Road tripping: From Tennessee to California

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

They say "Once you stop moving, your body stops working", or something along the line. This is one of my most favorite quotes from my elder patients at the hospital. If I say I felt the same way about this blog, is that kind of...cliche? I meant to complete this blog post for almost a month now, I just find it difficult to gather my ideas and thoughts. I haven't written anything for a few months... out of practice, maybe? For sure my mind stopped working when I stopped writing.

Wow! I drifted far, didn't I? Let's go back to the beginning. Friends, I have been busy, WE have been busy. Late last October, we found out that Hubby got a new job in California! So since then, we have been busy working, packing, planning, and anything that you might need to do for a (to the exact) 2343 miles, 48 hours and 51 minutes driving time cross country move. So here is a little post about how the West family survived, with a packed car, a whiny dog, and a lot of audio books and podcasts (Serial, anyone?).

But first, let me introduce you to my little friend:

Man, this is by far the best road trip guide site ever! You can also download the app onto your iphones or android phones. Simply create an account, and put in your destination. It allows you to search, add on, and review for detours and attractions along the way. It will even let you adjust the miles radius range per personal references. My favorite part with this app is that people can rate and comment on each attractions, so it really helped us to decide on which particular attraction is worth going, and what to expect.

After planning out your trip, you can change the date on each attraction (It helped us focus and stick to the plan, so we arrive at our destination on time!), then print out the itinerary. It also shows us approx driving time in between attractions, so I can plan out when and where to stop for hotels and such.

Now, simply pack your bags, put in the address of each location in your GPS, and off I-40 we go!

We left Gallatin, Tennessee (We spend Christmas week with Brandon's family) the day after Christmas. About 3-ish hours later, we hit Memphis around lunch time. And what's better then BBQ for lunch? I went on my Yelp app real quick, and found this highly rated BBQ place.

Central BBQ Memphis

2249 Central Avenue, Memphis TN 38104

We shared their smoked ribs and brisket combo, with a side of coleslaw and mac'n cheese. While we were standing in line, some locals told us we have to try their pork rind. Gotta love a southern BBQ! With a full belly, we headed back on the road to our first stop of the trip: Little Rock, Arkansas.

Little Rock is a quint little town. It doesn't seems like there is much for us to do (we didn't feel like going to kids museums and such.), so we only have two planned attractions.

"Gone with the Wind" Filming Location

3850 Lakeshore Drive, North Little Rock, AR 72219

This is the last, and only standing building that appeared in the movie. My friend found me this you tube video, it's the intro or beginning of the movie: So technically, this building only appeared in the movie for a short minute, not even in an actual scene or anything. But it's still pretty cool, and a good spot to stretch our legs. It was in a small park, we even saw someone taking bridal gown shots there!

We held and sneaked Koali in the park with us. Guess we were feeling pretty rebellious that day (Totally joking!). After the park, we checked into the Comfort Inn downtown. It's pretty awesome that it is so convenient to travel with pets nowadays. With a small dog fee, we had no problem looking for a hotel that was okay with Koali! A little trick: We turned on the TV when we went out for dinners! That way when other visitors walk by our room, she won't get all defensive and bark a bunch.

River Market District

400 President Clinton Avenue, Little Rock AR 72201

Our hotel conveniently provided a shuttle that took us to the downtown district 5 minutes away. We walked around a few art galleries, unique stores, and had dinner at the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium (323 President Clinton Avenue, Little Rock AR 72201). A fun restaurant with lots of draft on tap, food was pretty good, but nothing spectacular. We went back to the hotel, and had a relaxed night in with Koali.

First day (12/26/2014) Summary: Left Tennessee around 9 am. Approx 6 hrs drive time (400-ish miles) with a lunch break in Memphis. We checked into our hotel for the night around 5 pm. Visited 2 attractions in Little Rock.

The next day, we left sunny yet chilly Little Rock and headed towards Oklahoma city. After about 5 hours drive, it literally went from this one second:

Sunny, beautiful blue skies with windmills everywhere, to a snow storm that came out of NO WHERE! We went from going 75 miles per hour to crawling at 35 miles per hour. Crazy!

Thankfully this gal here ain't a horrible driver on icy roads, we drove past it real quick, and headed into Oklahoma City for lunch. I originally planned on going to Nic's Grill, where Diners, Drive in and Dive on food network visited. Unfortunately, they were close that day, so we went to this historic flower shop converted restaurant (Cheever's Cafe, 2409 North Hudson Avenue, Oklahoma City OK 7313) instead. They still have the original flower storing fridge, nowadays it's a wine and dessert display. Food was pretty good but pricey, definitely not your typical hop and out type road trip restaurant.

