Road Trip Reflections | CA, AZ, NM | Jan 2024

I've been thinking about what the best way is to document my travels and I think at the end of each month I'll write a recap post! (If you want to start at the beginning, you can find all my road trip posts here. If you'd like to watch road trip vlogs, you can find them on my YouTube channel. I post in real time on my Instagram stories if you want to stay in touch there!) 
As we wrap up January, it marks 4 months on the road and 6 states visited! I kind of can't believe it! Sometimes it feels like a dream, like was I really in WA a few months ago??
Overall I have loved this experience and sharing it with Valentine. This is the life I was building for myself all along--sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously--and I do feel like in many ways it really suits us. 
Things have for the most part gone according to plan / the itinerary--knock on wood it stays that way! There are only 2 things I can think of that were a little more unplanned-- having to use chains in the mountains in the dark while it was snowing and switching AirBnBs (more on that below).
The most challenging part has been balancing my day job / own work / art / exploring! 
The best parts are having random chats with strangers--I know some people hate it but I love it! 99.9% of the conversations begin because of Valentine / are about Valentine which makes it even better! :)
I'm excited to continue on our journey--here's how January went!


  • States Visited: 3
  • AirBnB Stays: 6
  • Miles Driven: 1,555
  • Number of People Who Talked To Valentine: A lot! :)   

    MONROVIA, CA (1/2 - 1/18)
    Can Valentine Keep Traveling?

    We began the year by driving from Tucson, AZ to Monrovia, CA. The reason I stopped back in CA was because we weren't too far from it and Valentine needed her blood work done to monitor her Cushing's Disease (about every 5-6 months, sooner if anything doesn't feel right). I also wanted to go to my dentist, mechanic, and take Val to her groomer's (something I have been nervous about because of the mystery dog respiratory illness happening so it's nice to go somewhere familiar). It also gave me a chance to pick up mail and unload a bin from my car. And of course I was also able to see some friends and the trolls that are in CA!
    On our drive back to CA, I stayed at an AirBnB in Somerton, AZ with a donkey, ponies, and chickens on the property! I am a huge animal lover so definitely want to book more stays that have animals! Here's a peek at our donkey friend:
    I also made a stop in Indio and went to a park with the cleanest bathrooms I've seen where we saw a road runner and a butterfly that flew right in front of me for quite awhile! From there my GPS took me through the craziest road (I think to avoid Friday traffic?)! I later found out it was where the Coachella Valley Vista Point was. It was super windy and a little stressful to drive on, especially because I don't like being close to the edge of a mountain. Look at this path!
    I originally only booked about a week here so in case I needed to take Val back to the vet we'd be able to do that. But because of the holidays and things being backed up, the results from the lab took a little longer. I was waiting on the results to make plans so decided to make it a little easier on myself and extend my stay which was definitely the right decision! I also really really liked the AirBnB and it was nice to settle there for a bit.
    It is SO nerve-wracking waiting for the results! Valentine had been acting normal and I didn't see any changes so I was cautiously optimistic but you never know! Luckily all the results were good! The markers that indicate Cushing's Disease were actually back in the normal range! There was one value that was a little high but since she was doing fine the vet was not worried (I honestly think she was just eating too many treats lately.) So with the OK from the vet we were good to go and I could plan the first official leg of our trip for 2024! Here's Val after her vet and grooming appointments!
    Before leaving CA I did find the 6 trolls at the South Coast Botanical Garden (I'm trying to see every single one in the US!), spent quality time with good friends, got to have Nice Guy Burgers (my favorite!), Ike's, Maciel's Plant Based Butcher & Deli (so good!), Hart House (burger was eh but shake was 5/5!), Naughty Vegan Panda (so fun to have vegan sushi roll options!) 


    • Monrovia I really fell in love with this city during my stay (how cute is that sidewalk?)! I'd only been there once back in college so don't remember much but it was so cute! I highly recommend walking through Old Town Monrovia. This city is next to Pasadena so a staycation there for the weekend would be fun and relaxing!
    • Thomas Dambo's Trolls are so cool and fun to find and see in person! Check to see where they are located and there are also some (like the ones at the garden I went to) that travel to different spots across the country.
    • Local Fixture Coffee & Gift Shop in Whittier This is SUCH a cute shop with a huge variety of cards, gifts, books, plants, and other goodies along with a coffee shop towards the back! If you're in the area, check it out! One of the employees also gave me her number because her and her boyfriend want to know the results of Val's DNA test because they want to get a dog just like her :)

    PHOENIX, AZ (1/18 - 1/19)

    I feel like I have not stayed in the best areas while I was in Tucson or Phoenix, making it my least favorite place. It might be because I went to some places I REALLY LOVED prior that were so beautiful and in general, deserts aren't really my thing. I feel like I'm missing something and maybe I need to go back and give it another chance. (With that said though, there were things I grew to appreciate about Tucson and the vegan food there--especially baked goods were so good! I will recap it more in depth when I catch up on these posts!)
    But on this stay, even though it was really quick, I feel like I finally saw something that made a bigger and more positive impression! My AirBnB was fine for a short overnight stay and the street and home did feel very safe. The next morning I decided to stop by Papagos Park to walk Val on our way out and I'm so glad we did! The rocks and mountains were really beautiful and the park was extremely clean and maintained very well. I didn't need to use the restroom but it seemed like a nice facility. 


