2011.07.08 Foto Friday Picture header

Foto Friday – July 8, 2011

 Today’s photo comes from Cadillac Ranch, just outside of Amarillo, Texas.  This was shot on our I-40 roadie from Huntington Beach, CA to Chapel Hill, NC.

Cadillac Ranch, while beautiful in photos, is a rather random road-side attraction. Literally off the side of the road in Northern Texas, middle of nowhere. If we had not previously stopped at a truck stop just a few miles previously, we might have missed it.  With a dirt field on each side of I-40, the pole fence on the roadside was the only marker for the display that is Cadillac Ranch.

The 3 of us toiled around the small display for 15-20 minutes, took some photos, avoided a dust storm (in a dirt field, what do you expect)

Love the way this photo came out, albeit the horizon line is angled, it was the best way to get the most out of the cars and give it a unique angle.

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Canon 28-105mm | Exposure –  F13 – 1/320

Anyone else have any roadside attraction stories to share?  Share them below in the comments!

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2011.06.24 Foto Friday Header

Foto Friday – June 24, 2011

Around the time that I started my weekly Foto Friday postings, I came across a Twitter hashtag of #FriFotos, a hashtag used by twitter users the world over to share their photos on a certain theme.  These themes are typically announced mid-week by the #FriFotos host and garner a good following all day Friday.  I have chosen in the past not to align my Foto Friday post with the same theme as these posts were more for the sharing of the photos of my choice, rather than limiting myself to photos than to fit in with the theme.

This week I have chosen to follow in the lines of the theme, with the theme being “Blue.”

Today’s photo comes from my 2009 New England Road Trip and the Connecticut coast, a mere few hours from where I currently live less than 2 years later.  As Mike, Bryan and I left our hotel in Bridgeport, Connecticut that morning, we took our time and enjoyed the Connecticut coast on the Long Island Sound.

This photo really grabbed me as a very true depiction of the stereotypical New England coastline, with the grasses and coastal rocks in the foreground, the jetty and colonial house in the background.  These views are common up and down the entire New England coast, from Connecticut to Rhode Island, Massachusetts to Maine and they never fail to disappoint.

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-18mm | Exposure –  F11 – 1/200

Would love your feedback on the photo and please feel free to share any other New England coast photos you might have, here in the comments!

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June 4: Hit the Road, Jack!

You heard me.  Leave. Scram. Go.

Get in your car, and go.  Drive.  Pick a destination.  200 miles away or 20 miles away.  The distance does not matter.  Hell, the final destination does not matter.  The journey is the true destination of a road trip.

Do not set a timeframe, do not set a milestone, just enjoy the open road.  Do your best to take the road less traveled, or the road that you have not traveled before.

Grab a friend, grab the wife, heck, grab the dog.  Pick a traveling buddy, point your car towards some open road and get going.

I really cannot recommend it enough.

As many of you might already know, my road trips, at least my last one, have been well documented.  Me, I do it big.

  • June 2006 – 2800 miles, 4 days, 3 friends and Interstate 40. Our first foray into road tripping. This was about the destination, though we got to see a ton of things along the way.
  • July 2007 – 3700 miles, 9 days, 2 friends and a ton of open road.  This time we took the long way, purposely going hundreds of miles out of the way to see the grandiose that is America
  • October 2009 – 800 miles, 11 days, 3 friends and some amazing scenery.  Purposely planning a few stops for a hockey game on the east coast as well as being “leafers” in New England. We spent days just aimlessly wandering and it was amazing.
  • March 2011 – 3800 miles, 9 days, 2 friends, 1 dog and some epic adventures.  Mardis Gras in 3 different states, one huge rainstorm, enormous world events and great friends across the country.

I have covered over 11,000 miles with my best friend since 2006 and it has been some of the best adventures I have ever taken.  You learn things about each other and yourself.  You get to see all that this country has to offer.  You are not under a timetable, so if you want to re-route your road trip to see a National Park, a National Monument, or heck, even a car stuck in the ground, you can do it.  There is freedom in a road trip.  Freedom in the open road, freedom in the schedule. Freedom in the mindset.

