*notcot in travel , 19:35

Epic Holiday Road Trip: LA-Nashville-LA- 12.31.15

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It has been QUITE the holiday season this year. 2015 will definitely be remembered for all the labs in our life… from Shawn’s Beast who lived to 12.5 years old, our Bucky the NOTpuppy, and the brand new Caleb! With Beast getting ill, family situations, and more - an Aspen christmas turned into an epic 3 week 5000+ mile road trip for Shawn, Bucky, and I in the NOTFZJ. We quickly went from LA to Kingman, AZ to Albuquerque, NM, Fayetteville, AR over to Nashville where we spent a week and a half with his family before venturing back west slightly slower. On the way back we bounced from Nashville through tornado weather over to Columbia, MO to amazing BBQ in Kansas City, spending the night in Burlington, CO… venturing to dim sum and dog parks in Denver/Boulder for Christmas, out to Grand Junction, CO… then ending up in a tiny cabin high in the La Sal Mountains in Utah for two nights… offroading the incredible trails in Arches National Park… then on to St George, UT and finally back home to LA yesterday. PHEW Exhausting and amazing to recap all the places we’ve been, the things we’ve seen… and on the next page is only the @notlabs instagram highlights! The journey as been incredibly fun, exhausting, eye opening, and thought provoking on so many levels - so jump in and see what we’ve been up to on the next page while i go relax and reflect on how awesome 2015 has been!

First stop was spending a night in Kingman, AZ. We popped in and out of historic Route 66, which was sadly becoming a shadow of its former self - mostly filled with roadside motels, kitschy diners, and tourist gift shops. rt2.jpg

We drove through quite the snow/rainstorms getting through AZ and NM. But the NOTFZJ handled like a champ. rt3.jpg

Bucky was a trooper too - and got really good at checking on the car from every hotel room window. If someone so much as walked by it, he’d growl from the window - even 3 floors up! You can see the NOTFZJ in winter mode - sans roof top tent and large jerry cans, instead with maxtraxs and rotopax up top. rt4.jpg

When driving through Memphis, we had to peek into the Bass Pro Pyramid. Pretty unbelievable that Bass Pro moved into the pyramid and even has a hotel inside… you can stay in rooms/cabins with screened in porches that overlook the expansive store. And of course you can still take the elevator up the center to the viewing deck at the very top. rt5.jpg

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Ho Ho Hold Your Calls When Driving said the Memphis highway signs… in Nashville they add a “ya’ll” at the end! rt7.jpg

This Edgehill yard filled with inflatables won 1st place in the neighborhood holiday decorating contest. It was amazing - there really was no space left to inflate anything… rt8.jpg

Some Nashville silliness… from bucky sneaking up on my bed, to the NBA glitchiness, Squirrel Mulligan recipes (going through fantastic old southern cookbooks!), and playing football in the gorgeous sunshine! rt9.jpg

Shawn’s older dog and newer dog together! Beast + Bucky finally meet! rt9a.jpg

We were lucky enough to see Beast in his final few days - but he lived quite the life for the last 12.5 years! It was amazing that he got to play with Bucky… and the new pup, Caleb! rt9a1.jpg

Our side trip while in Nashville took us out to Englewood, TN to see a hunter about a pup. We ended up bringing home that little yellow dudley lab - seen in the picture with his mom Betty and a few remaining litter mates. rt9b.jpg

This adorable 10 week old pup is a special type of lab - a dudley lab! A yellow lab with light eyes, nose, gums, surrounding eye areas, and paw pads… those areas lack pigments and stay pinkish! It apparently only happens when the lab is yellow, has a chocolate parent, and gets just the right genetic mix. rt9c.jpg

… driving him home! rt9d.jpg

Caleb meeting Beast! And he settled right into his new Nashville home with Shawn’s parents. rt9e.jpg

We took Bucky to the incredible Wags & Whiskers for a DIY bath… where he gets to stare at all the treats/toys/food while being washed and dried, and Shawn and i get to wear matching adorable black and white bone aprons. rt10.jpg

Delicious whiskey discoveries! The Cumberland Cask Ruby Cut Limited Edition is delightful! rt11.jpg

Also found the Stone Brewing/Sierra Nevada collab that is really good… especially with these Cedar Falls Snack Company Craft Beer Eats Sugar Roasted Peanuts! rt12.jpg

When in Nashville you have to go to Arnold’s for a Meat + 3. Messy as it looks, your tastebuds will love it. rt13.jpg

The Nashville sunsets were something else this trip! rt14.jpg

“Even Santa wears a seatbelt. Buckle up y’all” said the highway signs as we headed back west. rt15.jpg

Scary thunderstorm/tornado situation we drove through in Kentucky. The NOTFZJ (and Shawn) got us through smoothly to the rainbow on the other side. rt16.jpg

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Ending up in Columbia, MO for the night - we discovered Seoul Taco. Delicious! And fun decor! rt19.jpg

