2021-07-26 California Adventure Day 4: San Simeon to LA

Unlike San Fran, which I have been to over a half a dozen times before, I don’t feel as though I have ever really experienced LA before. I’ve actually been three times, but each time, it was to hit a destination and leave. This time, we have several days to explore and really see some things that LA has to offer.

When I decided to drive down the coast I split the trip into two days on purpose so we could stop at stops and take in some cool sights along the way. I’m glad I did that as the travel to San Simeon was enough for one day and the same held true for the second half. The best views of the drive (besides the cliff-side ocean views) were in Santa Barbara. However, by that point, we were kind of over driving and ready to just be at our destination. 

The drive took longer than expected and we didn’t get to our AirBnb in Pasadena until about 4:30 in the afternoon. It’s a cute little place on a hill with a super steep driveway. The property has two houses–the one in the front where we are staying which is two bedrooms and one bath, and the one in the back which presumably belongs to the home owner. It is the nicest and cutest place we’ve stayed on our trip thus far and feels comfortable. 

Knowing that our time here is limited, we decided right away to venture out to Griffith Observatory and try and get a good view of the Hollywood Sign. That meant more driving, traffic jams, parking woes, and walking. But we did it.

The sun at the time was already low in the sky close to the hills so the view of it was very hazy and we could not get good pictures. It was also too late in the day to hike to the sign as it takes several hours and we weren’t prepared for a hike.

We were not sure what else we could do with the sun setting soon so decided to hit another spot close by which was the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The walk itself is fun—to look at all the stars and spot famous people you recognize but I was quite surprised by some aspects of this tourist attraction. It seems like this area of town was quite dingy and I expected it to be well kept. It’s also a little disturbing to see the sheer number of homeless people on the streets.

I knew there was a problem, but I had no idea that people actually live in tents right on the sidewalks and down every alleyway. The more we walked, the more we saw (and smelled) and it was both sad and off-putting. 

We only had 30 minutes on our parking meter but I would not have been inclined to stay longer. Once we were in the car again, the sun was down and there was really nowhere else to go but back to the AirBnb. I also knew a good night’s rest was in order for our long day at Universal on Monday. 

So that was it for our first taste of LA.
Excited for seeing more of the city in the next few days.

Cheers to Visiting New Places,

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-07-24 California Adventure Day 2: Weathering the Weather 🌁

We woke up with a grey cloud hanging above us. It showed up the day before and seemed determined to alter the course of our time here in San Fran; determined to take over whatever plan we might have had and squash it. We both felt it and though she shrugged when we were discussing what to do, I said “I just want you to have a good time.” 

Z said “I know.” And so we aimed to get some resolution in order to let go of the phone incident and actually DO something in the city we had been in for two days. This meant sacrificing over an hour in the morning on the phone with our phone carrier (who is terrible and shall not be named) going round and round their automated phone system just to speak to a person who could not connect the dots to help. I was, after some pain, able to get my name and address changed so that we could file a claim and initiate the claim process. 

We then sacrificed our selected brunch location in order to keep our appointment at the Apple store at the Stonestown Galleria mall. We ended up having brunch at a little hole-in-the-wall place close to our AirBnB that Z selected based on the picture she found when googling for breakfast places. It was called Fog City Cafe and Z absolutely loved her french toast. Our subsequent trip to Apple was a success and that’s when the gloom began to clear and the sun revealed. 

After that we proceeded to hit all the tourist highlights that she was interested in. We went to Chinatown (which she was not interested in but we happened to park and walk from there) and Pier 39. We wandered around the Pier and saw exactly 6 sea lions on the docks. I guess it’s mating season and they are all away doing that procreation thing that animals do. 

We had lunch at the Wipeout Grill which was OK followed by an Uber ride back to the car as Z was NOT interested in walking 30 minutes back to the car. I think it was good for her to experience walking the hills of the city, just to know what that’s like. She did not agree. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving to the tourist locations of interest which included Lombard street, the Painted Ladies, the Dragon Gate (and through Chinatown again) and then across the Golden Gate Bridge. Interestingly, despite the figurative dark cloud hanging over our day, it had been a bright and sunny day in the city up to that point. But as we drove that last little stretch, the sky turned dark again and by the time we got to the bridge it was so shrouded in dense fog, you could not even see it. It was eerie. 

We stopped at a lookout on the opposite side and got out to take a few snaps. It was very windy and cold and we did not stay long. After that we drove straight back to our AirBnb and had a pretty chill evening. We went to Target, had popcorn and a glass of wine, did our nails, and watched Master Chef. 

