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The Cross Country Excursion

It was a long haul, but eventually we made it all the way.  

2,290 miles across the United States spread out over 8 days.  Sure, we took our time with the drive, dividing stretches to no longer than five or six hours, but that many miles is a long way to go. A move from "sunny California" to the midwest is something that most people view as bizarre, but in our efforts to start anew, here we've come.  

One great part of travel is the people that you come across and the stories that each individual has to share. Having booked as many affordable AirBnbs as possible, many of our stays were with regular, real people. We used this as an opportunity to get to know each person we stayed with and capture a unique portrait of who they were.

Here is the story of our eight days of driving, our new friends, and the many places we've had the pleasure of experiencing.

(Story by Jason// Photos by Jenny & Jason) 


­­­­­­Mike Mitsch, Quartz Hill, CA   Our first leg of the journey began by saying goodbye to many of my friends and family.  This is my High School Photoshop and Design teacher Mike Mitsch.  We took this impromptu portrait of him, his two giant Schnauzers, and his mini Schnauzer Rex.

­­­­­­Mike Mitsch, Quartz Hill, CA

Our first leg of the journey began by saying goodbye to many of my friends and family.  This is my High School Photoshop and Design teacher Mike Mitsch.  We took this impromptu portrait of him, his two giant Schnauzers, and his mini Schnauzer Rex.


Going Away Party, Lancaster CA   Unbeknownst to me, Jenny had arranged a "Going Away" party for me.  Many of my closest friends and family showed up to see us off across the country.  We overindulged ourselves on good beer, good food, and good times.

Going Away Party, Lancaster CA

Unbeknownst to me, Jenny had arranged a "Going Away" party for me.  Many of my closest friends and family showed up to see us off across the country.  We overindulged ourselves on good beer, good food, and good times.


Route 66 Motel, Barstow CA   We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert   when the dr... driving began to get the best of us.  Having spent the entire day packing our belongings, even the four hours to Barstow took its toll on us.  We had called ahead to get what was the last room available at the old Route 66 Motel.  The quaint motel boasted a large array of 1950's paraphernalia, reliving the heyday of the once bustling highway.   We arrived late that night around 2:30am, and were greeted by the tired owner of the establishment, Mridu.  She game us our key and told us we could stay as long as we would like, noticing our high level of exhaustion.    The next morning we awoke around 11 am and went to the office to return our key.  Mridu was there and greeted us warmly and openly asking how we slept.  We explained that we slept well and expressed our gratitude for the late welcoming the night prior.  She then went below the front desk of the highly embellished office to reveal a guestbook which she has diligently been keeping the past 30 years of here ownership of the Motel.  "People come here, and they share their stories" she stated.  She then shared with us many different stories about people who had stayed at the hotel and the stories of her and her family coming to the United States.    We graciously took this opportunity to leave our cards and sign the guestbook, leaving our mark on the place.

Route 66 Motel, Barstow CA

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the dr... driving began to get the best of us.  Having spent the entire day packing our belongings, even the four hours to Barstow took its toll on us.  We had called ahead to get what was the last room available at the old Route 66 Motel.  The quaint motel boasted a large array of 1950's paraphernalia, reliving the heyday of the once bustling highway. 

We arrived late that night around 2:30am, and were greeted by the tired owner of the establishment, Mridu.  She game us our key and told us we could stay as long as we would like, noticing our high level of exhaustion.

The next morning we awoke around 11 am and went to the office to return our key.  Mridu was there and greeted us warmly and openly asking how we slept.  We explained that we slept well and expressed our gratitude for the late welcoming the night prior.  She then went below the front desk of the highly embellished office to reveal a guestbook which she has diligently been keeping the past 30 years of here ownership of the Motel.  "People come here, and they share their stories" she stated.  She then shared with us many different stories about people who had stayed at the hotel and the stories of her and her family coming to the United States.

We graciously took this opportunity to leave our cards and sign the guestbook, leaving our mark on the place.


T-Rocks, Quartzsite, AZ   The first stop that we made in the state of Arizona was in a town called Quartzsite.  One of many roadside rock shops that dot the highway, this place stood out due to their gigantic selection of gems and stones.  We took our time looking around as the sun set over the surrounding hills.  We left with a few geodes, stones, and fossils.  I even managed to snag a cheap "grab bag" full of many small and interesting fossils.  Arizona loves their rocks and we were happy enough to pick a few up as souvenirs and gifts.

