Tucson, May 2020

If you know me/us, you know we like to travel. A lot. B does it for his job. Thanks to the shitshow that is our current world (… although less so, now), B hasn’t gone anywhere since this all began. Neither have I.

However, with things opening up a little … we decided that for our mental health, we both needed to get away. So that’s exactly what we did. And of course, where did we go? Tucson.

Tuesday, May 19

We didn’t leave super early like we normally do, mostly because we weren’t trying to make it to Tucson in a day. We woke up, went for a run, and got on the road about 8 or 9 am. We went a slightly different route, going through Utah and into Arizona that way.

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We stopped for lunch in Moab, which officially makes it the longest amount of time I’ve ever officially spent in Moab. We were also able to sit and eat in a restaurant for the first time in like two months, so that was nice.

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Arches National Park was closed (we probably would have stopped in had it not), but if you keep driving out of Moab, you come across Wilson’s Arch, seen here. You can hike up to it, but it was super honking windy, so we nixed that idea.

Our stop for the night was in Flagstaff, Ariz. Dinner was takeout, although we found out when picking up the food that we could have dined in. Whatever.

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Not where we stayed, but it was a super cool sign. We were technically on Route 66 at this point.

Food eaten: egg at home, Starbucks, car snacks, Spoke on Main (Moab), more car snacks, Texas RoadHouse (Flagstaff)

Wednesday, May 20

We woke up relatively early on Wednesday as we had a destination in mind for that morning and we wanted to get there when it opened.

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Wait, what’s this? Apple orchard?

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Yep, just part of Slide Rock State Park! I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of it on Pinterest or it written about on travel sites. The rocks in the park/on the river are super slippery and form a natural water slide. It’s not that long, but it is super fun. There’s also a place you can jump from ledges into the water … which we both did after some hesitation.

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Taken after sliding down the rocks.

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Ledge jumping.

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When the bucket list item is worth it.

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Further up the river.

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We’ll be back, Slide Rock.

After Slide Rock, we deck changed at the car back into normal clothes and got back on the road. We didn’t stop in Sedona, but we did drive through – so cute. Will also need to return there at a later date to explore.

Our next stop was the Phoenix metro area. The drive down was absolutely stunning, particularly when we first started seeing the saguaros. We went down in the middle of blooming season and saguaros in bloom? Gorgeous.

We got lunch first and then did a short stop just for me.

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Been meaning to find this piece of interactive Kelsey Montague art for a while. Hoped to do it on either the January or (non-blogged about) March trip, but alas. Then a stop at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for more at home coffee for B in Scottsdale and Cadence Running Company in Gilbert for me for another pair of running shoes. B took over driving the rest of the way into Tucson and we detoured in Marana to the Pinal Air Park to mournfully look at all the parked airplanes not being flown thanks to the virus-reduced schedules.

We stayed at a new hotel in Tucson – the Westin La Paloma – mostly because we found a decent deal AND they had a lap pool. Pools in Arizona had opened on the 15th and this triathlete hadn’t swam in 75 days.

We checked in, tossed all the crap in the room, and got in a tiny swim. Really pretty tiny since I really felt the pool layoff (I tend to get nauseous my first swim or two back from a layoff, and this was no exception) AND I really needed food. But it was SO NICE to swim again.

Then dinner, and bed.

Food eaten: Chick-fil-a, Starbucks, In-n-Out Burger, eegee’s.

Thursday, May 21

I woke up early ostensibly to swim, but I realized I really needed food first. So food was had first. We called around to a few places to make sure they had dine-in (not everyone did), but Baja Cafe, the place Seton and Debbie took us back in January did, so that’s where breakfast was. From breakfast, it was off to Saguaro National Park (East) to go for a short trail run/hike.

There … I saw something very special.

For a bit of backstory, during this quarantine/shelter-in-place, I’ve reconnected with an old friend from the grade school days. She’s now actually a legit shaman and has been running in-person moon circles in California for a few years. However, as all of our lives have been transferred online (more than they already were), she decided to host an online circle. Since it was free and I was curious, I signed up. And then I did three more (and paid by the end gladly). During the moon circles, we do a guided meditation into our heartspace. I’d seen the Sonoran desert in three of the four and a Gila monster in the last two. The first time, it just showed up and the second time as an actual spirit guide. And then I started seeing them everywhere – all on my random desert feeds I follow on Instagram and even as a mural on some building off I-25 that I drive past all the time and SOMEHOW just realized that it had a Gila on it (I’d already noticed the awesome trout). So, on this trip, I had a feeling I’d see one in the wild. You need to remember, however, that spotting them is extremely rare. They spend something like 98% of their lives underground. In all my trips to Tucson (which is many), I’d seen one once and even then it was only crossing the road. I’d never seen one up close, so to speak. Both B and I thought that might change this trip. And it did.

But it might not have even happened. As we did our run, we ran a different path at the fork in the trail than I/we usually do. We could have just turned around and went back from whence we came, but I wanted to go the normal route. We would just finish the run distance whenever we came to it and then could just hike back.

On this whole run, I was constantly scanning the surroundings, looking for a Gila. And then I finally told myself, stop. If you consciously look for it, you won’t find it. (and you might hurt yourself for not paying attention where you’re stepping on a rocky trail.) So I finally started to let go. And as we approached one of the washes you cross … I saw something, stopped my Garmin, and squee’ed.

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B: “Why did we stop?”
Me, pointing: “Loooooook!”
B: “Where? What?”
Me, more emphatically: “LOOOOOK! IT’S A GILA!”
B: *squees with me*

Little lizard wanted nothing to do with us – we tried being quiet as we got closer (iPhone cameras, or at least ours, don’t zoom well and I wanted to actually get a damn picture) – but no, they waddled off and away from us. Which was adorable (go find one scampering off).

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You almost never see pictures of them straight, but this was the clearest I could get. And even then, this is the edited, enhanced, insta version.

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Wandering off into the desert.

Man, that made my trip. No joke.

We finished up the last little bit of the run and then continued wandering in the park a little.

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Saguaro blossom.

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Ahh, cacti.

After Saguaro, we considered riding … but swam instead and then just spent most of the rest of the day outside by the pool. Dinner was our one take-out meal in Tucson, as there was no way I was missing out on a cheese crisp (that came in a pizza box) and green corn tamale from Casa Molina.

Food eaten: Baja Cafe, Starbucks, food from one of the random Westin La Paloma restaurants, Casa Molina

Friday, May 22

Friday, we woke up and decided to try a brand new place for breakfast that I had seen referenced on the social medias – Joe’s Pancake House on Kolb.

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We both love low-key breakfast joints … probably more than we like the fancy/hipster ones. Plus all that food cost us like $15, which is even better. I like places like Frank’s/Francisco’s where you can get a killer food deal.

After breakfast, it was a bit of driving around exploring … partially to get me to some murals.

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I realized too late that I completely forgot about the new Tucson Together mural (and I need to find out where it is) … otherwise I would have tried to find that one, too. We also hit up a rock shop and then lunch.

Most of the afternoon was spent doing some admin work and lazing about the hotel room, but we did end up going on a bike ride before dinner and DATE NIGHT IN AN ACTUAL RESTAURANT AGAIN. We also tried a new place on the west side that we’d driven past a few times but never actually stopped.

