My Friend is getting Married!

My friend told me he was getting married in early October on a Sunday. It was going to be tough, because I'd either have to fly back after the wedding (cutting it tight) or take the next day off (not happening). Plus I hate flying. So I decided to schedule my 2 week vacation around his wedding, and plan a 2 week roadtrip around my vacation! I decided to drive back to Cleveland to see friends and Buffalo to see my parents, then check out parts of North Carolina and Tennessee I hadn't seen before. I even got to go back to some of my favorite stops from my first big road trip. Let's get moving!

Day 1: Dallas TX to Kansas City MO

STOPS: KC Royals Game, Westport KC

First day of the roadtrip! I drove 8hrs from Dallas to Kansas City. I met my friend at Kauffman Stadium to watch the Indians lose to the Royals. We then went out with his riend to Westport to enjoy the Kansas City bars and scenery.

Day's Mileage: 523

Total Mileage: 523 (523/day)

States Visited: Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri

Total States Visited: 3

Day 2: Kansas City MO to St Louis MO

STOPS: Piasa Bird, Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, Gateway Arch National Park

I slept in a bit but got on the road (I-70E) to traverse Missouri, not much to see. I actually went to Alton Illinois to see a mural of the Piasa Bird, a supposed legendary creature that lives in caves in the area. It's just a big painting on the rock cliff, but it's kind of cool to see. I drove back to Missouri through the bird sanctuary, then back (again) to Illinois to the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park. It has an elevated lookout point to view the arch and city, complete with a statue of Mr. Martin enjoying the view as well. I crossed the bridge and went to enjoy the perfect fall weather and got some amazing shots of the Gateway Arch. I drove past the City Museum and Laumeier Sculpture Garden, just to scope them out, before meeting up with the parents of a med school classmate, who were kind enough to host me for the evening.

Day's Mileage: 327

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: Missouri, Illinois

Total States Visited: 4

Day 3: St Louis MO to Indianapolis IN

STOPS: Jug Rock Nature Preserve, Gus Grissom Memorial, Bluespring Caverns, IU, Soldiers and Sailors Monument, USS Indianapolis memorial, Nine Irish Brothers

Slept in again today (wow) before heading off from St. Louis. Crossed through southern Illinois and headed to Shoals to see Jug Rock, the "largest free-standing rock structure east of the Mississippi River." From there I stopped in Mitchell to see the Gus Grissom Memorial, Bedford to take a trip on an underground river at Bluespring Caverns, and Bloomington to see IU and a giant brain sculpture. I made it to Indy, dropping off some things at my AirBNB first before checking out the Soldiers and Sailors Monument downtown and the USS Indianapolis memorial near the canal. I ate dinner at Nine Irish Brothers before calling it a night.

Day's Mileage: 363

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana

Total States Visited: 5

Day 4: Indianapolis IN to Cleveland OH

STOPS: National Museum of the US Air Force

Got up a little earlier today to get to the National Museum of the US Air Force. It consists of four hangers completely filled with aircraft of every shape and size. I could have spent hours there, but I lost track of which aircraft was which and had enough. I then made my way to Cleveland to see all of my med school buddies and to see all my favorite spots.

Day's Mileage: 351

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: Indiana, Ohio

Total States Visited: 6

Day 5: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

STOPS: David Berger National Memorial, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Rising Grill Korean BBQ

I thought I forgot socks so I went to Target...turns out they were just packed extra deep in a bag. Since I was already heading east, I stopped by the Cleveland JCC to see the David Berger National Memorial (and get my stamp). I then went down to Independence to start the trail through Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Somehow I lived in Cleveland for 4 years and only went once. I didn't think the overlooks were that great, but the waterfalls were beautiful. Definitely wish I had gone for a bike ride here. I met back up with my friends and we all went to Rising Grill for dinner, then built a backyard fire to enjoy my last little bit of time in Cleveland.

Day's Mileage: 88

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: Ohio

Total States Visited: 6

Day 6: Cleveland OH to Buffalo NY

STOPS: Lakeview Cemetery, Joe Shuster's House, Marble and Rye

I drove around taking pictures of the Lakeview Cemetery, and a couple other places I'd never been to before. Superman was created in Cleveland and I'd never been to the homes of the creators. I was able to stop and take pictures of Joe Shuster's house, but the other house was in a sketchy looking area so I decided it not best to stop for long. I got on the highway and headed home, getting dinner with my family at Marble and Rye.

Day's Mileage: 259

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York

Total States Visited: 8

Day 7: Buffalo NY


Today I went to the gym and that's about it. Family came over and ate some delicious dinner.

