Tucson, July 2020

Also known as my birthday road trip.

Before we start … a few things you need to know about my birthday:
– I hate it.
– It sucks.
– People suck at remembering it (including my own family/parents).
– It’s at a terrible time.

It’s July 5. The day after a holiday. In a very hot part of the summer. This year, I had a few things going against me:
– near a holiday
– on a holiday weekend (fell on Sunday)
– during COVID

The whole point of going to Tucson in the first place was to do a birthday ride up Mt. Lemmon (since, you know, Tucson is 100 degrees this time of year and I figured biking up to 8000 feet would at least take us out of said heat for a little bit). That plan got tossed out the window partially with COVID (hill training, I have none), but also because of the Bighorn Fire that started in June and closed down the Catalina Highway. Birthday plan? Gone.

We were considering not even going to Tucson … but I committed to putting together some donations for some local Tucsonans who were bringing a load of stuff to their family back on the Navajo reservations and I didn’t quick whip up another couple masks for nothing, dangit. So we went and tried to make the best of it. It worked. Kind of.

Thursday, July 2

Like our last trip, we woke up, went for a run, and then got on the road. All in all, day one was extremely similar to our May trip – stop for lunch in Moab, stop at Wilson’s Arch, spend the night in Flagstaff (but this time eat in at Texas Road House as opposed to getting take-out).

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Bagel sandwich from Sweet Cravings in Moab.

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Messing around at Wilson’s Arch (it was a lot less windy this time around).

Food Eaten: egg/oj/coffee/lemon bars at home; Starbucks; car snacks; Sweet Cravings in Moab; more car snacks; Texas Road House (Flagstaff)

Friday, July 3

The original ORIGINAL plan was to try to do an open-water swim somewhere outside of Mesa, but my National Parks interagency pass had expired and I wanted to try to get that renewed first (swim spot was on National Forest land). So, we drove straight on through to Tucson (with a tiny stop in the Phoenix metro for B to get a pound of coffee at Coffee Bean). We did stop at the Pinal Air Park again and found this:

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Farewell tour 747 for Delta.

We stopped by Saguaro National Park West to try and renew my pass … but couldn’t. And learned the guard booths at SNP East also currently weren’t staffed. I got a phone number to try to get a hold of someone to get a pass mailed to me as, according to the person I talked to, online orders were taking about three months.

Checked into the hotel and then went off to wander a bit.

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Bookman’s was back open and they had this neat display inside one of their Speedway locations.

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Art on Fourth Ave.

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Fourth Ave.

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Happy rainbow saguaros along Fourth Ave.

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Art on Fourth Ave. Part of my plan this trip was to see a lot of Tucson’s street art/murals (I had a list). This was one of the pieces on that list.

I did some restaurant research before heading down … but not clearly enough as the place I was hoping to hit up for dinner (Cafe Santa Rosa, for authentic Native American cuisine) was closed for the holiday weekend. Of course. So disappointing food on the patio at the hotel it was.

Food Eaten: Chick-fil-a, Starbucks, In-N-Out, random stuff on the patio at the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass

Saturday, July 4

Despite not having a technically valid pass, we went on over to SNP East to get in a trail run/hike that morning anyway.

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Cactus hugger.

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All the gorgeous blooms we saw in May turned into fruit.

We tried a new place for breakfast in Ghini’s French Caffe.

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I had a standard egg breakfast.

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B had a croque madame.

Definitely not the worst place. I’d go back again, but probably to try their lunch menu.

From breakfast, more murals!

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Downtown.

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Pano to get this whole one – the Running of the Pinatas (downtown).

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Hotel McCoy.

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B went for the mini wings.