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Inside.

It was DELICIOUS. B’s steak was fantastic and every time I grabbed a bone from my ribs, it just came out, leaving the meat behind.

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You kind of see that here. If you went outside to behind where that sign was, you can actually see the pit/grill they used. My kind of place. Highly recommended.

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The mud pie wasn’t the best I’ve had, but it still wasn’t bad.

After dinner, we quick hopped over Gates Pass for the sunset. Unfortunately we’re in the time of year where Tucson has like two clouds, so it wasn’t as fabulous as it was in January.

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One last stop for a few more “bucket list Tucson photos” finally got me this sign:
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and driving to it got me this one:
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(For those not in the know, Magic Carpet was the BEST MINI GOLF EVER back in the day in Tucson. Fun, interactive holes, two courses … it was the greatest. R.I.P. I miss you Magic Carpet. One of the few Tucson things I deeply regret never being able to have B experience with me.)

Food eaten: Joe’s Pancake House, Starbucks, eegee’s, Baggin’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Daisy Mae’s Steak House.

Saturday, May 23

After one last swim for who knows how long (*cries*), it was on the road to get out of town. This was a weird Tucson trip in that we didn’t go the I-25-Hatch-I-10 route at all. Part of it was because that New Mexico still is pretty locked down, but part of it was also to experience some different stuff. We drove north out of Tucson to Phoenix and then detoured toward Kingman as B wanted to see how quiet Las Vegas was (and to extend the trip a touch longer).

This made it a drive neither of us had done before and one totally worth it as we drove past the tiny Arizona town of Wickenburg that looked TOTALLY AWESOME and became yet another place that we need to go back to and visit. Seriously, this is why I love road-tripping and taking weird back routes. You stumble upon the greatest stuff.

Nevada/Las Vegas was weird. I tried going to a JoAnn’s to find Vegas Golden Knights fabric to make more masks, but that was a massive fail and a half. What wasn’t was finally being able to visit the new Cafe Lola location in Henderson. Even though they didn’t have my pasteis de nada (boo).

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Roped off. No influencer pics for you!

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Weird feeling compared to the Summerlin location, but I think that’s more the fault of the current state of things as opposed to anything they could control.

B wanted to drive the Strip – that was weird, seeing all of the normally open doors shut and barred. When we left it was the happiest we’d ever been leaving Las Vegas. Usually we wouldn’t be that excited to get to our evening destination (Cedar City), but alas.

Food eaten: Waffle House, Starbucks, In-n-Out Burger, Cafe Lola, Brody’s Mexican, Crumbl Cookies.

Saturday, May 23

Our final day was the most boring day – just a drive day.

Or so we thought … as it decided to start spitting snow in Vail and then didn’t stop precipitating (snow until just after Georgetown and then steady rain) until we got home. Yay.

Food eaten: Starbucks, Einstein Bros. Bagels, home snacks, food at the brother and sister-in-laws.

A little surreal to travel, but it was a much needed trip for both of us.

Arizona, January 2020

… will I eventually end up living in the desert given how much I travel there? Yes. Yes I probably will.

In any case, I had two (well, three) main reasons to go on this vacation:
1. Free Desert Museum tickets from Visit Tucson that I had to use up before the end of April;
2. Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona half-marathon in Tempe; and
3. seeing B’s mom who’s trying out wintering in Scottsdale.

I mean, we’re probably going to head back down again for spring training, but that’ll be such a short trip without enough time to head to Tucson. So, this trip.

Wednesday, January 15

We left early as we always do … basically early enough to hit up the Starbucks in Pueblo as it opens. Despite the obnoxious construction going on I-25 between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs, it was a fairly uneventful drive.

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Though we did stop at a rest area to pee, and I saw this little gorgeousness.

As we’ve learned we need to see cacti first thing, we exited I-10 a bit early to go straight to Saguaro National Park (east side). This … was a genius idea. Particularly as the sunset that night? I have been WAITING for a sunset like that. You’ll see.

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… and B was worried it wasn’t going to be awesome …

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Literally in love.

Then finally off to check in to the hotel and hit up Casa Molina for dinner.

Thursday, January 16

This trip also ended up being a good excuse for me to be able to support some friends and get some green corn tamales. The kid of our good friends, Seton and Debbie, sold tamales over Christmas as a Boy Scout fundraiser. Since we all know I love me some green corns, I commented that “oh man, I wish.” Debbie said that if I knew I’d be in Tucson somewhat soon, she’d just freeze them for me. Sooooo … I bought two dozen green corn tamales. We met them for breakfast (at a new place, Baja Cafe, that was delicious) and tamale exchange.

After breakfast, it was off to use our passes to the Desert Museum. It had been a few years since we’d gone, so we were happy to do so.

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Snory Gila.

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… is it a desert trip if B doesn’t hug a saguaro?

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We paid extra to go play with the stingrays. I got super splashed. Which was kind of hilarious.

It started sprinkling as we left the Desert Museum and then it started raining in earnest on our drive back. We got eegee’s and tried their flavor of the month – tangerine. Tasted like a Sunkist … which I like, but it also meant that it was SUPER sweet. We also spent some time at a few of the Bookman’s locations, trying to sell some more of B’s old Nintendo games and picking up some books.

We got in a quick workout back at the hotel – just a run on the treadmill as opposed to our hoped-for bike, but we did get to see a rainbow.

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Dinner was January date night at El Corral (which we’ve done before, but hey, it works).

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Note to self: skip the bread, skip the fries, only order the prime rib.

Friday, January 17

We woke up, ate breakfast at the hotel, got coffee, and then got on the road. Our eventual destination was the place B’s mom’s renting in Scottsdale, but we had a few stops first.

Stop one was Cadence Running Company in Gilbert. A tri acquaintance owns it (who unfortunately wasn’t there as he was at a tri camp), but we were both able to find new running shoes. We’re both sick of specialty running in Denver, so why not try a new place in a different state?

Then it was off to downtown Phoenix to pick up my race packet for Sunday’s half-marathon before finally making it to Scottsdale. We ran a few errands with his mom, squeezed in a super quick bike ride, and then enjoyed a dinner with some of his family that lives down in the area.

Saturday, January 18

We started off Saturday morning by walking to breakfast at Randy’s, a place right around the corner from where B’s mom is renting. It was a cute local place (but beware: cash only). She had to return some stuff to the mall, so we went and got coffee while she did that. Then it was on to lunch and to see her sister and brother-in-law in Mesa (and to steal a whole bunch of the fruit off their trees). B and I got the golf cart tour of their community while the sisters visited.

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Saw this amazingly awesome saguaro during the ride.

The rest of the evening was fairly low key with a bit of race prep. B made me my standard breakfast-for-dinner which was amazing.

Sunday, January 19

Most of Sunday morning was dedicated to me running my half-marathon … which if you’re curious about how that went, go here.

Post-race, back to shower and relax before doing a late lunch in Old Town Scottsdale at a place called Cien Agaves.

They had a cheese crisp on the menu so we tried it … definitely not the best we’ve had. Everything looked a touch spicy on the menu, so I decided to chance the cheese enchiladas.

