Destination: Best Coast

Moving sucks. We all know that. Some people may try to focus on the bright side (if there is one)—it’s a chance for a new start, perhaps returning to an old life to attend to unfinished business, a new job, blah blah blah. That doesn’t change the fact that moving sucks. You have to pack your whole life (mementos from childhood, important documents, knick knacks we haven’t been able to let go of for a decade, stuffed animals an ex got us when we were sick that one time and its eye is falling out…) into boxes, and maybe pack those boxes into a giant box. Or you finally sell things you’ve toted around the country or State or county with you for the last 7 years. You have to save a LOT of money… like, a LOT of money. You have to say goodbye or see you later to friends you’ve had for years or maybe new friends you’ve only had a few months to enjoy with. You have to try to fit in things to do that you still have not yet done in the city even though you’ve lived there for half a decade. Moving sucks.

I hate moving. This is my 10th time moving, and half of those times were across town. I have moved from an island to another island about 7 hours away by plane, then from that island to the mainland US about 5 hours away by plane. Then from one coast to the other. And now I’m working my way BACK to that coast. I hate moving, but when I do it, I do it BIG.

When we first moved from California to Boston, we drove across the country and did it in 5 days. That wasn’t exactly a “see your country and all it has to offer” kind of drive. That was an “oh shit we have to get to Boston and we don’t really have any money to spend any more time doing stuff” kind of drive. While the latter is still pretty true, there’s not as much urgency to get to our destination this trip. So we at least have the luxury of time so we can enjoy the road trip this time around. Eighteen days allows for a hell of a lot more sightseeing than 5. And because I hate moving (and the Lady is not necessarily a fan), we decided to call this portion of the move our vacation. And we are going to enjoy it, dammit!

(The next couple of posts will be recaps of the trip. I hope you enjoy it as much as we are.)

Wednesday – 30 July 2014
Destination: Washington, D.C.

The first stop on our vacation was mostly so we could sleep and visit one of her (and becoming one of my) dear friends, Stephanie, and her boyfriend, Ian. It was also to give us a break from our first long drive with a cat. Oh, did I mention we also have our cat? That has added a whole other dimension to the move and vacation experience. The combination of incessant meowing, a little hairball mixed with throw-up situation, panting (which equals anxiety/fear/distress in cats), and general skittishness … well, let’s just say I have a newfound sympathy for parents who even just have to pack up all their kid’s(‘) crap AND their kid just to go to the grocery store. Damn. Mad respect. I could have an entirely different blog just for travel adventures with Nala the Cat. Hmm… But I digress.*

Washington, D.C., was our first stop. By the time we arrived (after leaving Boston 2 hours later than we anticipated), all we wanted to do was sleep. We had even made a pit stop in Connecticut to drop off some well-loved plants to another dear friend, and I took a much-needed nap. Instead of sleeping right away, though, we went out for drinks and a late dinner at this sleepy bar about a 15-minute walk from where we were staying. After driving for 9 hours (traveling for close to 11), the short walk was so welcomed. We shared great conversation, Ayari had a delicious beer, and we enjoyed a falafel that was probably only delicious because we were exhausted, maybe a little delusional, and I was famished. Overall, it was a great end to a loooooong day. Plus, Nala was out of the car.

*I will share one of the best Nala moments, though. After the first hour or so, her freaked out/anxious meows had simmered down to more I don’t like this one bit but I’m too tired to continue voicing my displeasure at such a high volume but I’m still going to voice such displeasure to remind you that I am not, in fact, happy about this whole situation. That is, we could only hear her if the windows were up and the volume on the radio was really low. ANYway. At one point, Taylor Swift’s “Trouble” (???) came on, and the radio was low (because why would you turn it up for Taylor Swift, and no, I didn’t change the station because shut up, it’s kind of catchy, okay?), and I giggle whenever I hear it because I always think of that capricious version. So, Nala had been pretty quiet up to this point—she wasn’t even meowing. Then, one perfectly-timed chorus into the song, Nala became the goat and her tiny little meow practically drowned out Taylor’s “OH!” And then we died. Because that? was AWESOME.

