You may have read my previous blog post, which is part one of this series of blogs about my massive road trip, The Great Americana Road Trip 2016. I started off blogging about the first leg of three legs of the trip (South Florida to Montana), but in the last month or so I got caught up in the actual road trip and our subsequent move to Virginia, so now I’m way behind. So instead of talking about lessons learned in the first 2986 miles of the trip, I’ll talk about lessons learned throughout the entire 6800+-mile road trip. Lucky you, right!?
I’m going to pick up where I left off last time. I want to summarize the journey we took and then I’ll end with the lessons learned.
August 2, 2016 – Germantown, Nashville, and the Grand Ole Opry: We decided to take it easy this and day slept in a bit before heading over to a historic neighborhood in north Nashville called Germantown for some lunch. We ate at the Germantown Café, which was on the expensive side for Nashville, but pretty tasty (I enjoyed my Fried Green Tomato Sandwich). I would not call this a kid-friendly restaurant, FYI.
That evening we ate an early dinner at Five Points Pizza in NE Nashville on our way to the Grand Ole Opry House (which is on the outskirts of Nashville, BTW). Five Points Pizza is a NY style pizza place with a great selection of microbrews – our favorite! This place gets busy, but we came on the early side and were able to get a seat. We noticed there were TONS of families with small kids here, so fear not if you’ve got your offspring in tow.
After over-filling our bellies, we moseyed over to the Grand Ole Opry House fo
r our show which consisted of John Conlee, Carly Pearce, Jackie Lee, Connie Smith, Bill Anderson, Canaan Smith, Brandy Clark, and Dailey & Vincent. If you get a chance to go to the Grand Ole Opry for a show, GO! It doesn’t matter if you like country music or not, its an American institution, the prices are decent, and they put on a good show filled with different kinds of music by VERY talented people. I like country music, but don’t listen to much of the contemporary stuff and haven’t for a few years or so. My husband and I both like bluegrass, so we really enjoyed the high-energy performance
of Dailey & Vincent and we were both blown away by the pipes of John Conlee and Connie Smith, in particular. I really enjoyed Brandy Clark as well and really respect her a songwriter – I love her song, “Better Dig Two” performed by the Band Perry. I missed most of Bill Anderson and all of Canaan Smith’s performance because…this will bring me to a no-brainer…QUICK TIP: Leave your toddlers at home! Duh, right!? Well, we didn’t really have a choice this time, but if you can, get a babysitter so you can actually enjoy the music! It is a kid-friendly establishment, so that’s not the problem. The problem is when your toddler doesn’t want to sit still. In the end, I’m glad we went, but my husband and I seriously considered leaving early a few time because our lovely daughter was driving us NUTS!
August 3, 2016 – Nashville, TN to Kansas City, KS 576 miles: we got up, grabbed a latte and chai at Edgehill Café before embarking on our longest stretch of drive yet to Kansas City, the Kansas side, that is. On the way, we drove through Kentucky and Missouri seeing some very beautiful midwestern sites along the way.
When we travel, food is a priority and we had planned to stop in KC just so we could eat at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que. We had received recommendations from friends, seen it on TV, and the Yelp reviews speak for themselves, so it was a must. We went to one of the locations just outside KC in Olathe, KS where we were staying for the night. Even there, in the suburbs, the line was almost out the door! We ordered ours to-go because the kid was tired and we were hungry. We ordered the Z Man Sandwich, brisket, burnt ends, ribs, dirty rice, coleslaw, and BBQ beans. The meat was divine – probably the best BBQ I’ve ever had. My husband was in heaven. We ate the food so quickly; I didn’t have a chance to take pictures! You’ll just have to go (or order it to be shipped to you) and find out for yourself!
August 4, 2016 – Kansas City, KS to Denver, CO 606 miles: another long driving day ahead of us, we headed for our friends: Nate, Katy, and Chesley’s house north of Denver. While Kansas is a long state to drive through, we got to Denver at a decent time and were able to enjoy the beautiful Denver weather and dinner with our friends. Zora and the dogs were able to get a much-needed chance to stretch their legs outdoors. I really like Denver; I think we might move there someday. Denver is surrounded by mountains, the people are laidback and live in the outdoors. It’s just like Montana, just more metropolitan.
August 5, 2016 – Denver, CO to Jackson, WY 508 miles: we enjoyed a nice breakfast with our friends before heading up towards Jackson, Wyoming. As we left Denver, I looked at the GPS route and realized we’d be going through Laramie, WY, which is where some of Kelly’s cousins, Lew and Donna live. We called them about one hour (last minute) before we would arrive in Laramie to see if they were around so we could stop by. Long story short, they were kind enough to put out a nice lunch spread for us and we had a relaxing little lunch break at their lovely house in Laramie. It was also a nice opportunity for the Zora and the dogs to frolic in their beautiful garden and green grass.
