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Coast to Coast.
West to East.
Pacific to Atlantic.
Old home to New.
15 days
14 tourist attractions
13 bathroom breaks
12 cities
11 states
10 familiar faces
9 hotels
8 state sign pictures - missed a few!
7 hours - the longest drive
6 Starbucks trips
5 fast-food chains
4 are we there yet? 's
3 hours of One Direction
2 beaches
1 lifelong memory
0 hotels with 'reliable' Wi-Fi

    We are finally here! To be fair, it's been two weeks, but it's been a whirlwind since with signing our lease, unpacking, and getting somewhat settled here in Charlotte while also catching up on work, finishing my hygiene application, and helping Tyler get in the swing of his new role! The original plan was to document along the way, but with the in-and-outs of hotel Wi-Fi causing endless hours spent on two posts alone, I soon realized that was not going to be possible if I still wanted to get out and have fun in the cities we were stopping in! Here's a quick recap of what we did post-Los Angeles and Las Vegas [click the city to see the previous posts on those two fun cities!].

Nevada/Arizona

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    It was so fun to see one of the 7 Man-Made Wonders of America! A 3-inch thick, 4-foot wide sidewalk could be built arounf the earth's equator with the amount of concrete used to build this monstrosity. We took a tour of the power plant on the Nevada side and were able to see and learn about the hard work of generations past.
    One of the things that stood out to both of us the most was when one of the tour guides was describing the manpower that went in to building the dam. The work was constant, 24 hours, no breaks other than lunch, no sick days. If you missed one day of work, that was it, your job went to someone else who wanted to work. His exact words that hit so hard: "nowadays we have union breaks, smoke breaks, sick days, paid vacation, and yet we still complain."
    Before heading to the dam, we stopped at the bridge first and took a walk across the Nevada/Arizona state line while getting a beautiful view of the dam from wayyyy up high. Driving a little farther we found ourselves on top of the dam and headed to the Arizona side for free parking [there is one lot on each state side that is $10 parking and Arizona also has a second lot that is free but is also a farther walk which isn't terrible on a mild day]. Major tip: according to our guide, temperatures can get higher at the dam than they do in Death Valley and they are frequently in the 100's in June-August. If you're brave enough to head there during this time, drink water and do not wear black, they have so many people pass out there every year, don't let it be you!

New Mexico

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my stud of a husband - unfortunately not many of the photos in the caverns turned out due to lighting
    We stayed in New Mexico for two nights: one in Albuquerque, and the other in Carlsbad. We didn't do much exploring in Albuquerque, but we did have dinner with an old friend from high school and her husband.
    The main draw for us to make Carlsbad a stop was the caverns. Large enough to house 14 football stadiums, we traveled down 750' via elevator to see this underground masterpiece! We walked over a mile in what felt like the cave from the Goonies movie! Definitely a must-see if you're ever stopping through! The tickets were $10 a person and the audio was $5 a person but did not have headphones so we ended up sharing it because it was loud enough for both of us to hear. This is in the middle of nowhere so be prepared!
    Other than the caverns, the town didn't have much to offer and we got our hopes up when we saw a McAlister's Deli across from our hotel.. only to find out that it wasn't even open yet! Hotels can also be pretty pricey because they know you have no other options. Overall, I wouldn't consider this a vacation destination, but like I said, if you're passing through then stop to see the caverns!

Texas

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    The greatest state. Ever. Period. Let's just put it this way: I didn't even care to drive the 7 hours through West Texas to get from Carlsbad to Fort Worth - I was just THAT excited to be in Texas! For those of you that don't know, both Tyler and I have strong ties to the state; it's where my grandparents were born and raised, where my grandpa played high school football with Tom Landry, where dad was born and raised and most of his family lives, it's where Tyler's dad was raised and went to college, where Tyler's mom went to college, and where Tyler's parents met. Texas is also where Tyler got his name [all three boys are named after cities in Texas], although with his comedic antics, I think Tarzan, Texas should have at least been an option for his name.. Karen? Doug?
    Enough family history.. after making the 'dreaded' West Texas drive [95% driven by me, pat. on. the. back.], we were treated to an amazing home-cooked meal by Tyler's grandma complete with homemade cherry pie for dessert. We got to spend time with family that evening but unfortunately, the morning after we arrived, Tyler's grandma and cousins left on a vacation that had been planned for a while and we completely forgot to get a picture with all of us before they left! With the day to ourselves, I did laundry and relaxed a little before we headed to Railhead BBQ [a favorite] followed by walking around the Fort Worth Stockyards. As we were getting ready to leave the Stockyards, it was time for the Cattle Drive! For some reason I have a weird obsession with cattle so this was extremely exciting for me.
    Before leaving Texas, we had to get some Joe T's in! If you're ever in the Dallas/Fort Worth area - Joe T Garcia's is a must! We had the pleasure of going with my cousin and his lovely girlfriend! It was so fun to spend time with them and really get to know them! On our way out of town the next day, we made a detour to Houston to have lunch with Tyler's cousin Ben and then headed to New Orleans!
    In my opinion, this was too little time to spend in Texas, especially with as much family as we both have all over the state!

