A few of our favorite things!

Pam and Melissa take America

Pam & Melissa:

After successfully completing our road trip of 6225 miles, we have compiled a list of “the best and worst” from our trip!


BEST HOTEL: The Peninsula, Beverly Hills (simply perfection)

WORST HOTEL: The Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills (mold= not good)



HARDEST MOUNTAIN DRIVE: Bryce Canyon to Las Vegas (we were fairly sure that we were going to die the whole time)


FAVORITE DRIVE: 17 mile highway in Monterrey, California

LEAST FAVORITE DRIVE: Paris, Texas to Albuquerque, New Mexico (8+ hours on one lane roads made for a looooooong drive)


BEST BEDS: The Bellagio, Las Vegas (like sleeping on air)

WORST BEDS: The Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills (this hotel was just really awful)


BEST SERVICE: Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco

BEST TEA SERVICE: The Peninsula, Beverly Hills (with honorable mention to the Peabody Hotel in Memphis for their delectable scones)

BEST SHOPPING: Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills (of course!)

MOST HONEST PEOPLE: Albuquerque, New Mexico (We went to a car wash there where they found our checkbook in the car and gave it back to us, all checks in-tact)


BEST WEATHER: Santa Fe, New Mexico (We would live here just for the weather alone)



FAVORITE CITY: San Francisco, CA (land of the best dim sum on the planet, we are convinced)

LEAST FAVORITE CITY: Memphis, TN (a little too deserted for our liking)


BEST FOOD: The Bellagio, Las Vegas (there is a good reason that their buffet is king)

WORST FOOD: Our stop-over in Missouri,  because there were legitimately no restaurants for a two hour time span


FAVORITE THING: Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah (you gotta see them!)

FAVORITE MEMORY: Accidentally stumbling upon the famous overlook in Bryce Canyon, Utah


MELISSA: We absolutely loved this trip and are so thankful that we got to experience it together. We hope that everyone enjoyed following our blog! Thanks!

PAM: We’ve made it safely home.  Two women, one car, 6,225 miles!  Thanks for all your prayers!  Our trip was surely a once in a lifetime experience.  For a woman who is psychotically fearful of strange hotels (mostly bugs) we had a wonderful time. I may never drive another mountain pass, but then again, maybe we’ll tour the east coast next summer!



Driving in the Southwest

Melissa on the road!Bonneville Salt FlatsPam at the wheel!

Pam: Hi everyone. Here we are driving throughout the southwestern United States. Even with this big car, my joints are hurting and my eyes are sensitive to light. Four weeks of driving certainly wears you out!

We’ve had a change of plans concerning the end of our trip. Instead of seeing the redwoods in California and Old Faithful in Yellowstone, we decided to go home a week early. There was a good reason for this.

Melissa received multiple secondaries to her medical school application within two days of the application going active. Such excitement! Unfortunately, we have been plagued by computer and phone service since Texas. Replying to the schools was difficult unless she used the business office of our hotels, a real nuisance. So, we headed home.

We left San Francisco last Sunday on our 1800 mile drive toward home. Both of us hated to leave the Mandarin Oriental, a truly lovely hotel. Except for one evening of the building swaying like a cruise ship, the hotel was a delight. We understand it’s built to move as much as 28 feet in the wind!

We decided to take four days to drive the trip, about 8 hours a day. (For those of you who know me, the idea of my staying in three unknown hotels was not a happy thought.) Anyway, we left the city early, missing the Gay Pride Parade and headed northeast.

Driving through the mountains of California on our way to Reno was daunting. Just let it be said that this was the same path the Donner party were felled by. Believe it or not, it was a beautiful drive. Lots of mountains and curves (and the pine trees smelled just like Christmas) and the scenery was glorious. By the time we stopped for the evening we had made it to Elko, Nevada, almost to the southwest border of Wyoming.

One of the most eerie sights we encountered were the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah.  How the pioneers ever traveled that route is amazing. Eighty miles of white, desolate desert, which we understand can be a sticky goo.  Yikes!  Get us out of here! The great Salt Lake was a relief after all that desolation.