2006 California to North Carolina
2007 North Carolina to California
2009 New England Adventure
2011 Epic Road Trip 2011

Now, I understand that not all road trips can be open ended, but even given a few days, a road trip can provide a great source of entertainment, education and a lifetime of memories.  In any part of the country there are a plethora of roadside attractions, hole-in-the-wall eateries, dive bars, beaches, forests, rivers, mountains and everything in between.  Get away from your daily life.  Get away from the computer, away from the desk job, away from all that is familiar. Explore the world around you.

The road awaits.

To pass along a link to one of the number of blogs out there that detail available road trips, here are 4 great road trips that are food-centric.

Day 4. Way 4. Hit the road. Roll down the windows. Feel the wind in your hair.  Escape. Enjoy the freedom and experience our great country.

Are you a fan of road trips?

What have you experienced in your road trips?

Have any favorite photos, stories, travels, share them below!

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2011.05.27 Foto Friday Header

Foto Friday – May 27, 2011

When Mike and I embarked on our 2nd Epic Road Trip back in 2007, we had a much more lenient time frame than the previous year, and we also were not pulling a trailer either.  We chose to take a longer route and visit friends, family and other attractions along the way.

The only event that was pre-planned was a tour of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  The Brickyard. Tickets were purchased a few weeks in advance and did not disappoint. After taking 3/4 of a lap around the banked turns and backstretch of the track, the shuttle stopped just shy of the pagoda and let us out to take pictures and tell stories about the origins of the track, the bricks, the history.  This is one of many shots that were taken from the track, all of them worthy of being posted here (and might possibly be in future posts) but this one was chosen for the detail of the grooves in the track, with the tower at the end and the grandstands flanking the track on both sides, I thought it was compositionally one of the best.

Oh, and this week is the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Read more here.

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-17mm | Exposure –  1/400 – F/16

Any other motorsports fans out there?  Would love to see your pictures from the races!

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Epic Road Trip 2011: Every Mile a Memory

The last 2 pieces of the Epic Road Trip 2011 story will be personal reflections from Justin and Mike.  The following is Justin’s entry, thoughts from the road, memories and more.

We are now 46 days past the conclusion of our Epic Road Trip 2011 and along with all of the image processing, blog writing, creation, keyword tagging, geo-tagging, uploading and everything else that went into the post-production recap of the trip, really how much fun I did have.

Sure, this update will make 6 total posts regarding the road trip and just how epic it was.  We covered 3600+ miles, took 9 days and 70+ hours of driving to do it.  But what was most important was the fact that we built in time to have fun along the way.  Looking back on that, I don’t regret any decision we made or wish we would have done anything different.

I look at all of the things that we got to do along the way.  This was not as much about as just driving a car back as it was seeing a part of the country we had never seen before and spending time with friends we had not seen in a while.  As much as I tried to detail everything I could in the previous posts, those recaps were more documentation and telling the whole story of our trip.  Documentation aside, here were some of the highlights for me, personally:

  • Got to hang out and spend time with Sean before leaving on the road trip
  • Coffee with Robert
  • Got to spend time taking photos around Disneyland before leaving
  • Spent time with my grandparents in Arizona
  • Passed by Angels Training Camp in Tempe, Arizona (wish we could have stopped for a game)
  • Had time to reflect on the level and severity of the situation in Mexico, just 2 miles from us when we were in El Paso, TX.
  • Went to breakfast with Dave in Houston
  • Got to wander along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana
  • Experienced some of the absolute craziness that is Mardis Gras in NOLA (2012 anyone?)
  • Saw parts of the south that I had only read about
  • Seeing Mardis Gras celebrations in 3 different southern cities
  • Narrowly avoiding a few tornados
  • Spending a day and a half in the Atlanta area with Trey and Katy
  • Seeing the beauty of South Carolina
  • Spending quality time and catching up with Bryan and Alisa
  • Having lunch with Morgan
  • Covering another 3600 miles with my best friend
  • After 12 days of being gone, getting home to see Juliet

I know, quite the list, but so many things stuck out to me, so many stories surrounding all of those events.  The events leading up to leaving on the trip were also very important to me, as from the looks of things in life right now, I will probably only be back in California a few more times in the foreseeable future, so spending time with Sean, visiting Disneyland, catching up with Robert over coffee was invaluable.