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My mouth was on fire the whole time. Also not the best enchiladas I’ve had. Probably would not go back.

We walked around Old Town Scottsdale for a tiny bit afterward before heading back.

The rest of the evening was super chill, mostly just getting all packed up.

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Evening sky.

Monday, January 20

We rolled out of bed super early and left around 4am. I made a quick egg at the house, but our first real stop was in Payson – for gas and for more food (tried out BoSa Donuts – pretty good – and, of course, some Starbucks).

Once again, the drive home was fairly uneventful which is always nice.

Vegas/LA Fall 2019

I didn’t write about our last trip to Vegas (back in late July/early August) because it was a super short trip just to sell B’s crash pad car. However, he bought a new crash pad car and we needed to drive it out to LA. So … we did that.

Sunday, September 29:

At the last home game of the Colorado Rockies season, the players come around and hand out stuff to the fans and it’s all fun and great. When we booked our 15 game package, we made sure to do this game as we enjoyed the experience last year. As our Vegas stay was booked starting the 30th and it’s a 12-13 hour drive … we figured we’d just leave after the game and make it as far as we could.

Wellllllll the Rockies decided to go into extras and it finally got to a point where we had to leave. So we did, sometime in the 11th. We listened to the rest of the game during the first part of the drive, happily learning they won in the 13th.

In any case, the delay meant no Utah, but almost – just a few miles from the border in Fruita.

(obviously we could have made the state of Utah, but the best option for hotels once you cross the border is like 100 miles in and that would have put is in super late.)

Food Eaten: (on the trip) Dinner: nachos and beer at El Tapatio.

Monday, September 30:

Woke up fairly early in order to get on the road as soon as we could. As caffeine is needed in our family, a stop at the Starbucks in Fruita was a must. And as Fruita has had some dinosaurs found there … it might be my new favorite Sbux.

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Looooooook at all the dinosaurs!!!

From there, a steady drive to Las Vegas. We drove straight to the Bellagio (do we stay anywhere else? not really) where we proceeded to have issues post-check-in for the second time in a row. A few months ago: get to our room and the keys don’t work (electronic lock thingy had dead batteries). This trip: our room that we thought had been ready … wasn’t. Got transferred to a new room, but still, annoying.

We got settled and headed to the fitness room to get a quick workout in (treadmill run and lift). Back upstairs to shower and then out for an early dinner. B had been really craving pizza, so we went to Giordano’s across the street at Bally’s. B had a mini personal deep dish and I had a chicken broccoli fettuccine alfredo.

Gambling might have happened too, but I’m not 100% sure.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, Starbucks, random gas station snacks (I got a second cup of coffee and gas station coffee goes down better with a snack). Lunch: … I think maybe a bite at Taco Bell? and then just random snacks. Dinner: Giordano’s. Dessert: gelato from Cafe Gelato.

Tuesday, October 1:

We woke up and went for breakfast and coffee, stopping in a quiet conservatory along the way.

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So much nicer when it’s not packed with people.

On the way back from coffee, I bought a necklace from the art vending machine inside the Cosmo, but I forgot to keep the picture I took for this blog. Oops. We then went back to the fitness room to bust out a workout before our main event for the day.

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This doesn’t have much to do with anything … except the fact that the amount of dinosaurs we travel with now has doubled over the years. Oops …?

Anyway, the main thing we had booked was the Happy Place, which had a pop-up in the Shoppes at Mandalay Place. I had first heard of Happy Place when it had a pop-up in Boston and I had friends who went and it looked totally cool. Completely designed for the instagrams? Yep, but whatever. When I learned it was coming to Vegas and that our drive out coincided … I talked B into going. #worthit.

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First room.

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(yes I totally also took a picture of me not smiling in front of this wall)

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You could also lay down and make confetti angels. Which I did for the boomerang for the instas.

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Sadly, the free cookies weren’t very good.

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Super bloom room!

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Wish I had done my instagram research to make the shots from this room more believable.

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My husband totally looks like a serial killer here.

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There is a picture of me on the lips couch behind the o in the previous photo, but I figured this super awkward photo of B was way more amusing to share.

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Sure, Cornelius. Absolutely.

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Very, very true.

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Always look up.

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Quite possibly one of my most favorite husband photos ever.

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Yes there were people in each room to take pictures of you if you needed it. I’m serious when I say this place was basically designed for social media.

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This ball pit was B’s favorite part of this whole thing. Because dude. Ball pit.

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Confetti in my eyeballs … but still fun.

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Yes, yes we did, Happy Place.

In case you’re wondering … YES I COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY RECOMMEND THIS PLACE. Pop-ups live now in Vegas and in Philly. GO. If it ever comes to Denver I’m going again. SUPER fun. And I probably should have given it it’s own blog post. Meh.

Afterward … we did a tiny bit of gambling at Excalibur (cheaper craps tables for the husband) before stopping at Eataly in Park MGM for food.

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B had a panini. I went simple with steak and potatoes. Next up was Margaritaville for a quick drink.

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Saw this across the street. We were there on the second anniversary of the shootings.

We went back to the Bellagio for a little bit to chill out and gamble some and also gather our energy for dinner.

Dinner was at Black Tap inside the Venetian. We heard about it watching “The Flay List” on Food Network – Black Tap was the place Bobby Flay’s daughter Sophie liked for burgers. It looked fun, we found out there was a location in Las Vegas … we decided to go.

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We didn’t get one of the fancy burgers – just the All-American – but it was delicious. My only complaint: bun needed a tiny bit of toasting. And the fries (regular and sweet potato) were mediocre.

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They have CRAZY milkshakes. We went fairly subdued with the Brooklyn Blackout. Only thing that was a disappointment on it were the brownies – super dry and almost seemed hollow when you bit into them. Shake itself was delicious, if not extremely rich.

Didn’t gamble as much back at the hotel as the MLife system went down, but that’s probably not a bad thing.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: Sadelle’s, Starbucks. Lunch: Eataly (separate drinks at Margaritaville). Dinner: Black Tap LV.

Wednesday, October 2:

We had no rush to leave Las Vegas, but kind of decided to head out of the hotel fairly early anyway. We grabbed a small bite at the hotel before heading to a place we tried last visit, Saint Honore, a sister concept of our favorite coffee shop, Cafe Lola. We tried a regular doughnut last time, but I really wanted to try the beignets this time around.

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Pretty dang good.

A hop across the street to Target to pay my bill and then up the road a block or two to Cafe Lola. Because of course.

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All decorated for the holidays. Also: spot the dinosaur.

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Our coffees and my favorite, the pasteis de nada.

After B got a bit of work done, it was off to LA. We were tossing around the idea of Palm Springs or somewhere else in California … but ultimately decided to just explore LA some more. Ended up being a fairly low key evening with a run and some food.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: Cafe Gelato, Saint Honore, Cafe Lola. Lunch: random drive snacks. Dinner: our standard Whole Foods in Manhattan Beach. Also a later evening snack at Taco Bell (and a gas station Haagen Dazs bar).

