I was able to travel to another state once again thanks to my job — this time heading out West to Colorado. It was a vacation that had a lot more physical activity than what I’m normally used to, but it was totally worth it getting to take in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. On top of that, this trip was full of a lot of firsts for me: first time staying at a historic, five-star hotel — oh, I mean five-diamond hotel as I was constantly corrected on — first time seeing the red rocks of the West at Garden of the Gods and first time being at any altitude above 500 ft. (Side Note: The altitude at Pikes Peak completely kicked my ass, but I’ll consider it training for Peru elevations). There were a lot more things I would’ve liked to have seen (i.e. the UFO Watchtower and visits to ‘ghost towns,’ but that just means I’m headed out to Colorado again some time in the future.
Here’s a fun little fact for you: Mardi Gras floats can cost almost a million bucks to make, which is crazy considering they make their debut only once a year. Oh, and in order to throw your beads off the side of one you’ve gotta be strapped into a harness, or else you’ll do a face plant like these guys.
During my birthday trip to NOLA, I popped in to Mardi Gras World, a Roadside America spot pretty much every local I ran into insisted was a “must see.” It’s a place where you’ll see a life-size Rosie the Riveter next to Donald Duck who lives across the aisle from a Greek goddess and Godzilla. The coolest part is you get to peek in on artists painting, cutting and drawing up the next year’s floats, and sometimes even repurposing old floats into new concepts.
Image via Baltimore magazine.
Fact: anything covered in bacon tastes 738,492,154x better. Bacon chocolate, bacon pizza… And I know it’s incredibly unhealthy, but when I heard Papermoon Diner offers bacon milkshakes, I had to go get one.
Papermoon happens to be a Roadside America Maryland attraction, so it was like killing three birds with one stone: celebrating my sister’s 16th birthday, crossing another quirky spot off my list and cloggin’ up my arteries, not to mention Baltimore is such a kick ass city. The diner was exactly the type of technicolor madness I love surrounding myself with and the food even lived up to the hype, too, so I’m thinking I won some ‘nice big sister’ points with this one…
For the first time in my life, I was able to travel for work, which brought me down to the Lonestar State for a conference last week. On the final day of work, Cesar met up with my coworkers and I in San Antonio to check out the Alamo. We grabbed some tacos at the River Walk, and were quickly off to Austin to discover what makes the locals so “weird,” and to stay in the vintage 70s silver Airstream of my dreams.
It goes without saying that the best part of any vacation is always — ALWAYS — the part you weren’t able to capture via photograph. Grainy, dark photos wouldn’t do any justice in showing how much of a good time we had experiencing the night life, the food trucks and the art of the city. In this case, I’m talking about each and every bar we wandered past on E 6th Street that had live bands crankin’ out jams and the Robert Therrien exhibit currently at The Contemporary Austin. The frozen corpse of the Long Lost “Minnesota Iceman” at Museum of Weird also makes the list of items that didn’t make it onto my camera memory card. Some of my favorites in Austin:
Dancing/Live Music: One of the first places Cesar and I visited was the Billy Reid shop in Austin, where the folks there so graciously put together a list of must-see dive bars and vintage stores.The White Horse was described to Cesar and I as a “modern day honky-tonk,” so of course we had to check it out. On that note, if walking down the streets at night in Austin can make me feel like I’m attending multiple concerts in one day, than I’m down with that. Case in point: Gypsy’s Lounge.
Street Art: I loved the “You’re My Butter Half” mural on E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd & Alamo Street. It’s also sort of obligatory to get a photo in front of the “Greetings from Austin” mural at Roadhouse Relics. If you don’t have time to drive from location to location, a good bet for street art photos is the graffiti park Hope Outdoor Gallery.
Tex-Mex Food: My boyfriend and I had just been going through a rundown of our favorite restaurants in each of the cities we’ve visited when a sizzling plate of tacos alambre was placed in front of him at Licha’s Cantina. In the flowery verbiage of a food critic, he described his tacos as, “so flavorful it feels like a Fruit Gusher popping open in your mouth.” I can vouch. BEST. TACOS. I’VE. EVER. EATEN. OH. MY. GOODNESS.
Vintage Shopping: I’m not in the market for vintage human anatomy posters or antique jewelry, but I still had fun rummaging through the items at Uncommon Objects on South Congress. Also, lots of cute Justin boots and leather handbags up for grabs at New Bohemia.
I hate to act like an expert on a city I’ve only visited once, but a girl’s gotta give kudos where kudos are due.