August 6, 2016 – Jackson, WY, Grand Teton National Park, and Cache Creek Trailhead: the next morning we grabbed a delicious breakfast at Persephone Bakery in downtown Jackson. This place is modern, cute, and most importantly really good! We ordered their famed cinnamon brioche (heaven), the Summer Bounty Bowl (a strangely good concoction of yogurt, quinoa, avocado, kale sprouts, honey, and berries), and the breakfast sandwich with local bacon, egg, Gruyere, and Dijon aioli on a freshly baked croissant. Oh yes, I ordered a London Fog, my husband ordered a latte, and my daughter got an old-fashioned bottle of milk with a red and white striped straw (major style points!) The line can be long here, but it moves efficiently and it is oh-so-worth the wait!
Then we headed into Grand Teton National Park. I have driven by this park and come close enough to see the pointed and rugged peaks of the Tetons rise up above the valley below but I hadn’t been able to actually go into the park until this trip. Needless to say, I was very excited to see it up close. Our first stop was at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center to get some information on potential one-day itineraries from a park ranger. This is a great visitor center with contemporary exhibits, helpful staff, and an unbeatable view. Once we figured out our plan for the park, we headed back to Jackson to take the dogs on a quick walk to get them out of the hotel room (dogs are not allowed outside of parking lots in the park, so they had to stay behind).
QUICK TIP: If you only have a short time in a national park, always go to the visitor center and ask a park ranger what is a good itinerary for your particular timeline. You can also ask for help with things like identifying good, short hikes if you are like me and have a 2.5-year-old in tow, or for tips on good places for a picnic, etc. Park Rangers are there to help with things like this and they know the land like the back of their hand. Also, if you only have a tiny bit of time in the park, going to the visitor center is a good way to get a rundown of the important facts about the park and they are often situated in a good vantage point where you can get a great view. Bonus: if you are cool (?) like me, you can get your National Park Passport stamped at visitor’s centers too!
When we returned to Jackson, we grabbed some lunch to go from The Cowboy Coffee
Company and took the dogs on a
walk and picnic at the Cache Creek Trailhead. The trail is a nice little walk along a creek where there are picnic tables set up and lots of other people are mountain biking, walking their dogs, and even horseback riding. I enjoyed the Aspen Pine trees and the dogs enjoyed the exercise!
As soon as we got back in the car our daughter fell asleep. Any parent of a toddler knows that interruptions to nap time are best avoided if at all possible, so we decided to go back into the park and drive the 42-mile Scenic Loop Drive that the park ranger recommended to us. Trying to describe this drive will not do it justice, but let just say that as you go along the loop, the view of the Grand Tetons changes and continuously mystifies you. Check out some of my photos from this loop starting with the view of the mountains from the park entrance to a final view of the cloudy sky pushing down on the mountains, which sit atop fields of yellow and green earth.
By the end of the loop, it began to rain so we headed back to Jackson for a really good dinner at the Snake River Brewing Company and a “Cowgirl Princess” carriage ride through the town.
Kid-friendly, locally-sourced, healthy food options, and reasonably priced, the Snake River Brewing Company was exactly what we look for in a restaurant when dining with our kid. We had to wait a short time to get our table, but once we were seated the service was excellent. We started with a beer flight to sample the breweries offerings. It came with eight generously poured beers that were brewed in-house – all delicious. I ordered the Farro Salad, which was filled with nutritious and tasty ingredients. What really sticks out in my mind though, is their dessert. OMG…the Campfire S’more was the BEST s’more inspired dessert I’ve ever had! My husband ordered the Doughnuts; they are homemade and served with caramel and chocolate dipping sauces. He was licking the plates that they came in – they were so good. If you love s’mores like I do, make a pilgrimage to Jackson, WY and try this dessert!
To end our night and hopefully walk off some of our newly acquired, gluttonous calories, we walked around downtown Jackson. The weather was perfect and live music could be heard from the central park. My daughter (wearing a cowgirl hat and Rapunzel dress at the time) kept seeing horse-drawn carriages and desperately wanted to take a ride to the “royal ball” (like Cinderella) and so we did, and she loved it. Jackson is a fun, but somewhat pricey town that exhibits the rugged nature of the old west and the contemporary cultures of today in the form of gastronomy, retail, and art.
This blog is even longer than the last, so I’m going to stop here. Be sure to stay tuned for the next one (Part III) where I go into the wonders of Montana and tell you the important lessons I learned on my 6800+-mile road trip this summer.