Groom Cross

2880 Country Road, Groom TX 79039

Another 5-ish hour later, we hit one of the iconic I-40 road trip attraction, the Groom Cross. This attraction didn't get much great reviews on Road Trippers. It is literally a giant cross in a itsy, bitsy town with absolutely nothing in it. The good thing is that it is maybe 5 minutes off the interstate, I recommend y'all to just pull off on one of the country roads a little further from the cross itself to take pictures. Or else it's hard to include the whole thing.

 A little must have vaca selfie later, we checked into our hotel of the night about 30 miles from the cross.

The Big Texan Steak Restaurant and Motel

7701 E. Interestate 40, Amarillo TX 79118
Phone: (806) 372-7000

Oh, the excitement I have for this place, I can't even start to explain. For weeks, visiting this restaurant is all I can talk about. This is the home of the big 72 oz steak challenge, this is one of the big episode in Man Vs. Food when Adam ate the gigantic steak in their 1 hour time range, this is the Holy Grail of American foodie road trips spot.

No, no, no, we didn't do the challenge. But this picture above is an actual picture of the famous meal. 72 oz rib eye with side salad, a bake potato, rolls, appetizer fried shrimp, and a drink. Food was awesome, if gigantic juicy steak is your thing. It was everything that I imagined. The hotel rooms was awesome, with wild west decor, and again, pet friendly. With a full belly of steaks and drinks, that sums up our second day!

Second day (12/27/2014) Summary: Left Little Rock around 9 am, lunch break in Oklahoma City. Approx driving time was 11 hours (580-ish miles) total. Visited 1 road side attraction, checked in our hotel and restaurant at 6 pm.

Cadillac Ranch

I-40 Frontage Road, Amarillo TX 79124

About 13 miles west of the hotel, we hit our second road side attraction. This one is a really iconic one, and a must stop and snap a pic one. Again, it was just some Cadillac cars standing straight up beside the road, nothing else to it. But it's common that people bring their own spray paint and leave their mark!

Petrified Forest National Park

1 Park road, Petrified Forest National Park, AZ 86028
I-40 traveling from East to West: Exit 311

Our next stop is the petrified forest national park with the painted desert. It's about a 8 hours drive from Amarillo, with a $10 private vehicle fee, it took us about 40 minutes to drive through with stops. The painted desert was absolutely breath taking. A great attraction that you can walk around each viewing balcony, and the park provides maps with detailed descriptions and numbers that guide you along the way.

The petrified forest is less of a forest, but more of a desert with a few petrified logs on it. See all those little pecks in the picture below? Those are all petrified fallen trees!

Wall Map of Route 66

609 W. Hopi Drive, Holbrook AZ 86025

Another photo op roadside attraction, a big wall mural of Route 66 road map. To exit the petrified forest, the national park ends on Highway 180. If you have the time, this mural on the way back to I-40. So stop and take a quick picture! We also wanted to stop at the big Meteor Crater, but we ran out of day light. If you ever make it to the crater, send me a picture!

Third day (12/28/2014) Summary: Left Amarillo Texas around 10 am, hit 4 road side attraction, we even exited I-40 and drove on the actual route 66 for a few miles just to say we did it! around 9-ish hours drive time (650-ish miles), but since we stopped quite a few times for attractions, we made it to the hotel in Flagstaff, AZ around 7 pm. Chinese take out for dinner, and Koali hated Arizona because grass patches was starting to get sparse! 

Grand Canyon National Park South Rim

From Flagstaff, AZ: I-40 to Williams, AZ, then take Highway 64 up all the way till you hit the ticket booth (81 miles)!
Opens year round, $25 per vehicle

Obviously, Grand Canyon is a must go even if its around 60 miles off our route to California. After 3 whole days of driving, we were ready to just be at San Luis Obispo, CA, our destination already. We saw that we only have about 80 miles to go from Arizona, and decided that we will book it. We left the hotel in Flagstaff early at 6 am in the morning, after a quick hotel breakfast, we head onto the road.

We got to the Grand Canyon national park early, like around 7:30 am. It was only 4 degrees up there, so cold! Even Koali was shivering, so Brandon carried her most of the way out. We only stopped at the first visitor viewing station, and this was the view. So so beautiful!

After that, we drove non stop on I-40 into California, then took exit 46 to go on highway CA-58W. That's when things got complicated and confusing. We split up from I-40 at around 2 pm, knowing that we didn't want to get mixed up in LA traffic, we opt to not drive pass LA to get on the coastal highway 101.

CA-58 W takes us pass through Bakersfield. Since we weren't familiar with local state highways, it was kinda confusing for us to weave through cities, with fluctuating speed limits. Some how we got onto a mountain highway that takes us straight through the mountains, that was a interesting drive.

