Retirement Trip

Also known as Boston and L.A. May 2017.

But wait, retirement, you might say?

Yep. Thanks to B getting a job with an ACTUAL airline (a mainline carrier as opposed to a regional), he let me quit my soul-sucking barista job so I could finally free myself from customer service hell. My CS shelf life? Waaaaay overdue.

Cinco de Mayo was officially my last day with the company and while it was bittersweet in some respects, I have no regrets about leaving. None.

farewell_sbux
My farewell cake.

I was in theory supposed to do a race that weekend, but since I had taken a good chunk of the spring off due to mental health AND B had a Boston overnight … I decided to join him in Boston instead and then go back to L.A. with him to play for a day. Since I could now do such crazy things.

My original plan was to take a red-eye from DEN to JFK Friday night and then catch an early flight from JFK to BOS Saturday morning. Well, all of the latter flights filled up for whatever reason and then my red-eye got delayed … so I left the next day and connected through MSP. Whatever.

I landed in Boston, dumped off my bag at B’s hotel (he wasn’t getting in until much later that night), and immediately met up with one of my old college roommates, Courtney. We hung out for a while before parting ways. I headed down into the city and had quite possibly the worst lobster roll ever (somewhere in Quincy Market. I don’t even recall which stand).

boston
No lobster roll picture, but found this in City Hall Plaza.

I felt so gross afterward that I headed back to the hotel to sit and read for a little while. My stomach settled enough around 7ish that I felt comfortable heading back out for some dinner. Nostalgia directed me straight back to campus.

boston2
Heh. My kind of graffiti.

boston3
I can fully believe that Target can be the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

Thai fried rice (and a glass of wine) at Brown Sugar Cafe was awesome on my nearly empty stomach (hadn’t eaten much all day). I felt enough belly space to hop across the street to T. Anthony’s for a slice – where my boy Paul STILL recognizes me, 12 years post-graduation – and then a few doors down to Angora for the best fro-yo on the planet.

That took up enough time for me to get back to the hotel and read a bit more before B’s flight got in. He got in and I got to finally get some WONDERFUL SLEEP.

(I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the few days previous.)

Sunday morning, we tried breakfast at some place on Boylston – I don’t recall the name – that had apparently just started a breakfast service. They need to improve on it, for it was highly mediocre. We were considering going for a run after that, but since it was gorgeous out – that weekend was the one sunny spot in Boston in like two weeks – we decided to just put on our shoes and walk around the city.

I took him down through Fenway to the Back Bay Fens, part of the Emerald Necklace. I’d talked about going down there back in school, but had never taken him there, so we did that. We then stopped at the BU Bookstore just because and obviously I walked out of there with some stuff! I found a pair of capris on clearance (workout capris for $30? Yes please!) and a wonderful comfy new Under Armour hoodie while B found a new pair of workout shorts. After that, we strolled downtown where I got to redeem my lobster roll disaster from the previous day at James Hook and Co.

boston7

We were hoping to meet up with our friend Ann at some point, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be. So, we went back to the hotel to shower and pack up. I decided to leave before B and get to the airport a bit earlier just in case.

boston9
Hi husband doing his walkaround!

Unfortunately, the BOS-LAX flight he was flying was oversold, so guess who got to stay behind?

boston10
Airport life. Featuring: new hoodie!

B offered to get me a hotel, but I just didn’t want to deal with it. I treated myself to a ridiculously expensive dinner at the Legal’s Test Kitchen in the airport (chowder, a glass of Pinot Noir, and one of my top-three lobster rolls) before attempting to settle in for the night.

Except apparently Logan doesn’t let you sleep in the concourses; no, it kicks you out pre-security. I went from a quiet, cozy, carpeted corner to a cold, noisy, tiled floor that was being cleaned for seriously two hours. Or so it felt like. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep. I managed an hour before I got booted out, maybe another broken 90 minutes on the tile, and then about 75 minutes at what I thought was going to be my gate once I went back through security at 4:15am.

Luckily, I made the morning LAX flight just fine, watching “Moana” and “Hidden Figures” on the way, being crowded in my middle seat by two manspreaders stealing the armrests.

B had rented a car, so he picked me up at LAX and took me to see his crash pad there (also so I could change). I inadvertently passed out for about an hour while he booked us a hotel room for the night. I woke up, changed, we headed off to our hotel, and then went to the Strand and rented cruiser bikes.

la3
B biking the Strand.

la4
Wall of succulents.

la5
Toes in the sand.