On the back side of this same building, they had a series of mini murals painted about Tucson. I took pictures of them, but I’ll put here what they said:

There is something special about Tucson.
Something not so tangible. More conceptual.
It is a place to find your truth, find your courage, find your you.
This city, its sky bursting with stars, fills your heart,
Leaving you, somehow, someway, homesick
Before you’ve even parted paths.
Come here for a day, a year, a decade, a lifetime. Be born here,
Raised here, or transported from a land afar, the desert doesn’t
Discriminate, offering its magic to anyone who plants their feet
On its dusty terrain.
Find healing in the sun, redemption in the monsoon’s rain.
Here, amidst the saguaro and the wren, there is peace.
There is possibility. Alchemy to help through the pain.
You are where you are meant to be, a child of the earth, a spirit free.
Let yourself go. Surrender to the music of this sweltering city.
Drink the spirits, devour the cuisine, journey through the culture.
Adventure into the backdrop the everyday sightseer never sees.
Dry in heat, abundant in heart, here you will find what you seek
And encounter those you are destined to meet. Love?
In this wild west, you’ll stumble across it, expose it,
Explore it, and, perchance, lose it.
But will it be worth it?
Yes, one million times, yes.
Tucson is a place you will not soon forget.

(I know, right? Chills when I read it. SO TRUE.)

We called ahead for our (late) lunch spot to make sure they were open, learning the lessons of the night before. When doing food research for Tucson, I came across a lot of lists of Black-owned businesses. Some of the barbecue places intrigued me, and I settled upon Original Mr. K’s BBQ. It was originally meant to help fund an Afro-American Heritage Museum. The museum (as far as I can tell) no longer exists, but the restaurant does. It’s both Texas- and Louisiana-based, but also hybridized with Tucson by using the desert mesquite wood. It was delicious and I could have bought them out of their cornbread.

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Inside.

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Fooooooood.

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Two thumbs up from me.

We had a few other plans for the afternoon (namely, visit a sign museum), but I kind of hopped a curb trying to access an eegee’s and the curb had metal covering it (the f?) … and I got a flat. I couldn’t find my tire parts kit so we just used the roadside help with our insurance. The guy that came out put on my full-sized spare with a huge caveat (12-year-old spare; they typically don’t like putting on anything over 8), but eh, it worked. We were a bit blah after that, so the rest of the day was very low-key back at the hotel (hanging out at the pool and skipping dinner).

Food Eaten: Ghini’s French Caffe, Starbucks, eegee’s, Original Mr. K’s BBQ.

Sunday, July 5

Probably should have waken up a LOT earlier than I did this day. Ate breakfast at the hotel as we planned to just ride from where we were staying as opposed to driving anywhere (… since obviously original birfday plan of Lemmon wasn’t happening).

Then hoped for 37 miles (for 37 years), but it was like 90 when we started at 8:30, so we only got in 25.

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My butt.

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This is 37.

We got back and B had a minor over-heating issue, but he ended up being okay (thankfully). As it was kinda late in the morning already, I just got coffee from the hotel ‘bux and then had it with the birthday cake I dragged to Tucson from back home.

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Birfday Kim and Jake’s!

The rest of the morning was spent hanging out at the pool as I wanted to get some water slide and float time in.

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Love my dino float.

Then, it was off to wander the rest of the afternoon.

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Ranch fries and one of the new summer salads at eegee’s. Fries? Awesome as usual. Salad? Eh. Fast food salad. Take it for what you will.

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More street art. This is called “Serape Sunrise.”

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Near Fourth Ave.

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Mayahuel, goddess of agave. Still probably my favorite piece in Tucson.

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Because of course.

Dinner was at probably my favorite restaurant in Tucson, but it wasn’t the best meal I’ve had there. A lot of weird problems with my draft beer (just tasted so weird) and my tamale was overcooked. B’s fajitas were awesome though.

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Mmm, cheese crisp.

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After dinner, we decided to try a new ice cream place out, too, in the Hub Creamery.

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Tasty.

Then, because it’s me, I wanted to close off the day by getting a sunset. We thought maybe Tumamoc Hill, but it was insanely crowded, so we just popped over Gates Pass into Tucson Mountain Park to catch it.

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Food Eaten: breakfast at J.W. Marriott Starr Pass, Starbucks, Kim and Jake’s cake, eegee’s, Casa Molina

Monday, July 6

We decided on a hike that morning closer to home, as it were, by doing one of the trails basically on the hotel grounds (but actually just in Tucson Mountain Park).

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Of course these three came with.

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It was a really nice change of pace.

Back to the room to shower and then grab breakfast before heading to my tire appointment.

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Tried Donut Wheel, as I heard it was good. Like so many doughnut shops … the glazed was good, the chocolate was not.

