Travel

Hello, this is Kim, reporting to you live from somewhere that isn’t my couch.

A Late September Adventure (Day 5 & 6: Boulder, Morrison & Home Again)

Day 5

Since we had fully committed ourselves to Boulder rather than Denver at this point, Allison and I woke up Wednesday morning and didn’t even think twice about where we wanted to eat breakfast.

Referring to this list this time, we decided on The Buff, mostly because I was hypnotized by the Pecan Caramel Quesadilla sampler.

Spoiler alert: it was everything I hoped it would be.

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For our entrees, Allison ordered the Saddlebags which are pancakes stuffed with bacon, and I ordered the Granola Pancakes which, if I’m honest, I felt like I was expecting too much of after the crunchy granola French toast from Syrup in Denver. It’s not that they were bad, they just…weren’t the granola French toast from Syrup, you know?

Allison and I had kind of a tight schedule to fit today. Our primary reason for coming to Denver in the first place was to see two of our favorite artists, Needtobreathe and Gavin Degraw, join forces at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre for what was sure to be the concert of a lifetime. We’d planned our trip around the concert, scheduling it to be somewhat of a grand finale.

The concert was at 7:00 on Wednesday night in Morrison, which was 20 minutes from our hotel, but after a recommendation from a friend we decided to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park, which was north of Boulder, just under 2 hours from our hotel. As we ate our breakfast at 11:30 in Boulder, we knew we had enough time, we just didn’t have enough time for anything to go wrong.

Misleading Spoiler Alert: Nothing went wrong.

We arrived at Rocky Mountain National park around 1:00. The cost for a day’s (or hour’s) entrance was $20, but trust me when I say that it is worth EVERY PENNY.

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Allison and I pulled off the road at a couple of spots, taking pictures and making an uncontrollable amount of audible “OH MY GOSH’s.” The sky was absolutely perfect, the fields and trees were a living breathing kind of green, and every once in a while a burst of a breeze would blow right through you, forcing you to close your eyes and take a long, deep breath. It was one of those places that I don’t think you could ever feel like you spent enough time in. You become instantly attached to every inch of it, wishing there was some way you could keep it with you, to remind you how perfect the world can be at the times when it seems farthest from it.

Just before 7 o’clock, we pulled into the parking lot for the concert. We had plans of eating before we went, but ran a little short on time, so as we waited in line alongside the massive red rocks, we started brainstorming on what we hoped would be offered inside. And while it never would have crossed my mind in one million years, as is turned out, bratwurst was exactly what I was craving. Allison and I both ordered a beer and a bratwurst with cheese, chili, onions and peppers and my stomach all but applauded in thanks.

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For the concert, the opening act was The New Respects, who kind of gave me a Jackson 5 vibe. They were very upbeat and melodic and made you want to dance right alongside them. The second act was The Lone Bellow. They ended up replacing Gavin Degraw due to unforeseen circumstances and had a Lumineers/Civil Wars sound. After their first few songs, the lead singer took the mic and addressed the crowd, saying, “I was at a bar in Denver last night, and I met the most beautiful soul. He was singing at an open mic night and I’ve never seen someone exude so much light when they perform.” He said he talked to the man afterwards and learned that at the age of about 60, the man had already beat cancer twice and was currently fighting another disease. But even amongst all of his struggle, the man said that when he sang, he felt no pain.

“So I thought,” the lead singer continued, “why don’t we bring him out to sing with us?”

The man then walked on stage with a wide smile spread across her face. I, of course, instantly started crying. And as the four of them started singing “Angel from Montgomery” by Bonnie Raitt, the tears kept on coming. The lead singer had been right about the man’s ability to exude light when he sang and as I watched them all sing together, I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was witnessing something really special.

Next was Needtobreathe, who is not only my favorite band, but my favorite live artist of all time. This was my 5th time seeing them and Allison’s first, which I think is what made the performance my favorite of theirs by far. We danced, we laughed, we cried, we stood speechless, and to top it all off, we did so in by far the coolest venue I’ve ever been to. If you’re ever in the Denver area, please do yourself a favor and see a show at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. And if you’re ever in the Denver area—or anywhere else really—at the same time as Needtobreathe, please do yourself a favor and see them live. It will change your life.



 

Day 6

Our last day in Colorado came with an early wakeup call. It wasn’t our earliest, but it was by far our hardest. We packed our bags and gathered the last of our belongings from our hotel room. We checked out, returned our rental car and took a shuttle to the airport. There was mild conversation, but it all had an invisible weight brought on by the prospect of leaving.

In a couple hours, I’d be on a flight back to California and Allison would be headed back to Oregon. We didn’t know when we’d see each other again, and we were well aware we’d be going back to a friendship that mostly exists through texts, emails and phone calls squeezed in between our very busy and very different schedules.

Our gates were right next to each other and our flights were leaving one minute apart, so once we got through security, we sat side by side in a pair of chairs directly between the two doors we’d soon be walking through. We watched the screens update our flight information and we listened to the intercom announce the arrivals and departures of surrounding planes. We fantasized about getting on a different plane. Making this vacation last a little longer. Avoiding responsibilities for even just a day or two more. But then a woman’s voice came on the speaker and announced it was time for us both to board. We stood from our seats and gave each other a hug, both of us feeling the separation anxiety starting to set in quick.

I walked up to the counter and scanned my ticket with the agent, then walked down the jet bridge alone. I waited in line behind a man with a giant carry on suitcase and then took my window seat near the back of the plane and plugged in my headphones. As the rest of the passengers continued to board, I got a text from Allison.

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I looked out the window of my plane, over at the series of windows on the neighboring plane, wondering where my best friend was sitting, feeling weird that after almost a whole week of being together 24/7, we weren’t sitting together. Then, as my eyes grazed the middle of the plane, I saw something.