The road trip offered so many memories, memories that I have tried to get down in the previous recaps with a combination of tweets and photos, but I know those will never do the entire memory justice.  Let’s just say, “you had to be there.”

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the Epic Road Trip 2011:

The nerves, the anticipation, the anxiety to get on the road

Ready to roll

Spending time with my grandparents

Saying goodbye

Have to love a Texas-sized sunset

Scenic photos outside a gas station

Lived next to the Pacific, been to the Atlantic, now I can add the Gulf of Mexico to that list.

Gulf Coast

Now I can say I have been to Mardis Gras

Mardis Gras staple

Airborne, sunroof splitting, head smacking beads!

MONEY!

Dinner and drinks with some great friends

Dinner

The serene beach on Hartwell Lake

Lake Hartwell

Dinner with the Watkin clan.

Dinner with the Watkin clan

Knowing I was less than 45 minutes away from being home.

Empire State of Mind

As much as we were not prepared for it, the trip had to come to an end.  Like it or not, just a fact of life for the majority of us.  But, with another great trip in the books, our road trip total is somewhere around the 11,000 mile mark since 2006, and as one trip gets committed to memory, another trip moves into the planning stages.

Having conquered all but a few US states, I think next on the list is a road trip across Canada.

Epic Road Trip 2012 anyone?

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Epic Road Trip 2011: The Victory Lap

This is part 4 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 it would be a good idea to start reading Part 3: The Long Haul and Part 4: Uncharted Waters.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

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

Friday, March 11

After a much needed rest, our time to hit the road has come.  2700 miles of road behind us, just around 900 in front of us, and 700+ of those miles are ones we have covered in previous trips.  With that in mind, this segment is dubbed, “The Victory Lap”.  One more time through some familiar territory, some time ahead with some good friends and the completion to this Epic Road Trip on the horizon line.

It is with hesitation that we bid goodbye to the Atlanta area and our good friends, for we have some highway to tackle.

Some gas for the beast and it is on the road, north on I-85 towards North Carolina.

80 miles into today, we cross into our 9th state of the trip.

State number 9

With 100 miles in the drivers seat today and the previous 2 days of driving, it is time to turn over the driving duties to Mike.  A quick pit stop and driver change just outside of Anderson, SC proved to offer a little more than just a rest stop.

I have heard in the past how beautiful South Carolina is, however, if this is what their rest stops look like, I am sold.

Not a bad view for a rest stop

A little more exploration, and 100 yards or so away is one of the fingers off of Hartwell Lake.

Even Rusty enjoyed the scenery
Lake Hartwell
Could have sat here for hours
Pictures do not do it justice

The lake and surrounding areas are so quiet and peaceful, we decide to linger for a bit to take some photos and enjoy the peace, quiet and serenity of the area.  With I-85 not 200 yards behind us, we cannot even hear the noise of the road.

Tall Tall Trees...
Yeah, I could live here. Just outside Anderson, SC. #epicroadie2011 - http://t.co/8wpznCB
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Back to the road we head, less than 100 miles to Charlotte and Virginia just a few miles past that.  Our destination for tonight is Charlottesville, VA.

Old stomping grounds

Back into old stomping grounds for Mike, we are a few hundred miles from Virginia, basically a straight shot around Charlotte and Greensboro, then into VA, but not without a quick stop for some food.  Hush puppies and shakes to go!

Apparently their shakes are pretty well renowned around these parts #epicroadie2011 (@ Cook-Out w/ @) http://4sq.com/e47hSU
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin
Rusty enjoying the scenery
State number 11

160 miles to go until we get to Bryan and Alisa’s, this might be the most grueling drive of the trip, as we are in the mindset of pushing through to our destination, off the interstate and onto rural state routes, we will be averaging around 45-50mph as we go in and out of small, rural towns.

Rt 29 towards Ruckersville, VA

Dinner time with some great friends at a small restaurant in Ruckersville, VA before heading back to the hotel.

Dinner with the Watkin clan

Back to the hotel we head.  Tomorrow is another 400 miles. 8 days down, 1 to go.