T-Rocks, Quartzsite, AZ

The first stop that we made in the state of Arizona was in a town called Quartzsite.  One of many roadside rock shops that dot the highway, this place stood out due to their gigantic selection of gems and stones.  We took our time looking around as the sun set over the surrounding hills.  We left with a few geodes, stones, and fossils.  I even managed to snag a cheap "grab bag" full of many small and interesting fossils.  Arizona loves their rocks and we were happy enough to pick a few up as souvenirs and gifts.


Northeastern Arizona   The next morning we drove on through the deserts of Arizona.  The topography of this land changes from lowland deserts to large and rolling evergreen covered hills.  Leaving California, the sight of greenery came as a welcome change to the yellowing landscape brought on by drought.  We continued on through the desert stopping for gas breaks.

Northeastern Arizona

The next morning we drove on through the deserts of Arizona.  The topography of this land changes from lowland deserts to large and rolling evergreen covered hills.  Leaving California, the sight of greenery came as a welcome change to the yellowing landscape brought on by drought.  We continued on through the desert stopping for gas breaks.


Farr's Service Station and Rainbow Rock Shop, Holbrook, AZ   Needing gas, we stopped off at a gas station in a highway town called Holbrook, AZ.  The station has never been upgraded since the time of its creation and still features vintage pumps.  Each pump dispenses a single grade of gasoline and is pumped on an "honor system" with gas being paid for only after you have filled your car.    Next to to the station was yet another Arizona rock shop.  The Rainbow Rock Shop, featured many large plaster dinosaurs with a couple in particular looking suspiciously like re-purposed Sinclair mascots.  Boasting for miles around 80 cent geodes, we ventured over to be sorely disappointing at the find.  The "famed" geodes were barely pebbles, averaging the size of half a golf ball.  The dinosaurs were interesting enough to warrant the stop however.

Farr's Service Station and Rainbow Rock Shop, Holbrook, AZ

Needing gas, we stopped off at a gas station in a highway town called Holbrook, AZ.  The station has never been upgraded since the time of its creation and still features vintage pumps.  Each pump dispenses a single grade of gasoline and is pumped on an "honor system" with gas being paid for only after you have filled your car.

Next to to the station was yet another Arizona rock shop.  The Rainbow Rock Shop, featured many large plaster dinosaurs with a couple in particular looking suspiciously like re-purposed Sinclair mascots.  Boasting for miles around 80 cent geodes, we ventured over to be sorely disappointing at the find.  The "famed" geodes were barely pebbles, averaging the size of half a golf ball.  The dinosaurs were interesting enough to warrant the stop however.


Western New Mexico   A passing storm in the open plains of Western New Mexico.

Western New Mexico

A passing storm in the open plains of Western New Mexico.


Albuquerque, NM   We arrived in Albuquerque later that night.  We had found a reasonably priced Airbnb for the night that boasted a real New Mexico theme: decorations, a wood stove, a wooden ladder to a loft bed, and many other Native American details.  We were graciously welcomed in for the night and were offered breakfast in the morning. 

Albuquerque, NM

We arrived in Albuquerque later that night.  We had found a reasonably priced Airbnb for the night that boasted a real New Mexico theme: decorations, a wood stove, a wooden ladder to a loft bed, and many other Native American details.  We were graciously welcomed in for the night and were offered breakfast in the morning. 


Danielle and Jim, Albuquerque, NM   Danielle and Jim were our welcoming hosts for our time in Albuquerque.  In the morning, we awoke to the sounds of Danielle making breakfast and speaking to her son in Dutch.    The breakfast that we were fortunate enough to be served was a delicious apple Danish pancake with a side of sausage and fresh melon from their garden.  Jim and Danielle have made the most of their backyard, converting every inch of it into a usable and productive space for food.  Areas of the yard have been converted to gardens to grow any type of plant that can take to the local soil.  Jim is an expert at knowing the best crops as well as how to maintain their growth in the New Mexico land.  The couple had also constructed several pens in which they breed cornish hens, turkeys, rabbits, and chickens.  These two are a great example of living off the land and living a sustainable lifestyle.

Danielle and Jim, Albuquerque, NM

Danielle and Jim were our welcoming hosts for our time in Albuquerque.  In the morning, we awoke to the sounds of Danielle making breakfast and speaking to her son in Dutch.

