SJL1: Hike, Horsecamp, and Wine

Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone. – Wendell Berry

To be very honest, I wasn’t sure that the opening leg of my trip could be topped. I was wrong. Horse camping was incredible.

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Side note: I was pretty proud of myself for being somewhat handy in helping with providing some minimal guidance for the truck to the trailer hitch and not being a total dolt around the horses.

Second side note: This was my first time around horses in 7 years, of which the last time ended up with me in a neck brace being ambulance off the side of a mountain – The credit goes to my horse and my camp leader for making this experience back in the saddle seamless and confidence boosting.

Silver Falls State Park, Oregon (https://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=151) – DO it. Go! I was so amazed at how beautiful it was!

Trail of Ten Falls *cue momentous music*

SilverFalls

800 ft of elevation gain, 7.8 miles, 8 waterfalls, approx 4hrs (inclusive of lunch, breaks, camera stops, etc.)

Start at North Falls Trailhead > Canyon trail to Twin Falls (1.1 miles) > Twin Falls Trail (.5 mile) > Twin Falls to Winter Trail (.3 miles) > cont’d to Double Falls (.4 miles) [ you will see: Middle North Falls, Drake Falls, Double Falls – which was really 1 and a trickle, Lower North Falls, Middle North Falls] to Canyon Trail to Lower South Falls (1 mile) > Stairs of Hells to South Falls (1.3 miles) > South Falls to Rim Trail (.9 miles) > Rim Trail to North Falls Trailhead (2.3 miles)….and you DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! **HUFF-HUFF-PUFF-PUFF**

I highly recommended hiking the entire loop (in some places you get to walk behind the fall!) – be sure to wear comfortable shoes, take a hiking stick if you have one, and dress appropriately. I saw one too many silly people in flip-flops and shoes that made my feet hurt just looking at them (here is to you platform boots and let’s not speak of the ding-dong parents who let their kid (roughly between 3-5yrs of age) wear jelly sandals – the kid looked miserable btw…DUH!). Pack a lunch/snacks and water! Take lots of pictures and give yourself time to enjoy the hike!

Side note: The “stairs of hell” (SoH) they aren’t fun (that also isn’t their real name, I don’t think they have a name but it seems appropriate). The below picture doesn’t show the entire staircase up, nor does it illustrate the actual ‘stairs’. I recommend you take your time, breathe, be in shape, stop and enjoy the scenery (look behind you at the waterfall), breathe, look around, did I mention breathe?

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Yay! You did it!!! But wait! There is more! Don’t get all excited that you made it through the SoH and think you can make it from the Rim Trail to the North Falls Trailhead in record time. Heed my advice: Don’t go out of the gate hot! There is an incline, it isn’t apparent and it will get you. Consider yourself warned! I also recommend doing the trail in the direction given above however if you don’t have time to do the entire loop, it can be done in sections.

The next two days were filled with horseback riding, fires, and enjoying the outdoors.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and so there was a return to Newborn. (With dinner at Chehalem Brewery Co (http://www.cvbrewing.com/) – Excellent! Ask for the house aoli!)

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Before leaving and moving onto part two of my walkabout, wine was had. Wine should always be had, especially when in wine regions. A wine tasting at Vidon Vineyard (http://vidonvineyard.com/about/) was the farewell ending to my time in Oregon, and an ever so perfect ending at that. The winery has super awesome views accompanied by happy, knowledgeable staff. Be sure to say hello to Mr. Studly (the vineyard rooster). I really liked the Explorer Tempranillo (yes, named after the Explorer satellite program!) and 2014 3-Clones Pinot Noir. Do the tasting, buy the wine, enjoy the experience. Thank me later.

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After buzzing up, it was a drive to Portland where I caught Amtrak Cascade to Seattle King Street Station…and onto Walkabout Part Two.

Side note *3 or is it 4?*: Don’t take the Amtrak Cascade if you can take the Coast Starlight. If you must do it, go business class and sit on the left side of the train.

Endnote: This trip wouldn’t have been possible without my Oregon mom, her ponies, and an adorable little pup. I’m forever grateful and the memories will last a lifetime.