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Also in Columbia - the holiday lights were no joke, and Hot Box Cookies… they are hot and fresh… and they even deliver! We need this in LA! rt21.jpg

Shortwave Coffee in Columbia - another cute stop! rt22.jpg

Over in Kansas City! rt23.jpg

I heard Joe’s Kansas City BBQ was THE place to go to. The original location in the gas station especially. And WOW. So so so good. The burnt ends and the z-man sandwich are a MUST. The bean-free chili was also incredible. rt24.jpg

Epic dog park in Kansas City - bucky ran so hard in the endless fields… rt25.jpg

… and loved the watering holes! rt26.jpg

Heading into Colorado on Christmas day. rt27.jpg

Ended up at Star Kitchen - supposedly the best dim sum in Denver - and it was an INSANE Christmas wait, but pretty decent. Found another huge (snowy!) dog park for Bucky to run wild up and down the hills on the way up to Boulder. rt28.jpg

In Boulder - it was a white, snowy christmas on the NOTFZJ. rt29.jpg

Boxcar Coffee Roasters in Boulder has a unique way of brewing… BoilerMakr. A special set up that makes use of the fact that water boils faster at a higher altitude. Fascinating and beautiful to watch! rt30.jpg

Visited the Topo Designs store - love their A-frame and new Dinex cups. rt31.jpg

Heading up into the hills to visit a friend we came across this herd of deer nomming along the hillside by a great synchro van! rt32.jpg

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Lovely packaging caught my eye… rt34.jpg

Car wash to get some salt off along the way… and icles started forming on the tires! These Goodyear Duratrac 315/75/R16 have served us SO well along the roadtrip - we’ve been thoroughly impressed. (Thanks for sending them over for us to try, Goodyear!) rt35.jpg

Then off to Utah we went. rt36.jpg

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The Colorado River was looking beautiful! rt38.jpg

We cruised through Moab (go to the Moab Brewery - good stuff!) and then headed up into the La Sal Mountains you see behind the NOTFZJ to find our little cabin for a break amongst the roadtrippin’. rt39.jpg

Here’s our lovely little dog friendly studio cabin - Sagewood at Whispering Oak Ranch. Up at 8000 ft, it was a cozy, snowy playground. rt40.jpg

The sunsets were breathtaking… and the stars even more incredible at night. With the Christmas full moon and really clear weather - we got lucky with how crisp the stars were during the night drives through CO and UT! rt41.jpg

A peek inside the cabin. Everything you could need - complete with pristine modern bathroom (and outdoor shower for summer), sat wifi, directv, hot tub, and cozy digital fireplace/heating. rt42.jpg

SUNRISE! rt43.jpg

Bucky in his Hurtta coat (needed by this LA dog that doesn’t grow a proper winter coat) just before diving back into the snow to explore. rt44.jpg

Raccoon family we found up on the mountain! rt45.jpg

Exploring some of the unpaved… and unplowed roads as far as we could go. rt46.jpg

Enjoying local Uinta Brewing Co Cutthroat beer while completing a puzzle of Arches National Park… while in the background Shawn is baking cookies! Ahhhhhh - cabin life. rt47.jpg

Heading out - we peek into Arches National Park… only to discover there is a long 4 Wheel Drive Road through the park! Diving into leads us on a pretty technical, stunning, 4 hour adventure. The NOTFZJ handled it really well! And the views were stunning… also we didn’t see another person for 95% of the drive! rt48.jpg

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One of my favorite things about desert adventures in winter… it was sunny, but snow on the ground. And you realize you’re never really alone… everywhere we looked, the snow was covered in tiny foot prints - mostly from rabbits and ground squirrels, and who knows what else?!?!?!?! We finally found where many of them lead to… or come from.
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This got exciting! rt53.jpg

After Arches - we spent the night in St. George, UT and then drove straight through Vegas and got home to LA last night. So good to get back to the ocean!

Though our trip is over - packages awaited me here - like these vintage southern cookbooks i ordered - inspired by Shawn’s mom’s copy of Southern Sideboards. Now the culinary experiments can continue here in LA! rt50.jpg

And a few treats that made the trek back with us - that delicious Ruby Cut Whiskey, some Whisper Creek TN Sipping Cream (a TN twist on Baileys?), and mmmmmm BBQ sauce from Kansas City! rt51.jpg

ROAD TRIP THINGS I LEARNED:
1. Always check the traffic and the weather radar.
2. Always plug in the radar detector.
3. Don’t pre-plan or book hotels or stops. Stop when needed. Expect to be surprised.
4. La Quintas and Best Westerns always have a room for you (+ your dog!) and the rates get lower and lower as you talk to them in person. No online rate ever beat the ones they gave us at the front desk.
5. Yelp, google, and wikipedia around to find delicious and surprising stops (and to know which towns to skip!)
6. Get gas if you’re even considering stopping for gas.

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