Day's Mileage: 10

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: New York

Total States Visited: 8

Day 8: Buffalo NY to Front Royal VA

STOPS: Front Royal

I picked up one of my high school friends and we drove through rainstorms (and a West Virginia town fair) to reach Virginia for our friend's wedding. I haven't camped since high school but I borrowed my parents' tent and set it up for the stay. We hung out all day/night and did a little music jam, then got some amazing pictures of the stars in the woods.

Day's Mileage: 426

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia

Total States Visited: 11

Day 9: Wedding Day


Today was the big day! We got breakfast then had a little time before we needed to get ready for the wedding, so we drove into Shenandoah National Park to check out a couple of the scenic views. Pretty neat. We went back to the wedding site to get dressed in suits (with bowties) in the 80+ degree weather. The wedding was amazing, no one could see my tears of joy through all the sweat pouring down my face. The party afterwards was amazing and the wedding band was ridiculously awesome. Late at night we created "fire in a bottle" (see pictures) and got a couple more star shots, but they weren't up to the same level as the first night.

Day's Mileage: 20

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: Virginia

Total States Visited: 11

Day 10: Front Royal VA to Charlotte NC

STOPS: Shenandoah National Park, Natural Bridge State Park

We packed up our tents and after dropping off a friend at the car rental place, I met my other friend back in Shenandoah National Park and we headed south down Skyline Drive. There are 75ish overlooks, but we picked out 10 good ones and threw in a few extras as we went. The weather and view were perfect for photos, and I got some great shots. He headed straight to Charlotte but I took a detour to Natural Bridge State Park to see the infamous "natural bridge" and a tiny waterfall. Now extremely late, I made the rest of the drive in the dark, reaching Charlotte after 10 where my friend had a chicken finger sub waiting for me.

Day's Mileage: ***

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: Virginia, North Carolina

Total States Visited: 12

Day 11: Charlotte NC to Durham NC

STOPS: Bank of America Stadium, Marshall Park, Lebowski's, Smelly Cat Coffee House, Food World, Letters Bookshop, Namu.

I'd never been to Charlotte before and it was dark when I arrived, so I did a little exploring this morning. I stopped by the Carolina Panthers stadium where there are giant (anatomically-correct) panther statues. I then went to my friend's workplace, where he does custom 3D printing. I stopped at Marshall Park to get some skyline pictures, then went to Lewbowski's for some Buffalo-style beef on weck and Smelly Cat Coffee House for coffee. I made my way to Durham, stopping at Food World for some Irish Moss Peanut Drink and Letters Bookshop for some books. I stayed with friends from med school, we went to Namu for korean bowls before watching some Friends, so I could learn what Smelly Cat is.

Day's Mileage: 167

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: North Carolina

Total States Visited: 12

Day 12: Durham NC to Asheville NC

STOPS: Rise, Monuts, Duke Lemur Center, Guasaca, Funkatorium, Buxton Hall

Today was a day of wonderful food! For breakfast I ate chicken biscuits at Rise and Monuts (Rise wins). Then I took pictures with the Durham Bull sculpture before showing up to the Duke Lemur Center for a tour. I saw SO MANY lemurs and they were all super adorable. Highly recommend. I then made my last stops at Guasaca for arepas and Cocoa Cinnamon for coffee then went to Asheville. I stopped by the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center, stopped by my AirBNB, then went to the Funkatorium for an overwhelming amount of sour beer and Buxton Hall for BBQ (including pork hash).

Day's Mileage: 267

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: North Carolina

Total States Visited: 12

Day 13: Asheville NC to Knoxville TN

STOPS: Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, Stock and Barrel

I woke up a little early today to hit the road in the pouring rain thanks to the long reach of Hurricane Michael. Driving Blue Ridge Parkway in the dark with pouring rain is not an experience I'd recommend. I eventually got some good shots of the foggy scenery and made it into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I drove around, hiking to Clingman's Dome in the complete fog, and driving the slow loop around Cade's Cove, stuck behind people who apparently think it's appropriate to slow down every time you pass a tree. My favorite overlook is the first one on the right side, heading from Sugarlands Visitor Center to Cade's Cove. I did the Roaring Fork Motor Trail which had some good views and I even saw a baby black bear. I went to Ripley's Aquarium for a quick visit before going to my favorite viewpoint for the sunset, then headed BACK to Ripley's to see the rest of the exhibits I missed. I made it to my AirBNB around 9PM and got a burger at Stock and Barrel before going to sleep.