Louisiana

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    We did not have a lot of time in New Orleans to really see all that we would have liked to, but we did hit some major points. Our first stop that morning was the famous Cafe Du Monde, aka Cafe Du-licious. The Cafe Au Lait and Beignets were to die for - powdered sugar was everywhere! If you're planning to make this a stop, be sure you have cash on you as they are cash only [but you won't need more than $15 if it's just two of you]!
    After getting ourselves into a sugar coma, we played tourists and walked all around the French Quarter including Peters Street [win], Royal Street, and Bourbon Street [before all the crazies came out]. The architecture is so beautiful in this area! We of course stopped and got some Gumbo and Poboys for lunch before heading to Alabama for the night!

Alabama

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    Alabama was also a quick in-and-out pit-stop on our journey, but there were a few things I wanted to see in Montgomery before heading to Hilton Head! Lucky for Tyler, all of the places I wanted to see were less than a mile apart and, even luckier, because it was Sunday none of them were open so I couldn't beg to go in for tours. We stopped to see the bus stop where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, Martin Luther King Jr.'s church, and the parsonage where he and his family lived while in Montgomery. We also stopped to see the first White House of the Confederacy [simply because of the history and beauty of this old southern home].

South Carolina

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    Somehow we managed to get so lucky that Tyler's first week of work lined up with team meetings in Hilton Head [score!]. We stayed at the Sonesta Resort right on the beach with a beautiful pool area and a turtle pond that I was obsessed with [sorry if you got all of my 100 turtle Snapchats..]! I have never been to HHI so I don't know much about the island or hot spots to stay in, but we were just fine at Sonesta! I particularly liked the drive in to the resort through the trees.
    Tyler had meetings and lunches and dinners to attend while we were there so, poor me, I laid by the pool and on the beach by myself ordering room service and take-out a majority of the time. On our last night there, spouses were invited to dinner out in Harbor Town by the famous lighthouse. We ate at CQ's and it was the most amazing meal ever. We arrived early enough for the tasting menu option which was an amazing value for the perfect portions [coming from a lady - my husband might not have been fulfilled]. For dessert I ordered the bread pudding and wasn't expecting that it was going to be chocolate AND strawberry flavored.. you can't even imagine.
    Harbor Town was fun to walk around after dinner but most of the shops were already closed. We ended up sitting outside at a bar/grill to listen to a local artist sing and play guitar, but even that ended and closed up at 9pm - not necessarily a big "night life" scene but a great place for families, retirees, and relaxing.

    Overall, our trip was amazing and memorable - and surprisingly we didn't really get that tired of each other! We are so grateful for the time we had to see parts of the country we normally wouldn't, visit with friends and family, and spending time with each other, all while s l o w l y and gradually getting adjusted to East Coast time!
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    Yes. I did sing that song in my head all. weekend. long. We left LA the morning of the 25th and stayed in Las Vegas through the morning of the 27th. The drive from Los Angeles to Vegas isn't too bad and it reminds you of a scene from Cars or the main ride at Cars Land in Disneyland!
    We had a blast in Vegas, but 48 hours was not enough time so we will definitely be going back! You get the feeling of a compact strip and assume everything is close but once you start walking, you realize just how BIG everything is. It took us more than 5 minutes to get from the entrance of the MGM Grand to the CSI exhibit which is inside MGM.
    Our first night there we stayed at New York, New York - not our first choice [hello Venetian] but a less expensive alternative [we went on a weekend which was not intentional, it's just how it fell. For our next trip we will know to stay weekdays when the rate isn't so high]. The hotel was in a good location but it didn't have quite as much to offer as some of the others we went inside [again, hello Venetian] and the Wi-Fi was absolutely horrible; like, I-lost-two-hours-worth-of-work horrible. Thankfully, the hotel did rectify the situation by refunding our "resort fee" which included Wi-Fi.
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    Day one we toured the strip, waited a well-worth-it hour for some treats from Carlo's Bake Shop inside the Venetian, and drove to the Pawn Stars pawn shop - but only for a picture, that line was just as bad as Carlo's Bakery was with no promise of treats at the end!
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    On day two we played Crime Scene Investigators [per my request, total forensic fanatic] at the CSI: The Experience exhibit. This was not entirely what I expected it to be; I wanted more of a mystery, several suspects to choose from and I had to use the clues and my amazing detective skills to choose at the end and they tell me if I'm right or wrong.. but they pretty much gave the answer away. Despite the simplicity and the fact that it was "so easy a kindergartener could do it" it was still fun to see how a CSI analyzes clues from a crime scene. Plus, we got these amazingly green-screened photos [total sarcasm, although I do like the photos]:
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    On the evening of the second day we went to see Mystère by Cirque du Soleil - amazing! This was my first ever Cirque show and I loved it! I have nothing to compare it to, but I do know that the show provided humor as well as the acrobatics and I believe it is the longest running Cirque show on the strip. I'd be interested to see other performances in the future to compare!
    After Cirque we went to the Bellagio to see the famous fountain show which ended up being cancelled due to high winds, major bummer! After the letdown, we drove down the strip one last time and headed to a hotel about 20 minutes east of the city to get a head start on the next day's drive.
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    My only complaint about Vegas [other than ridiculously priced hotel rooms with sub-par Wi-Fi] is the smoking. Even if you avoid the casinos, you still end up smelling like smoke just from walking by them. We kept our Febreze bottle handy the entire trip. We aren't into gambling, and Tyler hates to lose at anything, but we do enjoy a good Dave and Buster's game every now and then so we treated the casinos like that with the hopes of getting money back and not a cheapy toy or candy. We used $20 budgeted "fun money" [Tyler would die if he lost more than that, and I would cry] and ended up walking out $80 richer - hello fancy dinner somewhere later on in the trip!
    We are currently over halfway through the "48 hour" road trip and just arrived from Carlsbad, NM to Tyler's grandma's in Fort Worth, TX! Thankfully it looks like the weather to the East will be calming down by the time we make our way out, but when you're praying for our travels, please keep the families that have been affected by the weather in mind!

