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road trip

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Mountain Standard Time

Ahhh yes… “Home”

Well. I made it through the final leg of my multi-state cross-country road trip with these last 350 miles from El Paso to Tucson. Mexican border within arms’ reach to my left, then into New Mexico, then onto Arizona, a quick rest/gas/pee stop in Willcox, and an hour later back in Tucson and straight to the gym, where I got 2 PRs: a new 3RM high hang snatch of 120# and new 3RM high hang clean&jerk of 150#.

New Mexico I-10 W

Arizona I-10 W

Yonder Tucson

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Then straight to a double-double protein style with a side of animal fries.

across the street from my house (no lie). Thank you, West coast.

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Now time to unpack! But that can wait until tomorrow.

Tucson really makes me smile. It really does. I’m with my family, I’m surrounded by sunshine and mountains,  I have my sturdy 5-speed Honda Fit, I have a great gym I get to lift at, I have meat in my belly, and I have an organized plan for my dissertation writing and have already made progress… it’s smooth sailing in the desert, folks.  Enjoying every moment.

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290W/I-10W: Desert Trekking

I officially have “driver’s tan” now. It’s quite comical, really, like a farmer’s tan but only on the left side of my body. Tomorrow’s drive to Tucson won’t improve matters, either.

El Paso looks a lot like Tucson. Home is so close now!

El Paso from my hotel window (not pictured: the 'star' of Texas lit up on the side of that mountain)

I really must remember next time I’m driving on 290 to plan a stop in Fredericksburg, TX. The CUTEST little town I ever did drive through. You know, the drive from Austin to El Paso isn’t as terrible as many put it out to be.

long stretch of I-10 to nothing but desert mountains

Desert and blue sky!

But then, when I see open stretches of highway in front of me and nothing but desert and bare mountains to either side of me, I’m a happy girl.The desert rocks (pun totallyintended).

Don’t get me wrong, a verdant landscape is all well and good, but the desert will always claim my heart. Cross-winds, however, are AWFUL. Not only do they make driving quite treacherous, but they do horrible damage to the mpg average! I had to refill my tank about 100 miles under when I’d normally expect to do so. And when I got to the gas station to do so it took a lot of effort to open my car door against the wind. Yes, they really were that strong.

Oh, and…. Texas I-10… 80mph? Really??? Wow.

Oookay.

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Something I’ve learned while on the road (besides how incredibly vast this land is and that everyone should travel solo, something I’ve said many times before) is my “Secret Single Behavior” (SSB). I already knew that I talk to myself and have no shame blurting out songs whether or not the radio is on. And that I dance while driving. What I did not know is that I will talk to my food, as well, sometimes to a little tune. Example: “Yum yum carrot, you are so crunchy and sweeeeet I love to CRUNCH you yum yum carrot yum!”

Speaking of carrots, those of you who know I eat a pretty Paleo diet might be wondering how I get by keeping it clean on the road.

Venti iced coffee (unsweetened) with half'n'half.

Fast food joints everywhere, and the ever-tempting Dairy Queen (a road trip staple, if I may say so… though I have yet to actually have any this trip). Well, to be honest it’s pretty easy to eat well as long as you have a cooler.

Okay… I do start with coffee (it helps to keep you awake, and this large size lasts me all day… the need to stop and pee helps, also).

While driving I don’t really have too much of an appetite, actually. I’m not that active and the multiple roadkill sightings don’t do much for me. But it is true that hour after hour of driving can induce the munchies.  Munchies = crunchies, and carrots perfect. So are nuts. Before I start my journey I hard-boil some eggs to take on the road for quick protein bites during stops. And I make sure I have a few PaleoKits with me, just in case. They are jerky, nuts and dried fruit, and they double as a great jaw workout! One kit can easily last me two meals. Sliced deli meat is a huge staple for my cooler. And because the phrase “added water” or “added white meat” kind of weirds me out, I go for Applegate or Hormel’s All Natural 100% turkey. No nitrates or anything. Just 100% pure meat. And, of course, you should always be equipped with: water, water, and more water. And remember to drink often.

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Wave to Mexico!!!

Driving just North of the Mexican border. Hola!!!

Mega-Churches and Rivers on the Open Road

535 miles and 4 states in one day from Way Down Yonder on the Chattahoochee to Callin’ Baton Rouge. All to the soundtrack of country music, classic rock, and Eco’s The Prague Cemetery. The scenery didn’t have a lot of variation.

GEORGIA
First of all, the nickname “Hotlanta” is a LIE. It was anything but hot. I left that city with heater ON.

So, my mother’s always had a fear of driving over bridges. She doesn’t mind so much if she’s just in the car, but she does not like being behind the wheel. This morning, as I left Marietta and drove on the 285-S around Atlanta and then on the 85-S… I drove over the Chattahoochee River. I didn’t even have time to really notice whether or not it bothered me being on that bridge because I was too distracted by my own voice belting out a tribute to Alan Jackson.

ALABAMA (also the name of one of the best country band’s EVER ever)
Then I  merged onto 85-S and lo and behold I was definitely in the South. Heater off. As I cruised along the highway the there loomed the shadow of a very large Colonial flag and very religious billboards… and more mega-churches (I passed at least 3 leaving Georgia). The rest of the road was pretty standard highway, I must say.

I-85 S

Then I merged onto 65-S and somewhere between Montgomery and Mobile I stopped for a gas, bathroom, and coffee break. Easiest coffee to grab was at the mom and shop gas station, and it was a whopping $0.76. Buttttt then again you get what you pay for. Also this was the perfect time to rid myself of a very much not-needed (any more) jacket.