In a way, it did not matter that we had to alter our plans because no matter what we were doing, we were together and that’s what counted. I wanted Z to learn from this experience but I think I learned just as much. The day turned out fine despite the obstacles and we had a good time. I had said that was all I really wanted and that’s what I got. 

Peace and Love in Sunshine and Rain,
~Miss SugarCookie

2021-07-23 California Adventure Day 1: Not the Blog Post I Was Hoping For

The day yesterday started with a bit of a headache,at 5AM. OK, It was more than a “bit,” it was pretty bad and within a few minutes of being awake, I knew it was a migraine. Of all days and times to have this?? The timing is terrible. I realized that with the long travel day yesterday and being off my normal routine I had not had the requisite amount of caffeine. Plus, air travel and navigating a new situation is always stressful. 

Right now it’s about 24 hours since I woke up yesterday and sometimes it’s hard to recount the events of the previous day when something has happened that has overshadowed everything else. 

I’d like to write about our drive up to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo California where Z met her good friend (of about 4 years) Alex in person for the first time. I’d be tickled to report the girls had a great time riding rides, taking pictures, and chatting about stuff IRL. I’d even like to write about my own experience as a mom, supporting this little detour in our trip and meeting Alex’s mom who I spent several hours talking with while we waited for the girls to ride rides. But all of that feels as if it pales in comparison to how our day at the park ended, which was with Z’s phone getting destroyed on a ride. 

It’s a sad statement to say that a person’s phone has become so much a part of their daily operations that when something like this happens, it’s a huge deal. She’s a teenager and her phone is her lifeline to the world. I wish it wasn’t so. I know that when I was 19, people didn’t have cell phones yet, but in this day and age, even for me, losing a phone would be an issue. 

Yes, data could be in the cloud, but her apple cloud has been “full” for quite some time and she stopped paying the 99 cents a month to have it. Even if she had all her data backed up there, it would not help the fact the most important thing to her were the pictures and videos she took yesterday, meeting Alex for the first time. She’s heartbroken to have lost these moments and what’s more, is that the shadow this casts on the day is tough to overcome. 

The phone is a total loss. The word “destroyed” best describes it’s physical condition and the bottom, where you plug in the cable, is smashed in well beyond repair. So there is zero hope to recover any lost data. 

The good news is that it is just a phone and we have insurance through our cell carrier and she can get a replacement phone by filing a claim and paying a deductible. However, this is definitely not something we can or want to deal with on vacation. Oh yeah, we are on vacation. She wants to take pictures and video and stay connected to people. At the end of the day, this bump in our road is more of an emotional one than anything else. 

As a parent, I need to be both supportive of her thoughts and feelings but also help her realize how small this issue is in the grand scheme. I want to help her see past it, so we can try to enjoy our time here together, which is so very short. I think this situation gives me the opportunity to provide a good life lesson. I need to take it and do what I can with it. 

It’s funny how in my post yesterday I was lamenting the fact that I’m in San Francisco, a city I don’t care for much, and kind of groaning internally about doing all the touristy things. And today, I need to embrace those experiences to help prove my point to my daughter. I have to make this day fun and memorable. I want to laugh through the dense fog and find the bright side. I have to, for both our sakes. 

*** 

So there it is. All about the stupid phone and nothing about our drive on the Golden Gate Bridge or dinner at a little hole-in-the-wall mexican joint or our third (yes I said third) trip to Target last night. One might scoff, but retail therapy is a real thing and looking at sweatshirts and little backpacks and being silly in the store really did lighten our moods. 

After that, I was beat-tired and very done with the day. I could barely stay awake for 5 minutes after going to bed (for the second night in a row). 

My fingers are crossed for a good (better) day today.

With peace and love,
~Miss SugarCookie

2021-07-22 California Adventure Day 0: No Love for San Fran (But Big Love for My Z) ❤️

San Francisco and I have a storied past. In all honesty, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t visit again. I’m not really a fan. I think the city is overrated and don’t quite understand the appeal. Am I not cultured enough or hip enough to “get it?” Perhaps. But arriving yesterday I was reminded not only of how uninspired I am by this 7 by 7 town, but also all the “meh-mories.”

First trip in my early 20’s with my mom and sister with a primary goal of visiting my brother who lived in Santa Clara at the time. I don’t remember much except the few touristy things we did which included a ferry ride on the bay and visiting the Pier. That trip was overshadowed by the one and only time I had the gumption to have words with my sister in law who (to this day) is a unique piece of work. 