Hockey game online and then some sleep. Tomorrow is home! #epicroadie2011 (@ DoubleTree Hotel) http://4sq.com/ggNYIh
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Saturday, March 12

The end of the road is near.  At this point, the trip is no longer about having fun, enjoying the open road, it is about covering ground and getting back to New York.  Sad to say, but that is how every road trip ends.

Today is 400 miles, playing cross-country courier and getting home.

Another one off the list

Skirting around the outside of DC, we cross into our 12th state of the trip.

Not long after that, chalk up number 13.

Light speed to Endor!
State number 13

Making quick work of these states on I-85, the interstate does not provide for a lot of photographic opportunities other than ones like this of the Wilmington skyline.

Wilmington, Deleware

Around noon, we have already covered over half of our distance for the day.  Lunch with Morgan is planned for 1:30pm in North Trenton, NJ.  Plenty of time to cover 65 miles.

Through MD and onto DE, #epicroadie2011 marches on, knocking out states left and right. Only PA, NJ and NY left to go!
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

I feel so welcomed

Just need to run through Philadelphia and we will be in New Jersey in no time.

Until this

Yes, we have driven 3200+ miles without hitting traffic since leaving California.  That is, until now.  Construction on the Delaware Expressway (I-95) on the bridge between the Philadelphia Airport and the Naval yard is causing this.

Finally around the traffic, we hit New Jersey and headed for lunch.

The Dirty Jersey

Lunch at Panera Bread in Northwest Trenton, we meet up with Morgan to deliver some mail (long story) and catch up over some food.  Nothing like being a 3450 mile courier service. (and to think, I didn’t even charge him)

After a much-too-short lunch, the road is calling us again.

Buh bye PA! Good to catch up with @, now into NJ and shortly, NY! 120 miles to home for #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Only approximately 130 miles to go and the driving portion of EPIC Road Trip 2011 will be officially done! #EpiicRoadie2011 #VictoryLap

A few short miles down the road, we click off the last state line crossing of the trip.

Empire State of Mind

A turn up I-87 Thruway and we meet up with Juliet in Newburgh, NY at 5:15pm.  Just 8 miles home to unload the beast and off to a victory dinner at The Depot in Cold Spring, NY.

And finally a victory dinner with @ and @ in our final state of New York. #EpicRoadie2011 http://4sq.com/i1G8Av

A well earned victory dinner

Until Next time my brother

Peace out brother, safe travels @ #epicroadie2011 (@ Stewart International Airport (SWF) ✈) http://4sq.com/h9bXM6
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

 

 

9 days

3600 miles

72 hours of driving


EPIC ROAD TRIP 2011

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Epic Road Trip 2011: Uncharted Waters

This is part 4 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, or even Part 3: The Long Haul, 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.

Monday, March 7th

Just got the mayorship at the Homewood Suites in Houston, TX. That's mayorships in 3 states! Woooooo #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Not a bad way to start the day.  Another state off the list today, and another Foursquare mayorship under my belt.  But today brings more than just a Foursquare mayorship, it brings new, uncharted waters.  Today we will cross into Louisiana, the first state on this trip that neither Mike nor I have ever been through.

The other benefit of the day, only 350 miles to cover to New Orleans, a paltry 6 hours of driving.  That is, if we take the most direct route.  But what fun would that be?

Houston skyline

On the way out of the area, we had some great views of the Houston skyline, which in turn convinces us to take a quick detour through downtown to check out the city.

Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros

Minute Maid Park is the highlight of the detour, as we only explore 20-30 blocks of downtown, which turns out to be mostly office buildings and one shopping mall.

Eastward we push, still no real idea of where we were headed except for to our first stop in Beaumont, Texas, 85 miles east of Houston, where we stop for gas and to plot out our entry into Louisiana.

Gas in Beaumont, TX, 20 miles to Louisiana. I can taste the crawdads, bignets and shrimp already! #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin
One last fuel stop before leaving the great state of Texas. 1733 miles into our trip. #EpicRoadie2011
Gassing up the beast

As we get back on the road, we decide to take the southern-most entry point into Louisiana as we can, and our sights are set on Port Arthur, Texas.

