Friday, September 2, 2016

Three Nights in the Bay Area.

So. I drove up the coast of California (Insert wistful sigh here.) and all the way up to Santa Clara. One of my friends from my study abroad trip to India, Kelly, lives there. Funny thing, I sorta thought when we left India that Kelly would be someone I didn't see all that much; I'm from Maine and went to college in Massachusetts, she's from the Bay Area and went to college in Oregon. It seemed unlikely that we'd cross paths soon. To my surprise, I have actually seen her more than almost anyone else. This was the third consecutive summer that we've managed to meet up. Crazy!

On Monday morning Kelly went to work and sent me into San Francisco on the Caltrain, which is a DOUBLE DECKER TRAIN. So cool. I was kind of surprised by the city-ness of San Francisco. When I got off the train I was right in the skyscrapers of downtown and everything was metal and glass and gray, which I simply didn't expect. It's kind of funny that Santa Barbara was less city-like than I expected and San Francisco was more so. I guess I expected both of them to be a little more in the middle? I dunno. Anyway, I got off the train and just started wandering around the city a little aimlessly. I ended up in the area of SFMOMA and sat on a rooftop(ish) garden there as I waited for a store that I wanted to go into to open. 

After that, I headed toward the Ferry Building, which is kind of like an indoor market with all sorts of local products for sale. From breads, meats, and cheese, to mushrooms and pottery, the Ferry Building pretty much had it all. Even a bookstore. Be still my heart. I spent probably a couple hours there between sitting on the pier, getting lunch, and browsing books. It was a lovely sunny day after the fog finally burned off in the late morning. After the ferry building I continued along the piers and sat on a few more, enjoying the sunshine and the views. I’m pretty sure I could see Alcatraz, although I’m not completely sure about that.

When I felt satisfied with my pier experience, I went up about 90 million steps to get to the top of Telegraph Hill. Of course, once I got up there the line up Coit Tower was stupidly long and I didn’t feel like waiting in it. I took a couple pictures from the top of the hill, where I got my first look at the Golden Gate Bridge (realllly far away, a tiny little line that I could barely identify at that point). Then I found a shady bench halfway down the hill to sit and read my book and rest my body. It sounds like I hadn’t done anything, but I was really very tired at that point. I walked a lot that day. Like over 30,000 steps total, according to my phone (although I don’t know how many I had at this point in the day. But I was tired). 

At that point I headed out and ended up hopping on a cable car. Cause like, San Francisco, ya know? It was kinda wild, and even though I was waaaay on the back of it and had an awful view I’m still really glad that I decided to do it. I walked around the touristy areas, then made my way over to City Hall which was beautiful. Although I inadvertently walked right along the edge of the Tenderloin as I did that. Whoops… I kinda noticed as I walked and then vaguely recalled that I thought it might be San Francisco that has the scary neighborhood right smack between a bunch of the nicer ones and I thought to myself “I bet I’m walking through the tenderloin right now.” When I looked up that neighborhood later I confirmed that I had. But hey, everything was fine and all’s well that ends well. 

Finally, I made my way back to the Caltrain and rode that home which was practically a miracle because my phone was dying and I didn't really know the way back but it managed to stay alive with 1% battery during the entire walk to the station and the whole ride back to Santa Clara. It was basically Chanukah! 

That night, I joined Kelly’s bible study group where no actual studying of the bible happened, and then turned in for the night and slept hard. I was so exhausted!

Kelly took the following morning off work and we went to hang out in Santa Cruz. It’s a cutesy little beach town with lots of awesome shops, and we started off the trip there with coffee and an outrageously delicious cookie. Next we spent probably over an hour in a really great book shop, then hit up a vintage shop and walked to the beach. Santa Cruz has rides and a game area and a pier, so it’s pretty much Old Orchard Beach except it was honestly less busy than I’ve ever seen OOB. Maybe that’s cause it was a little overcast. I dunno. Anyway, we took a picture pretending to be tall people while we were walking through the arcade area. After grabbing lunch on the pier, we headed back to the car and got ice cream on the way out of town. Then I dropped Kelly off directly at work and made my way to Berkeley to spend the night with my friend from high school, Hayley. 

