I recently went on a big road trip from Seattle to Miami. I needed to clear all the stuff out of my father's house and there were a lot of things I wanted to keep from my childhood or stuff I had been storing in Miami for years. I spent about $130 a month for more than 10 years on a storage unit. I finally moved all that stuff to my dad's house a couple years ago.
I thought long and hard about whether is made more sense to fly down and spend a bunch of money shipping everything back to Seattle or drive down and pack my car up with stuff and drive back. I calculated gas and hotel bills, vs the fact that I wouldn't need to Uber or rent a car while I was in Miami for probably a month. After they numbers came out close to even I realized, of course I should drive. This presents me with an experience it would be hard to do again. I drove from Miami to Seattle when I moved there 12 or 13 years ago. The drive gave me more memories per day than anything I have done since. Central BBQ in Memphis I still think about, they had some damn good ribs. The best actually. I consider the whole trip a great experience even though I got very sick right at the start of the drive and had to stop by a hospital in Boise Idaho because my eyes became very badly infected. When I drove through the snow covered valleys with one lone black line of road going through the middle at night my blurry eyes made it seem like I was in a dream.
I decided to take a separate route this time, I was going to keep north and then head south at Milwauki. I left Saturday morning and had a pretty good idea of what my path would be, but I didn't want to commit to any specific time schedule or towns. I did a trip like that through California a while back where every hotel was booked in advance and it became a grind knowing we had to get to specific cities by the end of the day.
I decided to play a little game a long the way and google the best hamburger in every city. My first stop was Spokane Washington. The first thing you notice entering Spokane is almost every building is made out of red bricks and they are all ugly as hell. I stopped at Michiginburger and had a pretty good hamburger. They were all about grinding their own meats, and had a bunch of sausages on the menu as well. It had a thick patty cooked perfectly. The neighborhoods reminded of something you'd see in a movie.
Next I headed to Misoula Montana. In my GPS I just entered Misoula, and I followed it all the way which took me to the center of downtown. After getting out of Eastern Washington through the top tip of Idaho, Montana was just beautiful huge mountains. It made me realize Montana probably means mountain country, which I looked up just now and confirmed. It's hours and hours of driving through mountains, very little cities and a few beautiful lakes here and there.
Misoula was not at all what I expected a city in Montana to look like. I envisioned a bunch of old bars, mills, some diners but It was a pretty modern looking, happening place. It had one big strip with most of the restaurants, a lot of them looked interesting. I am thankful google exists on our phone now so you don't just have to take a gamble that the place your going to eat at is good. I went to Holiday inn to get a room but they were sold out, the next closest hotel was the Marriot which was quite a step up in price, but also in quality. I got a beautiful room with a fridge, huge bathroom, stove, etc. I realized my original budget was going to be blown very quickly.
It was right in the middle of all the restaurants and stuff on the strip. I realized it's worth the extra money to be right where the action is and not have to drive in. When I had to have my house tented I got an AirBNB for a couple nights right in Brickell Miami, and just being able to go down the elevator, walk a block and go to an amazing Argentinian restaurant, then walk another block and relax in a cigar lounge made me realize what a luxury a good hotel location was.
So that's what I did here, just went down, found a bar that had good reviews and ate there. I was going to go to one of the many restaurants but it seems standard for restaurants in Misoula to close at 8pm and I went out looking for a place to eat at about 7:40pm. The bars were open until 2am however so I went there got a delicious crab slider and a lamb slider, a few scotches and watched the UFC that night. After smoking a cigar on a bench on a path with a beautiful view I went to bed.
The next morning I was off, the logical place to stop and get lunch was Billings, which is the largest city in the state. I didn't think that meant much as all the cities were so small, but when I got there it was a legit big city with urban sprawl and everything except a well defined downtown with skyscrapers. I stopped at Mooyah which had a very high rating for burgers. It was a chain, but it had probably the best burger I tried the whole trip. Just a good smash burger with a special sauce. After getting a coffee and getting gas I kept driving east, not really exploring Billings at all.
At this point the unending landscape coming at me made me think of simulation theory. It felt like being in a video game that was just generating random mountains and landscape for hours and hours. I felt like I was getting a real sense for how large this planet really is.
