Month: March 2011


Epic Road Trip 2011: The Long Haul

This is part 3 in a series about my Epic Road Trip 2011.  If you have not yet seen the teaser, or read the background behind my love for the open road, then now would be a good time to get caught up.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

All done? Up to speed?  Good.  Let’s do this.

Friday, March 4th

We are go for EPIC Roadtrip 2011! @justinhamlin, Rusty (the dog), and me on the road for 3400 miles over 8 days. Stay tuned! #EpicRoadie2011

The time has come.  I have been in California for 3 days now, taking care of some contract work and cramming in as much time with California friends as possible before heading back towards my new home.  The morning is filled with last minute packing lists, getting caught up on emails and things that need immediate attention.  The trip begins at 2:00pm when I head out for Santa Fe Springs to pick up Mike.

It is hard to believe that I have not been in this house, or slept in this bed in a month.  February 2nd was our last day in California before heading for New York.

One last goodbye to Juliet’s mom and brother.  One last goodbye to our home for the past 2 years.  One last photo.  Toss Rusty in the truck, it’s time to hit the road.

One last goodbye

The quick jaunt up the California highway to pick up Mike at his office in Santa Fe Springs is uneventful, as it should be.  After a few goodbye’s and farewell’s at his office, it was time to head towards Arizona.  320 miles of Friday traffic leaving Southern California lay in front of us.

Ready to roll

3:00pm, we embark on the first leg of #epicroadie2011 (the epic hashtag that Mike created for the trip) and the first leg of the long haul section of the trip. (*It looks like Twitter’s search function does not go back far enough to search on the hashtag, so I will be embedding some tweets into the posts) Thankfully, we come prepared with plenty of music on 1 iPod, 1 Zune and XM radio in the truck.

Oh, and we have 3 batches of these puppies.

Granola Bar Goodness

Mike made 2 batches before we left and his mom surprised us with another batch.   These granola bars have become a staple of every road trip we have taken.

Oh yeah, back to the road trip…

We’re not 50 miles into the trip, while sitting in traffic, Rusty makes it well known what we we’re in for.  It actually becomes a common occurrence for us to look back and hear Rusty snoring away in the back seat.  Needless to say, he was is comfortable.

His other pose

The next 5 hours of the drive is spent discussing various details of the trip, from departure times, drive times, distances, as well as reaping the benefits of XM radio in the truck, listening to our Anaheim Ducks beat the Dallas Stars in overtime.

We pull into my home in Kingman, Arizona, where my grandparents live, around 10:30pm MST.  We spend the better part of an hour talking with them about the trip before crashing for the night.  Saturday’s destination is El Paso, Tx.  We have ground to cover.

Saturday, March 5th

After a good night’s rest, a nice hot shower, we are able to catch up a little more with my grandparents about our trip, the route and how far we were looking to make it on Saturday.

Showing Grandma the route

All packed up and ready to go, it is just like Willy said, on the road again!

Saying goodbye
Kingman AZ, check. Next stop, El Paso, TX. Or, you know, gas or food somewhere in between here and there. #epicroadie2011
Justin Hamlin

Down the road we head, East on I-40 to Rt-93 and south to meet up with I-10 to head across the south of Arizona, New Mexico and into Texas.  What seems to be an innocuous drive turned quite eventful and sad, as we come across the south side of Wickenburg, AZ, we see what looks to be a downed motorcyclist, covered with a coroner’s white sheet and nothing but his boots sticking out the bottom.

On the road trip checklist, we can check off FATALITY. #epicroadie2011
Justin Hamlin

A sad moment, as less than 24 hours into the trip, we weren’t ready for that.

Shortly after, we pass through Phoenix.

Phoenix skyline

Next on the list is Tempe, AZ, where the Anaheim Angels (I REFUSE to call them the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) have Spring Training

Angels Training Camp

We stop for lunch in Mesa, AZ at a little sub-sandwich place off I-10.  Actually, amazing food.  Go check it out if you are around the area.

Lunch in Chandler, AZ, back on the road. Got some highway calling our names. #epicroadie2011
Justin Hamlin

A little past the Tempe/Chandler, AZ area, we run across Firebird International Raceway.  The only reason that I got such a clear shot was because traffic came to a complete stop, right at the racetrack.

Firebird Raceway

Why, you might ask?  Because of this

Race cars less than 50 yards off I-10

Yup.  People stopped on the interstate to watch a road race.  Well, in actuality, I can think of worse reasons to stop on the interstate, so I guess I will let this one slide.

