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Austin, Texas City Guide by Julia Walck

Polaroid | Austin Motel | Austin, TX | Julia Walck

I went to Austin for the first time ever a couple of weeks ago! Before you ask, it actually wasn't for a festival or a show. I went just to go and explore... weird, right?

My friend Karlee was in Dallas for work, rented a car and picked me up from the Austin airport on a Wednesday afternoon. We were in town for four days and I was determined to make the most of it. Thankfully, some really rad friends steered us in the right direction of good grub and fun activities. 

I've rounded up links to everything we did just in case you find them fun, too! 

Things to Do:

  • Stay at the Austin MotelSouth Congress
    • The location of the Austin Motel was perfect for us. So many walkable restaurants, bars and vintage stores! Oh and having Jo's coffee just around the corner really helped with my breakfast taco cravings each morning. 
  • Watch the bats at Congress Bridge | South Congress
    • Every night at sunset, around 1 million bats fly out from under the Congress Bridge. The way the bridge is built makes it the perfect condition for these bats to inhabit, and at sunset they come out to play. We found that they came out more from the South Congress side of the bridge than the side close to downtown. 
  • Hamilton Pool Reserve | Dripping Springs
    • You need a reservation to go to the Hamilton Pool Reserve. You make the reservation online for $11, and day-of bring $15 cash to park and have your reservation number ready for the attendant. Trust me the planning on this one is worth it to swim in a grotto with catfish, watch the water drip from the stalactites and see the birds fly in and out of their cave nests. 
Polaroid | Hamilton Pool Reserve | Austin, TX | Julia Walck
  • See Ellsworth Kelly's Chapel at the Blanton Museum | University of Texas Campus
    • Free admission on Thursdays! All other days (except closed on Monday) is $9 for the chapel and whole museum. Ellsworth Kelly's Chapel was a must-see for me while in Austin. The size of the work, amount of time that went into the planning of the project (3 decades!), the fact that Kelly was an athiest and the completion of it just before his death in 2015 making it his final work all are factors that make this work of art so compelling. 
  • Rent Electric Bikes from Pedego | South Congress(ish)
    • We took a 2 hour bike ride around Lady Bird Lake (AKA the Colorado River), and enjoyed the sunshine. Once I got the hang of the electric bike it was smooth sailing from there. 
  • Walk Through the Capitol Building | Downtown Austin
    • You can either take a tour or do a self-guided one. We did a quick walk through, and the architecture of the building is pretty phenomenal. 
  • Barton Springs Municipal Pool | Zilker Park
    • Go swimming with the salamanders at Barton Springs! $8 cash entry per person. No food or drink allowed (other than water). Get there early to avoid standing in line! (We went around 9am). Watching the divers was possibly my favorite part of the trip. Friends would line up and watch as divers would flop extremely hard or do an impressive dive. Super entertaining either way.
Polaroid | Barton Springs Pool | Austin, TX | Julia Walck
Polaroid | Diver at Barton Springs Pool | Austin, TX | Julia Walck
  • Drive Around a Bit and Explore! | Anywhere
    • We saw tons of great art just driving around in the car on the way to and from activities. Bring a camera and have some fun!

Bars:

