Road Trip

I am planning an epic road trip.

It’s also a move. From San Diego to New York City. I have to say goodbye to this beautiful Californian city I’ve called home for nearly the last two years, and I’m a bit sad about that, though I am excited for all that awaits me on the East Coast.

I could have drawn a straight line connecting these two cities, but I’ve really been itching for an adventure, and so a simple road trip becomes an epic solo one.

The cities, in order of my arrival: Los Angeles. Santa Barbara. San Francisco. Napa. Sacramento. Portland. Victoria, BC. Vancouver, BC. Seattle. Spokane. Jackson, WY. Lincoln, NE. Omaha. Des Moines. Chicago. Cleveland. Somewhere in PA. New York City (well, technically to my parents’ home in NJ).

My departure date: June 21st, the summer solstice. (I’ve always loved lining up events with astronomical dates of significance.)

I’m excited. But I also need to ask a favor of you. Two in fact.

First, are there any sights you recommend I see along the way? Any restaurants or bakeries or cafes I simply must go to? I’m hoping you can help plan my itinerary.  Or maybe you’d like to meet up for coffee if the city belongs to you?

Second, I have friends to say with in some places, but in others I don’t know anyone at all and I have no place to stay yet.  If you’re from one of these cities, could you suggest an affordable place to stay? Or perhaps you’d be willing to put me up for a night in exchange for a delicious home-cooked meal? (I come with my own air mattress and everything.)

As Blanche DuBois from Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire says: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Though you’re all friends, even if we’ve never officially met.

{photographs by John Kernick}


  • Tamara

    That is an epic road trip! How fun. I just finished a pretty big one myself, and I’m seriously, seriously contemplating a move too.

    For SF, but I’d vote for classic dim sum (at Yank Sing) and seeing Clarion Alley. The next day, I’d a stop in Sausalito when you cross the bridge, for breakfast and then at Point Reyes National Seashore.

    Chicago I know a little better. Neighborhoods are way better than downtown, excepting the museums, major outdoor sculptures, and the Tribune Building. My votes for food would be Ann Sathers for lingonberry pancakes, a real Chicago hot dog, and lunch or dinner at Vong’s Thai kitchen (lunch for the desserts, the passion fruit souffle is in mini portions for $1-2 then and proof there must be a higher being). Devon Street for perusing Indian goodies or Argyle for all things Asian. Chicago theatre that, imo, beats NY quite a bit of the time too, but summer isn’t always a great time for that. Victory Gardens, the Looking Glass, and Steppenwolf (main of the smaller one) are all good ones to check schedules for. The lake! Millennium Park is downtown and definitely worth a peek too. I’d love to hear if any of my suggestions were good ones for you.

    I don’t know your other cities very well at all and I am pretty sure I’m south of your route (I’m in the middle of MO in a little college town), but what a great list of cities! I’d really like to go see Seattle/Portland/Vancouver/Banff sometime soon. When its warm.

  • Michelle

    I have never been on a road trip on my own before, but just reading about the places that you are planning to go to sounds absolutely amazing! I have only been to Texas and Louisiana so I don’t know much about the other states. Are you really moving? :O What made you want to move, if I may ask? I got to stay in NY for a day, but I would love to come visit some day. Perhaps for my masters when I am done here in CA.

  • Kim

    Super exciting. I’m not in any of those big cities, but good luck on your trip. So jealous of your move to NYC!

  • Emily

    I wish I could take this journey with you. It sounds wonderful and epic :). I wish I had some suggestions of places or a friend to recommend you contact but I haven’t been to most of those places :(. I hope you have an amazing time.

    LOVE! ~E

  • Kirby {Colors of Honey}

    I’m a little more well versed in the midwest section of your trip. I would say that between Omaha and Des Moines you could hit some AMAZING thift/antique stores. You’ll also come across some random food stands at the end of driveways filled with fresh, home-grown veggies and fruit! and looks like every saturday there is a farmers market in Des Moines;

    some off the path recommendations for you. you will be so close to mount Rushmore and the badlands in South dakota! try to head over there after Jackson, WY. drive east on 90 then once you’ve hit those two cut down on 83 which will connect you back up to 80 to Lincoln. I’ve been to the badlands and the blackhills(where mount rushmore is) a handful of times and it never gets old.

