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Darling Daughter's & Dad's Amazing Adventures - Part 1

Fifteen years ago this summer Darling Daughter (DD) and I climbed into my red convertible and took off on what would become a more than 5,000 mile road trip from Iowa to Los Angeles, seeing all sorts of sites between: Oklahoma City, Roswell and Santa Fe, New Mexico, Amarillo, Texas, and a few others on the way west.

Photo of young girl wearing sunglasses standing in front of convertible car with snack foods in hand
Throwback to 2007 - Darling Daughter and I fill up the gas tank, and our own tanks, as we begin our 5,000 mile, 15-day trip to California and back. **

In LA we stayed in a hotel not too far from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, toured Warner Brothers, walked down Rodeo Drive, visited Venice Beach, made the requisite stop at Disneyland and she took a surfing lesson. (Little did we know back in 2007 that DD would eventually move west and now live just five miles from Disneyland.)

When it came time for the return trip east I asked if she wanted to go north or south. She randomly chose south leading to nights in San Diego, San Antonio and New Orleans along the way home.

It was a 15-day trip, beginning just a couple weeks after she’d graduated from high school. (Connie, her mother and my wife, died a year earlier.)

DD would be heading off to college in the fall. The trip was a celebration of the start of her new life ahead and a chance to spend some real time together before she left the house, not knowing if time would ever allow us to do something like it again. It was great.

I can't tell you how happy it makes me that it was not our last big road trip together.

We’re big Gilmore Girls fans. We kind of look at ourselves as the father/daughter version of Lorelai and Rory. The show’s theme song was the music for our Father/Daughter dance at her recent wedding.

While in New Orleans she half-jokingly, half-seriously said she wanted to come back to celebrate her 21st, legal drinking age, birthday. It was a nod to the Gilmore Girls episode where Lorelai and Rory plan to go to Atlantic City for Rory’s 21st birthday and play 21 and buy 21 things and, well, you get the idea.

I didn’t say anything at the time but always kept DD’s comment in mind. Sadly, when she did turn 21, with her September birthday and college classes just starting up, it wasn’t possible to make it happen.

However, that was nothing but a mere technicality.

Defaulting to Plan B, we did the next best thing and spent New Year’s Eve there instead. New Orleans might not be as crazy then as it is during Mardi Gras but, especially with 60,000 crazed college football fans in town for the Sugar Bowl game at the same time, it has to be a pretty close second.

One of the best stories from that trip occurred when we were sitting in a small bar just off Bourbon Street and a mounted police officer came through the front door on his horse. But I digress.

Photo of man and woman, with beads around their necks and a police car barely showing behind them.
New Orleans, 2009. That may or may not be a police car behind us. **

A quick New Orleans tip, we stayed in a hotel a block off Bourbon Street but didn’t spend all that much time in that area, it’s just way too crowded. Instead we walked a few blocks down to Frenchmen Street. I'll do the same again if I ever find my way back to the Big Easy. I have nothing to back it up but I always say it has the feeling of being where locals go to party. It can still be pretty crazy but at least you can get a drink.

Seven years ago DD completed her Master’s in Fine Arts at Cal State Fullerton and another trip was in order. We met in San Francisco, spent a couple nights in a fun little hotel literally steps from Dragon Gate, the main entrance to Chinatown, We explored that part of the city, took a side trip to Haight-Ashbury, rented a car and headed north to Napa Valley.

We drove as far as Healdsburg and then turned around and spent several days hitting wineries, and few breweries, on the drive back south to her apartment in Orange County.

Over the years we’ve also had a fair share of shorter day or weekend trips. Each time I think it could be the last. She has a grown-up life with grown-up schedules and responsibilities. I understand that makes it increasingly difficult to take a week or so off and spend it galivanting around with your father so I cherish each trip and the time we have together.

I know, that’s a rather long way of getting to present time but hey, sometimes that happens, I’m here now.

A year ago, give or take, I was visiting DD and then Fiancé, now Husband, out in California. Their wedding was a year off and they were talking about honeymoon plans.

The wedding was to be here in Iowa and they kind of liked the idea of a road trip honeymoon, driving back to California after the wedding.