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I smiled. It was moments like these that made me feel confident in the upcoming days and months we’d spend apart. Because even when things got tough, we’d always be there for each other to shine a little light and help each other out. So as my plane backed out onto the runway, I leaned back in my seat, sad this trip was over, but optimistic and excited about the many adventures to come.

A Late September Adventure (Day 4: Boulder, CO)

After another slow, relaxing morning, Allison and I made our way back into Denver for breakfast. This time we referred to this list, and decided on Syrup, not only because the name screams BREAKFAST, but also because the menu boasted items such as “breakfast pizza” and a “pancake and waffle flight.” I ended up trying the “crunchy French toast”, which is the breakfast classic fried in granola and I was instantly obsessed.

The restaurant was found inside a suite in a downtown building, so when we walked back outside, we expected to be thrust into the hustle and bustle of the city. Strangely, however, we found the city to be a far cry from those we were familiar with. The streets were almost silent. Coming from Los Angeles, I felt a strange yearning for honking and cursing and yelling and then immediately felt ashamed about it. Maybe cities could exist without all of that. But then, as we drove around, checking out Coors Field and the surrounding streets, I also started to wonder, was I too far gone to enjoy a city that didn’t?

“Okay, things to do in Denver,” I mumbled to myself as I did a Google search on the side of the road. “Uhhh, want to go see this nosey blue bear?”

“Sure,” Allison said, and she got to work on directions.

Meet the nosey blue bear, also known as the “Big Blue Bear” that stands outside of the Colorado Convention Center:

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To be fair, I’m not sure if we totally gave Denver a shot. After checking out the Baloo the peeping bear, we drove around a little bit more, before ultimately heading back to the city that had stolen our hearts: Boulder.

We made the 40 minute trek, found a parking spot just outside the Pearl St. Mall and spent the next few hours walking from store to store. We walked up both sides of the mall, taking in the many unique art installations that peppered its sidewalks, we browsed boutiques that boasted price tags we could only dream to ignore, and we spent far too much—which really means not enough—time in a local bookstore.

Around 4 o’clock, we got back in the car and once again let our Googling thumbs decide where we should go next.

“Do you want to go to The Leanin’ Tree?” I asked Allison.

“What’s that?”

I shrugged and clicked to view the Yelp reviews. “This person says, ‘Amazing and free’”

At the sound of our two favorite words, Allison immediately buckled her seatbelt and typed in the address.

About 15 minutes later, we were pulling into a parking lot. A small “Leanin’ Tree” sign let us know we were in the right place, but when we parked our car and looked out the passenger window, passed the wooden fence marked “Leanin’ Tree,” we were still unsure. It was a park with a bunch of bronze sculptures grouped closely together.

“I was kind of expecting a…uhhh…a tree,” Allison said.

“Me too.”

Allison went to work on her phone, trying to figure out where exactly we were, then she looked up at me with a frown. “I think it’s closed.”

I glanced down at the clock: 4:15.

“Dangit. Did it close at 4?”

Allison shook her head. “No. I mean, I think it’s closed forever.”

She showed me her phone. An article read: “Boulder closes Leanin’ Tree Museum after 40 years of service.”

We both sighed. The article was dated only a few weeks ago. I sat back in my seat, wondering what we should do next and Allison leaned into the glass of her window.

“You know,” she said. “The gate is open.”

We got out of the car. At the very least, we figured we could at least get a closer look at the statues and maybe take a picture with one or two.

(Which we did)

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We walked through the gate and followed the sidewalk around to a set of double doors.

“Should we go inside?” I asked.

Allison shrugged and opened the door.

Inside we found a large desk with two women sitting behind it.

“Hello,” the woman on the left said. “Feel free to look around. To the right is our Christmas room.”

This woman then walked away. As if “to the right is our Christmas room” is a completely casual thing to say. Allison and I exchanged a look, and without saying a word, we both b-lined to the “Christmas Room.”

What is a Christmas Room you might ask? Well, it’s EXACTLY what it sounds like. After turning the corner in the beige walled, grey-carpeted lobby, we were thrust into a candy apple red, frosted shelf, Christmas trinket wonderland. Tables and shelves were COVERED in Christmas decorations, holiday knick-knacks and seasonal greeting cards. Santas came in every size. Everything was sprinkled with glitter. Every closed box promised the potential of a jingle. Allison and I looked at each other and immediately started laughing.

WHERE THE HELL WERE WE?!

We stood in the Christmas room for a few minutes, until we felt we were composed enough to face the women at the desk again, then walked back out into the lobby. This time the woman on the right stood to greet us.

“Hello,” she said. “Do you know what we do here?”

“No,” we said desperately in unison.

“Well we used to have a Western Art museum, but that recently closed. Our main source of work here, however, is greeting cards.”

Greeting cards?

She gestured to her left. “Feel free to look around.”

We followed her hand to the room on the other side of the desk. Inside we found a collection of, well, everything. There was jewelry, there were t-shirts, there were hand painted wooden signs that mom’s hang in their garden. There were candles and perfumes and purses and a collection of 50% off posters of the western art the museum used to display. To top it all off, when you moved to the back of the store, you were led into another room FULL of greeting cards. We’re talking aisles and rotating displays and shelves and tables full of greeting cards for every occasion.

Again, we asked ourselves, where are we?!

Regardless of the answer, we spent a good 45 minutes inside, looking at absolutely EVERYTHING. Just after 5 o’clock, we made our way back to the counter, where we purchased the following items:

A Colorado post card

2 greeting cards

A child XL t-shirt with a brontosaurus standing under the night sky

A mason jar with an apron inside that said, “you look radishing”

Only the essentials, obviously.

When we got back in our car, we calmly set our purchases in the backseat, buckled our seatbelts, then looked at each other and let out another loud, long laugh. Once we were composed, we went in search of a snack before dinner.

