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Old 16 Jun 20, 07:25 PM  
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NatsyNoo
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PRETRIPPIE: Big Ole US Road Trip (Fingers Crossed!) - October 2020

During the new year, we booked a fly drive with BA Holidays with big plans to undertake a US road trip, ticking off a lot of places and experiences that have been on our bucket list for some time. We booked it for October, and planning was well underway, but we had lots of other lovely things to look forward to in the meantime…then the dreaded COVID hit, and all of our plans literally came tumbling down. I’ve lost count of all of the lovely things we had planned this year and are no longer happening, but we have our health, and at the moment, we have this trip to keep us going.

No, we’re not 100% sure that we will get to go, but we are keeping our fingers firmly crossed that Trump will open then borders, and the quarantine restrictions will be lifted meaning we can travel. So on that assumption, we’re continuing to plan so that we’re ready if we do get to go.

So in line with that optimism, I thought I’d share our plans with some like-minded people.

We fly on 5th October, following an overnight stay at the Premier Inn at Heathrow Airport. We booked a fly-drive package with BA Holidays, but our outbound flight is actually with American Airlines, though the return is with BA themselves. We managed to get a Premium upgrade for a reasonable sum given the other costs we were going to have to fork out for extra legroom, an extra case on the return leg, booking seats (outbound anyway), etc, adding to the excitement! We went for the biggest car that they do, which will be a Ford Escape SUV or similar, so we can travel in comfort!

Our flight will take us to Chicago, where our road trip begins. We are flying home from Chicago too, as the cost saving was too much not to fly out of the same airport. There were massive additional costs for flying out of a southern airport, so we decided to just drive the extra distance back to Chicago, and keep the extra spends.

Firstly, who are we?! Well I’m Natalie, long-time Dibber, and I’ll be travelling with my hubby Matt. You can find the index for all of my previous trippies in the footer of this post.

So the big itinerary is as follows!

Chicago – 2 nights
St Louis – 1 day
Memphis – 2 nights
Little Rock – 1 day
Dallas – 4 nights
Baton Rouge – 1 day
New Orleans – 3 nights
Montgomery & Selma – 1 day
Atlanta – 2 nights
Nashville – 2 nights
And then flying home from Chicago

So if that’s the plans at a high level, I’ll now start to share what we’re doing on this whistlestop adventure, so stay tuned!
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Old 16 Jun 20, 07:37 PM  
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NatsyNoo
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Chicago

So our first stop being Chicago, it only makes sense that we stay here and explore for a couple of days. The driver…deep dish pizza!

The theme of our accommodation this trip is to keep things as cheap as possible. We’re in the process of buying our first house (well, just about to start) so we’re opted to compromise here. When researching Chicago, I found that accommodation costs were so expensive, even Air B&Bs, and there were exorbitant parking costs on top ($40 per night for most places), so we’ve gone for somewhere out of the city. It’s only a 30 minute drive, we have the car, so it made sense to us. We are staying at a newly refurbished Baymont by Wyndham, and it looks pretty OK from what we can tell.

Day 1
We land at lunchtime on the Monday, so by the time we get through security, we obviously won’t have tonnes of time, so I’ve kept the plans quite light for that day. We’ll mostly be exploring the green areas, starting with Grant Park, where we’ll see the famous Buckingham Fountain; and then the Millennium Park, and the Cloud Bean and Crown Fountain. Naturally, we’ll see some other local sights as we wander, but ultimately, we’ll be ending the evening at Navy Pier, and Giordano’s pizza. I can taste it now!

Day 2
Inevitably, we’ll be awake early, so after a drive-past of the Home Alone house, we’ll spend a couple of hours at Lincoln Park Zoo, before heading south to the Magnificent Mile. We hope to visit the John Hancock Center to experience TILT and witness the views of Chicago’s stunning architecture.

We’ll keep heading south down The Loop, and I’m really excited to see the classic Chicago Theater, before heading for some dinner (probably more pizza, lol) and then back to the hotel for some shut eye before tomorrow’s first big drive.

As we explore Chicago, I have several more food hotspots on the list, including Garrett’s Popcorn…apparently the cheese & caramel mix is a must! We also have learned that there is McDonalds Global Menu restaurant there, which we might just have to check out!
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Old 16 Jun 20, 07:50 PM  
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NatsyNoo
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Guidebook Reviews: 7
Memphis

Day 3
This morning, we will be leaving Chicago bright and early to hit Route 66.

I’ve found some iconic sights that we will see/stop by on our way to St Louis, including the Gemini Giant, Funk’s Grove Maple Syrup Farm, Tall Paul and the Cozy Dog Drive Inn.

When we arrive at St Louis, our first stop will be lunch, and I think we’re going to get our Hooters fix.

