You Gotta Be

Remember, listen as your day unfolds

Challenge what the future holds

Try and keep your head up to the sky

Lovers, they may cause you tears

Go ahead release your fears, my oh my heh, hey, hey

You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser

You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger

You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together

All I know, all I know, love will save the day

– Des’ree

americathebeautiful

If you haven’t yet read, FTF: The South! Well, Except For Arkansas. Arkansas Sucks., I suggest you do. It’s the Part I in this little two-part series.

But, if you don’t feel like it… whatevs. Hey, just start readin’ where ever the hell you want. I figure if those f*&kers in Star Wars can do it, why can’t you?

Anywho, without further ado, I present you Part II of my BFF road trip adventure with Kristen:

 

Friday, March 14: Cadillac Ranch, TX to Grand Canyon Village, AZ (678 miles)

I must say, New Mexico was intriguing at first but I wouldn’t exactly call it “the land of enchantment.” “Is this the desert?” I asked Kristen. “Like, is this it? I expected it to be, I don’t know, redder or dustier or something.” Don’t get me wrong, the state was pretty, it just wasn’t what I had expected.

  • landofenchantment
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Every couple of hours we would ride by a few plateaus… that’s what they are, right? Plateaus. But other than that, New Mexico was just a bunch of shrubs and dirt. Oh and annoying billboards advertising the same souvenir shops for miles on end. We finally gave into one of those badgering bastards and pulled off at a gas station/souvenir shop/sandwich joint combo. I picked Mace up some authentic moccasins and Kristen got a bowl to put her keys in.

We were frackin’ crazy in New Mexico, I tell ya.

What was crazy though… was the rain. WTF. This desert not acting or looking like a real desert thing was really throwing me off. So, to make things right in my mind, I asked Kristen to find us some good Mexican/Tex-Mex for dinner. “Uhh, we’re not gonna find anything like that here,” Kristen retorted. Wait. What? Did I just hear her right? Had New Mexico sucked up her brain? “Kristen. We’re in Neeeew Meeeexico. Like, the newer version of the old one. What the hell are you even talking about?” I shook my head trying to un-hear what I had just heard. “Whatever. I’ll try to find something,” she said.

While Kristen looked for food, I fought with Albuquerque. People are terrible drivers. And that’s saying a whole hell of a lot coming from someone who is a pretty shitty driver herself.

After a while of squabbling with TripAdvisor, Kristen finally announced, “I think I’ve found a place. The reviews say not to be put off by its appearance because the food is very good. I’m just gonna call to see what time they close. All of these places close at like 7:00 p.m.” She called the restaurant. I heard her confirm with the person on the receiving end that the restaurant closed at 9:00 p.m. “On a Friday night? I thought, “Better than seven, I guess.” When she hung up, she entered the address into the GPS, and I kept driving.

Dinner was about an hour away, it was starting to get dark, and the day was really starting to wear us down. We had been in the car since 7:00 a.m. and had only stopped to eat, pee, and grab those moccasins. By this time, we had gained another hour. Both of us were getting irritable and tired.

When I turned off of I-40 and onto Route 66 to get to this Mexican joint there were lights, and motels, and gas stations, and restaurants. We drove beside of train tracks and through a small town. The more we drove, the less lights there were. It seemed as though the town was closing down by the nanosecond.

I inched up on the leather seat.

By the time the GPS instructed me to turn left, we were driving through what seemed like “downtown.” I turned left, turned right, and then turned right again. Suddenly, we weren’t “downtown” anymore.

“Kristen. Where the f*&k are we.”

It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. You know, kind of accusatory, like, “Look where we are. Kristen. We’re a coupla vaginas in the middle of a poorly lit neighborhood. Kristen. I said I wanted to eat Tex-Mex. Kristen. Not be killed by Tex-Mex… Kristen.”

“I’m not parking my car here.”