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We had planned to watch the sunset up at a friend-recommended spot known as Realization Point, and thought that popcorn sounded like something good to munch on. Long story short, we spent the next hour looking for Doc-Popcorn, which our maps had two locations for in Boulder, only to find out that neither of them exist. SO, we settled for smoothies instead, stopping at a place called Wonder to satisfy that craving.

While seated at a table in the very trendy, brick walled café, Allison put both hands flat on the table.

“I don’t feel very well,” she said. “I feel like I’m about to have a panic attack.”

I’ve never had a panic attack, but I’ve read enough to sympathize with their unpredictable nature and paralyzing symptoms. I took a big gulp of my smoothie. “How can I help?”

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Allison stood from the table and we made our way back to the car and up the hill to Realization Point. She said she wanted to take in the sunset and then we agreed to pick up something light for dinner and head back to the hotel to watch a movie. As we drove, she apologized, feeling guilty even though she had no reason to. I knew she felt like she was “ruining the evening” and I worried she had thoughts she was somehow ruining the trip.

I think we all tend to put so much pressure on ourselves when we’re on vacation. Like we need to feel our best all the time or we’re just wasting our time. So often we forget that part of vacation is rest. It’s having the time to recognize the feelings our busy workdays may require us to harbor.

Allison and I spend most of our time thousands of miles apart, so the best part of any vacation together is that freedom to get be on vacation together. Whether that’s going on some crazy, adrenaline pumping adventure, or staying up late talking about everything, or tucking in early to call it a night. So as we made our way home with some soup and a movie, I had no worries this vacation was in danger of being ruined. In many ways, it had already been more that I could have ever imagined.

A Late September Adventure (Day 3: Denver, CO)

In an unfamiliarly cold haze of morning déjà vu, my alarm once again went off at 4:15 a.m. on Monday. Unwavering from its first episode, I blinked my eyes slowly open, pondering the “what if I just slept through this?” narrative. But as I trudged my way into the bathroom, my toes cold and my stomach surprisingly empty, I once again gave into the promise of adventure. Allison and I were headed to Denver for the second leg of our vacation, and if all it took to get there was to fight through an early alarm, we were in a pretty good spot.

Mike was gracious enough to drive us to the airport, singing and chatting all the way. Allison and I smiled gratefully, both of us an equal level of non-morning person, and we wished him well as we made our way inside. Uncharacteristic of the small Redmond Airport, the security line wrapped around the lobby. Allison and I looked at each other with big, tired eyes, worried our early wake up call wouldn’t prove to be early enough. Luckily, the line moved quick and with a good helping of time to spare, we boarded our flight, took our seats, and promptly knocked out.

Upon arriving in Seattle, we had a slight increase in energy, though nothing more substantial than a battery’s last-ditch effort to power a children’s toy. Quickly after boarding our flight to Denver, we were once again asleep, Allison with her head on the fold down table, and me with a book open on my lap. Thankfully, this nap would prove fruitful, as we touched down in Colorado feeling excited, rejuvenated, and starving. We picked up our bags, took a shuttle to our rental car service, shed our jackets in the warm Colorado sun, and hit the road to downtown Denver.

Now, one thing you should know about the way Allison and I travel is we don’t do a lot of planning. We get the basics settled: the hotel, the rental car, the flights, etc. but from there we tend to wing it. So once we were on the freeway driving through the flat plains surrounding the Denver International Airport, Allison went to work finding us a place to eat lunch by Googling “best places for lunch in Denver.” We referred to this list, and settled on Olive & Finch, whose cute name and unique menu got our taste buds salivating.

I ordered the Hens Can Crow sandwich, whose focaccia bread I will dream about for months to come, and the blueberry lemonade, which I will now inquire about at every restaurant until I find it again. We sat out on the patio, trying to take in the fact that, after months of planning and hoping this trip would come to fruition, we were actually sitting at a restaurant in Denver, and we looked at each other with a smile.

“What should we do first?”

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Remember how I said that Allison and I aren’t ones for planning? Well, lucky for us, we do tend to be, well, lucky. We remembered the Coors Brewery is in Denver, so while we ate lunch we looked up the details involved in taking a tour. As it turned out, tours are only available Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and seeing as it was Monday at 2:30 p.m. and we were leaving Thursday at 10:30 a.m., we really only had one shot to make it and it just so happened to be right then. So, we hopped back in the car, made a quick pit stop to check into our hotel, and headed straight for the Coors Brewery, where we got in line for the last 5 or 6 buses of the day.

Each bus held about 10-15 people and a tour guide sat in the driver’s seat, pointing out key points of interest en route to the brewery. The ride and tour are free, as are the three beers available to you in the tasting room at the end. Allison and I jumped off the bus and led our group inside the main building, where we were immediately shuffled in line to take a goofy souvenir photo. You know, the kind you never really think about buying…usually.  

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From there we each grabbed an audio guide that you held up to your ear like a telephone. We walked side by side from point to point, fascinated by the brewing process and its history. Occasionally we would look over at each other with wide eyes and dropped jaws, shocked by a shared factoid, such as the plant’s distribution of its by-products to aid in the production of cat food.

Once we reached the tasting room, we immediately hopped in line to order the first of our three free beers. We each started with a Sandlot, which is brewed by Blue Moon, a Coors affiliate. We clinked our glasses and made our way through the room whose walls are covered with old Coors advertising memorabilia, and found a high table to lean our elbows on and enjoy our beers. We also made a stop at the vending machines stocked with salty snacks and split a bag of pretzels before getting back in line for our second drink. On this round, I ordered a Coors Banquet and Allison got a Killian’s Red. Halfway through this beer, we found ourselves a little lighter. We leaned against our table and laughed at old stories we’d told each other time and time again, and then got in line for our third and final beer.