My Discount appointment went quicker than expected, so that was good. Discount Tire is the greatest when it comes to tires. Seriously. Buy your tires there. Always.

Post-Discount, it was off to the Bookman’s on the north side to sell my brother’s ancient old Atari Lynx and then we drove around getting the last of the street art I wanted.

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Desert lungs.

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Gila! There’s also a lizard as part of this around the corner.

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Quite possibly the most 2020 piece of street art ever.

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Gila mural number two.

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Beaver around the corner from the Gila (as part of a very large mural).

We went back to the hotel to pack in the midst of some of this mural exploration as well.

Food Eaten: K&J cake, Frank’s/Francisco’s, Donut Wheel, Starbucks, Lucky Wishbone, eegee’s, snacks from AJ’s, Empire pizza

Tuesday, July 7

Ugh, this day. We left town relatively early. The original plan was to stop and wander in Sedona a little, but then we decided it was best to just get to Moab in order to maybe try to finally renew my stupid parks pass. Of course, we get to Moab and there’s no one staffing the booths at Arches. Dinner in town and we decided to try again in the morning.

Food Eaten: Waffle House, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Fiesta Mexicana (Moab)

Wednesday, July 8

We tried Arches again in the morning, but STILL NO ONE. I guess in theory we could have still explored the park like planned, but I was so frustrated and upset at this point.

To salvage the rest of what was kind of a meh trip overall … I took a detour to my favorite state park.

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Oh Rifle Falls, I love you.

Then, just home.

Food Eaten: random hotel breakfast sandwich, Starbucks, Eagle Diner … dinner was something back home … Jimmy John’s, maybe?

*****

The street art was good, sure, and there were a few good moments, but overall … don’t plan a holiday weekend birthday in the desert during a pandemic. Don’t be me.

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.

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.

Tucson, January 2018

I seriously go to Tucson/Arizona enough at this point that I’m just titling these posts as to when I go. Which I’m pretty sure I’ve also intro’ed with before. *shrugs*

In any case … I had a serious, serious hankering for Mexican food. Not the green chile-based crap that you mostly find in Colorado. Oh no, I wanted the deliciousness I get in Tucson. As I don’t work … I felt like adventure. I was considering going on my own … but B wanted to come … so we went together.

We tried getting Hamilton tickets in the DCPA presale the morning of Monday, January 25th … but our random lottery numbers were way too far down. I also in theory had a Global Entry appointment that afternoon, but thanks to the government shutting down, that was also cancelled. So, we decided to get a bit more time in Tucson and bust out of town Monday.

Dinner was at K Bob’s in Las Vegas, N.M., and we stopped for the night in Albuquerque. Got up earlyish Tuesday morning and continued on driving. I mostly just snacked for lunch and dinner was at the glorious, wonderful Casa Molina. Cheese crisp, beer, bean burrito … and instead of a green corn tamale, I decided to try a chicken enchilada.

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It was pretty dang delicious.

After dinner, we met up with our friends Seton and Debbie for a drink at the Tucson Hop Shop … and to pick up Girl Scout cookies. Mmmm, Thin Mints.

We found out late Monday night that the government was reopening, so I called on Tuesday to try to reschedule my Global Entry appointment at DIA. Yeah, unless I wanted to walk in that day, they weren’t going to help. I got on the site to reschedule when we got to our hotel … and the next appointment in Denver? July. Not helpful. I checked Tucson … February 3. Also not particularly helpful. However, I saw a spot for Nogales (the border) … they had a ton of spots open. I picked an early spot for the next morning.

So, Wednesday morning, we woke up early, got breakfast at the hotel, stopped for coffee, and then took I-19 south out of Tucson to Nogales, Ariz., just at the border. 20 minutes later, Global Entry appointment was taken care of, easy peasy.

We stopped at Mission San Xavier del Bac on our drive back to Tucson. I’m pretty sure I’d been there before – I did have a great-aunt who was a nun, after all – but I definitely didn’t remember it. So, we stopped.

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The Mission is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona, which is pretty dang cool. It also still has Mass to this day, even as they continue to renovate it. Plus we saw a few crested saguaro on the drive, so that automatically made it worthwhile.

