2017’s September Road Trip: Part Two

So, initially, when I started this story (on the trip itself), I figured I’d have three posts – the previous one, one on Santa Cruz/Monterey, and then one on Las Vegas. However, I didn’t take nearly as many pictures in Las Vegas as I thought I would … so we’re wrapping this up in one longer tale. Good? Good.

Friday, September 8:

Friday morning, we woke up, ate breakfast at our hotel, and then drove the few hours from Sacramento to Santa Cruz. We didn’t stop driving until we hit San Jose, when I needed to fill up my tank. I don’t know where we stopped, exactly, but it was not the nicest area and the people driving around seemed batshit crazy … so we snagged a less-than-ideal lunch in Wienerschnitzel (mmm, corn dogs) and got back on the road.

We checked into our hotel, the Ocean Pacific Lodge, which we thought was maybe a few blocks from the race? Well, it was a few blocks from the race start, but literally across the street from transition. Like I could see the bike area from our room window. We wanted to check in for the race right away, so we went ahead and did that, as well as bought a few race items.

9-8hotel
Hotel. Transition would be to the left.

After a short ride to test out the bikes and a shower, we headed out for some dinner. Since lunch was so greasy, we decided on some nice sushi for dinner at I Love Sushi, which hit the spot.

i_love_sushi_friends_roll
The Friends Roll, one of the ones we got.

Bellies full of delicious sushi, we walked around a bit to explore.

9-8santa_cruz
Because a.) why not; and b.) he calls me his siren.

9-8santa_cruz2
Rides wouldn’t be going until the weekend.

Saturday, September 9:

We woke up fairly early Saturday morning as we had to drive back into San Jose to find a Chick-fil-a so as to get sandwiches for bike food (we eat pickle juice-soaked chicken patties on the bike. don’t ask …) as well as a few extra chicken egg and cheese biscuit sandwiches so as to eat something for breakfast the next day. We also hit up a Target for some bottled water to prep our race bottles with.

Back in Santa Cruz, we dropped our bikes off and went for a short run to shake out our legs, stopping by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, because why not.

9-9santa_cruz
Inside.

It was super simple. Not sure if I’d recommend it.

Post-run, we showered and then went off to drive a bit more of the bike course, grabbing lunch along the way in Davenport, Calif.

9-9santa_cruz2
Whale City, our stop.

whale_city_north_coast_chicken_sandwich
I had the North Coast Chicken Sandwich – grilled chicken breast topped with sauteed leeks and mushrooms on a fresh bakery roll. It wasn’t too shabby.

Drove back to the hotel to prep everything for the next day and to just relax. We left around 5ish to get our nails done at The Nail Club (no website; not the best mani/pedi I’ve had, but totally not the worst) before grabbing our typical breakfast-for-dinner at the Santa Cruz Diner. Fantastic meal except for the bacon. Mediocre bacon. Sad, sad day.

Sunday, September 10:

… was race day, so the vast, vast majority of the day was spent doing that.

We did grab dinner at the Seabright Brewery, which was a letdown. I think we just need to realize that neither of us particularly like the food at brewpubs. I might have had the worst fish and chips I’ve ever had in my life. Pretty terrible.

Monday, September 11:

We woke up, packed up the car, checked out, and headed toward Monterey so we could hit up the Aquarium.

9-11drive
Roadside fruit/vegetable stand we stopped at. You can sorta see B inside. Some of the best strawberries I’ve ever had in my life.

9-11monterey
Monterey.

We hadn’t been to the Aquarium since our engagement trip back in 2009, so it was nice to revisit.

9-11mba4
Super friendly bat ray we were petting.

9-11mba8
Cuddling up in a giant clam. We have a similar picture from ’09.

9-11mba10
Jellyfish.

9-11mba17
Gorgeous sign in the cafe area.

9-11mba18
Cute little crab.

9-11mba19
B outside.

We ate lunch at the restaurant inside the aquarium, which was actually really tasty. I had mussels while B had a much better fish and chips.

Post-food, we spent a bit of time wandering Cannery Row.

9-11monterey2
Pier.

9-11monterey3
Kidlets looking out over the water.

We also got a bit of a treat at Ghiradelli.

ghiradelli_brownie_sundae
Brownie Sundae. *drool*

9-11monterey4
B with his hot fudge sundae.