“Oranges or no oranges?” the bartender said as he poured our Blue Moons. I said none, Allison said she’d take mine, and then we cheers-ed. This time we turned a different way away from the bar, landing us face to face with the photo counter that offered the souvenir photos we’d taken at the beginning of the tour.

“Oh my gosh,” we laughed into our glasses, “we HAVE to see these.”

After seeing the end results, we decided we also HAD to buy them. I got this one, where we’re just a couple of gals in cowboy hats, standing in the middle of a river:

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And Allison got the same picture with other available background, making us just a couple of gals in cowboy hats, standing in front of the Coors ice mountain:

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Neither purchase was met with even an ounce of regret.

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From the Coors brewery we took the bus back to our car and drove around downtown Golden for a little while. We stopped at a picturesque park full of runners, bikers, and loungers alike. We drove through the campus of the Colorado School of Mines, slightly jealous of the scenery they are surrounded with, though not jealous enough to wish we were back in school. We traversed the Lariat Loop Scenic Byway, constantly oohing and awing at the views it offered at every turn. Then, in another predictably unpredictable decision of an Allison/Kim adventure, we decided to drive 40 minutes into Boulder, Colorado to look around and eat ice cream.

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We stopped at Heifer and the Hen, a little ice cream shop outside of downtown Boulder that had swings to eat your ice cream on. I ordered the burnt honey in a waffle cone, the taste of which was delicious, though not as delicious as it could have been if they hadn’t run out of candied pecans.

Dear anyone in Boulder or its surrounding areas, if you happen to stop by Heifer and the Hen, please try this combination and report back whether it’s the greatest things you’ve ever tasted. Also, request to name this order “The Kim” on the menu. Thanks.

From there we drove through downtown Boulder, noting the Pearl Street Mall as a possible destination for the next day and then headed back to our hotel.

Even though we were tired from the day’s travels, we lay on our neighboring beds and talked for hours, about anything and everything, some things we probably didn’t even know we wanted to talk about. It was one of those conversations that goes in every direction for as long as need be; the kind of conversation we all hope to have once in a while; the kind that makes you feel known and understood. So as our eyes started to get heavy, we got under our covers and turned the lights out.

“Good night,” we said to each other, and it wasn’t because we felt we had to or because we couldn’t think of anything else to say, it was because it was true.

A Late September Adventure (Day 2: Bend, OR)

At home, a typical September Sunday morning usually consists of church, with the occasional play of hooky to watch a Giants football game on television. They are always slow moving and relaxing and comfortable, which made this Sunday morning in Bend feel just like home. After getting the chance to catch up on some sleep, Allison and I curled up under a blanket on the couch and talked about nothing.

Oftentimes being a guest in someone’s home creates a kind of pressure on both sides where both parties want the other to feel comfortable and happy. But there is a special kind of magic when you can just sit and exist and not feel like a guest at all but rather a member of the family. Allison and I talked about our plans for the day and lazed around a little bit longer than we probably should have, but it gave the day a perfect start.

Around 11:00 we went to Jackson’s Corner, one of my favorite places from the last trip I took to Bend (which you can read about here), where I once again got The Cristo, the French toast sandwich I’d been dreaming about ever since. This time I remembered to take a picture:

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giphy (17)From there we went to the Lava River Cave, where I got to sport my first winter coat of the season as we walked through a mile long underground lava tube. Mike, Allison and I walked side by side, shining rented flashlights into the pitch dark, making jokes about what it would be like to get stuck down there, while all silently agreeing it would probably be the worst thing ever. We walked up close to the damp, textured formations on the walls and in the dirt, having a constant stream of “I can’t believe this exists right alongside us” moments. By the time we were back up the 150 stairs that lead into the cave, the sun felt as hot as it looked bright and we hobbled our way back to the car, still in awe of what we’d just experienced.

One thing I’ve come to learn about Bend is that with its easy access to breweries, there’s always a bar or restaurant close by to unwind with a cold one. So after our trek through the lava tube, it was only fitting that we head to Atlas Cider Co. to have a drink and watch some late afternoon football. I ordered the apricot cider and Allison ordered the pineapple mango cider, both of which hit the spot perfectly, and we each helped ourselves to a bag of free popcorn the pub offers in the back room next to the arcade.

We were all in between bouts of hunger, wondering what we should do with rest of our evening. But as we sipped our ciders and munched our popcorn, we decided the best plan was least related, in other words it consisted of tacos, cinnamon rolls and wine.

For the tacos we went to El Sancho, where Allison recommended everything and I settled on carne asada and carnitas. For cinnamon rolls we went to the grocery store where we braved buying ingredients to bake them homemade, the results of which were everything we hoped for. And for the wine we went home, where we uncorked the bottle in the refrigerator, turned on the Emmy’s and let another good day come to a close.

A Late September Adventure (Day 1: Bend, OR)

At 4:15 a.m. my alarm went off and my eyes blinked slowly open. Waking up seemed impossible, unbearable, illogical, but somehow I dragged myself into the bathroom, turned on the surface of the sun grade light, and brushed my teeth.

It was 6:00 when I got to the airport, and everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing as me: why the hell are we here this early? followed closely by: because the adventure ahead will be worth it.

I boarded my first flight, and almost immediately after my butt hit the seat, my eyes closed. The flight attendant walked by and tapped me on the shoulder, informing me that while I was more than welcome to sleep, I was also sitting next to the emergency exit. Me and the other three people sitting in the row were required to audibly agree to our responsibilities in case of emergency, but judging how fast the lot of us fell mouths open asleep after take off, I’d say the plane was pretty lucky they didn’t need us.

On my second flight, I was sat next to a man who immediately pulled out a laptop and began furiously typing. I pulled out my copy of The Glass Castle and read the last few chapters, all the while feeling my stomach begin to churn and my fingers begin to fidget.