I visited again in my early 30’s with a girlfriend and her friend. My first real “girls trip.” Of course that was near the end of my marriage and I was a little bit of a wreck at times. I remember drinking too many Bloody Mary’s  on the layover in Vegas on the way here and ending up with the most splitting migraine on the afternoon of my first day here. It took me out for a day, but I bounced back enough to do the touristy things, like riding a cable car and visiting the Pier. I also remember we went to a club one night that had salsa dancing and I had a great time. The man I danced with was a strong and brilliant lead and I remember thinking THAT was what I wanted from life (or rather who). 

Fast forward about 4 years to 2012. By then I had been divorced about 2 years and was newly dating Matt. We had our big two week California adventure which began and ended in San Fran. We flew in, took the Starlight Coast train to Seattle and then drove back down on highway 101. It was a good trip but visiting the bay area was mostly just in and out. Of course we made time to visit the Golden Gate Bridge and, you guessed it, the Pier. We also had friends, Rahul and Sarah, we visited here and that was probably the highlight of our stay in the Bay. 

Matt and I would travel to San Fran several more times during our five year relationship. He worked for a start-up that had regular meetings and I loved to travel so I would tag along. I don’t remember much except drinking and food and quit doing the normal touristy things. How many times can you see Alcatraz or the Sea Lions and not have it be sort of “so-what?” 

I also can’t help but have a few memories about Matt from here that sadly (but fittingly) remind me why we were not a good match for each other. I could spiral down into that here, but I’ve not got the time or emotional energy for it right now. The point is, I’m so not in love with this town. I’m not even in like with it. So why am I here?? 

The short answer is because of my darling daughter, Z. She’s never been here before and when we were working out where she wanted to go for her High School Graduation gift trip, visiting this town was a big part of our grand plan. Of course that was last year and then the pandemic hit and all our plans got squashed, but we finally made it to the coast, about one month before she goes back to begin her sophomore year at UNL. Originally we had concert tickets for Fall Out Boy and now that’s not happening until a week after she goes back to school so instead we are planning our own little drive down the coast to go to Universal Studios in Hollywood. 

For now, we have about 3 days to explore the area here and she does not know the extent of my feelings about the town so I’m open to doing whatever she wants to do. I’m sure that will involve many of those touristy things I’ve grown to groan about. But this trip is not about me, it’s about her. I want to make her experience as fun, memorable, and positive as possible. 

Yesterday was day 0, travel day, which began super early and was very long. We had our first view of the bay, the bridge, and the pacific ocean. We had pizza for dinner at a local place that’s supposed to be one of the best followed by a quick stop at Ocean Beach to see the sunset. We also hit Target and TJ Max to pick up a few essentials and snacks and with that, I think we are set for getting the most of out this trip. 

Today, thankfully, we are getting out of town and heading north to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom where Z is getting to meet her friend Alex in person for the first time. They met online and have been friends for a number of years and she’s one of the reasons visiting northern california was so appealing to Z. I’m excited for them. I’m not particularly jazzed about the amusement park, but we’ll see how that plays out. 

We’ll see how all of this plays out. Maybe San Fran can redeem itself on this trip. Maybe something about it will change how I feel? A girl can hope right?? 

On that note.. It’s time for me to get up and get ready for the day. This early AM writing without my treadmill is very different but I’m going to try and document as much of this trip as I can for posterity.

Cheers to West Coast Wandering,
~Miss SugarCookie

2021-05-29 KC Road Trip Part 1: It’s All Going to Be OK

This is new. My daughter is having her first “friend” road trip/weekend and I’m backseat chaperoning and trying not to backseat drive. She drives like a teenager—too fast, following too close, and extremely irritated when I offer pointers. I’ve seen what she calls her most social finger waving to me from the driver’s seat at least 4 times now. I have to bite my tongue.

Right now she has one hand on the wheel and one hand awkwardly gripping the top of her Starbucks cup, sipping some overly-sweet concoction that doesn’t even have coffee or espresso in it. In my head I imagine she squeezes too tight and the lid pops off and the seat of my car is irreversibly sticky, uncompromisingly ruined as syrup and melted whip cream seep into the seams of the fabric. 

I wince as she removes her “wheel” hand to pinch the straw and swirl it around the bottom of the cup. 