Thursday, October 3:

We decided to do one of our favorite little places for breakfast in Hermosa Beach in Martha’s 22nd Street Grill.

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Mostly because of this view. Ah, ocean.

After breakfast, off to the LA Farmer’s Market. B got some coffee and then it was time to wander around. We really didn’t buy anything, but it was pretty cool. Bonus is that it was right next to the Grove (fancy shopping center) which had a Sprinkles in it. Sprinkles makes the best pumpkin cupcake I’ve ever had … and their cupcake store/ATM shut down in Vegas (booooo). As we’re in the season of all things pumpkin/pumpkin spice … I wanted the damn cupcake. So this location was a bit fortuitous.

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Tried a doughnut in the farmer’s market.

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So pretty.

From there, a few miles away so I could visit the actual store of Trashy Lingerie. It was different from what I was expecting, but I’m glad I went. Didn’t buy anything, though.

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Street art across the way.

We had a touch of car trouble after this (seriously never buy from the used car lots on West Colfax, people) so our afternoon plans kind of got thrown out the window. Thankfully we didn’t have many. I’m not going into details about all of what happened … but know that it sucked. Hard.

And also made us feel a lot better about dinner that night.

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Mmmm, In-N-Out.

I wanted to try to catch the sunset at the beach as I usually try to do, and we kind of made it.

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The peace of walking along the shoreline hearing the waves crash along the shore was exactly what we needed.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: Martha’s 22nd Street Grill, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Bob’s Donuts. Lunch: Norm’s, Sprinkles cupcake, Whole Foods. Dinner: In-N-Out Burger.

Friday, October 4:

Early wake-up call to get to the airport as B had to leave on a trip and I had to get home.

Also, did you know that the Delta SkyClub has a toast bar so you could make your own avocado toast? Well, now you do.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: Delta SkyClub. Lunch: Athenian Restaurant once I got home. Dinner: … random stuff around the house.

IRONMAN Wisconsin Trip 2019

In which we road tripped to Madison, Wisc., so I could go race another IRONMAN.

Wednesday, September 4:

As we do, we left early on Wednesday morning.

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Sunrise leaving town.

Our hotel reservations didn’t start in Madison until Thursday, but the first day of race check-in was ALSO Thursday, and I know if I don’t want to wait in a long line, I get there the first day. So we left Wednesday and drove to Dubuque, Iowa (much like I did for my Shinedown trip back in May).

Mostly, a long boring day in the car. Thanks, head winds. But I didn’t get lost this time! We also stopped at the same Chick-fil-a in Dubuque I did back in May to get a whole bunch of chicken sandwiches with extra pickles for bike food on Sunday (go read the tri blog linked above for more on that).

Food Eaten: Breakfast: egg and oj, Starbucks, Chick-fil-a (mmm chicken egg and cheese on a biscuit). Lunch: KFC/Subway. Dinner: salad at Hy-Vee, Culver’s.

Thursday, September 5:

First things first, I realized I was missing an IM road trip tradition, so I took care of that.

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Then, it was on to Madison … with first a stop in Verona to get a cappuccino at n+1 Coffee and Beer (inside Rocket Bicycle Studio) because I really liked it last time I was in town.

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Plus we got to talk to one of the owners, Jessica, who gave B a whole bunch of good tips for coming down and spectating on Sunday, as the bike course goes by their shop twice. After coffee, we stopped at the cute little grocery store in town for a doughnut (as I remembered them being good) and a few other things (bottled water for my water bottles, apples for some fiber (mostly for B), mini Dr. Peppers for special needs) before heading off to Madison.

Our hotel room was ready when we got there (stayed at the Hilton Monona Terrace), so we got checked in, unloaded the car, and then I headed literally across the hotel sky way to the Monona Terrace Convention Center to go get checked in for my race.

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This is on the tiles outside.

After I got all checked in, I was starving, so we quick dumped off my IM crap upstairs and then headed to the Great Dane for lunch. We ate at a couple Madison “must-dos” on this trip, and the Dane was one of them.

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Overall, it wasn’t bad. We split the massive pretzel as an appetizer (B was doing his best to shove a lot of food in my face this week). I had a different type of fish sandwich (salmon) and B had a Nashville hot chicken sandwich and onion soup.

We went for a ride with a friend that afternoon and then for dinner, we decided to do another “when in Rome” and go eat at State Street Brats.

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There are fiberglass Bucky Badgers all over town. I tried to emulate him here.

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Hockey Bucky!

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We ended up doing a mini tour of cheese curds on this trip, and State Street Brats was the first place we tried. Weren’t bad. Brat was okay, too. We sort of found a part of an empty table to stand at because apparently the Green Bay Packers were playing that night and it was packed. Also packed with college kids. I’m telling you, at 36 I don’t feel old in general … unless you throw me in a bar on a college campus filled with undergrads. Then HOLY SWEET JEEBUS do I feel ancient.

Afterward, we tried a local ice cream shop that B’s ex (who is from Wisconsin) recommended in the Chocolate Shoppe.

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I had the Latte-Da. It was tasty.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, n+1, random donut. Lunch: Great Dane Brewing and Pub. Dinner: State Street Brats, Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream.

Friday, September 6:

Friday morning was taken mostly up with a practice swim, as I wanted to get in Lake Monona at least once pre-race. I also went to an athlete briefing, as, well, I was in town for a race and that was something I needed to do. I was also super happy I had checked in the day prior as the lines for that? So long.

I was planning on doing the Undie Run … but lost confidence, so B and I just did a short mile shakeout run to lunch. Lunch was sushi at Sushi Express on the UW campus as we always like eating sushi a day or two before a race. Plus it is (or at least can be) a lot lighter of a meal which was definitely needed.

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Mmmm, fish.

After lunch, a shower and then mostly chilling out starting to get my bags prepped for the next day.

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But also a picture of Lake Monona and the top of the convention center from the room we ate breakfast in every morning. I swam there.

For dinner, we met up with B’s cousin Nicole, who lives in Madison. Our first thought was the Old Fashioned … but they had like a 90 minute wait and I didn’t want to eat dinner at 8p. So, we wandered off to another place and tried the Tipsy Cow. I didn’t take pictures, but they weren’t bad. Tipsy Cow ended up being stop two on the cheese curd tour, and theirs were better than State Street’s. I ended up having some chicken caprese sandwich thingy that was actually really pretty good (if a bit heavy on the balsamic). I think B ended up doing fish fry (fish and chips) and I can’t remember what Nicole had.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, Starbucks. Lunch: Sushi Express. Dinner: Tipsy Cow.

Saturday, September 7:

The main activity this day was the Madison Farmer’s Market, which takes place around the entire square.

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Some of the gorgeous flowers on display.

We ended up getting a few things. Brandon got some apples, I bought a cucumber to just eat, and we got a large bag of 5 dozen ears of corn so I could attempt to make tamales when I got home. (Which I did. It was a disaster. Hilarious, but a disaster.) We also got a pumpkin cream cheese muffin from a vendor for my morning pastry as I wanted to get coffee from a local place that morning … which I did, in Colectivo Coffee.

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After that, back to the hotel so I could prep all of my gear bags and B could head down to his volunteer shift checking in athlete bikes.