The breakfast that we were fortunate enough to be served was a delicious apple Danish pancake with a side of sausage and fresh melon from their garden.  Jim and Danielle have made the most of their backyard, converting every inch of it into a usable and productive space for food.  Areas of the yard have been converted to gardens to grow any type of plant that can take to the local soil.  Jim is an expert at knowing the best crops as well as how to maintain their growth in the New Mexico land.  The couple had also constructed several pens in which they breed cornish hens, turkeys, rabbits, and chickens.  These two are a great example of living off the land and living a sustainable lifestyle.


Clouds, Turbines, and a Fuel Stop, Western Texas   One of many stops for gas while driving across the expanses of Texas

Clouds, Turbines, and a Fuel Stop, Western Texas

One of many stops for gas while driving across the expanses of Texas


The Big Texan, Amarillo, TX   Being fans of food and the overindulgent adventures of Man vs. Food, we were more than excited for a meal at the Big Texan.  This roadside attraction is famed for their "72oz Steak Challenge".  The challenge is basically an impossible feat where a contestant has one hour to eat a 72oz steak, a baked potato, a bread roll, and a salad.  Eat it all and it's free, fail miserably and you have quite the bill to pay.  We stuck to something a little more manageable, although Jenny did contemplate attempting the challenge in the midst of her hunger.  We were lucky enough to watch two men attempt the challenge and fail.

The Big Texan, Amarillo, TX

Being fans of food and the overindulgent adventures of Man vs. Food, we were more than excited for a meal at the Big Texan.  This roadside attraction is famed for their "72oz Steak Challenge".  The challenge is basically an impossible feat where a contestant has one hour to eat a 72oz steak, a baked potato, a bread roll, and a salad.  Eat it all and it's free, fail miserably and you have quite the bill to pay.  We stuck to something a little more manageable, although Jenny did contemplate attempting the challenge in the midst of her hunger.  We were lucky enough to watch two men attempt the challenge and fail.


Dianne and Matt, Amarillo, TX   Following our dinner and the ensuing food coma which one can only experience after a pound of Texan beef, we awoke at the home of Dianne and Matt in Amarillo, Texas.  Another great find on AirBnB, these two treated us to a warm and friendly morning breakfast.      While sitting around the breakfast table, we got to know the story of this great couple.  Both teachers, they had worked for the Department of Defense over their long and exciting careers.  The knowledge and positivity that these two had to share was amazing.  Teaching had brought them around the globe, having taught for 11 years in Japan and 9 Years in Italy.  The time spent in Japan was reflected in the Asian decor that resided within the home.    Dianne taught music, and Matt English, making them both high supporters of intellectual thought and the arts.  They were an overall pleasure to meet.

Dianne and Matt, Amarillo, TX

Following our dinner and the ensuing food coma which one can only experience after a pound of Texan beef, we awoke at the home of Dianne and Matt in Amarillo, Texas.  Another great find on AirBnB, these two treated us to a warm and friendly morning breakfast.  

While sitting around the breakfast table, we got to know the story of this great couple.  Both teachers, they had worked for the Department of Defense over their long and exciting careers.  The knowledge and positivity that these two had to share was amazing.  Teaching had brought them around the globe, having taught for 11 years in Japan and 9 Years in Italy.  The time spent in Japan was reflected in the Asian decor that resided within the home.

Dianne taught music, and Matt English, making them both high supporters of intellectual thought and the arts.  They were an overall pleasure to meet.


Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX   Cadillac Ranch is one of those places that screams tourist trap. The place is a great stop to break up the monotony of a long drive, however, due to its interactivity.  People are encouraged to take part in the piece and spray paint their own pieces onto the cars.  We did not happen to bring paint with us, but other visitors were more than happy to share their unused supplies with us.  We took some time to climb around and leave our own touch on a few of the cars.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX

Cadillac Ranch is one of those places that screams tourist trap. The place is a great stop to break up the monotony of a long drive, however, due to its interactivity.  People are encouraged to take part in the piece and spray paint their own pieces onto the cars.  We did not happen to bring paint with us, but other visitors were more than happy to share their unused supplies with us.  We took some time to climb around and leave our own touch on a few of the cars.


Oklahoma Native American Store, Oklahoma   It's a store that sells Native American things... that are mostly manufactured in China.

Oklahoma Native American Store, Oklahoma

It's a store that sells Native American things... that are mostly manufactured in China.