9-11monterey6
Spotted this on the way back to the car. Oh Monterey and John Steinbeck …

We took ourselves and our stuffed bellies back on the road. Our original plan was to drive to L.A. to stay at B’s crash pad for the night … but he forgot the keys back at home. So, we decided to give ourselves an easier drive to Las Vegas the next day and made Bakersfield our stop. It was better than Wendover, let’s just say that. It had a Hooters near our hotel, though, and wings and salad made for a great dinner.

Tuesday, September 12:

We took a somewhat leisurely morning in Bakersfield, hopping on the hotel treadmills for a tiny bit and eating breakfast before getting back on the road. The drive from Bakersfield to Las Vegas wasn’t one of the more exciting ones I’ve ever experienced, but it wasn’t Utah, so there’s that.

We got to Las Vegas, I dropped B off to check in to the Bellagio while I parked the car (and got the greatest garage parking spot ever so we just decided to stay in it for the entire stint). I met him inside and then we went to get the rest of our stuff and get settled. As soon as the bags were in the room, we went right back out to snag the In-N-Out burger we’d been wanting since the moment the race ended for lunch. It was delicious and totally hit the spot.

9-12vegas
View from the room.

The rest of the evening (since we ate lunch pretty late) was spent mostly relaxing with a little bit of gambling. I had a pretty good night at the slots, actually winning for a change. We did eventually wander back out for a bit more food, which we got at PBR Rockbar. We got a spinach/artichoke dip (meh) and some of the best potato skins I’ve had in a really long time.

pbr_skins

Food consumed, back to the Bellagio for a bit more gambling and watching the fountains from the privacy of our own room.

9-12vegas3
Dinosaurs watching out the window.

Wednesday, September 13:

We had maybe thought about waking up early to go ride our bikes in Red Rock Canyon on this day … but that didn’t happen. Instead, the day went a bit more like this:
– Starbucks for coffee.
– Room to change.
– Bellagio Pool Cafe for brunch.
– Bellagio Pool for a few hours, sitting out and playing some cards.
– Room to change and … other things.
– Out and about toward the south end of the Strip, grabbing snacks and booze along the way.
– MGM Grand to play the Sigma Derby horses for a couple hours (and drink).
– Back to the room, grabbing a few more snacks in the process.
– Room for … things.
– Eventually back out to Mon Ami Gabi for a loose dinner, more hooch, and profiteroles.
– Room for the night.

Thursday, September 14:

We weren’t in as rough of shape as we might have feared the next morning – luckily we spaced out the drinking enough. Woo! (we don’t drink much usually. the previous day was abnormal for us.) We were, however, thankful that we had our free breakfast buffet that we were using that day. Oh beautiful delicious salad. I may have been on vacation but I can’t go that long without you anymore.

Post-breakfast, we wandered the other way up the Strip, stopping in the Venetian for coffee at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Post-coffee, it was window shopping time! The Venetian shops are great for that, clearly, as well as they are for loose food (the Lobster Me lobster roll isn’t doing it for me anymore, though, so sad day). We did the same thing over at the Forum Shops over at Caesars, and eventually ended up back at the Bellagio. Where I got myself a crepe at Jean-Philippe Patisserie.

jpp_crepe2
Nutella crepe, obvs.

A little more gambling was also done before we got ourselves our second In-N-Out of the trip, because it sounded delicious and we were on vacation, damnit!.

9-14vegas

We also decided to do something new in the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM.

9-14vegas2
No, seriously.

sprinkles_cupcake
Ain’t technology grand?

9-14vegas3
Actual cupcake? Frosting was better than the cake; cake was a bit dry, actually; and too many sprinkles. I know, I know. I wish I had known about the seasonal pumpkin cupcake on the ATM, as I totally would have gotten that instead.

Friday, September 15:

The greatest thing about driving to and from Las Vegas is that you don’t have to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn to try to catch a flight out so you can actually have a leisurely breakfast. Whaaaa?

So since we weren’t originally planning on driving straight through back home, we had a nice meal at the Cafe Bellagio and were able to see them putting together the Conservatory (which was actually closed for the duration of our stay. womp womp.).

9-15vegas
Peacock!