I packed up my gear bags and took them and my bike down to get racked and placed for the next day. I ended up seeing a few friends at bike check-in, as I ended up hanging out for the rest of B’s shift. We saw our friend Loberg from out here in Colorado (and I took a picture to send to my friend Katie, who’s her coach) and then chatted with an old SMASH teammate, Taryn, post-check-in shift.

After talking with Taryn, we were both fairly ravenous, so we went off to lunch to go try the Old Fashioned again.

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Lunch was still crowded, but we were able to find an immediate seat at the bar as opposed to waiting 20-30 minutes, so that was nice.

The cheese curd tour continued (and ended), and I think they had the best of the three we tried (with points taken off as they might have been the greasiest, too).

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(I will honestly say though, I think my favorite curds are still the ones we get at the Minnesota State Fair.)

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I got this delicious heirloom tomato BLT. I have no idea what B ate.

After lunch, it was time for me to stay off my feet until dinner, so that’s what I did.

Dinner was at the Bassett Street Brunch Club, as I needed to do my usual breakfast-for-dinner. We were joined by more of B’s family – Nicole, and then his cousin Peter and his partner Emilio who drove up from Chicago.

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Inside.

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When a place makes their own doughnuts … you kinda have to get one.

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B’s chicken and doughnut (with Nicole’s savory french toast waaaaay in the background).

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My standard ol’ breakfast. Not the best I’ve had, but it did the trick.

Emilio (Thai peanut noodle something) and Peter (steak frites) did normal people food.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, Starbucks, Colectivo Coffee, random farmer’s market stall. Lunch: Old Fashioned. Dinner: Bassett Street Brunch Club.

Sunday, September 8:

Race day for me! Pretty much spent all day on the race course. Again, go to the tri blog if you’re curious.

B did a great job cheering and supporting … but I have no idea what he ate all day, so the food below is just me.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel. Lunch: food on the bike. Dinner: food on the run, post-race.

Monday, September 9:

I actually slept well post-race, which doesn’t always happen for me. B actually had to poke me awake so I could go downstairs to the convention center and buy my finisher’s jacket.

Breakfast was after that, and then it was all about packing up the car to leave. And meeting my friend Jen who lives in the Springs to get the five cases of salsa she bought at the farmer’s market to transport home for her.

The rest of the day was mostly spent en route to Minnesota, as we decided to visit B’s parents since we were basically in the neighborhood.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, Starbucks. Lunch: the Ground Round. Dinner: Green Mill. Snacks: Dairy Queen (my throat hurt from so much breathing during the race; needed something to make it feel better), apps at the in-laws.

Tuesday, September 10:

We woke up super early to leave B’s parents as he wanted to try to make it back in time for bowling that night. Sooooo … that’s what we did, not even stopping for breakfast until … Owatonna, I think. Then, just a long day of pushing through with quick stops.

But we made it back for bowling.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: Starbucks. Lunch: Taco Bell (along with random car snacks. lunch kinda wasn’t really a thing). Dinner: whatever B ate at the bowling alley, whatever I scrounged up in the kitchen.

Coeur d’Alene Trip 2019

I may have said earlier this year that I’m not traveling a lot due to Ironman training … which is still a very true statement, but this trip went along with that … as we were racing a 70.3!

Much like IMChoo three years ago, this race was picked due to time of year as well as for the opportunity to knock off a few states (Idaho and Montana). I won’t go into race details, but I will talk about this trip because we both really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, June 25

Although the race was Sunday, we left several days early in order to play a bit of tourist on the way. Our first day took us to Idaho Falls, Idaho.

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Sunrise leaving town.

We grabbed Starbucks in downtown Fort Collins and ate breakfast at some small little local place (original plan was Waffle House, but apparently the Waf in FoCo is closed …?) called the Ever Open Cafe. We’d grabbed (a very mediocre) lunch there before, and breakfast wasn’t too much better. We hopped back on 287 which took us to Wyoming where we caught up with I-80 and then took that to US-191. While on 191, we grabbed lunch at what is probably best described as a permanent food truck off the road in Pinedale, Wyo. – the Burger Barn. Too much pepper on both the burgers and the fries, but hey – eating local is awesome.

From 191 we caught up with US-89 and then to US-26 which would take us to Idaho Falls.

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We did, however, see this place in Alpine, Wyo., which cracked both of us up. An old friend from the USCHO days had Brenthoven as his handle on the message board so to see this??

We got into Idaho Falls and took the bikes out for a quick spin. Dinner was at a cute place we saw while riding, the Sandpiper Restaurant.

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That bread? To die for.

Cute place, would definitely go back. After dinner, we stopped at Chick-fil-a for bike food for Sunday (last time we’d be close to one) and then walked around this Alpine Garden thing that’s on the banks of the river.

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I also wanted to walk over to what we thought were the falls but apparently not. Oops.

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Wednesday, June 26

We didn’t wake up quite as early as hoped, but still definitely too early for hotel breakfast. We grabbed Starbucks leaving Idaho Falls and then drove to West Yellowstone, Montana, as seeing Yellowstone National Park was our agenda for the day. Since our America the Beautiful pass had expired, we quickly popped over to the park to renew that and then headed back into town for breakfast. We ate at the Running Bear Pancake House, which wasn’t too terrible (remember, we have super high breakfast standards).

Food consumed, it was park time!

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Pulled over to see a bison (buffalo?) and mostly missed it, but got this view.

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Dinosaurs and geothermal pools.

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Fountain Paint Pots.

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Good advice.

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Biscuit Basin.

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Waiting for Old Faithful.

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Faithful for us!

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Lady at the entrance gate wasn’t wrong – bison are EVERYWHERE. People were ignoring this one until they stood up. Then OMG LOOOOOOOOK.

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At this point in the day (a little after noon), there were so many people that we were ready to escape after seeing only a small fraction of the park … but the last thing I really wanted to see was the Grand Prismatic Spring … and #worthit.

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Plus we got held up by a Yellowstone traffic jam on the way out. Seriously saw probably over 100 bison. SO COOL!

After we escaped that, we stopped in town for lunch (we did have a simple snack at the park to help tide us over). We were going to try a barbecue place, but couldn’t find a server/anyone to tell us what to do (wait to be seated? seat ourselves?) … so we went a door or so down to the Canyon Street Grill for essentially a diner lunch. It did the trick. After, we grabbed a quick bit of ice cream at the City Creamery before heading out of town.

Our stop for the night (and indeed the next day or so) was Bozeman, Mont. Dinner that night was our first non-Starbucks chain stop … in Olive Garden. We didn’t feel like moving out of the hotel, so we called in an order and I made B go pick it up. It was food.

Thursday, June 27

We ate a quick breakfast at the hotel and then drove over to a local park to get a run in. Run done, it was (surprise, surprise) Starbucks time.

Today was mostly a lazy layover day in Bozeman that we scheduled in … but we did go to the Museum of the Rockies for two reasons:
1. DINOSAURS (duh)
2. free admission thanks to our DMNS membership.

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Humans would look really funny as sauropods.

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Never realized dinos grew so fast. Also: there were apparently burrowing dinosaurs. Which, if you take that modern birds descended from them, it makes sense – we do have burrowing owls.

