Westward Hoecakes: Notes from the Road

So you remember how I was all, “I’m doing a cross-country road trip, and I’m going to blog ALL THE TIME from the road?”

I’m sometimes an idiot. This was one of those times.

We have ended each day road-weary, exhausted, but relatively no worse off for the wear. We’ve made it to New Mexico, and I’ve been gathering notes and thoughts and ideas along the way to share with you here.

1. Travelling with a cat. Okay. This seemed easy in theory. And generally speaking, travelling with Otis isn’t that bad. He calmed down considerably after the first day when he completely freaked out about being in a car. But finding a pet-friendly hotel for each city we stay in has been a special brand of Hell. A lot of “pet-friendly” places are only dog-friendly (haters gon’ hate).

But really, how can I stay mad when this is how Otis travels?

Otis in my lap, travelling.
Otis in my lap, travelling.

2. Gooey Butter Cake. Holy mother. This is a St. Louis signature food, and on a recommendation from my mother-in-law, we went to Kruta’s bakery in Collinsville, Illinois to pick up a Gooey Butter Cake all our own. And it was gooey, buttery, so rich, and divine. Look.

Gooey Butter Cake!
Gooey Butter Cake!

It almost glows.

So then, being a food blogger with a lovely group of readers on my Facebook page, I asked for a recipe, and a lovely lady named Belle Ann shared her recipe with us. Super, super, super excited to try it once I have access to a kitchen again. (Head on over to my Facebook page to see the recipe.)

3. I’m seeing parts of the country I’ve never seen before. I saw my first tumbleweed today (actually tumbling, might I add).

I’m also seeing tons of mountains, farmlands, and today, my first desert. I felt like a kid, staring out the window, gaping at ranches, at how big the sky is. I love watching each state give way to some new terrain, seeing how subtly lush green farmland gives way to rocky desert soil, which turns to amber plateaus dotted with trees and windmills, and I’m happy to see cows roaming along the way.

New Mexico, out my car window.
New Mexico, out my car window.

4. Today, I committed my first act of graffiti. My mom described me and Amanda as “living kind of sort of near the edge” – we’re not risk-takers, we like rules. We pulled off the road just outside of Amarillo, Texas today at Cadillac Ranch, a public art installation constructed in the 1970s that features Cadillacs buried nose-first in the ground at an angle corresponding to the Great Pyramid of Giza. At Cadillac Ranch, adding your own graffiti is encouraged, so we came prepared.

As we walked out to the cars, a can of pink spray paint in hand, I asked Amanda if she had ever graffiti’d anything before. She laughed and said no, and I confessed I hadn’t either. My spray painting experience was limited to painting floats for college Homecoming parades.

Look! I'm painting a Cadillac!
Look! I’m painting a Cadillac!

We moved from car to car, painting hearts, “A+D=<3”, a painting of Otis with his name below it, and “westward ho!” on different parts of the cars. Not edgy, but it fit us.

We made a picture for Otis since he couldn't do it himself.
We made a picture for Otis since he couldn’t do it himself.

5. My mom seemed worried, at first, about my road trip. But I have a sneaking suspicion that she’s now enjoying it, if only because it fulfills her life’s work of creating puns for any situation (next time I teach puns to college freshmen, I just need to fly my mom in to deliver the lesson).


6. Road trips are tricky. There is an attempt to strike a balance between the mission of just getting there (a matter of survival) and the mission to enjoy the journey (a matter of personal enjoyment). It’s a hard balance to strike as we end each day tired, ready to crash and read books and sleep before we get up to continue driving the next day. But we are finding ways to enjoy it – spray painting old Cadillacs, finding the occasional meal off the beaten path (tonight’s tacos and margarita were just what I needed), treating ourselves to chocolate and new CDs and pictures of the country taken through our bug-splattered windows. We’re enjoying the journey together, even while we endeavor to survive it.

13 thoughts on “Westward Hoecakes: Notes from the Road

  1. I’m loving reading about your trip cross country, Dana! We’ve travelled in NM and spent time in CA – I know what you mean about falling into bed at night exhausted. Hard to imagine why sitting in a car is so exhausting, but it is. Keep on gathering those great memories, pics, and experiences.

  2. I’ve only done a road trip across the country once, and we had to complete it in 5 days so it was more of a sprint than a trip. Still, I really enjoyed it a lot, and someday I’m planning on taking a few weeks so I can make plenty of detours along the way.

    Great post! Love the pic of Otis – so cute! 🙂

    1. Wow – five days! That’s a definite sprint! I’m enjoying the ride, though definitely ready for a break from the road. Thanks for the kind words about Otis. 🙂

  3. for SERIOUS, you were in collinsville (which is basically right next to STL where i am) and got even got a gooey butter cake but didn’t TELL ME YOU WERE BREATHING MY SAME AIR??? *mad at you* 🙂

    1. Shannon! I didn’t realize you were in STL. For some reason, I thought you were close to Chicago. If it makes you feel better, I’ll be back: my in-laws live in Collinsville. *don’t be mad!*

      1. truth be told, i would rather live closer to chicago? 🙂 lots of my relatives do, and it sounds like fun. but yes, STL, and this is happy news that your in-laws live in Collinsville. for SURE i’m not mad, but i expect advanced warning next time you’re in my neck of the woods. 🙂

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