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Roadtrip in Review: Looking Back

What do you get when you send a photographer, an artist and two creative style gurus on a road trip spanning Chicago to Los Angeles? A lot of adventures, beautiful photos and lasting memories. 


First stop: Chicago

Starting out in the Midwest, our MarkMakers - artist Amanda Valdez, photographer Kevin Russ and team Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs from Street Etiquette met up in The James Hotel in Chicago, a city known for its creative opportunities.

For their first stop, they hopped on the famous ‘L’ train, where they traveled around the perimeter of the city capturing their favorite photos from the tracks. They then stopped off at Millennium Park to explore the architecture.

“When you’re in a city like New York, the architecture is either all foreground or all background, but in Chicago it’s all middle ground down by the river. The honeycomb buildings are all iconic, and it’s nice to see a change from the more traditional rectangle buildings,” said Valdez. 

MarkMakers Chicago

For travel tips in Chicago, visit our 24 Hours in Chicago round-up. 


Second leg: Austin, Texas

From Chicago, they journeyed down to Austin for some music and good food where our MarkMakers visited the Pandora Discovery Den at SXSW to jam out to new music. 

The next morning began with a stop at SouthBites Trailer Park, a mix of street food including the likes of gourmet burgers, seasoned fries, and a mix of contemporary Mediterranean and South American cuisine. (For more information on where to eat, check out our Hidden Eats in Austin.)

The evening rain didn’t stop the MarkMakers from enjoying sets from acts like Hudson Mohawke and Porter Robinson and exploring Austin’s street art scene.

MarkMakers Austin

Third leg: Marfa, Texas

From Austin, our MarkMakers hit the road again and ventured six hours out to Marfa, Texas. The small town (population less than 2,000) is well known for its artistic influences, and was one of Amanda Valdez’s favorite stops (for must-see recommendations, read our 24 Hours in Marfa guide). She scoured the landscape for hidden treasures that inspired her in her own works. 

“I was prepared for that art aspect of it with its different arts foundations, but just the aesthetics of the city alone, despite any overarching art aspect -  I found really captivating,” she said.

At night, they stayed at the boutique Thunderbird hotel which has been running since 1959. With its beautiful green courtyard and rustic-style rooms, it’s a definite must-stay. 

MarkMakers Marfa

After sampling the “Trashcan” spicy breakfast burrito at Mando’s Restaurant and Bar (don’t let the name fool you - it’s delicious), Amanda explored the streets of the town, analyzing the colors, textures and landscape at every turn.


Fourth leg: Arizona desert and The Grand Canyon

Onwards to the Arizona desert -  where a five hour drive culminated with a night spent at the Arizona Inn.

The next day Amanda, Kevin, Josh and Travis visited an airplane boneyard, a huge space dedicated to the repair and maintenance of some of the most profitable aircraft around - an incredible sight to behold. 

MarkMakers Grand Canyon

Our MarkMakers took flight in a vintage Cessna plane flying high over the Grand Canyon. Josh from Street Etiquette found it particularly breath-taking, saying that the views of the Canyon from so high up was something he never thought he’d ever experience while Kevin was busy taking some one-of-a-kind shots on his iPhone and his 8mm camera. 

MarkMakers Tucson

Upon landing in Marble Canyon, with the water flowing a couple of hundred feet beneath you and the scorching Arizona sun beaming down, our MarkMakers took a moment to capture the scene in all its glory before flying on to Los Angeles.

Thinking about paying a visit? Get our best tips on how to explore the Grand Canyon.


Fifth leg: Los Angeles

After an hour and a half flight across the West Coast up to Los Angeles, the MarkMakers made their way to West Hollywood, the final stop on the Modern Trail. 

Having landed and explored downtown Los Angeles for a short while in the evening, it was time for a sunrise photo shoot early the next morning. At 5am, they made their way to the Hollywood Bowl Outlook, high above the bustling scene of downtown L.A. to take advantage of the dawn light. After the shoot was over, there was just one stop left.

MarkMakers LA

It all came to a close at Edge Studios, West Hollywood for the Timberland wrap party, with each of our MarkMakers showcasing their talents to young creatives, media and their friends and family at the party.


Like most trips, the end is bittersweet but the experiences create a lasting impression. Although the trip is over, the MarkMakers have used their experiences in their later creations - be it to inspire Amanda’s art, Kevin’s photography or Street Etiquette’s style and creativity.

We highly recommend using travel as inspiration, too - the sights, the regional foods, the unexpected discoveries and the camaraderie on the Modern Trail are unlike any other. 

Keep up with our past and present MarkMakers on Twitter and Instagram: #MarkMakers. Share your own adventures: #inmyelement