Hayley moved to Berkeley about a year and a half ago and I hadn’t seen her since. It was SO fantastic to catch up. We sat with her roommate and drank wine and eventually got some mediocre takeout (I should have just taken her advice and gone to the cajun place right across the street. Live and learn.) and really just talked nonstop for hours and hours. I kept her up entirely too late, I’m sure. Especially considering that she works at a preschool and had to get up and deal with small children all the next day. But I’m pretty sure she didn’t mind. Unfortunately, since all we did was sit around and talk, I never got a single picture of my time there. Dangit. 

In the morning I left at the same time as Hayley and made my way across the Bay Bridge into and through the city, to the other side of San Fransisco. I parked along Ocean Beach (so original, guys) and walked along the coast and up to a little breakfast place with a view of the baths, which are ruins? I didn’t actually go to them, so I don't really know what they were. Looked cool from afar though! 

Then I went back to my car and went over to get some cheesy pictures of myself at the Golden Gate Bridge and finally drive across it. It was pretty cool, especially when the bridge was actually disappearing into the fog in front of me. 

And with that, I left San Fransisco behind forever. 

Nah, I’m just kidding, hopefully I’ll make it over there again some day. It was more like I left it behind for the near future. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Big Sur. BIG SUR.

Mostly, the point of this post is just to make you all understand how beautiful this stretch of the country is. For real. So beautiful.

Also, if you can, you should look up "Bixby Canyon Bridge" by Death Cab for Cutie and play it while you look at these. Because that's what I listened to for this part of my trip. Multiple times. And because the pictured bridge IS the Bixby Canyon Bridge (it's actually called the Bixby Creek Bridge in real life, but whatever). 

This is me after I descended the dusty gravel ridge beneath the Bixby Canyon Bridge. (If you had listened to the song like I told you to, that'd make sense.)

No, my hair wasn't up. It was just that windy on that cliff.

You know how I said the point of this post was only to show you the beauty of Big Sur and the whole coastal route 1 drive? Well I didn't say that. I said that was mostly  the point. So the next part is the part that isn't for that purpose. And brace yourself, cause it's a bit sad. 

Okay to set the soundtrack for this component you should look up "Grapevine Fires" (also by Death Cab), which is another song I played a few times during this drive because it's about California forest fires which I happened to be DRIVING THROUGH. I mean, not directly through them, but the whole Big Sur area was where those fires were. The state parks were closed to the public, and many of the roadside viewing pull-offs for cars were closed so that emergency vehicles could use them. So sad. So scary. 

In this first picture, do you see the weird orange quality to the light? Yeah, that's not a filter. It was four in the afternoon and the light was coming through more like dusk and I was kinda like, "Wow, this light is really weird right now?" and then a bit later I passed signs thanking the firefighters and it all sort of clicked together. 

In this picture I went into one of the pull-over areas and you could actually see the huge billow of smoke between the hill we were standing on and the next hill over. I mean, the stuff in the sky was just clouds I think, but the stuff in the valley? Smoke. Definitely smoke. Yikes. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Santa Barbara, You're Beautiful.

So I was in L.A. county and had finally, killed enough time to leave for Santa Barbara. The traffic was kinda bad, but not totally horrible-- not as bad as some other parts of this road trip have ended up being. I stayed with Ruby, Charlie's granddaughter, while in Santa Barbara. She tried to introduce me as her kind of cousin to her neighbor, but I was all, "No way, I'm totally your aunt if I'm anything!" (because what I actually am is awkward and kind of an ass, if anything. So yeah. Sorry about that, Ruby) and then we had to explain how her grandfather is dating my mother, which she maybe didn't want to get into but hey, it happened (again, sorry).

It turned out that weekend was Santa Barbara's annual "Old Spanish Says Fiesta" which is kinda like Old Hallowell Day, but it lasts for pretty much a whole week and also is a lot more Spanish, go figure. I guess it's a big deal, and it was pretty cool that I happened to be in the city for that. There's this whole thing where people sell painted eggs that have been emptied and filled with confetti and everyone buys them and cracks them over each other's heads so that there was confetti everywhere on the streets and sidewalks and many people were walking around with it in their hair.