Free and easy down the road we go, another 100 miles off the trip, another Twitter hashtag is born.  #PearlsOfWisdom will become our hashtag for the amazing quotes that can only come out of 2 guys, 1 dog and tons of open road.  The first one is a moment of glorious insight, complements of Mike.

You heard it here first. I now know what I am buying Mike for his birthday.  I wish I could offer more insight on this one, but this is a dedicated Mike-ism.

We continue on I-10, stopping east of Tucson to gas up the beast, snap a few photos, and back on the road.

This, too, was a common sight
My kinda place!

Back on the road around 3:15pm, we have an entire state to get across, and we still have not made it to the border yet!

"Free-range desert cattle. Definitely not happy, California cows." #PearlsOfWisdom #EpicRoadie2011 @justinhamlin

More wisdom from the road ensues.  My take on the free range cattle that occupy the desert east of Tucson, AZ.  Definitely must be what these guys are referring to.  I mean, they are not from California, this must be why.  I would much rather live in California than Arizona, if I was a cow, that is.

New Mexico on the horizon.

I felt welcome
Running from the sunset

New Mexico is a blur, and before we knew it, we come into Texas.

Funny how we're driving down the interstate, and just across the river, I'm looking into a third world country...literally. #EpicRoadie2011

This is one of the more surreal portions of the drive for us.  If anyone has not been on I-10 between Las Cruces, NM and El Paso, TX, I recommend doing the drive at night, it gives a very distinct picture of the difference that exists within those few hundred yards.

To paint the picture, on I-10, 10-15 miles inside the Texas border, there are steep hills/mountains to the north/northeast, and to the south/southwest, about 50 yards off the highway was El Rio Grande, and past that, Juarex, Mexico.  Up against the hills in El Paso are strip malls, fast food restaurants, hospitals, colleges and all the luxuries of western civilization.  150 yards to the right, is a 3rd world county.  During the day, and even at night, it Juarez looks like a shanty town, pretty much straight out of from a movie.

As we pull into our hotel for the night and get settled, we realize that we could see Juarez about 2 miles off in the distance.

Juarez, Mexico

Definitely brings some things into perspective, sitting no more than a few miles away from a poverty stricken country that is currently in the midst of a drug war that rivals only that of Nicaragua in the 1990’s.

After 11 hours and almost 650 miles on the road, we get some rest and prepare for another long day of driving.  The Great State of Texas is in our future.

Sunday, March 6th

Leaving El Paso, going to make San Antonio by the end of the day, possibly Houston if we are making good time. #EpicRoadie2011
We sang Willie Nelson every morning.

Now the meaning of the term “Long Haul” is starting to give us its meaning.  1000 miles in 2 days and an ambitious goal of 750 for Sunday.  Away from the hotel, gas and go, Interstate 10, here we come.

Not 100 miles east of El Paso, we c0me across a U.S. Border Patrol Checkpoint.

Border checkpoint in Texas.

Yes, we have our citizenship questioned.   Yes, I know it is standard protocol, but it literally takes all of our restraint not to ask the nice Border Patrol Agent if California residents counted as U.S. Citizens.

Oh, and Rusty is called a “killer dog” – Yup, this Rusty:

He's a killer alright.

Sunday is definitely proving to be the longest day of the trip, with a desolate landscape surrounding us, it does not lend itself much to photos or wonderful insight.  We stop to stretch our legs somewhere along I-10 in the middle of Texas (don’t ask me where, it was some random rest-stop, didn’t even have bathrooms).

3 Weary road warriors

About the only thing memorable on this stretch of road was that for the previous 24 hours, from Phoenix through Texas, we have been playing leapfrog with a group of travelers in one giant caravan.  The odd thing that set this group apart was there are around 8 primary cars, all with license plates from different states.  I say 8 primary cars because the primary cars all are either towing or carrying another car. (not quite sure if they are functional or not) The vehicles in tow all have the words “IN TOW” written in duct tape across the back of the vehicles. Most all of the towed/carried vehicles are Toyota pickup trucks, circa 1985, and all are loaded down with stuff.

Two of 8 in the caravan

We finally pass them for good somewhere west of San Antonio, Texas.

With the completely long, boring drive across Texas, the conservative goal of San Antonio for the night is quickly approaching and we decide, as we pass through, that we can make Houston by 8:30pm.  Onward we go.

San Antonio Skyline

Another quick stop for gas in Luling, TX, a few quick photos, and back to I-10 we go.

Scenic photos outside a gas station

Only 145 miles left to Houston, sun setting behind us left us nothing to do but cover some ground.  Our fun comes from trying to figure out the origin of town names across the south.  This started in Texas, right about…. wait for it…. here.

