Driving cross-country: Apps for the road

With our cross-country trip just days away (and the swelling from my wisdom teeth extraction FINALLY going down), John and I are kicking into high gear finishing up last-minute packing and tying up loose ends. I wasn’t of much use this week, though, and I am SO ready to put food in my mouth with reckless abandon. Besides sleeping, I spent much of this week’s opiate haze staring at my phone and looking up apps that would make our road trip to L.A. more fun and informed, so I thought I’d share a roundup of some of the apps I found that would be great for any road trip.

travel apps

Roadtrippers is an app best used by planning it out first on your computer, then taking it on the road with you using your phone. Once you map out your route and select each stop along the way, you can choose what you’d like information about in each city or town, including accommodations, food, museums, parks, and more. What’s great about it is that it’s curated by local experts and travel writers, and it doesn’t just include the standard tourist traps, but it points you to more obscure locations, too. Your filter can include anything from amusement parks and scenic attractions to folk art and abandoned buildings. You know, the spots where you can take the best new Facebook profile picture.

roadtrippers app

Food is going to be a pretty important part of our trip, and while I plan on saving money (and my health) by stopping at more grocery stores than fast food places, we’re going to want some good local fare when we stop every night. The TVFoodMaps app lets you search by city and find all the local pubs and restaurants featured on channels like the Food Network. Below, just a few places to check out in Nashville. (I personally am inclined to visit any place featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives or Man v. Food.)

TVFoodMaps app

A few other travel apps we’ll probably be using a fair amount are iExit, GasBuddy, and Trapster. iExit lets you know in realtime what amenities are at upcoming exits (gas, food, lodging, etc.) and how to get there from the off-ramp. There have been plenty of times during road trips past when I’ve gotten off the main highway thinking the next place with a bathroom would be in plain site only to get lost four miles from the exit and eventually ended up peeing in a questionable unisex gas station bathroom with no lock.

iExit can find you the gas stations, but GasBuddy can do that and tell you where it’s cheapest. Users help keep the listed prices up-to-date, and the app gives you incentive to do so by giving you points toward prizes. Money saved on the road in the form of gas costs is a huge part of enjoying your road trip, especially when your fuel economy is compromised by the weight of your load (heh).

Though my mama scolds me for it, I sometimes have a bit of a lead foot when I drive. Trapster alerts you to speed traps and parked cops looking to give you a ticket. It depends on app users’ updates and obviously won’t be 100 percent accurate, but it’s nice to have extra pairs of eyes on the road, especially when those cops are super-undercover. Still, mom, I promise I won’t speed too much.

vscocam app

Of course, my very favorite part of a good road trip is the number of photo opps that come with it. You can bet I’ll be taking tons of pictures—both my film and digital SLRs are coming with me, along with my tripod and old filters. I’ll also be very active on Instagram, which means I’ll want decent photo editing apps for my phone. After reading great reviews and seeing other Instagram users with it, I downloaded the VSCO CAM app and am already in love. If you’re on Instagram and feel as though you’ve overdosed on the Kelvin filter (kidding—no self-respecting photographer uses Kelvin), VSCO CAM not only lets you choose from several gorgeous filters, but it also lets you adjust their intensity. I love the subtle and elegant touch of each filter, each of which shows off the subject of your photo more than it shows off the filter itself.

tinyplanet app

TinyPlanet is another recent favorite photo app of mine that creates the above otherworldly look for your photos. Just choose from your phone’s photo album which picture you’d like to morph, and it turns it into a strange, tiny planet in seconds. Best used with panoramic, patterned, or scenic shots (rather than selfies).

Best of all, with the exception of TinyPlanet and iExit, these are all free. (The other two are just 99 cents.) What else should I check out? What are your favorite apps for travel, food, and photography? Witty Title Here goes West in just four days!

Money matters

Sheila the Mazda2

Friday evening, I somewhat impulsively became the proud owner of a new car.

The adorable manual Mazda2’s name came to me by accident in a slip of the tongue in my post-purchase shock—Sheila. Her name is Sheila. And she will be my California car.

Thankfully, I got a great deal—Sheila, brand new, cost about the same as this model costs used, thanks to an employee pricing event. Though it was a quick decision on my part (it was the last day of the sales event!), I knew I’d regret not getting this car for the price. And I was right to do it—I’m so happy to have a reliable (and, omg, CUTE) car. But with a new car comes a down payment and several years of financing, and this was the first of many blows to my bank account with this move to L.A.

John and I are embarking on an amazing journey. We’re following our dreams of living in California, I’ll be getting my master’s degree, and after four-plus years of coupledom, we’ll finally be living together. (I cannot WAIT for John to see my retainer.)

It’s pretty romantic on the surface, and I have no doubt we’re doing the right thing. But with following your dreams comes an inevitable, not-so-romantic side of things: the financial burden of doing so.

By quitting my job and moving to California, I’m giving up a certain level of stability. Though my mostly part-time income was modest, I lived at home, commuted less than 15 minutes to work, and managed to save a fair amount of money. It was the responsible thing to do, and now that I’m packing up my things for this cross-country move, I’m so glad I was patient and socked it away.