  • The Continental Club | South Congress
    • Bar/music venue. The Continental Club was right across the street from The Austin Motel where we were staying, so we caught some tunes our first night in seeing The South Austin Moonlighters. 
  • Stay Gold | Holly
    • Margaritas and frosé. What more do you need? A giant outdoor patio? You've got it. Giant fans to beat the heat? You've got it! An indoor stage for live bands? You guessed it, you've got it! Bonus: great signage outside. 
Polaroid | Stay Gold | Austin, TX | Julia Walck
  • Weather Up | Holly 
    • From the outside, it looks like you're walking into someone's house. There's even a big backyard to go along with it. We sat at a wobbly table inside, and were served by a man who looked like Matthew Gray Gubler. Who, when asked to describe the taste of yellow chartreuse could only compare it in a poetic way, expressing that it tasted like "the side of a mountain". It tasted like Gatorade. 
  • Whisler's | Holly
    • A very eclectic mix of shabby chic, industrial and "hunter" style. Whisler's has a long, bustling bar top that extends through almost the entire interior of the bar. I was drinking an old fashioned when I took a photo of said bar and accidentally let my flash go off leaving everybody a bit blind. Oops. 
  • Kitty Cohen's | Holly
    • Kitty Cohen's has a large outdoor patio space that surrounds a small pool in the center. They served a mean Singapore sling here. Best drink of the night!
  • Spiderhouse | North University
    • A cafe/bar/ballroom. Karlee and I grabbed a beer on the outdoor patio that's surrounded by loads of old signage (which is 100% my jam). Once it started to rain, we retreated to the covered cafe section which was still just as cool an environment. 
Polaroid | Spiderhouse Cafe and Ballroom | Austin, TX | Julia Walck
  • Midnight Cowboy | Downtown Austin
    • A speakeasy bar housed in a former brothel. You have to make a reservation before stopping by, and you'll be assigned a "buzzer name" to buzz once you arrive. We were greeted by a very enthusiastic server who helped us refine our drink choices based on our taste. I got a tiki drink that came lit on fire while our server sprinkled cinnamon on top of it making it spark and eventually clapped out the flame. Drinks and a show. 
  • The Redheaded StepchildDowntown Austin
    • Fronted by a "floppy disk repair" sign, "The Readheaded Stepchild" is another speakeasy bar that's just around the corner from Midnight Cowboy. The only reason we discovered it is when we were in our Lyft, I was taken aback by the sign that read "floppy disk repair". Our driver overheard my confusion and chimed in, letting us know sometimes there's a code, sometimes there's a doorman, but it's usually hard to get in. We sort of just stood outside until someone left, and I grabbed the door before it shut. Reflexes! We then sat on swing seats at the bar while enjoying our drinks. 
  • Las Perlas Mezcaleria | Downtown Austin
    • Huge selection of tequila and mezcal. I was brave and mixed a Paloma with all of the whiskey I'd been having that night and I survived! 
  • Half Step | Rainey Street
    • A nice, southern homestyle bar equipped with a large front yard and deck/patio to sip your drinks. This bar seemed the least "college-y" out of anything else we were seeing on Rainey Street. Which turned out to be just way too much of a college scene for us to explore more bars after this stop. 
    • Hotel Saint Cecilia | South Congress
      • There's just something nice about hotel bars sometimes. Especially ones with delicious drinks (even if they are $20. You're on vacation, right?). Hotel Saint Cecilia is sort of hidden down a side street in the South Congress area. I got major Chateau Marmont vibes from their little sign outside and just the hotel in general, actually. We walked back to their little bar area, enjoyed the nice night and took a peek at their pool area with a great big neon sign reflecting over the pool that reads "SOUL". 
    • Hotel San Jose | South Congress
      • We ended up at the Hotel San Jose for a nightcap on our final night. A cozy little outdoor area next to the pool home to a southern-Spanish-Anthropologie-style aesthetic.
    Polaroid | SOUL | Austin, TX | Julia Walck

    Coffee:

    • Epoch Coffee | North Loop
      • Never say no to coffee and pastries. This was a perfect coffee stop-off after vintage shopping in North Loop. 
    • Jo's Hot Coffee Good Food | South Congress
      • Get a breakfast taco and take a photo in front of the "I Love You So Much" mural. Oh and grab some coffee, too. Pet a dog while you're at it. There seemed to always be a minimum of 3 in line. 
    • Mazama Coffee CoDripping Springs
      • Great for a post-Hamilton-Pool-dip. 

    Food: 

    • Sala & Betty | New American Food | North Loop
      • Good for a quick meal: they even have a drive-thru!
    • Elizabeth Street Cafe | Vietnamese Food | South Congress
      • Yes I got pho even though it was 90 degrees outside... and it was delicious! No regrets! Their branding gets an A+ from the interior/exterior design of the restaurant to the menus and all the way down to the neon pink straws their cocktails are served with. A very non-traditional-"Austin"-spot, but I definitely recommend checking it out. 
    • Rolling in Thyme & Dough | Sandwiches | Dripping Springs
      • I got the turkey in thyme sandwich and it was honestly one of the best sandwiches I've had. I'm not sure if the pre-lunch Hamilton Pool swim attributed to this or not, but either way I was happy. They also bake cakes and pies in-house and all of them looked so good! But I was too full to even attempt to eat a slice. 
    • Launderette | American/Comfort Food | Holly 
      • Super cute interior. Good food but smaller portions. Maybe grab a snacky bit to share while you're here, too. 
    • Magnolia Cafe | Diner | South Congress
      • Open 24/7. We went for breakfast and diner food was exactly what my hangover ordered! 
    • Guero's Tacos | Mexican | South Congress
      • Save your money on the house margaritas here (maybe it was a sub-par day?), but order ALL THE TACOS! I got two of the a la carte spicy tacos. The "El Jefe" was my favorite!
    • Stubb's BBQ | BBQ | Downtown Austin
      • Try to come here the night of a show! I gawked over all of the gig posters they had framed on the walls from past shows: Spoon!? Wilco!? My Morning Jacket!? Wish I could've seen those acts in an intimate venue like Stubb's. Oh and food. Get the BBQ, obviously. But the mac n cheese is basically just Velveeta. 
    • Torchy's Tacos | Mexican | South Congress
      • Damn good tacos. 
    Polaroid | Skull Street Art | Austin, TX | Julia Walck