Really? That’s all she had to say right now – “I’m not parking my car here.” We were fixing to star in Saw 47 and she’s over here all worried about me parking her 4-Runner on the street. Well f*&k. I stopped in the middle of the road, “Soooo, what do you want me to do?” “Well don’t stop right in the middle of the street! What about right there? Why don’t we park it in that space right there.” “Kristen, no one is around. And oh yeah, let’s park the car where we can’t even see it in this sketchy-ass gravel parking lot behind the ‘restaurant’ and then walk down this really safe looking sidewalk to go get dinner. Don’t worry, I’ve got our pocket knives and the one can of mace. Uhh no, dipshit. We’re parking this bitch right here.” I did a quick 3-point road and put it in park right in front of the front door to the restaurant. “Seriously, are we fixing to walk up into someone’s house to eat dinner?” I asked, grabbing my purse and hitting the lock button 8-ish times.

We might as well have… walked up into someone’s house to eat dinner. Why? Because when the two of us pulled the door open everyone in the entire room looked up and stared at us. I carefully walked to a booth and started to slide in. Kristen was right behind me when a younger guy came rushing up to us saying, “No. No. We’re closed.”

Now wait a minute. It was 8:15. These people told Kristen on the phone they didn’t close until 9:00. There was an entire table of people sitting in the middle of the restaurant eating and a booth across the room eating too. But you know what, “F*&k it,” we thought, “We’ll leave hungry as long as it keeps us out of the pretty-American-girl-Black-Market-sex-slave ring they were probably runnin’ outta that joint.”

Kristen grabbed the keys out of my hand, “Let’s go.” “Hold on just one second,” I checked the hours of operation sign as the door slammed shut behind us, “Seven-thirty? Those fools looked like they just got their food! I feel like we were just discriminated against.”

Once in the car, and back on Route 66, we hunted for dinner. Sonic it was. I got my usual: a chili-cheese dog with chili-cheese tots. Woo. Some kinda Tex-Mex. While we waited in the parking lot for our food a homeless man walked up to Kristen’s rolled down window. Without missing a beat, and before he could speak a word, she began to roll the window up and muttered, “I don’t have f*&king time for this.” He stood there for a minute just staring in at us. It was almost as if he were saying, “Really, bitch. You don’t have time for this? I don’t have time to be homeless. And just what the f*&k else do you have to do while you wait on your food?” Then he sauntered onto the next car. They just kicked it in reverse and got the hell outta there.

When we hit the Arizona border we nearly stopped the car and kissed the interstate. Although we gained another hour of time back, I updated my Facebook status:

“Arizona, do you know how glad I am to be out of New Mexico?”

Kristen got us to our hotel in Grand Canyon Village without any causalities. You probably laugh when I say that but if you had saw the road signs we saw on our way up there… you’d be singing a different tune. There were animals I never knew to exist on these signs. “Is that a moose? An elk? What the hell is that? Holy shit! Did you see that one? That thing is huge!” Kristen was inches away from the windshield as we cruised down 64. Thankfully, only a coyote crossed our path.

I forget what time we checked into our hotel. I forget what we talked about or what we did. And I forget what time we went to bed because we were exhausted. We had been on the road over 15 hours. We had driven through three states. We had gained two hours of wretched time back on a day we would have rather given it away. Were we in the Twilight Zone? No. We were in the g*&damned Southwest.

Thank you sweet baby Jesus.

 

Saturday, March 15: Grand Canyon Village, AZ to the South Rim, AZ (6.4 miles)

I can rattle on to you about breakfast. I can tell you about the cool coasters Kristen got at our hotel gift shop. I could even go into detail about how terrible Kristen is with making up her own lyrics to songs. Or I can just get to the point…

I have never, ever, laid eyes on anything as breathtaking as the Grand Canyon.

Period.

I remember looking down at the map the Ranger gave us at the entrance of the park. I was trying to explain to Kristen what trail we should take. I looked up as she rounded a curve. Both of us looked past the tree-lined road. I stopped mid-sentence. Our mouths dropped. “Holy shit.”