That first night, Ruby and I walked down into town and got some Mexican food for dinner. It was delicious and I had such a wonderful time talking to her and catching up. After dinner we watched a movie on Netflix and headed off to bed. In the morning I accidentally woke up stupidly early (because I suck at sleeping in these days, it turns out) and made some coffee to take out onto the porch. Now, Ruby and Jamie (her boyfriend) live in a cute little apartment that has a balcony porch that looks out over pretty much all of Santa Barbara and out to sea. But the thing about Santa Barbara weather is that apparently every day starts off sort of misty and cool and then the fogginess burns off by late morning or early afternoon. So I couldn't actually see much of the view as I sat there that morning, but it was lovely all the same. I painted my fingernails. I enjoyed the luxury of quietness and restfulness and not having to be anywhere.

Jamie was out of town the whole time I was there and Ruby was headed down to L.A. Saturday night for a wedding, so she took off after breakfast and I headed downtown to check out the farmer's market. It was so great. I got there only like ten minutes before it ended, which was barely enough time to walk through everything, but it worked out perfectly for me to get some (delish!) strawberries and some cosmos.

After the market I met up with Maddie, a friend of mine from Gordon who lives in Santa Barbara too! We went to a cute coffee shop and then she walked me around a bit of the city and showed me some sights (Ruby had done a bit of this the night before, too, but it was dark then and with my already terrible sense of direction it was virtually impossible for me to retain any of it. Thank God for google maps and smart phones!). We headed over to a temporary mercado that had been set up just for the festivities and I got some tasty Mexican corn on the cob for lunch. Yum! Then we went to the beach and hung out with some of her friends. It's weird how much the temperature can change when you get close to water. I mean, all day I'd been fairly close to water already but it was so hot until we actually got to the beach and it was much cooler and nobody actually ended up going for a swim or anything. It was enough to just be down there and cool off like that. Maddie and her friends were making pizza and watching the Olympics for dinner, so I joined them for that. We stopped at Traer Joe's for supplies on the way, and because I've never lived very near one it's always sort of a treat for me to go to one. I get really excited about it. Anyway, the pizza was delicious. I wasn't really involved with the pizza making process so I can't take any of the credit, but they did a fantastic job.

I headed back up the hill to Ruby's apartment and went straight to bed. I was exhausted! Watching Michael Phelps win a bunch of gold medals will really sap your energy, I tell ya!

On Sunday morning I stopped at a cafe type place called C'est Cheese (Pronounced like "Say Cheese" but in French it means "It's Cheese" because they're so punny. Actually the french for cheese is fromage, but I guess you have to make some sacrifices if you want to name your place something that cute.) on Maddie's recommendation. They had breakfast grilled cheese on the menu! I ordered that because duh, although I got it without the egg it was supposed to come with. It was so freaking good. Holy smokes. I wrote some postcards and headed north to drive up scenic route 1 towards the Bay Area.

Overall, my stay in Santa Barbara was wonderful. The city is so beautiful with all its Spanish architecture. Think red tile roofing and white buildings and palm trees and bright flowers everywhere. Seriously, so picturesque. One thing that kept bugging me though was that for such an iconic look, it didn't seem familiar from when I used to watch the show Psych, which is set there. Now, it's been years since I watched Psych and I don't remember any particularly distinct views of the city at all, so it's not like Santa Barbara looked wrong from the show, it was that it looked so distinctive and unfamiliar. I felt like if I watched that many seasons of a show set in such a beautiful place I shouldn't be so surprised by the look of the city when I visited. I mentioned it to Maddie and she said, "Oh, yeah, but it wasn't filmed here, right?" and of course I'd suspected as much but I was glad to have her confirm it for me so immediately. I'd always assumed that it was depicted accurately in the show, but after visiting it just kept confusing me that it all looked so new and different. I felt much better (although slightly disappointed) after learning that. (Also, for the record, I looked it up later and discovered that most of the filming took place in a few different places in Britsh Columbia including Vancouver which I also visited and it didn't look familiar to me either, so there you go. I just suck at that game, apparently.) So yeah, mystery solved.

