Eat Drive Live Being a native New Yorker who’s been living in Los Angeles for the past nine years, I’ve only known the East and West Coasts. With the exception of a long weekend visit to Chicago in the summer of ’08 that resulted in the Worst Hangover Ever (thanks, Roscoe’s), I’ve never known…the Middle. I never experienced the rest of these diverse and wonderful United States of America. I never really had the opportunity to break free from my “bubble,” see how the rest of this country lives and witness the purple mountains and majesties of its landmarks and wonders. Like Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love, I wanted to go to a place where I could marvel at something—but in my own backyard.
If you believe that everyone should travel in order to fully appreciate the ginormous world we live in, then you’re probably willing to broaden your own horizons. Traveling is a gift that offers the chance to experience new cultures outside your familiar borders. Domestically speaking, it’s a time to discover what makes this great nation of ours tick. Road trips also allow us to learn about ourselves. For me, not only was this excursion a much-needed vacation, it was a distraction from recent heartache—cue the violins. And of course, it was an opportunity to see how the rest of America lives (the gay parts, of course) and ogle some hotness along the way.
Whether to travel alone or not was a question I had asked myself, and after quickly weighing my options, I made the wise decision to bring along a good friend who had also been itching for a cross-country adventure. After all, my bank account would thank me for splitting some of the costs by bringing along a buddy (have you seen those gas prices lately?). And after covering thousands of miles on the road, I strongly suggest you do the same and find yourself the right travel companion. Not only will you cover more ground while driving, you’ll have someone to accompany you while blaring the iPod and lip-synching to Lady Gaga. Just make sure that it’s someone trustworthy that you’ve known for a while and that you can tolerate each other’s crap. While road trips may provide great moments of bonding, adventures like these are also known to take a toll on friendships. So it doesn’t hurt to lay down a few road rules beforehand: No farting in the car, one-hour intervals of radio control and, most important of all, should one of you want to bring a trick back to the hotel room after hitting up a local bar, it’s only fair that the other gets the same privilege in the next city.
To prepare for our 17-day journey from L.A. to New York, we planned our route a month in advance, researching every sight to see, every hot spot to check out, every kind of local cuisine to sample. We wanted the full experience of every major destination we visited. Road atlases are cool and all, but we knew a trusty GPS would get us where we needed to be. Armed with a few bags of nonperishable snacks, plenty of water and a fully charged Flip camera, we
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Little did we know what we’d be in for…
SALT LAKE CITY, UT: Or, Where To Witness Multiple Weddings Widely known as the Mormon Capital of the World, SLC was our first stop after leaving Los Angeles. We had a burning curiosity to see if this quaint capital city—flanked by snowcapped mountains and desolate salt flats—is really a place that hates gays. We felt like spies infiltrating enemy territory (have you seen Bill Maher’s Religulous?). Would we burst into flames the second we stepped on holy ground? Would we be exposed? No. Instead, we learned this ironic little tidbit, courtesy of our friendly hotel concierge, Carlos: Salt Lake City claims to host the third-largest gay pride in the country.Who knew?
WHERE TO GO Hotel Monaco (15 West 200 South) Part of the fabulous Kimpton Hotel Group and located in the heart of the city, this pet-friendly boutique hotel has its fair share of decadent amenities and great views of downtown’s often confusing city grid. monaco-saltlakecity.com
Bambara This New American bistro is attached to Hotel Monaco and serves an outstanding yellowfin tuna tartare. Then pop in the Vault for an after-dinner cocktail. bambara-slc.com Jam (751 North 300 West) Unassumingly located at the base of a mountain in a quiet residential neighborhood, this smoke-free bar features a modest dance floor and an outdoor patio, where we bumped into our hotel’s concierge, Carlos, who then became our own personal gay guide to SLC’s surprisingly lively nightlife. jamslc.com
In The Venue (219 South 600 West) The huge, three-floored warehouse-like space is the place to be on Friday nights for Püre (watch out for the midnight drag contest—we happened to walk in on Gaga night). More fun than we bargained for, this was easily the best club we hit during the entire road trip (yes, in Mormonville, of all places!). inthevenueslc.com
Bayleaf Bar and Grub (159 South Main St.) An adorable brunch spot with a mighty fine meat loaf and strong coffee that helped fuel our trek to our next destination. bayleafbarandgrub.com Sam Weller’s Bookstore (254 S. Main St.) Get lost among the towering shelves while getting your literature on in this old-school shop and pick up one of their hysterical novelty greeting cards on the way out. samwellers.com
Temple Square Regrettably, we missed choir practice in the Tabernacle, but we did manage to catch the tail end of six (yes, six) simultaneous weddings. Stopping by the 11-foot-tall talking Jesus in the North Visitors’ Center is also a must before heading downstairs to the exhibit hall, where you can flip through dozens of differently translated Mormon bibles. utah.com/mormon/tabernacle.htm
For more of the Big Gay American Road Trip, pick up the June/July issue of Instinct.