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Well hello gorgeous.

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Triceratops skulls, from juvenile to adult.

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The museum also had a bit on early Montana history (settlers and whatnot) and also an exhibition on Genghis Khan that was pretty cool. The flow was such that you just went from exhibit to exhibit. Basically, you see everything whether you want to or not!

Lunch was cobbled together from a local grocery store, Heebs, and the rest of the afternoon was super chill. We ventured out that evening, grabbing sushi/teriyaki at Wasabi Japanese Steak House and then to Genuine Ice Cream Company downtown.

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Friday, June 28

One of my former SMASH teammates (and pro triathlete) Haley Chura lives in Bozeman and offered to swim “with” us (she’s way faster … it’s more like “share a pool with five lanes down”). I had hoped for Thursday, but Friday was when it could happen. So, we woke up early and headed to the Bozeman Swim Center where we got to swim in their gorgeous 50m pool (first time I’ve ever been in a 50m pool!). I didn’t get in much (didn’t eat prior), but it was still awesome. We talked to Haley, left to go pack up the car (and grab a small bite at the hotel), and then rejoined up with her and a few friends at the Feed.

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That’s how I like my cappuccino foam.

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After eating and chatting for a while, it was back on the road to head to Coeur d’Alene.

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The hotel was very athlete friendly.

We checked in to the race and grabbed lunch downtown at San Francisco Sourdough. Back to the hotel to digest and go for a shakeout run.

I had gotten a food suggestion from my friend Katie on Fire Pizza, but the wait there was INSANE for dinner, so we ended up at Cricket’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar which … well, it did the trick.

Saturday, June 29

At this point, the super fun part of our trip turned into race prep. We ate breakfast at the hotel and then drove down to get in a practice swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene. That lake? I miss it. So much.

We went back to the hotel to get on our bikes for one last shakeout spin.

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We stopped at Terre Coffee on our way to drop off our bikes/go to the athlete briefing. I highly recommend them – great homemade cinnamon rolls. Cappuccino was good, not great, but that cinnamon roll? So good.

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At the finish line!

Lunch was finally at Fire Pizza, and the recommendation was definitely worth it. We split a caprese salad and then each got our own pizza. I think B did a pepperoni and sausage. I did the pesto chicken with added mushrooms.

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So delicious. We saved the leftovers and ate them on our drive two days later.

Dinner was our standard breakfast-for-dinner, which we got at a local place called Elmer’s Restaurant. Sure, you can mostly find an IHOP, or Village Inn, or Denny’s anywhere, but to be able to find a local place like this? So much better, and Elmer’s did the trick. I’d recommend them, too.

Sunday, June 30

For the purposes of this story, Sunday was race day. Early wake up, breakfast at the hotel (thank you so much Hampton Inn for putting it out early for us athletes!), “lunch” eaten while on the bike and at the post-race athlete feed.

We did venture out again for dinner post-race and got burgers at Coeur d’Alene Taphouse Unchained (… I think?), which did the trick.

Monday, July 1

We got a bit of a lazy start … mostly because we were actually able to sleep and sleep well post-race. Breakfast was at the hotel and coffee was back at Terre Coffee as we met up with a friend of mine to finally be able to have the time to sit and chat. We left Betsy, grabbed more coffee at Starbucks (… one of those days), and then headed out of town with Billings, Mont., our destination for the night.

Besides snacking on all the other random food we had on us (watermelon leftover from our lunch in Bozeman, leftover pizza), lunch was a small bite at a Taco Bell in Butte. We stopped in Bozeman again to hopefully find some of the most delicious root beer known to man (Grand Teton Brewing Company’s Old Faithful Root Beer). We picked up a few cans at Genuine Ice Cream – yes, we went back. I got a root beer float – but that was the only place we got it as we called around to five different places and nothing.

Dinner was another chain in Texas Roadhouse … mostly because it was next door to our hotel in Billings and we didn’t have to venture too far.

Tuesday, July 2

We woke up decently early in Billings to be able to hit the road. As much as we loved our trip … it was time to get home.

Stopped at Starbucks for coffee (go figure) and then to Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery in downtown Billings for breakfast. B had eaten there on a layover and said they had dino pancakes … which dude.

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They were good … but the waitress made me feel like a complete idiot for ordering them. It’s not what she said (nothing), but the look that she gave me throughout my order, making me try to justify getting them. I’m sorry, but that’s rude, and made both of us never want to go back there. B had loved that place and they put a very sour taste in both our mouths.

Then it was just I-90 east to I-25 south to home (with a stop at Waffle House in Frederick for lunch).

Vegas/Tucson Adult Spring Break 2019

Thanks to Ironman training, I haven’t really traveled much this year. I’d had a couple trips tentatively penciled in (tagging along with the husband), but none managed to pan out.

Then, B and his dad were planning on going to the Wild/Knights game in Las Vegas in late March. I was thinking, hey, I want to go too … why don’t I drive down and bring the bikes? And maybe we can go to Tucson after? Well, the game didn’t pan out, but the trip did.

Thursday, March 28

Since the game didn’t work out, B decided to go up to visit his parents in Minnesota for a few days while I made the drive out to the desert. Instead of doing Denver to Las Vegas in one shot, I decided to split the drive and spend the night in Page, Ariz., hoping for Horseshoe Bend at both sunset and sunrise.

I left Denver pretty early Thursday morning and trucked on through to Fruita. My first planned stop was Colorado National Monument. I was ideally hoping to run there, but the massive death plague (… allergies? bronchitis? still a mystery …) that hit me put the kibosh on that. However, I still stopped in to see it.

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Totally worth the detour.

I also saw a sign for a Dinosaur Hill and I wasn’t not stopping there, either … so I did the small hike at the site.

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From there, I cut down at Crescent Junction/Moab in Utah and moseyed on down that way toward Page. I almost stopped at Arches, but decided to hold off.

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Driving.

I honestly don’t remember what I ended up doing for lunch this day – I think random snacks at a 7-11 somewhere – but dinner was a sushi place in Page that ended up being pretty tasty. Horseshoe Bend was ridiculously busy at sunset, but it was pretty.

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Didn’t get a picture of the dinos last time through.

Friday, March 29

Dawn at Horseshoe Bend was much better. And much quieter as things tend to be.

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After getting some photos, I headed back on the road to Las Vegas. I almost timed it perfectly to get in the same time B’s flight did, but not quite. I picked him up, we grabbed a simple and quick lunch at Chipotle, and then checked in to the Bellagio. Dinner ended up being at the buffet because we couldn’t really think of anything else and it’s an easy way to eat a lot of salad.

From there, we split up – B dropped me off at the Neon Museum, as I was FINALLY going back at night (… thinking that I’d need something to do while he was watching hockey) and he had a few errands to run.

The Neon Museum is awesome regardless of when you go, but I would suggest going both day parts, especially as they continue to restore more signs.

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I also got tickets to see Brilliant!, an art installation in the north gallery (a gallery I didn’t get to see last time I visited back in … 2014?). Brilliant! was AWESOME. In the next few photos, the lights you see are NOT restored; it just looks that way.