Like I said, Santa Barbara was beautiful and I loved it there and I greatly enjoyed visiting with the people I got to see. Two thumbs up.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

I Went in the Pacific and It Wasn't That Cold. (You're Just a Bunch of Weenies.)

So I left the desert. I was looking like a hot mess after camping for two nights and sweating my butt off the day before. I was on my way to Santa Barbara, but didn't really need to leave as early as I ended up leaving the desert, because the person I was staying with wouldn't even be home til 6pm, and it was only about a six hour drive from Joshua Tree to Santa Barbara. So I thought, okay, I'll stop in L.A. for a while.

Now, I've never been to L.A., (obviously. I'd never been anywhere on the West Coast until I started this trip) but it sort of overwhelms me just on principal. I get the snooty, extremely-well-put-together vibe from that city, and as I've just said, I was a hot mess. Also, the thought of driving through downtown Los Angeles gives me agita. I was on my way there, when I was suddenly like, "Why am I doing this if I don't want to? Hey, I wonder where Venice Beach is, I wanna go there!" Guess what guys, it's in L.A. (ish? I don't really understand where the cutoff lines for places is, so whatever. It was in the general area that I was headed towards)! So I reset my map for Venice Beach.

Because it was only like 9:30am when I got to the beach, there weren't that many people yet and I found some really easy access parking and just took it, realizing after I got out that I was actually like fifteen blocks away from Venice Beach still and was actually at Santa Monica Beach. But I was like, "Meh, the beach is the beach!" and went down to lay on the sand and read my book anyway.

Fear not, though-- I didn't just sunbathe and read; I also went into the Pacific (for the first time)! Now, whenever people talk about going into the Pacific, they always ALWAYS mention that it's cold. Always. And I've always kind of been like, "Well, duh! The ocean is cold. It's the ocean!" (In my head though, because I'm not totally rude all of the time.) But then I also sort of figured that because everyone feels the need to mention how cold it is, it might just actually be colder. I mean, the Pacific is a considerably larger body of water than the Atlantic. So it makes sense that it might stay colder. So I told myself that at the very least I was going to stick my feet in, but if it was really that cold I wouldn't go in any more. Well, folks, I got my feet wet and let me tell wasn't very cold. I mean it was chilly, but it's the freaking ocean! What do people expect?! It was considerably warmer than the beaches I used to swim in as a kid (or as an adult, my point is just that I'm talking about Maine beaches). And admittedly, I was in Santa Monica which is waaaaay further south than Maine, so it's totally believable that at comparable latitudes, the Pacific is colder than the Atlantic. I think that is probably true. But it wasn't a temperature that prompted me to remark on its coldness. In fact, after my moment of pleasant surprise, I decided to wade out further and go all the way under. I mean, who needs a shower when you can have a salt water dunk instead, am I right?

After that, I tried to move my car further to Venice Beach (which was a mistake. I should have kept the good parking spot that I had.) and ended up driving around that whole area for like fifteen or twenty minutes. At this point it was like 11:30 on a Friday and Venice Beach was swarming with people. I finally found a parking spot and had to walk like fifteen minutes back to where I wanted to be. Lame. I found a cool coffee shop and got a tasty latte and read some more. I watched people walk by outside. Then I walked around outside myself. It was a beautiful day. But Venice Beach was a zoo. So after a couple hours I made my way back to where my car was parked, which was right next to a branch of the L.A. library and I decided to go in there for a while. Of course.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Go Camp in the Desert.

Seriously, if you have never camped in a desert, you need to. Like now. Or, ya know, whenever you feasibly can. I camped at Joshua Tree National Park on Thursday night and it was fantastic.

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. I left you with me driving between lush fields, my car being bombarded by little yellow butterflies. I was on my way to Salvation Mountain, which was a little nervous about because it's basically in the middle of nowhere real close to Mexico and seemed like the sort of place people might get murdered. Also, as I drove towards it I was suddenly IN the desert. Like, there were huge sand dunes! And also it was 108°. So yeah, I was slightly freaked out that I wasn't going to survive the day either because I would get murdered or because the desert would kill me.

