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.

3-28co_natl_mon
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.

3-28dino_hill

3-28dino_hill4

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.

3-28_drive
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.

3-28hb3
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.

IMG_0646

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.

3-29neon

3-29neon4

3-29neon8

3-29neon10

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.

IMG_0700

IMG_0701

IMG_0706

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.

3-30bellagio
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.

3-30cafe_lola3

IMG_0725

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.

3-31gc2
Such well traveled little dinosaurs.

3-31gc3

IMG_0747

IMG_0752

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.

IMG_0763

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!

RSEA8651
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.

4-3snp
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!

4-3snp5
The desert was nicely in bloom.

IMG_0984

4-3snp8
Saguaro blossom!

4-3snp9
Petroglyphs.

4-3snp10

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.

IMG_1002

IMG_1006

IMG_1012
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.

IMG_1024

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.

Tempe Trip 2017

Also known as our yearly trip to Ironman Arizona. Since 2012, we’ve only missed one year (2014). Other than that, we’ve been down every year. Probably will actually skip next year, however. Maybe.

In any case, I’m not going to share anything from the race, but rather the trip surrounding it. I’ve also been apparently forgetting to take pictures with my actual camera half the time (Instagram stories are wicked fun, yo), but I still did get several. Two of the food ones were phone pics, though.

Wednesday, November 15:

A very long day of driving. But! Did see the sun do a cool effect somewhere on I-40/Route 66. Forget whether this was still in New Mexico or the Arizona side of things, though …

11-15drive

Ate: egg at the house, snack at Starbucks, lunch at Golden Corral (mmm, salad), dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse, various homemade car snacks.

Thursday, November 16:

We stayed at the (really new) Hilton Garden Inn ASU, which was about three miles from Tempe Beach Park (that is, IMAZ ground zero). Alas, no free breakfast, so we went out at a place I found on the interwebs, Matt’s Big Breakfast. Matt’s has a few locations around the area, but we ate one just down Rio Salado. B had The Hog & Chick (their basic meat and eggs and potatoes) while I had the daily special … eggs benedict.

11-16breakfast
Menu.

matts_eggs_benedict

Hashbrowns were terrible. Eggs Benedict wasn’t bad (although only one of my eggs was poached properly). They also pretty much forgot about B’s toast, which was sad, because it was good homemade sourdough.

After breakfast, a stop for coffee (mmm coffee) and then off to the Desert Botanical Garden, which, yay, FREE with our reciprocal membership. Because, if you know me/us by now, you know we love looking at cactus.

11-16dbg
Chihuly pieces.

11-16dbg10
They had a butterfly exhibit. This is just one of many photos I took in there.

11-16dbg12
Good to know.

11-16dbg19
Building on site.

11-16dbg21
Oh look, photo op site.

11-16dbg28
(After saguaros,) my favorites – purple prickly pears.

11-16dbg29
Poor Lonely George.

After the Gardens, it was off to the spring training home of the Colorado Rockies (okay, and the Arizona Diamondbacks), Salt River Fields.

11-16srf3
I may have brought this sweatshirt solely for a photo op.

11-16srf7
Super cool.

Afterward, we grabbed lunch, went back to the hotel to get a workout in, and then headed off to B’s great aunt and uncle’s house for dinner and conversation.

Ate: Matt’s Big Breakfast, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf/Starbucks, Sweet Tomatoes, homemade food made with love by family.

Friday, November 17:

We wanted a bit of a lighter breakfast so we headed off to a Whole Foods for their oatmeal bar. Was not nearly as good as the ones ’round these here parts. I had a coffee social with my SMASH teammates, so we headed to Tempe to go FINALLY hike the A mountain (I think?) that’s right on the ASU campus and behind the mill on Mill.

11-17tempe3
Dinosaurs enjoying the view.

I really don’t remember much of this day, weirdly. I know I did the coffee social, and I know we checked out the expo … and I know I went back to the Tempe Mission Palms to go to the SMASH warehouse sale … but I think the rest of the day was fairly low-key.

Ate: Whole Foods, Starbucks, random snacks thanks to the coffee social, In-N-Out, Gordon Biersch, Cold Stone.

Saturday, November 18:

We had the Tempe Friends and Family 5K this morning, so we woke up a bit earlier to head down to Mill – not only for a parking spot, but to grab breakfast at NCounter. We’ve eaten there quite a few times before and love it. Some pre-race oatmeal with a side of eggs was perfect.

If you really want to know how the race went, you can pop on over to the tri blog.

Post-race, we got coffee and checked out the expo, buying some general Ironman merch (as well as IMAZ stuff sans-date, since we have done it before).