Thursday – 31 July 2014
Destination: Clayton, North Carolina

Unfortunately, we had to leave nice and early the next day and didn’t have much more time with our friends. Our next stop was to see fellow gastropeep and one of my Top 5 Bishes for Life, Miss TieTieBaby. Clayton, the tiny suburb of Raleigh, NC, that Tie resides in, is exactly what you’d expect. A couple of grocery stores (including an awesome Mexican store — which definitely did not exist in Boston, so you can imagine how excited we were), innumerable fast food joints, and the cutest “downtown” you’d ever see as long as you don’t blink. Needless to say, getting acquainted with Clayton, NC, wasn’t particularly the goal of the visit. Tie’s boo cooking AMAZING food, introducing them to the fantastical and life-changing gloriousness that is speculoos cookie butter, me cooking for them, sampling some of Tie’s awe-inspiring chocolates and macarons, and staying up way too late the night before we had to head to our next destination playing Mario Bros. on the Wii were definitely the highlights. The only things that would have made it better are more time with her, and if other gastropeep and 2nd member of D’s Top 5 Bishes for Life, Khalilah AKA Hali Bey AKA K$, had been there to partake in all the festivities. We felt her in spirit, though. Even when she fell asleep when she was supposed to call us back. [No side-eye whatsoever. Ahem.]

Saturday – 02 August 2014
Destination: Atlanta, GA, via Charleston, SC

We continued our journey down the Carolinas to North Charleston, SC. Entering South Carolina was one of the most bizarre experiences, I’d have to say. Billboards for something advertised as “South of the Border” (apparently the North Carolina border) peppered the side of the freeway for 30 miles. “What is this South of the Border thing,” we asked ourselves. Maybe it’s a restaurant. Maybe it’s a store. One billboard suggested we go mini-golfing. What the…? As we approached the State line, we could see a couple of giant sombreros off in the distance. …Um. It turns out that South of the Border is actually a roadside amusement park-slash-rest stop lovingly named Pedroland, complete with a mustachioed brown man wearing a sombrero and colorful clothing.

Reeeeeal great first impression, South Carolina. But at least we have an idea of where you stand on cultural appropriation and (not-so-)subtle forms of racism. That point had officially become the furthest South I’d been (not counting Florida, where I visited when I was, like, 6 years old), and I must say, it did not feel great. Then we chose to switch drivers, fill up on gas and pee at a Travel Center, which was teeming with tourist from all over the South, and some from New England (other than ourselves). Ayari came out to the car after using the bathroom like a bat out of Hell. Turns out she had a brief encounter with a nice-ish looking woman wearing a bright pink shirt emblazoned with the oh-so-uplifting message, “Keep Calm and Carry Guns.” Oh. Well, damn. We didn’t even switch drivers, and we did not exactly abide by the speed limit when we left that Travel Center (and that woman) behind.

Luckily, where we were meeting another friend and her fiancée, there were no pro-gun shirts, and no explicitly racist amusement parks, though we did eat at a “Mexican” spot (they had tacos… and churros… it was tasty). Nala was at least able to enjoy some alone time while we lunched (it was overcast, it was like 75F out, and we left the windows cracked; don’t judge us. Besides, I believe she reconciled any animosity she felt towards being in the car all this time. She totally passed out for most of the rest of the drive leaving South Carolina).

Our next destination was a city we had both wanted to visit for a while. I’m so happy we not only got the chance to visit Atlanta, GA, but we also spent a full day getting to know it a bit.

Sunday – 03 August 2014
Destination: Atlanta, GA (day 2)

I had a feeling this portion of the trip would be food-centric, considering we were staying with another gastropeep, Mabel, and her hubby, Aaron. And, oh, I was not disappointed. Ayari and Aaron had some coffee at home with delicious pan from Honduras. I kinda wished I drank coffee so I could have some, too, but they were delicious enough eating as is. We went to a brunch place, where I had the most Georgia/Southern thing I could find on the menu—pimento cheese omelet with bacon and red pepper jelly with a biscuit. I would have licked the plate but I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself. It was definitely a spiritual moment.

