travel blog

It’s Always Sunny in Seattle & Canada (At Least When We’re There): Spring Break Day 3

With the three of us being Southern California natives, it became a daily ritual to check the weather each morning in Seattle. Was it going to be raining? Was it going to be freezing? Should I wear everything I packed just in case?

Monday morning, as we got off to another (wonderfully) slow start, we layered up for a cold day, but made sure our clothes had a little extra give in order to prepare us for our first activity. Among the seemingly endless benefits of getting to stay with/know/love the Beliel’s is their access to a baseball facility equipped with turf, batting cages and pitching mounds. Being the baseball lovers/ex-softball players that we are, we were anxious to take advantage of such a place. We mostly wanted to hit, mostly to see if we still got it, mostly to pump our retired though still prominent egos.

SPOILER ALERT: We still got it.

SECOND SPOILER ALERT: After hitting 6 buckets of balls each, we would wake up the next morning feeling like we were collectively run over by a truck and would spend most of the day groaning.

From the hitting facility we made our way to The Matador to meet Darryl for lunch. Now, the website for this restaurant notes it as being a “local bar chain serving classic & contemporary Mexican dishes, plus cocktails, in a stylish space.”

Let it be known that all of this is true.

I however, do not feel I can give you a completely accurate personal review of the restaurant, because after binge eating the pre-meal chips I ordered a meal that was too spicy for me to completely enjoy. In fact, after taking a few bites of the street tacos (which were loved by everyone else at the table, by the way) I realized that I, a giant wuss, was not properly equipped to enjoy them, and began trying to scrape some of the sauce off with a chip—which I quickly began referring to as my “safety chip.” Yes, this IS a completely ridiculous thing to do, however, it does work and I’d like to officially submit it as a lifehack for those similarly afflicted with baby tastebuds.

Around 2:00 p.m., the four of us wished Darryl goodbye and headed to Flatstick, a pub chain native to Washington known for its craft beer and indoor mini golf. Since we were all full—or in my case, still slightly aflame—from lunch, and were worried we wouldn’t be physically ready for all the bending and moving involved in mini golf, we opted for some beers and some Duffleboard.

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You read that right: duffleboard. It’s basically the love child of shuffleboard and mini golf. You play to 21, but you have to get exactly 21. If at any point you go over, your score drops back down to 15. If I were to give you my best piece of advice, it would be: pay attention. It is so easy to get caught up in getting your form right or worrying about where your ball is or isn’t that you completely forget there are other players and then suddenly they have 21 and you only have 9 and the game is over.

This lesson took me about 15 games to learn. And of the near 30 rounds we played in total, I still only won two games. Thankfully, Flatsick also has Nintendo 64, where I was able to get some of my mojo back playing Mario Kart. My inner six-year-old was living. for. it.

Once we’d successfully completed every course of Mario Kart, we decided it was finally time for mini golf. Unfortunately, a private party had the entire course booked until 9:00 pm, and since it was only 6:00 p.m.—because yes, we spent 4 hours in the mini golf bar, not playing mini golf—we decided to go home, regroup and come back later.

In that time, we created and completed our own version of the Hot Guy March Madness bracket, this time crowning Channing Tatum as the winner, and ate Wendy’s in the Wendy’s parking lot like the classy adults we are.

When we arrived back at Flatstick around 10:00 p.m., we all grabbed a club, took to the course, and showcased some solidly sub-par mini golf abilities. Afterwards, we returned to the duffleboard table—where we may or may not have accidentally broken the club—and we sipped beer and laughed. At one point we talked about the plans we had made for that Monday. There was a ferry we were supposed to take. There was a park we were supposed to explore. There were sights we were supposed to see. But as we all leaned over the table, talking trash and watching the night tick by, we didn’t regret a thing.

As we lay down to sleep that night, knowing it was our last night in Seattle, Natalee, Mel and I kept saying the same three things:

1) We needed to make our own duffleboard at home

2) We wished we didn’t have to leave in the morning.

3) This trip was already everything we hoped it would be.