As we’ve picked up curling this year, B wanted to go see the curling club … so we did that.

11-18curling4
Yes, we’re nerds.

We technically got invited back to curl on Sunday … but ended up passing on the offer.

Lunch was at a little teriyaki place at Tempe Marketplace which was pretty tasty. We were trying to keep it a little low key as that night was date night!

We needed to figure out a November date night and I figured this trip would be a perfect time to do it, so we found a nice place in Scottsdale called Olive and Ivy. When researching the trip, this place kept popping up a lot as well as everyone saying “eat on the patio,” so we decided sure, let’s eat here … and get reservations on the patio. Totally worth it.

11-18scottsdale
Art on the river outside. If you look to the left and see the bistro lights, that’s Olive and Ivy.

11-18scottsdale3
Menu.

11-18scottsdale4
View from our table.

We split some bruschetta.

oandi_bruschetta

We tried:
Prosciutto: fig preserve, port salut
Mushroom: roasted garlic, crescenza
Brussels Sprout: whipped goat cheese, crisp prosciutto, sherry gastrique

The Prosciutto had too much arugula on it, but otherwise it was pretty good. The Brussels Sprout was missing … something, and the Mushroom would have been better had it been warm (but it was still my favorite. Despite our server trying to tell me it was terrible).

For dinner, B had the Veal and Spinach Ravioli (parmesan, mizuna), while I had the Sea Scallops (creamy polenta, roasted brussels sprout, bacon gastrique).

oandi_scallops

It. Was. Delicious.

Ate: NCounter, Starbucks, Yogi’s Grill, Olive and Ivy.

Sunday, November 19:

Entirely a day of cheering on athletes. I had 14 people I was tracking. Two made it to Kona and, unfortunately, two didn’t finish.

Of note, though, was our “dinner.” My friend Katie said we had to go to Culinary Dropout, as it is her favorite restaurant in Tempe. As we basically grazed and snacked all day, we didn’t eat a full meal; rather, we each got a salad and split two appetizers.

culinary_dropout_pretzelbites
Soft pretzels and provolone fondue. SO GOOD.

culinary_dropout_pierogies
Cheddar and potato pierogies. Also quite delicious.

It was pretty tasty. Not sure if it’s my *favorite* place in Tempe, but was quite delicious.

Ate: hotel breakfast buffet, Starbucks, Cabin Tempe (not recommended), ice cream from the Baked Bear, Culinary Dropout.

Monday, November 20:

I dropped B off early to Sky Harbor as he had a trip that started Tuesday … but given the drive and flights and blahblahblah … he had to leave that morning. I grabbed some coffee and headed down to Tucson so I could pick up some tamales. As I got there before the tamale place opened, I took some photos around town.

11-20tucson
Some of my favorite street art in Tucson. Off 6th.

11-20tucson3
Lost Barrio.

Tamales picked up, I started the drive back, stopping in Las Vegas, N.M., for the night.

Ate: Starbucks, random snacks from gas stops, Cracker Barrel.

Tuesday, November 21:

A short day – even with a weather/accident delay outside of Larkspur (and a stop at the grocery store), I was still home by noon. Hooray.

Ate: hotel breakfast, Starbucks, home cooked goodness.

Tucson Spring 2017

If that “live where you vacation” thing is accurate, we’re probably going to end up moving to Tucson at some point. Probably when we’re old. When we can handle the 100+ degree temperatures in the summer. Probably. Maybe.

This trip was originally hopefully going to be in early May and comprise of a training camp, but then we kind of took a month off of training and we realized the May dates weren’t going to work but we still really wanted to go and long story short … we went in early April, instead, when we were originally in theory supposed to be in Chicago for the Frozen Four.

I think we were both happier in the desert sunshine as opposed to the rainy Midwest.

Tuesday, April 4:

We knew it was probably going to snow the day we headed out of town, but we didn’t realize it was as bad as it ended up being. I’m pretty sure the storm I was supposed to hit on the first driving back from Albuquerque got delayed and combined into this one. That meant that the three hours it normally takes to get across the border into New Mexico? Took over five. Walsenberg to Trinidad should take maybe a half-hour. It took us double that.

From home to probably just before Santa Fe, N.M., we were driving through snow and ice. Southern Colorado after Colorado Springs through the border was us going 20 to 25 miles per hour (35 if we got lucky), seeing multiple cars off the side of the road, seeing a car spin out in front of us heading up Raton Pass, feeling us fishtail at one point.

All in all, it meant a good seven hours of white-knuckle driving. It was TERRIBLE.