After the Salt Flats, Wyoming was a pleasure. Up high again, at about 6,000 feet elevation, the view was always inspiring. But I am tired of mountain driving.  Happy to go into Nebraska and then Iowa.  It turns out the recent rains had turned the hillsides and roadside into lush, velvety grass. Sooo beautiful!

Looks like home. Not too far now.





San Francisco!


Entering into San Francisco, this song played over and over in my head. A hokey song, if you ask me, but it seemed suiting for a town where the hippie culture was alive and well. I was pleased to find, however, that this city was much more than the hippie paradise that I had always imagined it to be.

As San Fran was the last stop on our trip, we wanted to make sure that we got the full tourist showing of the city. We rode a large red tour bus to see the city, braving the seats on the open, top-deck of the bus until we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge. Since gusts can reach up to 50 miles per hour on the bridge, both my mom and I agreed to settle for the seats on the inside of the bus. On the tour, we saw all of the neighborhoods of San Fran. We saw everything from Chinatown to Haight-Ashbury, and it reminded me a lot of Chicago. I really liked this city. My only complaint was that the sea lions chose to migrate on the day that I went to see them! I guess I will just have to use it as an excuse to go back and visit. But if I visit again, I will be sure to stay in a room on a lower floor of a hotel, as I discovered something horrifying about staying in a skyscraper: The wind can make the hotel sway. This was NOT a good experience, but thankfully it taught me that I should stay away from high-rise living in my future life!

We had originally planned to visit Napa and Sonoma for a few days, but decided instead to stay in San Francisco and take a tour bus there. We arranged this tour with our concierge who said that it would be a lot of fun. It actually turned out to be one of my favorite things we did on the vacation. With 7 other people, we toured two wineries and a champagne company. The people we were with were incredibly fun, and I think my mom and I had a good time, even if we didn’t drink nearly as much as the other passengers. And I got a few bottles of wine for my wine refrigerator in my apartment, so that’s always a plus, right?

As everyone knows, I am a major foodie, and I knew that San Fran was a paradise of excellent food. Primarily, I wanted to try some of the best dim sum restaurants in the city, and, with the largest Chinese population outside of China, I figured that this would be a good place to find authentic dim sum. We ended up going to a dim sum restaurant called Yank Sing, which was actually just outside of the financial district, a few blocks away from the middle of Chinatown. I can honestly say that, although I loved the food at the Bellagio, I loved this dim sum best. The food was absolutely heavenly, and I was so sad that I couldn’t eat more. The best dish I had was soup dumplings, which are small dumplings that act as little soup containers. They were so good. But, of course, the sesame balls are always a favorite of mine. I told my mom that I was absolutely devastated to think that this amazing dim sum is in California and not in Chicago! 😦

San Francisco was a delightful city. I loved the food and the people. Most of all, I think my mom and I might have had the most fun at this stop. I was a little nostalgic about leaving, since this was the last major stop on our road trip across America, but then I thought about how this has been a trip beyond description. It has truly been the trip of a lifetime, and I will always remember it.

soup dumplingwine tour napaSan Francisco sightseeing

San Francisco

Dim Sum!More wine for everyone!San Francisco sightseeingDim Sum!

Pam:  We traveled to San Francisco a couple of days ago and have thoroughly enjoyed our time here together.  Our drive up the coast was eventful, without mountains, add a thick fog bank, and here we are, safe and sound!  The city is much as I remember it from 25 years ago, still manageable (as compared to New York) and gleaming with new sky scrapers.  ( Does anyone call high rises “skyscrapers” anymore?)

Our first morning here we rode the Big Red Sightseeing bus.  Our tour took about 2 hours and we braved the cool weather to claim a seat top- side. This lasted until the Golden Gate Bridge when we were warned as to how cold and windy crossing would be. Both of us ducked downstairs, inside, for the trip across the bay. You might be laughing at us but many of the other passengers, already numb, chose to do the same. It turned out not to be a great loss since a fog bank had completely shrouded the sides and top of the structure!  Even the brave , frozen souls, on top, couldn’t see anything except the cars immediately in front of them!

