I have dubbed this crazy journey, The Great Americana Road Trip 2016. My husband, 2.5-year-old daughter, two (large) dogs, and I are in the middle of a road trip that starts in South Florida and ends in Newport News, Virginia by way of Montana and everywhere in between. We’ve broken it down into three parts:
Part I – South Florida to Montana
Part II – Montana and a tiny slice of Wyoming
Part III – Montana to Virginia
In the end, it will take us 33 days to drive over 6800 miles.
We finished Part I three days ago and we have been recuperating ever since! First, let me summarize Part I and then I’ll tell you the important things I learned on this portion of the trip.
July 29, 2016 – Miramar, FL to Cocoa Beach, FL 214 miles: we left in the afternoon and arrived in time for an early-ish dinner. My husband
yelped and found us a wonderful dinner at Fat Kahunas. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend it. All of us (my in-laws included) were very satisfied with our meals. I had ahi; the rest of the table had shark, wahu, mahi, and grilled shrimp. It was all delicious. Afterward, we walked to the beach and watched my daughter play in the water. The temperature and water were perfect and the lighting was divine.
July 30, 2016 – Cocoa Beach and Kennedy Space Center, FL: we arrived at Kennedy Space Center in the mid-morning and it was already squelching hot! There is a small military discount for tickets, so we took advantage of that and spent about two hours exploring. We started at the Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit and spent about 1.5 hours in there. It is a very well done, interactive, and inspiring exhibit. We walked around the shuttle, crawled through the kid’s space shuttle tunnels, went down the slides, and experienced a shuttle launch simulator. After we finished this, we only had a half hour left before my in-laws needed to begin their separate road trip with our cat and second car up the east coast to Virginia (thank you, Mike and Lynne!) So, we quickly looked around the Journey to Mars Exhibit and the gift shop, before leaving. QUICK TIP: Definitely allow more than 2.5 hours to explore Kennedy Space Center. It is true you can easily spend a whole day and more here. We missed many cool things, namely the Center Bus Tour, and the Apollo/ Saturn V Center.
After my in-laws left, we found a place to each lunch on Yelp, the Simply Delicious Café and Bakery. I had the Summer Salad with a side of pumpernickel bread. My husband had a turkey, avocado, and bacon sandwich on sourdough. The bread was so fresh and delicious, I’d go back just for that. The sandwich had a generous amount of turkey and the chicken salad on my salad was really good! The rest of the night, we relaxed at our hotel.
July 31, 2016 – Cocoa Beach to Atlanta, GA 494 miles: the drive between mid-Florida to Atlanta is pretty boring, honestly, so we just tried to make it a straight-shot as much as possible. We arrived at Hotel Indigo Atlanta Midtown around 7pm. Let me tell you, this is a great hotel in a great location. It is across the street from the Historic Fox Theatre and next door to the grand Georgian Terrace Hotel, which housed the stars of Gone With the Wind for its Atlanta premiere in 1939.
Also, within walking distance is the Atlanta dining institution, Mary Mac’s Tea Room, which we took advantage of and had a late dinner shortly after arriving in Atlanta. The line to be seated was out the door and though we were told it would be a 45-minute wait, it ended up being only 20 minutes. Once we were seated, service was fast and friendly. The food was delicious, southern comfort food. Our favorites were the tomato pie, the Pot Likker soup, the macaroni and cheese, and the fried green tomatoes.
August 1, 2016 – Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site and Margaret Mitchell House, Atlanta to Nashville, TN 248 miles: we spent the morning in Atlanta first visiting the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, then the Margaret Mitchell House before we had to check out at 1pm (I asked for a late check-out time).
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site is 35 acres of buildings and parks that include: MLK’s boyhood home that you can take guided tours of, the original Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he and his father were pastors, a museum/ visitors center, the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, and the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change where he is entombed and honored with a reflective pool and eternal flame.
It’s hard to summarize how I felt visiting these places, but as best as possible I will try. First, the relevance of Dr. King’s work and the civil rights struggles our nation is going through today resonated in my mind throughout the entire visit. I think it is important to visit places like these to remind our selves of great people that have sacrificed everything for the betterment of so many. Second,
I felt sad about his untimely passing. In the visitor center, the modest carriage used to carry his coffin is housed. He is one of mankind’s most important figures, yet, like a humble prince, he was carried in a trodden carriage. It reminded me of so many other great people that turned away from the potentially comfortable lives they could have lived, such as Jesus, the Buddha, Saint Francis, and Mother Teresa in order to better the world. It reminded me what was important in life, yet again. Third, I wondered if Dr. King hadn’t died when he did, where this nation would be in its evolution to true equal rights for all. Fourth, though my child is very young and didn’t really understand the importance of where we were, I’m glad we took her there. I resolved to continue to visit places like this in order for her to understand the plight of great people during her formative years. It’s a beautiful site and all Americans really should go to see it at least once. QUICK TIP: In order to go inside MLK’s home, you must purchase a tour. Make sure to build this time into your schedule. We were not able to this time but will be sure to do so next time we visit.
The Margaret Mitchell House is the apartment home that Margaret Mitchell lived in while writing 90% of Gone with the Wind. As a fan of both the movie and the book, I wanted to visit this location while in Atlanta. 30-40 minutes tours are available of her apartment, which she affectionately nicknamed, “the Dump.” I recommend this to any fan of the book or movie, but especially for fans of the book!
Before leaving Atlanta to make it to Nashville, we stopped at Sean’s Harvest Market for some lunch. With outdoor seating, it was a perfect place to grab lunch with our dogs. My husband and I shared a Holy Guacamole Chicken and the Piedmont Deli Sandwiches with a side of fresh fruit and fancy teas. Both were refreshing and filling.
The drive to Tennessee was a pleasant 4 hours through some beautiful green and rolling hills. Once we arrived to Nashville, we headed downtown for dinner at Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant for some southern food. The place was busy and again we lucked out by getting seated in 20 minutes after being told it would be a 45-minute wait. I ordered the smoked pork “Piggy Mac” and cheese and my husband ordered the very spicy Hot Chicken Sandwich. Both were good, especially if you’re fans of spicy food of smoky BBQ flavors.
You know what!? I’ve written a lot already, so I’m going to give you a break and save the rest for later. Kudos to you if you made it this far and stay tuned for Part II…..