We’re hoping to have our Gateway Arch tour booked for 2pm, so we’ll explore the couple of other things that we want to either before or after, depending on time. We’ll be seeing the Old Courthouse, where the famous Dred Scott civil rights case was heard; the City Garden and possibly the Busch Stadium.

Once back on Route 66, we’ll make a brief pit stop at Ted Drew’s Frozen Custard, before finishing our journey to Memphis.

We are hoping to arrive in time to sample Central BBQ’s famous nachos, but otherwise, it’ll be straight to our hotel and most likely, straight to bed.

Memphis is our only unfinalized hotel. I have a Holiday Inn Express near Graceland booked, but we might change this nearer the time to see if we can get a better deal than currently advertised for one of the Downtown-based hotels.

Day 4
This day is jam packed, but it’s what we needed to do for the trip to include everything we wanted it to (and the problem with trips like this is that the more you read and research, the more you want to do!).

We’ll start by taking the Main Street Trolley down to the National Civil Rights Museum (and the sight of Martin Luther King’s assassination), followed by a wander to some of the sights and monuments of Downtown.

We’ll pop by Beale Street but we’ll be back later to experience the soul and blues vibes at night.

After lunch, we’ll head to Sun Studio and Stax Museum (I couldn’t pick, so we’re doing both!), before heading back to the hotel to freshen up for our night on the town.

I think we’ll most likely eat at BB King’s (the original) but we might see something else that takes our fancy!

Day 5
No trip to Memphis is complete without a trip to Graceland, so that’s exactly what we’ll do. We plan to get here for opening so we can explore this morning before our next trip.

We’ll be purchasing the Elvis Experience Package including Airplanes, so we will see the King’s grave, his private jets, automobiles (including his pink Cadillac), many of his personal belongings, the Jungle Room, and of course, those Blue Suede Shoes!

Once we’re finished up at Graceland, we’ll be starting our journey down to Dallas, but will be stopping at Little Rock, Arkansas, en route, so we can stop by the Bill Clinton Presidential Library, which I’m really looking forward to.

We also plan to stop at the Texarkana Post Office so we can see the Post Office which straddles the State Lines.

We thought these two stops would break up the otherwise long journey down to Dallas, where we don’t expect to arrive until late, so we’ll probably just grab something quick and easy for dinner. We’re staying at the Doubletree by Hilton near the Galleria, and there is a Chick-fil-a nearby, which seems like an obvious option!
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Old 16 Jun 20, 07:58 PM  
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NatsyNoo
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Dallas

Day 6
Our first day in Dallas will firstly focus on the key sights of Downtown. Our first stop will be the Sixth Floor Museum (dedicated to the assassination of JFK, where it is believed that the shot was fired from) and the JFK Memorial, and then we’ll go and explore some of the other local sights and architecture.

We expect to finish up by lunchtime, so we’ll hop back in the car and head over to Fort Worth Stockyards, where we hope to see the Cattle Drive and a Rodeo! If we have it in us, we also hope to go to Billy Bob’s, the world’s biggest honky tonk!

Day 7
Today is a big day, but this is the one in greatest doubt for obvious reasons – we have NFL tickets to see the Dallas Cowboys at the AT&T Stadium. They’ll be playing the NY Giants. It’s an afternoon match, so maybe a slow morning, possibly a trip to the Outlets, and then we’ll head to the game. We’ll go and grab a bite after the game and hopefully make the most of an early night – I think we’ll need it!

If the game is played behind closed doors, we will probably take a day trip down to Austin. It’s no bad thing, but missing the NFL would be a shame, of course.

Day 8
We’ll start today at the George W Bush Presidential Center and then will drive up the SouthFork, the famous ranch where the Dallas TV series’ were shot.

During the afternoon, we’ll be at the Texas State Fair, which we’re really looking forward to experiencing. Funnel Cake is a must! And who knew deep fried Oreos were a thing?!
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Old 16 Jun 20, 08:29 PM  
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NatsyNoo
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New Orleans

Day 9
Today, we start our drive down to Louisiana. The route from Dallas south-east isn’t that interesting, unfortunately. We had looked at going to Houston, but we visited there after a cruise in 2018, so decided to skip it and visit somewhere else in Louisiana instead.

We opted for Baton Rouge, which we’ll get to after a 6.5 hour drive. We’ll spend an hour or so in Baton Rouge, possibly grab some lunch if we didn’t stop en route.

We’ll swing by the Louisiana State University Campus to see the Tiger, before driving to the Oak Valley Plantation. We felt it important, whilst in the area, to learn more about these awful times.

Once done, we’ll finish our drive down to New Orleans, where we have a stay booked at the Hilton Garden Inn Convention Center, right on the edge of the French Quarter – perfect!

