Country & Western to Rock & Roll

I know I often praise the effects of sleeping tablets for assisting in long flight survival, however, I woke up so groggy when we landed in LA that I proceeded to leave my iPad tucked in the seat pocket; and I didn’t realise until I went to use it after my shower at the hotel.

Tears ensued and I missed my Contiki pre-start meeting, BUT after an hour of back and forthing between lost property and the check in gates, a rogue Swiss employee appeared and produced my dearest possession. As I writer, I type away on this thing constantly. I use it to go to sleep (Netflix downloads are my new favourite thing). It’s my babe and let’s never ever talk about that terrible 24 hours of my life ever again.

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The next morning I met my crew, or at least laid eyes on most of 54 of us. I’m still nailing names. Is that bad? Day one, Vegas bound. Sin City for the third (and forth by the end of this trip) time in two years. Magic!

This time we stayed on Fremont street, downtown at the Golden Nugget. I love this area. It’s close to the mob museum, neon museum and the dazzling light and sound show on the largest screen in the world.

 

The first evening we went from ‘just one drink’ to dancing on the podium around the VIP area and left fifteen minutes before Zedd’s DJ set because we got bored and needed fried food.

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I chilled the eff out the next day for the first time since I started this mad adventure, and that night we went to old faithful Ghost Bar. It’s a super high and super funky bar, and they may not play my music but I always seem to work with it anyway. Alcohol, hey?

Our next destination was the ever spectacular Grand Canyon.

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We stayed in different accommodation to last time which was much cosier, and Wild Western fam you may be proud to know I chose not to have wine for dinner this time. Instead, I did a bike tour around the rim! Not all the way round, that would be ridiculous, but 9kms! Not bad for someone who hasn’t touched a bike in years.

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I also ran in to my gorgeous tour leader from last year, Kiran, and met a couple of the sweeties in her crew. Man I love fellow travel people. We’re all so gainlessly friendly and it’s beautiful.

That evening we had a picnic by the ledge with views that take my breath away every time. The goon and fireball came out, as did the cheese cubes. Life was good. Life is good.

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For my first unfamiliar destination we crossed the border to Colorado, new state! It’s an interesting place, that’s for sure. Weed is pretty much legal there, not that I partake because I’m a paranoid mess on a good day, but it did make for some local characters. That night we had a delicious dinner at a brewery and I got my first sip of pale ale since I left dear Aussie land. We followed it up with bar and booth dancing and fierce beer pong at a funky bar that reminds me of Mojos (Perth kid reference). A strange American man questioned us on the street about whether we hook up with locals (not really sir) and if we would like to kiss an American (no, but thank you for the offer). I think he thought he was doing us a service as he did strop off up the street before coming back for one more attempt. Been there, done that, thanks mate.

 

It was a bright and early start for an activity I’d been dying to do since I conquered the Swiss Alps (hah) many moons ago, white water rafting! This Rapids were only grade 2/3 so super chilled compared to what I experienced last time, which made it way more fun. Excellent banter with what I can only describe as a rafting version of surf rats made my day. I don’t know how anyone can memorise that many dirty jokes. If you ever find yourself in Dorango, give it a go. What a wicked experience and the scenery was next level. Greenery and snowy mountains? Go on then.

Sorry for the lack of photos of this one, but I’ll make up for it with the next!

Which was Albuquerque, a spot I barely grazed through last year. I continued my tradition of doing things that scare the shit out of me for absolutely no reason and decided to hit up a sunrise hot air balloon ride.

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I was totally fine while we cruised low, but as soon as we got up high, I was not fine.

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Once we hit the ground, I was fine again.

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Buck’s Fizz for all!

Little did we know the next night on tour was going to be one of the best so far. We rolled in to a town called Amarillo in North Texas and had a lot of steak and a lot of fun. Big Texan was a super quirky spot and adored by my super quirky heart. There was even a mega steak challenge.

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We played bar games until the wee hours and then set off the next morning for one of my favourites, Dallas!

Quick side note, an awesome art installation to check out just outside of Amarilllo is Cadillac Ranch.

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We stayed in Fortworth, a smaller city about thirty minutes out. We had a BBQ dinner and headed to a local bar for ladies night. $1 champagne! The night ended up a little wilder than planned.

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A really heavy but incredible experience was checking out the Sixth Floor Museum the next morning. I really didn’t know much about JFK’s assassination. It was haunting to see the big cross in the road where he was killed. I highly recommend it for anyone heaving in the Dallas.

That night was big. I went to my first Rodeo.

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Now I can say ‘this isn’t my first Rodeo’.

