Cross Country

Well the leaves are starting to change, the temperature is starting to drop (it may still be 79 degrees but that’s a drop) and that can only mean that Summer is coming to an end. Although the change in LA isn’t near as dramatic as Fall back home in Iowa, it still brings a new energy that I find inspiring and fuels me to start something new. In preparation for that change, I have one final chapter to my Summer Scroll Through and the granddaddy story of them all Emory and I’s big cross country adventure. 

When it comes to traveling, I must admit I’m one who prefers to jump on a plane and be at my destination in a fraction of the time.  However, a cross country road trip adventure has always just sounded so romantic and exciting. Emory is not stranger from driving from Iowa to LA usually making the trip all on his own.  I knew I couldn’t make him drive back again by himself. Plus, I had never really seen much of what’s between California and Iowa. Both of these factors inspired me to tag along for the ride, but I had a few ground rules of course! 

  1. I wasn’t willing to sleep in the car (Air BnB please!)
  2. I didn’t want to drive straight there. 

So, we decided to make a vacation out of it—five and a half days’ worth of driving and exploring from Los Angeles to Iowa. Knowing we would be traveling in the middle of August (the hottest month) we decided to forego Emory’s typical route through all the National Parks and head North then cut over.

Half Day: 

We left after work and headed up the coast towards the Bay Area. We decided to take the scenic route (about 7 hours) and drive up the coast and the PCH and recreate our earlier Summer adventure. The drive was beautiful as always and traffic could have been a lot worse. Taking this route did add and additional 1-2 hours than the inland trip would have but we would argue it was worth it. If you find yourself making the drive DON’T stop for gas in Santa Barbra (take our word for it) and DO stop for food in San Luis Obispo (we stopped at Mo’s Barbecue this time.) We finally got to San Francisco late and completely exhausted. We stayed in a boutique hotel we rented via Air BNB called The Bartlett. It was super cute and trendy, however not the cleanest nor friendliest staff. All things considered though when you take into account, we were staying in one of the most expensive cities, we weren’t complaining. 

Day One: 

We headed out about 9:00 am the next morning on a journey to squeeze as much of San Francisco in in a day as we could. Emory had already been, but it was my first time. We headed down to Fisherman’s Warf and grabbed beignets and cappuccinos for breakfast at Frankie’s at Pier 43. Oh my goodness though, people were eating fish and chips that early in the morning, but it actually looked and smelled incredible. So much in fact we went back to Frankie’s for lunch! Not only was it affordable but they claim to have the best fish and they’re right. I have a feeling this place will be a staple anytime I find myself in SF! 

After breakfast we caught a street performer act and walked through the Musse Mecanique, the antique penny arcade. Grandma predicted my fortune, we walked down Pier 39, got a great view of Alcatraz (which I didn’t realize was so close by the way) as well as a great view looking back at the city. After watching the seals, we decided it was time to go find the main attraction, the Golden Gate Bridge, at Crissy Field. 

Immediately as we got close to the bridge the most perfect sunny day transitioned to foggy, misty, and overcast like magic! We pulled over, snapped a few pictures and continued on our way.  Before leaving the bay area, we checked out Muir Woods, which was even foggier and cloudier! After a close run in with poison oak we decided we didn’t have time for a hike and instead just enjoyed the view. Look what we found?! Another Hawkeye fan with a Subaru… What are the chances?!

Back in the car for the next leg of the journey! We left around 3:30 in the afternoon driving from Muir Woods to Lake Tahoe.  Four hours’ drive through winding mountains, an incredibly bad traffic jam at the worst placed stoplight, and a pit stop at the Eldorado National Forest later and we arrived at our second destination, Lake Tahoe.  

Day 2:

Finally, a day with no driving and a chance to relax. Funny and sad how excited I was to just enjoy a day with no driving considering all the driving we had done thus far hadn’t gotten us any closer to our final destination. We were also excited because neither of us had been to Lake Tahoe. We started our day where any adventure tends to begin, Starbucks. I must admit though, it was more out of necessity for wifi access than anything! Next we started driving around the lake and made our way to the Eagle Falls trailhead. FYI there’s a Lower Falls (that is right off the road and no hike required) and the upper falls. It’s a very mellow and short hike to the upper falls but then the keeps going for a great look out of Emerald Bay and eventually opens to a beautiful lake view. 

After the hike we had a picnic lunch at the Camp Richardson General Store and a scoop of sorbet at the Ice Cream shop! I felt like we had traveled back in time to summer camp in Parent Trap or Wet Hot American Summer

After freshening up we had plans for a sunset boat cruise tour of Emerald Bay complete with wine tasting and a charcuterie board! We had an amazing time being out on a boat, watching the sun go down, and meeting another incredible young couple that were visiting from the Bay Area. After attempting to find real food on a Sunday night, we headed back to the apartment and rested up for a big day of driving. 