Not far down the road, we catch up with some fellow Californians!!

FELLOW CALIFORNIANS!!
That is some odd looking luggage you have

Unfortunately, our powers of persuasion did not pay off, and Google did not want to use their Street View cameras to document the rest of Epic Road Trip 2011. BUMMER!  Guess we will just have to take care of it ourselves!

A quick turn down Rt-87 has us in Bridge City, TX, a city that definitely lived up to its name.  But aside from the bridges, the city offers one of the most interesting sights of the trip… Something Mike nor I have seen before…

Street Lights?

This is by far the oddest street lights we have seen, and we cannot really figure out what benefit this design has over more conventional and common designs seen throughout the rest of the country.   I guess Texas would be the right place for these though, as these things are HUGE at 30-35′ tall.

Back to the bridges, Bridge City and its neighbor, Port Arthur, TX.

Plenty of these

With dramatic bridges over every inlet from the Gulf of Mexico, we are able to get a nice, semi-arial view of southeastern Texas and the oil refineries that provide so much economic support to this area of the country.

Southeastern Texas
Oil Refineries in SE TX
Even Rusty was intrigued
More insane bridges
Almost 30* incline on this bridge
And even more oil refineries
All over the gulf

Literally have passed 15-20 miles of nothing but oil refineries and storage.  Some of these have even been built on man-made peninsulas that extend out into the bays in Texas on the Gulf.

Few quick turns and some, you guessed it, more bridges, we find our entrance to Louisiana.  I already feel more french.

Hellllooooooo Louisiana! Rt 82 on the very southern tip where TX and LA meet. Down in the marsh. #epicroadie2011 http://t.co/F7VZJLE
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin
4 States down, bring on the bayou!

More than 1800 miles into the trip, this is only our 4th state we have crossed into and both of our first time down on the Gulf.

Down into Johnson’s Bayou, we continue on the Gulf coast, enjoying the colorful houses that are all raised on stilts or raised ground to protect from the rising sea.

Houses on the bayou

Quick stop for a few pictures in the sand on the Gulf Coast

Gulf Coast

Slowly winding our way towards New Orleans, LA along the Gulf Coast, the scenery is absolutely beautiful and unlike anything we have ever seen before.

Just took a ferry to cross an inlet.of the Gulf of Mexico. Saaawwweet! #epicroadie2011 http://t.co/uTYjHbs
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin
First and only ferry ride on the trip
This was common on the Gulf Coast
Life on the Bayou
If we had more time, we would stop and pick up some fresh shrimp, sold right off the deck of the boats they were caught on in Cameron, LA.
Had to do a Forrest Gump voice
It is getting on towards dusk, so we decide to make the turn, head back north in order to catch I-10 towards NOLA.

Few more bridges to cross as we head away from the Gulf.

More bridges

Time to switch drivers just outside of Lafayette, LA.

Turned over the driving duties for the day to @. About another 120 miles into New Orleans from here. #EpicRoadie2011
Our drive through LA

Once back on I-10, we switch drivers and head towards Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, which on I-10 includes the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, an 18.2 mile bridge that crosses the Atchafalaya Swamp.  The bridge comes in at the 10th longest in the world and 3rd longest in the United States.  Louisiana is home to 4 of the 5 longest bridges in the United States.

Atchafalaya Swamp
Driving into Baton Rouge, while listening to Garth Brooks' "Callin' Baton Rouge". The irony might be too much to handle. #EpicRoadie2011

After a quick drive to New Orleans, getting checked into our hotel, we headed down towards the French Quarter to see the festivities and fight for some food.

Made it to N'awlins after some sightseeing today. Now off to Bourbon St for dinner and people watching. #EpicRoadie2011

What we quickly find is that the 6 mile journey to Bourbon street is nothing more than 3.5 miles of a parking lot of cars, $35 parking and 20k people downtown.  After 2000+ miles on our journey, we are in need of food, not chaos.  Back towards the hotel we head, with some great examples of Social Media in business.