Again, we don’t have any plans this evening, but I suspect you won’t be able to keep me away from Bourbon Street and those beignets!

Day 10
Our first day in New Orleans will start exploring the French Quarter and taking in that famous architecture. Breakfast Beignets are a must, before heading to the Steamboat Natchez for a paddleboat ride along the Mississippi.

During the afternoon, we’ll catch the Streetcar down St Charles Avenue to Lafayette Cemetery (this has been closed for refurbishment for some time, so hopefully it will reopen by then, but if not, I have another cemetery option planned to explore) and the other sights in the Garden District.

Dinner will be at the Gumbo Shop for some southern comfort food.

Day 11
We’ll start today with a tour of the Bayou, inspired by Princess Tiana. We’ll be touring with Cajun Encounters and hope to see some ‘gators and wild pigs!

We’ll head to City Park afternoons for a wander and a little chill.

The rest of the day is unplanned, but I have some options that we can consider depending on the weather.
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Old 16 Jun 20, 08:30 PM  
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NatsyNoo
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Atlanta

Day 12
Day 12 sees us continue onto Atlanta, but first, we will consume more history of the civil rights movement, this time, in Alabama.

Our first stop will be Selma, the sight of the horrific events of Bloody Sunday (we recently re-watched the film too, it is just so moving!) and then we will continue on to Montgomery where we will walk around some of the monuments and key landmarks.

It’ll be a relatively brief pit stop, but one that we’re really looking forward to.

We’ll then continue onto Atlanta, where we will check in to the Doubletree by Hilton in Marietta, and will probably enjoy a dinner at one of America’s finest chain restaurants.

Day 13
We have only the one day here in Atlanta, which will start at the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site. We’re hoping to score tickets to the home tour (not the end of the world if we don’t, but when in Rome), and we’ll also see his crypt and some of the exhibitions.

We’ll then head over to Centennial Park, the site of the Atlanta Olympics Bombing, and will visit the World of Coca-Cola. Super cheesy, but we really want to do it.

After a wander around, we will head to Piedmont Park, where I’m hoping to find some Uber scooters and have a little explore and chill.

Again, no plans this evening, so we’ll just see where the wind takes us!
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Old 16 Jun 20, 08:31 PM  
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NatsyNoo
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Nashville

Day 14
We will start today with a relatively short (2 hours) drive down to Nashville for the final stop on this whirlwind adventure.

We’ll be exploring the Broadway area of Nashville when we arrive, so we’ll start at the Country Music Hall of Fame and I’m going to do the Studio B tour too but for some reason I can see us dropping that. We’ll visit the Ryman Auditorium, and some of the nearby parks, and also the Tennessee State Capitol.

In the evening, we’ll spend some time on Broadway. I’m desperate to go to Tootsie’s but also there a duelling pianos bar there that I fancy, and also Robert’s Western World.

Day 15
Our last full day and we will spend it touring some of the other sights that Nashville has to offer. We’ll stop by the Bluebird Cafe (I’m hoping to nab some tickets too!) and drive by some of the other sights from the TV series Nashville which is one of my absolute favourites.

We’ll also visit the Parthenon and Centennial Park, Music Row, and of course, the Grand Ole Opry!

I can’t wait!
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Old 16 Jun 20, 08:31 PM  
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NatsyNoo
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Heading Home

Day 16/17
It’s time to head home! You may remember that our return flight leaves from Chicago, so we’ll be driving the 9 hours or so to get up there.

We came down from Chicago via Missouri, so we’re planning to drive back up through Kentucky, and cheesily are going to eat KFC! We don’t have time to drive over to the original branch, so any old one will have to do!

We don’t have any other planned stops, we’ll just see how the day takes us. I think we’ll probably just get ourselves back up to Chicago and possibly doing something up there, like a shopping mall or outlet or something.

Our flight departs at 8.55pm, so we have plenty of time.

So that’s it, our big, budget, probably ludicrous roadtrip, but we can’t wait to get going, and to come back and start the next chapter of our lives together. Big holidays might be on hold next year (might, lol!) so we are going to make the most of every single second!

We’re mostly done planning; we just have the Memphis accommodation to firm up (praying for the Inn at Graceland – the official hotel) and tickets for tours and attractions to pre-purchase where we need or plan to, but otherwise, I think we’re pretty much there, other than some small bits and pieces, like printing documents, etc.

I don’t plan to update this pre-trippie again before we go, but will 100% do a trip report when I’m back.
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Old 16 Jun 20, 09:29 PM  
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Sounds amazing so far!
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Old 16 Jun 20, 09:36 PM  
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I so hope you get to do this trip because I can’t wait to read all about it!
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