    Your road trip is very much making me want a trip of my own… when the time is right I’m going to take advantage and have an epic road trip for myself! yippie!

  • Carolyn

    Whoa! You are SO ambitious! That’s awesome, Brandi! If you’re in Western New York at any point, you have a place to stay and food to eat! I can’t wait to hear/see all about your adventure!

  • Hip Hip Gin Gin

    This road trip sounds amazing!! What an exciting way to start the new chapter of your life! You are going to a few places that have been on my wish list for a while, I can’t wait to hear all about it =)

  • Rouenna

    Oh, a road trip! What an adventure. Good luck to your move and I hope you’ll have a wonderful time going to these places. Hope you’ll post tidbits about your travels too. :)

  • Amy@OldSweetSong

    AWESOME! I wish I could come with. It does sound epic. And amazing. And I’m so jealous. Very, very excited to have you back in NYC though. I can’t wait to officially “meet” and catch up in person over a bottle of wine. xo

  • {be merry} kate

    Somewhere in PA?!?! Pittsburgh love! Granted, that’s only a couple hours away from Cleveland, but still, you should definitely stop in! We have an extra bed if needed in J’s office and my kitchen is tiny but it could be a fun experience! Shoot me an email! If not – then coffee is a must!

    As for sights, Chicago of course is easy… anything and everything. Between Chicago and Cleveland can be a very boring drive. But you drive right by Notre Dame and my beautiful Saint Mary’s College… they are right off the highway about 90 miles east of Chicago. After that, there isn’t much until Cleveland. Lots of farm land, maybe a few antique shops if you dig! Word to the wise though, once you’re in Ohio the quality of rest stops dwindles until you get to Cleveland.


  • Erin at Such Small Steps

    In Santa Barbara you must go to Renaud’s Patisserie on North State St. Amazing French pastries. And it’s next door to my favorite independent bookstore in the area, Chaucer’s. I have a ton of LA recs but it kind of depends on what area you’re in since it’s hard to navigate across town with traffic!

  • Erin

    As soon as I saw the title of this post I was excited!!! Wheee! Road trip, here you come! I can’t wait for you to get here. Oh the fun we will have! The places I’ll take you! And {of course} the delicious food we will eat!

    Let me think a bit about Vancouver. I’m sure I’ve got some places to recommend…

    We should skype again soon.

  • Erin

    Oh, and let me ask my friend Em what she recommends for Oregon, Washington and Vancouver area… she did a big road trip of her own last July!

  • Amy

    What a road trip!!! Your adventure sounds like it’s going to be a wonderful one – I wish you all the best, Brandi!

    Please let me know when you’re in Los Angeles. I may be moving back by the beginning of June, and would love to catch up with you then! (And you are more than welcomed to stay with my family and me! ) :) If I’m no longer in SF by the time you make it up here, take a moment to relax in the sun at Dolores Park. It’s a great place to soak in the city, grab a bite of pizza from Delfina, some incredible desserts from Tartine, and then ice-cream from our famous Bi-Rite Creamery. Or swing by the Ferry Building if you find yourself in the city on a Saturday morning. We have one of the best Farmer’s Market, with great music, people, food and breakfast. You can find great food in this city for much less than what people think.

    Santa Barbara was a gem when my then-bf and I went. We actually skipped SB, but drove into Lompac, Solvang and Los Alamos. There’s this wonderful little restaurant called Full of Life (!!) that has some of the best flatbread dishes and local cuisine. It’s in the strangest of places, on a road with just a few restaurants and hotels; it’s got a rustic charm and just something very friendly and wonderful about it. Good food too.

  • Ana

    That WILL be epic. I wish I was there to tag along or to host you. I hope you find incredible and kind people that open their homes to you. You are amazing.

  • Dancing Branflake

    You can always stay with me! Although, I don’t know if you want to stay in Sacramento. I bet you’re leaning more toward SF, huh? I cannot wait to see you!

  • La Feem

    You’re going to have one epic adventure for sure!!