That’s it.

That’s all you can say.

Holy shit.

Now let me try to explain it to you…

By this time, Kristen and I had driven over 2,000 miles. For three days, we had been looking out of a car window. We had seen mountains, and deserts, and rivers, and streams, and trees, and grass, and farms, and cities, and neighborhoods. We had been places we had never been before. But we had never once looked out of the window and saw a gigantic hole in the earth. A hole so large, so magnificent, so overwhelming it could swallow a whole town without no one being the wiser.

We parked the car and practically skipped to the rim.

It went on forever. The slopes, and hills, and descends, and ascends continued for as far as I could see. How could this be here? How could something so large, so grand, so beautiful lay untouched in the middle of America. It was lovely. We both tried to take pictures but none of them seemed to capture the intensity of our view.

Suddenly, without any hesitation, I climbed to the edge of the rim and let my feet dangle over the side. I let the largeness of the Canyon envelop me. For a moment, I let myself be the speck of sand I know we all are.

I remember being fearless. I felt safe. And although I got a pit in my stomach as I watched my feet swing in the air over the gorge… I remember feeling invincible.

Maybe, subconsciously, I was thinking, “If my God could create something this magnificent, surely He can keep me out of harm’s way.”

Kristen had a harder time with the height. I had to hold her hand most of the morning.

I had joked to Kristen at breakfast, “Uhh, I think we’re setting the curve here as far as age is concerned.” It was true. We were most certainly the youngest people at the Grand Canyon by a long shot. But honestly, it was my favorite part of the trip. I am so very thankful we had the opportunity to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

  • canyon
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Saturday, March 15: The South Rim, AZ to the Hoover Dam, NV (248 miles)

What better way to celebrate seeing the Grand Canyon than stopping by ol’ Bedrock for a little photo sesh and some bottled water. Am I right? My thoughts exactly. For those of you out there looking to spice up yo’ camping life, why not check out the Flintstone’s Bedrock City Campground just a few miles south of the Canyon itself! It’s super neat and yabbadabbastic! Just be sure to blow the dust of your Aquafina…

  • fred

Anywho, the drive through Arizona was beautiful. Snow-covered mountain tops, desert, cacti, and blue skies filled our mid-day commute. The car was mostly quiet though. I guess the travel time had really started to beat us down. So I napped while Kristen sang to her road trip playlist.

As we drew near the Hoover Dam I started to make our normal stop-n-see preparations. I Google’d the quickest way to see the Dam, directions, and reviews. I read them all out loud. The reviews said something to the effect of, “Just take the Bypass and look at the Dam from there. It’s not worth driving over. No need to get out and walk the Bypass… just drive.” “Okay, so we’ll drive. Easy enough,” I thought.

But when we got to the Bypass it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. You couldn’t see the Dam. You couldn’t see the Colorado river. You couldn’t even tell you were even in the air! So, I said, “I guess we have to get off somewhere.” “We’re not stopping. I want to get to Vegas,” Kristen responded. What? It was the Hoover Dam! “What do you mean, ‘We aren’t stopping.’? It’s the f*&king Hoover Dam. You mean to tell me you can stop at f*&king Yabba-dabba-do Land but you can’t stop for the Hoover Dam?” “Yeah. I want to get to Vegas.” “It’s the Hoover Dam, Kristen. When will we ever be back here?” “Fine. F*&k it. I’m stopping.”

There. Our one “massive fight.” Literally, it lasted that long, just ask Mr. Big… he was on the phone with me for the entire thing.

Okay, so, huge traveler’s note: The Hoover Dam is nothing like you expect it to be. Have you ever seen Fool’s Rush In? You know, the one with Chandler Bing and Selma Hayek. Total fabrication… sorta. Well, the part where Selma throws the coin over the Dam and into the water as she goes over the state line. Yeah, that part… complete lie in today’s time. You see, the Dam is more like a national park (as of 2010, when the Bypass was opened). Sure, you can drive over the Dam but only if you’re going at the speed of smell.

