Charlton, MA

And so it ends where it began… or its paused anyways

I drove to Lewisburg after leaving Indianapolis to see my Aunt Doris again. It was on the way home, and she is always good for a warm bed, nice meal, and excellent conversation.

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I spent the day yesterday driving in the cold rain back to Charlton, where I will be staying with my parents for the holiday. In addition to Christmas, I’m also here to celebrate Tyler Chase’s 21st and to spend New Years in Chatham with my best friends.

However, the plan as of now is to renew the adventure after the New Year and to explore the north and the western part of the country. Thanks for all the followers and people who commented on the blog!! See you in 2013!!

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Nashville and Indianapolis

After leaving Dallas I drove up to Nashville, TN, where I stayed in my first ever hostel the Music City Hostel, which was a clean hostel filled with all sorts of interesting people. The idea of hostels is that you can stay cheaply in a dorm style setting, where you are sleeping in the same room as other people. There is a shared bathroom and shared kitchen. From what I understand there is a very broad range in the security, cleanliness, and general atmosphere of hostels. The one I stayed at was very clean, the staff was very helpful and everyone I met was very friendly. There were people from all over the US, from Europe, and from Austrailia some where there for work, some for school, some passing through and some trying to become musicians, but everyone was very nice and courteous and we all had some excellent conversations as we shared stories about our travels.

I did go out in Nashville, which I would categorize as not really my scene. I do not like country music and though there was a good amount of restaurants and history, most of it focused on Country music. The only meal I ate out in Nashville was at Hooters and only because they had a great wing special and Hooters has excellent wings. The rest of the time I ate at the hostel.

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From Nashville I drove to Indianapolis where I couch-surfed again with a woman named Angie, who was awesome. She is a young, an engineer, a licensed sky-diver, well-travelled, well-educated person. She and I and another friend of hers, who liked meeting new people and traveling as well, went to a bar called Howl at the Moon which I would strongly recommend to anyone spending any time in Indianapolis. Other than $1 Coors light bottles, they have dueling pianos and a house band that is phenomenal. It was made up of two women and three men all of whom could play guitar, drums, piano and sing and they all switched instruments regularly. They also played every type of music you can think of, from Billy Joel and Neil Diamond to Bruno Mars and Beyonce. They were incredible.

Angie also took me to eat at Pho #1 Eggroll, no lie, that was the name of it. They had really great Chinese food and Vietnamese food too. Other than that, I didn’t see very much in Indy. Indy is the 14th city I’ve seen and 12th city I’ve stayed in in just over a month and I was starting to tire out. I spent one full day in Indy relaxing on the couch, recovering from Howl at the Moon and tracking the unbelievably horrific news story out of Newton, CT. I also spent a lot of time with my host and our new friend Josh talking about traveling and debating religion, politics, and all of the other big problems of the world. Neither night I was there did we make it to bed without many beers, many topics of conversation, or before the wee hours.

It was an excellent stop towards beginning to wind down this leg of the journey on my way back to Massachusetts for Christmas with friends and family.

Everything is bigger in TEXAS!

I arrived in Austin, TX Saturday early evening with no plans on what I was doing, where I was staying, or for how long, but ended up having a great time.

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When I showed up in Austin I was just really tired. Traveling is awesome, but sleeping a different place every night with different people and keeping up with blogging and researching places to stay and where to go is really time-consuming. I decided I would get a hotel room for the night, nothing fancy but just somewhere that I could really relax and get some rest before venturing into Austin on Sunday. It was the first place that I have paid to stay since being on this trip. It was well worth it. It gave to a chance to regroup, I got all of my electronics charged, I took an hour-long shower, and slept for 12 hours. It was definitely something that I needed.

After waking up well-rested on Sunday and checking out of the motel, I decided to explore Austin, mostly following advice from Jesse Bicknell on where to go. I did, however, find a really sweet brunch spot all on my own. This place was called Coal Vines and they had a great brunch menu, from which I selected the breakfast calzone, which was outstanding. The best part though was $1 mimosas. I mean, how can you go wrong with $1 mimosas on Sunday morning?

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Breakfast Calzone and Mimosas!

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I was already downtown and had paid for parking for the day so I set out on foot from Breakfast to Zilker Park, which Jesse recommended I see. It’s this huge park in the middle of Austin where people play sports, picnic and bring their dogs. There are also tons of walking trails all with really scenic views. There is also a botanical garden in the park, that was worth seeing, though I think it would be even better when everything was in bloom.

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I walked all over that park, and it was really nice to see some nature after being in so many cities for so long, because I’m definitely a country kid at heart. It was also beautiful in Austin, 80 degrees and sunny, I even waded in the river to cool off. After the park I headed back towards downtown to check out the more urban side of Austin. I ended up eating some Tex Mex at a little bar called Chupacabaras, which was good, but nothing special. I wandered around into the night, and stopped at Starbucks to get some stuff done on the computer.

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Stay classy Austin

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Chupacabras!

