Originally I had a road trip planned this spring to travel from Boise to Phoenix for a friend’s wedding, stopping at places like Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and Sedona along the way. Well…then my boyfriend (at the time) got a new job, we got engaged, and instead of a road trip to Phoenix I got a road trip to Louisiana. Just a bit farther 😉
My mom retired this year, so she was more than happy to be my driving buddy. I entrusted her with the role of travel planner, and she got the books, mapped out the route, and off we went!
Day 1: Boise, Idaho to Layton, Utah
Day 1 was a short day, starting with a stop to visit my Grandma and then a big rowdy dinner with the rest of the Utah family. At one point there were almost 30 people crowded into my aunt’s kitchen and living room! This is usually a tradition reserved for Christmas, so it was fun to see everyone before I left.
Day 2: Layton, Utah to Blanding, Utah
This was the day I was looking forward to the most…we were going to Arches National Park! Arches is one of those places that was in my mom’s backyard growing up, so we never took a family vacation there. The day started out with pouring rain and we were both a little worried. But once we got up over the mountains, it was all blue skies and sunshine. We purchased a Southeast Utah Annual Pass, which gives you access to Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments for an entire year for only $25! A deal in my book, especially because my parents will be back in that area this fall.
We had planned on touring the park from the car and view points, but the road to Delicate Arch, arguably the most infamous arch of the park, was closed. So we opted for a 3 mile hike to get to the arch. While we complained the whole time (mostly because we weren’t mentally prepared for an uphill trek) and Mom had a moment of panic when the trail became a narrow ledge on the side of a cliff, once we reached the Delicate Arch it was all worth it.
Our next plan for the day was to continue south to Canyonlands National Park, specifically taking the scenic Island in the Sky road. However, the turn off to the park was actually north of Arches (though the park itself is south) so we accidentally missed it! Oops.
Oh, and also FYI, Blanding and some of the surrounding areas are “dry” towns. Meaning no alcohol is sold there. So make sure you smuggle in your own wine 😉
Day 3: Blanding, Utah to Albuquerque, New Mexico
Since we missed Canyonlands and realized we had a relatively short day ahead of us, we decided to find another park to explore. Neither of us had ever heard of Hovenweep National Monument, but it was on the way and park of the annual park pass we’d purchased the day before, so we figured…why not?!
If you ever end up on the Southern Utah/Colorado border…you HAVE to go here! We got there somewhat early in the morning and were some of the only people in the park. It was so quiet and so peaceful…it was a perfect Mother’s Day adventure.
Hovenweep contains ancient towers and structures built by Ancestral Puebloans, estimated to have been built around 1200 A.D. The name Hovenweep is a Pauite/Ute word meaning “deserted valley” and was given to the area when a pioneer photographer stumbled upon the dwellings. I highly recommend adding this to your road trip list!
Our main goal in Albuquerque was the food. My grandfather (Mom’s side) was Mexican and Navajo, and growing up in Southern Colorado prepared meals with a definite New Mexico twist. My mom was eager to get her hands on some of that cooking. We asked our hotel desk clerk for her favorite spot and headed to Sadie’s.
If you haven’t had traditional New Mexican food, you’re really missing out. They use a lot of chiles…a lot. Like…there’s chiles in your dish and then the entire thing is smothered in a chile sauce. Mom got the obvious choice of Chile Relleno (a stuffed green chile…see what I mean?) and I got enchiladas. New Mexican enchiladas are not rolled though, they’re served flat and stacked. And don’t forget the sopapillas! Served in the place of tortillas, they are in simplest form…fried dough. I could eat my weight in them, then eat some dessert ones covered in powdered sugar and honey to top it all off. To say I’ve been craving this meal ever since we left would be an understatement. It’s now my mission to find traditional New Mexican fare somewhere in Louisiana. It has to exist…right??
Day 4: Albuquerque, New Mexico to Decatur, Texas
And so begins the longest day, through Western New Mexico and Eastern Texas. How…exciting. We listened to Tina Fey’s book Bossypants to keep ourselves entertained and I highly recommend it! It was more fun because she narrated the audio book herself, so it felt more like a comedy sketch instead of just an autobiography.
Then suddenly, my mom yelled THERE THEY ARE!!!!! and I instantly panicked and almost drove us off the road. Anyone who drives with me knows to not make any sudden movements or noises for fear that I’ll freak out. But alas, mother and sister consistently do this to me.
What Mom was pointing at was the row of 10 painted Cadillacs standing in an empty field alongside Route 66. They are known as Cadillac Ranch and are actually a pretty famous roadside attraction just outside Amarillo, Texas. It is technically an art exhibit, but visitors are allowed (and encouraged) to bring spray paint and add their mark to the cars. Don’t worry though if you forget paint…there was an entire box of half empty cans left behind, so Mom and I were able to join in on the fun.
Day 5: Decatur, Texas to Monroe, Louisiana
And finally, 5 days and 1,870 miles later, the road trip was complete! Let’s take a moment to remember that I already did this drive only five weeks before. Am I crazy? Probably. In the few weeks now that I’ve been living here I’ve been bit by ginormous mosquitoes, survived tornado and flash flood warnings, heard the loudest thunder of my life, seen (and eaten) an alligator and now live my life in fear of crossing a cottonmouth snake after coming across one at a BBQ. Almost daily I tell myself “Well…I’m not in Idaho anymore!”
I’m slowly getting settled into life here in Monroe, but it will take some time. After taking that crazy road trip I started a new job and already flew back across the country to a wedding in my hometown in Washington. I’m not even sure it’s sunk in that I’ve moved! I’ve never been anywhere in the South, so we’ve started planning weekend trips for this summer to do more exploring. If anyone has any good recommendations, let me know! This Northwest girl is trying to figure out life in the South, and she needs all the help she can get.