So, we’re driving down the side of a mountain, trying to get to where we can actually see this damn Dam, and we’re going like 10 MPH. Finally, after 5-ish minutes of following an idiot in a Subaru, we get to the entrance. A Ranger of some sort approaches Kristen’s car and she rolls her window down. “Hi there. First of all, that was a 5 MPH zone back there. You were traveling too fast. Please slow it down. Also, we’re going to need you to pull forward so we can search your vehicle.” What the what? Does a car even go 5 MPH? I didn’t see anything posted. And not to mention, we were following another car… just what the hell was Ranger Joe here talkin’ about?

Anyhow, Kristen pulls forward. Another ranger approaches the car and she gets out of the driver’s seat. This is the conversation that transpired… plus, what I was dying to shout out from the front seat:

The Ranger: “Good afternoon. We’re just going to need to check your vehicle since we can’t see through the back windows.”

K: “Okay, that’s fine.”

The Ranger: “You movin’?”

MC: “Nope, was plannin’ on just throwin’ this shit over.”

K: “Yes, sir. I’m moving to California.”

The Ranger: “Where you movin’ from?”

K: “North Carolina.”

The Ranger: “Tag says DC.” 

K: “Yes, well, I was living in DC but I’m originally from North Carolina.”

The Ranger: “Where’s she (pointing to me) from.” 

K: “North Carolina.”

The Ranger: Walking around to the back now, “You got any fireworks, guns, anything like that?”

MC: “Son of a bitch. Yes. Yes we do. A whole 4-Runner’s worth of fireworks, actually. We were gonna light this place up like the Fourth of July… at three o’ clock in the afternoon.”

K: Opening the hatch, “No, sir.”

The Ranger: “What about that beer? Any of it opened?”

MC: “Yes. As a matter of fact, we just move the skis out of the way, climb under the coffee tables, and tunnel through all of the luggage when we wanna swig.”

K: “No, sir.”

The Ranger: “So, where you moving to?”

 K: “San Diego. My fiance is in the Nav-….”

The Ranger: “Oh! You’re fiance is in the Navy? Well congratulations on the move! Y’all be safe and have a good afternoon!”

From now on, my fiance is always in the Navy.

As we continued to tunnel down the mountain I noticed people hiking their way back up, “That must be how you get to the Bypass.” And then, we turned back towards the right and saw it. “You’ve got to be f*&king kidding me. That’s what we just drove over?”

The Hoover Dam Bypass is the most ridiculous piece of highway you have ever seen. Like, ever. It spans 1,900 feet wide and sits nearly 900 feet up in the air. It’s the second highest bridge in America. I almost  had a heart attack. “I would never walk over that Bypass. What are those fools thinking?”

  • dambypass

Even more so, what were the fools thinking that built the Hoover Dam! Right before we made it to the Dam, I whispered, “Kristen. I have to get out. I’m getting out of the car. I have to see it. Someone has to take pictures.” She kept her foot on the gas. “No. What if they kick us out!” “Kick us out of where! We’re on a dam for cryin’ out loud!” I opened the door and got out of the car before she even came to a complete stop.

It was amazing.

How in the world… ? How could… ? What tha…? I had a thousand questions running through my mind. Looking over the concrete barriers proved to be just as confusing to my senses as it was to my mind. My eyes had to adjust to the height, the blue of the water, the cold industrial inter-workings of the Dam, and the red peaks of the mountainside. It was gorgeous. Every ounce of the scenery was just gorgeous.

I snapped picture after picture. I ran from one side of the road to the other. My mind was racing. I called Kristen, “Dude, I got the pictures. This thing is crazy.” “Yeah, well, for a minute there I thought I was going to have to cut a U-y in the middle of the Hoover Dam. I’m on my way back to get you.”

I showed Kristen my photos after I hoped back in the car. Then, without me even provoking her, she said, “You were right. I’m glad we stopped.”