    Vintage Stores:

    • Ermine Vintage | North Loop
      • Good for vintage clothing, accessories and shoes.
    • Revival Vintage | North Loop
      • Great for larger scale furniture and homeware items. Has a vintage clothing section in the back that's color coordinated! I snagged a set of four, tall saguaro cups here and they will be the only thing I'm drinking out of all summer! 
    • Room Service Vintage | North Loop
      • Loads of great barware and tchotchkes galore! Plus a decent selection of jewelry and clothing. I saw a pitcher with ballpark style text that read "Suds", and you know I lugged that big hunk of glass all the way back to LA. 
    • Austin Antique Mall | North Shoal Creek
      • 30,000 square feet of sweet, sweet vintage. Austin's largest antique store that really has a bit of everything. We made sure to do this one on a day we had a rental car since it's a bit further north than Austin. Everything in North Loop was on the way because I'm a planner! 
    • Flashback VintageSouth Congress
      • Hallelujah! They have a plus-size-friendly rack! Multiple rooms of vintage-goodness sprinkled in with a home goods mainly in the form of kitchen accessories. Fun jewelry, a good sized shoe selection and lots and lots of clothes. 
    • Passport Vintage | South Congress
      • The front room is mostly denim, but as you work your way back there are more of your standard vintage clothing goods. Go in the dressing room here! Trust me. It's a bathroom turned greenhouse with an iridescent mirror to make your vintage going experience all the more magical.
    Polaroid | Passport Vintage | Austin, TX | Julia Walck
    • I Luv Vintage | North University
      • Wide variety of vintage clothing from multiple vendors in the shop. Dig for gold here. And grab a beer at Spiderhouse afterwards to celebrate a job well done. 
    • Feather's Vintage | South Congress
      • Clothes. Clothes. Clothes. On the pricier side, but good pickin's. 
    • Prototype Vintage | South Congress
      • Hidden gems live here. Heaps of vintage clothing, shoes, hats and accessories. I found a denim maxi dress that fits my 5'3" body perfectly. If that isn't heaven-sent I don't know what is. 
    • Charm School VintageCentral East Austin
      • Vintage clothing, purses, shoes and accessories. 
    Polaroid | Look On The Bright Side | Austin, TX | Julia Walck

    Thanks for reading. Let me know if you use any of these tips for your Austin trip, or have any fun spots to add!  

    All photos were shot on my Polaroid I-Type Camera. 

    Recently, in Days Off by Julia Walck

    Cactus / Julia Walck

    This past Monday, Jackson and I had the day off of work for MLK Day and we decided to go to the Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena. Getting out in the sunshine felt nice, plus everything just feels better when it's a 3-day-weekend.

    Rose Gardens / Julia Walck

    We spent most of our time in the desert garden and rose garden, my two favorite spots at The Huntington!

    Portrait / Julia Walck
    Cactus Cooler / Julia Walck

    In an Instagram poll of "who wore these glasses better" between this cactus and myself, the cactus won. I mean, as it should. Just look how cool it is. 

    Rose Gardens / Julia Walck
    Cactus / Julia Walck

    I shot all of these photos on my Instax, and am going to put them into albums!

    Getting Organized With Your Photos by Julia Walck

    Getting Organized With Your Photos, via Julia Walck

    I'm an avid instant film photographer. I love all of film's little quirks like the unexpected light leaks and cool exposures.

    As of last week, all of my polaroids were all piled in a huge coffee cup (pictured above) and weren't exactly easy to "flip" through. I was searching through the stack to find this one specific photo, when I had an epiphany: photo albums!  

    I went down the internet hole of searching, and everything I was finding looked terrible! I finally stumbled upon some amazingly cute and practical albums from Urban Outfitters for my Polaroids and Instax photos. I bought practically every color-way they had because I have so many pictures! 

    Getting Organized With Your Photos, via Julia Walck

    The task of organizing all of my photos was daunting, so I broke it down step by step. Hey, maybe it'll help you get organized, too!

