Tag Archives: DC


Road Trip RearviewGavin and I met over a game of Nails at our mutual friend Katie and her husband Will’s Oktoberfest party in Bernardsville, New Jersey. Nails is not your typical outdoor party game, but for those with a backyard and a sizeable tree to fell, I’ll quickly explain. Each player starts with a nail, tapped into a tree stump just enough so it stands up straight. Players take turns doing ‘tricks’ with the hammer, getting a certain number of hits as a result. If you throw the hammer in the air and catch it by the handle, you get one hit. If you throw it under a leg and catch it, you get two hits. If you throw it behind your back and catch it, you get three. You use your hits against other players’ nails, the goal to have yours be the last one standing. I was terrible at throwing the hammer, but in a not-so-vague attempt at flirting, I used all the hits I could get against Gavin’s nail. It irritated Gavin more than it intrigued him, but he did notice my long blonde braids. Which were actually part of my German girl costume. So you can imagine his surprise when I gave a sly smile and pulled off my cheap, plastic wig to reveal a mop of dark brown hair underneath.

At the time, I lived in Washington, DC and Gavin lived in San Francisco. We managed a few back and forth trips through the holidays, and as things started to get serious in January, Gavin decided to move to New York. That had been his plan for a number of months before he met me – in order to be closer to his family and potential job opportunities – but now that we’re married, I won’t pretend I didn’t have anything to do with it.

In the fall of 2008, I’d taken six weeks off work to drive cross country and back, visiting friends, national parks, monuments, and roadside attractions. I loved a good road trip. So when Gavin mentioned driving his car from San Francisco to New York, I couldn’t help but want to come along. It was only when I was 30,000 feet over the Rockies that I started to have doubts. I had loved driving cross country by myself, but would I enjoy it with someone else? With Gavin? We had never traveled together, and as I learned on a European backpacking trip in college, it could either go amazingly well or horribly wrong. My palms started to sweat as I thought about how miserable it would be if it didn’t work out, spending 3,000 miles and a week and half stuck together in the front seat of a compact car. The awkward silences would kill me. I took a swig of my too-small airplane cocktail and prayed to the relationship gods for safe passage. For better or worse, at that point, I knew this trip would be a turning point in ours.

I landed at SFO around ten in the evening, and the road trip began directly from there. Gavin had spent the last few days boxing up, shipping, and selling the contents of his apartment. It was no longer fit for us to spend the night there, not that it ever was. I had heard stories over the last few months and wished I could have experienced Gavin in his native habitat. I would learn soon enough about Gavin’s live-in habits, the mysterious bottle caps, quarters, and socks littered about the apartment, but I still wanted to see it. The working TV standing on a plastic cooler, the broken TV hiding in the corner, the Gavin-shaped divot worn into the side of a faux-leather couch, even the dining room set bought on a whim when guests came to visit one weekend.

Instead, we drove south on the 101 to San Jose, spending a night there, before setting off towards Las Vegas in the morning. There was something awkward and exciting about that first night. The anticipation was palpable, the future unknown. We were going on our first adventure together. We ate a late dinner at a local bar grill, and discussed where we wanted to stop on our trip. Vegas, Austin, and New Orleans were definites. The rest we decided to leave to chance.

I am normally a sound sleeper. When I was five, the fire department came to our house to put out a chimney fire, and I slept straight through it, sirens and all. But this night, you would’ve thought Santa was coming in the morning, or I’d just watched the latest remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I couldn’t wait for our adventure to start.

We woke early and started the almost eight hour drive to Vegas. Before we could get settled in our seats or unscrew the tops of our road sodas, we spotted flashing red and blue lights behind us. Something you should know about Gavin is that he drives fast. It’s not a want, but rather a subconscious need, something that is so innate to who he is, he has to set alarms in his car to beep if the car goes over 100 mph. It can happen just like that. He’ll be focused on the curves of the road and the journey ahead, and before you know it, he’s driving 30 miles faster than the law thinks is appropriate. He’s also way too honest.

The officer walked to the side of the car as Gavin rolled down his window. ‘Do you know how fast you were going?’ he asked.

‘Probably 90,’ Gavin said, furrowing his brow in concentration. ‘Maybe 95 when you clocked me.’

‘I got you at 93,’ the officer responded. ‘Do you have a reason for driving nearly 25 miles over the speed limit?’