Fourth day (12/29/2014) Summary: End of our road trip! We left the hotel at 6 am, drove approx 80+ miles, hit one of our major bucket list: The Grand Canyon. Got to San Luis Obispo at around 7 pm. Home sweet home!!

I still found it weird to call San Luis Obispo, or SLO as the local calls it, home just yet. Don't get me wrong, it's absolutely perfect out here. We have yet to turn on the air or heat since we been here, it's never too cold or too hot. People are so friendly, and so proud of their own state. Lots of local winery and delicious food.

But it's going to take me sometime to get there, feeling at home I mean. It's never easy to move away from familiar places, faces, and habits. I have yet to find my go-to Chinese take out, or our favorite drinking hole, oh did I mention I missed my friends so badly? I even missed going to work? But all that will come in time, I know. As for now, we are just going to think we are on vacation every weekend until we explore the whole town!

WIAW: Weekly Eats

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This week, we got lots of fresh zucchinis, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, white onions, and a BIG batch of delicious lettuce. 3 heads to be exact! We can never eat enough salads to consume these! So new recipes involving cooking lettuce has been building up in my head, its quite a Chinese and French thing, you know? (I have a little friend named Google, whose kind enough to share the info!)

If it's delicious enough, you will see it here soon!

So much new fresh veggies to explore, let's go right in the What I Ate Wednesday shenanigans, shall we? 

Other then my usual almond milk protein smoothie, this bad boy is my go to on days I'm not rushing out bright and early in the mornings. Cooked millet from nights before, a scramble egg (with a few sliced red peppers that I prepped and stored in the freezer in a zip lock bag), and some garlic hummus, all wrapped up in a multi-grain flat bread.

Prepping cooked millet or quinoa is a quick way to add grains = being full and satisfied, to your diet! I cooked this batch of millet with some vegetable stock in a rice cooker, add in some lettuce, hard boiled eggs, mushrooms, and some McCormick Salad Supreme. Instant healthy salad.

On days I crave for something more hearty, I like to quick boil some lettuce, radish, rice noodles, with a tablespoon of white miso paste in vegetables stock. Finish it with extra sprinkles of some Japanese seaweed seasoning (Nori Komi Furikake)!

Trader Joes is totally killing me with these amazing pita chips and yogurt dip! I cannot stop eating them! I love how they add in kale to the all time favorite spinach dip, definitely add more flavor and crunch to it.

For dinner, we wiped up this BBQ mushroom burger top with radish slaw. I've never really tried eating radish raw, it is actually sweeter and crunchier then regular carrots. That is why I love CSA, always challenge us to try new vegetables, or better yet, new ways to eat different vegetables!

I stir fried some bak and choi and swiss chard one night, and Brandon didn't like the texture so much. So I decided to grind it up in a food processor and add it to rice. With a little extra garlic, the bomb! Plus, my delicious tofu and zucchini skewers with a homemade soy and sesame dressing.

I can never leave Trader Joe's without their Cinnamon Coffee cake. So light and fluffy! Best dessert ever.

That's it for this week, time to see what other WIAWer's have been up to. Have a great Wednesday, y'all!

Come join this food sharing party with me @ Peas and Crayons!

T.H.E Epic Vegan Burger: BBQ Portobello Burger Top with Radish Slaw

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tonight's menu: Vegan BBQ portobello burger, top with radish cabbage slaw, and serve with a side of fresh baked kale chips. It's a mouthful, but it's definitely simple, and deliciously healthy.

Nothing like a marinated portobello topped with a quick slaw. Heck, you only need to wash 2 bowls! Okay maybe 3, for the slaw dressing.

If this is challenging enough, serve it with chips, Cheetos, Doritos, or whatever else up your alley. Want something healthier? Pad dry bite size kale leaf, lay on a aluminum foil lined baking sheet, drizzle and sprinkle with olive oil and seasoning salt. In the 350F oven it goes, out comes fresh and crispy kale chips in 15 minutes.

Kale chips sounds like a winner to me!

BBQ Portobello Burger top with Radish Slaw

Prep time: 45 minutes (Including marinating time); Cooking time: 10 minutes; Makes 2 servings

What will you need?
Portobello Mushrooms: 2 no; wiped clean, stem and gills (the black part in the bottom) removed
Hamburger bun: 2 no; we used pretzel buns for this recipe!
BBQ sauce of your choice: 1/2 cup
Balsamic vinegar: 1/4 cup
Apple cider vinegar: 1/4 cup
Extra virgin olive oil: 1/2 cup
Water: 3 tbsp

Radish Cabbage slaw:
Red and white radishes: 3 to 4 no; med size, wash and scrubbed (I used little bulb sized ones here, just make sure you have about 2 cups shredded)
Green Cabbage: 1/4 head; thinly sliced
Scallions: 3 sprig; diced
Juice of 1 very juicy lemon (comes to about 1/4 cup)
Equal portion extra virgin olive oil
Ground ginger: 1/2 tsp
Honey: 2 tbsp
Salt and pepper: 1/8 tsp each

How do you make it?
Depending on what kind of grill you have, get it pre-heated!

