2014 Road Trip Vacations

Day 4: We crossed two state lines, and all we got was some (great) steak

Silver Saddle Motel in Santa Fe
Waking up in Santa Fe, we quickly realized that a stop at Whoo’s Donuts for breakfast was not in the cards. Let’s just say that this road trip has not been particularly easy on our metabolism. We opted for the much gentler option of fruit and hard-boiled eggs from the Silver Saddle’s continental breakfast.
We hit the road, a long day of driving ahead of us. We stopped at the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa, which is a swimming hole/scuba diving destination. The hole is (as described) deep blue and 81 feet deep – hence the scuba diving option. There is an adjacent park with another pretty lake to swim in if desired. We did not end up swimming, as this turned out to be the one day where the weather was not swim-friendly (i.e. slightly chilly with drizzling rain).
Blue Hole of Santa Rosa
Blue Hole of Santa Rosa
Blue Hole of Santa Rosa
We crossed through Texas, stopping at Tyler’s Barbecue in Amarillo for lunch, which was super good. Jeffrey had a cheddar jalapeño sausage sandwich with a side of potato salad, I had a chopped beef sandwich with a side of coleslaw. We both had sweet tea to drink, but mixed it with some regular iced tea (too sweet otherwise!).
Tyler's BBQ
We also walked through the very pretty Amarillo Botanical Gardens on our way out of town.
Amarillo Botanical Gardens
And it was off to Oklahoma City! We went to Cattlemen’s for dinner, which is the oldest operating restaurant in Oklahoma. Oh boy, was this a meal. We both got cuts of steak, although I went for the smaller-sized “dinner steak.” All meals came with a salad (drenched in rich dressing, complete with fresh homemade croutons), baked potato, and large dinner rolls. We also split a side of mac and cheese, which was some of the best mac and cheese we’ve ever had. Needless to say, we didn’t leave room for any of their sky-high pie slices for dessert, but overall we were glad we went.
We walked around Bricktown after dinner. Bricktown is adjacent to the downtown area, and quite lovely – especially the canal that runs through the whole area, complete with little ferry boats for tour purposes. We found Flaming Lips Alley and what appeared to be the headquarters of Sonic Drive-In, then bought some gelato and called it a night.
Oklahoma City
Flaming Lips
Hours driven: 7.5
Spotted along the way: Lots of trucks, lots of cattle, lots of religious and anti-abortion billboards.
Day 4 playlist:

  • Jeffrey’s 3-5 star iTunes playlist
  • Anna’s iTunes library
  • Mike Birbiglia’s ‘My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend’
  • Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ (audiobook)
2014 Road Trip Vacations

Day 3: The Grand Canyon certainly is (Grand)

At the end of Day 2, Jeffrey suggested that we get up the next day in time to see the sun rise over the Grand Canyon. This would involve getting up at 4:20am. I agreed, rather begrudgingly.
And boy, am I glad that we went with the super-early morning idea. We essentially got to watch as the Canyon was slowly and dramatically lit up by the sun.
Grand Canyon
We did one of the South Kaibab Trail hikes (the 3 mile loop down to Cedar Ridge). It turned out to be just right, as we got to see more of the Canyon, and the hike was just enough of a physical challenge (without exhausting us for the rest of the day).
Jeffrey at the Grand Canyon
Anna at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon
The early morning hike also meant that we enjoyed the hike before the crowds came in, and before it became too hot outside. If you’re like us and just going to spend a few hours in the Grand Canyon, our hike/method is definitely recommended.
On the way to Santa Fe, we stopped in Flagstaff for lunch at Diablo Burger, where neither of us could finish our fries.
Diablo Burger
We also drove through the Petrified Forest National Park, just off route 40. There are options to further explore the forest by doing little hikes to see more fossils up close, but we opted to check out the Visitor’s Center for some history (lots of dinosaurs from the Triassic period) and then to do the 25-ish mile drive through the park, stopping for photos along the way.
Petrified wood
Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest
Petrified Forest
Essentially, the Petrified Forest is really really cool. We’re so glad we made the detour.
We drove the rest of the way to Santa Fe, where we enjoyed delicious (and spicy) Mexican food at the Shed. We walked around the downtown area afterwards (adorable), then passed out at our hotel (so tired).
Spotted along the way: A couple of squirrels and lots of mule poop (on the Grand Canyon hike), a heavily tattooed gentleman walking around with a large knife (Flagstaff), lots of roadside attractions with Route 66-inspired names.
Hours driven: 7
Day 3 playlist:

  • Jeffrey’s 3-5 star iTunes playlist
  • David Sedaris’ ‘When You Are Engulfed in Flames’
  • Mike Birbiglia’s ‘My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend’
  • Best of Bootie 2013 compilation
2014 Road Trip Vacations

Day 2: Screw Vegas, go to Williams instead

Las Vegas is HOT in the summer. And crowded. I mean, duh, but still. It takes a lot of energy even to venture down the Strip to other hotels.
These are the “it’s hot as crap out and it’s not even 9:00am yet” faces:
Hot in Vegas
Our morning in Vegas (after a whopping 10 hours of sleep) started with breakfast at Bouchon Bistro, which was so delicious. I had the croque madame with too many french fries, Jeffrey had the omelette du jour, and we split a strawberry croissant, which was basically a cross between a croissant and crumb cake.
Breakfast at Bouchon Bistro
After too much food (but oh so good), we walked around the Venetian (where Bouchon is located) and admired the canals. We then ventured over to Paris and New York New York, walking through other hotels along the way (mostly to get a break from the oppressive heat). We went on the roller coaster at New York New York, which was fun but jarring (Jeffrey: “Ouch, my skeleton!”).
After our exploration of the Strip, we were ready to go, agreeing that 24 hours in Vegas was all that we needed.
We set out for the Grand Canyon, making a brief stop by Hoover Dam along the way.
Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam
We then found ourselves on the classic Route 66 shortly (a few hours of driving) afterward, which boasted such sights as Seligman, the city possibly better known as Radiator Springs, of ‘Cars’ fame.
Our next Route 66 stop landed us in Williams, the gateway to the Grand Canyon. Williams is adorable, and we had a great time. A nice dinner at a place we quickly Yelped up (Red Raven) was followed by a visit to a local brewery/winery (Grand Canyon Winery) across the street, where we split their beer and wine tastings while having travel-related conversations with the bartender and a fellow road-tripper. The wines were great, and their sampling of beers was awesome too (sadly, we couldn’t purchase any growlers of beer). Before we left Williams, we stopped for some pie at Pine Country Kitchen, but not before walking past a wild-west gunfight (staged every evening in the summer at 7pm)!
Pie at Pine Country Kitchen
A short drive later, we found ourselves at our hotel in Tusayan, just south of the Grand Canyon. Realizing that a worthwhile sunrise hike of the Grand Canyon would require that we wake up just after 4 in the morning, we hit the hay shortly after arriving.
Spotted along the way: One mullet, a combination gas station/machine gun range, lots and lots of desert, three “land for sale” signs (anyone want to buy a giant patch of desert?), three “fire danger = EXTREME” signs.
Hours driven: 4.5
Day 2 playlist:

  • Jeffrey’s 3-5 star iTunes playlist
2014 Road Trip Vacations

Day 1: We can't stop here, this is bat country

After a fitful night of sleep for both us (too much excitement), we arose at 5:30am to start our cross country road trip! It was quite appropriate that our rental car license plate is a Nevada plate, as our first stop (and likely the longest drive we’ll take for the entire trip) was Las Vegas:
Rental car
Our rental car is super nice!
The drive was uneventful and quite nice overall. Jeffrey drove the whole way, despite my offering to take over, and I was able to enjoy a little nap.
We stopped in Mojave for lunch, at a place called Stoken Donuts and Deli, which Jeffrey described as “cute as heck.” He had a hot dog with pulled pork, I had a grilled sandwich with turkey, cheese, and mustard.
Stoken Donuts and Deli
Delicious! We didn’t leave enough room for donuts, sadly.
The last stretch of drive into Vegas was a lot of desert, unsurprisingly: Mojave DesertWe arrived at the Bellagio without a hitch. Beautiful hotel with that famous ceiling:
Bellagio ceiling
We lounged by the pool and swam for a bit, indulged in some ridiculous blended alcohol beverages from the pool bar, walked around the hotel, then went to dinner at Picasso, which was fantastic.
A great first day!
Hours driven: 8.5
Day 1 playlist:

  • Jeffrey’s 3-5 star iTunes playlist (highlight: Fatboy Slim’s “Rockafeller Skank”)
  • David Sedaris’ ‘We Are Engulfed in Flames’ (audiobook)
  • Kumail Nanjiani’s ‘Beta Male’
  • Patton Oswalt’s ‘Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time’
2014 Road Trip Vacations

Preparing to drive.

Thanks to perks from my company, we got a crazy good deal on our rental car – $600 to drive a shmancy 2014 Ford Focus (31 MPG) across the country. And we will be doing just that, starting tomorrow morning!
Our first stop will be the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I know! And we only have to drive through the Mojave Desert to get there! Fortunately, every car made within the last few decades has air conditioning, so I think we’ll survive. And we’ll survive in style with some mad stylings from David Sedaris. We probably have enough audiobooks to last us three trips across the country (fortunately (?), we’re flying back).
Tonight, we’re saying our goodbyes to the cat, celebrating with some homemade pizza and Biere de Chocolat, and probably getting one or two more rounds of Mario Kart 8 in before we’re cut off. Until next time!

2014 Road Trip Vacations


My cousin Carol is getting married this July! To get out there for the event, Anna and I are taking a cross-country road trip from San Francisco to New York. Here’s our plan so far:

  1. Leave San Francisco on Saturday, June 28 in the AM and arrive in Las Vegas in the afternoon. Spend that evening and the next day seeing the sights and eating well.
  2. Leave Las Vegas on Sunday, June 29 in the PM and arrive at Grand Canyon Village.
  3. Check the canyon out the next morning, then head for Santa Fe — a slight detour from Interstate 40, but supposedly nicer to visit than Albuquerque.
  4. Leave Santa Fe on Tuesday, July 1 in the AM for Oklahoma City.
  5. Leave Oklahoma City on Wednesday, July 2 in the AM for St. Louis.
  6. Leave St. Louis on Thursday, July 3 in the AM for Chicago. Spend a little more time there. Eat well.
  7. Leave Chicago on Friday, July 4 in the afternoon and arrive in time for fireworks in Pittsburgh.
  8. Leave Pittsburgh on Saturday, July 5 in the AM for New York.
  9. Spend the week visiting friends and family, and enjoy the wedding on Saturday, the 12th!

A few things worth note, which factored into our planning:

  • This itinerary has us driving for about 7 hours on average each day. Not too overwhelming. But we hope the extra number of days on the road doesn’t grate on us.
  • This will be a one-way road trip as we’ll be flying back, so we’ll be renting a car (which is a good idea anyway — not sure if our existing car is up for a week of long drives).
  • We considered taking Interstate 80 as it begins literally around the corner from us. The concept of staying on a single road from start to finish sounded exciting. We chose the Interstate 40 route, though, because it passes through the most cities. We’re city people and are interested in seeing other ones, and eating well as we go. A trip through Route 66 checking out all the kitsch doesn’t sound too bad, either.
  • Cities we were considering but passed up: Flagstaff instead of Grand Canyon Village (might as well spend a bit extra to stay at the attraction), and Albuquerque instead of Santa Fe (less direct, but supposedly more charming).

With that, we have questions for all of you, our friends and family:

  • Are there any can’t-miss destinations that we might be, well, missing out on? We’re still open to changing our route around if you convince us.
  • We’re not dead-set on staying in Pittsburgh. While an all-in-one sandwich at Primanti Bros. sounds enticing, we’re considering Cleveland instead. Insight on the pros and cons of each is highly encouraged!
  • We need suggestions about food! Food to bring along, food off the beaten path, and restaurants to visit at the aforementioned cities.
  • On that note, we need suggestions about everything else! Entertainment on and off the road (what to listen to, what to see, what to stop off for), how to prepare for and sustain a trip of this length, and places to stay (specifically in Las Vegas — we’re still weighing whether to stay on the strip or not).

