Looks like tornado country

The saying goes “there’s something freeing about…”

In my case the phrase would be finished with “packing up your life into the backseat of your dinky car and moving West,” but that’s cliché. There are so many things that are freeing in this situation: getting rid of most of my possessions, leaving a certain amount of self-deprecation behind with every mile that ticks on the odometer, watching the state welcome signs disappear in the passenger car mirror. I’ve wanted to leave the east coast my entire life, but doing it with my best friend is maybe the best part.

Sure, most pilgrimages are better done alone, it’s how I’ve grown as a person – traveling by myself; but what you need to understand is that I fell in love with this man almost two years ago and since then one of us has been on one adventure or another or trapped by school obligations, each of us on our own path to success. For the better part of two years we have had a long-distant relationship speckled with temporary spans of time where we are allowed to be together. This last stretch left us right under half a year without seeing each other, so excuse me for this sappy post, but driving across the country with a person I have been grasping at for far too long has me feeling a little sentimental. Especially because this adventure ends in his driveway with his home soon to be my home.

So, there’s something slightly freeing knowing that there will be no more ugly sobbing at the TSA check line at airports, no more long goodbyes, no more of my heart plummeting when I realize that this particular stretch of time together is already half over. And that during these 3,000 miles I can reach over and rest my hand on his arm.

That being said, I also need to credit most of the planning to Zach, because I basically gave him my priority destinations along the way and let him have at it. He’s the adventure planner (for the most part). I have no recommendations for lodging in Cincinnati and Louisville because we were able to stay with friends, but if you have time for dinner in Louisville, I would definitely recommend getting the tacos at Migo, a very chill and unique tapas and Tex-Mex bar with good beer and even better dinner options in the Highlands district.

We didn’t have too much time to explore Louisville because most of that day was spent packing up my apartment into the car and trying to find a place to donate my mattress and box springs, so here are some more tips if you are reading this because you have also decided to pack up and drive some place very far away from home:

  • Don’t pack boxes, but place things freely in any crack and crevice available, including the area in the trunk allocated for a donut tire, if you have one.
  • Invest in a couple of emergency car fixes like rain-x and an extra quart of oil. We drove through a lot of rain already and the rain-x makes the water bead up on the windshield for much clearer visibility.
  • Places that accept household donations like Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity no longer accept mattresses and box springs, at least in Huntington, WV. However, if you need to dispose of a large item such as a mattress, you can simply put it out with your regular trash and call the city dump so they are aware that they will be picking up a larger item.

Our second day on the road took us to Cincinnati, Ohio. We tried out Taft Brewing, a brewery and adjoining restaurant inside of an old church complete with organ pipes in the pulpit and huge wooden doors leading to an ornate staircase. I would recommend the Gavel Banger IPA.

We also visited Rhinegeist, a classic brewery located in the iconic Over-The-Rhine brewery district in Cincinnati. Head up to the rooftop terrace for a cozy atmosphere and then back downstairs for a game of ping-pong or corn-hole.

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After a slow day of local craft beer, that night we saw My Morning Jacket, and it was a mesmerizing experience. For those who are not familiar with their music, they’re a band not big enough to make it onto every rock radio station, but full of pure talent. Their set list took the crowd from jumping up and down to a trance-like state in a manner of instrumental progression that catches your attention like a good book. I was pretty startled when a man tapped me on the shoulder asking if he could get by, for a minute I thought the only people in that stadium were me, Zach, and Jim James.


Photo by Michael Nolen

Our third day took us to St. Louis, Missouri because it was on my great list of things to do while traveling West to walk underneath the Gateway of the West. It was as symbolically satisfying as I’d been fantasizing about since the move was decided. After riding the tram to the top and taking part in the usual touristy gawking of the two states and Mississippi River, we headed towards Maplewood to the Side Project Cellar for even more beer, great for a sour beer fanatic. For dinner (and more beer) I would recommend Schlafly, the first new brewery to open in the area since the Prohibition, and here I would recommend the Apricot IPA (sorry, I’m on an IPA kick).

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From here we’ll drive a little further to camp in Graham Cave State Park, then we drive

another 10 hours to the KOA in Limon, Colorado. Once the trip is over, I plan on posting more pictures and touching up everything, but for now using the wifi of a dimly lit brewery during dinner is enough. Hopefully, my dinky car, Rocky, will make it through the mountains.

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