  • Dorkys

    Oh how exciting!! The east coast will welcome you for sure, though you might kick yourself come winter time. I hope you have a wonderful road trip. I’m totally envious of people like you who have the guts to just up and explore the world. Oh someday I’ll finally leave NYC and experience something else for a while…

  • Padgett

    Your tour guide/bedroom/adventure awaits you in Jackson Hole!! whoo hooo!

  • kimbirdy

    there are so many places along the west coast that i would recommend, but i’m not sure how much time you’ll have. in northern CA there’s mount shasta. it’s one of the prettiest sights along your drive {possibly THE prettiest sight along your route}, but don’t worry, you won’t have to go out of your way to see it. the highway runs right past through a valley. it’s gorgeous! my dad lives in idaho, just a couple hours before jackson. the country is beautiful there, but nothing really to do on a road trip.

    i feel like your pretty well set for san francisco right? and if you need any help when you’re there just give me a call. i’m also a huge fan of portland and chicago {i’ll tell you my favorite places later}. i’ve only been to the zoo in omaha, but i know lincoln, a little better. i’m not a big fan of pennsylvania. you could easily just drive home after cleveland with a quick stop at an amish restaurant for the experience maybe?

    i love a good road trip, and have been all over the country so let me know if you still need help after everyone gives you their suggestions. this is going to be an amazing adventure!

  • lizzie

    that sounds AMAZING. i have a list a mile long of excellent places in chicago, let me know when you’re ready for it :)

  • Maddie

    This sounds amazing! I so wish we could meet up in Portland :( or that you were driving through the South a little ways but I don’t blame you, those are all lovely places to visit. I posted about all my favorite spots in Portland a while back but just a reminder, go to the food carts downtown!!! You won’t be disappointed. And make sure to take a walk on the waterfront. The weather should be pretty beautiful at that time. “Should” being the key word there because Portland can be crummy and raining no matter what month it is. Keep us updated on your travel plans, I’m sure this will lend itself to some wonderful posts!!


  • Joyti

    San Francisco…I agree with Tamara that Yank Sing is pretty amazing…and its a nice experience too. I also say you should check out the Ferry Building (which is practically down the street – you could walk to it) for its little food-oriented shops and if you’re there on a Saturday, the farmer’s mkt – and pick up some tea at Samovar (there’s three locations) if you like tea.
    If you’re heading to Berkeley – Ici for ice cream, and passing through Oakland – Bakesale Betty for fried chicken sandwiches that people line up around the block for!

  • Vi

    You will be well taken care of for SF, Napa, and Sacramento! Yay!!

  • keishua

    that is an epic road trip. it seems super exciting. wow, and full of possibilities. i am in ky, if you get lost in Ohio and want to dip down.

  • Jordan

    Are you kidding? This is so exciting!

    I will definitely be coming to NY to visit you!!! I’ve wanted to go badly but was always scared to venture into a big city on my first time traveling alone. But now? I’ll for sure come & explore the city with you. :)


  • allyn

    you are going to have an incredible adventure. i just know it! i ‘m sad that you’ll be that much further away but the prospect of a long weekend in new york with a foodie friend is even more enticing! i cannot wait for you to drive through. i’ll take you to my favorite eating spots. exciting exciting!

  • Meagan

    WOW! Might I say I’m a little bit jealous of your epic solo road trip?! I don’t think I could ever do it, but I’d love to do this with my husband. So much beauty is to be seen in those places. You’re going to have SO MUCH FUN! And congrats on your move!

    I’m not sure if I’ll still be a Chicago resident by the time you make it through here but I’d love to offer you a place to stay! If you’re going to be passing through Louisville and we’re living there I’ll definitely let you stay there, too! :)

  • Brittany

    oh my gosh, your trip sounds like a dream! it’s sure to be such an amazing experience. would love to meet up in Portland. let’s discus ;)

  • Gloria

    what an awesome road trip! i’ll be living vicariously through your travels, as i haven’t been to most of the places on your list :-)

  • Jo

    What an amazing adventure!!
    I know you have L.A. friends, but if you need a place to crash or need a caffeine buddy, let me know.