Our second sightseeing trip was a group tour to Sonoma and Napa. We toured a couple of  wineries and a sparking wine plant. Total fun. We lucked out with our driver and the other 7 passengers.  Without them the trip wouldn’t have been half the fun!  One man promptly helped himself to lots of extra sparkling wine and generously poured extra to all the bus mates. Of course, I don’t drink, but I loved his outrageous antics.

Eating was a delight in San Francisco. We both decided we’d try a dim sum restaurant while there. We  adored all those carts with baskets of assorted hot dumplings.  In fact, we ate dim sum twice in four days! Other than dim sum we stuck to sea food because how can you eat anything else?

We left our hearts in San Francisco this morning but will always remember our time there.


I <3 LA!

Beverly Hills, baby!my new car.Mommy at afternoon tea!


After leaving Las Vegas, I was sure that nothing would be able to top my experience there. I was wrong. Beverly Hills topped Vegas. We had decided to visit Los Angeles as one of the cities on our road trip simply because I wanted to see it. I know that everyone swears that California is absolutely “the best,” and I wanted to see if this was really the case. Even though I don’t plan on moving to California any time soon, I certainly enjoyed our few days there.

Like most tourists in LA, we figured that the most appropriate use of our time was to do a celebrity homes tour and see the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I really enjoyed seeing the celebrity homes, but you couldn’t pay me to live on a cliff in a major earthquake zone, that’s for sure. The Hollywood Walk of Fame was fun to do, but unfortunately the neighborhood has taken a turn for the worst, so we didn’t spend a lot of time there.

My single favorite part about LA was RODEO DRIVE. Honestly, I couldn’t afford a single thing there, and that was fine by me. I absolutely adored walking down the street and people watching while I was there. Most of all, I loved the cars on Rodeo Drive. Apparently, people drive from all over California to drive their expensive sports cars down Rodeo Drive. I couldn’t believe the number of Lamborghinis and Ferraris that I saw in a day. At least now I know which cars I want when I win the lottery.

While I was in Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to be able to see one of my longtime friends. Since she has an internship in Glendale, I was able to schedule dinner with her. It was absolutely amazing to catch up after not seeing each other for about a year!

There was only one problem I had with LA: it is the land of the WORST DRIVERS IN AMERICA. Honestly, people will honk at you if you even remotely hesitate when the light turns green. People should do themselves a favor and honk less. Maybe it would lower their blood pressures, or at least mine.

Overall, I really loved LA. I liked the atmosphere and the lifestyle, and I will hopefully be back in LA sometime soon!

California Dreaming

Beverly Hills, baby!California Dreaming

Pam: We made it to California! Don’t ask how many miles we’ve driven, because I’ve seriously lost count. In fact, I may never be able to count again!  My mind is seriously in a California state of mind!

The drive from Las Vegas was not as tough as Utah but still had it’s own set of challenges. Wind buffeted my big car as I drove in 100 plus temperatures. Death Valley was a formidable area.  All sorts of fears crossed my mind, like breaking down, running out of water and being found( hopefully) dazed and confused and seriously thirsty. Doubts about whether I should have ever left the Bellagio in Las Vegas plagued me.

Despite my concerns, all went well until we arrived at our hotel. Not good. We did not stay. Bad neighborhood, old hotel. We managed to find another hotel, via the miracle of the cell phone, but arrived too late. No rooms left.  Our third choice looked okay but gave me serious bug anxiety. Finally, Melissa presented an ultimatum. Go to sleep or check out.  I went to sleep, promising myself to seek psychiatric care upon returning home!

We did move into another hotel the next day and guess what?  It’s the loveliest hotel we’ve stayed in thus far. No dancing fountains like the Bellagio but pure Beverly Hills luxury.

Sightseeing in Beverly Hills today was a kick.  Melissa has lost her mind about all the Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and other luxury cars. Where do these people get all the money for such indulgences?  We also took a sightseeing bus, oh my goodness, such tourists, to spy on the stars homes!  No stars were sighted in their natural habitat but we did see their names etched into sidewalk stars in the Walk of Fame. As close as we could come! We completed our Southern California craze with window shopping on a Rodeo Drive. Sarah would have loved it here.