The first day of any vacation is the hardest for me. Expectations run rampant through my mind, promising to be let down. I knew my best friend was waiting patiently for me on the other side of this flight and I worried that the stories I’d been waiting to tell her wouldn’t be interesting or exciting enough. What if the distance between us had made us grow apart? What if this trip wasn’t everything we’d been hoping it would be?

The captain came on the intercom and announced our initial descent into Redmond, Oregon, and for a split second I wished I could stay on the plane forever, free from all the responsibilities to satisfy, impress and succeed that awaited me on the ground. But before I knew it, the wheels hit the pavement and the plane rolled to a stop. I walked through the terminal to the baggage claim, knowing there was no turning back now.

When I stepped outside, I saw my best friend, Allison, waiting by her car, her dog Jersey’s head poking out of the back seat. A wave of relief washed over me as we made a series of nerdy jumps and squeals to close the distance between us and initiate the hug we’d been waiting 6 months for.

“How are you?!” she said, and her voice in my ear was a startling reminder that she was no longer a text message or an email or a late night notification on Instagram, she was a living breathing person that I call my best friend, and we had finally been reunited.

“So we have an interesting afternoon ahead of us,” she said once I got in the car.

“Tell me more.”

Being a producer for a news station in Bend, Oregon, and the girlfriend of an anchor for a rivaling news station, Allison had been challenged to race her boyfriend—and fight for her channel’s honor—in a heated, balls out, tricycle race.

We stopped by her house for a quick change of clothes, she squatted and mimed tricycle riding motions to ensure she’d chosen a good pair of pants, and then we drove into town, where the Bend Oktoberfest—sure, it was September and we were a bit confused, but we won’t talk about it—was in full swing.

Beer steins were in every hand, pretzels crumbs were on every face and there was one very bold man sporting lederhosen. We took a seat on the bleachers that sandwiched the 200ft tricycle course and, alongside Allison’s boyfriend Mike, stared at the incredibly small tricycles, wondering how on earth either of them would not only fit aboard, but operate them in a way that would lead to success.

The first heat of racers left the starting line, giving life to every fear we had. Grown men leaned and wobbled and one woman let out a terrified squeal. Allison and Mike shared a glance, then took their places in line, fitted themselves with a helmet, and shrugged at me with a “here goes nothing.”

In the end, neither of them came out on top. While Allison finished in a close 2nd place, Mike’s long legs proved to be his greatest enemy and a resounding reminder that he was in fact an adult trying to operate a children’s bike. We all shrugged a collective shrug, then agreed that pizza was the obvious next step.

Mod Pizza, which is a build it yourself Pie-ology/PizzaRev equivalent, proved to be the ultimate right choice for our lunching festivities. I ordered a chicken, corn, tomato, red onion and feta masterpiece, then allowed myself to be tempted by the “no name cakes” that sit next to the cash register.

Tip: Always get the No Name Cake. It’s like a freshly made Ding Dong that your taste buds need.

Back at Allison’s house, we took a seat on the couch and let the conversation start flowing. We covered the topics that sat just below the surface, shared a few current music obsessions, and looked out the window at the impending fall weather.

At 5:30, we drove over to see Mike’s 6 o’clock show, where he Ron Burgundy-ed Bend’s latest news. Allison and I sat off camera, a mere 50 feet from him, in fold up chairs. She watched with trained eyes, all too familiar with the format and production of a newscast, and I sat with my hands in tight fists, worried I might accidentally scream or sneeze or pass out and ruin the show.

Afterwards, the three of us drove out to The Bite in Tumalo, which is essentially a corner street park converted into a homey picnic area with food carts, a fire pit, corn hole, and a bar with a ton of beers on tap. We all ate at Ronin Sushi & Japanese Grill, which, bottom line was delicious, but listen to me and listen to me now. Do yourself a favor and order the Bento Box with the Japanese fried chicken. Listen to me when I tell you that anything else is a mistake. Listen to me when I tell you that while I’d previously never heard of Japanese fried chicken, it’s also safe to say I was previously living a dark and dingy life. Also, from the bar, I’d recommend the Atlas Blackberry Cider, it tastes like the mature, has-their-shit-together-cousin of red wine.

Once we were thoroughly full, though not even close to finished harping on the magic that is JFC—Japanese fried chicken, a.k.a the new, improved and as far as I’m concerned ONLY colonel of protein I’d like to associate with—Mike headed back to work to prepare for the late show and Allison and I went to McMenamins.

Now, if I had a way to explain McMenamins briefly, I would, but I feel as though that would be both dishonest to you and a disservice to McMenamins. On their Facebook page, they tag themselves as related to pubs, breweries, historic hotels, concert venues, wineries, distilleries, coffee roasters, movie theaters, golf, and spas, and honestly that should tell you everything you need to know about this place, which is that you’ll probably never know everything there is to know about this place.

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Allison took me through an outdoor cigar lounge and into a building with dark carpet and wood paneled walls.

“We’re going to find the secret bar,” she said, “but first you have to find all the other secret rooms.”

I looked up and down the hallways, seeing nothing out of the ordinary, then I looked back at her.

“The only clue I’m going to give you is blue light,” she said.

And while I’d love to be the spiller of all secrets, Internet, this is the only clue I will leave you with as well. Just know that it is actually a great clue and that there are hidden doors among the wood paneled walls that lead you into rooms like this:

As well as a hidden bar that will give you some major speakeasy feels upon discovery.

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I’d like to say I Sherlocked my way through every puzzle and celebrated with a beer at the top, but unfortunately a handful of people in front of us ended up giving away a bunch of the secrets. So after checking in at the secret bar, we made our back down to the car and over to Bonta Gelato. Allison and I both got waffle cones full of goodness—I recommend the Vanilla Bourbon Pecan!—and cheers-ed to the first day of our adventure. We’d already done so much, and we still had so much to come.