4-4drive
Front of my car. Photo taken in Las Vegas, N.M., where it was thankfully just rainy.

We rolled into Tucson right around 8pm Tucson time so really 9pm our time. A 12.5 hour drive (usually) turned into a 17 hour drive.

Wednesday, April 5:

We were staying at the Hilton Tucson East, more on the southern (and obviously eastern) end of town.

Wednesday was actually fairly chill, just driving around and exploring. We stopped somewhere if we felt like stopping – like at the La Encantada shopping center – but it was mostly just enjoying the fact that we were finally on vacation.

We went for a short bike ride that afternoon and played some cards by the pool, but all in all, it was a very chill, agenda-free day.

Thursday, April 6:

Thursday was an earlier wake up call due to where we wanted to hit breakfast (food post coming later this week) and then we went trail running up at Sabino Canyon.

4-6hike4

After the run, we went back to the hotel to shower and then went off to Tohono Chul Park to go look at cactus and use our botanic garden reciprocity. Because we like “free.”

4-6tohono12

It was awesome and peaceful, just like any good botanic garden should be. We explored almost all of it, except for one of the longer trails because we were both getting hungry at that point.

4-6tohono
Crested saguaro! With a face!

4-6tohono3
Tucson life goals: see a blooming saguaro done!

4-6tohono7
Gorgeous blooms.

4-6tohono9
Accurate.

We hit lunch and then were so stuffed from lunch that we spent a super lazy afternoon flopped at the hotel. Dinner really ended up not being a thing that night.

We did venture back out to Sabino Canyon to try to get my elusive sunset shot, but once again … fail. I finally did my version of one of B’s standard photos, though.

4-6sabino2

Friday, April 7:

Friday morning saw us head to Saguaro National Park where we ended up purchasing the annual national parks and federal recreational lands pass. Since I’m quitting and we normally try to get a Rocky Mountain National Park pass, we figured the nationwide pass was a smart idea. As long as we do five more visits to parks/rec lands (easy as we need to hike a lot this summer), it’ll pay for itself. Seemed like a no-brainer.

We went to Saguaro mostly to hike around. And obviously take pictures.

4-7snp
B and saguaro.

4-7snp3
Dinosaur perspective.

4-7snp5
“These are my people.”

4-7snp6
Hehe, it’s wavy.

4-7snp8
Dead saguaro.

4-7snp11
Desert.

4-7snp12
All the blooming ocotillos were stunning.

On the drive back … Tucson life goals: see a gila monster in the wild done! Almost ran the little bugger over with my car so unfortunately couldn’t get a picture.

We hit up lunch after Saguaro and that afternoon, met up to shop at SMASH HQ so I could try on some things before I bought them. Plus lots of time spent chatting with Hillary and Maik is never bad.

Dinner that night and then a way less stressful drive home on Saturday.

Arizona Trip, November 2016

Way back at the end of November, I road-tripped down to Arizona. This was ostensibly to volunteer at IRONMAN Arizona, but I also spent a few days in Tucson at either end, because why not.

Thursday, November 17:

The drive. Very long, very windy day. Worst gas mileage I have ever gotten.

11-17drive2
Sunset.

Friday, November 18:

11-18hotel2
Dinosaurs at the hotel. Stayed at the Comfort Suites at Sabino Canyon.

11-18car
I may have killed many tumbleweeds the day prior … My car still had one in its jaws.

11-18tucson
I wandered the Fourth Street District a bit, trying something new in Tucson. I came across this guy, a remnant of the ancient old Magic Carpet Golf mini golf course, i.e. the best mini golf EVER. R.I.P.

11-18tucson2
Lunch was all-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi Garden. I technically should have been charged for some of my food, as I didn’t quite finish it, but the waitress was awesome and let me slide. Much appreciated!

11-18saguaro3
I spent a bit of time that evening trying to get the elusive awesome sunset saguaro shot. As you can see, I didn’t quite get there. Someday …

11-18saguaro4
I am so thankful that I can, because I know so many people who just don’t get the desert’s appeal.

Saturday, November 19:

Drove up to Tempe. Saw this guy on Mill:
11-19tempe

Hung out at the IMAZ expo, both simultaneously experiencing some FOMO and also VERY glad to not be racing. Ran into my friend Simon, because why wouldn’t I run into someone I know. Picked Brandon up from the airport.

Sunday, November 20:

Spectated IMAZ.

11-20tempe2
Got the hardest high-five ever from Simon here at the bike turnaround.

Mostly spent most of the evening volunteering at the TriSports.com aid station, having a blast as always.