    • The lady who thought Val was a puppy and when I told her her age she said, "She's a grown woman!" Yes ma'am, she sure is lol.
    • Had a great conversation with Azeez (I'm trying to remember to ask people their names--I usually only ask about dog's names lol) about what kind of dog Valentine is and I shared about how I found her and got her a DNA test because I don't know either! I wasn't planning on or expecting to talk to anyone here so it was a nice surprise and start to our day. I am alone a lot of the time so I really find joy in conversations with nice strangers we meet along the way!
    • The little quail birds with their cute hairdos!!!! They were so fun to watch, I love the way they walk around.  

    LAS CRUCES, NM (1/19 - 1/20)

    Las Cruces is about an hour away from White Sands National Park so I found an AirBnB here where we could stop for the night. I was with Valentine out in the fenced yard so she could potty when I noticed the neighbor's dogs were out in their backyard too. I was like aww, how cute! Until one of them ran towards us, scaled the wall, and was about to jump over! I grabbed Valentine and ran back to our room as fast as I could! I love dogs but I didn't know this one and whether he or she was friendly or not. This dog kept jumping over throughout the night and morning! Luckily that was the only run in and our host says she is nice and would complain to the neighbor. I loaded the car and headed out without any other incidents!



    I am STILL thinking about this place! I think it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been in my entire life! I've never been anywhere like it--the white sands flowing into the horizons, the soft swirls of clouds all around, the vast sky painted with blues and lavenders, the stillness and the silence. It was truly a magical experience and I highly recommend everyone go there at least once.


    • Dogs are welcome which is awesome! They can't go inside any buildings but are allowed on leash everywhere else.
    • I went on a Saturday morning, around 10:30AM and was expecting lots of people. It actually as quite empty which was nice! It did start filling up though within the hour.
    • It was pretty cold when we got there but warmed up quickly. I'm glad I went in the winter! It must get super hot in the summers.
    • You can see the park during dusk / sunset which looks amazing!! It looks like you're in a totally different world from the photos I've seen.
    • It's very easy to find and easy to get around. You enter and pay for parking which was $25 for a regular car and it's good for 7 days. You drive along the road and can pull over in designated parking areas to get out and explore.
    • Bring your own slides! You can get them on Amazon for cheaper than renting them there and slide down the sand dunes! I didn't do it this time but saw others having a ton of fun!
    • I propped my phone on a little plant so I could take some timer pics. The leaves ended up getting in the photo and it looks pretty cool! Might be something fun to try :)




    SANTA FE, NM (1/20 - 2/21)

    I‘ve been in Santa Fe for about a week and a half now and will be here until the end of February. My first impression was: it snows here?! I had no idea!
    But it was such a lovely surprise to open the door one morning to see everything covered in white! It's snows twice while I've been here and luckily I didn't have to go anywhere. The nice thing is that by late afternoon, most of the snow melts and I haven't had any issues driving. I feel like I've had the best of both worlds!
    When I was first driving through town something that caught my eye right away were the ristras--they are strings of chile hung along fences, patios, portals, and even street lamps all over New Mexico. These lovely bright and deep read decorations are said to bring good healh and good luck and you can cook with them once they are dried. I had never seen these before!
    The other thing that has really stuck out to me is how friendly the people here are! On our first walk here I think everyone we passed by said hello, we stopped to chat with a few people, and someone on their bike even said, "Hello, have a good day miss!"
    It's also a lot colder here than I thought and different from what I imagined...I think I thought it was going to be just like Arizona for some reason? (No snow, more brown in the dirt / rocks / grass, flat landscape, dry mountains in the background.)
    Although it's been in the 30s, most days the sun is shining and the skies are so blue (the sky was really pretty in AZ too) with lots of pretty clouds!
    There was a little issue that came up with one of my AirBnBs--unfortunately there were ants and stink bugs! Luckily the host was super awesome about it and everything worked out at the end for the better I think. Honestly it could have been way worse but all things considered, it was actually a positive experience and I just pretended like I was camping while I was there! 
    So far we've checked out Santa Fe River Park (it's about a 5 minute drive and we go walking there every morning and evening), Downtown Santa Fe, and Santa Fe Railyard. I have loved all of these places and enjoyed the art, sculptures, murals, architecture, colors, and shapes!


    • Walking along the Santa Fe River and getting to know some of the regulars there!
    • The huge dog sculpture in Downtown Santa Fe!
    • One of my AirBnB hosts is also an artist. I checked out his website and came across this phrase: "...we are all on a journey to find home and to fall in love with a landscape and a way of life." When I read this I felt like it perfectly summed up the journey I'm on now! The host was super nice and I felt like our paths were meant to cross so I could read his words!
    • This man who was leaving the bookstore the same time we were asked if he could show Valentine to his wife, who was waiting in the car. We said hi and she guessed Val was only 12 weeks old!! Best compliment ever lol I think she just thought Val would get a lot bigger!
    • 5 minutes after that we passed by another man who said Valentine was the cutest dog in Santa Fe! 
    • While walking at the railyard, we met a lady who was also walking her pup. We stopped to let them say hi and got to talking. She told me she is new to the area--I was like, me too! She told me she is an artist--I was like, me too! Then she told me she is originally from Seattle and I told her I just went there and loved it! She was so kind and I really liked her energy! We became IG friends and I hope we stay in touch and maybe even see each other again before I leave!


    I'm planning on doing some more exploring and also take a day trip to Albuquerque while I'm here! I'll be leaving at the end of February and the next stop will be San Antonio, Texas! I'm excited to see more of Santa Fe and New Mexico before heading out!

    PS: The gas CANNOT be beat here! Yesterday I passed by a station and it was $2.79! AMAZING!

    PPS: If you made it to the end of this post THANK YOU for reading--you deserve a prize! Let me know you've read this and I will send you a postcard :)

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