There were parts I liked and parts I didn’t like. I love community based nights out like that, but being as far from a farm girl as can be I found the calf wrangling a little hard to stomach.

After that adventure it was off to one epic venue, Billy Bob’s, for a country concert. Apparently Chase Rice is a big deal but I can’t really get past the name. I hugged his super sexy long haired guitarist though. You can take Miss Leigh away from her bands…

 

Next we were Memphis bound. We stopped in to Little Rock, Arkansas and learned a lot about the Civil Rights movement. This was another topic I wasn’t too familiar with. I’m really loving learning about these incredible parts of American history. People really can change the world.

Now you all know how much I adore Memphis, but this stop added a whole new layer of adoration. We stayed close to Beale St and I fell in love with the area. Murals and walking distance to some of the greatest musical venues and museums in history? Yeah go on then.

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Our first night was spent at my first minor league baseball game. Go Redbirds!

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After that I got to experience BB King’s for a second time and I haven’t grooved that hard in a while. Now THAT was soul.

Graceland time!

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They have refurbished since I was last there so I was loving the new shops. A little too much some might say. Then we headed to my favourite museum of all time: Sun Studios. The guide played us hit after hit created within those walls and I got to hold Elvis’ old mic. I couldn’t breathe. It’s still a functioning recording studio today. I am so proud of modern artists for honouring what came before them and recognising the magic of Sun Studios. Maybe one day I’ll record there (hah).

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After what might be the world’s best fried chicken at Gus’ we chilled. We knew what was coming next..

New Orleans baby!

Now I’m not much of a jazz girl so I was pretty heart broken to leave Memphis and her soul. I could easily spend a week there gig hopping. On the other hand , NOLA is wild. Just like last time it was mainly a blur, but I was pretty happy I ticked off the main touristy things last time so I could dedicate these nights to the party.

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And we did.

Next stop Florida! Read about it next time…

All my loving

Harleigh Q

xo

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Getting Our Kicks on Route 66

Howdy y’all

We did it! We survived! We decided against driving off a cliff because we just have too much to live for (like running up the Rocky steps) so here we are, and here’s some stories…

Day One – LA to Lake Havasu

Oh my God. We got a Stang.

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This is Sherry (chosen as Jess’s doggie is named Cherry, which was our first choice).

She’s a purring Angel of machinery and I only feel like a slight traitor as I was converted to Holden a while back… But bugger it I drive a Ford at home anyway. She’s been with us through sing alongs, heated debates, deep discussions and heavy gossip. She’s part of the family and giving her back is going to be heart breaking… Alas! This was day one. The adventure begins.

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I picked London Bridge Resort because of my own sentimental attachment to the actual one and only, and also because it looked cool af and had a great spot on the Californian border.

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I cannot recommend this place enough. It had the coolest vibes, heated pools, a day spa, a candle shop (far more exciting than it sounds) and stunning views of the lake. I have no idea how we managed it but we got upgraded to a bridge view from our cheap little lead in. We still had to spoon but we are used to it by now. If you’re going to do Route 66, this stop is a must!

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Day Two – Lake Havasu to Flagstaff

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Talk about a contrast in scenery, we went from desert plains to forest and mountains in a few hours. The weather changed with it too and the jumpers came out. It certainly drops off at night here.

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Along the way we visited Seligman which we had dropped by with Contiki the week before. It was photo op time! It’s a brilliant little town for the classic 66 feel and right off the highway. Chuck it on your list please.

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Flagstaff itself is a gorgeous Uni town that felt like a movie set. It was completely idyllic and the view of the snowy mountains in the distance was just the cherry on the cake. Had to have a cheeky Starbucks surrounded by students and spend a small fortune in target to really feel at home.

Day Three – Flagstaff to Albuquerque

Second five hour journey in three days… We are Perth girls, we can handle this. Right?

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We passed the border in to our first new state, New Mexico! We passed a whole load of casinos and reservations on the way in as we crossed the Navajo desert. Yay desert! I was starting to miss her. It was getting too green for my liking.

Alb herself wasn’t too much to shout about but we had limited time to check it out. It’s a big place so I’m sure we left many stones unturned, but it was Santa Fe that really drew me to NM.

Day Four – Albuquerque to Dallas

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Because we are wild things we decided the most efficient course of action was to drive ten hours, via Santa Fe, all the way down to Dallas. We were tossing up between a night in Amarillo to break it up or doing two mega days and checking out Oklahoma City too. At this point we were so excited to not set an alarm in the morning that we figured a direct trip to D town was our best go.

I booked us a downtown hotel and got this lovely message upon confirmation:

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Oh Texas.