Here is an exchange of tweets that is how Social Media should be used.  Props to Harrah’s NOLA

I'm at Mardi Gras 2011 (555 Canal St, Chartres St, New Orleans) w/ 66 others http://4sq.com/eA9tF5
@ Have a great time tonight Mike! Let us know if we can help you have a great time. Happy Mardi Gras!
@HarrahsNOLA
Harrah's New Orleans
@ Our parking garage likely has a spot or two open at the moment. For dinner, we have Gordon Biersch & Bambu here on the resort.
@HarrahsNOLA
Harrah's New Orleans
@ that's awesome that you guys responded. Will definitely be stopping in later. Well done, harrah's!
Huge compliments to @ for reaching out and using social media in the way that it was meant to be used. #EpicRoadie2011

In amongst the party that keeps New Orleans going throughout the year, this is a shining example of how Social Media needs to be leveraged to make an impact on people’s lives.

And with that, back to the hotel we head.

Mardis Gras was beyond nuts for 2 weary road warriors. Gonna grab a bite, grab some sleep & attack Bourbon St in the morn! #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Tuesday, March 8th

With any road trip (or any trip, for that matter) it is always important to keep an eye on the weather, as we had been doing for the past few days.  A large storm was approaching the southeast of the United States, looking to make landfall sometime Tuesday night.

The original plan was to stay in New Orleans Monday  and Tuesday night.  With the storm fast approaching, it is a quick decision to shorten our stay and head out of NOLA Tuesday afternoon, as staying in a city that is build below sea-level and has a history of broken levees while a very large storm threatens to drop 6-12″ of rain in 24 hours is not our idea of fun.

Raining, so it will alter our plans a little. Less time in NOLA than expctd. Headed towards Biloxi 2day #epicroadie2011 http://t.co/ZwmhTiq
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

All checked out and Rusty in the back seat, we head for the French Quarter again to get a little taste of a more subdued Mardis Gras on Fat Tuesday morning.

Let's try this again... (@ Mardi Gras 2011 w/ @) http://4sq.com/h82hdb
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

We wind our way through a very sparsely populated downtown New Orleans, scouting for somewhere to park the beast.

Getting into the French Quarter
Very vibrant part of town
Ominous clouds over Jackson Square
No real rain so far
Parking with a view

This morning is quite quiet down in the French Quarter, as we found parking with no real problems.  With some parades scheduled to start at  8am and run pretty much all day, there are small groups of people downtown, but not enough to where it is all assholes and elbows.

History of the French Quarter
Mardis Gras staple
Early morning parade
No parade complete without a Penske truck full of beads
Costumes in full effect

And what would a party like Mardis Gras be without a few of these guys.

Repent, PERVERT!!

And the tweet gem of the Mardis Gras visit comes with one of the biggest issues at Mardis Gras, the parents who just cannot seem to grow up, or find a babysitter.

I have no problem if you go to Mardi Gras, get drunk, and end up face first in the gutter. But don't bring your kids. #Epicroadie2011 #

Cannot count how many parents brought their kids out, many of them in strollers that are primarily used for holding up the drunken parents.

With a quick tour of Bourbon St, St. Chartres and Royale St, it is time to get on the road and make haste getting away from the eye of this impending storm.

Mardis Gras is a trip! Headed out to beat the rain a bit. Adding MG 2012 to next years list! #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

As we begin to head out of the French Quarter, we realize what an effort in futility this will be.  2 hours of weaving through residential areas of town, all 1 way streets, none of them heading the direction we need to go.  Once we finally are able to make some headway towards an interstate, we run into a float prep area for the next few parades.

Floats the size of semi-trucks
Over 30 of these line the streets

We are FINALLY able to make it out of downtown NOLA and head towards Lake Pontchartrain and the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, essentially a 24-mile bridge over the center of the lake and the 7th longest bridge in the world while maintaining the record as the longest bridge in the United States.

It's a bridge...a really, really long bridge. #EpicRoadie2011 (@ Lake Ponchartrain Causeway Northbound) http://4sq.com/hFS1qA
Looking back at NOLA from the causeway

A quick stop for food and next up, Mississippi!

Welcome to Mississippi

A quick turn off Interstate 10 and we head towards Gulfport and Biloxi.  Both quaint little towns on the Gulf Coast, we were a little surprised as we enter Biloxi and the amount of traffic on Rt-90 along the coast.  After a mile of traffic or so, we figure out why.