We checked out and hit the road. We were thinking of hitting up some national parks in Utah on the way … but we couldn’t figure out which park and how to make the timing work and a place to stay … so we just decided to press on through the whole way. Which was mostly fine, except for the lightning that either hit the car or right next to it just outside of Rifle, Colo. Eek.

All in all, though, it was another great road trip adventure!

Advertisements

The Great Southern Road Trip: Day Nine

For our fifth wedding anniversary this year, we decided to take a road trip to race Ironman Chattanooga and cross a whole bunch of states off my list. This is the story of that trip.

Day Nine: 9.27

I had an errand or two to run before we started the fun part of our day, so after we woke up and checked out, we grabbed coffee, hit up a Target, and then went to Waffle House for breakfast. I don’t know what it is about traveling through the south, but the Waffle Houses taste better.

Stop one was the Georgia Aquarium.

9-27aquarium16

Brandon had gone years ago and loved it; I love aquatic life, so obviously I was all for it.

9-27aquarium
There were a couple points where you walked underneath the fish.

9-27aquarium4
9-27aquarium5
Sarcastic Fringehead. Best. Name. Ever.

9-27aquarium8
Another fish tunnel.

I enjoyed the aquarium, but out of the two we visited, I would honestly have to give the edge to the Tennessee Aquarium. Even Brandon thought that Georgia’s was a little disappointing. Either that, or aquariums have just gone way downhill since I was a kid …

Our next stop was across the plaza at the World of Coke.

9-27woc

9-27woc2

9-27woc4
Coke memorabilia.

9-27woc8
I approved once they came out with Sprite.

9-27woc10
The story behind the bottle was REALLY cool, especially if you know anything about marketing/advertising …

9-27woc11
Coke rumors.

9-27woc12
… highly doubt the *actual* recipe is in here …

9-27woc18
Coca-Cola company products. Some of these took me way back …

9-27woc23
Coke art.

The niftiest part of the whole thing (in my opinion) was the tasting room. We get a lot of flavors of Coca-Cola here in the states, but around the world? There are a lot of different sodas …

9-27woc26
Asia.

9-27woc27
Africa.

9-27woc28
Europe.

9-27woc29
North America.

9-27woc30
North America.

9-27woc31
Brandon trying Surge for the first time in years.

9-27woc32
Central/South America.

9-27woc33
Coke core.

9-27woc34
North America. I forgot how good fruit punch Powerade was …

After the World of Coke, it was off to lunch and out of town.

9-27atlanta
Oh hey look, Olympic torch from 1996.

9-27atlanta3

9-27atlanta4

Lunch was at the Varsity. I’d heard many things about it, and since I was being a tourist … that was lunch.

From Atlanta, it was off to North Carolina for the night. The original plan (back when I sketched this trip out almost a year prior) was to head to Charlotte, but the more we thought about it, the more we decided we didn’t want to go with Charlotte. Well, that, and the political unrest going on didn’t make it a prudent decision. So, we decided on Asheville, so off to Asheville we went.

On a plus, it meant that I hit a few more states, too, thanks to traversing through South Carolina.

We rolled into Asheville late afternoon, got a free dinner at the hotel, and checked out a local brewery.

9-27asheville3
Wicked Weed, Asheville, N.C.

I had wine, but Brandon had some seasonal pumpkin something that he really enjoyed.

After a drink, we wandered around, enjoying window shopping as not much else was open. However, we got just enough of a taste to know that we’d like to return someday.

States Hit: 3 (GA, SC, NC)
New States Hit: 2 (SC, NC)

The Great Southern Road Trip: Days Four through Seven

For our fifth wedding anniversary this year, we decided to take a road trip to race Ironman Chattanooga and cross a whole bunch of states off my list. This is the story of that trip.

Day Four: 9.22

We left Nashville early … so early that we couldn’t eat the hotel breakfast. Athlete check-in started at 9am, and we wanted to be there as close to time as we could. We did find a Starbucks along the way for some coffee (the essentials, you know) and a snack before winding our way to Chattanooga. The drive is marginally confusing as you exit Tennessee, continue to enter and then exit Georgia, while ultimately ending back up in Tennessee for good.