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Saturday, March 30

The original plan for this day was wake up, go for an early run, hang out in the spa, maybe by the pool, and gamble. A very low key, chill day.

Actual plan was a bit different. As I was still pretty sick – and coughing to the point that I was sleeping on the bathroom floor away from B so we could both get some z’s – I got forced to urgent care that morning in order for some definitive answers. I had puzzled out bronchitis with a nurse friend of ours … but urgent care people said allergies. I’m still unsure as to which it actually is/was.

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Bellagio conservatory earlier that morning.

Breakfast prior to urgent care was at Blueberry Hill off strip. Coffee post urgent care was, to no one’s surprise, at Cafe Lola.

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The cappuccino was probably the worst I’ve ever had there (booooo) but still pretty good. The pasteis de nada (Portuguese egg pastry) was delicious as always.

Post-coffee, off to pick up my medication, get a car wash, and back to the hotel. B still wanted to run, so he hit up the fitness center while I grabbed a book and hung out by the pool. He joined me after and we both decided against the spa. We ate lunch at the Pool Cafe and then decided to gamble some.

Most all gambling for me was TERRIBLE this trip, btw. After a couple good trips, I finally had another bad one. Booooooo.

Dinner was at In-N-Out, as it is.

Sunday, March 31

We left Las Vegas pretty early to get to Tucson as we had an important detour along the way. Breakfast was just crap at Starbucks, as it’s easy. And stupid.

Our detour was Grand Canyon National Park – somewhere neither of us had ever been to. We didn’t have/take the time to hike, but we will definitely be returning at some point.

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Such well traveled little dinosaurs.

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Lunch was at a KFC at some Route 66 town nearby (I forget which one) and then we continued the drive down to Tucson. Neither of us were all that hungry, so dinner was Cold Stone and french fries.

Monday, April 1

Since we were staying at the Doubletree Reid Park, we got free breakfast every day at the hotel, so that was food every day.

I think B made me do a virtual visit with another doctor this morning since I was still dying, but I don’t 100% remember.

We tried a new lunch place in Baggins Gourmet Sandwiches and it was really good. Have never tried them in Tucson before but we will definitely return. I tried running at Reid Park – got about a fifth of a mile in before hacking and dying. B continued on … but not me.

Dinner that night was an old Tucson standard – eegee’s and Lucky Wishbone.

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B wanted a bit of pool time so he did that and we both decided on a drink by the fire pit – beer for him and a glass of wine for me.

Tuesday, April 2

After breakfast at the hotel, we decided to forgo Starbucks for coffee (like we did the previous morning) and headed to Le Buzz over by Mt. Lemmon. I had hoped to get some time on the mountain this trip, but alas, that was not to be.

Post-coffee, we spent some time at Bookman’s buying books before heading to Choice Greens for salad for lunch. B got on the bike today while I attempted to blow up my giant T. rex tail pool float I bought the previous year. It took forever, but I was successful!

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I am also ridiculous, but you knew that.

After a couple hours in the pool, we headed off to dinner at our favorite Tucson Mexican food spot, Casa Molina … and ate a ridiculous amount of food. Oops.

Wednesday, April 3

Wednesday was hike around cacti day … which we are realizing needs to be way earlier in the trip. Like first night. It’s where we’re both the happiest.

The first stop of the day was at Saguaro National Park West over by Gates Pass … which we had never actually been to – we always hit up SNP East.

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We saw a snek! I’m pretty well zoomed in on this rattlesnake – they were off trail and still pretty calm. No rattling out of them!

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The desert was nicely in bloom.

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Saguaro blossom!

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Petroglyphs.

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We stopped back by the visitor’s center again after hiking to let them know about the snake and then got lunch since we were both starving. Food ended up being a lot of repeats – lunch at In-N-Out and yes, dinner was at Casa Molina again. Regrets we have? Zero.

I forget what we did most of that afternoon post-lunch – probably mostly packed – but I did want to get some sunset pictures over at SNP East so we did go do that before dinner.

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Desert skies are amazing, man.

Thursday, April 4

We were up super early to drive back home, since we’re in the time of year where Tucson/Arizona is an hour different (silly daylight saving time). Breakfast was at Waffle House since not much else is open that early.

The drive was mostly uneventful, which is nice, but we did get a killer sunrise.

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Lunch was at a Jimmy John’s in Albuquerque (that was highly obnoxious to get to) and dinner was pizza of fail when we got back home … since we didn’t have much food in the house.

*****

I would argue this was one of our worst Las Vegas and worst Tucson trips. Partially because I was sick and partially because we didn’t have the best plan going in. Or the plan got shifted so terribly because I was sick. Still, time in the desert is a good thing and I know I needed to get out of town.

Colorado State Parks Project, Part Two

I made it a goal of mine last year to visit all of the Colorado State Parks. I’m not sure if it was a combination of me wanting to just explore the state more, or give myself something to do since I was no longer working or what … but it was an awesomely fun project. This is the second of two posts on the quest.

July 13, State Forest State Park

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This one was a bit of a drive to get to and we almost got lost … but it was actually really gorgeous. And huge.

Will I return?: I definitely want to. We only did a few short hikes due to time constraints but the longer ones looked awesome. Plus there are apparently a ton of moose in this park and while we heard their calls … we saw no moose. I want to see moose!

July 19, Elkhead Reservoir State Park

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I was a little cranky at this one. This was a long day trip to hit up all five parks in the Steamboat Springs area. I got up early, stopped on the side of the road to catch the absolutely gorgeous sunrise that morning … and somehow got my first speeding ticket in a decade (and first in the state of Colorado). I was not entirely happy. I don’t speed these days! I was getting passed all the time! Oh well. Such is life.

Will I return?: Not to this one. The parks that are mostly just reservoirs/lakes (this, Harvey Gap, Jackson Lake, etc.) aren’t entirely for me right now. I don’t boat and I don’t fish. I do swim, but not all of these inspire a want for open water swimming.

July 19, Yampa River State Park

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Easy peasy to find, right off the main highway going through town.

Will I return?: No reason to, really. Unless I’m driving up there and B wants to see it.

July 19, Steamboat Lake State Park

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This and the next park were basically across the street from each other. A little buggy, but I guess that’s to be expected.

Will I return?: I was initially thinking not – really no reason to – but there’s a tri I’m tossing around doing at the end of July that will be held here so maybe?

July 19, Pearl Lake State Park

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This park was a bit confusing. Not to find, but to access what I might want to access.

Will I return:? Weirdly enough, I think I’d like to. I saw some people stand-up paddleboarding and was insanely jealous (totally something I want to learn). Also, I’m betting that park has some great hiking. I just have to find it …

July 19, Stagecoach State Park

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Final stop of the day. Needed to hike, so chose to here (even though the path I found was easy peasy). I was drooling over the roads on the drive, thinking I may need to haul my bike up to train on the rolling hills for IMoo.

Will I return?: I’d like to! This park captured me in some way and I would love to explore it some more. And obviously ride my bike on the roads outside it.

August 14, Highline Lake State Park

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Another day where the fire haze was awful. Also another day that I hit up multiple parks. But when I need to drive to the other side of the state … Highline Lake is on the western slope, probably like 8 miles from the Utah border.