Mardis Gras #2, this time in Biloxi! #epicroadie2011 (@ Biloxi Mardi Gras Parade w/ 10 others) [pic]: http://4sq.com/hoGA6V
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Yup, Mardis Gras number 2.  A little more family oriented and only a parade through Biloxi, but a Mardis Gras none the less.

As we slowly inch down the road, next to the parade route, I open up the windows and sunroof to see if anyone will toss some beads over my way, since the car is only 15-20 feet from the parade route.

The first beads land a few feet too short.

The next ones smack the back bumper.

The next batch bounce off the hood.

Finally, paydirt.

MONEY!

The last batch comes flying in from somewhere in the back, straight through the sunroof and off of Mike’s dome.  Someone sign the guy up.  I know a few teams that could use an outfielder with that arm.

With Biloxi being packed with people, most of the roads are closed, making parking here a nightmare.  While we would love to stick around for lunch, we decide to get on down the road towards Mobile, Alabama, our tentative destination for the evening.

Alabama the beautiful

After a quick tour through downtown Mobile, Alabama brings up our 3rd Mardis Gras celebration of the day, our typical plan of finding a hotel room by exploring the city quickly turns into a frantic internet search from the smartphones and tablet we had on us.

Three cities, three Mardi Gras. Now to begin the ever frustrating task of finding a hotel room. #EpicRoadie2011

The search yields no available hotel rooms in Mobile or surrounding suburbs.  With 170 miles between us, we set our sights on Montgomery, Alabama as our next destination for the night.

Up I-65 we head, searching for a pet-friendly hotel room in Montgomery, or somewhere in between.  Not far into the drive, Mike comes upon a listing for a Holiday Inn Express in Atmore, AL.  With a reasonable price and vacancy, we decide to explore the city to see if we can find somewhere worthwhile to eat dinner, as it is around 4pm.

The town center of Atmore is set a few miles off of I-65, about halfway between I-65 and the Florida/Alabama border.  As we drove into town and found it to be nothing more than a very desolate, backwoods town with Burger King being the height of culinary mastery in town, we quickly headed back out.  Along the way in, Mike makes the comment that it looks like some of the barns and other structures have been blown away by tornados.   We laugh and continue on our way, semi-joking and reassuring ourselves that with a huge storm coming in, we don’t want to stay anywhere close to a town that looks like it has seen its fair share of tornados.

3 hours later, we find ourselves in Montgomery, complete with hotel room and a great recommendation for dinner.

All I needed was a cigar
I think that I may have fallen in love... ...with a pub in Montgomery, AL. #EpicRoadie2011

Charles Anthony’s at the Pub restaurant in Montgomery, AL is just what the doctor ordered.  Steak and seafood restaurant with healthy servings of both, complete with a pretty decent wine selection, good beers on tap, big, comfy leather chairs and great service.  I half expect to see a poker game in the corner, but alas, not tonight.  The only thing that would make this place fit the vision in my head would have been a slight haze through the darkness of cigar smoke.  I just need my suit and a cigar.

Oh how I love (and miss) southern hospitality. #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

Some light rain begins to fall as we make our way back to the hotel, a foreshadowing of things to come.

Made it to Montgomery, AL for the night. Third time at a Homewood Suites during this trip. Short jaunt to ATL tomorrow. #EpicRoadie2011

Wednesday, March 9th

Thankfully, we made it a lot further northeast last night than we had originally planned.  Reports on the early morning news out of New Orleans we that of flooding and some water spouts over Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf Coast, however, the storm was moving very quickly towards us.

As I get back inside from taking Rusty for his morning walk, the thunderstorms hit. Lighting and thunder fill the sky and the reports of even more violent weather on the way.  Tornados had just been spotted touching down in Mobile, AL and also in Atmore, AL.  Time to thank God we relied on our instincts last night.

We decide to pack up and hit the road in the middle of the storm, following the worst section of weather as it progressed northeast towards Atlanta, just like we were.  Our logic was that if we were right behind it, we would not be in the worst of it anymore, but we would also beat the hours of rain to come which surely would cause more flooding.