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SJL1: Riding the Scenic Express

I am very keen about travel, not only personally…but also about travel for as many Americans as can possibly afford it, because those Americans will be getting to know their own country better; and the more they see of it, the more they will realize the privileges which God and nature have given to the American people.  – President FDR

June 19

The time spent in Tahoe City was perfect (see the previous blog for more). The weekend was a celebration of love and laughter and new experiences. Getting in the car to head out of town was not sad but rather an eager anticipation of the next adventure. The route was as follows:

Tahoe City – 80West (may or may not have been some slight backtracking that did go by Donner Lake and Donner Memorial State Park – all persons survived with all body parts accounted for) – take 89 north through Quincy, CA

Food stop in Quincy: Patti’s Thunder Cafe (super cute! dog-friendly patio and they brought water for the pup – food was really good (I had a Thunder Burger with salad and homemade blue cheese dressing) and the coffee was also good! Recommend!

Over lunch the subject was asked about going a little out of the way to drive through Lassen Volcanic National Park – the vote was a yes! (I may or may not have been a little giddy).

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Lassen NP was stunning – absolutely stunning. The greens, the blues, the snow…Mother Nature knows how to impress. The park wasn’t that busy and that was super nice. It is a park that I would love to go back and do some camping and hiking in.

From Lassen, it was onto 44west and into Redding, CA. Dinner at Black Bear Diner (Tri-tip sandwich was divine and paired with sweet potato fries …nom nom!)

The temperature changes of the day:  Tahoe City 72F – Lassen NP 59F – Redding 96F

The elevation changes of the day: Tahoe City 6,250 ft – Lassen NP 8,511 ft – Redding 344 ft

June 20

From Redding, it was I 15 to US 97 (with a stop in Weed, CA and a view of Mt Shasta) then onto St Rd 138 and into Crater Lake National Park (insert squeal here).

So the fact that I was able to visit 2 unplanned national parks…let me repeat…TWO AMAZINGLY AWESOME NATIONAL PARKS!!!! Yea well I was in nerd heaven.

It was so easy to see why Crater Lake is one of the crowning jewels of the NPS – pictures really don’t do it justice. (BTW – there was a Tesla charging station at the North entrance…#phdnerdmoment). The park was busy, much busier than Lassen – and while I didn’t get a chance to see the entire park – I did get to see the Crater Lake Lodge (Part of the historical society of hotels). On the way out of the park, the weather took a turn for the interesting with temps dropping and hail coming down. It was an experience, to say the least! Then it was onto Oregon and home base!

Temperature changes: Redding 92F – Crater Lake 48F – Newberg 72F

Elevation changes: Redding 344 ft – Crater Lake 6,178 ft – Newborn 175ft

Over the course of 2 days

? State Forests/Parks – Donner Memorial State Park and possibly others

6 National Forests: Tahoe NF; Plumas NF; Lassen NF; Shasta-Trinity NF; Winema NF; Umpqua NF

1 National Wildlife Refuge: Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

5 major lakes: Donner Lake; Lake Almanor; Shasta Lake; Klamath Lake; Diamond Lake

2 National Parks: Lassen Volcanic National Park; Crater Lake National Park

This was one of the most scenic road trips…hands down…ever!

Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone. – Wendell Berry

Go West…Drive tourism in action

When one of the most important people in your life decides to take a job across the country (literally 3,350 miles in the opposite direction of you), it is only logical to volunteer as co-pilot for the journey.

Go West Young Man

The trip went something like this: Day 1: Orlando, FL to Metropolis, IL (we saw Superman); Day 2: IL to Osage City, KS (crossed the Mississippi!); Day 3: KS to Estes Park, CO (Highly recommend the Silver Moon Inn, Claire’s for breakfast, and Estes Park Crossfit – Rocky Mountain National Park was amazing, from what little we saw due to weather); Day 4: CO to Rock Springs, WY (WY has the most impressive visitor center I’ve seen); Day 5: WY to Boise, ID (saw the 1st JC Penny store in Kemmer, WY before a stop at Fossil Butte National Monument to interview park ranger, must go back and hike); Day 6: ID to Seattle, WA (Cowboy Donuts was most excellent and “You have reached your final destination”).

Along the way we ate protein bars, sunflower seeds, a giant bag of Twizzlers (only 150 calories per 4!), drank shitty gas station coffee and listened to Disney, Glee, Hamilton, and lots of This American Life, which if you have never listened to I recommend you do. We also talked about random things, bitched at traffic, and had a general good time. I managed to keep up with my workouts, even if it meant getting up at 5am to do so. I also only logged two nap sessions during the 6 days of driving (this is major since I typically pass out approximately 30min into a journey), and never got us lost (I may or may not have almost missed a turn but I made up for it by reading all the signs as if the pilot couldn’t see them, which he could but it made me feel better about my momentary failures as co-pilot).