But I went anyway. I figured, when else would I go to some weird painted mountain in the middle of the desert? Answer: never. So I went. It was actually really really cool. The guy who made it died a few years ago, but he basically became a christian and decided that all traditional church followings were making everything too complicated so he took himself to the desert and made this  big monument to God. Basically, accept Jesus and love him and be saved. I'm really glad that I went, though it would've been nice if it was like twenty degree cooler and I could have stuck around longer without thinking I might die. It was a pretty impressive place, especially when I realized that he'd lived there for like thirty years with no running water or electricity. What the hell, how is that even possible? SO HOT.

When I left Salvation Mountain, I made my way toward Joshua Tree. Now, I as much as I was scared of walking around outside in the desert, I was even more scared of camping alone out there. I realized that I'd actually camped in a desert before, on a little camping cot in a canvas tent in Wadi Rum, Jordan. It was a "bedouin" camping experience during my Israel and Jordan travels. The quotes exist because it was pretty darn touristy. I was pretty sure my experience alone at Joshua Tree would be nothing like it. And it wasn't. It was better. 

I drove through the park as the sun was setting. There are many different camp grounds in Joshua Tree (I think maybe seven or something?) but I didn't want to stay in the very first one near the entrance, ya know? So I kept going. The road was really winding and the speed limit was like 30 mph, and it took a WHILE. I was starting to get nervous that the sun would be completely down and it would be dark. I ended up stopping at a camp ground called "Jumbo Rocks." As you maybe can imagine, there were... jumbo rocks. One of them specifically was named "Skull Rock" and almost looked like those Easter Island heads, but huge and not actually carved, just skull-ish. People were climbing up on them and taking pictures, but I was mostly focused on getting a camp site. The good news is that the temperature was dropping rapidly as the sun sank. It wasn't 108° anymore, praise the lord. It kept getting cooler and cooler and was probably only in the seventies when I got to the camp ground. 

Even though I was scared, I wanted an authentic desert experience. I didn't want to be right next to someone in an RV. So I kept driving through the campground, looking for a good site. In fact, I went all the way to the end of it. Jumbo Rocks campground is one long road with different loops of sites. I went all the way to the last loop and there was nobody else in it, and I picked the site right in the middle, 75. Basically, I was the last site before it stopped being a campground and started being just desert wilderness again. Look, I found a map to illustrate what I've struggled to explain, and then added an arrow for you. That was my camp site. There were people along the road and also another occupied site in the bigger, main loop at the end, but nobody in my little jutted out loop. Just me and the jackals (just kidding. Do jackals even live in deserts? I have no idea. I just thought it sounded good. Oh hey, I looked it up and they DO live in deserts. Well, I'm glad I didn't look it up while I was actually there. No cell reception was maybe a blessing, it turns out. Although I don't think they live in North America. Whatever.). 

ANYWHOO. This time, my tent wasn't hard to put up alone, and I managed it all in maybe half an hour. I felt pretty great about it. And it wasn't that hot. This is my, "I'm surviving in the desert!" selfie. You're welcome. After I pitched my tent and moved my sleeping stuff inside it, I ate peanut butter on bread and then a can of peas (the lap of luxury, I tell you) and then settled into my tent to read.
See, the biggest reason I wanted to camp at Joshua Tree was to see a gazillion stars. As soon as the sun was down I could already see some, but I was going to drive myself crazy waiting for the sky to get completely dark, so I distracted myself with my book for a good 45 minutes and then wrapped myself in a sheet and emerged into the darkness. My oh my, what a treat. There WERE a gazillion stars! Mission accomplished! Have you ever been able to see the stars so well that you can just look at the Milky Way? I hope so. I used to do that in Sorrento when I worked for the Wilsons. But it's been a while since I've seen that many stars. The desert did not disappoint. I think I only stayed out there for about half an hour, but it was so satisfying. I also saw four shooting stars, including one which looked straight out of a cartoon depiction, with a bright winged tail burning up behind it. So cool. Then I headed to sleep.