Coming into a town named "Flatonia" - looking for the over/under on the amount of hills in town. Any takers? #epicroadie2011
Justin Hamlin

These are the gems that start coming after 10 hours in the car in one day.

Today has gone pretty smooth, so far.  After the last pit stop, I hop on the computer and begin searching around for a hotel outside of Houston, as per a recommendation from a friend.  Since we have Rusty, we try and stick to places that are pet friendly, just in case we cannot sneak him in.  I find a Candlewood Suites in Katy, TX that looks promising and after a phone call to verify they are both pet friendly, as well as have a room with 2 queen beds (a queen bed and pull out couch), I book the room online.

That’s where the fun begins.

Upon arrival, we get checked in, credit card swiped, good to go to head to our room when the hotel clerk decides to tell us that the room she just checked us into only has 1 bed and she has absolutely no rooms with 2 beds.  As Mike stays inside to threaten the lady’s mother, father, first born and dog, I step outside and start calling neighboring hotels, where I thankfully find a Homewood Suites by Hilton a few miles up the road with some open rooms.  10 minutes later we were in the nice, clean room with 2 queen beds and NO HASSLES.

Note to self, stick with Hilton and Marriott.

So far I think that I'm not a huge fan of Houston, but it'll do for the night after driving over 700 miles today. #EpicRoadie2011

Before crashing for the night, we step out and fing a diner for dinner, as it is about the only non-fast food place open in Houston after 9pm.  Cheddar’s it is.  Mediocre food, okay pricing, cold beer.  The last part being the most important.  It is over dinner that another startling revelation comes to light, courtesy of Mike, again:

You know you have too many contacts in your phone when you have dead people still in there. #epicroadie2011 #quotesfromtheroad
Justin Hamlin

On that note, we close out days 1-3 of our road trip, the Long Haul chapter.

29 hours of driving

1,700 miles

A road trip half over

The fun is just beginning


Foto Friday

Foto Friday is a new feature on Get Busy Livin and will run regularly, you guessed it,  every Friday.  This will be my opportunity to display some of my photography, as well as a short story to go with the photograph.

Andretti Winery

Anyone that knows Juliet and I, knows that we are big drunks wine connoisseurs, and well, how can you not when you live 5 miles from a winery, 60 miles from one of the smaller-but-still-well-renowned wine valleys in California, about 450 miles from Napa/Sonoma Valley and have close relatives that live a few minutes drive from 3 different wine valleys?  Needless to say, we have tasted wine from all over the world and had the fun travels of visiting many of these esteemed regions.

Today’s photo comes from Napa, CA and the Andretti Winery.  Juliet and I were in the area on vacation, just skipping around town in our rental car, trying random wineries and eateries, killing time before a scheduled barrel tasting tour at another vintner’s tasting room.  We stumbled across Andretti Winery on a small cross road between the 2 main roads in Napa Valley.  Nestled in between these very busy wine trails were a few wineries that we took note of as we drove by.  As we checked the time, we realized we had about 45 minutes to kill, and Andretti Winery caught my eye.

We had a small discussion, as we drove up, surrounding the name “Andretti” and its origins.  First thing in my mind was Mario Andretti, the famed race car driver.  I assumed this was a mere coincidence, as we pulled up to the winery and tasting room.  A very quaint tasting room entrance, complete with a fountain and old Tuscan feel (as you can see on the bottle label above), we were none the wiser.  Upon entering, you are greeted with faux painted checkered pattern on the walls.  Miscellaneous books and other Andretti Winery swag gave it away, and we had winery employees validate that this was in fact the winery of Mario Andretti.  Being of Italian heritage, wine was always a hobby and interest of Mario during and after his career as a driver.

We enjoyed a wonderful experience and amazing wines at the tasting room and even left with a wine club membership.  All in all, not a bad place to stumble upon.

Now, I could go on and on about the winery, the wine, the employees, everything, but I think you get the point.  We have been back many times, making the trek from Southern California to Napa on any occasion we got.  If you are at all interested in wine, I urge you to check out the winery if you are in Napa, or if you are not, follow along with the Andretti Winery Twitter feed, as they are constantly running specials for their Twitter followers.


Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Canon IS USM 28-135mm | Exposure –  F/4 – ISO 800 – 1/40th


Epic Road Trip 2011: Background

This is the background for Epic Roadie 2011 and my fascination with road trips and this great country of ours.  If this is your first time here, I recommend you read the quick teaser about our Epic Road Trip 2011.

If I had $5 for every person that looked at me funny or asked me why did we decide to do a road trip from California to New York, I would be about $30 richer.  Well, even as cliche as it sounds, when others asked me “why?” I responded with, “why not??”