The miles stretch on as we pass semi after semi. She read somewhere that driving seven miles over the speed limit is “acceptable.” Acceptable meaning, you won’t get pulled over. Sometimes I have to look away, close my eyes, take a deep breath, and remind myself (in my head), that it’s all going to be OK. 

This is her trip and she’s waited a long time to get to do something like this. It would probably have happened during or just after her senior year of high school but the Coronavirus had other plans for all of us that year. So much of what was supposed to happen had been ruined and, at times, I feel like I am overcompensating–trying too hard to make it up to her. I feel like I might be doing that for the rest of her life. Letting her drive is such a small thing. 

I have to remind myself that I did this trip to KC when I was her age—a right of passage for many teenagers from CB and Omaha alike. We didn’t have chaperones. We rented a motel in town the night before we left, didn’t have reliable cars, or smart phones. Hell, we didn’t even have enough money for gas for the trip home. We didn’t think too far ahead and didn’t worry about breaking down or all the terrible things that could have happened. We just went and it all turned out OK.

***

It’s all going to be OK. 

Or is it?

***

When my daughter approached me with the idea for this road trip.. I was all for it. I would even have been ok with her and her friend going without supervision or help. They are very responsible girls and my daughter is a serious planner so she would have thought of everything well in advance. Well, only the things she knew to consider anyway. 

It was her friend’s parents that would not let them go without a chaperone which I happily agreed to do. I even said up front I would stay out of their way and let them call the shots (hence the driving situation). What I didn’t realize then was that the weekend they were planning was a holiday weekend and also one of the first of the season when the main activity they wanted to travel for would be bonkers busy. The destination I’m talking about is Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. 

All the planning in the world can’t prepare a person for the fresh hell we experienced at the park.

We arrived at our hotel in Liberty Missouri about 1pm and were able to check in early. Side note for all you young travelers—in these parts you can’t rent a hotel room unless you are 21 years old. It’s a good thing I was along for the ride! 

With no time to waste, we changed and drove a stones throw up the road to Worlds of Fun.

Parking? No problem.

Waiting in queue to enter the park? No problem.

Navigating to our first ride? No problem.

But that was the end of our problem-less sidewalk.

We surveyed the line for the first “starter” coaster we wanted to try. It seemed extremely long. We got in it anyway. In about 10 minutes time it barely moved. Red flag. 

The woman in front of us was eavesdropping on our conversation, part of which included the fact that there was a Panda Express right next to the ride and how absolutely gross their food is. After a few more minutes she says, “you guys know this line is for the Panda?” Ugh 😩 

So we wasted about 15 minutes in that line and quickly made our way to the correct line, which didn’t seem all that long. In fact, I kinda remember the last time I was at the park and it was equally as long. It moves pretty fast. I said to myself. 

It didn’t. 

And it’s one of those lines that you can’t really see where it winds around as the queue is out of sight. Well, you can’t see it until you’re already far enough that you’ve committed 40 minutes of your life to it, which is exactly what happened. And it wasn’t moving fast.. It was barely moving.

My daughter was the one who made the call. We dipped out of the line to go elsewhere. Mind you, we arrived at the park at about 2pm and now it was 3. She said “which way do we go?” 

I urged that we head toward the Mamba, which is the major coaster at the back of the park. She said “we can’t start with that one!” 

I said, “ok. We’ll stop at a few on the way.” The first one the girls were interested in (that was operational) was the detonator. An extremely tall tower that you sit in and it shoots you up like a rocket. There are two towers, 12 people at a time each. We got in line. 

Between people with fast passes and only one of the two towers being operational (and clearly incompetent people running the ride) it took two hours and forty-five minutes to get to the front of the line.

After dipping out of the line on the first ride, we were all-in on this one and no way we were leaving without actually getting to ride. It was horrible. The ride was good, but not worth the pain. 

When it was over, the girls looked at me for direction. I just shrugged and said “maybe if we hurry we can ride the mamba before the park closes.” The park closes as 7pm. We sprinted in that general direction. 

We got as far as the end of the line and made the call, no way in hell we were waiting in that line. We retreated and continued on the path to leave. It was now about 6pm and we had been at the park 4 hours and rode exactly 1 ride. I was one hot mama on the hunt to get my daughter a refund for the hundreds of dollars she spent on tickets for this weekend. 

En route to the exit, we stopped at the Zulu and waited in line 45 minutes to ride it. So 5 hours and 2 rides. I explained to the nice kid at guest services that my daughter paid in advance for three people for three days at Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun including a fast pass for three people for Sunday that she purchased while we were standing in line at the detonator.

