diamond digs and rock n' roll by Kayci Detweiler

We had a little bit of a drive from Dallas up to Memphis, TN, so we thought a day to break it up would be good. Why not stop in Arkansas? Then we had to figure out what we could do in Arkansas. Answer...dig for diamonds. 

Just a side note...AR was also our last camping stop, which I think it's safe to say Kelby was ready for! :) She survived camping, such a trooper.

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At Crater of Diamonds state park in AR, you can pay a small fee and then go dig in their diamond field, where numerous diamonds have been found for many years. Go figure! We decided to give it a shot. Didn't expect it to be busy, but it was packed! I guess this is the thing to do on a Saturday afternoon in Arkansas. 

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Unfortunately, although it was perfect conditions {it rained the day before, which is supposed to expose any diamonds that are close to the surface,} we were unsuccessful in our hunt. Not even my years of fossil hunting in the driveway gave me an edge. I did find some quartz and jasper, which are pretty but not too valuable. Shoot. I wanted a diamond to take home as a souvenir.

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With our diamond hopes dashed, we headed to Memphis, the home of rock n' roll. 

Buutttt, first we drove through the corner of Oklahoma to say we were there and got Sonic happy hour drinks because we're in Sonic country down here!

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Ok back to TN. We settled on two things to do while in Memphis: eat some barbecue and see Sun Studio {where artists like Johnny Cash, Elvis, BB King, and Jerry Lee Lewis all got their start.} Food and music. Seemed appropriate. 

On our way we stopped to walk down the famous Beale street...which isn't quite as hoppin' at 10:30 on a Sunday morning. Ha! But it was fun to see. 

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The tour of Sun Studios was cool...they haven't changed anything in the building since it was home to the greats like Elvis and Johnny. You can see where they recorded their first record {and hear it}, what microphone they used...fun stuff like that.

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Of course after the tour we had to listen to Johnny Cash for a while on our drive.

Our second stop was for some barbecue! We were told that one of the best spots to get great barbecue was the Memphis Barbecue Company, so we decided to stop there. Mmmm, pulled pork and sweet tea... Delicious! I feel like we got the full Memphis experience {or at least an abbreviated version.} 

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And now it's on to the big easy...New Orleans today!

living large in texas by Kayci Detweiler

Texas. For such a big state, I took a pathetically small amount of pictures! I'll try to recall where we spent our time as best I can.

Our first experience with the lone star state came on the drive from Carlsbad to San Antonio. Let me tell you....there is nothing in western Texas. Nothing but oil fields right and left. That was an uneventful drive.

In San Antonio {the furthest south we will be on this trip, believe it or not!} our day started off at the Alamo. It's kind of a strange place for a landmark...right in the middle of the city. But I guess it's good that they left it in the original spot instead of moving it out of town, or something. 

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The best part about San Antonio, and what I was most looking forward to, was the river walk. An amazing oasis in the middle of the city! So many beautiful plants and trees right alongside the shops and restaurants of downtown. Lovely.  

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We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant that's been there since the 40s with the prettiest colored umbrellas. A day well spent in San Antonio.

On toooooo..... Austin. The Portland of the south {that's what we were told at least}

Austin treated us oh so well. They know how to have a good time in Texas. We visited the White Horse, which was described to us as a "hipster honkytonk." Not sure exactly what that means, but we got to watch some great live music and witness people dancing the two step for the first time...so cool! Wish we could have taken a class or something, but it was quite intimidating to watch.  

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In the morning we went on a mission to find the best donuts in Austin {naturally, is this a surprise to anyone?}  and we FOUND THEM. Gourdough's. A food truck in an airstream trailer that sells donuts so big you have to eat them with a fork. 

These are serious donuts...we got the Fat Elvis, which was topped with peanut butter frosting, fried bananas, bacon strips, and honey. Yuuuummmmmmm.  

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Plus, the donut truck was right next to the breakfast taco truck {which is an Austin tradition that I am 100% in love with.} A perfect world? Yes. Yes in every way. 

Most amazing brunch ever.  

We explored an area of the city with cool antique shops and boutiques. Right up our alley!  

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Coming from our amazing Austin experience, we headed to Dallas to spend some time at Kelby's grandparents' house. We ended up using this as a time to rest, recharge, and get some errands done so I didn't take any pictures at all!  