Day 3:

Back on the road and ready to make our way through the desert. Leaving Tahoe, we quickly drove through Reno, Nevada and then cut across the state to Utah (another 7-8-hour drive.) We took a much-needed detour and stopped at the Bonville Salt Flats. After a few attempts at some doughnuts in the Subaru, watching a U-Haul haul down the speedway, and tasting the salt it was back on the road again. Along the way I of course made us stop at the first Jimmy Johns I could find for lunch and before long we made it all the way to Salt Lake City.

Once we got to the cutest Air BnB I’ve ever seen we headed to downtown Salt Lake which was beautiful and incredibly charming. We walked around Temple Square and then scootered to The Green Pig Pub for dinner with a view of the of the city-county building. 

Day 4:

Although this would be the second longest day of driving on the whole trip—it was worth it to see some familiar faces. We started with breakfast at Earnie’s Sports Deli in Orem with a college friend before another 8-hour drive. We made a few stops off the side of the road like the site of an old mine explosion, to see the Colorado River at the No Name exit, and the Colorado Sign just to name a few! 

Being ahead of schedule we did decide to stop in Grand Junction, Colorado for lunch at Rockslide Brewery and to check out a few antique shops while we walked off our beer. Before long we made it to Denver! Finally! This leg of the road we were fortunate to get to stay with friends. The same friends I stayed with in July mentioned in my Destination Denver post. Now after two years of not seeing each other we were fortunate to see each other twice in less than two months! We went out for dinner at Blue Moon Brewery at which we ran into another friend unexpectedly AND had the most amazing beer flights and pickle burgers. Now, I’m not much of a beer person but with beer flavors like Mexican hot chocolate, cold brew coffee, and a mango wheat (which you can buy at stores and I highly recommend) how could you not enjoy them! 

Day 5: 

Sadly, it was time to leave and time to get home. Day five’s motto was all drive and no play because a ten-hour drive through mostly Nebraska is not something to get excited about. However, with home being the final destination it was enough to keep us moving forward. Emory was a champ at this point, doing most of the driving and soon enough we were back in our great state of Iowa. 

To wrap up one of the most amazing trips and 37 hours of being in a car, I had a weekend at home with my friends, family and love ones. As well as a chance to relax, golf, drive through Ledges State Park, and eat at Jimmy B’s of course (my favorite barbecue place EVER in Boone, Iowa.) 

The trip flew by and dragged on all at the same time but overall, I couldn’t be happier with the experience. It gave Emory and I a much-needed adventure before going back to long distance. It was filled with many firsts in cities that will always hold special memories. Most of all though, the trip couldn’t have happened without its primary sponsor, Dramamine. (Ok it wasn’t really sponsored by Dramamine, but it should have been because it’s seriously the only thing that kept me alive!!!) 

Now Summer is officially over and we’re headed into my favorite time of the year. This Fall I still have a few more goals to accomplish before a New Year’s deadline! I’ll also be very busy with some exciting projects at work and I’m looking forward to a girls’ get away trip, a visit from my parents, and ALL things Halloween. 

Stay Tuned! What are you most looking forward to this Fall? 

Destination Denver

We are already in September… How is that even possible? Not only are the days just continuing to fly by, but so is the time to accomplish all the goals you’ve been working on this year.

*Hint* Maybe now’s a good time to check in with where you’re at? *Hint*

(with your goals that is)

One of the goals I shared in February Fresh was that I wanted to visit and explore a new state. I always love to travel and go on trips, but thinking realistically, I knew I wasn’t going to have the funds or time to plans some huge worldly vacation, so instead I kept it simple and had a tremendous experience crossing Denver, Colorado off the list. 

I know we just celebrated Labor day but here I am still daydreaming about my trip over the Fourth of July to Denver. For years I’ve been hearing people express their love for the state of Colorado, but me being one who doesn’t participate in Winter Sports and has never really experienced the mountain life was skeptical that I’d enjoy a trip like that. Now I can proudly say, I was so wrong and the only though I left with was, “Why didn’t I come to Denver sooner.”

Have you been to Colorado before? If so leave me a comment of your favorite city or activity to do in Colorado! I just might have to plan another trip back! 

So how did I decided to finally commit to going and seeing this state I thought I had no business being in? Simple, one of my best friends from college moved there after we graduated and to visit a friend is worth it no matter where the destination. My group of college gal pals decided we’d all plan a trip together so that we could catch up and see what’s going on in one another lives. It’s an interesting experience making friends in college, knowing nothing about one another but before you know it you spend every day of the next four years living together. Then you graduate and all go your separate ways and start on the next chapter of your life. 

For me, it’s been a challenging adjustment seeing us all go separate directions and into different time zones. At the same time though, I always look forward to our next phone call filling one another in and as we learned in Denver, it’s really fun having a good excuse to go and visit somewhere. 

So, we booked it—a trip to Denver over Fourth of July weekend. Honestly when we were thinking about doing it over a holiday weekend obviously there’s a perk of having extra free days off from work, however I thought the flight would be crazy expensive. Denver’s airport is a huge hub though for a lot of connections making it actually pretty affordable. Also having a place to stay is always nice and helps cut down on the budget as well. If you don’t have someone to stay with, I always recommend checking out Air BnB’s because you can find some unique places and amazing deals like this one.