Despite all that, I know my savings will vanish way faster than it took to build them up. Aside from the car payments, we’ll have the cost of shipping out our stuff, food and lodging along the way, first month’s rent plus deposit, utilities, insurance, groceries, school (uh, big one), hopefully the occasional fun (but cheap) outing, and gas. (Luckily, Sheila is excellent on gas.) I mean, whoa. This is a lot of new financial responsibility for a girl who has had very little of it living with mom. Consider the factors that many of these costs will be up front in large sums and neither of us have secured jobs out West, and it’s a little intimidating.

Am I worried? I have my moments, of course, but not really. I think about it daily, but I don’t doubt our ability to make it work. I will not be picky in my search for flexible, part-time work because I can’t afford to be. I think that attitude will serve me well because it will keep me both humble and hard-working. I’ve been pretty comfortable over the past few years. Maybe I’ve gotten soft. L.A. will snap me out of that real fast, and I think it’s a good thing.

So I tell you these things to remain transparent. Yes, I’m excited—elated—to be making this amazing trip with John. The new car? I’m in love. But these decisions we’ve made that may seem easy and carefree on the outside are actually the result of a lot of patience and sacrifice, and there’s a lot of hard work and even more sacrifice in our future to actually sustain this “California dreamin'” lifestyle we want.

It will not be easy, but it will be totally worth it. Sheila better get ready for some drivin’.

The dream becomes reality

I have seriously been digging music heavy on the California vibes even more than usual.

So yeah. I’m moving to California. Last night, I looked in my closet to see how many pairs of shoes I’d take and how many I could get rid of. I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Packing up our lives is going to be interesting.

With our impending move just shy of two months away, there’s a lot to be done: deciding what to keep and donate, eventually selling one of our two cars (mine), searching for jobs and a place to live, GETTING THERE, and maintaining our sanity in the process. No biggie.

Last month, before I told my employers I’d be leaving (um, hi y’all!), I had a mini panic attack about all of this… while sitting at my desk at work. I miiiight’ve hyperventilated just a tad. It’s a lot of change all at once, and I haven’t always been the best at dealing with transitions. But I also crave change, so it was necessary to keep my panicky feelings in check and think rationally. Breathing exercises helped (as did sending crazy text messages to John until he talked me down).

Venice Beach

Now—and this could change any time over the next two months!—I feel the opposite of panicky. I feel oddly calm, actually. Like everything will work itself out. Everything will work itself out, because goddamnit, I’ll see to it. We’re taking on a lot of new challenges and responsibilities, and I feel more motivated than ever to take it on. I swear, my high school self would be shocked at the more confident, more ambitious older me. She’d also be psyched that I’m actually following the dream and not still just talking about it like a thing that could happen some day.

But my dream is, in fact, becoming a reality, and despite the visions of my life resembling a Free People catalog (if only!), it means I’ll need to really toughen up and get into decision-making mode. This will not be easy. But, for the most part, it will be fun. Shit. Like, a lot of fun. GOD, YOU GUYS, I’M EXCITED.

So anyway, thanks for all your wonderful comments on my last post. I was so anxious to get the news out there, and it made my insides glow knowing I had your support and shared enthusiasm.

And a note: I’m on the lookout for L.A. transplants (particularly bloggers) who’d like to join in for a collaborative Q&A post to talk about their experiences with moving to the Golden State. If you or someone you know has moved to Los Angeles from out-of-state, either leave a comment or shoot me an email at wittycassiehere (at) gmail (dot) com. Let’s make beautiful things together.

Happy Friday!

The biggest news

Guys. I want to be honest with you about something. There’s a pretty major thing I’ve been wanting to share for quite some time that I’ve had to keep quiet for a number of reasons. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding this big change. I had to be sure it was the real deal, but it’s made for months of agony. (Keeping secrets is hard, as it turns out.)

You see, I’ve been thinking a lot about the direction in which I want to take not just this blog, but my life. And the direction I’ve decided on? West. As in westward. As in California, motherfuckers.

I’m not going on vacation, friends. Simply put, John and I are paring down our belongings, mapping out our cross-country route, and moving to Los Angeles. In precisely two months.

Sounds dreamy, right? Yeah, it’s still pretty surreal to me. But there’s more.

Aside from the year-round balmy temperatures and Pacific Ocean sunsets, there’s another source of motivation for this journey. Not only will I be moving in with my boyfriend of four years (and driving 2,600 miles to do so), but I’ll also begin a graduate program in journalism at the University of Southern California.

And here I am. Freaking out in the best possible way.

Witty Title Here is moving to Los Angeles!

Do I sound calm? It’s because it’s still only just now hitting me. Researching and applying to graduate programs, waiting for their responses, and scouring Craigslist apartment listings have all consumed my energy and brain space for months. But telling you guys, here, today (oh, and also my employers)? THAT’S what makes it feel real. And I am so. damn. excited. You guys—I’m MOVING to CALIFORNIA!!! (See?! Totally not calm!)

So that’s my news! It’s big. I’m elated. The next few months (plus, of course, the two years it takes to complete the journalism program) will be some of the toughest, scariest, and most exciting months of my life. And I cannot wait to share them with you. I’ll be busy as hell. But at least I’ll never have a shortage of blogging material. (As I like to remind myself: Live a life worth blogging about!)

So I hope you’re along for the ride. Because Witty Title Here is going west.