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The Capitol

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I decided, after splurging on the hotel that I would sleep in my car for my second night in Austin. I went back and parked at the motel I had stayed at the night before so I could steal their wi-fi (sneaky sneaky) and rearranged my car so I could sleep. It’s actually not that uncomfortable to sleep in the car, however, one must always check the weather before doing so. I went to sleep and it was high 60s, woke up in the middle of the night and the wind was raging and it was freezing! Despite the cold I slept until well after 9am, but woke up to find my windshield covered in frost. I thought I was safe in Texas.. apparently not.

Monday morning I went out to be productive. Despite being on the road, laundry still needs to get done, and my car needed an oil change because I have put well more than 3k miles on it since being on the road. Luckily, I found a laundromat within walking distance of an oil change shop called Groovy Lube, where you get 13% off for being in a band? And even better, you get 25% off for being a college student, which according to my WSU ID, I am.

After getting some stuff done I drove to Dallas, it’s a 3 hour drive, but that seems like nothing after all of these 7 hour, 9 hour, 12 hour drives I’ve been doing. In Dallas I used Couchsurfing.org again and ended up staying with an ER doctor at his house, where he put me up in my own room, in a queen size bed, with my own bathroom, which was awesome. He was also a very well-traveled interesting guy, who uses almost all of his vacation time to travel the world, mostly staying in hostels or using couch surfing to do so.

He also took me out to a delicious burger joint called Twisted Root, where I had a Mexican Burger with pepper-jack, fried onions, jalapeños, and BBQ sauce. It was phenomenal. Then we met up with a group of his friends at the local watering hole, many of whom were couch surfers. We all drank beers and I got to be with a group of Texans in Texas while the Patriots kicked the crap out of the Texans 42-7, which was a very awesome experience.

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Mexican Burger!

I didn’t get to do much exploring in Dallas, but what I saw was good. Austin, however, was really awesome. It’s somewhere I wouldn’t mind going back to. Granted I only saw a small part of Austin, but it seemed like a really cool place to live, it had all the amenities of a large city, but also was very pedestrian friendly and had lots of nature and trees as well.

New Orleans

Or Nawhlins, as all of the locals call it, is a very cool city. I was really excited to go there, and I am happy to report that it lived up to all of my expectations. It was a 12 hour drive to get there from Charleston, SC so I didn’t arrive until late Wednesday night, and I stayed with my friend Kelsey in Gonzales, about 45 minutes outside of the city.

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Thursday morning I was up early and found my way to the French Quarter of the city, which is where everyone recommended that I go. That whole area of the city is very interesting, it’s very historic, but also very tourist oriented and modern. Most of the businesses are restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, strip clubs, or art galleries.  Because there are so many restaurants and bars they are in fierce competition for business, so many have specials like buy 1 drink, get 2 free, or really cheap deals on food. There is also no law against drinking on the street (which should be a national law!), so all of the bars put your drinks in plastic cups and you can move around, it’s right up my alley. New Orleans is also apparently famous for daiquiris, there were lots of daiquiri bars that just had machines, like Icee machines, full of alcoholic daiquiris of every flavor you can imagine, they’re good, but definitely more flavor than alcohol, and not the best bang for your buck.

The first place I stopped and ate was Spirit, because they had $2 jumbo, which was really good and full of shellfish and chorizo. I also had dinner at a restaurant named Galvez, which had an awesome happy hour menu, and over looked the water. I also had my first buttered rum there, which is apparently a southern tradition for the holiday and it was excellent!

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Gumbo @ Spirit

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Empanadas and Calamari @ Galvez

The discovery of the trip however were wine smoothies. There were several of these bars in New Orleans that had smoothies, much like the daiquiris, made with flavored wine, and they offered free samples to try all the flavors (which is how they got me). They were delicious, and I can’t even tell you how many I had over the course of the two days I was there.

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The first day I also found a street that was mostly art galleries, and I must say that New Orleans had the best of any city I’ve seen so far. There is a style that is unique to New Orleans, which uses really brightly colored oils and acrylic paint, often to paint musicians and the art is awesome. I also found The Craig Tracy Gallery, and Craig paints people’s bodies and then puts them in front of a backdrop and photographs them, some of those were incredible as well. I can’t pick a favorite, but Tom Everhart‘s work was fantastic as well. He did paintings of characters from “Peanuts” in a really unique way. If I had thousands of dollars more than I had, I would have left New Orleans with some very cool art!

The first night I skipped most of the night life in the city in favor of getting some sleep. However, the second day I was there my friend Kelsey took her last final of the semester so she, her roommate and myself went out to party on Bourbon St., the legendary party spot in New Orleans. Despite both of the girls being under 21, we didn’t encounter any problems. We wandered up, down, and around Bourbon St. drank many different drinks, danced, went to Marie Laveau’s legendary voodoo shop, yelled, partied, I rode a bull? There is live music in many places, with no cover and people throw beads from the balconies above the street. There are street performers up and down the street and its closed to traffic after 5pm so the whole street is like a big party. If you look down the street all you can see are people having fun and neon signs, and at this time of year, Christmas lights. Bourbon Street is a very awesome place to be when the sun goes down.