  • Angel @ | 77inspire |

    Oh my goodness. You’re moving what a wonderful change in your life! and this road trip sounds awesome. I’m not sure i really like road trip are are thatttt long but it sounds like a real adventure. I’ll be in orange county if you stop by there :)

  • katie

    what?1!?!? where did i miss that you’re moving?!?! i thought this brooklyn loft thing was a fantasy…way, way off in distant lands…
    ugh!! when will you be in los angeles?!?!

  • paula w

    let me know what your plans are for Portland – I am pretty just across the bridge and have a guest room that is open! :)

  • SAZ

    I’m a Chicagoian born and raised now living in Victoria, BC. Random, right?
    You can get caught in some tourist-y spots in Victoria so let me recommended Habit coffee on Pandora Street for your morning caffeine fix and Mole (right next door) for breakfast. Lunchtime should be spend in the queue for Red Fish Blue Fish on the dock of the Inner Harbor but it is totally worth it and totally Victoria. Dinner could be at Zambri’s for Italian, Stage for small bites and wine, or Ulla for fresh local food (I have never left even a morsel of food on my plate!)
    There are some wonderful wineries to visit, bike rides or hikes should you want some nature and of course shopping. There are also some amazing cooking schools with nightly classes. Drop me a line if you’d like some more info!

  • Kaylia Payne

    Wow, that sounds absolutely amazing! You are so brave :) Sadly I can’t offer you a place to stay on this trip, but if you ever come to Australia then my home is yours :) xoxo

  • honeymyheart

    your trip’s city outline looks like an epic adventure!! i live in sb, and if you have time, would love to say hello/take you to some fun food places. so excited for you :)

  • Sana, So Does Estella

    I will be SO happy to have you close by. Instead of giving you more suggestions on where to stop along the way…how about I just start drafting the list of where we need to go when you get here. :)

  • Eva @ Four Leaf Clover

    You are amazing, B! I don’t quite know what to say except for wowza! Epic indeed, I wish I could watch the movie! : ) No suggestions/help here from me as I’m in Switzerland and have never really explored the places you’re going to, but I wish you the best of luck! That sounds like the absolute perfect adventure after your time in California.

  • Mo

    You’re going to have an amazing time. :)
    I second Mount Shasta as a Norcal native, and even though I’m from the Sactown area I don’t really have any recommendations. Just be warned it’s gonna be HOT in Sacramento at the end of June, so be sure to pack some shorts and wear some sunscreen.

  • Colleen / Inspired to Share

    Wow, this is so exciting!!! I looove San Diego but New York is amazing too! I have dreams to live in both places : ) I could have some ideas for Chicago, but also a little plug – I’m only an hour (ish) north in Milwaukee if you’d care to venture! ; ) xo

  • Gabriella {sensiblyluxe}

    It sounds like your are all taken care of for Northern California, and I doubt you’d want to stay in our sleepy suburb anyway, but I hope you make time for our tea date! xx

  • Bron

    And why isn’t Australia in this “little” roadtrip? Hmmm? Yes, I know you can’t drive here, but still!! ;-)
    Sounds like a really awesome trip you’ll be having. Unfortunately, I have no tips because I’ve never been to those places.
    I may have missed a post or two, but why are you moving to New York? Have you finished your studies?

  • melissa

    i can’t wait to have you here….yeah!

  • Pilar

    omgasssh, this sounds like so much fun, Brandi! I will email you some of my favorite spots in the cities I have been too in your planned road trip. Also, I will be visiting Chicago for the first time this week, I’ll let you know how I like it. xoxo

  • C

    you are welcome, my dear, to stay in my huge (and empty) living room in Portland Oregon. I am also sleeping on an air mattress so it can be a super fun slumber party. I have extra blankets if needed, but it will be summer so probably not. (you never know in portland)
    now that I read the other comments I see I am not the only one in portland. maybe a mini meet up when you are here for the portland ladies and you? fun? cupcakes? maybe some champagne, seriously we could ALL have a sleepover in my living room. That empty and big.

  • thais

    how exciting!! I love road trips and took a long one last year from seattle to san diego. I would love to meet up for coffee and like even best for you to count on me and my home if you need to. happy for you!