My favourite stop on Route 66 was brief and breathtaking. An hour north of Albuquerque is the beautiful town of Santa Fe. It’s filled with markets and old buildings. The parking situation is a nightmare but how I wish we had stayed there!

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At 12pm we hit the road again and didn’t actually get to Dallas until 2am… Efficiency is not our strong point. Those who followed us on Snapchat know it was an eventful journey.

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The next day we did what we do best, wandered aimlessly and shopped. Jessie found her version of heaven. I think the entire day was her perfect day.

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A strange homeless man decided to follow us ‘for six blocks’ in order to ask us if we were hippies. Interesting. I also did that thing I do where I injured myself for no particular reason and had to disinfect my entire body just in case. Ah downtown.

We topped off the day with a visit to Denim and Diamonds on steroids, Cowboy Red River. We made some lovely local friends and I finally learned to two step!

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I was also gifted a tequila shot, which here in America means spirit glass full of tequila. I’m not complaining. We tried Whataburger on our way back to our hotel, and 5am drunk Leigh thought it was the best burger of all time. I think I’m going to have to try it again sober, as I did make the rather bold statement that it was better than In n Out.

The next day Jessie did her thing and checked out South Fork Ranch while I prepared myself (slept all day) for a visit to Gass Monkey Bar n Grill! Papi and I love this show so I was super excited to see it and maybe run in to a familiar face.

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Sadly no sign of Richard but after dinner we did find what turned out to be my version of heaven, the coolest dive bar since Sonny’s.

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Austin

Oh man. What can I say about Austin? It was wild.

We stayed in one of my favourite of places so far, the Firehouse Hostel which was downtown. It was a converted firehouse from the 1800s, hence the name, and apparently we are super likeable at 4pm because we got upgraded to the top level room. No neighbours, just us on our own floor living it large. It was glorious.

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There were three beds in there and we still opted to share. I think because neither of us wanted to give up the proper bed, not because we like each other or anything.

So apparently in Austin, Sixth Street is a thing. It’s the equivalent or Northbridge/the Valley and we were right around the corner. Awesome!

There were more bars that you could poke a stick at with every kind of theme you could think of. We started at a country bar and moved to a dive. We’ve got the compromising thing down! Then we ended up at a place I can only describe as a poor man’s Coyote Ugly. Lots of bar dancing, lots of seedy people. Jess loved it of course. As soon as we end up somewhere that plays RnB I tend to tap out but I did my best to keep up with my loon of a best mate.

That night we made friends with a homeless man who told us a whole bunch of filthy jokes. We had some jock hit us up for naughty things (managed to restrain myself from knocking his block off) and the rest was a blur of free tequila!

My favourite spot in Austin had to be the gorgeous hidden bar at the bottom of our hostel. It was literally behind a book case. It felt like you were walking in to Bugsy Malone. I was in love!

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So far we had done a lot of drinking and not a lot of sight seeing. This was about to change in…

San Antonio

We had a few people describe SA to us as ‘too busy, too touristy…’ Etc. so I suppose our expectations were a little low.

Those people were wrong!

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It’s absolutely beautiful. The Riverwalk is one of my favourite spots so far on this trip. They have restaurants all along the banks and you can do a little cruise up and down and learn about the history too. The food was excellent and we shared our seats with some hungry ducklings.

There’s a few touristy things you can do like the house of wax and haunted ride if you feel like it, but it certainly wasn’t trashy like Hollywood Bldv.

We did a spot of shopping and just wandered. We stumbled upon the Alamo and did a bit of self educating.

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Its a really beautiful place I highly recommend to anyone heading to Texas. It’s not a state I would say is unmissable… (Jess will kill me for that) but SA is worth the trip.

Houston

Oh my Houston. I absolutely fell in love. We stayed South East of the city, across the road from NASA. Best location by far. I have an awesome travel agent (my travel agent is me. I’m awesome).

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It took a long time to get through the city traffic (a 3.5 hour drive took 6) so we didn’t really see much of Houston itself, but considering the Space Centre is one of my major bucket list items this really didn’t bother me.

It did not disappoint.

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I had my mind blown on multiple occasions that day and part of me wishes I could live there just to get the annual membership.

I’m a big big nerd in case any of you fell for my cool girl act, so getting to watch the incredible presentations and walk through an actual spacecraft, touch a piece of moon rock and learn about the Mars mission had me on a total high. What a universe we live in!

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I even got a spaceglobe. I’ll have to post a photo of my mass collection when I get home.

Thank you Houston for seeing us merrily out of Texas. Thank you Shez for still running beautifully.

Next chapter… New Orleans!

The next post is sure to be a fun one.

Thanks for reading my loves ❤️

Xo