Next stop was Rapid City South Dakota. I stopped at a Texas Roadhouse and got a pretty decent steak with mushrooms and onions, a beer and a scotch. There were two other guys at the bar, all of them on their way to somewhere else. One guy had just come from Washington and was making his way to Ft Meyers, almost the exact same trip as me, the other was heading to some city for work, I forget what he did for work. The next big city is Sioux Falls which was about 7.5 hours away which apparently made it the last stop of the day for many people traveling east through that area. Another good feature of Rapid City is it's located about 45 minutes from Mt Rushmore which was something I wanted to make sure I saw on this trip.
I stayed at a reasonable hotel and got up the next morning to see Mt Rushmore. On the way, there is a whole town right before you get to Rushmore cashing in on the fact that everyone who passes through is there to see Mt Rushmore. I drove past all that, and got to the mountain. You can see it off in the distance at first. It's an interesting feeling seeing something you've seen so many times in photographs throughout your whole life for the first time in real life.
Once you get very close you can park and walk up to an observation area. It was interesting how many people from other countries were there considering it's iconic of America and pretty deep in the middle of the country, but the crowd was very diverse. After seeing it you realize little details that aren't translated through pictures. Washington's eyes in particular had a very deep piercing quality to them. Another thing I realized is that depending on what time of day you got there, you'd see a slightly different version of it because of the shadows would be at different angles.
I was probably there for 20 minutes, but after staring at something for so long, no matter how iconic there isn't much else to be gleaned from it. On my way to Sioux falls, I had to get an oil change but there were no Jiffy Lubes which is my usual place so I went to a Valvoline. I waited in the car while they changed the oil and replaced my break light researching the best burger place to go to. There were several lists from my Google search and what I generally look for is a place that is mentioned on two different "Best Hamburger places in ..." lists. Sickies Garage kept showing up and I asked the guy changing my oil where the best place was to get a hamburger in the area. He said Sickes without hesitation which is the confirmation I was looking for.
I sat down had a beer and ordered their signature burger, which was topped with pork and a fried egg. I took pleasure in the fact that I was getting three animals with each bite.
After that I just drove east until I got tired, and found a hotel for $60 bucks a night. This would make for what I spent on the Marriott in Misoula, but it was not worth it. The place did not feel clean, when I laid in bed I felt a rock between the bed sheet and the mattress. I spent about an hour killing all the flies in the room because I couldn't stand the thought of them landing on me when I was sleeping, and when I laid down on the bed I got asthma which lasted my entire stay in the room. I have no idea what was causing it. I woke up and got the hell out of there first thing in the morning and made my way to Milwauke.
I've always wanted to visit Milwaukee for some reason, it might just be the sound of the name. It was one of the cities I was certainly going to stay at on this trip. I went to a place call AJ Bombers, it had a good burger with heavy onions, but I saw the fried cheese curds on the menu and being in Wisconsin, a place most known for cheese, I decided I had to give them a try and they did not disappoint, they were the best friend cheese curds I've ever had. I asked the guy serving me what is good to do in the area so he gave me a list of bars/clubs/restaurants he wrote down for me. He told me to go to the Bronze Fonz, which I did, and happened to be about 2 minutes away from where I was. It also happened to be right on the river in downtown so I walked around there for a little bit and then headed to Starbucks to see if I could get some work done.
I asked the Barista where to go and she give me the name of a place on a strip. I then found an Irish themed hotel a few blocks away with an Irish pub in the bottom. I went there. It was a good price room and it had a Jacuzzi in it which was great. I did some more work in my hotel room and then around 6 I went down to the bar, asked if I could order a Guiness and take it back to my room and put it on my hotel bill which I could which was great.
Then I finished up work and got a Macallan 12 and he poured me what I would normally consider a triple. I then walked off to the place the girl from Starbucks told me about which was about 7 block away. It was a long strip of restaurants, had a similar vibe to Fremont in Seattle. After walking down the strip a bit I went to a Italian place called Dorsia and had Duck Carbanara which was amazing, asked the bartender to get my whatever the last person had which was a double rum and coke. Then I got a bourbon which was like a triple. Apparently they don't fuck around with their alcohol in Milwaukee.
I walked down and found a cigar lounge which was great, and I just sat outside and smoked while watching people walk by, and listening to the people at the table next to me debate over who was better, Trump or Biden. Surprisingly they didn't resolve the issue.