Will I return?: Probably not. See: Elkhead Reservoir.

August 14, James M. Robb Colorado River State Park

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So this park actually has five “outposts” if you will, which makes sense because the Colorado River is huge. I stopped at two of them – the one in Fruita, where this photo was taken, and the Island Acres section just off I-70 (where I got evacuated thanks to a fire just off the highway).

Will I return?: Maybe, if only to hit up the other three sections. I’ve driven past one of the others, but still have yet to spot the other two …

August 14, Vega State Park

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Another park where it was totally more about the journey. The drive to Vega (on main roads) was fairly outstanding. When it came time to leave, I could go back from whence I came (and technically backtrack in direction), or go the road less traveled. I chose the latter … and ended up on bumpy, washboard dirt roads. All about the adventure, right?

I also didn’t stay long because fire haze. Air quality was shit.

Will I return?: Most likely not, no.

September 3, Trinidad Lake State Park

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Okay, technically I was first here on the first. B had a long(ish) layover in Tucson on the 2nd and you know me – I am all about the desert – so I dropped him off at the airport early in the morning and then drove on down. I hoped to try to catch the sunrise at the park, but that was not to be. Instead, I stopped again on my drive home. That drive home was a miserable rainy mess (okay, both directions were in a lot of ways) and the park was gloomy and I think the picture captured that well.

Will I return?: Probably not. Unless I find myself in Trinidad for some reason and need to run …

September 3, Lake Pueblo State Park

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Where Trinidad was gloomy and rainy, Pueblo was not. I stopped here to run and it was pretty awesome (the park, not my run). The trail system in the park actually goes all the way to downtown Pueblo which is really cool. If there is one actual main lake in Lake Pueblo State Park, I didn’t see it.

Will I return?: I would definitely consider it. I enjoyed my time here. Except for the times I’ve played hockey, probably the best time I’ve had in Pueblo.

September 14, Crawford State Park

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Another park where the drive to get there was more fun than the park itself. Although to be honest I don’t think I saw Crawford at its full glory – the water levels here looked to be pretty freaking low …

Will I return:? Doubtful. It’s way out of the way and doesn’t have a truly compelling reason for me to want to go back.

September 14, Paonia State Park

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This was the only park on my list that had a time constraint, as it’s only open May-October. One of the most gorgeous drives to get there. I also got to pull off and see a roadside waterfall on the way, so bonus points there.

Will I return?: Mostly a camping park, so probably not. Unless I start that up.

September 23, Navajo State Park

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This was one of the parks I was stressing about hitting the most as it’s not the easiest to get to (and Colorado technically shares it with New Mexico as it straddles the border). I figured it was just going to end up being one long 14-15 hour day to get there, take some pictures, and go back home. Thankfully, my wonderful husband decided to indulge me on going to Las Vegas for our anniversary trip the long way … so we got to see Navajo that way (and the next park and Mesa Verde and then Horseshoe Bend the next day …)

Will I return?: Most likely not. I don’t camp and I don’t boat and it is REALLY out of the way.

September 23, Mancos State Park

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As you can see, we decided to do a trail run in Mancos. The trail was a lot more difficult than we expected, but it was still super awesome.

Will I return?: I’d like to! I enjoyed the run and would love to hike around more. I actually passed the turn off for this park on my next parks trip, but the schedule didn’t allow for a return.

October 16, San Luis Lakes State Wildlife Area

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A.K.A. The state park that wasn’t.

San Luis Lakes is (or at least was when I first decided on this project) on the CPW site, the signs on the way to it all say “San Luis Lakes State Park” on them … but as I found out later, this has actually been changed to a state wildlife area. Oops. Whatever, I marked it off and, as you can kind of see in the background, it’s right near the Great Sand Dunes … which I visited right before.

Will I return?: As it’s not actually a state park … no. No reason to.

October 16, Lone Mesa

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Ugh, Lone Mesa. Lone Mesa is state land that hasn’t officially reached State Park designation … but since I accidentally kinda wrote it down in the bullet journal … I went off to find it. I followed the directions for it, but saw no signage. To this day I’m still not entirely sure I found it. But, as a friend commented on my insta post of the above picture, “Looks like a lonely mesa. #nailedit”.

Will I return?: If it ever freaking gets designated as an actual state park … yes. On principle.

October 17, Ridgway State Park

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I knew I would have to do an overnight trip (or two) to get parks at one point, and this was the designated trip for that. After the Lone Mesa debacle, I stayed the night just outside of Telluride (more at the ski resort, not in town) before hitting up the other two parks on the agenda. Ridgway was the first. The drive? Oh, so amazing. The park? Well, I could stop at the river or drive into the park. I just stopped at the river. Apparently I should have done both.

Will I return?: I initially thought no, but a friend says that’s her favorite state park and apparently the inside of the park is super awesome, so I’m thinking that’s a yes, I will have to go back. Honestly I’m totally cool doing that drive again so …

October 17, Sweitzer Lake State Park

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This would normally not be a park that I would be interested in (really no hiking, kinda small, really just a lake), but for some reason, it captured me. Maybe it was the tire swing at the playground. Who knows.

Will I return?: Hopefully! This lake just screamed out to me to swim in it. So I will.

October 20, John Martin Reservoir State Park

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The last of the eastern parks, this one in SE Colorado. Go to Pueblo, hang a left on 50, keep driving past La Junta and Rocky Ford to a town called Hasty. That’s where you’ll find this park. The main plus about this one (besides seeing more of the state) was that it was only a short (30-45 minutes?) detour to the state border with Oklahoma and as OK was a state I still needed to hit … I did that. Had my phone change time zones and everything.

Will I return?: I don’t boat, so probably no need.

October 20, Lathrop State Park

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At this point, I had actually had several opportunities to knock this park off (at least three), but I wanted to save it for last as it was actually Colorado’s first designated state park. I thought it would be cool to see Colorado’s first as my personal last. So I did.

Will I return?: I’d like to. B was along for this final park venture (all in all, he went to 13 with me on the actual day, and two others on different occasions) and he really liked Lathrop. I also would have liked to explore it more.

*****

This project was awesome. I got a Parks Passport too late in the project to actually get it stamped everywhere (and a good chunk of them I visited beyond visitor center hours), but I don’t need that to know that I DID IT.

The best part of the project was exploring parts of Colorado I’d never seen before. The biggest reason I would advise others to do something like this is it takes you to parts of the state you may have never seen. You’ll see farming communities, small towns.

As it was finished before Election Day … I think it influenced my vote some. Too often do we choose to vote for something that would only benefit US, without thinking of how it will impact others. There is a lot more to Colorado than just Denver/Boulder/ski resort towns. So much more. The needs of someone in Rocky Ford, or Olathe, or Julesburg, or Telluride, or Cortez, or wherever else are a lot different than what mine are here in Denver. It made me think … what helps me most while simultaneously NOT causing harm to others? A tax on x might help me, but it might cripple someone in one of those other places. Well that’s no good. A tax on y, however, might aid both. Or aid me without harming the other.

Colorado is a wonderful state, and it is so much more than just the mountains. Get out and explore it.