Farmhouse Stay, Piedmont, OK   The farmhouse in which we stayed was another great portion of the journey.  Located in the small town of Piedmont just outside of OKC, we were eager to explore the grounds surrounding the main house.  We took the first bit of our afternoon to explore some pastures and old building having been encouraged to do so by the land's owner Leif.      Later that night we headed into town to experience Oklahoma's oldest bar, Eischen's.  They are world famous for their fried chicken, so we ordered one as well as a frito pie just to make the meal a little worse for us.  The food was just as expected and definitely worth the hype.    We returned to the property later that night and were greeted by Lief and his fiance Lacie.  Mentioning that we were both photographers, Lacie made mention of a need for engagement photos.      We were both excited to have the opportunity to help the couple out, as well as get some awesome rustic engagement shots.  Leif wanted to keep things local his property since it meant a lot to him.  We were more than happy to oblige, as the ground of the farm were a great setting for a country photo session.

Farmhouse Stay, Piedmont, OK

The farmhouse in which we stayed was another great portion of the journey.  Located in the small town of Piedmont just outside of OKC, we were eager to explore the grounds surrounding the main house.  We took the first bit of our afternoon to explore some pastures and old building having been encouraged to do so by the land's owner Leif.  

Later that night we headed into town to experience Oklahoma's oldest bar, Eischen's.  They are world famous for their fried chicken, so we ordered one as well as a frito pie just to make the meal a little worse for us.  The food was just as expected and definitely worth the hype.

We returned to the property later that night and were greeted by Lief and his fiance Lacie.  Mentioning that we were both photographers, Lacie made mention of a need for engagement photos.  

We were both excited to have the opportunity to help the couple out, as well as get some awesome rustic engagement shots.  Leif wanted to keep things local his property since it meant a lot to him.  We were more than happy to oblige, as the ground of the farm were a great setting for a country photo session.


Leif and Lacie, Engagement Session, Piedmont, OK   We awoke early the next morning to make best use of the sunrise light.  Not often do you get the luxury of not needing to travel to the location of a shoot, so we wanted to make the most of it.  Having taken the time the day before to explore the ground of the farm, we were prepared with several locations around the property that we wanted to utilize.  The couple were a blast to work with and made the experience an overall great time.  Afterwards, we took a couple of new photos for the couples AirBnB listing to help show people how great of a place the property really was.

Leif and Lacie, Engagement Session, Piedmont, OK

We awoke early the next morning to make best use of the sunrise light.  Not often do you get the luxury of not needing to travel to the location of a shoot, so we wanted to make the most of it.  Having taken the time the day before to explore the ground of the farm, we were prepared with several locations around the property that we wanted to utilize.  The couple were a blast to work with and made the experience an overall great time.  Afterwards, we took a couple of new photos for the couples AirBnB listing to help show people how great of a place the property really was.


Visit with Keith Sparks, Tulsa, OK   Leaving Piedmont, we made a stop in Tulsa, Oklahoma to stop by the Praire Ales Brewery for Jenny's birthday which happened to be that day  . We also paid a visit to my cousin-in-law(?), Keith who happened to live in Tulsa at the time.  He was more than happy to show us around the city of Tulsa which was surprisingly more lively than one would think.  We also made a stop by a local liquor store to stock up on the hard to acquire Praire Bomb Stout.  We spent a few hours in Tulsa, had some food, and then parted ways to head toward Springfield, Missouri.

Visit with Keith Sparks, Tulsa, OK

Leaving Piedmont, we made a stop in Tulsa, Oklahoma to stop by the Praire Ales Brewery for Jenny's birthday which happened to be that day. We also paid a visit to my cousin-in-law(?), Keith who happened to live in Tulsa at the time.  He was more than happy to show us around the city of Tulsa which was surprisingly more lively than one would think.  We also made a stop by a local liquor store to stock up on the hard to acquire Praire Bomb Stout.  We spent a few hours in Tulsa, had some food, and then parted ways to head toward Springfield, Missouri.


Springfield, MO   We arrived in the next stop on our drive, Springfield, MI, late that night at another AirBnB that we had found which belonged to a student named Sam. Sam was not there that night, but had left us a key to our room.  The room was clean, nice, and another welcoming place to stay that night.     We awoke in the morning to Sam leaving for an obligation, so we did not get the opportunity to take his portrait.  We took some time to take a couple of portraits around the home and gear up for the rest of the day.

Springfield, MO

We arrived in the next stop on our drive, Springfield, MI, late that night at another AirBnB that we had found which belonged to a student named Sam. Sam was not there that night, but had left us a key to our room.  The room was clean, nice, and another welcoming place to stay that night. 

We awoke in the morning to Sam leaving for an obligation, so we did not get the opportunity to take his portrait.  We took some time to take a couple of portraits around the home and gear up for the rest of the day.


