Whenever I escape the concrete jungle of NYC, I try to find patches of nature and breathe in as much as humanly possible.
On our second and final day in Puerto Rico, we drove 1.5 hours outside of cosmopolitan San Juan to El Yunque Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the US national park system.
Every few months, the travel bug creeps on me like clockwork.
So last weekend, I rallied my partner-in-crime and together, Kevin and I ravaged Hitlist for a last-minute weekend getaway. As usual, the criteria was simple: flights had to cost no more than 2 weeks worth of eating out ($400 or less), the plane ride no more than 5 hours, and the destination flip-flop-friendly. Our answer was Puerto Rico.
With the recent political talks with Cuba, it seemed appropriate to kick 2016 off with a Map&Move trip that tested a few boundaries.
Current headlines like “CheapAir.com Now Selling Direct Flights to Cuba”, make it sound like Americans can just jet off to the island and daintily sip Cuba Libres on the beach. While it’s nice to imagine that you can just erase 50 years of political weirdness in a few months, ya can’t. In reality the official rules posted by OFAC haven’t changed much. You still need 1 of 12 reasons to visit (legally from the US anyway) and the most common one (obviously) points to a pricy tour.
So after two weeks of touring of the US, Calvin and I were ending our American road trip in Madison, Wisconsin.
We had a few hours to mingle and explore campus. Then we were off to catch a 2:20am bus back to Chicago, where were bound for South America. But first a layover in Aruba…
Our Great American Road Trip had ended, and we said our goodbyes to our beloved Route 66 Crew in San Francisco. But for Calvin and I, we still had a ways to go.
We were scheduled to speak at a conference in Madison, Wisconsin the next day. So after spending the last week driving 2,000 miles from Chicago to San Francisco, we dropped off our RV’s and sped out of the rental lot to catch a flight with a layover in.. you guessed it, Chicago. Lucky for us, Calvin’s inner fat kid sensibility had the foresight to make dinner reservations during our 6 hour layover months before. That’s right, I said months. If the thought of waiting on a ticket queue (that seems longer than a line to a free Jay Z concert in Brooklyn) puts a sour taste in your mouth, than Alinea’s 16-course pre-fixe experience seems to rectify the bougie admission process.
We’re on our final day of driving. Hard to believe that we’ve been on the road for nearly 2 weeks. 1,700 miles from our humble beginnings in NYC to Memphis, and another 2,400 miles on Route 66.
We’re finally nearing the Grand Canyon, the monumental piece of America that first inspired 15 people to haul ass in 3 hulking (but wonderful) RV’s across 16 states.
We arrived in Albuquerque, NM late last night and this morning, we spent our time ravaging green chile burritos at Frontier, a quirky college spot with homemade tortillas on the menu and rifles on the walls (we did say quirky, didn’t we?).
This morning we left Oklahoma City and by the end of it, we were three states away in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Undoubtedly one of our favorite days on the road from just the visual history alone.
FINALLY. We’ve been on the road for 8 days, but today marked our official start on Route 66, the infamous 2,400 mile road that was the mother of all US highways. This is what we’ve been on a quest to see: the kitschy, quirky, only-in-America roadside icons that follow the now defunct route through 8 states and 3 time zones.
1,200 miles later, we made it to Memphis, Tennessee
The first leg of our Great American Road Trip ended in Memphis, the home of Elvis, rock n’ roll, the site where the great Martin Luther King was assassinated, and where the energy of Beale St. radiates at night.
When Calvin from The Monsoon Diaries and I first planned this road trip we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. He’s a New York City native through and through, and both of us were much more intrigued by seeing the rest of the world than exploring our own backyard, America.
Driving across the state of Tennessee today, reminded me of the crazy and at the same time, mesmerizing contradictions that this country represents.