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    We spent our last California days [April 23-24] in Los Angeles. Other than the smog, which can ruin a would-be-perfectly-gorgeous view on a sunny day, there's only one thing we truly hate about LA: the traffic. We both decided we could never live there unless we were billionaires with access to our own helicopter to take us places - so, we will never live there. If we ever vacation there again, we will be staying on Manhattan Beach, Hermosa beach or Santa Monica - but on our Cross Country budget, we took every free-on-points room we could which required us to stay a little farther out and deal with the heavy traffic getting places.
    We have been to LA as a couple a total of four times now, and Tyler has been twice more with friends to watch soccer games. On this trip, we squeezed in our favorites, Pink's Hotdog Stand, Lemonade [both food, surprise!], and Manhattan Beach, as well as adding the Griffith Observatory which we both had been wanting to see.
    Tyler wanted to go to Sugarfish [another restaurant, can you tell we like to get our eat on?!] and I wanted to go to Disney, but there wasn't enough time this trip! If you're ever planning to visit LA, under each section of pictures* below I've highlighted some of our favorite things to see and do and of course, eat, from prior trips! Most all of them have click-able links that will take you directly to the site. One thing we never did that I wish we had was a celebrity home tour - but I don't know if I could get Tyler to sit still that long - he is not nearly as interested in architecture as I am!

To Do:

 Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure – you don’t even need kids to go here and no one judges you for coming as an adult without kids! The best part is both parks are compact with most all of the same rides as Disney World and are both easily doable in a day each [without kids]! If we’d had the time I would have gone back in a heartbeat, but Tyler’s rule is there must be a 5 year span between each Disney trip so that you can forget how awesome it is and be blown away again. Guess this will have to be my Babymoon if I want to come back without kids again – coming solo after having kids would be cruel.

Paramount Pictures Studio Tour – really any studio tour would be fun, we just did this one on recommendation from friends and loved it! Find out where your favorite movie and/or TV shows were filmed then do that tour! We did the 2hour tour and that was plenty for us. It was so fun to learn a few secrets of the industry, plus you may even spot a celebrity! We saw the cast of Glee when we were there.. unfortunately no one on our tour [including us, we don’t have cable] knew who they were and they seemed slightly angry no one was waving at them until our guide told us to, oops!

Red Carpet Event – if you ever have a chance to go to one, do it! Even if there’s no guarantee of a bunch of major A-list celebrities there, go – you never know who might become famous later and you can say, “I met them!” We were lucky enough to get tickets to the X-Factor Finalist Party through Tyler's work and I got to touch Mario Lopez - enough said.

Santa Monica – so much more than a beach! This is the end of historic Route 66, has a fun pier with games and rides, is home to Muscle Beach, and a huge outdoor shopping center, Third and Promenade. But the beach is pretty, too! I would love to stay here for a week or so, get up, run to Muscle Beach for a workout then down to Starbucks for coffee, and that’s saying a lot since I hate working out!