    Before we go any further, I just want to say even if you don't shoot film, printing your photos out and putting them in albums just has a different feel then scrolling through them on your phone... and I recommend doing it! It could be a fun weekend project, or a cute lil' Valentine's roundup gift for your love or your bestie!

    STEP 1: CATALOGING

    I chose to catalog my photos chronologically. (Obviously do yours however you want! Random, all flower photos together, alphabetically? It's your album! Mix them up and randomize to your liking.)

    I started by making stacks, sorting by by event or general time in which they were taken. Going through my Instagram feed actually gave me lots of great insight about dates photos were taken! 

    I stacked them up and wrote timeline notes on top before tackling the task of labeling them. 

    Getting Organized With Your Photos, via Julia Walck

    STEP 2: LABELING

    On the backside of each photo, I dated and gave context to who was in the photo and where it was taken. That way when myself or someone else down the line wants to flip through these memories, they know all the deets.

    For the Instax photos, I stuck washi tape on and then wrote the info on that, and on the Polaroids I wrote straight on the photo.

    Getting Organized With Your Photos, via Julia Walck
    Getting Organized With Your Photos, via Julia Walck

    STEP 3: PLACEMENT

    I added all of my photos to the albums just as I sorted them: in chronological order. If I had a lot per general timeline, I grouped the best contrasting ones next to one another. 

    Make sure to pick your favorites out for the album covers!

    Getting Organized With Your Photos, via Julia Walck
    Getting Organized With Your Photos, via Julia Walck
    Getting Organized With Your Photos, via Julia Walck
    Getting Organized With Your Photos, via Julia Walck

    STEP 4: GIVE THE ALBUMS A HOME, IN YOUR HOME

    Bookshelves are the obvious spot here. Ours was full, but we had some extra space on our bar cart. The albums add even more fun color and pattern to the already stocked shelves. 

    And now, the giant coffee cup that had all of my photos in it before is used for beer cozies! 

    Getting Organized With Your Photos, via Julia Walck
    Getting Organized With Your Photos, via Julia Walck

    Who knows, maybe I'll even leave my favorite album out on the coffee table to show off to friends. 

    Los Angeles, to the Grand Canyon, to Holbrook, Arizona by Julia Walck

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    If you know me, you know I love road trips. I jam-pack them full of quirky roadside stop offs, exploring, and all around fun. 

    When Jackson told me he had never been to the Grand Canyon, I knew we had to take this opportunity to go and make the most of every moment along the way. I had been once before when I was four years old so this was kind of like my first time too. 

    On this trip from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon, to Holbrook, Arizona, we traveled more than 1,200 miles, ate way too much diner food and stopped off at some really amazing Route 66 landmarks. 

    We left Los Angeles around 7am on a Wednesday, grabbed coffee and hit the road. Our first stop was about an hour and fifty minutes in, at Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch.

    ELMER'S BOTTLE TREE RANCH

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    Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch is off of Route 66 in Oro Grande, CA. Thousands of glass bottles turned sculptures create a reflective forest in the front yard of the artist's house. 

    Pictured here is me with Elmer Long himself. The man, the beard, the legend.

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    I spoke with Elmer about his art, and he said "I've been doing this for over thirteen years now. I kind of let things get out of control". I chimed in with, "in a good way though!"

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    He gets visitors from all around the world stopping by, taking photos and chatting. Mainly people on their way to Las Vegas or The Grand Canyon. He even gets some usuals, too; they'll drop off used glass bottles for Elmer to repurpose into art. Maybe next time we're on the road, we'll leave him something, too.

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    We drove on until we got hungry for lunch, and stopped at The Wagon Wheel Restaurant (and gift shop) in Needles, CA. I got an omelette and a Route 66 enamel pin. 

    DELGADILLO'S SNOW CAP DRIVE-IN

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    Our next stop was Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman, AZ to get some ice cream. Unfortunately it was closed for the holiday season, the only notice being a sign on their door. But all of the decorations and retro signage around still made the stop worth it. 

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    Here's a photo of me daydreaming about ice cream...

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    This little peace sign road mural was at a vintage store up the street.

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    And apparently you can never have too many toilet planters. 

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    THE GRAND CANYON

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    Then it was the home stretch to the Grand Canyon! 

    We arrived just past sunset and headed to the Yavapai Lodge where we stayed for the night. Before heading to bed, Jack and I made sure to star gaze for a bit. The sky was way different than the four stars we can see here in Los Angeles at night. The blackness was filled with speckles of light, and we could actually make out most of the constellations.