Plan Your Own Long Weekend Getaway:

With this itinerary inspired by our Summer trip to Denver

Day 1:

Day 2: 

  • Grab brunch at Snooze in Denver’s Union Station Downtown (Don’t forget to make a reservation beforehand!) 
  • Drive out to Idaho Springs, Colorado and hike St. Mary’s Glacier! (Work off all that breakfast you just ate.) 
  • Catch a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater

Day 3: 

  • Drive up to Boulder, Colorado and walk around downtown.
  • Hike and explore the Flatirons
  • Treat yourself to some Sweet Cow ice cream (dairy-free options available!) 
  • Catch a Rockies game at Coors Field

Here’s the breakdown of our trip!

Day 1:

Our first day all together (July 4th) we explored the West Highlands neighborhood where our friend lives. It turns out that Denver is a big fan of observing the Fourth of July because a lot of businesses including restaurants and breweries were all closed for the day. We ended up at a local barbeque restaurant for lunch and followed by going to the Great Divide Barrel Bar and other breweries the rest of the night. Denver is known for their craft beer scene, and other than a lot of them being closed there was still plenty to go around. Whether you’re a beer connoisseur or not (which I’m not) you’re sure to find at least one you’ll like. Knowing we had Day ahead of us we called it a night after having dinner with a few fireworks, and it was a good thing we did because is stormed the rest of the night. 

Day 2: 

We started off the day heading to downtown to Denver’s Union Station which is a must-see place when visiting. It’s the most beautiful train station I’ve ever been to and that’s saying a lot since I’ve been to NYC’s Grand Central Station. It’s surrounded by so many unique and adorable shops and restaurants. Our Brunch club reconvened at Snooze, an a.m. eatery and it wouldn’t be brunch without a Bloody Mary and a coloring page! 

After our morning fuel we made our way up into the mountains where we did the famous Saint Mary’s hike just outside of Denver. One thing to keep in mind when taking on this hike, the parking lot was ridiculous! Of course, it was extra packed considering it was a holiday weekend but it’s also extremely rocky and you’re going to need a bigger car! While our SUV made it work it would have been preferable to have something a little bigger. The hike itself was perfect! A moderate uphill (or should I say mountain) It’s about a mile and a half hike round trip and features a few views that are worth climbing for. Once we got to the top, we were greeted by a beautiful glacier fed lake and a mountain top full of snow even though it was a warm 60-some degrees. On the way back down, we took a little detour to see the waterfall—what a rush that was. 

The day was still far from being done. We headed bag to get ready and transition into our big event of the trip—a Red Rocks concert. That night we went to see the Avett brother play at Red Rock Amphitheater. I can promise you, it’s an experience I’ll never forget! First things first, if anyone ever tells you it doesn’t rain/storm/hail in Denver, they’d be wrong! However, sometimes the unexpected can somehow make something that much more special. As we’re waiting in line to get into the concert, it starts to downpour. Before long the rain turns to thunder, lighting, and eventually hail. After the storm clears and the weather delay was over. We were left with a double rainbow and a stunning sunset. Seeing a concert in the Red Rocks is unlike any concert I’ve ever been too. The sound quality is outstanding, and the view is even better. As the concert went on, we laugh, we sang along, we made so many memories, and we got pounded with more and more rain. Ponchos quickly became our new best friends and the best money ever spent. 

Day 3:

The previous day was so jam packed, we all agreed we needed to take it easy. We walked to the Cozy Cottage, a little house with a beautiful patio that has been converted into a café. I’ve got to say; it was so nice being in an area and community that it so walkable again. That’s one of my least favorite things about LA and the area I live in specifically is you can’t really walk anywhere. 

After brunch we drove to Boulder to visit another friend from college’s stopping grounds. We explored their downtown ped-mall area and checked out another brewery, Oskar Blues, of course!  (The Boozy Sparkling Waters are delicious and dare I say better than a White Claw.) 

Day 4:

It was an early morning check out for all of us as we all headed to the airport to go back to our respective cities. The trip was full of scenic views, fresh air, delicious food, tasty beer, and best of all—reminiscing with friends. We’re all making arrangements to visit one another throughout the next year so stay tuned for another LA weekend and Chicago land visit. It also didn’t take me long to make it back out to Denver for a second time—more on that coming soon! 

Lessons from the trip:

  • Staying in touch with friends (especially across the country) is hard but extremely worth it. Make sure to make an effort to keep the people that matter most in your life actively in your life no matter the distance. And yes, that means sometimes that means just booking a plane ticket.
  • Denver is an incredible city. Although I don’t necessarily see myself living there, it surprised me in every way. It has a little something for everyone and while that little something is most likely being outside or drinking beer—what’s not to love? 
  • I’m inspired and might even…maybe…be considering…. thinking about… learning to ski. There I said it and now I can’t take it back. 

Again, share with me your favorite places in Colorado or anything that should be added to my to-do list for the next trip. I’d love to hear about any memories you have from any of your trips! Comment below!