The problem, of course, was that renting a car to drive back was somewhat cost prohibitive so how were they going to get their car to Iowa? DD’s job allows her flexibility in time but she didn’t want to drive their car all that way alone.

It took me about two seconds to jump in, volunteer to fly out to California and join her for the drive back. I wasn’t sure if she’d appreciate that idea or not but her eyes instantly got big and just like that the trip was on. I couldn’t have been happier.

I have a ton of stories to tell about the trip. Some of the sites I will share in future posts. I’ve already hit on the Cabazon Dinosaurs and Rattlesnake Ranch.

Rather than go into detail, instead I’m just going to post some random photos and descriptions from some of the highlights along the way:

Pre-Trip Frivolities

There were a few pre-trip activities. We took in a Los Angeles Dodgers game on Friday night, allowing me to check off a spot on my "to do" list. I've wanted to see the park for a long time and it did not disappoint. It's worth a visit for any baseball fan, even a Twins fan like me who still remembers losing a World Series to the Dodgers back in the Sixties.

My only negative comment is the ticket price. It was worth it to me as a one-time thing but we counted the number of children in attendance on one hand. Which is a very sad statement for the future of the game. If kids can't afford to see a game, then where will the fans of tomorrow come from? (Our seats were second row, second deck, and were more than $300 for the pair. In comparison, I'm heading up to a Twins game soon and my fourth row seat off the end of the third base dugout was $95.)

We made a quick stop at Mother Plucker Feather Company along the way to the stadium to pick up feather boas for DD's wedding. This place is a hoot. They don't allow photos inside but imagine a place where drag queen's go to buy boas. Their feathered wings are amazing. You can see some photos on their instagram site.

Our final stop came Saturday night, taking in the play American Idiot at Chance Theatre. DD designed the set for the production and this was the first time I'd been able to see one of her plays since she moved out west. Have to admit more than a bit of father's pride seeing her black and white headshot on display with the other directors and actors. (Middle row on the left.)

Dinosaurs and Beer French Toast

Rattlesnake Ranch and the Cabazon Dinosaurs were the first couple of stops along our way. I posted previously about them here. However, you do get hungry on long road trips so lunch happened in between at Spotted Dog Brewery.

I couldn't resist the Fried Bier de Toast A'la Mode - fried cereal coated beer French toast topped with butter pecan ice cream and a white chocolate caramel drizzle. And yes, those are garlic French fries in the background. I was keeping with a French theme thing there.

I'm not going to tell you how much weight I gained on this trip, but it was worth it.

Tucson and the Crooked Tooth

We spent a night in Tuscon, Arizona, and from what little we saw it looks like a pretty cool place. We loved Crooked Tooth Brewing, an LGBQT friendly brewery downtown.

Fredericksburg is on my list to visit again

Fredericksburg, Texas, was a quick stop but I'm really hoping to be back that way some day. What a great little town. Lunch came at Fredericksburg Brewing, the oldest brewpub in Texas, (I had the bread pudding, of course) and both DD and I freaked out at Pottery Ranch, billing itself as the Coolest Store Ever. I can't say if that's true but it's definitely in the running.

San Antonio, the Pearl and River Walk

San Antonio was a must-do stop where we caught up with Rachel, one of DD's bridesmaids, and her husband Michael. They gave us a great tour of the Pearl Brewing area, an historic old brewing plant converted into shops, hotel and restaurants. It also provided the perfect backdrop for a Best Quality Daughter photo of DD. Not that I'm braggin' or nothin'.

I've included a photo of the parking garage not far from that area just because I think it's such a neat idea to paint the pillars this way. It really helps to dress up what is normally a pretty boring and utilitarian space.

We also had to hit up the River Walk. I've been to San Antonio a few times and always enjoy my visits there. It was a little late by the time we arrived at the walk but we still managed to find a few drinks before heading back to the hotel. We couldn't resist those Old Fashions at Otro, a rooftop bar right on the River Walk.

If you're still with me, check out the next half of the adventure including Austin, Memphis and St. Louis!


**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address,, or a link back to this page.


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