Day's Mileage: 254

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: North Carolina, Tennessee

Total States Visited: 13

Day 14: Knoxville TN to Chattanooga TN

STOPS: American Museum of Science and Energy, Maple Street Biscuit Company, International Friendship Bell, The Other One, Overlook Park, Flying Squirrel

Today I had to get to Oak Ridge at 9AM to sign up for a bus tour of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, formerly part of the Manhattan Project. On my way there, I noticed my phone wasn't charging - not good. I got a tour spot then ate a delicious chicken biscuit at Maple Street Biscuit Company. Fortunately there was a Verizon store nearby and I was able to trade in for a new phone. I made the tour at 11:30, which took us past some of the historic sites and gave us a background of the role Oak Ridge played during WWII. However, we didn't get to see a ton so it wasn't super exciting. I picked up my stamp at the nearby children's museum and rang the International Friendship Bell in a park. I also ate a delicious burger at The Other One before heading to Chattanooga. I played with the AirBNB cat for a bit then found the perfect spot to watch the sunset over Lookout Mountain, probably one of the best sunsets I've ever seen. I ate dinner at the Flying Squirrel and picked up a 6-pack of Jackalope beer (from Nashville) before going to bed.

Day's Mileage: 160

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: Tennessee

Total States Visited: 13

Day 15: Chattanooga TN to Birmingham AL

STOPS: Bluegrass Grill, Sculpture Fields, Point Park, ROck City, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Desoto State Park, Vulcan

This morning I went to the Bluegrass Grill for breakfast. I noticed Sculpture Fields nearby, which had some of the best lighting I've ever had. Personally, I think my photos would make great Pink Floyd album covers. I drove to Lookout Mountain to see Point Park, which has an unbelievable view of Chattanooga and the surrounding area. Before leaving the area, I had to check out Rock City, which was honestly better than expected. The scenery was pretty cool, it was relatively low-key, and the view was great. From there, I went to Little River Canyon National Preserve and Desoto State Park to see waterfalls, canyons, and a few tiny pitcher plants. I made my way to Birmingham to Vulcan Park, where there was a wedding happening. Fortunately they opened up the observation deck eventually so I got some pictures of the sun setting near Birmingham. I tried to get BBQ near my AirBNB but there was a train blocking EVERY intersection so I gave up.

Day's Mileage: 212

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: Tennessee, Alabama

Total States Visited: 14

Day 16: Birmingham AL to Jackson MS

STOPS: Alabama Biscuit Co., Kelly Ingram Park, Capitol Park, Riverwalk, Dreamland BBQ, Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences, Cock of the Walk

I slept in a little, packed up, and went to Alabama Biscuit Co for one of the best chicken biscuits I've had. I went back to Kelly Ingram park (one of my favorite stops) for a few pictures. I drove to Tuscaloosa, stopped by Capitol Park and the Riverwalk, drove past the stadium (ROLL TIDE) and went to Dreamland BBQ. It was just as disappointing as its Birmingham counterpart. I drove a few more hours to Jackson, where I went to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. I was super impressed by the exhibits, mainly because they had a ton of live fish and reptiles, which made for some of the best photos I've gotten thus far. I checked in at my AirBNB then headed up to the reservoir for my last few sunset pics of the trip. For dinner I ate at Cock of the Walk (urologically relevant), which only serves fried catfish or chicken. Got the full southern experience, I guess.

Day's Mileage: 288

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: Alabama, Mississippi

Total States Visited: 15

Day 17: Jackson MS to Dallas TX

STOPS: Medgar Evers home, Mississippi Petrified Forest, The Pig & Pint, Cedar Hill Cemetery, USS Cairo, Marilynn's Place

Sadly, the last day of the trip. I started out by getting a "tour" of Medgar Evers home, considered a national historic landmark. I accidentally crashed a tour group in the midst of their tour. I won't say too much about Mr. Evers and his life, but I'd highly recommend doing some reading (I'm going to do some myself). From there, I went to my favorite stop from my first road trip: the Mississippi Petrified Forest! Now better prepared, I got a ton of pictures of the different gems and minerals on exhibit, and some of the cat too. I ate lunch at The Pig & Pint, which was some of the best brisket I've ever had (sorry Texas). I drove to Vicksburg to see the grave of a Confederate Camel and the remains of the USS Cairo. I also stopped by a lookout point on the Mississippi river. I continued onwards to Shreveport, eating some authentic cajun food at Marilynn's Place, then finishing my whole trip with three hours of driving in drizzly weather. All in all, a great trip!

Day's Mileage: 474

Total Mileage: ***

States Visited: Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas

Total States Visited: 17