  • vivien @ the eclectic life

    This is the BEST way to move across country Brandi. If you don’t find blogger friends to stay with, I would highly suggest trying AirBnB (which stands for Air Bed And Breakfast). Jon and I have used it for D.C. (15 minutes away from the white house in an immaculate second bedroom) and for Salt Lake (yay Alt!). It is so affordable and the people we’ve encountered have been more than hospitable. Here’s hoping you’ll make a grand Southern road trip next year through Dallas! Don’t worry, I’ll have to try to plan a group of friends to go country western dancing.

  • stephanie

    your trip sounds like so much fun!! i’ve always wanted to do a road trip….perhaps if we move back to states some day. i can’t wait to hear about your adventures. do you know how long your trip will take?

  • stonehouselove

    wow, what a lineup you have there…that would be so fun…what an adventure not knowing what you will encounter…be careful and cant wait til you get back east…xo

  • Uncle Beefy

    Well, Miss Brandi, lemme know when you’re in Seattle! Maybe we can take you to some spots… personally! :)

  • mary

    the cross country roadtrip is seriously something everyone should do- it is amazing to see the landscapes change and meet all of the different people in between. america truly is so so beautiful. i could give you lists upon lists of spots to hit up in portland, my favorite brunch spot being tasty ‘n sons is a start, for sure. so excited for you!

  • Amanda

    My city is on your list! Depending on your schedule I can offer you a fun cup of coffee! :) I’ve done a cross country trip solo a couple times and it is SO awesome!

  • Kayla @ Exquisite Banana

    Clearly you’re ending in the best place ;)

    Looking forward to hearing about all of your adventures in person!

  • Lucent Imagery

    Wow, you’re long awaited move to New York is so close! I’m so happy for you! Have a wonderful road trip and I can’t wait to see the adventures you have along the way. Maybe I’ll meet you in NY one day when we get back there.

  • Tara

    Wow, big move! So hysterical because I am planning a road trip/move out west in starting August 1st myself- opposites. I will obviously check the status of your travels but would love feedback as to the places that I must see as well!

  • Meli (Blush + Jelly)

    I am so excited to hear about all the great adventures this trip will bring! I hope you share some pictures!

    Now that you’ll be in the East Coast we might be able to finally meet up when I go up to NYC (hopefully sometime this year).

  • sarah.wandering.

    Oh – I’m so jealous of your excursion. Hope you have a wonderful time and make sure you collect as many souvenirs as possible. Have you watched Elizabethtown – you need your readers to make you a book of sites and stops with accompanying music – EPIC!

  • rebecca

    brandi i LOVE this post. you could stay with my parents in KY? haha. i have no doubt leaving CA behind will be hard, but i’m sure NY holds great things for you. thanks for sharing your adventurous road trip details.

  • Krissy

    Oh wow, Brandi! This sounds so incredible!! Go you! If I were around this summer and happened to live in any of these places, you would definitely have a place to crash. (Of course, if you ever make your way up the coast from NYC to little old NS, you’re always welcome at my place. :)

  • KT @ KT's Refinishing School

    What an awesome adventure! I went to college at Creighton University in Omaha and would recommend eating at Dixie Quicks. It was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and is one of our favorites when we come back into town. I hear they may be moving locations soon so you might want to check out their website beforehand:

    If you are craving Omaha steak, my favorite restaurant is Gorat’s. It’s full of mostly blue hairs and the decor is pretty gaudy but the food is delicious and reasonably priced. This is where Warren Buffett takes Bill Gates when he comes to visit–it’s that good!

    I hope you share with us where you stop and who you meet :)

  • rachel

    I meant to leave this comment earlier! That’s so exciting that you’re moving, and that you’re making a big trip out of it. I just know that you’re going to have such an adventure! I hope all the planning goes well.

  • Alicia Brown

    Crushcakes cupcakery just off State Street in Santa Barbara for a sweet treat. Or Spoon on State Street for some out of this world gelato. Dine at Pascucci, Palazzio, Bucatini, Tupelo Junction, The Natural Cafe, or The Palace Grill.

