ever. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to make it Los Angeles from Birmingham safely, that I was able to create so many new memories with my friend Brenda and that I was able to experience and see so much of America's treasures. While I hope to not be on as long of a road trip anytime soon, I can't wait to continue exploring my new home Los Angeles, and truly all that this world has to offer!
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