‘No,’ Gavin said. ‘I really don’t.’ I could’ve smacked him for his honesty.

That was speeding ticket number one.

The approach into Vegas by car never ceases to amaze me. Desert, desert, desert, then boom, the skyline starts to appear. Then you see a gas station with a casino, a strip mall with a casino, then resort casino, restaurant casino, bar casino. By the time you’re driving down Las Vegas Boulevard, you don’t know whether to laugh out loud or get out of the car and run away. Vegas is a fantasyland for adults, Epcot Centre with just the right about of sex and skank. I have to say I love it. If you don’t, you’re just fooling yourself.

As we drove down the strip, we debated on where we wanted to stay for the night. In my past visits, I’d always stayed on the strip, but after a quick Kayak search, we decided on the Hard Rock, just off the strip and beautifully priced at $70 for the night. We parked in the garage and took our bags inside to check in. Gavin reached in his pocket for his ID and credit card, put could only find the Visa and a crumpled receipt. Somewhere between the San Jose speeding ticket and the reception desk at the Hard Rock, his ID had gone missing. Gavin frowned, wrinkled his brow.

‘It must be in the car,’ he said, and we retraced our steps back to the garage. We searched the car back to front to back, and throughout it all, Gavin kept his cool. I couldn’t help but be impressed. I would’ve been flipping my shit, wondering where it’d all gone wrong. Yet here he was, getting a speeding ticket and losing his ID in the same day, and just rolling with it. No panic attack, no angry silences, no exasperated sighs and ‘why me?’s. At some point, he shrugged, pulled his passport from a box on the backseat where his important papers and tax returns were traveling, and we went back inside to check in.

After freshening up, we hit the casino floor for some blackjack. I’d played a few times before and thought I had a basic understanding of the rules of the game. Ha. In that first hand with Gavin I realized I didn’t know anything at all. Gavin was the expert. The guy had spent a summer in college playing blackjack at Foxwoods three days a week with the AARP crowd. He’d kept a notebook, writing down all of his expenses and wins, walking away each week with more than I dreamt about making at the Express in the Virginia Center Commons mall. Now when I sit down at a blackjack table, I know what I’m doing, but that first night with Gavin and those five dollar chips with rock bands on them, I was just an eager student.

We finished the evening with the tasting menu at Nobu, the fruits of Gavin’s gambling labors. A perfect end to a near perfect day. I wasn’t going to dream about Santa or chainsaws tonight, only tomorrow. And tomorrow we would head towards the Grand Canyon.

Places we loved on this adventure:

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, 4455 Paradise Road, Las Vegas – Hands down, the best place to stay in Vegas. Lively atmosphere with great bars, restaurants, pool, and decent minimums on blackjack, with plenty of video poker and dancers on the tables late night. Need I say more? Middle of the road.



Last weekend, Gavin and I headed down to the Washington, DC area for his cousin’s wedding. We were married only two months ago, and I was thrilled at the idea of being a ‘married’ guest at a wedding. Instead of the ‘when we’ and ‘if we’ and ‘one day’ feelings I had had as a single or engaged guest, I pictured Gavin and I looking at each other and reminiscing over all of the funny and sweet and sentimental details of our special day. Okay, my cheesiness will stop there, I promise. I will not be held responsible for the vomit stuck between the keys of your keyboard.

Few people realize the only profitable line on Amtrak is the one that runs along the Eastern Seaboard. More precisely, it’s the segment that travels between Boston and DC, and after checking the prices a few weeks before our trip we understood why. Unless you book your ticket two months in advance (which realistically, we could have, but that’s beside the point) or are willing to travel at off-off-peak times (read: 5am), you’ll likely pay $150 for one person one way. We debated renting a car, but the thought of I-95 traffic on a Friday afternoon drove me to check out the flights on Kayak. My jaw dropped as the page filled with options. For only $290, we could buy two non-stop primetime flights to DC and back. Sold. Why were they so cheap, you ask? Maybe because it’s January in New York and there’s snow on the ground and the likelihood of our flights leaving on time is as likely as a wedding without a cake.