It’s Always Sunny in Seattle & Canada (At Least When We’re There): Spring Break Day 1

Similar to our last trip to Seattle, this one started early. After waking up to a 3:50 a.m. alarm, my sister and I made our way through the doors at LAX by 5:15. Lucky for us, the Virgin America check-in desk was there to welcome us with the soothing alarmingly loud sounds of Beyoncé and Sean Paul. I tried to be mad, but I couldn’t. In fact, I’m pretty sure I tapped my foot at one point, bringing incredible shame to my fellow non-morning people.

Once we boarded our plane, Natalee and I were excited to find a wide selection of movies and television shows available to enjoy during our three-hour flight. We were also excited to see the Virgin America safety video, which is known for its fun and outlandish choreography. Three hours later however, when I woke up with my mouth slightly open and a crick in my neck, I realized I’d missed everything, including takeoff, landing and snacks. I was both bummed and impressed.

After grabbing our luggage, Natalee and I took a seat to wait for our friend Mel who was flying in on a later plane from Utah. We made use of our time by playing the Washington lottery, where Natalee won $7 and I started our trip $5 in the hole. Once Mel landed, we picked up our first rental car and officially started our adventure.

First on the list of sights to see: The World’s Largest Cowboy Hat & Boots. (Obviously.)

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As some of you may know, I have a weird fascination with the World’s Largest Roadside Attractions, and one of my goals for this year was to see three. So after pulling up to a park in Georgetown and Vanna White-ing the hell out of this bad boy, I officially checked one off the list.

gold pigFrom there we made our way to Pike’s Place Market, where we did our due diligence and pet the golden pig. We also aggressively hovered around the flying fish booth, munching on free samples of dried fruit as we waited for a headless halibut to go airborne.

We then did a few loops of the market, popping in here and there, smelling and tasting and touching all of the things. Some impulse important purchases here included apple chips (which are made of magic and dreams), ghost pepper garlic salt, and jalapeño raspberry jelly (both of which may or may not make you breathe fire).

For lunch we ate at Le Panier, a French café where we each ordered a macaroon and a sandwich on a baguette, and the only words we pronounced correctly were “water” and “yum.” Afterwards, as we walked back through the market, we took note of all the blooming daffodils and the undeniably sunny weather—the latter of which we tried not to mention in fear of jinxing it.

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Our next stop was the gum wall, which after seeing it I can now say is really more of a gum hallway. Once you turn the corner you are literally surrounded by half chewed pieces of gum in every color. Some are simply stuck to the wall while others are pulled and warped, trying their best to emulate art. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little grossed out, but that didn’t stop me, or any of us, from immediately making our own fruity (and minty) contributions.

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From there we made our way through the gum hall and down the hill to the boardwalk. We walked along the water and rode the Great Wheel, again marveling at the untraditionally dry weather we were being blessed with. Then, after making our way back up to our car, we officially wished Pike’s goodbye and headed outside the city to stay with our ever generous Seattle hosts: the Beliel’s.

For our first night in Washington, they truly went above and beyond the call of duty. After treating us to an incredible dinner—which may or may not have been a strategy to convert us to Seahawks fans—they joined us for a green beer in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and challenged us to some shuffleboard. (Kim + Dee Dee = shuffleboard champs)

When we got in bed that night, Mel, Natalee and I could safely agree on three things:

  1. We were happy.
  2. We were blessed.
  3. We couldn’t wait to see what tomorrow would bring.

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 the 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 way 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.

How to Survive an Alison’s Adventure (Day 1&2)

Day 1

With a bang my eyes were open, the wheels were on the ground, and the lights in the cabin were on. It was 9:15 pm on a Thursday and my dad, my sister and I had just landed in Hawaii.

We walked through the terminal, eyes red and hair knotted, looking at all the families set to board the plane we’d just exited. Their vacations were over and you could see it on their faces. Sunburned noses and ocean dipped hair; frowns for what they would miss and smiles for what they’d just experienced. In a small way I envied them, for they’d already gone on their adventure. They were long passed all the anxiety and anticipation that sat so prominent in my stomach.

I took small steps towards the parking lot where our ride awaited us. My mind flashed through everything that could go wrong while my heart reasoned everything that could go right. But as we stood on the curb and a man named Henry pulled the car around to pick us up, I reminded myself that an adventure is all about the combination of both.