I-65 S

Then I went over a couple rivers [Tensaw and Mobile] and that long stretch of bridge (one long bridge for the both) let me sympathize with my mother. For some reason it was just… uncomfortable. I didn’t freak out or anything, but knowing that only cement — and a long stretch of it at that — is what’s holding you and other cars and trucks above a long stretch of water is a tad unnerving.

approaching the Tensaw River bridge

Tensaw/Mobile rivers' (very very long) bridge

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MISSISIPPI (em-ay ess-ess ay-ess-ess ay-pee-pee ay)

And here we are at the first highway I ever knew: I-10.

I-10 W

Mighty Mississippi? More like marshy Mississippi!!! Actually I won’t traverse that giant river until tomorrow. But Hellooooo A/C!!!

LOUISIANA
As you drive from Mississippi into Louisiana via I-10W the first thing you hit is a giant bridge that goes over the Pearl River and surrounding State Wildlife Preservation Area. One very, very, very long bridge that takes you over what is basically like one giant marshland with pockets of shimmering blue water.

another massively long bridge as you enter LA from MS

Pearl River expanse

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My first and only visit to this state (before today) was over 15 years ago when I visited family up in Shreveport.  Coming from Tucson, I remember my initial reaction was “it’s… sooo… GREEN! Just so GREEN!.” Well, guess what? Not much has changed. It’s still soooooo greeeeeeen!

I-12 W and lots of green

.And the guy at the Shell gas station was kind enough to remind me of just how gullible I am. I had to go inside to get my gas receipt, and he immediately said “that’ll be $1 extra.” “ummm okay sure” says I. He couldn’t believe I actually believed him. Luckily he didn’t go through with it. He did try to get me again by claiming the restroom would also cost $1. (I managed to leave without spending any more than I had just spent on gas.)

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My night in Baton Rouge looked a little like this:
1. check into hotel and look with longing on ridiculously large King-size bed

I will sleep diagonally tonight

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2. Find “Geaux CrossFit” and join them for their last class of the day: find 5-rep max deadlift.. with good form (new PR at 235#), and then a 12 minute AMRAP of 20 double-unders and 10 chest-to-bar pull-ups (on the thickest pull-up bars I ever did see, got 7 rounds plus 7 pull-ups with just chin-over-bar pull-ups because those thick bars really were a game-changer!). Then… SWEAT. Wow, sweat. And now I remember what “humid” smells (and feels) like. Wow.

Geaux CrossFit

In Baton Rouge they call me "Bart"

 

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3. Shower. Blog. Sleep. Get ready for another long day in the saddle tomorrow. (Good thing I got my boots!)

Getting tan on only my left side!!!
Now it’s time to begin the trek across the desert known as: TEXAS.

Life is a Highway

Cliche title? Sure. But it fits.

This morning I packed up Paolo with my things and on a crisp Tuesday morning left Amy’s house in Charlottesville and hopped onto 29S to start my adventure to Tucson.

Paolo, my 2008 Honda Fit, ready for the road

the hatchback is full

Just over 500 miles and 4 states. Virginia. North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Leg 1 final destination: Life University in Marietta, GA (it’s lovely having friends who are willing to put you up for a night or two). Despite a little bit of rain, the drive was pretty standard for this part of the country: rolling hills and trees on either side. I only had to stop twice to fill up and rest and stretch my legs (who knew how tiring sitting can be?). What did I listen to? Why, country music, of course. It only seemed fitting. I changed it up a little bit Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery on tape. FABULOUS. Read a review! I’m only a few chapters in, but Eco’s writing mixes great prose with intriguing narrative with laugh-old-loud descriptions. He’s been one of my favorite authors for some time now, and every time I read something by him I’m reminded why that is.

I drove up to my friend Dave’s place around 5, just in time to see him make me a fabulous dinner of home-made meatloaf, sauteed brussels sprouts and roasted purple sweet potatoes! I was going to bring him some yummy house-warming gifts but Jackson (Amy’s dog) ate them. No lie. He found them among my things and ate them. Hopefully the mini packet of Justin’s chocolate-hazelnut butter I brought Dave was still acceptable.

After dinner we walked over to Life University’s gym in time to watch the men’s basketball team play Carver College (NAIA league) … and go from making it a close game to letting the other team score over 100 points. What happened? The other team played like a team, and our team did not. Simple as that. Highlight of the game was when the little girl sitting in front of us decided to be a contestant in the half-time dance-off.. and completely brought the house down. Girl had moves that I can only dream about! She won a free packet of Skittles. I won a priceless memory.

Don’t ask me what I thought about Atlanta, because I have no honest opinion. I barely went into town. I drove 8 hours yesterday and am looking at the same tomorrow, so today I blissfully slept in until 9 and then hopped on my computer. Emails, more emails, news, Daily Show, and some blogging. This. This is what I do on my road trip. And every now and then I look out the window to see the blue sky over the green campus.  When Dave came home for a break between classes we made Paleo zucchini brownies today (almond-butter base). Mmmm. Later on we stopped at a chiropractor’s house (he’s going to work for her) and she adjusted us both for free! Then we went into the city, and as we got out of the car to head into Yeah!Burger, I saw the lit-up Atlanta skyline.

burger joint with gourmet taste but old-style feel

Yeah!Burger is pretty darn good. It’s one of those gourmet burger joints in that they have local, grass-fed meats and bison and such (and turkey and veggie and chicken…), gluten-free options (buns, fries, onion rings), assorted toppings, sides, sauces, and the “side of the day” was roasted brussels sprouts topped with some seriously good goat cheese. Sooo what do I think of Atlanta? I think it’s delicious!

yumzo dinner for 2!

So many options! The reverse listed the shakes, sodas, beers and wines.