Leaving from Montgomery, AL to ATL. Not a difficult day, only some flooding and tornadoes ahead of us. #EpicRoadie2011 #StormChaserDivision

On the road we go, 185 miles to our destination of Cumming, GA.

State number 8 of Epic Road Trip 2011

The rain never relented as we finally made our way into Cumming, GA to spend a day and a half with some very close friends of ours.

Home for the next day and a half
Love catching up, enjoying a beer with great friends. EPIC #epicroadie2011
@justinhamlin
Justin Hamlin

The rain let up that afternoon and we headed out and grabbed some lunch at a local Mexican food joint, followed later by a basketball game for our friend’s son.

Austin at the line

The team, heavily the underdog, took their opponent to the last few minutes of the game before they ultimately fell to the much higher seeded team.  Great game to watch, especially with the youthful exuberance of the kids on the team, as well as the fact that at that age, they are running scripted plays.

An uneventful day, but a great time with friends, a non-hotel bed and best yet, going to bed without the thought of having to get up and get on the road tomorrow morning.

Thursday, March 10th

Sleeping in? On a road trip? OMG!

Okay, well, I didn’t really sleep in, but I slept until 8am, which has not really been happening on this trip thus far, due to wanting to get up and get on the road.

Today is a slow day.  A down day. Something we definitely need on our trip.  We have been going for 6 days straight.  Day 7, we rest.

After a sushi buffet for lunch, we hit up the Dekalb County Farmers Market to do some shopping for dinner tonight, as well as to make Juliet jealous.

Sushi and farmers market in Atlanta...gonna put on 10lbs while I'm in this city for a day and a half. #EpicRoadie2011
Farmers market the size of Costco

In true fashion of tweetable quotes from the road, this gem comes on the drive back towards Cumming, GA from the farmer’s market.

Oh, the random conversations we have.

Dinner is smashed potatoes, shrimp, good beer and great company.  It is days like this that make me miss the south more than normal.

Dinner
Drink
The chef and his craft

And with that, we close out a very fun filled adventure through Uncharted Waters in days 4-7 of Epic Road Trip 2011.

 

7 days

2700 miles

53 hours of driving

2 days to go

Nothing but a victory lap in front of us

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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.

First things first on a *now* Saturday morning. This has been a very hectic week as I have started back doing some IT consulting and have been overwhelmed with work.  I am currently down in Washington D.C. area at a customer for a weekend full of work. So my apologies on the lack of updates, Twitter presence and missed Posterous updates lately.

Today’s photo is a church in Boston, MA.  Taken on one of my epic road trips, this time, in 2009 on our tour of New England.  Mike and I met up with Bryan and took a 9 day excursion from Washington D.C to Portland, ME, with plenty of time to explore everywhere in between.

The story today though is not that of the road trip, rather, one small piece of it.  That piece we affectionately call (#$!*@ Boston, MA.  We arrived into Boston area 3/4 of the way through our trip, with our main goal to visit the Boston Beer Co. Brewery where Samuel Adams beer is made.  After our tour of the brewery, little did we know that it was the drive TO the brewery that would offer the foreshadowing for the remainder of our time in Boston.

After leaving the brewery, our next goal was to locate Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, who just the day earlier had been eliminated from the playoffs by our Anaheim Angels. We set out with a general direction to find the baseball stadium located in the center of the city, approximately 3 miles away.  Little did we know the clusterfuck that is Boston streets.  Even with a map, it was almost 90 minutes before we found our destination of Fenway Park.  We must have driven in circles around the park about 5 times before realizing where it was.

This photo comes from the journey that was the drive between the Boston Beer Co. brewery and Fenway Park.  So much history in Boston, almost all of it evident in the architecture that makes up this town.  This church is just one example of the beauty of the well preserved architecture from a different era.

 

Camera – Canon EOS Rebel XT | Lens – Tamron 11-17mm | Exposure –  1/400 – F/14

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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
@justinhamlin
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
@justinhamlin
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
@justinhamlin
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.

The GREAT STATE of TEXAS
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
@justinhamlin
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
@justinhamlin
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

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