After, we drove back to Tucson to pick up a tote bag at a visitor’s center that I won off the @visittucson Instagram feed, Bookman’s to check out the used books, and then some In-n-Out Burger for lunch.

Afterward, we spent some relaxing time by the pool (even though Tucson was kind of cold … well … comparatively) before heading off to Saguaro National Park. We picked up a few items at the Visitor’s Center (because it’s been closed most every other time we’ve been), went for a short run, and then caught the sunset – something I’ve been trying to do for a while.

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B and saguaro.

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Crested!

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Sunset.

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Almost doesn’t look real.

Pics taken, we did our standard Tucson meal for dinner – Eegee’s (where I tried their flavor of the month – prickly pear – and it was weird), a stop at Wienerschnitzel for fries and good ketchup, and then Lucky Wishbone. I got my usual shrimp, but B actually decided to try their fried chicken:

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It was surprisingly good.

While tasty as always, I think I might actually be able to skip Lucky Wishbone next trip. And only mooch off of B’s eeg.

Headed out early the next morning and decided to do the whole drive in one day.

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New Mexico state monument as seen off a rest stop somewhere near Truth or Consequences. Have always wondered what it was for. Monument was closed. Remains a mystery.

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El Camino Family Restaurant, Socorro, N.M. (no web site). Lunch stop. Average BLT. Glad I got cheese on my fries.

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We get bored, we take selfies. Okay, I do.

Dinner to make it quick and easy was Golden Corral in Pueblo, Colo.

Short little jaunt, but always nice to head to Tucson for a visit.

Dining on the Great Southern Road Trip

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.

I was wondering a bit on how to do this, and after much thought, I decided that a day-to-day “food journal” type thing would be the easiest for this part of the story. Because seriously, we ate. A lot.

Day One: 9.19
– Eggs at the house.
– Some Bantam bagels (and coffee!) at Starbucks.
– Free doughnut at King Soopers (thank you for winning, Broncos).
– Snacks in the car.
– Lunch at Iron Skillet (used to eat here a lot on road trips as a kid; not doing that again …).
– Chocolate shake from Steak ‘n Shake (made it during shake happy hour. Score).
– Delicious home-cooking at Norm and Emily’s.

Day Two: 9.20
– Breakfast at Norm and Emily’s.
– Coffee at Starbucks.
– Car and gas station snacks.
– Lunch at Waffle House.
– Dinner at Cracker Barrel (not as bad as I remembered; it had been a few years since we had last eaten there).

Day Three: 9.21
– Hotel breakfast.
– Lunch at Jack’s in Nashville.
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(delicious.)
– Ice cream at Mike’s in Nashville.
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(I may have added hot coffee on top of this coffee ice cream …)
– Dinner at some crappy burger place (Stax) in the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center complex (NOT recommended).

Day Four: 9.22
– Breakfast at Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A.
– Lunch at Puckett’s in Chattanooga.
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(Wasn’t bad. Don’t necessarily know if I’d return, but it did the trick.)
– Dinner at Totto Sushi (HIGHLY recommended. There were five of us, we ate (okay, mostly George ate) obscene amounts of sushi. They comped us an appetizer AND mochi ice cream. Fantastic service, tasty fish. GO.).

Day Five: 9.23
– Hotel breakfast.
– Coffee and bagel at Stone Cup Cafe, Chattanooga (recommended. Good coffee and one of the best bagels I’ve had in a long time).
– Lunch at Blue Plate/Local 191, Chattanooga (had a portobello sandwich. It was good, and I don’t know if it was because we were on the bar side of the restaurant, but our service was TERRIBLE. It took forever to get our food. Probably would not go back).
– Dinner at 1885 Grill, St. Elmo (DELICIOUS. Kind of expensive, but completely worth it. I had salmon, Jeremy had some sort of etoufee, Melanie had grits with something, I forget what Brandon ate, but we all loved our meals).

Day Six: 9.24
– Hotel breakfast.
– Attempted coffee at Chattz (so I like local coffee shops in general, but the girl working was totally rude and the (bottled) cold brew was way too strong. Waste of my money).
– Lunch at Maple Street Biscuit Company, Chattanooga (okay, so this place was really cute. The name for your order was the band you’d like to go on tour with. The food was tasty, too).
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(Brandon’s biscuit.)
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(My biscuit.)
– Breakfast for dinner at City Cafe Diner.