Leaving for the Pacific Coast Highway tomorrow.  We’re going to start getting closer, not farther, from home. We miss everyone!


Viva Las Vegas!



As soon as we entered our hotel in Las Vegas, I knew that I was going to love it. From the second I walked in and saw Chihuly’s glass ceiling display, I knew that it was a good stop.

Everything about the trip was phenomenal. The room was massive, and we had a view of the famous dancing fountains of Bellagio. Beginning at 3 PM, the fountains dance at 15 minute intervals until midnight. By simply turning on our TV to a pre-set channel, we could listen to the music that was synchronized with the fountains. But best of all was the food.  Some people go to Las Vegas to gamble; we went to Las Vegas to eat, and we did plenty of that. The buffets at the Bellagio and at Caesar’s Palace were absolutely divine, and I am fairly certain that I gained at least five pounds there. But don’t worry- it was worth it. I had at least three desserts every evening and I was completely fine with that.

Instead of squandering our money gambling it away, we chose to spend it on seeing shows in the evening. We were incredibly excited to see Celine Dion, who we had specifically planned as one of our main attractions on the trip. We managed to snag excellent seats five rows back from the stage. Her show was fantastic! The best thing about Celine Dion is that she sounds even better live than she does recorded. As the show ended, I was upset that she did not sing “My Heart Will Go On,” but luckily this was her encore piece, which ended with a standing ovation. I’m so glad that we got to see her.  We also saw Cirque du Soleil’s performance “Love,” which is a tribute to the music of the Beatles. We also really enjoyed this show- when we weren’t actively fearing for the acrobats’ lives.

When we decided to go to Las Vegas, one of the things that I really wanted to do was to drive the Extraterrestrial Highway. Due to its high number of “UFO” sightings, the government of Nevada designated a 100 mile stretch of road “The Extraterrestrial Highway.” Of course, the “UFO” sightings that people speak of are very likely to be the planes from the nearby air force base, but I suppose you can never be too sure. We decided to take a day trip up to a small town of Rachel that is known for its UFO sightings. Everything about this drive was funny. As soon as the Extraterrestrial highway began, many of the signs on the road contained graffiti of alien spaceships and small green men. Truly, this drive was just a drive down a remote highway in the middle of the desert, but we enjoyed ourselves. Upon stopping in Rachel, I snagged an Area 51 t-shirt and an alien shot glass. I would say it was a pretty successful day trip, even if I didn’t see any aliens.

The last night before leaving, I decided on a whim that it was necessary that I should try my hand at gambling. Upon pressing one button on a cat-themed slot machine (I had NO IDEA how to play), I was delighted to find that I had won $11.25! I then proceeded to quit, since we know that I won by sheer dumb luck. Thankfully, I have no desire to gamble again, but maybe I could have struck it rich if I had continued to play…

The trip to Las Vegas was one of the most enjoyable on our trip thus far. Despite the wildness of the city, my mom and I enjoyed relaxing and spending the time together.

Next stop- LA!

Loving Las Vegas

Celine Dion evening!Dale Chihuly at the BellagioAliens at Area 51


Pam: Hi everyone. Our “Pam and Melissa take America” tour is moving along. We figure we’ve traveled about three thousand. (3,000) plus miles at this point. Our original estimation of 6,000 became 7,000 and now we think we might go up to 7500 miles. Don’t ask! We just misjudged this trip by a bunch!

Driving from Bryce Canyon to Las Vegas was, yet again, a mountain climbing and descending, experience. I now have every confidence I will be able to handle any type of mountain driving!

We stayed 4 nights in Vegas. Everything about the Bellagio Hotel was a delight. Our room overlooked their fountains. We were able to listen to the same music being played outside as we viewed the fountains from our room. My favorite were the operatic pieces and Melissa liked Michael Jackson.

Our activities kept us busy. We saw a couple of shows while we were there, Celine Dion and Cirque du Soleil. Both outrageous. We also drove out into the desert to visit the alien Area 51 in Rachel, Nevada. Had a ton of fun but didn’t see a spaceship. I forewarned Harvey and Sarah that if we come home dramatically changed that he is to be very suspicious!