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New Orleans, to me, was much like Las Vegas except more my style. Everything is very close together, in about 1 square mile you can see everything that you need to. It’s like Vegas in that it’s definitely a party atmosphere, people run up and down the street wasted and no one cares and there are nearly naked people everywhere. It’s like an adult playground. However there is much more culture and history than Vegas, and unlike Vegas, you can have a great time without spending too much money. It’s a city I would love to visit again.

 

 

 

Charleston, SC

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On Monday morning I left Julie in Greensboro, NC and drove 4 hours south to Charleston, SC where I delved into my first couch surfing experience. Couchsurfing.org is a website that allows people from all over the world to connect for the purpose of traveling cheaply. Members of couch surfing either offer up a couch for travelers to crash on, or crash on said couches, or do both. You can create a profile on the website and then find people with similar interests to meet and stay with. I know that it sounds dangerous and sketchy etc., however, everyone I’ve spoken to who has done it had wonderful things to say, so I figured I’d give it a try.

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I looked on the website and found a woman with lots of couch surfer experience and e-mailed her. She responded and told me that she had a couch open. I had an awesome experience, I stayed with a 26-year-old woman named Tracy, who was a vegetarian, hippie, stripper, jack-of-all-trades, eccentric soul. She has lived all over, had tons of different jobs and many interests. Currently she lives in an a former slave’s quarters in down-town Charleston. In addition to letting me crash her couch for a couple of nights, she was a great tour guide in Charleston, especially of all the great restaurants and hole-in-the-all bars.

Charleston itself was extraordinary. It is a beautiful city, most of the buildings are from colonial times, but they have all been restored or maintained so the whole city is so beautiful. Many of the buildings, especially public buildings or houses of famous early Americans have been turned into museums or are historically maintained. Everyone seems to have a lot of pride in their property, all of the gardens were really well-groomed and most houses at some type of Christmas decoration. There were also plenty of art galleries and restaurants. The weather was so nice, it was 70 degrees and sunny the whole time I was there. However, it was very bizarre to me to see all the christmas decorations all over palm trees.

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I went to more restaurants than I can even recall, but my favorite would have to be either Squeeze, which was a small bar that specialized in specialty cocktails, even making many of their own unique infused liquors, or Social, which had a $4 happy hour, where I had a really dry sparkling white wine from South America and a margherita pizza, both of which were excellent.

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I wish that I could have spent more time in Charleston honestly. There was so much to see and so much history, it’s definitely a place I would recommend visiting.

Early yesterday morning I started my 13 hour trek to New Orleans. Thanks to a suggestion from my new couch-surfing host, I found a 22-year-old guy on Craigslist where they have a ride-share section, who needed a ride to Florida. I picked him up in Charleston in the morning and he paid me $40 to drive him from Charleston to Jacksonville, which was on the way anyways. It’s definitely a cool way to save money on gas and to meet new people on the way. This guy was a fellow traveler just like me whose been staying in Charleston and he was just trying to get home for Christmas.IMG_0394

I spent the entire day yesterday, 13 hours, from sun up to sun down driving to New Orleans, or actually, Gonzales, LA where a friend of mine lives. It was the longest car ride of my life so far. Despite having to fill my gas tank 3 times, the trip wasn’t all that bad, until the last couple hours when I started to run out of music to listen to and began to get really bored.

 

Greensboro, NC

The last day I was with Oniz in Charlotte we drove about 40 minutes outside the city to Crowders Mountain and hiked up it. It was a nice hike, nothing too crazy, but brought us to the summit where there were some breath-taking views.

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Friday night I left Oniz’s and drove the 2 hours to see my friend Julie in Greensboro, NC where she is a student at University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) and plays for the girls rugby team. She had a rugby game yesterday, which I went and saw and was shocked at what a violent game it is. Its like football, but faster paced and without pads. Last night Julie hosted the rugby social at her house, which means the entire rugby team comes over and gets hammered. It was a good time, definitely a different scene than I am used to, but fun none the less. By different scene I mean almost everyone at the party was a large rugby playing lesbian, most of whom could kick my ass.

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Dancing rugby players

Best part of the trip, is that right before the party last night we got back to Julie’s with several cases of beer…

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and walk in the door and discover that the men’s rugby team had trashed her house. They switched her bedroom and living room around so that her bed was in the middle of the living room.

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Julie’s remodeled living room

They also covered the light switches, photos, fridge, etc. with band-aids (which apparently Julie has some phobia of). This is especially epic because when I met Julie, almost 10 years ago, this is the exact type of crap that we used to do at summer camp. 10 years later… Julie still hasn’t grown up at all and is still being ridiculous.

Today, we are relaxing after the night we had last night. Julie is in bed, and I’m lounging on the couch…