In a shallow dish, combine all the marinate (ingredient 2-6) for the mushroom caps. Place mushrooms in the dish, make sure the mushroom in completely covered by the marinate, spooning extra sauce over to top if needed. Repeat every now and then for 30 minutes.

For the dressing: Combine lemon juice, olive oil, ground ginger, honey, salt and pepper.

Grate radishes with a veggie grater. Grab a handful of grated radishes, hold over the sink and squeeze out most of the juices, place aside in a large mixing bowl. Repeat until all the radishes is drained. Then toss with sliced cabbage, scallions, and the dressing that you just combined. Let sit and let all the flavor come together.

Get the grill up to med heat, place your portobello mushroom caps down. I like to start with the top side first to get a pretty grill mark. Brush on extra marinate as you go. Cook for about 4 minutes each side. Don't forget to toast your bun while you're at it!

To assemble, Bottom bun + Portobello mushrooms + Drizzle extra BBQ marinate (how can you not want more of that stuff?!) + Heaps of radish slaw + Top bun = Party in your mouth!

I hope you enjoy!!

WIAW: Weekly Eats

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

We are super excited about our CSA pick up this past weekend! In case you don't know what CSA is, it stands for community supported agriculture, and it is a weekly organic veggie pick up system with your local farms. Click here to find a farm near you!

We got a big batch of farm fresh, organic vegetables for $30. It encourage us to be more strict about cutting off meats at home (our fridge is packed with vegetables, we have no room for meat!), eat local and organic, and explore more types of vegetables!

So let's get the weekly eating going, shall we?


I found this new coconut blend almond milk, and I'm in love! It adds so much more body to a simple protein shakes. With only 35 calories a serving, you can start your day off right!

On Friday night, I cut up some stale burger buns (We can never finish them! I wish they sell 2 or 4 buns packs!) we have in the fridge, add in 6 eggs, 2 cups of milk, a whole thing of diced fresh mozzarella, and some tempeh bacon. Let it sit overnight, and bake it in 350F for 45 minutes. 

Brandon thought it was the best breakfast ever! Also a great way to use up stale bread, which somehow always happen to a 2 person household, right? That, and stale tortilla chips. I can never finish the whole bag in time.


Other then fresh salads, this wrap dominated my lunches. With the whole wheat flat bread from Aldi's (I heart Aldi's low prices, why? Read what (never)homemaker had to say about it. I totally agree!), my homemade Chipotle hummus, fresh avocados, and handful of arugula. 

Chipotle hummus = smokey goodness
Arugula = nutty deliciousness
Avocado = super creamy


We got a whole bunch of fresh veggies from our CSA, so a lettuce wrap is the best way to use multiple veggies all in one delicious dish! I mix in bulgur, celery, onions, diced red peppers, edamame, and my secret ingredients? 

Salted cabbage and Black Wood Ear Mushroom! 2 ingredients that might be foreign to you, but it adds so much texture and flavor to a otherwise meat-flavor-filled dish. With a dash of soy sauce and vegetarian Oyster Sauce to spice it up!

Meet the most epic vegan burger. Smokey chipotle hummus with blackened tofu loaded up in a burger. Even your meat loving man will love it. I thin sliced some fingerling potatoes, oven fry it with some special seasoning we got from Barcelona, Spain. Now that's what I call dinner.

Zong Zi is a Chinese traditional rice and mung beans dumplings wrapped in bamboo leafs. Typically include a small piece of pork in it, but we gave that to Koali for being such a good girl during dinner time (My dog totally runs this household!). 

As much as I like to home make most foods, this is one thing that takes too much time and ingredients... I just don't dare to attempt. Anyhow, I'm uber excited to find it in our local Asian grocery, serve it with some edamame and poached lettuce with vegetarian Oyster Sauce , dinner is served!


For dessert this week, we have been snacking on this delicious strawberry sherbet I made! Sweetened with honey, which compliments the freshness of ginger, and all together enhances the strawberry flavor. Absolutely the best summer dessert ever!

I hope you stay eating healthy and delicious as well!

Come join this food sharing party with me @ Peas and Crayons!

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