a cross country road trip : part i
We took seven days to drive over three thousand miles, across ten different states, visit four national parks and three national moments! We started in James's hometown in north Alabama and drove west. This is the first half of our trip.
Barista Parlor; Nashville, TN.
Our first stop was coffee! We passed through Nashville a couple hours into our drive and had to stop by Barista Parlor in the Germantown neighborhood. It's a big, bright, beautifully designed space, and our cappuccinos were excellent.
Mammoth Cave National Park, KY.
Our main goal for day one was the Domes and Dripstones tour at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. It's a two hour tour that starts with a single-file descent down 280 stairs built into vertical shafts before it opens up into the giant cave system below. The tour progresses through several massive rooms that are well-established and unchanging, and ends in rooms where stalactites, stalagmites, columns and even frozen waterfalls are still forming due to water seepage. Mammoth Cave is the largest known cave system in the world! There are hundreds of miles of explored already, and they're still finding more, so we really only saw a sliver of it.
French Truck Coffee; Memphis, TN.
After our tour at Mammoth Cave, we drove into Memphis to spend the night. We were on a tight schedule, so we got in late, went to bed, and then got up early to hit the road again on day two. But again, we had to stop for some coffee, and French Truck was a lovely and cozy spot for a rainy morning.
Hot Springs National Park, AR.
After coffee, we made the drive into Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. It's a unique national park in that it's built around (or perhaps into?) a small town, which also happened to be super cute and dreamy with all the low-hanging fog. The main point of interest is called Bathhouse Row, with many of the bathhouses having been converted into various businesses - including the national park's visitor center.
After a self-guided tour of Fordyce Bathhouse, which is now both the visitor center and museum, we tried to go soak in the mineral spring pool at Quapaw Baths, but it was New Year's Eve and they were fully booked. Instead, we went to Superior Bathhouse, which is not only the first brewery at a national park, but also the first to brew with hot spring water!
Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ.
On day three we did nothing but drive. Through Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas - all the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. And then on day four we drove another few hours up to Chinle, Arizona to see Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
It's beautiful and awe-inspiring landscape located on Navajo land, that has both ruins from hundreds of years ago to working farms today. Similar to Grand Canyon National Park, it is a canyon that has both a north and south rim, with overlooks you can park and walk around. Otherwise, you'll need to hire a Navajo tour guide to actually see more. We spent about three hours here, and made it to all but one outlook, before driving onto our next destination. To be continued!