Fossil Butte National Monument

For me the biggest standout was watching the country change. It reinforced how much I love traveling and the beauty in the diversity of landscape, wildlife, plant life, people, politics and culture. I get to live in a beautiful country and this trip really helped remind me of that.

Seattle was a fun city to explore. Coffee shops every six stores, the Starbucks of all Starbucks (aka Starbucks Roastery – and even monks visit this location so it has to be good!), great places to eat, dog friendly, and super walkable.

The food scene was fantastic: Cheese, Meats, Bread (not your every day grilled cheese sandwhich); Lunchbox Laboratory (try a boozy shake!); Pho In & Out (the service was FANTASTIC and the pho on point); every coffee house ever (just do them all); Sweet Iron Waffle Bar (have a sweet and savory waffle); Japonessa Sushi Cocina (I recommend going for happy hour – possibly the best sushi I’ve ever had); The Pink Door (an experience that I strongly recommend – check the entertainment schedule – the Pink Door Lasagna and Bolognese were amazing); Elliot’s Oyster House (great location on the Pier – great spot to watch the sunset – again I recommend happy hour).

I also utilized Uber Eats while in Seattle. Let me tell you how utterly overwhelming it was to decide what to order…on one occasion I gave up and just had a protein shake, the decision was more than my little brain could handle.

What we did: When you visit friends in a place you have never been, typically you want to experience all the tourist things that make your friends cringe. The beauty of this trip was that we were really both tourists and as such visited the following:

  • Space Needle (go up, come down, and marvel at the view – if you are into kettle corn, it smelled amazing – I just drooled over the smell b/c I’m allergic and 550 feet up isn’t really the place for an allergy attack).
  • Museum of Pop Culture – super awesome, the exhibits change, but we saw: Star Trek, Jim Henson, Horror Movies, Fantasy, and Sound (where you get to play with instruments!).
  • The Space Needle and MoPOP sit in the complex that once held the World Fair (Aka Century 21 Exposition) – take time to explore the entire area, it is worth it!
  • Pike’s Place Market – and Yes we saw the dude’s throw the fish! The market is three levels and is visited by both tourists and locals alike – and rose kale seems to be the plant of choice in floral arrangements.
  • Walk and explore – the other parts of the stay really was just walking and exploring. I stopped in every coffee shop possible and some random stores that looked interesting.
  • Foundations Crossfit is the place to drop in – for you workout buffs. I did the OLY classes and the coaching was excellent. They are very friendly and welcoming and I highly recommend them for a drop in of OLY, Powerlifting, or Crossfit classes.
  • What we did NOT do: Due to an unusually early snowfall (it snowed in the city – and apparently that is apocalyptic) we did not get to visit Mt Rainier or Olympic National Parks. The road conditions less than ideal and a pass was closed – I may or may not have almost cried…Mother Nature apparently has something against my dissertation (it’s on electric vehicles and sustainability in the national parks, which is totally ‘save the earth’ so I’m confused – but such is life!) We also didn’t take a water taxi across to Alki Beach or go to the Aquarium (mainly b/c I overslept that day and decided to do school work instead).

As a whole on this trip, I found the people to be polite and friendly. Sure there were some places that had a grouch but really most people were helpful and happy to be of service.

Would I do the trip again? Absolutely! I don’t regret sitting in a car for 6 days at all (my legs and hips may argue that point but getting old is rough!) – I can honestly say that I never once was ‘bored’. There were some moments of ‘road weary’ but that comes with the territory. Overall, the time that I got to spend with my friend is really what I treasure. Life is what you make of it…your journey is all in your perspective on life. See the beautiful around you, make your own laughter, treasure the memories and the times you get to spend with those you love.

Selfies!

Selfies were taken throughout the journey #earthpartner

NOLA – Where life is buzzing all around

I do enjoy when academic conferences are held in exciting locations (all part of getting attendance numbers up). The conference this year was in New Orleans! Two of my wonderful girlfriends joined me for a couple days of exploration, food, music, and shenanigans.