Snacks to Pack for a Road Trip

So I’ve been talking to a lot of different friends recently, and they’ve been telling me about all of the exciting trips they have coming up in the summer months. And while I’m jealous, and the tiniest bit bitter, I’m also genuinely excited for them, and would love to help out on arguably the most important part of any trip: snacks.

You see, my sister and I just recently went on a long road trip, and in order to survive it, it was vital that I excelled in snack shopping. The way I saw it, we were going to be spending most of our time in the car, and often wouldn’t have a grocery store cookie/cracker/chip aisle at our beck and call, so we needed to more or less turn our backseat into a mobile Am/Pm.

It was also important to note the snack ratio. We figured there was no way around eating junk food. And since we’d be out on the road, almost completely devoid of human contact, we should have at least some of our favorite comfort snacks on hand, if only to be reminded of a time when the world around us was more than just dirt, cows and random building-ish structures that almost certainly contained a dead body (or 10). However, as much as we would have liked to deny it, we knew there would undoubtedly come a time when our bodies would want something else. Like fruit, or vegetables, or something that isn’t made out of grease and dentist tears.

Thus we have the ratio.

While shopping for our trip, I tried my best to find a balance of delicious and healthy (and the rare combo of both), so as to keep my sister and I both alive and satisfied—at least until we could find a Subway or a Chipotle.

These are the snacks I packed for us:
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Overall, it ended up being a pretty good combination. We finished everything except the carrots and the craisins, and never got into any hangry screaming matches that included insults like “next time you hand me a carrot I’m Thelma & Louise-ing this bitch” or “I’d rather eat that dead possum we just saw on the side of the road than look at you again,” so I’d chalk that up to a win.

To you and all my friends heading out on trips this summer, I wish you good luck, great memories & happy snacking!

Spring Break Road Trip (Day 9: Park City to Home)

What would prove to be the strangest, most body-shocking day of the road trip started just like any other day traveling with my sister: with coffee. We pulled up in front of the Park City Starbucks at around 7:45. The temperature was 36 degrees.

Our driving time was only 10 hours that day, and we would be gaining an hour as we moved back into the Pacific time zone, so we had given ourselves an extra hour of sleep than our previous travel days.

For the first two hours of the drive, the skies were grey and the car windows were cold. The thermometer in the car stayed around the mid thirties. The road curved around dewy green fields and blue glassy lakes, tall snowy mountains and flat snowy plains.

The highway was more or less empty. Cars passed us occasionally and big rigs faded into our rearview every once in a while. I put the car on the cruise control and got comfortable in my seat, tapping my fingers on the steering wheel to whatever song came on the radio.

After a while it started to rain, making the pavement misty. When I would fall behind a car, their tires would spray a healthy dose of moisture on to my window, causing me to constantly flick my windshield wipers off and on, low to high. As we kept moving, the temperature gage held tighter to the lower thirties, and soon the raindrops sounded heavier.

“It’s snowing!” I said to my sister, who thankfully, being from Southern California as well, was just as amazed even though we were in Utah at the end of winter, making this not in the least bit remarkable.

Fog set in, making the view up ahead very scant. I slowed my speed and kept both hands on the wheel and watched as brake lights began to frequent the highway. Soon it snowed a little harder, nothing too serious, just enough to make an inexperienced driver/regularly paranoid human like me think of that old Carrie Underwood song, “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

It’s not that I was actually in need of some omnipotent assistance, it’s just that in the song she mentions black ice and I had no idea when that actually becomes a factor, and I wanted to make sure that I’d studied Fast & the Furious hard enough to know what to do should evasive driving become necessary in the next hour or so.

Thankfully, it didn’t.

As the road continued to wind, the snow passed and the skies cleared. When we made our way into Arizona, the mountains around us turned to red rocks and the snow became dirt. My sister and I quickly shed our jackets, though not our awed expressions, as the highway had seemed to take us from one beautiful site to another.

After another few hours, the red faded into brown, as did the blue sky. Vegas had appeared in the distance, marking us officially in the Nevada desert, and the temperature skyrocketed into the 70s. I fanned my face. Had I forgotten what it was like to be in a temperature that didn’t make me crave hot chocolate? How was this day in Vegas the same day that was happening in Utah?

As we rolled down the I-15 north, leaving Vegas in our rearview for the second time in a week, we watched the crowds start to flood in on the I-15 South. It was a Friday after all, primetime for Vegas arrivals. I wished them all a good vacation, well aware that mine was coming to an end, and then I turned to my sister and asked if she was up for one more adventure.

“Of course,” she said.

Now, if you’ve been following along, or if you’ve been in the Vegas area before, you might know what adventure I was referring to. But if you don’t, allow me to let this picture do all the talking for me.

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That’s right, ladies and gentleman, The World’s Largest Thermometer! Found just about an hour outside of Vegas in the (not all that) beautiful town of Baker.

For anyone interested in adding this to their list of nerdy things to get your picture in front of, we parked in a Del Taco parking lot to get this museum worthy shot. I’m pretty sure a truck driver parked on the side of the road completely judged me, but as we were driving away he walked over to the same spot I was standing, so I think it’s safe to say his judgment quickly transformed into #SelfieInspiration

The next few hours of the trip were mostly uneventful, and perhaps the longest of the entire week, because we knew we were so close to home. As can be expected at a time like this, some minor delirium set in. I think at one point I made a joke about the California Aqueduct that had us laughing for longer than it should have, and my sister got into a one-sided fight with a suburban who’s driving was not up to par.

When we finally did arrive home, my sister and I took a deep breath and walked inside. It’s always a funny feeling to have your home feel not as homey once you’ve been away from it for a while. It’s like seeing an old friend and not knowing what to say at first. But after thoroughly showering the road off of us, we quickly fell into step with the rest. We unpacked, laughing at every souvenir we pulled out of our bags, reminiscing where we got them and what made them special, we made dinner, allowing our wallets the chance to breathe for the first time in a week, and we sat on the couch, once again filled with that grateful feeling.