We walked off the food coma at the Historic Oakland Cemetery (and park). It was the first cemetery I’d seen with Confederate Army graves. I had forgotten for a bit where we were. Living in the North, and in areas of the country that were not part of the Civil War, I always had in my mind that the South were the Bad Guys, and the North were the Good Guys. So, seeing the graves of so many soldiers who lost their lives fighting for what they believed to be the right thing (or felt obligated to fight for), was jarring. I couldn’t really allow myself to really sit with that in that moment, and instead I thought about how Vampire Bill fought for the South in “True Blood,” and how annoying this and the last season are. I’ll have plenty of time to really reflect as we continue our journey, I’m sure.

After the cemetery, we drove to the Botanical Garden. We wanted to see it, but we realized too late that we had really just budgeted for food (priorities) and didn’t really plan to do stuff. So, we hung out to the gift shop for a bit, then headed to Piedmont Park.

Though it was humid and sunny, it was a great day to be at the park. I watched a gentleman fishing (successfully) for catfish and some other assorted fish in a pond. People brought loaves of bread to feed the ducks, turtles, and fish. I was kind of jealous. But it was nice to just watch kids get a kick out of feeding the wildlife. Then, it wasn’t long before the humidity was getting to all of us (and WHY did I choose to wear jeans in Atlanta!?), and we did what we all love to do—eat!

Ayari was craving hush puppies, and Mabel found a place that supposedly served the best ones in Atlanta, Porter Beer Bar in Little 5 Points. Plus, it had a TON of beers on tap. So, of course, we went there. She didn’t end up getting the hush puppies because they had bacon in them (and that’s not exactly pescatarian-friendly). Instead, she got goat cheese fritters (doused with cracked black pepper and drizzled with clover honey).

Goat cheese fritters with cracked pepper and honey. The Porter Beer Bar, Atlanta, GA.

Goat cheese fritters with cracked pepper and honey. The Porter Beer Bar, Atlanta, GA.

Holy shit.

I ended up getting another Southern dish (duh), shrimp and grits. I wanted to slather the grits all over my body, they were so freaking good. They were the most flavorful, creamiest yet lightest, grits I’d ever had in my life (yes, Khalilah, even better than the life-changing ones at Hungry Mother).

Shrimp and white cheddar grits with portobello and crimini mushrooms and truffle oil. The Porter Beer Bar, Atlanta, GA.

Shrimp and white cheddar grits with portobello and crimini mushrooms and truffle oil. The Porter Beer Bar, Atlanta, GA.

Mabel got a prosciutto sandwich with Parmesan, pickled apples, arugula, and roasted almond butter. Someone needed to be slapped for coming up with that. Because damn.

Prosciutto sandwich with Parmesan, pickled apples, arugula, and roasted almond butter. The Porter Beer Bar, Atlanta, GA.

Prosciutto sandwich with Parmesan, pickled apples, arugula, and roasted almond butter. The Porter Beer Bar, Atlanta, GA.

Aaron ordered the calamari. What’s so special about calamari, right? Oh, I don’t know, maybe when they add in some FRIED LEMON SLICES, that’s what.

Oh, and then. AND THEN. We had dessert. Milk & Honey—milk sorbet with crispy honey and tonka bean. Trust me. I know. There’s a lot of things happening with that. First, “milk sorbet?” I thought to myself, “uh, so it’s ice cream? Why can’t they just say ice cream?” When it came out, it was most definitely what could only be described as a milk sorbet – it was light and refreshing like a sorbet, but milky. Next, “how the hell do you make honey crispy?” Well, by freeze-drying it, apparently. It has the texture of honeycomb candy without being honeycomb. WHAT. Then, the big question, “What in the ever-living bejeebus is tonka bean?” Apparently, it’s in the pea family and has been used as a vanilla substitute. Oh, and the chef has fun with that, too, and freeze-dries it as well. So there’s this Styrofoam textured wafer with a slight crunch and a faint vanilla essence to add to this whole delightful situation.

Milk and Honey. The Porter Beer Bar, Atlanta, GA.

Milk and Honey. The Porter Beer Bar, Atlanta, GA.

Slapped, I tell you. Slapped right across the brilliant food-making ass face. [Deep breath] I’m okay.

We walked off “dinner” (yeah, it was like 4:00pm) by checking out shops in the area, then headed back to Mabel and Aaron’s house, where I settled into their hammock. (It’s okay. Be jealous. I don’t blame you.)

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