Regardless of what we choose, we plan on using this blog to chronicle our journey! We’ll be sharing our posts, but feel free to subscribe via traditional RSS instead. For our past writings, check our our posts from our 2010 Europe Trip, and about our wedding last year.


Wedding Storify!

Now that the wedding has come and gone (with a fantastic honeymoon in Hawaii in between), we’ve had some time to go through all of the Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook posts, photos and videos published before/during/after the big day! We’ve collected most of them in a Storify for everyone to enjoy! (Make sure to give the page proper time to load all of the posts.)
Please note that we couldn’t include some Facebook and Instagram photos due to individual privacy settings – but rest assured, we’ve seen those photos regardless and we love them!
If you have additional photos or videos, or if we’ve missed any, please let us know and we’ll include them! Thank you so much!


Time moves quickly, then not so much

Our wedding is on SATURDAY. That’s THIS WEEKEND. Not next weekend. Not some weekend far into the future. This weekend.
The last couple of months have flown by. It seems like only yesterday that I was getting my hair done and thinking about how I still had a couple of months until the big day. Heck, it feels like only yesterday that we booked the venue and set the date, which was pretty much the first piece of wedding planning we completed after getting engaged. And now the big day is THIS WEEKEND.
To say that the feeling is surreal would be a massive understatement.
Since then, much has happened, and we’re actually not feeling panicked or overwhelmed. For me, the strangest part is how time has seemingly slowed down the closer we get to the 17th. This past week has felt slow as molasses, each hour creeping by in excited/nervous anticipation. Can it just be Saturday already? COME ON.
In the meantime, I have to give credit where credit’s due. Super duper thanks to the following:

  • My parents (especially my mom) for doing incredible amounts of work to make this wedding beautiful. I can’t wait to see everything in action.
  • Marche51’s Kelly, our coordinator, whose attention to detail and ability to stay on top of everything has made the planning 100% easier, and has helped us feel confident that all of the little details will be properly handled on Saturday.
  • James, Jeffrey’s best man, for working so hard on a special video surprise that will debut at the wedding. Stay tuned!
  • Jeffrey’s family, the rest of the wedding party, and our friends for their continued love and support.

Go Team Faden-Gazdowicz wedding!
Some additional notes:

  • The previously-rumored BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) strike has been averted, so that will not be an issue this week/weekend. YAY!
  • If you haven’t already, review Jeffrey’s karaoke tips and check out DJ Purple’s songbook so you can properly rock out during our reception!
  • Some people have asked about dress code. To this, we say dressy but not formal (full gowns and three-piece suits not required). Hope that helps!

Karaoke tips!

Anna and I consider ourselves seasoned, unabashed karaoke professionals. We’re having DJ Purple, the Bay Area’s best karaoke DJ (or “KJ”), host our wedding — so to make the most of it, we’d like to pass some helpful karaoke tips along!

  • Don’t be shy! You’ll be surrounded by friends and relatives, and they’re not here to judge you. Take the chance and have a blast.
  • Choose a song that fits the occasion! DJ Purple’s selection is full of fun, danceable hits, so that shouldn’t be too big of an issue. Just don’t choose any rap-rock and you should be fine.
  • Speak up! Put the mic right up to your mouth. It’s probably not possible to sing too loud.
  • Be energetic! People are going to want to dance, and they’ll be looking to you to take the lead.
  • One song at a time! Don’t flood the KJ’s box with a bunch of your song request slips. He will call people up in a reasonable order. If you’ve got a lot to sing, grab a few slips, fill them out ahead of time, and drop another into the box after you’ve gone up.
  • Have fun! This kind of goes without saying.

In case you want a head start, DJ Purple’s full songbook is available online.


Check out our Visitor's Guide!

Wedding planning is chugging along! The to-do items are simply falling off our list. Everything from what kind of desserts to what kind of rings to what kind of songs are being analyzed, considered, and analyzed again.
For those of you coming into town, we’ve consolidated the sections talking about our home and accommodations into a big, hopefully helpful read — our new Visitor’s Guide! Check it out and tell us what you think!