In the morning, the rising sun woke me up at 6:15. I hopped out of my tent and climbed a mini-jumbo rock to finish watching it come up. I took this panorama because it was just so wonderful. That's my tent, though it isn't nearly as far away as it looks. Panoramas are kinda weird like that. 

With the sun, however, the heat started to creep back up slowly. So after I took the picture, I started packing my camp site away. I think I had everything packed into the car by like 7:10. I spent some time making a playlist for the rest of my drive that morning, and was headed out of the campground by 7:30.

As I drove through the other side of Joshua Tree National Park to leave, I realized I should maybe take a picture of a joshua tree. So here you go. I used the self timer on my film camera to get one of myself with it, too, and hopefully that comes out, but I won't know until I get the film developed. And from there, my excursion in the desert was pretty much over.

For real though, if you ever get the chance to camp at Joshua Tree, or any desert, you absolutely should. It was definitely the part of this trip that I was most nervous about, but after I'd done it I felt like I could pretty much do anything! Towanda! I highly recommend it as an experience. Especially if you can go alone. It was really satisfying.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Four Corners and Sedona.

When I left breakfast with Greta and Jase on Wednesday (trip day 3), I headed Southwest through Colorado, aiming for the four corners. When I went on a road trip with my family the summer after my freshman year of high school, we tried to get to the Four Corners and they had just closed the gates right before we tried to get in. It was like ten minutes before they were supposed to close. If you've ever been there, you'll know that the Four Corners monument is in basically the middle of NOWHERE, and then my mom was mad (understandably) that we had gone all the way out there for nothing.

So we never made it and I decided it's about time I do that. Honestly, all I did there was get out of my car, wait in line, and take this picture of my feet. I think it would have been more of a fun experience with my siblings. But hey, you do what you can.

That whole area of the country (Southwestern Colorado, Northeastern Arizona) is super beautiful with all the crazy rock formations and cliffs and red rocks, but it's also really desolate feeling. The houses that I saw along my drive were super falling apart looking and sad. It really kind of creeped me out to think about what it must be like to live in those places. I don't think I would like it at all. Not to mention the fact that it's so hot and dry but then when it does rain there is a huge risk of flash floods. Scary! I don't think I could handle living there.

After the four corners, I headed towards Sedona. I camped for the night in a campground tucked away in the hills outside of the city, and it was kinda wild. It was my first time using my brand new tent and the poles weren't very bendy yet and the whole thing might have been a disaster if a young man from the camp next to mine hadn't come over and offered to help me put it up (then again, who knows? Maybe it would have been fine if I just tried again after failing miserably at my first attempt alone). I was incredibly grateful, especially since it took like three minutes or less with his help-- and I only even needed him to like hold the side I wasn't working on. 

The next morning I made my way into Sedona, and it was super dead when I first got there, which I thought was sort of weird. I found a cafe to eat breakfast at and then started walking through town. I stumbled upon the Chamber of Commerce visitor center and stopped to talk to the people there, only to realize that it was an hour earlier than I thought. I thought I got into Sedona at 8:30, but really it had been 7:30! I knew Arizona doesn't do daylight savings time, but I'm never really sure which DST change makes in "on" and which makes it "off". Well apparently daylight savings time is "on" in August, because Arizona was an hour different than Colorado. The more you know. 


Anyway, after putzing around Sedona for a while (after the shops opened up), I hit the road again headed for California.  Crossing into California was a little weird. They're really serious about their borders down there. I mean, I was crossing in from Arizona, not another country! But I still had to go through this weird gate and talk to a border patrol person. (It actually happened in more than one location, not just at the border, as I drove the Southern California. So strange!)

As I drove through areas of California that are used primarily for farming (I think) it was sooo weird to see the almost desert-like landscape get broken up by lush farmlands. So very strange! Also, there were these little yellow butterflies EVERYWHERE as I drove on the weird, nearly deserted roads. It was kind of magical. Sunshine and butterflies, floating all around me, and the playlist I made of every song that I own that mentions or reminds me of California coming out of my speakers. It was pretty surreal, honestly. But truly magical. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

First Stop: Colorado.