Day Seven: 9.25
– To go breakfast from City Cafe Diner (liked this place the night before, but it almost took too long to get our food that morning …).
– Bike course buffet (… Ironman. you eat what you can).
– A lot of fried crap at City Cafe Diner (bacon cheese fries were sadly disappointing, but their cheese sticks were good, and the fried mushrooms did the trick).

Day Eight: 9.26
– Hotel breakfast.
– More coffee and bagels from Stone Cup Cafe.
– Doughnut holes from Julie Darling Donuts, Chattanooga (so we like doughnuts, but these were disappointing. I couldn’t do a chocolate-frosted, because they do a chocolate-frosted glazed, which is just a no in my book. So, we tried some of the donut holes – sour cream, buttermilk, regular glazed – the glazed were okay, but the other two? Probably would not go back …).
– Gas station snacks.
– Taco Bell (when you’re hungry …).
– Hooters for dinner (all you can eat wings were fantastic …).

Day Nine: 9.27:
– Starbucks for coffee and Bantam bagels.
– Waffle House for *actual* breakfast.
The Varsity for lunch.
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(Varsity orange drink was … not good. Chocolate shake was okay. The cheeseburger was nothing special and the fries were above average. I get the local appeal … but I’d prefer In-N-Out over this.)
– Gas station snacks.
– Hotel dinner.
– Ice cream at Kilwin’s, Asheville.
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Day Ten: 9.28
– Hotel breakfast.
– Iced coffee from Green Sage Cafe, Asheville (cute little place downtown).
– Snack from Old Europe Pastries, Asheville (shortbread, not good. Croissant, delicious).
– Gas station snacks.
– Lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings (they have a salad I like. I needed greens).
– Fries and a chocolate shake from Jack’s, Alabama (so. Chocolate shake was good (real chocolate ice cream!). Fries were different, but good (I swear they use that artificial butter flavoring stuff that’s on microwave popcorn on their fries). Not good was the fries IN the shake. That was a fail).
– Dinner at Corky’s, Memphis.
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(Pulled pork? Tasty. Ribs? Best I’ve had in YEARS. Cole slaw? Tasty. Mac and cheese? Ehhh … but the rolls were on point. Out of our two BBQ stops, I’d suggest Corky’s for ribs for dinner.)

Day Eleven: 9.29
– Hotel breakfast.
– Iced coffee and Bantam bagels at Starbucks (can you tell I’m addicted to those stupid bagel bites?).
– Lunch at the Germantown Commissary.
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(While it wasn’t the best I’ve had (too relish-y?), the deviled egg was a nice touch. The pulled pork was even better than Corky’s. The ribs weren’t my favorite, but they were also a dry rub rib, and I now know that I don’t like dry rub BBQ. I didn’t like the cole slaw (but that’s so hit or miss for me anyway), but their fries were fantastic, which is rare for a BBQ place. Go here for lunch to get pulled pork and fries. We got talked into the pie, which wasn’t bad, but not my favorite lemon. Shoulda gone with the chocolate …)
– Olive Garden for dinner.

Day Twelve: 9.30
– Hotel breakfast.
Lion’s Choice Roast Beef for lunch (needed food, wanted to grab something quickly … we decided on what appeared to be a local St. Louis chain. Think Arby’s, but higher quality. It was … meh).
– Ice cream at Cold Stone.
– Breakfast for dinner at Norm and Emily’s.

Day Thirteen: 10.1
– Doughnuts at Daylight Donuts (I don’t know why we keep trying Daylight, as they’re just not good).
– Gas station snacks.
– Lunch (well, more like brunch) at Pheasant Run Restaurant, Hays, Kan. (So. Food wasn’t bad, but we’re 99% sure we got our food after every single local got theirs, even if they arrived after us. Kind of bullshit. Would not stop by again. We usually like to avoid the chains, but this time, a chain might have been a better option).
– Dinner back in wonderful Denver. Thank you Whole Foods Market and your delicious teriyaki.

(Also consumed: a copious amount of candy corn. ‘Tis the season …)