Overall a great time in Texas and a nice entry into the south. Many adventures to come! 

fiestas in new mexico by Kayci Detweiler

How in the world are we to New Mexico already, that's the real question here. I mean, what?! It's been 6 weeks already. We're over half way. Yikes!

Ok, back to NM happenings. 

The most important and wonderful thing that we did in New Mexico was....the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta!!!

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It's been on my bucket list to go to this amazing festival for a couple years now, and everything worked out so wonderfully that we could make it for the opening weekend. We woke up at 4am, made coffee, and headed out...unfortunately, a normally 20 minute drive turned into a 2 hour drive to get to the field! Sooo many people out for that early in the morning. 

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But, oh, it was all worth it. The first balloons start lighting up and getting ready before the sun even comes up, and the glow is so beautiful. 

Once the mass ascension begins though, it's unreal. You can walk right up to the balloons on the field and hear them inflating all around you. The sky is full of balloons in no time! 

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Awesome. I would do it again in a second. And then we took a nap before lunch so that we could be human again. 

Other ABQ activities included dinner at the Range Cafe and drinks at Marble Brewery, as well as shopping in Old Town. We didn't have time to do much, but we also got some relaxing in, which felt so good! 

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From Albuquerque we headed south to Carlsbad Caverns. We were told we should go check out the nightly bat flight, when all of the bats that stay in the cave during the summer leave to go hunt in the evening. Unfortunately, due to rain and flash flood warnings, there was not a bat to be seen. I don't blame them...no one likes to be outside in that weather. 

We went in the morning to explore the caves. Luckily the rain didn't hamper our time here since, of course, it's all underground. It's been a while since I've been to any sort of cave, and this one was amazing! I loved exploring it a bit {on the trail, at least.} Awesome. 

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And now it's on to Texas...big things await.

colorful colorado by Kayci Detweiler

Coloradoooooo. In keeping with our recent theme, we didn’t have near enough time to explore CO and give it a fair representation, but life goes on, and so does this trip.

There were several activities that we wanted to do on our way to Denver, but since we fell behind in Utah, we didn’t have enough time to stop. Sad. Plus, it got dark before we drove through the Vail Pass area so we couldn’t even see the most beautiful scenery! Blah. Oh well.

Denver was such a lovely visit with friends Angie & Logan. They showed us a bit of the downtown, as well as some cute smaller neighborhoods in the area. We had an AWESOME breakfast at one of their favorite cafes, did some cheese tasting at the shop where Logan works, and visited a CAT CAFÉ!

Ok, cat café…this is a legit thing. You can go have coffee, tea, whatever, and play with the cats! They even have games, books, etc for people to use while they are there. A kitten and I fell in love and it broke my heart to leave him there, but alas…no room for a litter box in the car. 

After our lovely day in Denver, we headed south to Colorado Springs.

I’ve been to the Springs area several times before…let’s just take a moment to walk down memory lane {with Garden of the Gods photos}. The first time was with my family about 15 or so years ago:

The second time was for spring break in 2009:

And then this year!

Kelby has never been though, so we did the tourist thing and drove up Pike’s Peak {surprisingly terrifying once you get above the tree line} andhad some apparently “world famous” donuts. They were pretty good, in my professional opinion. 

After we made it down from the Peak successfully, we walked around Garden of the Gods for a bit to complete the tourist day.

We checked out the Olympic Training Center also, but decided against the tour since it was a little rainy and cold. {I’m obviously an athlete myself.}

Thanks to wonderful hosts and family for showing us a good time in CO! Maybe we’ll be back again someday…I hear it’s a pretty cool place to live.

wild utah by Kayci Detweiler

Ohhhh, where to even start with Utah?! We were in the area for way too short a time to even do this beautiful part of the country justice, but I will try. This will be a long post, but mostly pictures because what better way to describe the beauty than showing it to you. 

First we visited Bryce Canyon. We meant to go to Zion first, but the rock slide on the main road kept us away to give them a bit of time to clean it up. {They did, we went the next day}

But anyway...here's Bryce

Zion, my new favorite park, was the next day. I decided it was my favorite because it has the big rock faces of Yosemite, with the layered textures of Glacier, and the red colors of Bryce all mixed into one. Unfortunately, the two hikes I REALLY wanted to do, to Angels Landing and in the Narrows, were a bit too time consuming for the little time we had there. So I guess I will have to go back. 