We arrived in Chattanooga right before nine and we were both STARVING, so we found a Chick-Fil-A on the UT-Chatt campus (okay, so B found one in their student union). Brandon went to grab it while I did loops around campus, ideally finding a place to park, but really just waiting for him to come back out with food. Food gotten (and consumed in the car), we headed to athlete check-in.

We got checked in, saw a few Colorado friends (because why wouldn’t we?), and then decided to drive the bike course. Back into Georgia we went. After that, we could check in to our hotel (Holiday Inn Express off MLK in Chattanooga), so we did that and went for a short run back to Ironman Village and downtown so we could eat lunch.

9-22choo
The town really embraced the event.

Lunch was at a place called Puckett’s. Ironman works out a deal with some of the local restaurants where we athletes each get a $25 food voucher to use. Since there were two of us, we got two vouchers. Puckett’s, right next door to the aquarium, was one of the places on the list, and used to be an old grocery store back in the day.

9-22choo2
We did not eat this.

After lunch, it was back to the hotel for a bit.

9-22choo3
Chattanooga stores embracing the Ironman.

9-22choo5
Choo, home of the Moon Pie.

We grabbed dinner with a friend from Colorado, George, and a few of his buddies later on at an amazing sushi restaurant called Totto.

States Hit: 2 (TN, GA)
New States Hit: 0

Day Five: 9.23

The start of our fifth day was us waking up late for a practice swim in the Tennessee River, but we still managed to get to it in enough time. Post-swim, we grabbed coffee at an awesome little place called Stone Cup Cafe (great bagels. Highly recommended).

After the swim, we hung out until lunchtime, at which point we wandered back downtown for a bite to eat. Our friends and cheer squad for the weekend, Jeremy and Melanie, arrived in town and met us after lunch to hit up the aquarium, which we had heard great things about.

The Tennessee Aquarium is divided into two buildings (well, three, if you include the IMAX, which we didn’t go to) – a River Journey and an Ocean Journey. I personally enjoyed the Ocean Journey better, but both were quite good. I might put this aquarium on my list of top aquariums, but there’s a few I’d need to visit again to be sure …

9-23aquarium
Wall in the Aquarium.

9-23aquarium5
Butterfly. They had a room with butterflies flying around everywhere that you could walk through.

9-23aquarium8
Japanese spider crab. You see these and it’s no surprise why Japan made/makes so many monster movies …

9-23aquarium9
Glass jellyfish.

9-23aquarium11
Jellyfish.

9-23aquarium12
Crazy jellies!

9-23aquarium14
Poison dart frog.

After the aquarium, we split up for a bit before reconvening for dinner at a place in St. Elmo, just outside of town.

9-23choo
Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. We did not ride this.

9-23choo2
1885 Grill. Very delicious.

States Hit: 1 (TN)
New States Hit: 0

Day Six: 9.24

Brandon and I woke up fairly early on Saturday as we needed to run a couple of errands: Chick-Fil-A for chicken minis (bike nutrition), CVS for more sunscreen, a grocery store for bike special needs stuff, and a bike shop for an extra spare tube and CO2 cartridges (just in case). Errands completed, we headed back to the hotel to prepare our bike and run gear bags which needed to be checked in that day.

Bags packed up, we loaded them and a change of clothes onto our bikes and took a quick spin down to transition to get the legs moving. We also stopped by the Quintana Roo tent to get Brandon’s rear derailleur checked out. Bike fixed, we dropped off our gear bags and bikes, threw on normal clothes, and met Jeremy and Melanie for lunch.

9-24choo
Fun place.

We split up from them and headed back to the hotel to put our feet up … with a stop at Jimmy John’s along the way for more bike food for Brandon.

9-24choo2
The history and journalism nerds in me appreciated this.

9-24choo3
Art in an alley.

We ventured out to dinner at a diner down the street from our hotel (breakfast for dinner! pre-race tradition) and got in bed early, as we had to race the next day.

States Hit: 1 (TN)
New States Hit: 0

Day Seven: 9.25

Race day. For knowledge of how the race went down, please visit my tri blog.

(spoiler: we DNFed.)

The diner we went to the night previous ended up being dinner again, where I drank beer and ate all the delicious-sounding appetizers I had seen on the menu.

States Hit: 2 (TN, GA)
New States Hit: 0