We knew from our drive last March that we'd find an incredible watering hole in Wilson, Kansas; what we didn't expect was to still have it all to ourselves, even in July. We spent less than 24 hours by this pretty, isolated reservoir, and it was well worth it. We explored the town for that small town feel I love; had dinner in a neighboring town at Fly Boy Brewery; and rested our heads at the historic Midland Railroad Hotel, which had the best breakfast I had on our entire month-long road trip. It was such a relaxing last night of our journey. Don't shy away from experiencing any place, big or small. Sometimes the littlest finds are the best.
We wanted a few more days on our road trip--a month on the road, but we weren't ready to go home yet. It was so lovely to buy ourselves some time, just us four. And we found that time in the Power + Light District of Kansas City.
Don't get me started, or I'll rave. The beautifully preserved architecture was enough to keep us entertained; not to mention all the free stuff to do, like the train exhibit at the gorgeous Union Station (it might put Denver's to shame?) or Hallmark's Kaleidoscope (seriously, it's a wonderland)! We stayed at Hotel Phillips, where I felt v fancy in the best, old-fashioned way. We had delightful (and vegan!) dinner at Cafe Gratitude; breakfast the next morning at Cosentino's; and (more vegan!) lunch at Füd. I also grabbed at coffee at Goat Hill, cute and blue, on the way out of town.
I don't know why we haven't made this a stopping point on our westward drives before; but Kansas City, I think I'll be seeing you in the future.
It's always a little funny, isn't it? Going back to where you're from. There are some pieces I'm so deeply nostalgic for, I wake up to those Indiana mornings feeling I've been whisked back through time. That I'm still a child, wondering what lies ahead. But then I'm confronted with other pieces, the little telltale signs that informed me long ago: the place I grew up wasn't the same as being home.
For the nostalgia's sake, Pizza King. We cooled off with Jimmies, too. In Noblesville, the farmer's market, Courtney's Kitchen, and Noble Coffee and Tea. Do a little shopping at Wilson's Farm Market; explore history at Conner Prairie; watch the boats go by at Morse Park. Catch fireflies.
The thing is, once you live in a place, no matter how magical the place is, to go back is about the people and the homecoming more than anything. We are lucky enough to have just about the biggest, most soulful collection of friends you could ask for, all reside within a few blocks of each other in Park Slope, Brooklyn. What's even luckier, is that a couple of those friends, on summer adventures themselves, offered up their apartment for our Brooklyn stay, putting us just three doors down the street from where we used to live. So aside from sleeping in someone else's bed, all of our steps felt eerily ordered and deliciously familiar.
I didn't say no to anything, didn't miss one chance to spend all our seconds with this unique collection of people; so much of our time was spent just meandering the park, or admiring the skyline and my gorgeous friends from an enviable rooftop patio.
Of course, that doesn't mean I skipped out on my favorite places all together. It's just to say that these links are more a map of where we went than the absolute destinations should you be visiting Brooklyn. And I'm okay with that because these adventures are about the memories, and I've got plenty of those associated with each of these spots.
I'd so missed collecting small groceries and picnic needs at Union Market + The Ploughman; breakfasts, respectively leisurely and fast-paced, at Couleur Cafe and La Bagel Delight; lunches with my loves at Ha Noi Vietnamese, Primrose in Clinton Hill, and small bites for an earlier dinner at Prospect Bar + Grill; coffees at DuJour and Colson Patisserie and Blue Bottle (because NOW Park Slope gets one); and the slow kind of browsing shopping that is the best in New York at Lion in the Sun, Modern Anthology, and The Strand, with LaTonya, talking about books while we perused the books.
I've only been to Montauk one other time, and it was practically another lifetime ago, back before it was the cool place to go. But recently, one of my dearest friends helped to open the new Hero Beach Club, so I couldn't not check out her brilliant interior design. Across a quiet street from the beach (with beanbag chairs!), this reimagined surfer lodge was such a treat in the smack-dab middle of our super-long road trip.
For lunches we popped into Joni's and Naturally Good Cafe (so nice to have some fresh, organic food!); dinners at Salt Box (great for kids after a long day in the sun because it's off the water and not as crowded), The Dock, and Duryea's (right on the water, at sunset, yes please); and we grabbed the girls' first Italian ices at Ralph's before heading to Ditch Plains to watch some surfers!
Nashville was beastly hot and humid for our whole stay; and though it was hard for us mountain-dwellers to take, it somehow seemed a part of the experience. The heat and the wet, heavy air made the city's rainforest climate shine, illuminated every species of plant just casually creeping up the telephone poles or in a meadow across the street.
There is no shortage of food, drink, or entertainment in this burgeoning city; and most of our activity revolved around spending time with family or friends who feel like family. Still, that included breakfast at Marché and Dose (get the rosemary biscuit, omg!); lunch at Fido; pizza at Five Points; ice cream at Jeni's, of course; popsicles at Las Paletas; and coffees at Frothy Monkey and Bongo.
We shopped at Project 615, and not just because the owners are our friends but because it's a cause worth supporting; caught a Despicable Me 3 matinee at Opry Mills; visited Sevier Park (which has great playgrounds!); and dominated the incredible [free!] play place at Cornerstone Church.
A drive to Pegram is worth it, even if you're not visiting my brother--it's beautiful. While you're there, pop over to Kingston Springs which is super cute, and you can grab pizza and a giant cookie skillet at Skyking.
(If you need more to do in Nashville, my sister and sister-in-law did the 5 Things Travel Guide for Nashville on Hither and Thither!)
We crossed the border from Oklahoma to Arkansas, only to stumble right upon the Park at West End in Fort Smith (which, by the way, is the cutest little town). We had incredible, authentic tacos and Mexican sodas at Miguel's Taqueria after cruising the main street for its murals and other street art.
Our destination in Arkansas was a one-night stay in Hot Springs, originally famous for Bathhouse Row--which did not disappoint, especially if you find art deco as alluring as I do. We did beer flights, pretzels, and dinner at the Superior Bathhouse Brewery after walking through the grounds and trails around the springs and the original bathhouses.
This year has already been a tectonic shift, the marker for when my status changed. I am still daughter and I am still mother, but the balance has perhaps moved to favor the latter.
My grandmother passed away on Trevor's birthday, her last breath on the day he added a year. My mother's mother abdicated her earthly role; and where did that leave me? In my mother's shoes? I'm never sure I can fill them, walk around in them. They are hers, and she wears them so well.
In one journey I said goodbye, and I also traveled home to say hello to the pieces of my childhood that still exist. I know them, but they do not recognize me. I can find them tucked inside myself and I am comfortable; but they cannot speak to me. Maybe they don't like how tall I am now that I wear my mother's shoes.
Aren't we all drawn of circles? We are beginnings and ends, looped into ever-changing shapes. If you draw lines around me instead, I will outgrow them. On the same day someone takes their last breath, I will add another year.
I will always be a woman, made from a little girl, trying on new pairs of shoes.
Never underestimate the power of jumping in the car and driving off to a wilderness you've never seen before. It's a privilege I try never to take for granted, in the journeying and in the cleansing and buoying of my spirit.
(We decided to #optoutside for #blackfriday--a wise choice, I'd say.)
From Brooklyn to Pennsylvania to Indiana to Missouri to Oklahoma to New Mexico to Colorado.