It's been a while. My trip is more than half over at this point. Sorry about that. We all knew this would happen though, right? It's hard to spend time writing blog posts about things that you're doing when you're trying to actually just do them. Also any down time I have I spend sleeping or reading. So whatever.

Anyway, my time in Colorado. I stayed with Greta, who had to work because I didn't really consult with her about my visit, just told her when I was coming. Whoops. It was lovely to see her though, and check out her house and all that. I got to sleep in the first morning there and (eventually) made my way into Colorado Springs. I grabbed a coffee in town and headed over to this really wonderful place called Seeds Community Cafe for lunch. It was slightly challenging to find, because it's tucked away down a weird little covered alley between two buildings, but I am so glad that I went. First of all, the food was delicious! I got chicken lettuce wraps with a little kale side salad, and it was seriously all so darn tasty. The second reason it was cool is that payment is all completely voluntary and donation based. So I got to decide how much I wanted to pay for my meal (and it was tax deductible). The staff there was all super duper friendly and kind, and the decorations they had up were all posters and paintings and t-shirts about feeding the hungry and caring for the the earth and being sustainable. 

So basically it was awesome. Here are pictures of my meal and also of the mural on the wall outside. 

After that lunch, I made my way to a park with a fountain that kids are allowed to play in. I journaled a bit and enjoyed the sunshine and watched children run through the water jets and scream and play. It was great. I opened the cute little card Kendra gave me (pictured) before I left while I sat by the fountain. That morning I'd remembered that my RD from all three years I went to Gordon moved out the the Colorado Springs area a couple years ago. I contacted her (facebook is a pretty nifty resource, really) and found out she was around and available and we made plans to meet up. We went out for a drink, which was lovely (although a teeny bit odd, because I knew her at Gordon, where drinking wasn't allowed on campus, so that was the farthest thing from part of our relationship prior to this outing) and talked all about my trip and her upcoming road trip and how she and her family have been doing since leaving Gordon. It was really great to see her again. 

Wednesday morning, Greta's husband, Jase, was finally done with his two consecutive 24-hour shifts (firefighter problems) and the three of us went out to breakfast. Because I am silly, I never got a single picture of me and Greta, but oh well. That breakfast was the most I'd ever talked to Jase which is kind of funny. But overall it was a fantastic visit and a great way to start my road trip. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The End of my Life (in Minnesota).

Believe it or not, it takes a lot of planning to go on a month-long road trip. Who knew?!?

It also takes a lot of planning and organizing to move across the country. Again, who knew?!? (Actually, I kind of didn't know. I mean, I moved across the country three years ago when I moved to Minnesota and it wasn't particularly hard then. Granted, I'd just finished college and I don't think I'd really ever unpacked the stuff I moved out of my dorm room. But it's been a lot more time consuming of a process this time around.)

Anyway, the past couple of weeks have been an absolute flurry of activity. From packing and organizing and cleaning my stuff, to moving my bigger furniture to new homes, I was on the go with almost all of my free time. Then you add in the fact that I'm moving away and wanted to see all of my friends as much as possible and I hardly had a spare moment.

It was wonderful though. I got to eat at some great new places and visit some favorites one last time. I got to hug everyone that I wanted to. It was a good last week in Minneapolis.

And now, I'm in Colorado! I hit the road before 6 am yesterday and made pretty darn good time. The highlights were seeing not one but TWO cars from Maine on the highway (they were a few hours apart, not together), and when a bird dive-bomb killed itself right in front of me (okay, that wasn't exactly a "highlight" but it did add some excitement to what can be a long drive).

I'm hoping to keep posting (fairly) regularly about my travels over the next few week here, but we all know how shady I am about posting when I say I will/want to. We'll just see. If you're on Instagram, I'll probably be posting there from every stop. I think I'm going to be using the hashtag #AleenaAcrossAmerica so you can follow along like that if you want.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Happy Barfday, Murica.

