I’m Ba-ack! My ridiculously-awesome-road-trip-of-a-lifetime is finally over. I’m feeling rejuvenated and overwhelmed with inspiration – ready to take on the need segment in my life. Although I lost track of blogging about many of the destination cities we visited (*sorry*), I plan to recap some of the best highlights in the coming months.
For now, I’m back in Phoenix, AZ for the holidays and drawing like a fiend.
I had the honor of participating in a Etsy Seller event last week at the lovely West Elm store in Scottsdale. This event was coordinated by West Elm and Etsy to feature local handmade sellers in their store for the holidays. The event brought lots of new customers to my store and I was able to sell some of my original drawings.
New originals are being listed in my shop so stop in and check it out for look at my freshest drawings.
Within 2 minutes of crossing the border from California into Oregon….it began to rain. The Pacific Northwest lived up to it’s reputation with cloudy skies, evergreen forests and espresso stands of every corner.
We spent over a week in the Pacific Northwest both sight seeing and relaxing with family. Here are some of the highlights:
We camped near Mt Hood along the banks of a the Clackamas River. The view from our campsite was spectacular and although it rained – the water was such a fine mist that we hardly noticed it. 🙂
Portland, Oregon is a lovely city. By appearances, it should be a busy, bustling place full of life, sound and culture. Instead we found empty streets with only a few somber looking folks walking from building to building. Not exactly what I expected.
Seattle is everything it’s cracked up to be and more. I’ve been there a few times since I can remember and each visit to the city is always a good time. Great food, lots of life, and top notch entertainment are what makes this city thrive. I wish it wasn’t such an expensive city. Many will argue that San Francisco and New York City are more expensive…but not by much.
Vancouver, BC was by far my favorite city in the Pacific Northwest on this trip. It was my very first time seeing the city and I was immediately impressed with the sheer size of it all. We only got to spend one day there, but I am confident that we will make it back on another trip to see more.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay with family in Washington State and the week was the perfect combination of relaxation and exploration. Next stops: Salt Lake City, Utah and Denver, Colorado.
For 2 full months, we are traveling the country. I imagined that we would see the sights at our own pace and relax whenever we wanted. It turns out that “relaxing” is a lot harder than it sounds! In fact, I had hoped have time to write a new post every 4 or 5 days – obviously I’m a tad behind on that goal.
California seemed to last forever! Hollywood, Yosemite and Monterey were fabulous, and I couldn’t have been happier on our early morning drive into San Francisco. The plan: drive in and jog in the park then find a hotel and check out the city. As we’ve been learning this trip….things don’t always go according to plan.
We got about as far as jogging before running into a big problem (no pun intended). Nearly every hotel in the city was booked, and the few that were available were drastically out of our budget. I ended up finding a great deal across the Bay Bridge in Oakland – a Hilton with great amenities. Jake insisted that we go to the hotel first so he could have the “peace of mind” knowing that we were checked in. The trip from the park to our hotel across the bay: 2 hours!
The Hilton was great and well worth the drive into Oakland. They even shuttled us to the BART and we took a train into the city. San Francisco was overwhelming. By this time it was after 2:00pm and we were angry with hunger after such a late start to the day. We ate at Ike’s Sandwich Shop, a dive that Jake had seen on TV a few months ago. The sandwich we shared was great and our moods were much better afterwards too.
Next we walked along Embarcadero and out onto the Piers in San Francisco Bay. I had hoped to catch a cable car ride around the city (something I had been looking forward to this trip). Unfortunately, it was too late in the day to catch a ride. Bummer! Instead, we walked over to Chinatown in hopes of scoring some authentic cooking. While Chinatown was bright and full of life – the restaurant we chose could not have been a worse choice. We literally walked into the only place in Chinatown that requires a minimum per person charge…. I was more upset by the server who insisted we order more than enough food for 2 healthy people even after we more than exceeded the minimum charge.
After dinner, we walked around the city before heading back to the hotel’s fitness center for a workout (arguably the most enjoyable part of the day). I’ve been to San Francisco before and I know how great it is. However, we also learned a good lesson for the trip. A city like San Francisco is ideally experienced when you have at least 3 days to enjoy it, a bigger budget…and a pre-booked hotel room. I’d love to go back one day again now that I am more fully prepared for the experience.
Our last morning in Yosemite we had “Coffee with a Ranger”. Campers from all over the campground gathered to drink free coffee or tea while chit-chatting with each other and asking questions to one of the park rangers. We were accompanied by our friendly camping neighbors, a family also leaving to go home that morning. They were a friendly couple with 4 kids living in a suburb of LA – but ORIGINALLY from Tuscon, AZ.
“If you have time, you should take a drive over to the Monterey and Carmel area. It’s absolutely beautiful!” they suggested.
Our plan was to drive straight to San Francisco that day and stay for two days in the Bay Area. Instead we acted on impulse and decided to take their advice. We adjusted our GPS and checked out Hotwire for a decent place to stay in the area. Within about 10 minutes we had a new plan: drive to Monterey and spend the evening walking along the oceanfront. San Francisco could wait till the next morning.
Once in Monterey our first stop was the hotel to freshen up. After two days camping in the wilderness with no modern conveniences, a long warm shower was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Cannery Row is the main walking/shopping district in Monterey Bay and the most obvious destination for our single evening of entertainment. The district boasts great food, good wine, stunning views and of course the token souvenir shop! We strolled along Cannery Row and attended our first little wine tasting! It was a charming experience – of course we ended up buying 2 bottles of wine! Next we had some seriously delicious oysters overlooking the water. The highlight of our Monterey adventure was seeing a seal swimming out in the bay. The night was rounded out by playing pool and singing karaoke in a local bar. *Super classy, I know.
All in all, the detour was well worth it! The locals were friendly, the food and wine were delicious, and the ocean was enchanting. The best impulsive decision we could have made.
We left LA feeling great but ready for a more peaceful spot: the breathtaking Yosemite National Park. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect and came back with 3 great impressions from our time there.
First: Yosemite is in Bear Country and it’s no joke! All food and toiletries must be kept in giant metal containers called “Bear Lockers”. Warning signs are everywhere! Of course we didn’t see any bears at our campsite, and if we had – I think I would have peed my pants!
Second: Jake is pretty handy around a campsite! He found firewood and started the fire as soon as we arrived. He was also in charge of cooking during our camping trip. The first night was steak and veggie kabobs, then scrambled egg, ham and cheese skillets for breakfast, and hot dogs for lunch/dinner the next day. Everything cooked over the fire. I learned that smokey campfire flavor is super awesome by itself, no exotic seasonings needed. 🙂
Third: The landscape is breathtaking! Once you get into the valley, there is just no describing the beauty of the cliffs, waterfalls, and rock formations. Nature is just so beautiful! We stopped to take pictures several times and noticed that one could stay in Yosemite for weeks on end and still not have the chance to see everything it has to offer.
Overall, camping was a success. I’m not super outdoorzy, but I think I’m getting the urge see more of the natural world around me. We plan to go back in the future and make a point to hike some the more popular trails.