On The Road - Week 1


On December 29, we headed out from Grand Rapids, Michigan to embark on our road trip with a U-haul trailer in tow, our SUV filled to the brim, and an excited puppy in the back seat. Our first stop was my parent’s house in Cincinnati, Ohio. Exhausted from the holidays and the events that led up to our moving day, we rang in the new year with a movie, a dinner at Dutch’s, and fell asleep before midnight.

The following morning, we packed up our car, while it was still dark, and made the 5 hour drive to our second stop: Nashville, Tennessee. After a quick lunch at Stay Golden, we followed with tradition by meeting up with Luke’s friend Beau. They met through a mutual friend’s music blog back in 2014, and officially met by happenstance on New Year’s Day in Chicago at Intelligentsia Coffee. The first New Year’s that Luke and I spent together, we saw Beau once again in Chicago, which was also a very last minute event. Following suit, we made day-of arrangements to get together this New Year’s at Crema.

After leaving Beau, we headed downtown and scooted around on Bird’s while the sun set, then headed to Pinewood Social to grab drinks and get some work done. Grace, our server for the evening, joined us in numerous rounds of conversation. Before we left, she handed me a card from the Pinewood staff wishing us safe travels on our journey ahead. We then headed south of Nashville to the neighborhood where Luke lived from age 10-16, and stayed with the Bridge’s, an old family friend of the van der Veen’s. Shanda treated us like family, threw a bunch of food in our snack packs, and wished us well as we waved goodbye and embarked on our drive to New Orleans. Before heading to the highway, Luke drove me around his old neighborhood, sharing stories of each neighbor and pointing out all the lawns he mowed as a part of his childhood mowing business.

Then came New Orleans. It was the first time we’ve ever stayed at an RV park, or in our car overnight. Jude’s RV and Travel Park’s owners had four cats that followed us around and stared at us each night. There was a winter themed projection on the fence surrounding the pool and hot tub. Other travelers knew who we were and where we were from by way of the desk lady. While the way I portrayed the park sounds sketchy, it was located four miles from the French Quarter, there was a gazebo where we could cook our meals, and the hot tub was actually incredible.


New Orleans brought a wonderful series of food and drink experiences. We dined at Shaya (best Israeli food) and The Elysian Bar (beautiful interiors like a Wes Anderson film), and had some marvelous drink experiences at Cure and Bacchanal. We winded our way through the French Quarter and drank some delicious coffee at Mammoth Espresso and Solo Espresso.


Out of the list, Bacchanal was our favorite. It’s a wine and cheese shop, restaurant, and music venue. We picked out a bottle of wine, grabbed a white bucket and some ice to chill, ordered a series of snacks from the food window, and sat down next to a couple from L.A. to listen to a French jazz band. I downed six dairy pills and enjoyed a delicious cheese board.

The three nights at the RV park comprised of Luke and I rearranging our car each day, trying out different sleeping positions with us two, the dog, and all of our belongings. The first night, the car battery died. The second, it was pouring rain. The third…was actually a decent night’s sleep. These times were filled with great memories and uncontrollable laughter.


On day 8 of our trip, we headed to San Antonio to see some of my best friends: Shea and Hallie. I’m writing this on the road from Austin to San Antonio. This concludes week 1 of our travels to L.A.

Melody van der Veen