 


 

Day 2

The ceiling creaked above me and I jolted awake. FullSizeRender 358 The sun was peaking in through the curtains and the tropics were alive with noise. I took in everything I could make sense of. The bed I laid in last night after arriving; the bedside table I set my phone on just before I fell asleep; the bamboo floor I was guided along by flashlight; the door that my aunt and uncle hugged me at before wishing me goodnight. Last night wasn’t just a dream, this adventure had truly begun.

The ceiling creaked again as morning conversation began to fill the floor above me. I wiggled myself out of bed, took a few necessary Snapchats, and took a good look at myself in the bamboo-framed mirror that hung in the bathroom.

“Here we go,” I said quietly, “you can do this.”

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The weeks leading up to the trip had been mostly filled with anxiety. I’m a stickler for schedules and I thrive on details and organization. I also had a lot going on; commitments and responsibilities I felt uncomfortable putting on hold. But as the trip began to take shape, quickly morphing from a dream to an idea to a reality, I realized I had to leave both quandaries behind. So, as I slipped into the flip-flops I left outside the door and made my way down the sandy path that looped around to the “lanai” or living room, I took a deep breath, knowing I was heading straight into the mouth of the unknown.

“Good morning,” I said timidly. Heads turned and smiled shyly. Some I recognized, some I didn’t. I walked with an outstretched hand around the room, officially meeting the people I’d spend the next seven days with.

“Are you ready for your first adventure?” David, Alison’s dad, said to us. We all nodded, some more confidently than others, then we retreated back to our rooms to change.

“This way,” David said when we were all ready. He led us out the front gate and down to the lava rock that lined the coast. “Watch your step.”

For the next 40 minutes or so, we made our way along the rocks. Some slippery, some dry, some soft and warm and some tough and dangerous. David explained the two different types of lava, “pahoehoe” which was smooth, and “aa” which was rough and jagged.

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“You know how aa got its name, right? It’s because when you walk on it with bare feet you go ‘ah! ah!’” (This was a joke, but it made it very easy to identify the difference between the two)

The walk was beautiful. Though I’d forgotten my camera, I took in the views with wonder and awe. A few times I had to stop and just absorb it all as I couldn’t help the overwhelming, “we are so not in Kansas anymore” moments that kept coming with every turn.

When we came to a stop, my dad immediately leaned in to me. “Oh boy,” he said, his voice laced with nerves. I looked up at him with confused eyes. “I think I know what we’re doing here,” he said with a deep breath. I shook my head, but before I could ask, Alison was standing in front of us with a bright smile.

“Alright, guys!” she said. I took a big gulp of my water and sat down to listen. “In life,” she continued, “we are often required to take risks to get what we want and to make our dreams come true. Sometimes we just have to jump.”

She gestured her head over to the cliff that lie about 50 feet from us, then waggled her eyebrows. I sat, silent and stunned, then looked over the edge.
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Yeah, no.

No. No. No.

I see what you did there, but no.

I will not be jumping off any cliffs. I will not be plummeting to my death today. I appreciate the life lesson and physical manifestation of bravery, but no. I’m going to sit right here, I’ll see you all when(/if) you get back.

“Okay, Kim, you’re next!”

“Go Kim!”

“You got this!”

The voices were coming from all around me. Some behind me, others in the water below me. I smiled shyly, politely declining…but then at some point I stood up, and at another I took off my bathing suit cover and shoes. Suddenly I was looking down at my sister in the water, my toes curled at the edge, eyes shifting in and out of focus. I had know idea how many feet lay between me and the water, the only measurement I could figure was that I was high.

I took a deep breath.

“Ready?” David said, his eye on the water, watching for the perfect moment. “Go!”

Without giving myself any more time to think, I jumped. A few seconds later, I was in the water, alive, refreshed, courageous. I looked up at the cliff, then I looked down at my tattoo and smiled. Who knew you could climb a mountain by jumping off a cliff?

After a quick climb up and a slow walk back, we took a seat on the beach, did a few “get to know you” exercises, then arrived back at the house to enjoy a nice breakfast together. Later that day we met back in the lanai to do some yoga, then walked back out along the lava rocks to watch the sunset.

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And as our first full day in Hawaii came to a close, I took a long, deep breath. For even though the nerves still sat beneath the surface of my skin, I had a new kind of bravery that was beginning to take shape. If I knew I could jump, maybe I could do anything.

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.