In my bed that night, as I lay my head on my own pillow, I couldn’t even begin to try to wipe the smile off my face. The past week had been incredible, and to have made it home without losing anything, without crashing or getting murdered by a guy at a sketchy gas station, or without getting lost even once, I mean, what else could you want in a road trip? So as I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but ask myself the question we all ask ourselves after arriving home from a grand adventure: where are we going next?

Spring Break Road Trip (Day 7 & 8: Park City)

Just like a Saturday, the best part of a non-travel day on a road trip is the freedom to sleep in as long as you want. Now, I haven’t really been able to sleep passed 9:30 since I was about 18, but there’s something to be said about just laying there, with nowhere to be, and no one waiting on you, so that’s exactly what we did.

Around lunchtime, we made our way into town to find Bandits, one of Park City’s well-known barbeque restaurants. One highlight of this meal included a mixup in the kitchen resulting in us receiving double the garlic bread we ordered, a.k.a THE DREAM.

Afterwards we walked around a bit, briefly window-shopping the stores Main St. had to offer. We showed incredible self-control in Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, not submitting to any of the sugary, elegant, chocolate dipped treats. Though this stand would prove to be only temporary, as upon arriving home, my sister, Mel and I decided we wanted needed to make cookies that included M&Ms, sprinkles, and chocolate chips.

That night we made tacos and hung out watching one of the most incredible, most unfathomably Oscar snubbed films of our generation: the Olsen twins’, Getting There.

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As a group we could quote almost the entire movie (which we did), and like any cinematic masterpiece, it made us laugh at all the same jokes, even though we’ve heard them upwards of 20 times now.

Important Tip for a Satisfying Life: See Getting There.

After another alarm free, commitment free morning of sleep, Mel, my sister and I got in the car to make the 20 minute drive to Kamas, which is home to a Chevron station with infamously good donuts. Unfortunately I cannot confirm this countywide opinion, because upon arriving at the gas station around 11:00, the entire case of donuts was empty. It was a soul crushing defeat, but somehow, we found the will to move on.

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With our stomachs still empty, we made our way back into town to find The Backdoor Deli, another well-known eatery in the Park City area. When we walked in around 12, the shop was nearly empty, so we had plenty of time to browse the 50 sandwich menu until we all found one that suited us.

Tip: Order #46!

From there we let the day continue to get better, and let the morning disappointment in Kamas fall into the I-hate-this-10-minutes category. We saw Beauty & the Beast in theaters, we went shopping at the outlets, and we went to the High West Distillery to try some of Park City’s famous whiskey. For dinner we went to the No Name Saloon, made known to us by the should-have-been-best-picture-winner Getting There, before heading back to the house to make s’mores, take a “ski shot”, and talk about anything and everything that came to mind.

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It was the perfect end to what ended up being the perfect day, and as I lay my head down that night, knowing it was the last time I’d do so outside of my own bed, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm. This road trip had been everything I’d hoped it would be, and even though it wasn’t quite over yet, I already missed it.

Spring Break Road Trip (Day 6: Bend to Park City)

It was another early morning to start another long day of driving, and with the events of Saturday still looming in the far back corner of our minds, we figured it was only logical to start our day with Starbucks.

Unlike Friday’s departure from Vegas, the drive out of Bend didn’t involve buildings shrinking out of sight in the rearview mirror. It was more of a peek-a-boo. A now you see it, now you’re back in the middle of nowhere type deal.

Fortunately, the drive out was beautiful. The highway cut through a lake, thus sandwiching us between still, glassy surfaces that reflected the slow moving clouds overhead. Green surrounded us. I almost felt out of place amongst the flourishing trees and plants and seemingly endless grass.

About three hours into the drive, we made our first stop for gas, figuring you could never be too safe. And while I won’t bore you with the details of what made getting gas at this station a minor struggle, I’ll share with you the accidental lesson we took from it.

Amongst the frustration, my sister, who was doing most of the grunt work (i.e. getting out to pay for the gas), made the statement, “I hate this 10 minutes!” I, of course, started laughing, so much that I nearly honked the horn with my face. When my sister returned however, she clarified the statement, making it less hilarious and more meaningful.

“You hate this 10 minutes?” I said between laughs.

“Well yeah, I don’t want to say, ‘I hate today’, because it’s really only these 10 minutes that have been bad, the rest of the day could be great!”

Resulting tip: if you have a bad part of your day, don’t assume the whole thing is a wash.

Over the next few hours, we made a new friend in the form of the Snake River. As we made our way through Oregon towards Idaho, the Snake River ran alongside us, constantly making us “ooh” and “awe.” When we started nearing the border (which is also known as “Onion Country”) the land got flat. Trees became rare and mountains ran out into the distance. Seemingly every patch of land was freckled with cattle, some of which moved so slow (or not at all) we thought the Idaho-ians may have planted them there for good looks.

After officially crossing the border, our (no longer lonely) highway turned into an actual freeway, which brought me more joy than I would have expected. There were speed limit signs, there were billboards, there were the occasional brake checks from surrounding cars, it felt like home.

We stopped for lunch at Subway, then stopped for gas, where we met arguably the nicest man in the world. He pumped our gas for us, which is not uncommon outside of California as we’d come to find out, and asked us about our day and our trip. My sister and I were both in agreement that he was, as stated previously, the nicest man in the world, but it was hard to tell if this was true or if we were just so used the cold attitudes in Southern California that any motiveless kindness seemed unfathomable.

Side-Tip: If you’re passing through a town you think might offer a good souvenir, but don’t know where to look/what to get. Find the town’s Wal-Mart and grab yourself a hat. Not only will it make you fit in for a low price, it will also hide the fact that you’ve been sitting in the car for 8 hours and your hair is greasier than a fried Twinkie.