To See:

Griffith Observatory – the best parts of this place are the views and the price! If all you want to see are the views, then it’s free! If you’re interested in the planetarium then there is a fee. Be sure to check on their website before heading there as they are closed some days and have special hours. The telescope is also free to see but only at night and we were interested in seeing the views of the city during the day. There are a few hikes around the observatory that looked fun but we did not bring our hiking shoes nor did we have time! Also, depending on which way you drive in [we went in on the Greek Theater side] you’ll go through a neighborhood with some gorgeous cottage-like homes [on the larger scale] and meticulously maintained lawns - so beautiful it made us re-think our, "we're never living in LA," statements, if only for a moment!

Hollywood Sign – surprisingly this is not as visible from as many places as you think it would be! I would recommend following the directions on this site to get a good view!

Hollywood Walk of Fame and Chinese Theater – my recommendation for the Walk of Fame is that you decide who you want to see beforehand and find out the exact location of that star then you’ll see some other unexpected stars on the way – faster than walking around looking through all 2,500+ stars to find one! There's also an "Upcoming Star Ceremonies" tab that you can plan your trip around based on if you want to see it or you want to steer clear of the traffic! We didn’t go in the Chinese Theater, just slipped our fingers and toes into some of the hand-and-footprints outside for photos!

Manhattan Beach – it’s a beach and it’s gorgeous, enough said! Ps. the parking spots on either side of the pier are 5hour limit vs. the 2hour limit parking lots a few streets up – so you’re closer and you can stay longer, win.

Rodeo Drive – so what if you can’t afford anything?! Stroll the streets and snap some pictures in front of your favorite “I wish” stores! I went in to Juicy Couture just for fun and ended up finding a shirt for $17 including tax, so naturally I had to get it!

To Eat:

Lemonade – the only Lemonade to rival Chick-fil-A’s! They have a ton of flavors but our favorite is the Guava Lemonade! I was confused at the food options and ordering process the first time I went in, but the employees were all super friendly and helpful, plus you can sample almost anything before choosing to buy it - definitely try things! They have so many different "salads" with crazy ingredients that I thought sounded nasty but were heavenly! This last time I had a cauliflower, raisin, and nut salad that was to die for but had the employee not insisted I try it, I wouldn't have gotten it!

Pink’s Hotdog Stand – seriously the best hotdogs ever! They have so many different combinations, they are reasonably priced, and it is a popular LA spot, plus I just love their story! You can read about their story here! They have their own parking lot with free parking which is hard to find in LA! The lot is small but we’ve never had an issue finding a spot.

Sugarfish – I have never been, but my husband raves about this sushi place stating that the sushi is warm and melts in your mouth! I’ve just recently gotten in to sushi and am not a big fan of many rolls but if you are, I’d give it a try!


*all photos are our own

Ps. We currently just arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico after two days in Vegas and a night in Flagstaff! Vegas post coming soon - we update our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts almost daily, so you can follow along there: #PeterCrossCountry
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Off We Go! Our 15 day cross-country journey to Charlotte has begun!
And I may or may not have purchased the outlet version of the above purse in celebration. Kate Spade, you kill me.
Last night, after the movers finished packing, we said goodbye to our first place together in Walnut Creek and drove south to Los Angeles where we will officially begin our road trip! I have booked all of our hotels and have all confirmation info printed [thanks to Marriott Rewards, AAA, and Hilton Rewards we were able to get great deals and a bunch of free nights], had the credit card company try to cancel a few night stays thinking they were fraud [thanks for having our back, Chase?], booked Mystère by Cirque du Soleil and have plans to make Tyler solve crimes with me at "CSI: The Experience," wrote out all of our stops on a calendar, have MapQuest Directions printed out for every location, packed the car full of "can't-live-without"s that had to come with us and not with the movers [including our Tempur-Pedic pillows, Clarisonic brushes, my bkr, and Tyler's Gaiam foam roller, and of course Secret Deodorant for this #epic48 hour road trip], loaded a car snack bag to keep my hangry husband from going insane, downloaded the Frozen soundtrack to battle his One Direction concerts, and thanks to already getting bored of music on the 5 hour drive to LA, I think I've convinced him to hit up Barnes & Noble for a book on tape! We have over a week of driving to go but I can already hear the, "are we there yet?"s - and we don't even have kids. I will definitely write a "How To Prepare for a Cross Country Road Trip" blog after getting settled in Charlotte.

For the most part, we will be sticking to the original schedule laid out in the original post with a few changes. We chose Albuquerque as the spot between 'E' and 'F', 'F' became two stops [White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns], and 'I' switched from Atlanta, Georgia to Montgomery, Alabama.

I am going to try to update the blog as frequently as I can with pictures and such - thinking about maybe getting a WiFi 'hotspot' to keep up with writing on the sections of longer driving - but no matter what, we'll be keeping our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts active and using the hashtag #PetersCrossCountry. Feel free to tag along!
Please keep us in your prayers for safe travels!

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