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    The next morning at Yaki Point on the South Rim, we watched the canyon reveal itself from a shroud of darkness into a beautiful sun-beam-filled labyrinth. 

    The sunrise over the Grand Canyon made the 6am wake-up call and 16 degree weather 100% worth it.

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    Here are some photos I snapped during the stages of the sunrise, focusing on the Vishnu temple on the mountaintop. 

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    Once we finished soaking in the sunrise, we went to Yavapai Point and Geology Museum to take in more views. 

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    Not to sound cliché, but the Grand Canyon was too beautiful for words. And the photos definitely do not do this beauty justice. 

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    As we were driving out of the Grand Canyon around noon, the line to get in was insanely long. I think we did it right by showing up late, staying the night and making an early morning of it. 

    FLINTSTONE'S BEDROCK CITY

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    Down the hill from the Grand Canyon is Flintstone's Bedrock City: a diner, "theme park", gift shop and camping spot. 

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    It's $5 per person to go explore the "theme park" in the back. It's basically a life-sized Bedrock City. There is one 'ride' you can go on in a cart through the plaster volcano. Other than that it's exploring the large props everywhere. 

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    You can even slide down the dinosaur just like Fred! I slid down it. Twice!

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    Bedrock City is filled with fun colors and little nooks and crannies with the most random things. Like giant teeth!

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    There's also Fred's Diner inside where you can grab a bite on your way out from (or into) the Grand Canyon.

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    METEOR CRATER NATURAL LANDMARK

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    The next stop on the way to Holbrook was the meteor crater natural landmark in Winslow, AZ. Honestly, it was a bit underwhelming after just having seen the Grand Canyon. Maybe we should've come here first for a "warm up".

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    There was an Apollo test capsule, a couple of cool lookout points, and some facts and figures on the crater in a little museum on site. It was an... okay stop off. Unless you're really into meteors, I'd suggest saving the $18 per person entry fee and using it towards your parking permit at the Grand Canyon. 

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    BUCKET OF BLOOD STREET

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    Yep, just a street named "Bucket of Blood St." This is a real thing, and is the most metal street name I've ever seen. It's just over the railroad tracks in Holbrook, AZ on a fairly empty street. Not really much to do here other than snap a photo, blast some Lamb of God and start a mosh pit. 

    WIGWAM MOTEL

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    Our final stop of the day was at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ on Route 66. 

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    For $69 a night and the pure nostalgia of it all, why wouldn't you pull off and sleep in a wigwam? "It's freezing out there at night!" you might say. But don't worry: the wigwams aren't made from cloth, they're concrete and have comfy beds and heaters inside!

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    Fun fact: the Disney-Pixar movie, Cars, used the Wigwam Motel as inspiration for the Cozy Cone Motel. 

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    For you Los Angeles folk who don't want to make the trek out to Holbrook, AZ, but still want to sleep in a wigwam I've got good news! There's a closer Wigwam Motel in San Bernadino, CA

     A little illustration I did of the Wigwam Motel

    A little illustration I did of the Wigwam Motel

    POW WOW TRADING POST

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    The Pow Wow Trading Post in Holbrook, AZ once was a motel turned geological rock shop. Now it merely acts as a waymark along the Route 66 road.

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    We stopped off here to check out the massive totem and cool signage on the building before heading to Tom & Suzie's Diner in Holbrook for breakfast.

    JACKRABBIT TRADING POST

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    Jackrabbit Trading Post has been on Route 66 since the 1940s. It's a souvenir shop known for it's strange "HERE IT IS" billboard, and a fiberglass rabbit you can ride. 

    Make sure you follow the signs for this stop off. We missed it a day prior when we were headed eastbound on the I-40 because our maps were routing us to the wrong location. Luckily headed westbound on the I-40 the next day there were loads of signs for it. If you're headed eastbound, keep your eyes peeled for the "HERE IT IS" sign from afar. I believe it's close to the Jackrabbit Road exit.

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    When in the gift shop, I bought a cheesy Route 66 beer cozy and another enamel pin. 

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    Now it was time for the long home-stretch. We stopped off in Kingman, AZ for lunch at Rutherford's 66 Family Diner, and did a bit of antiquing where I found a cute wicker plant stand  at Gracie's Vintage.

    We arrived back in Los Angeles around 7:30pm on Friday. This road trip was loads of fun, and a much needed little getaway. And we did all of this in three days!  

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    I’m not sure where our next road trip will take us, but I’m excited for the ride!