Not enough people do true road trips anymore.  I am not talking about driving 300 miles and calling it a road trip, okay, okay, we will call that a baby road trip.  I am talking about the ‘pack the kids in the station wagon, throw the dog back there too, pack it up and head across the country to see relatives’ type of road trip.  A National Lampoon kind of road trip.  Truck stops, rest stops, fast food, cheap motels and countless miles on the highway.

THIS kind of Road Trip!

Let’s just chalk this up as another in the long list of things that aren’t the way they used to be.  But you know what? That is ok.

Little did I know, June of 2006, a new precedence would be set.

2 Years

2 Trips

Over 6,700 miles

Wait… You thought I was done?



After our Epic New England adventure, ideas were kicked around for road trips that we needed to do next.  Canada, the North West, the deep south, Florida and Key West, etc.  With my work presenting some scheduling problems, I unfortunately missed out on a Hawaii trip, however, 2010 brought its own adventures, including changing jobs as well as my engagement and marriage to my soul mate.

My partner in crime

Juliet and I were married in September, and shortly after the first of the year, we knew 2011 was going to bring some big changes.  Juliet accepted a job promotion offer and relocation from Southern California to upstate New York.

Empire State of Mind

Mid-January I was able to turn in my 2 weeks notice, and thus begun the relocation planning.  Part of the planning also included some schedule jugging surrounding #epicroadie2011, but those details were quickly ironed out and the basic framework of #epicroadie2011 was laid.

March 4th through March 12th.

9 days

3600+ miles

Game On

Epic Roadie 2011, here we come.



Foto Friday

Foto Friday is a new feature on Get Busy Livin and will run regularly, you guessed it,  every Friday.  This will be my opportunity to display some of my photography, as well as a short story to go with the photograph.

Today’s photo comes from one of those few places in the world that you have to experience first hand to understand its grandiose.  For years, I had seen photographs of the Grand Canyon, even remembering how beautiful it looked.  It was never a priority to visit, as to me it always seemed like one of those places that you could see on a postcard, why waste your money and time to see a big hole in the ground.  Then I had an opportunity to visit it, and let me be the first to say how wrong I was.  I have now been back to visit 3 times and would love to explore the canyon floor and other various parts of the rim.  It takes your breath away and reminds you of the power and awesomeness that Mother Nature can provide.

This photo was from my 3rd and last journey to the southern rim of the Grand Canyon.  Juliet and I had taken a quick 300 mile road trip from Southern California to Kingman, Arizona in February, 2007, to meet my grandparents who had flown in from Minnesota.    My grandpa had just beaten prostate cancer a year prior, and was looking to move to a warmer climate, closer to their Southern California-based family where my grandma would feel comfortable, should anything happen to him.  Kingman was the town he had decided upon.

We spent Friday and Saturday in Kingman, where we explored the town and all the little old mining town of the Route 66 glory days had to offer.  It was a quaint little town, perfect for my grandparents.  They had been looking at houses and had chosen a new development on the outskirts of town where they found some new homes they loved. I purchased the home that they loved in order to ensure that nothing would come in the way of their dream of moving closer to their kids and grandkids.  I am very close to my grandparents, who I feel were instrumental in raising me as a child, so this was the least I could do for them.

Sunday afternoon, we said our goodbye’s and continued on our journey east, towards the Grand Canyon.  Juliet had never been before, and I was eager to show her how awesome it was.  We were able to make the additional 200 mile journey up I-40 and to the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, at Grand Canyon Village.  We got there an hour before sunset and were able to take a walk along the rim of the canyon and experience the awesomeness of the canyon during the daylight, as well as a sunset through the canyon just a few short minutes later.  Truly an amazing experience and a very fulfilling end to a life-changing road trip.


Epic Road Trip 2011

I know what you are thinking. Wait just one quick second here.  How can a road trip be EPIC? Isn’t travel and adventure all about hopping on a plane to remote parts of the globe?

Oh, you could not be more wrong.  Check this out –

3600 Miles

9 Days

2 Guys

1 Dog

………………wait, a DOG?!?


Our Epic Road Trip 2011 came to a close on Saturday, March 12th, 2011.

The trip included 15 states, 3 different Mardis Gras celebrations, 2 fires, 1 death, 0 traffic violations, 3 oceans, $17 in toll charges, countless bridges, 1 tunnel and tons of memories.

440 pictures were taken, 174 made the cut, and over the next few posts, I will use these photos to tell you the story of #epicroadie2011.

Join me, won’t you?