This post is a little bit delayed in the posting, but I started it on the weekend of the fourth. Everybody's favorite weekend of the year!! Or, you know, not. But it is reaaallly beautiful this time of year, and it's nice that most people don't have to work and stuff. Ya know? So that's something.

I happened to have Sunday completely free from both jobs, which doesn't happen very often. In fact, it's the last time I'll have a full day off while I live in Minnesota (which admittedly is only for the rest of this month. But whatever). Most of the Johnson crew left town for the weekend, so I only worked at the coffee shop in the mornings of Thursday and Friday and then worked the Farmer's Market on Saturday. On Monday I headed to the Johnson's for a while, but again had the majority of the day free.

It was a lovely weekend. I spent my afternoon on Thursday resting and having some down time after a sort of crazy week. Then I went out for drinks with a whole crew from the coffeeshop. I stayed out later than I should have, and ended up taking a long nap Friday after I got done working. Then I enjoyed some time in the sun and got a burger and shake with my friend Annie. I was going to try to make it to The Princess Bride which was playing outdoor at a park, but when I got there sooooo many people were there that I didn't feel like dealing with it. I ended up hanging out with Kendra while she did paperwork at a cafe instead.

 On Saturday I worked the Northeast Farmer's Market. The weekend before had been about 95° and extremely humid (it was "feels like 102°" at one point that I saw) which was truly awful, but this weekend it was absolutely beautiful out. It was the perfect temperature for standing outside all morning. My friend Kay and I both dressed patriotically for it which lots of middle-aged ladies appreciated. Afterward I made my way to one of Minneapolis' many lakes and sat beachside for a few hours, enjoying what was left of the sunshine and reading a book (I'm up to 84 so far this year. It's early July. I'm on track to read over 150 total this year!).

That night I got all fancied up and dragged Kendra out to a restaurant called Eat Street Social, which was realllly cool and also had delicious foods. I got a cocktail called "The Kind of Carrot Flowers" mostly just because I love a song of the same name, but it was really really tasty, so all is well that ends well. After we ate, Kendra made us play bananagrams. At the kinda fancy restaurant we were at. And she was also loud and rambunctious (if you've ever met Kendra, this is not surprising). At one point I said, "Kendra, they're going to kick us out. He's going to kick us out." and nodded at one of the waitstaff guys who was walking by at that moment, who then proceeded to turn back toward us and say, "We're not gonna kick you out. We're literally never going to kick you out. There's nobody else in here and you're keeping the place lively." Cool, man. Thanks for the assist.

On Sunday I got to wake up without an alarm-- WOO HOOOO! I made my way to a neighborhood of Minneapolis called the North Loop which is like the warehouse district of the city and has all sorts of cool stores and restaurants in it these days. I got some coffee at the newest branch of Spyhouse, a local coffee shop (the new branch has been open since August, I just hadn't made it there yet) and then walked over to meet up with my friend-bosses, Rachel and Gretchen, for brunch at the Bachelor Farmer Cafe. That place is so beautiful.

After that, I poked around a bit in the North Loop neighborhood, ducked into a shop I really like called the Foundry Home Goods. It's full of really beautiful...home goods. I once bought my mom a dishtowel for Christmas from there. It was the only thing I could afford.

On Monday, I got to sleep in and get up without an alarm again!!! PRAISE THE MAKER. Then I dressed in a festive fourth outfit and took myself out to breakfast. At noon. Oh well. (Side note: The "festive" outfit I was was a plain blue tank top and the red with white polka dots skirt I wore on Christmas day. Yes, I wore the same skirt outside on both Christmas and the Fourth of July and wasn't cold on either day. Admittedly, on Christmas I wore a long sleeved sweater and boots, and on the fourth I wore a tank top and sandals, but STILL. It's kind of ridiculous.) Then I picked my friend Sarah up from the airport, headed to work for a few hours, hung out with Sarah and Kendra for a while, and watched some fireworks over the Mississippi with Sarah.

All in all, it was a pretty successful Fourth of July weekend. I hope all of you had an enjoyable time as well.