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Saturday, March 15: The Hoover Dam, NV to Las Vegas, NV (35.6 miles)

We were 19 miles away when I spotted the Stratosphere tower.

Vegas.

Mecca.

Our entire trip had been planned around this one city and we had finally made it. Pulling onto the strip is like something you will never experience again in your lifetime. People are everywhere. They are to your left, your right, in front of you, and above you. It has to be the most colorful place on earth. And despite what people might say, it is beautiful.

I had booked us a room at the Mirage. Kristen went to find us alcohol while I waited to check in… in front of a massive aquarium. The air smelled sweet. Like expensive perfume and cotton candy. I tried to eat the taste. “This is why people can’t get enough of Vegas,” I thought, “They pump coke through the air conditioner.” Kristen made it back and handed me a Corona.

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Our room was fantastic. We rolled around on the bed, took pictures of the minibar, and then called our families to tell them they probably wouldn’t be hearing from us until Sunday. We changed outfits, made our way back downstairs, and headed to the strip.

I’ve came up with the best way to describe Vegas: Every hotel is like the best, biggest, most grandiose cruise ship you could ever imagine. They have the best shows, best food, best shopping, best pools, best gambling, best rooms, the best of everything. The only exception… every one of the ships are anchored in the desert, tied together, and you can ship hop!

We drank at the Mirage. We drank at Cesar’s. We drank at the Bellagio. We walked and drank. We walked, shopped, and drank. We walked, shopped, took pictures with randos, and drank. Hell, I even got kissed… twice! Okay, so, it was just on the cheek but still… we were crazy!

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We ended up walking so far it took us like an hour to walk back. By the time we made it to the Concierge desk it was 7:00 p.m. and we were having to scrap our entire original plan. No more Sinatra’s for dinner at 8:15 and no more nekkid guys at Chippendale’s. But Kathy Griffin wasn’t such a bad trade off, I guess.

Dinner at Portofino, just downstairs in the Mirage, could not have been a better choice for us. Their meatballs and short rib lasagna were out of this planet. I literally could not move when we left dinner. And then, only walking like 200 feet to our show, was the best decision we ever made. Kathy was fantastic. We paid $67.00 for a solid 2-hour show. She was hilarious, and snarky, and so full of energy. I did feel a little bad for the old people sitting in front of us who weren’t laughing. But then again, you gotta know what you’re getting into when you go to a show like hers. Research, research, research, my peeps!

Anywho, these grannies were in bed by 12:30 a.m. Yeah, you read right. We did dinner, a show, and then bed. We didn’t get shawasted, go to duh clu’ (that’s “the club,” for you white folk), and raise any hell like we wanted. Mainly, because we knew we’d be back…

 

Sunday, March 16: Las Vegas, NV to San Diego, CA (321 miles)

After four days in a car, we thought this day would never come.

Driving through California was pretty. We passed though every type of scenery you could imagine. But really, we both just wanted to get there. We were tired of driving, and tired of hotels, and tired of packing and unpacking, and tired of road tripping.

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When we stopped for breakfast at McDonalds, just before the California state line, I nearly decapitated an entire busload of teenagers. “I don’t know why the f*&k the kids are f*&king screaming,” I said loudly into my phone as I released every bit of the frustration I had been carrying around for four days off of my shoulders and onto Mr. Bigs. “F*&king kids.” I grabbed my Filet-o-Fish combo and side of chicken nuggets and headed back out to the car. I was pissed. Pissed at the kids, pissed at McDonalds for only serving breakfast until 10:30, and pissed at Jesus for failing to grant me the ability to teleport.

Yeah, thanks a lot… Jesus.

When we pulled into Kristen’s apartment complex, and in front of her building, Dan and Duke were waiting for us. It was nice to see familiar faces. While Dan and Kristen made-out, I shot the shit with Duke. He loves me. Like, wants to lick my face off kinda love.