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As a whole, Idaho looked mostly the same. We sped down its highways gawking at the (real or fake?) cows and horses and the snowy mountains far in the distance. If I were to describe it in two words, I would probably have to say its “unmistakably Idaho”, meaning that if you blindfolded me, put me on a plane, drove me out into the middle of Ida-nowhere, I’d probably be able to identify the state. If you’ve been to Idaho, maybe you know what I mean. It just feels like one of those girls in high school that knows who they are now and who they’re going to be later. Idaho is Idaho, and I’m a fan.

Upon entering Utah, we did what anyone (and by anyone I mean only us) would do: we took a side trip to see the World’s Largest Fishing Fly!

If you’ve seen this post, you’ll know that I’ve made it a mission of mine to see all of the World’s Largest Roadside Attractions (or as I call them: WRLA’s), so when I heard we’d be passing right by the only WRLA in Utah en route to our 3rd stop, there was no other option but to pay it a visit.

 

Some tips if you ever decide to visit a WRLA:

  • It will probably be in a very strange, very random and not-always-easy-to-stop-in-front-of location
  • You will undoubtedly receive strange looks from people while you’re taking a picture in front of it
  • You should definitely ignore all those looks
  • Always buy a souvenir when available.

 

The World’s Largest Fishing Fly is in the parking lot of a flea market. There is no sign, or souvenirs, and my sister and I got the attention of a number of passing cars as we took pictures in front of it.

Here I am totally caring what they think:

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After our 5 minute, yet totally worth it stop at the Fishing Fly, my sister and I cranked out the last hour and a half of the trip to reach our friend Mel in Park City. It was just about sunset when we pulled up to her house, so we spent the next few hours talking, laughing, eating Taco Bell, and watching Friends. And like our two stops before this, Mel’s house instantly became a haven for us. We felt welcome and loved and thankful to be there, but most of all, we were excited to see what adventure this next leg of the trip would bring us.

Spring Break Road Trip (Day 4 & 5: Bend)

Sweet, sweet, Bend. You are cold, but you are a place. People love you. People! You have people. And houses. And food. Oh Bend, I love you.

On Sunday morning Allison, my sister and I got up slow and made our way over to have brunch, which proved to be nothing short of a gift from God. We went to Jackson’s Corner, a local treasure, and I ordered “The Cristo” which is essentially a French Toast sandwich made of dreams and fairy dust, and a big ole pint of milk because: strong bones.

From there we headed to Cascade Distillery, which is located in the neighboring town of Sisters, where we proceeded to try just about everything they had in a very small amount of time, leaving us all feeling relaxed and warm and thankful for one another.

Tip: if you ever find yourself at the Cascade Distillery, tell them Kim sent you. They’ll probably say Kim, who? And then you can tell them about this blog post and Kim, the person who wrote it, which probably won’t ring any bells with them, because I don’t think I even told the guy my name. Then, after you realized I’ve completely pranked you, order the Wild Roots Raspberry Vodka with cream soda, it’s the best drink I’ve ever had in my life.

For the rest of the day, we did nothing short of living. On the way home from the distillery, as we all collectively frowned at the grey, rainy skies, we decided to flip mother nature the bird and have a great day with a tropical twist. We stopped at the store and got junk food, cranberry and pineapple juice, and Malibu rum, then spent the rest of the afternoon drinking, playing board games and laughing loud and hard.

That night, we went to Deschutes Brewery for dinner (where I’d highly recommend the pretzel and the 3-cheese pizza) and then headed back to the house to watch a movie. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that after dinner we all felt a little fat and bloated and kind of regretful, but mostly just happy and 100% willing to do it all over again.

The next morning had a little bit of an earlier start. Unlike my sister and I who were playing hookie for the remainder of the week, Allison had to work, so we headed over to Strictly Organic, a local coffee shop chain, to film a segment for the daytime talk show she produces.

Every Tuesday, they have a segment on the show where they interview customers in the coffee shop, in the hopes of getting a taste of the diverse population of Bend. They tape the segment on Mondays, and since we happened to be in town, my sister got to be one of the interviewees.

Here she is having a totally miserable time making her television debut:

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It was super fun! Much more of a casual conversation rather than a stiff on-camera interview, so if you ever happen to be in Bend and have an adorable blonde with a headset come up and ask if you want to be interviewed for Central Oregon Daily, say yes! You won’t regret it.

Once we were wrapped (yeah, I know TV terms), the three of us headed over to another local favorite: Sparrow Bakery. It was packed, which is always an encouraging sign for a first timer, and lived up to the hype. I ordered an Ocean Roll, which is arguably the best pastry I’ve ever eaten, and had a girl walk up to me just to say, “you look great today!” So even though it was only 9:45, with carbs and a compliment bubbling through my veins, I already knew it was going to be a great day.

Just before lunchtime, while Allison was hard at work preparing for the 3pm show taping, Natalee and I took the time to hike Pilot Butte. It’s nothing special, just a mile and half of breathing fresh, central Oregon air, with a 360-degree view of its beauty from the top, no big deal.

Here I am totally wishing I wasn’t looking out at this majestic part of the world:

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At 3 o’clock, we came back to watch Allison’s show (which she crushed) and then headed home around 4:30 for some solid lounging.

Tip: The Pacifier is currently on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, see it. If you have seen it and (like us) have forgotten how incredible it is, go watch it.

For dinner, we went to a place called “The Lot” which is a collection of delectable food trucks and a tented, heated-bench, seating area. We spent about 30 minutes devouring pad thai from “Thailandia”, all hinting but not expressing how sad it was that we were leaving the next day. But rather than harp on what was to come, we enjoyed what we had now, which proved to make the sting the slightest bit duller.