    I use to live in Santa Barbara…I know it well.

    If you like split pea soup there’s Anderson Famous up the freeway from Santa Barbara

    Max’s on Geary Street in San Francisco. I also stayed at the Metropolis once upon a time and enjoyed it quite a bit. Stay away from The Union Square Hotel if you want a decent night’s sleep.

  • Eric

    Lander, WY is an amazing, outdoorsy little town — cooler than Jackson, imho. If you go through Larmie, WY there’s not much to it, but there were two great cafes right next to each other last time I visited. North Platte, Nebraska has its moments of quintessential cute middle-America-ness. I’ve made the drive across Nebraska a bunch of times and usually stop at Roger’s Diner, just off I-80 for some cheap diner food and local flavor. Good luck with the move; sounds like an amazing road trip. I’m jealous!

  • nicki

    I LOVE Ann Arbor Michigan. I don’t live there, but I recomend visiting. It’s home to a law school and a friendly hippy vibe. I was there right around the end of June two years ago and there were fireflies and enchanting things all over the place. The downtown streets are lined with bricks for goodness sake! And overshaded by beautiful trees. We were there during a summer festival and spent our one and only evening in the city watching a firework show over an empty field filled with fireflies. Pure magic.

  • Piper

    Can’t wait to have you visit!!!! I’m living vicariously through you on this trip – would love to go to all the places you’ve got planned!!

  • karen

    Oh I am so excited about your trip and do hope we have a chance to meet up! I hope that you have a chance to stop by the Exploratorium. If you can, let me know and I’ll get a tix for you. There are so many eateries in SF that you should try (albeit I know you probably won’t have the time) but… Tartine Bakery or Bar Tartine, Range, Delfina, Cotogna, Dosa, Tadich Grill, Liguria Bakery, Foreign Cinema, Little Skillet, NOPA…oh and I should mention that Off The Grid is on June 24th. it’s an evening collection of food trucks and live music over at Fort Mason.

    If you need a place to stay, I’d be happy to lend my couch for a night or two–so long as you’d be comfortable sleeping in a shared 390 sq-ft studio space. Parking garages are pretty expensive so I’d be happy to help get you set up with a short-term parking permit for the North Beach/Russian Hill areas. I think it’s fairly cheap ($33 for parking in area A for 24 hours, up to 14 days)

    and in the Napa area, you should check out Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery or Ad Hoc, and Charcuterie & Cafe, Rutherford Grill…

    If you’re planning to go straight from Napa to Sacramento, you might want to take the scenic route through Lake Berryessa and Davis. The drive is considerably longer, but so much prettier than driving up I-80. I’d say Old Sacramento (historic train museum) and Folsom Lake are my favorite places to visit in Sacramento. And a classic eatery that spans generations is Marie’s Doughnuts. My parents use to get doughnuts from there as teenagers, and so did my younger sister and I. Come to think of it, I went there over Thanksgiving and it was just as satisfying as it was when I was a teenager! Freeport Bakery, right next door always had great coffee and baguettes.

  • karen

    p.s. you should also check out Pot&Pantry ( It’s in the Mission, and will definitely tug at the food enthusiast in you.

  • darren brown

    Silver Lake awaits. i would love to be a part of your not your average ordinary bon voyage shout. let me know when, please. my favorite blanch dubois quote (paraphrasing), “Straight? What can be straight? A line or a street can be straight, but the heart of a human being?”

  • Blogger Crush: Brandi from not your average ordinary : Old Sweet Song

    […] also a total sweetheart. And she’s moving to NYC this summer (but not before taking an epic cross country road trip from San Diego to NYC, which will be so exciting to read about). I can’t wait to meet her and […]

  • Rachel (Alive in the Fire)

    While you’re breezing through Chicago, be sure to spend a moment or two beside Lake Michigan. You’ll of course want to wave hello to the mysterious Bean in Millenium Park, and if you’re up north of the city, I highly recommend swinging by the Bahai Temple — it’s one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. And if you’re near Evanston, be sure to say hello!


    Sounds like a beautiful wonderful and super epic road trip!
    rachel @ alive in the fire

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