Food ReCap

Galliano: By far the best meal/service combination I had the entire trip and in the top 5 of all time. The service from start to finish was impeccable, with everyone from management to waitstaff making sure that the meal was good, dishes were cleared, and drinks were refilled. I had the Crawfish Pasta Monica, a good portion with chunks of crawfish tails – the toasted cheese bread was a bit too toasted otherwise a dish to make the tastebuds tingle. The blackened drum is a must try and the southern fried chicken was most excellent. Dessert changes each night so ask your server for their recommendation.

Cafe du Monde: You can’t go to New Orleans and not dine at this classic establishment. However, if you don’t NEED to wait in line at the main shop then I recommend the location in the Riverwalk mall – shorter lines same great taste. The coffee was excellent but the beignets were a bit more dough-y than I recalled. Still heaven in a bite!

Drago’s: All you need to order is 1 dozen charbroiled oysters – that is all. Use the bread to soak up the buttery, parmesan goodness and enjoy every bite. As my sister said “It’s a religion”. I did have a shrimp po boy – but I really wasn’t all that impressed – the bread was far too crusty.

Mulate’s: Nightly Cajun music – but don’t get there too late because the band will wrap up  on schedule. Good location for a drink and some dessert while indulging in music. Right across the street from Galliano.

Morning Call Coffee Stand: This 24-hour joint serves coffee and beignets with a throwback flare. The beignets were probably my favorite of those tasted on the trip. This joint is located in New Orleans City Park – so make a day out of visiting botanical gardens, museum of art and sculpture garden, boating, biking, and much more.

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Spitfire Coffee: Pay attention or you will walk right past it. I had the cortado and it was lovely.

Adolfo’s: Located on Frenchman street this was the perfect place to have an end of trip dinner. Cash only and limited seating, it is well worth it to get there early. Have some drinks downstairs while you wait, or walk around the Art Market and check out local wares (I did some shopping for myself and for Christmas!).

Other Happenings 

Aside from eating our way to a food coma – which by walking 14 miles over 2.5-3 days we subsequently nulled out the caloric intake – there was also time to discover what the city had to offer. French quarter fest was in full swing for the weekend, so there was plenty of music and festivities to partake in. I’d been to Bourbon Street before, so I skipped that and instead enjoyed the music offerings of Frenchman Street. Club after club with each one having better music than the last – pop in and out and dance yourself to a good time.

We opted for a tour of the city and really learned a lot about the history of New Orleans, the layout of the city, its people, and life outside of tourist-land.

To commemorate the trip…well we all may have stopped into Electric Ladyland...I can only speak for myself when I say that Chris is a great artist and I’m very happy with fresh pineapple inked onto my wrist.

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Overall, I have to say that I left NOLA with a great impression and would absolutely go back. The city has experienced a rebirth since Katrina. The people were friendly and, as a city, I experienced some of the best hospitality overall that I have ever experienced. There is a zest for life that can be tasted in the food and felt in the music…as they say in New Orleans “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Pictures are worth thousands of words…but here is a brief recap of my trip to Texas City and Austin (apart from the pictures).

Texas City

A cute little spot. Friday night is food truck night and often there is live music. Da Daiquiri Spot is within walking distance – I didn’t get the chance to try it but it’s on my to-do list next time I’m in town.

Shipley Do-Nuts: Located across TX, AL, AR, MS, and LA- they have good coffee, these things called kolaches (basically an oversized pig-in-blanket), and some yummy donuts – indulge and love your life.

Taqueria El Jaliciense: A Mexican joint that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I was in search for a breakfast burrito, this one was sub-par.

The Showboat Pavilion:  A Texas City landmark, this building was originally a theatre built in 1942. It is now an event venue and was the location of a beautiful wedding (the entire reason I was in Texas City).

Galveston

A Sunday drive away from Texas City, Galveston was a great spot for lunch and a drive. It was an overcast day and the water was rough. A quiet day in a town that typically is bustling with tourist activity.

The Spot: Lunch was at The Spot, a 5-venue eatery, on Galveston Island. I was very excited to have the fried pickles (fried in a flour batter!) and a big, juicy burger. The pina colada is served in a coconut and had rave reviews, as did the shrimp kisses (bacon wrapped, cheese stuffed shrimp). Apparently our party lucked out and there wasn’t a long wait – recommend a scoop of butter pecan or Oreo ice cream as a way to finish off the meal while you walk along the sidewalk.