So as you’ve probably guessed, our flight to DC was delayed, but we were in good spirits nonetheless. Who doesn’t like an opportunity to have an airport beer? There is something cathartic about knowing you have no where to go for an hour or two, so why not stool up at the airport variety of an Irish Pub or Sports Bar and drink a cold one? Gavin turned me on to this trick shortly after we met, and I have to say it makes waiting a good deal easier. You can forget about where you’re going and what you’re late for and just relax. There is absolutely, positively nothing else you can do. But in case you’re wondering, airport beers do not make things easier when you’ve gone from delayed to canceled to flat-out stranded. I once got stuck in London for three days because they had been blessed with three inches of snow (Why is rain the only weather the Brits can handle?), and no amount of beers could make me feel better. And believe me, I tried.

The home base for the wedding festivities was Old Town, Alexandria, and after we arrived and dropped our bags at the Hilton on King Street, we found the bridal party at a nearby bar, Virtue Feed and Grain. I had forgotten how much I loved Old Town. A mixture of Georgetown and Cary Street in Richmond, it was a beautiful place to visit and, I imagine, live. Rowhouses dating back to the 18th century, cobblestone streets, twinkle-lit trees, all enhanced with a dusting of snow. Virtue fit into the scene perfectly, a turn-of-the-century granary converted into a restaurant-slash-bar that managed to feel industrial and cozy at the same time. We found our way to a room in the back where old farm tables, benches, couches, and excited wedding guests filled the room. We spent the evening socializing and toasting the happy couple.

On Saturday morning, Gavin and I took the yellow-line Metro from King Street to Chinatown to meet a few of my friends for brunch. I had lived in Washington for eight years before moving to New York, and some of my closest friends still lived in the city. And what better way to catch up than brunch? Brunch is truly one of my favorite meals. When you’re dealing with eggs and bacon, it’s difficult to mess up, but somehow also difficult to get right. Zengo is another story altogether. A Latin-Asian fusion restaurant right next to the Chinatown gate on 7th Street NW, they throw brunch straight into a dream state. Bottomless small plates and bottomless brunch drinks and plenty of seats. For the decently low price of $35 per person. All of the hipster-brunch hype has turned a late afternoon meal on Saturday or Sunday into a situation where people will wait 45 minutes for a $25 Eggs Benedict and $15 Mimosa, yet here was an inventive menu that you could literally eat and drink your way through entirely. For $35. And as we read off half the menu to our waitress, she didn’t even bat an eye. She seemed to be egging us on.

‘One time, these two very petite girls ordered one of everything,’ she said, making a tiny circle with her forefingers and thumbs to demonstrate the size of their midriffs. ‘And they ate it all.’

We nodded happily and ordered more. For cocktails, I started with a Bloody Mary before moving on to a Passionfruit Mimosa and sticking there for the remainder of our three-hour gorge fest. Achiote-Hoisin Pork Arepas, Lobster-Chipotle Grits, Short Rib Hash. At some point we started to double up on our favorites. How does this place make any money? As I looked around, I realized our table had been there the longest by far, but still. In what world does a deal like this make money? I ate another arepa and swallowed the thought.

While we wiled away the time, we made grand plans: weekend trips, job opportunities, business ventures, college reunions, even an unexpected trip to Jordan in two weeks (can’t wait!), and before I knew it we were rushing to get back to the hotel to change for the wedding.

The wedding was a mixture of a Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Chronicles of Narnia. Set in a tree-filled greenhouse at the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, there was a stream running through the middle and snow covering the lawn outside. The petals on the flowers, the ruffles on the dresses, even the wrinkles on happy relatives, all mixed and matched to perfectly accent the light hearts and free spirit of the couple. Gavin and I made eyes when we noticed similarities between their programs and ours, their ceremony and ours. We weren’t just reminiscing, we were reliving. We couldn’t help but smile. We spent the reception socializing with the family, dancing until we got sweaty, and enjoying hot chocolate instead of cake. What was it I’d said about cake earlier? I forget.

Places we loved on this adventure

Virtue Feed and Grain, 106 S. Union Street, Alexandria – With couches and private tables, this is the perfect place to go for a date, a gossip with a friend, or a private event. Have heard great things about the food, but I’m afraid my intake was limited to Pinot Noir. Middle of the Road.

Zengo, 781 Seventh Street NW, Washington – This bottomless brunch is not to be missed, and hurry, because I don’t know this can be sustainable for their business long term. Did I mention there’s also one in New York? Middle of the Road.