Bass Pro Shop HQ, Springfield, MI   For those of you that are not aware, the corporate headquarters of Bass Pro Shop is located in Springfield, MI.  If you have never experience a Bass Pro Shop, then you are really missing out.  Even if you do not have a need for outdoor, hunting, or camping gear, the stores are interesting enough to warrant a visit.  This particular location was quite a site, however, and was more like an aquarium/museum than a store.  It boasted giant fish tanks, a pit of alligators, a history of elk in Missouri exhibit, a national gun exhibit, a national bow display exhibit, a fish feeding auditorium, and tons of other interesting things. We even got a free hot dog and free funnel cake.  The stop was definitely vastly more interesting than I had thought it would be. 

Bass Pro Shop HQ, Springfield, MI

For those of you that are not aware, the corporate headquarters of Bass Pro Shop is located in Springfield, MI.  If you have never experience a Bass Pro Shop, then you are really missing out.  Even if you do not have a need for outdoor, hunting, or camping gear, the stores are interesting enough to warrant a visit.  This particular location was quite a site, however, and was more like an aquarium/museum than a store.  It boasted giant fish tanks, a pit of alligators, a history of elk in Missouri exhibit, a national gun exhibit, a national bow display exhibit, a fish feeding auditorium, and tons of other interesting things. We even got a free hot dog and free funnel cake.  The stop was definitely vastly more interesting than I had thought it would be. 


Fantastic Caverns, Springfield, MO   The Fantastic Caverns is the only drive thru cavern system in the United States.  We were immediately intrigued to see what it was like in this ancient underground stream, so we made another stop.  We were lucky enough to get to sit in the front of the the tram in the back of one of the jeeps used for the tour.  The tour was interesting enough with several stops at which rangers explained the details of the forms and history of the caverns.  Near the end of the ride a short and very dated film was shown to further explain the earlier uses of the caverns. 

Fantastic Caverns, Springfield, MO

The Fantastic Caverns is the only drive thru cavern system in the United States.  We were immediately intrigued to see what it was like in this ancient underground stream, so we made another stop.  We were lucky enough to get to sit in the front of the the tram in the back of one of the jeeps used for the tour.  The tour was interesting enough with several stops at which rangers explained the details of the forms and history of the caverns.  Near the end of the ride a short and very dated film was shown to further explain the earlier uses of the caverns. 


Saint Louis, MO   The last location which we stayed was located in Saint Louis, Missouri.  There are many exciting things to see in St. Louis, or so we were told.  We got into town relatively late and only briefly met the owner of the night's location, Christine.  She was on her way out of town for a couple of days, so she showed us around our home for the night.  We were greeted by two affectionate cats in the room in which we were to stay.  These two would become our companions for the rest of the night.  After getting settled into the room, we headed to a local sandwich shop to get some dinner and a beer.    We awoke the next morning with plans to see the St. Louis Arch.  Having spent so many days driving, many of which occurred in dark hours, we decided to abandon our plans to see St. Louis for a later time.  We took to the highway to finish the final 6 hours of our drive.    We made it to our final location at a reasonable time and got to work in unpacking the trailer that had made it so far with us.  Unloading the trailer and returning it to the rental location was a welcome relief with the knowledge that we would now have a place to stay for more than a few hours.

Saint Louis, MO

The last location which we stayed was located in Saint Louis, Missouri.  There are many exciting things to see in St. Louis, or so we were told.  We got into town relatively late and only briefly met the owner of the night's location, Christine.  She was on her way out of town for a couple of days, so she showed us around our home for the night.  We were greeted by two affectionate cats in the room in which we were to stay.  These two would become our companions for the rest of the night.  After getting settled into the room, we headed to a local sandwich shop to get some dinner and a beer.

We awoke the next morning with plans to see the St. Louis Arch.  Having spent so many days driving, many of which occurred in dark hours, we decided to abandon our plans to see St. Louis for a later time.  We took to the highway to finish the final 6 hours of our drive.

We made it to our final location at a reasonable time and got to work in unpacking the trailer that had made it so far with us.  Unloading the trailer and returning it to the rental location was a welcome relief with the knowledge that we would now have a place to stay for more than a few hours.


Having made it to our final location was the official beginning to our new life, and a fresh start to our new business adventure.  Every day is a new and exciting opportunity and we can't wait to see where things go from here on out.

Thanks for taking the time to take a look at the first of many adventures.

Best,

Jason and Jenny