Austin, Texas: Keeping it Weird

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A great town filled with coffee shops, barbecue joints, food trucks and an eclectic flavor. Great time exploring the area and hanging out with friends.

The Buzz Mill: An interesting joint, where hipster meets lumber sexual but the patio is dog friendly! Ask the barista for suggestions as the staff is very helpful. I didn’t try the elixirs but the menu looked very interesting and worth trying!

South Congress Cafe: A great spot for brunch – don’t let the exterior fool you, this seemingly hole-in-the-wall has style and class. I had the goat cheese and bacon omelet with an adult iced pumpkin spiced latte. The service was good and the food most excellent.

Terry Black’s Barbecue: The first of two BBQ joints I tried. The coleslaw was amazing, the smoked turkey divine. The brisket was good but I would recommend getting it dry not moist, hard pass on the mac-n-cheese (very little flavor). Grab some seasoning rub for the trip home.

Chi’Lantro:  When Korean BBQ meets Chipotle you get Chi’Lantro. Pick a meat, decide if you want a bowl, salad, or burrito, and then add the toppings. Solid 3stars and the beverage selection has some great non-high fructose corn syrup alternatives!

Picnik Coffee: Drink the butter coffee. Don’t ask questions, just do it.

La Barbecue:  Wait in line and jam to the music. Skip the pulled pork and chipotle coleslaw and go straight for the beef rib and brisket. That is really all you need to know. O, get there early.

Figure8 Coffee Purveyors: Cute spot with outside tables. Get some caffeination and enjoy sitting in the sunshine – the chocolate chip cookie hit the spot.

After you have stuffed yourself to the brim, go for a drive, walk along the river, do some shopping on South Congress street (cute shops with some unique items) and drop into Crossfit Central Downtown – the Misfits class with Nader is where the pain-cave is at. Make sure to give the pup-patrol some loving as they are the sweetest welcoming crew ever.

 

Breakfast at Dixie Belle’s

The brunch spot for the past two year’s has been KeKe’s (I’m all about 2 pecan pancakes with eggs and bacon, the bacon is really good – the coffee is sub-par). However, due to a noticeable drop in service level we’ve (the bestie and I) been searching for a new breakfast/brunch spot.

In a google search of “top restaurant spots in Orlando” I came across Dixie Belle’s Cafe. Top reviews on Yelp plus the proclamation of “home of the sweet potato biscuit” cemented the decision to give the joint a try.

A super cute little place, very homey and causal. I decided to go with pancakes, eggs, bacon and a sweet potato biscuit.

Service factor: 5 out of 5. Very happy with the waitress. She had a wonderful personality, offered suggestions, made sure coffee was always filled, and was attentive without being overly attentive.

Food: 4 out of 5. The pancakes were delightful and the eggs cooked as ordered. The bacon was ok, a little flimsy for my taste. The coffee sadly was sub-par (not strong at all). The sweet potato biscuit tasted like someone captured the essence of fall, wrapped it up and delivered it on a platter. Sweet without being too sweet – and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg – I could have eaten another!

I highly recommend this little place and definitely will be going back.

 

 

 

Going Green

While visiting in Ft. Lauderdale, I went out for lunch with friends. (Honestly, I just got in the car and found out we were going for lunch – I’m always up for an adventure!)

Ended up at a Vegan restaurant called Green Bar & Kitchen. Located in a strip plaza off of 17th street in Ft. Lauderdale, this hidden gem serves delectable food that vegans, vegetarians, and food lovers will enjoy.

On the advice from a frequent visitor, I had the Green Bar Burger: brown rice, quinoa, chickpea, roasted vegetables, sunflower seeds, garlic, lettuce & chipotle mayo served on a burger bun (gluten free bun available upon request). It was excellent, great flavor and excellent presentation.

The table shared an order of loaded fries: *seasoned with chili, “cheese” and scallions. If there are toppings left from the loaded fries, I suggest adding them to the burger for a little extra “pow”. I also tasted the Mac-n-Cheese – you would never know it isn’t real “cheese”!

Eating there is dine-in or take-out – the staff is very nice and has great suggestions in the event you don’t know what to order.

Overall – I give this place an A++! 🙂

P.s. The outside patio is dog friendly!

*Photos (and restaurant selection) courtesy of Aneysi Fernandez