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That afternoon, we took Dan’s Jeep (sans the top [how California of us, I know]) to his brother’s house for dinner. We grilled out on Jim’s deck and drank green Coronas (we dyed them green for St. Patty). The five of us (Dan, Kristen, Jim, Maggie [Jim’s roommate], and I) talked about our trip, and Seaworld, and these parties where people pay for your wedding. And then later that night, after we got back home, Dan tried to introduce me to Indiana Jones flicks before we decided it was best to just call it a night.

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Monday, March 17: San Diego, CA to Coronado, CA (14.1 miles)

Monday was my day. The “whatever you want to do” day. Originally, I had wanted to drive up to LA. But after being in a car for what seemed like a month… I was over it. I can come back and do LA later. I could do the zoo, and Seaworld, and all things San Diego later. “Let’s just go to the beach,” I whined, after stuffing myself with bacon and cinnamon rolls.

So, to the beach we went.

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We loaded everything up in the Jeep and headed to Coronado. The drive to the island was so nice. And the beach was not crowded at all. It was windy out but not unbearable. The three of us sat on the beach and drank beer. I took pictures of the surf, and of my toes in the Pacific Ocean, and of Dan wrapped up like an infant. For lunch, we ate under a palm tree on the patio of a local Mexican restaurant. The food was spectacular.

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That afternoon, after naps and showers, we headed downtown to Little Italy for dinner. Davanti Enoteca and their focaccia di Recco (basically bread stuffed with the best cheese you have ever had… in your life) with the honeycomb. To die for. They don’t play around with their drinks and make their own pasta. I was in heaven. We walked our dinner off a bit and then went home. I had to pack for NC and Dan had to pack for a four-week drill to Hawaii.

The road trip, was over.

 

People ask me a lot what my favorite part of the trip was and I tell them a couple of things:

  1.  Seeing the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas all within just a few hours. All three places are so vastly different, yet, all three are equally as fantastical. One site is nature-made, God-made, untouched, pure natural beauty. The next is a mix between nature and man-made wonders. And the third is totally man-made. Each place is magnificent but in its own unique way. Having the opportunity to visit all three sites so close together makes you appreciate them more I think. I know people often take helicopter tours to the Dam and the Canyon from Vegas, but honestly, I just don’t think it’s the same as driving to each. I can’t imagine you get the same type of shock Kristen and I got when you round a corner and see the earth drop off next to you.
  2. The Colorado River gives any blue water I’ve ever seen a run for its money. No picture, description, or amount of imagery could do Lake Mead the kind of justice it deserves. I will never forget looking back and seeing that water pooled up at the base of those mountains.
  3. Lastly, and probably the most mushy: The odometer said we had traveled 2, 714.6 miles from the time we left my house until the time we pulled into Kristen’s new home in San Diego. We traveled through three different time zones, seven states, and countless cites. I have literally been from one side of this country to the other… and not once, not one city, or town, or place compares to any other country I’ve ever been to. Our home is clean, and well-kept, and neat. And most importantly, it is beautiful.
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As we rode down I-40, I thought a lot about what I would tell my future children about this trip. “Your Momma’s been to Elvis’ house, and Texas, and the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas, and to the Pacific Ocean,” I would say. I imagined their little eyes would grow large and they would pummel me with questions. I skipped ahead to times when they were a little older and I could show them pictures of all the places their Momma had been. “And this is the Cadillac Ranch were people actually paint on cars!” I would tell them. I imagined tiny giggles and fits of laughter.

But then I shook that all away…

I don’t want to tell my kids about where I’ve been…

I want to take them.

Every person should know where they come from. Every one of us should have the opportunity to see every inch of this land we pledge our allegiance to. No one should walk through life without knowing the beauty of the Colorado River, or sticking their toes in both oceans, or seeing a snow-capped mountain. The feeling I got when I sat on the edge of the South Rim… everyone should get the chance to have that feeling.

May you get yours.

God bless ‘er.

XOXO,

MC

 

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