Leave it to me to go on a weekend getaway to North Carolina and (1) accidentally show up to a cuckhold and (2) unknowingly end up on a conservative gun shop’s parade float. Here’s how it all went down:
When your best friend invites you down South for Memorial Day weekend and asks you to be on a parade float, you don’t say no to these things — especially when you learn you’ll be riding down the street on the back of a Vietnam War-era “duece and a half” military cargo truck. But imagine my surprise when I show up to the town’s Memorial Day festivities and BAM! out rolls the Goose Lake Gun Shop* banner. An hour later and we’re parading through town, a Holy Bible float with cheerleaders for Jesus in front, some Mountain Dew sippin’ Boy Scouts behind us and Civil War reenactors leading the charge. I think the liberal gal in me handled it pretty well — that is, until shouts of “Long live the Confederacy!” could be heard from the crowds, at which point the half-black girl in me was like, “OH NAH.” It’s probably just a Southern pride thing that I’ll never quite comprehend, but talk about having a moment where you really appreciate where you’re from!
Later that afternoon, my friend Rita and I are drove up to the mountains for a few days in Asheville to explore the Arts District; visit the Biltmore; and, of course, unintentionally end up at a cuckhold. If you take a quick peek at the Travels section of my blog menu bar, you’ll notice the Roadside America section. I thought I’d check out The Odditorium, a quirky dive bar in Asheville that is on Roadside America’s North Carolina list of attractions because of its freak shows and oddities. Our Uber driver pulled up the venue and what do we see? A sign about a cuckhold and two humans in neon wigs and leather assless chaps hopping out a truck. I barely had a chance to peek around the place before our dad-like driver gave us a, “I don’t think this is a place for you two ladies” and backed out the parking lot.
Instead, we spent the night guzzling down dranks at Ben’s Tune Up and Wicked Weed, which was a really good time, though now that I think of it, The Odditorium probably would’ve been an even more wildly crazy, fun night.
… All of these good moments in a state I’ve claimed to “hate” over the last seven years… I hate to admit when I’m wrong (mostly because I know Rita will be reading this), but North Carolina was a nice little surprise and I think I’ll be back soon!
*Gun shop name withheld for sake of best friend
It seems that everything in Pittsburgh is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Why? I have no clue, but here’s what you can do when things are actually open:
VISIT THE ANDY WARHOL MUSEUM: One of the most iconic artists of the past few decades was born and bred in Steel City, so of course he’s got his own museum. The Andy Warhol Museum is exploding with color and so many photo opps, but like a lot of museums, no photos allowed.
STUFF YOUR FACE AT PRIMANTI BROS: Who knew pastrami topped with coleslaw and fries was so damn good? I have literally never had any desire to eat coleslaw at KFC, cookouts, nowhere, until I tried the food at the famous Primanti Bros.
LOOK AT SOME COLORFUL THINGS: The Carnegie Museum of Art, where Cesar and I discovered (and loved) the work of photographer Duane Michals. Buying a ticket to the art museum also earned me free entry into the Carnegie Museum of Natural History since the two are attached. Also, if you’re a fan of Roadside America attractions like I am, check out the museums because you’ll find Dippy the Dinosaur hangin’ outside of the museums.
TASTE MINI DONUTS: Peace, Love & Little Donuts is most likely the reason why my doctor said I gained weight since the last time she saw me during the summer. I want to say, “whoops?” but these things were so damn worth it.
“LOCK” IN YOUR LOVE: I just had to insert a corny pun here. I missed my chance to leave a love lock on the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris, so slapping my C + T lock on the Schenley Park bridge will have to do. A little cheesy? Yes, but that’s okay, because did I mention Cesar and I were celebrating our four-year anniversary the weekend we visited Pittsburgh?
SEE THE BEST VIEWS: Pittsburgh is a city of bridges, meaning SO. MANY. VIEWS. See below for the view at Duquesne Overlook.
Offbeat vintage signs and quirky Americana have always caught my eye, which is why Cesar and I recently decided to start a Roadside America tour. We aren’t doing the tour exactly the way it was dreamed up: by loading a big camper with a pack of pals and hopping out every time we see a Paul Bunyan or South of the Border statue. It’s more of a weekend adventure, small trip kind of approach, but I don’t mind.
The first stop on our list was Randyland. Randyland is the most obnoxiously quirky and colorful thing I’ve ever seen. Splattered in murals, broken toys and neon, this place brings kitsch to the Mexican War Streets neighborhood of Pittsburgh’s Northside. I can imagine Randyland is constantly crawled over by tourists like me, but apparently it’s also still a favorite with locals, too.