Wild, Wild West

Day 4 was when it finally started to feel like we were actually moving. 

I know that seems like an odd thing to say, but by this point we had hit the halfway point of our journey and it felt like there was no going back. We left Oklahoma City and headed toward Albuquerque. The landscape had started to go from green grass to more of a desert brown, and we made it to historic Route 66. We finally got to see some of the quirkier, road-trip things I wanted to experience – like the Leaning Tower of Texas (not as impressive as Pisa) and the Cherokee Trading Post (there were tons of stops like this along the way, this one alleged to have bison to pet on site, but we didn’t see any).

You really start to get a sense of how expansive the country is when you’re driving through Oklahoma and Texas. It was nothing but cattle and ranch land for as far as the eye could see. It gives you a pretty great respect for those cowboys and cowgirls that are working hundreds of thousands of acres. It was at this point that I started to wonder if we have more cows than people in this country. Does anybody have the stats on that? The ranches just go on for ages, they even had grass overpasses over the highway for the cows to cross.

ranch

We couldn’t pass all those cows and not have a steak. Thankfully, The Big Texan was on our way and the perfect stop for lunch. (For those of you who are concerned about Socks, he was in the car with AC blasting, doors locked so no one could steal him, and a full bowl of water.) You may have heard of it, Adam Richman made a stop there on the very first episode of “Man v. Food” and took down their 72 ounce (yes – SEVENTY TWO ounce) steak challenge. It was definitely a kitschy tourist trap, they had one of those rifle hunting games you typically see in Bass Pro Shops and was decorated like it was straight out of Busch Gardens.

We weren’t expecting too much from the food because it was such a roadside destination – but we were wrong. I got the 7 ounce strip and that steak was one of the best I’ve had, it was so juicy and flavorful! I guess makes sense considering the slaughterhouse was only about 10 miles down the road, doesn’t get any fresher than that!  The sides were pretty mediocre, but given the chance I would go back again for an even bigger piece of steak. We asked the lady on the grill how much they went through a day and she estimated about 6-7 cows A DAY. That is a lot of meat!

After our satisfying lunch, we kept on trucking through to Albuquerque. On the way, we stopped at what is possibly the greatest rest stop in the whole country somewhere in the Northern part of Texas. I know that is a bold statement, but check out this view!

tx-panorama

texas
I have never been more impressed by a rest stop in my life

Once we got to New Mexico was when it really started to feel Southwestern. You could see the layers of sandstone in the rock formations and we even saw a coyote walking along the side of the road. About two hours outside of Albuquerque we hit a rain storm (which felt very UNdesert-like), but Travis was a pro and got us through it. We made it safely to our hotel and checked out Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q for dinner.

I’ll be honest, it was tasty but by this point I was over grilled and smoked meats for the next few days. I guess it did the trick and we went to bed plenty full.

On The Road Again…

Day 3 was the least exciting day of our trip by far.
(Does that make you pumped to read about it or what???)

When the most exciting part of your day is lunch, it makes it seem no more exciting than a day at the office. We at least had the benefit of knowing that Kansas and Oklahoma would be a lot of cows and flat land, so we were mentally prepared.

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How does it feel to drive through Kansas? See above. 

So we left St Louis after having breakfast with my grandpa. He was sad to see us go, but of course he was filled with tons of good advice for our travels. He gave us an ACTUAL map of old Route 66 that came in quite handy when it came to seeing some of the quirky little stops along the way. I pulled it out a few times – too bad nothing was in Kansas or Oklahoma!

The trip from St Louis to Kansas City was pretty short. My coworker Jessica lives in KC and we had a chance to meet her for lunch. She recommended we go to Arthur Bryant’s and it was worth the stop! The restaurant itself is a Kansas City institution, it’s been around since the 1920s, and pretty much every  celebrity that goes to the area makes a stop for some of their barbecue. I’m pretty used to North Carolina style barbecue, where the sauce is more tangy and vinegary, so the sauce was sweeter than I was expecting but the meat was tender and definitely had that smokey taste that I love to get in my barbecue.

After lunch, we just plugged along I-35 until we reached our hotel in Oklahoma City. It was a lot of grass and A LOT of cows, but managed to head further south and west so we were one step closer to Cali!

socksks
“Look at all the grass and cows!” – Oklahoma in a nutshell

You Can Find Me in St. Louie

Day 2 of our adventure… 

Driving to St. Louis from Nashville was a breeze compared to our first day. It only took us 5 hours, not even enough time to get bored of the podcast (which was “Criminal” by the way – I highly recommend it. It’s a series of short stories about crime and law, from the silly to the gruesome).

Now, you may be wondering why a couple driving to the southwest would head 4 hours north to St. Louis. Well, my grandpa and aunt live there and I was told if I didn’t make the stop, I’d be disowned and cut out of the will – so I was more than happy to head that way! Honestly, it is always great to see family and the easy drive made it a relaxing day.

My grandpa made us reservations at Giovanni’s in Ladue for dinner. They have a restaurant on The Hill (the famous Italian block in STL), but this particular location was closer and still lived up to the reputation that the original earned. It was Travis’ first time in St. Louis, so we absolutely had to get the toasted ravioli. If you thought plain ravioli was good, wait until you get a chance to try it crispy – it’s the best! My main course was a simple pappardelle bolognese, I am such a sucker for those thick noodles that I’ll get it any chance I get. Let me tell you, I must’ve been hungry because I polished it off (and totally forgot to even take a pic of it)!

Even after a huge and carb-filled Italian dinner, my grandpa wanted to go to Ted Drewes. And what grandpa wants, grandpa gets. Ted Drewes is famous in the area for their frozen custard, but I was feeling a milkshake so I got that instead. Travis, who doesn’t even like desserts, got himself a treat and even enjoyed it.

ted-drewes
Ted Drewes is THE place to be for dessert apparently

At this point, I was beyond full, but our family friend Scott still lives in the area so he swung by the ice cream stand to take us out to a local bar. So it was off to The Royale, a little  bar down the street that had an awesome patio area for us to waste away a few summer hours chatting and drinking. There were cute strand lights everywhere that make for a very relaxing vibe. The drinks were pretty cheap too (from what I remember), so that never hurts!

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It was a fun night and we made it back to my grandpa’s around midnight. After all the food and vodka, I was definitely ready for bed.