Those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest generally are in agreement that our winters are the worst time of the year – some of us even spend bookoodles of time scheming just how we can make a dash out of here for at least part of the gloomy season. We used to drive down to the west coast of Mexico, where the weather is simply delightful this time of year – but each year we could see that the drug problem was getting worse and worse, and then our retirement investments went south as well, and we just put everything in limbo – until now, that is.
Our daughter, Melanie, still lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and she has kindly invited us to visit this winter, and to stay at her house for a month or so. And so, even though our investments are still on-hold, we decided to jump in the car (a 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe) and to slowly trek across the country for a winter sojourn – we’re busy packing up, and we plan to leave this Sunday.
For the next couple of months, this blog will change complexion – I’ll still continue my interest in bread baking, and food prep -I’m taking my sourdough starter with me, of course- but I’ll be injecting some travel stories in as well – should be fun!
I’ve always been a good travel planner – and I’ve always known that I enjoyed the experience of planning probably more than I enjoyed the reality of the travel itself (fantasy will always trump reality, right?). As we discussed this trip, we decided that we’d take it slow and easy, and work our love of eating into the trip – so, for the last month, I’ve been busy researching the route of our slow trek, our likely stopover points, and the best restaurants in those areas. Of course, the web is a fantastic tool for this, and I took on the challenge of using Priceline to put together our lodging itinerary – I love this kind of stuff!
We’re breaking the trip up into 400-500 mile chunks – I think that’s a comfortable pace – you don’t have to get up before dawn, and you still have plenty of time each night for a nice dinner. However, it does put you at the mercy of chance – for instance, our Day 2 chunk puts us in the Palm Springs area of California at day’s end. This is not prime traveler’s rest county! But if you go any further, you’re in deep desert wasteland (we don’t get the appeal of Quartzsite, and all those RVs parked out in the desert – ???) – with overpriced, neglected motels, and only fast food stops until you hit Phoenix.
But I think we may have lucked out in Palm Springs – we got a Marriott Courtyard for $46 – lucky! The danger of bidding Priceline in Palm Springs is the fear of being upgraded to a resort, and then being charged a “resort fee”, which can sometimes add $20-$30 to your sleep-over! I think upgrades on Priceline are one of the traps of using Priceline, because often, a 3 star hotel is not better than a 2 star – it just may have an on-site restaurant and an unused pool out in the parking lot! If you want to get educated in the smart and efficient use of Priceline, try using Bidding for Travel – spend a few hours here before you ever make your first Priceline bid, and you’ll avoid a costly mistake or two.
We’ll be slowing down as we slip through Texas, in the interest of sampling several of our nation’s most respected BBQ sources, namely this one – and then we get to Louisiana. This is, in my humble opinion, the epicenter of America’s best food! I have eaten in a lot of different places across our nation, and I simply have always felt that my most memorable meals have been in southern Louisiana. We’ll center ourselves in Lafayette for three days and explore the Bayou country with day trip adventures. I think we were fortunate to get the Lafayette Hilton on Priceline for $39 a night, a sign that the recession is not treating the travel industry well. However, this fact will not diminish our pleasure while in Lafayette, and I’m sure I’ll be passing on a story or two of our eating adventures.
With all eager anticipation, we enter the final days of packing up, and readying ourselves for the trip – we’ll check in with you along the way.