I went back to the hotel, went to sleep, then about 4 hours later I woke up thirsty as often happens, but I had a terrible thought. Did I forget to bring the keys to my dad's house? I leaned over and looked in my computer bag and confirmed they were not there. I wasn't able to fall back asleep as I was stressed about arriving in Miami with no place to stay. I thought about trying to get one of my roommates to get into my room and find the key and Fedex it over night to one of my friends in Miami, but then I'd have to Fedex a key to my room to them, then pay for another overnight which is $50.00 each way. Also I wasn't keen on people searching through all my stuff for a key. I decided the best thing to do was get a Locksmith to come and get me in and re-do my lock so I'd have a key. So forgetting the key ended up being a $160 mistake. I wondered what would have happened if I had discovered this 8 hours in to my trip, would I have turned back to the key?
Next destination was Indianapolis. I did a bit of research on foods it was famous for which was a fried pork sirloin sandwich. Apparently you can't get these kind of sandwiches anywhere but Indianapolis, so I found the best place to get one. Steer-In, which was a diner. On the way there I saw a sign for a White Castle. I'd never been to one before, and had no idea they were around these parts. I made a quick turn off the off ramp and went to the mythical White Castle. Harald and Kumar go to White Castle, the Beastie Boys's many references. This was a huge check off my bucket list, which I had no idea I would check off on this trip. I got the double slider, a fries and a coke. It was remarkably like the frozen ones I'd tried in the grocery store, but still delicious in it's own unhealthy way. It's a mystery how they pack so many calories into something so un-filling. The fries and the coke filled me up though.
Now I was only about 40 minutes from Indianapolis and I still really wanted to try that pork sandwich, which I did but I was at gastrointestinal capacity. Being full as hell, drank too much the night before, and on 4 hours sleep, I decided to forget Louisville and just get a hotel after a few more hours of driving. I found a nice place and there was a BBQ place next to it calling Rubbing Butts which I felt obligated to go to because of the name. This ended up being the first and only cuisinel disappointment of the trip. I got a brisket sandwich which was way too tough, and broccoli as a side that seemed like it had just been microwaved.
The night I got a cigar and hung out in the parking lot and watched all the fireflies blinking in the distance and right in front of me on occasion.
Next stop was Nashville. From what I could find Peg Leg Porker was the best BBQ place in Nashville, which surprisingly didn't have any BBQ places on any national lists of best BBQ. I skipped breakfast in order to make sure I could fully enjoy their offerings, and I got there just as it opened at 11. I walked into the place which was full of deep southern accents, and south hospitality. People truly are friendlier in the south. I had to park and actually get change for a meter, which I haven't done in probably 15 years at least. I got their ribs, a side of mac n cheese, and a side of BBQ beans. Both sides were excellent and the ribs were second only to Central BBQ in Memphis Tennessee. I'm glad I got there when I did as the line was starting to build up out the door.
I found a place in Atlanta called Heirloom Market BBQ. It was listed as one of the best 25 places in the nation so I headed over there. It's interesting, when you go somewhere that has such a reputation and they are just a little place next to a convenience store in a random neighborhood. I got the Brisket sandwich with the regular BBQ sauce. It was pretty good but nothing special. There was a list of like 10 different kinds of BBQ sauces and I think one can't really appreciate this place with just one visit. They seemed to have some Asian-BBQ fusion sauces which looked interesting, maybe I'll stop by again if I'm ever in the area.
Next I just headed south and wanted to get as many hours driving as I could so there would be as few hours left for the next day as possible. I hit Florida, which really does have it's own vibe. I ended up stopping in Gainesville which I had never been to, but I wouldn't see much of it since I got a hotel at about 11pm and left around 8pm. This was the first hotel serving a real breakfast with eggs and biscuits, other places were just giving way paper bags with a muffin or something in them because of Covid. It was nice to start off with a good egg breakfast. I called the locksmith and scheduled an appointment at the house at 3:30pm. I got there at 3:25pm, and the locksmith was right on time. Isn't modern life amazing? WIthout a GPS to help me scheduled I'd probably have had to wait for an hour or two because I wouldn't have been able to schedule ahead of time.
I got in, and I lived happily ever after.