Our last day in Las Vegas was resting up for the drive to Los Angeles. There was a circus of sorts going on in town due to a music festival, the Electric Daisy Carnival. We loved watching the out of control kids dressed in their concert clothes, or should I say, lack of concert clothes.

Anyway, we had a good time together, ate wonderful food and enjoyed the circus that’s known as Las Vegas!

Oh, and Melissa won $11.25!

road trip stop #5: Bryce Canyon



After our difficulties at the Grand Canyon, I was slightly apprehensive about our next stop. The next destination on the road trip was Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Known for its unique rock structures called “hoodoos,” hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world come to enjoy its unique geography.

You may ask what a hoodoo is, and this is a very good question. A “hoodoo” is a large rock structure that is formed from thousands upon thousands of years of wind and water erosion. These structures are unique in that they are formed from softer rock, so they have more intricate cut outs and carvings than in larger canyons, such as the Grand Canyon. Indian folklore suggests that the hoodoos were originally a race of humans that were turned into stone for their wickedness. In either case, I just loved saying “hoodoo” as often as possible.

Upon arriving at Bryce, we were tickled to discover that our hotel room for the night was actually a (renovated) log cabin! Yay for authentic feel, plus electricity and running water! Besides being adorable, it was also quite close to the park and the outcroppings of the cliffs. After dinner, we had decided to walk over to an outlook to get a better view of the park at sunset. Upon arriving, we were amazing to find the most beautiful arrangement of cliffs and hoodoos that we had ever seen! And to think that we might not have seen it if we hadn’t decided to go for a stroll!

Another excellent part about Bryce was the wildlife. Filled with elk, deer, chipmunks and prairie dogs, I basically was in my glory taking pictures of all of the animals. I was tickled to find that a prairie dog even came up to my car when I tried to take a picture of it! Clearly, I was Snow White in a former life.

I can say quite honestly that Bryce has been my favorite stop on the trip. Not only were the views magnificent, but the trip itself was easier. We were able to drive our car along the entire trail, so there was no need to rely upon Ranger Stan’s not-so-helpful advice about walking distances. Basically, I stood in awe the whole day about just how awesome this park was. It is certainly not an exaggerated expression when people call these canyons “God’s Country.” I can understand why.

This stop went much better than the Grand Canyon, and I think that my mom and I enjoyed it more. We struggled a lot less with the altitude, even though the park was close to 10,000 feet above sea level.  My only regret is that Sarah could not have experienced this with me, but at least this gives me an opportunity to return to Bryce in the future!

Bryce Canyon


Pam: Hi everyone! Melissa and I drove to Bryce National Park in Utah yesterday. Seriously, it was the most scenic drive I have ever taken. Melissa agreed, the journey was as important as the destination.
The drive was slow, five and a half hours to travel less than 300 miles. ( I may apply for my commercial drivers license if we ever return from our travels. I’m quite skilled now!)

BUT! What spectacular scenery! We were stunned by the beauty. Who knew that such extremes existed a mere few days drive from Illinois?
When we arrived at Bryce, our lodge room was half a little log cabin, charmingly decorated. We casually walked to the scenic overlook not too far from our cabin after dinner. Our mouths dropped open, the view was incredible. Who knew that hoodoos ( love that name of the rock formations) would knock our socks off? Before this, I would have said,”What the heck is a hoodoo?” Now I will say, “You must see the hoodoos at some time in your life.” ( Preferably, when you’re young and healthy enough to tolerate the altitude! See my earlier blog post. )

We toured the scenic area by following a park service map. The drive took us to 9,100 feet elevation. Every stop was more beautiful than the one before it. Eighteen miles of bright reddish-orange hoodoos. Some looked like extreme sand castles, some looked like faces, and one is called “Thor’s Hammer.” And yes, it looked just liked a strong arm holding a giant hammer. All in red rock. Sooo cool!

Visiting the rock canyons is over for us now. Our next stop will be a city to have manicures and luxuriate at a five star hotel. Guess where?

Remember to pray for us. Two weeks of traveling is now under our belts. About two or three weeks to go. We are loving our Taking America trip!