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We took a jaunt down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon...

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Then came back up through Arizona...

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by Horseshoe Bend...

through Monument Valley...

To Arches! 

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There was so much we wanted to do through this section and just did NOT have the time. As I said, not enough to do it justice, but we had a great time in the deserts of Utah, and can say we've been! Now we know where to come back to when we get a chance, and I suppose that's something that this trip is all about. 

2 for 1 deserts by Kayci Detweiler

To pick up where I left off the last time...we were in San Diego. 

Before leaving the coast FOREVER, we decided to make a fun activity of it and try SUP {Stand Up Paddleboarding} in the Pacific Ocean at La Jolla, CA. 

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What a FUN day!! It was a little difficult to catch on to at first, but once I got my "sea legs" figured out, it was much better. I only fell down a couple times...like 3. or 4. But I had a lot of fun doing it and no major damage was done, except a sunburn. We saw some seals, rode some waves, and had a blast. I can't wait to do it again.

Oh, then we finally tried In-N-Out...like, woah. Yum.

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After bidding farewell to the coast, we headed for the desert oasis that is Palm Springs, CA, for one very important reason: we wanted to stay at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club. 

IT WAS WORTH IT.

We had such a great "splurge" night and don't regret it one bit. We lounged by the pool, listened to live music, beat the heat {lots and lots of heat} with some swimming, and just basked in the general awesomeness of the hotel. It's very retro / hipster. I loooooved it and want to go back asap. Or they can just decorate my house and I'll accept that instead.

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The glorious swimming pool that we spent hours by before we had to leave...there was even a mysterious donut pool ring when we got there at night, but it was gone in the morning before I could document. I was sad.

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After almost tearfully leaving this new favorite home, we ran into some dinosaurs on our drive to Las Vegas... {there's even a store in the one in front, I have a postcard to prove it}

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And then... Las Vegas. 

I can say with honesty that this is one stop on the trip that I'm glad I visited, but I have no desire to go back any time soon. What an insane place. Like, who thought of this idea, to put a city in the middle of the desert with TONS of money. I don't get it. But we had a laugh and some dinner while walked around the strip a bit. Great place for people watching, I will say. Not a great place to try to have conversations...it's very loud.

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...We even played some slots. Aaaaand lost like 10 dollars {collectively} so we lost faith in that scheme real fast. So much for dreams of winning enough to cover another month of this trip! Ha.

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Thanks, deserts, for being so awesome {mostly.} Now back to the wilderness for a few days while we explore Utah & Arizona!

soooooo cal by Kayci Detweiler

Ahhh, SoCal. I've been loooooooving it. Sunny, hot weather. The beach. I just can't get enough. This is something I've been waiting for the whole trip! 

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Do I want to live here? TBD. 

We started our journey south in Monterey {after returning from the wilderness.} The first day was all coast....driving down the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur, etc. Mmmmmm. We had a beautiful day for it, the sky was blue, the water was blue..everything else was mostly brown, but that's ok. To complete our experience of soaking it in, we decided to stop for a couple hours at one of the beaches we passed. Perfect decision, if you ask me. It was worth the later arrival time. 

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Santa Barbara was our destination for the night, and it was a good one. Our lovely hostess made us feel right at home, and she has a perfect porch for coffee drinking in the morning! I actually really enjoyed the town a lot, it's a bit more manageable than somewhere like LA. We visited the Saturday Farmer's Market, where you could find any sort of produce imaginable all in one place, and did some shopping downtown. And of course went to another beach before heading down to LA. 

LA was a lovely time to visit with family and friends, I enjoyed it a lot! 

We did the tourist thing at the Griffith Observatory, walked the pier in Santa Monica, and hung out in Venice for a bit before calling it a day. It takes a surprisingly long time to drive anywhere in that city, so although it doesn't sound like a lot...that took us all day. 

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Although I desperately tried to get Ellen tickets...both by requesting them several months ago and by calling 60 {yes, 60} times on the morning of the show for standby seats. Neither were successful, but we did drive by the building where she films just for the heck of it. Next time I will go!!!!!!

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On our way further down the coast we hit up Laguna Beach, and then on to San Diego. 

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Last night we indulged ourselves and had a night in with pizza and tv....sounds silly, but that's the first time we've actually sat down and just chilled in front of the tv in a couple weeks. Sometimes that is necessary. 