We went back home the next morning. Although it included not a lot of sleep and had a lot of stress, it was a wonderful mini trip to celebrate my “retirement” from coffee slinging.

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.

SoCal 2016, Day One

About a week or so ago, Brandon and I decided we needed to get the hell out of dodge (that is, Denver) and go on vacation. Okay, truthfully, we decided that quite a ways back, but we actually only managed it in late February. Brandon had some days off so I just decided to take them as well. We also figured, hell, we have the airline benefits, we may as well use them!

My criteria were as follows:
– warm
– no more than one time zone away (sorry, east coast/alaska/hawaii/world)
– flight preferably no longer than two, two and a half hours.

We ended up narrowing it down to northern California, southern California, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Arizona (probably Tucson). We really didn’t want to do the latter two, as we always go there. About a week out, Brandon started keeping an eye on flights and we decided on SoCal.

Early Wednesday the 24th, we hopped a flight to LAX and started a mini vacation.

Our first stop, since we were kind of hungry? LA icon, Randy’s Donuts.

randys
randys2

We split two doughnuts – a glazed twist and a chocolate frosted.

randys_doughnuts

Super sugary and super delicious. We’re still partial to Donut Maker here in town, but they were definitely tasty.

After Randy’s, I remarked that I’d never actually seen the Hollywood sign live (or close enough to get a picture of it), so we decided to go somewhere we could see it. The internet said a great viewing spot was actually on Hollywood Blvd, so off to play tourist it was.

motel
The old 7-Up machine caught our eye; loved this old motel.

We found a meter off Hollywood Boulevard and then it was off to explore some. As we’re not the most hip when it comes to pop culture, we completely spaced that the Oscars were that Sunday, so a good chunk of the Walk of Fame was blocked off for show setup.

hollywood3

We were still able to access Graumann’s Chinese Theatre and see the hand/foot prints in cement, though, which was totally awesome.

hollywood5
Theatre.

hollywood7
Harry Potter!

hollywood8
Concrete panels. Plus Bogey’s message is hysterical.

hollywood11
R2D2 and C-3PO’s “foot prints” cracked me up.

hollywood12
The “Rocky” nerds in us enjoyed Sly’s message.

hollywood13
I chose to unrealistically put myself in Donald’s webbed prints …

The internet was also accurate in that the shopping center there did have a great vantage point for viewing the Hollywood(land) sign.

hollywood15

After that, it was looking at all the stars and finding some of our favorites.

hollywood17

hollywood18

hollywood19
Not a star, but loved the sign.

hollywood22
Best. Graffiti. Ever.

I’m not sharing all my star photos, but the ones I snagged were Sylvester Stallone (Rocky!), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones is my spirit animal), Alex Trebek (Jeopardy! for life), and Al Michaels (Do you believe in miracles? YES!).

At that point, we were pretty hungry, so off to In-N-Out it was. I think the dinosaurs were more excited for it, though …

in-n-out

After lunch, we decided on something slightly more high-brow and headed to the La Brea tar pits. Thanks to our Denver Museum of Nature and Science membership, we were able to get in for free (much like the Natural History Museum in Vegas we go visit). Hooray for reciprocity!

la_brea

la_flowers
la_flowers3
Flowers in bloom near the pits.

la_brea5
For some reason, “Asphalt and People” cracked me up. However, this also shows an atlatl, which are freaking cool as hell.

la_brea7
Husband pulling up metal rods through the asphalt.

la_brea9
Cross-section of the pit.

la_brea10
Active dig site.

After La Brea, we made Santa Monica our next stop.

santa_monica4
There was a tiny, cheap aquarium at the pier, so we stopped in.

santa_monica8
If it’s on a pier, is it really the last burger *on land*?

santa_monica9

santa_monica13

santa_monica14

santa_monica15

After that, it was off to the Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Barbara for the night.

pch

santa_barbara2
santa_barbara3
Sunset in Santa Barbara.

santa_barbara4
On the pier.

santa_barbara5
Not dinner, but loved this place aesthetically.

We did end up eating at a place called Longboard’s Grill, also on the pier. It … was okay. The clam chowder just reaffirmed my decision to not eat it outside of New England (or maaaaaaaybe San Francisco/Seattle). Brandon’s swordfish
longboards_swordfish
was over peppered. Really, good swordfish just needs a bit of lemon (and perhaps a dash of butter) to be delicious. My lobster roll, well …
longboards_lobster_roll
… I’m realizing how important the proper bun really is for the enjoyment of a good lobster roll. Longboard’s? Did not have it.

After that long day, back to the hotel …

(day two coming soon.)