Monday, November 21:

Drove back down to Tucson.

11-21tucson
Got lunch at delicious Lucky Wishbone.

Checked into the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass.

11-21hotel2

Went to Casa Molina for dinner.

casa_molina_cheese_crisp
Mmm, cheese crisp. Weird Sonoran thing, but delicious.

casa_molina_dinner
Dinner, with a demolished green corn tamale (the only tamale I will eat).

Tried out the Screamery for ice cream.

11-21tucson2

screamery_ice_cream

I tried the Mississippi Mudpie, which is an “infused coffee ice cream with hand-made dark chocolate cookies and chocolate swirl.” It was … okay. Not sure we’d return. We’re both really realizing that we don’t like “fancy” ice cream.

Tuesday, November 22:

Went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, since we hadn’t gone in several years.

11-22dm
Rare crested saguaro!

11-22dm7
Creative and funny.

11-22dm11
Standard “Brandon hugging a cactus” photo.

11-22dm12
Saguaro.

11-22dm13
Squeaky (Gustave) on a cactus.

11-22dm14
All the frogs!

11-22dm15
Cranky roadrunner.

11-22dm16
Dinosaurs in the desert.

11-22dm18
Brandon’s ideal backyard.

11-22dm20
The Desert Museum has sting rays now!

11-22hotel2
Chilling back at the hotel.

We tried out the Catalina BBQ Company, one of the (off-site) hotel restaurants for dinner, partially because we had heard good things about it.

catalina_bbq_co
I had the pulled pork; it wasn’t bad. Fries were pretty terrible, proving my theory that fries at barbecue joints just aren’t good.*

catalina_bbq_co2
Brandon had the pork, wings, and the macaroni and cheese. Everything tasted okay buuuut …

Wednesday, November 23:

… we think the wings gave Brandon food poisoning, as he was super sick for the drive home.

11-23drive

Not a fun time. Except for the food poisoning, though, overall a good trip down to the desert with a few new experiences.

* Notable exception being, of course, the Germantown Commissary.

Tucson Spring 2015

Creative blog titles I have not.

I’ve gotten badly behind on here, for a very, very good reason – we bought a house. There will be a post on that soon, but I’ve got to get caught up on the befores, first.

First, Tucson. This trip was initially planned as a mini training camp for us, but as house stuff got overwhelming (the pre-closing process is awful, man), it ended up as more of a stress-relief trip.

We went a different way – out I-70 through Utah and down into Arizona, as we were staying with Aunt Judy and Uncle Bernie for a night and we didn’t want to go I-25 to I-40, as that was mind-numbingly awful last time we did that drive. 70? A much better choice.

4-8drive5
Utah hills.

4-8drive8
Monument Valley.

4-9family
Family.

4-9random
Desert first – a roadrunner in the wild! I ended up seeing a few this trip …

4-10cactus3
Cactus.

We also decided to play a bit of tourist this trip and see a few things we hadn’t before.

4-11titan3
Saguaro close-up.

4-11titan4

4-11titan6

One of those things included the Titan Missile Museum, which I had never seen as a kid, understandable as it opened in 1986 and my dad really didn’t think about it, I guess? Still, as a (U.S.) history nerd, it was cool and a piece of Cold War history.

4-11titan7
(The old-style Jeep was there as a movie about an explosion at a different missile silo was being shot on site.)

4-11titan10

4-11titan13

4-11titan14

4-11titan15
Missile itself.

4-11titan18

4-11titan23
Missile from above, outside.

Another tourist place that I hadn’t been to in years and Brandon had never been to was Old Tucson, a film studio where many Westerns have been shot (Rio Lobo, Rio Bravo, parts of McClintock to name a few).

4-11oldtucson
(And clearly “The Last Outpost.”)
4-11oldtucson2

4-11oldtucson3

4-11oldtucson4

4-11oldtucson5
(Dance photos from the Can-Can show.)

4-11oldtucson10
Most-photographed locomotive ever.

4-11oldtucson11
I found a bike.

4-11oldtucson12
Taken because Cripple Creek? Is in Colorado.

4-11oldtucson17

4-11ride
Seen on a ride.

4-12cave2
I hadn’t been to Colossal Cave in years and Brandon was interested … so in we went.

4-12cave3
Dinosaurs outside.

4-12cave6

4-12cave8

4-12sunset
Sunset on our last night.

4-13drive
Triple T truck stop and where we grabbed a very early breakfast leaving town. I’d always seen this place, but never stopped … glad we did. I love greasy spoon, truck stop breakfasts.