We took a day and adventured into Mexico. Let's just say, I was a little nervous about it. But Kelby kept a great attitude and handled the driving so I have to say, I'm glad we did it. We ended up at a little cafe that was maybe a little nicer than we were originally expecting to go, but we had some delicious tacos and the waitress put up with us not speaking spanish, so it was all good! 

And then we came back and went to the beach, of course. 

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Since it was Taco Tuesday we found a restaurant with awesome happy hour and got some more tacos and mojitos just because. Mmmmm. 

I feel like San Diego is an amazing city that we only scratched the surface of. As with most of the places we've visited, it would be completely different if you have an entire week to explore all the different areas. But. We have to pick and choose what we want to do, and most of what we want to do in Cali involves the beach! :) I'll have to come back someday and get the full tour. 

Time to head inland again! Sad. Goodbye beach, hello desert.

following the cold by Kayci Detweiler

...mainly I titled this post to pull you in. Did it work?! But it's also kind of true because it seems everywhere we go people tell us "we actually just had a cold front come through in the last day or so" and then we get to experience all the cold weather. Lucky us. Anyway, too much explaining. 

Whew, long post comin' at'cha today. It's been a busy week! But really every week so far has been busy so that isn't saying too much. Since I last wrote we've been from San Francisco to Yosemite to Mammoth and are now back on the coast {which will be a separate post.} WOW. Here goes nothing...

Oh San Fran. What a great city! We didn't have near enough time to take advantage of all it has to offer. Since both of us have been a bit before and seen some of the more touristy things, we decided that we would not put pressure on ourselves to see all the things. Instead we took a leisurely tour, doing a few things we hadn't before and resting up a bit {THANK YOU Chris & Ally for letting us invade your home for a few days!}

First of all, thanks to everyone who suggested Dynamo Donuts, they were da bomb. {!} We tried the apple maple bacon and the lemon pistachio. Excellent.

Sunday we ventured into the city to bike the Golden Gate. Props to Kelb for parking on this hill...so SF. We didn't really appreciate the hike back to the car after riding our bikes for a while, but hey, free parking is free parking. 

The bike ride across the bridge to Sausalito was a crowded one. Sunday is apparently a popular day for tourists {such as ourselves} to do this. It was also foggy and cold. In true SF fashion, we couldn't see the bridge at all until we got about 2/3 of the way across it! Then the fog lifted a bit and like magic, it was sunny. 

On Tuesday we packed up, although reluctantly, and headed to Yosemite. Unfortunately, the day we had planned to spend in the park turned out to be cold and rainy {are you seeing the cold trend here yet?} We made the best of it and tried to get in all the typical views from Glacier Point, Tunnel View, etc. A hike to Sentinal Dome was awesome, but yielded few results in the view department. But I mean, really, can you have a bad day in Yosemite? I don't think so...what an amazing place!

After a cold night of camping {again} we headed out for Mammoth Lakes, CA, in search of hot springs. To get there we had to drive the Tioga Road through Yosemite. Luckily we had a beautiful day for it this time! 

First stop in Mammoth was Devil's Postpile. Such a fascinating landmark! The columned rocks were formed from cooling lava and then exposed by glaciers...pretty cool stuff. We hiked around there a bit and even climbed to the top, where you can really see the shapes of the columns. 

Our whole reason for going to Mammoth was to find a natural hot spring, since we heard there were several in the area. We drove out in the middle of nowhere to check one out, but it was closed. Fail. After driving on dirt roads leading to nothing for another half hour, we decided to go to one of the more popular ones and hope that it wouldn't be crowded. Luckily for us, we got there as everyone was leaving! So we sat and watched the sunset over the mountains in the middle of the field, and it was awesome. 

After a TERRIBLE cold night of camping in the mountains {think 30 degrees...I guess they had a cold front come through} we were ready to head out of there ASAP. So we packed up and headed back across the mountains, with a quick stop at Lake Mono... the second largest salt lake in North America. I am sure there is much more information I could give you, but Wikipedia will do for now, as I am tired of writing. Make sure you read the part about the Tufa Towers, pictured below.

So many places to see, so little time. Now we're loving life and much warmer weather, finally, in Southern Cali, so expect a post on that soooooon {ish.}