They were ready. They knew that people were angry and it’s not like we live here or have season passes and can come back any day. No. This was a destination for us. This is the whole reason we came to this city. We wanted a refund. I told the kid “there is no way we are returning for two more days of this.” They gave her almost all of her money back, including the money for the tickets for the current day. What a relief. 

Sad to be so relieved to not have to go back to an amusement park, but true. 

We eventually found our car in the sea of departing vehicles and got in yet another queue to leave. Little did we know that the park was not done with us yet. The line to leave didn’t budge. We sat for 20 minutes without even driving 1 car length. There are a series of parking lots all connected by one road. One way in and one way out. 😩 

So we waited. 

My daughter had happily given up the driver’s seat and sat behind me googling directions on her phone. She said that there was another road in the map, an alternate way out. I argued that if that was the case, more people would be going that way. 

She pleaded and I was just desperate enough to listen and indulge her. I peeled out of line and went the opposite way. 

We arrived at a gravel lot where the road was crumbling, but I continued to follow it around to another paved road that had a sign—no guest access. The girls giggled from the back seat, “just DO IT.” So I did.

We wound all the way around the back side of the park and came to what was clearly an employee / service area. Then we hit the end of the road. A large metal gate blocking the path. We could see the main road just on the other side of that. We were so close.

My daughter wanted to try and move the gate, but it wasn’t latched and it looked electronic to me. I started to back the car out to go the other way and she pleaded again to let her try. 

I said “it’s not the kind of gate a person can move. It’s probably operated from a remote or keypad or button.” Just then, I surveyed the gate again and saw a button. I said “like THAT ONE!!”

I jumped out of the car and pushed the button and sure enough, the gate began to open. Huzzah! Something finally went out way!! 

On our way out, we drove past the long line of cars still waiting their turns at the final stop sign before the exit onto the main drive. We probably saved ourselves an hour by bending the rules. And I was ok with that. I Just hope that decision is not going to come back and bite me in some way. It might.

***

Despite it being almost 8pm at that point, we found a spot for dinner and still had time left after that to visit Wal-Mart and pick up a card game and some snacks. I crashed out about midnight and vaguely remember asking them to turn the TV off sometime quite a bit later.

Now it’s tomorrow and so far this day isn’t going as planned either. But it’s not my day and it’s not my plan and whatever happens, it’s all going to be ok. Right??!!

Until next time,

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-05-16 Another Week in the Rearview

It’s been a strange week. 

A few days ago I had a call with my friend HL who lives in Denver, who I haven’t seen since my wedding in February of 2020.. You know, that last month of what I’m now calling “The Great Before.”

Before COVID spread the world and took over the airwaves (literally) and our lives. It’s safe to say that here in America we’re on the downhill slide back to normal, but things will never be the same as before. I’m confident of that. 

Anyhow, catching up with HL and being fresh off a 24 hour bout with the norovirus, my mind was still circling the fact that I’ve known my husband for 3 years and had never seen him sick.

The man had never taken a day off of work since I’ve known him and I had never seen him laid up on the couch with a thermometer hanging out his mouth. Consequently, I’d never had to take care of him or experience how his mood is when he is sick.

I told HL I didn’t know what I was thinking, marrying a man who I had never seen sick. It coulda been bad. He coulda been a big baby or pain in the ass. Thankfully (and predictably) he wasn’t anything like that.

He basically rested for a day, took work off (which is what people should do when they are sick and contagious) and didn’t really need anything from me. Plus I got a break from cooking breakfast for a few days. I’m ok with that. 

We actually tried to limit our own personal contact in an attempt to spare me the same fate, as noro is highly contagious. It didn’t work and 2 days later it hit me too. It was the toughest 24 hours I’ve had in a long while. Since June 2020 I would say. And even after I was over the worst of it—the big purge, I was still exhausted for several more days.

I was feeling much better as of yesterday, but still took the day easy and didn’t push for extra cardio or to get my daily allotment of steps. Rest and recovery was my aim.

On the phone HL and I conspired to plan several get togethers this year. We both agreed that we were so ready to travel on a regular basis again. He left for a getaway in Mexico yesterday. I must admit I’m jealous. I know I’m pretty fresh off my own first vacation away from home so I can’t whine too much, but MEXICO!! I’m so ready to go somewhere like that again. 

I say it’s been a strange week because despite all the sickness, it’s been rather a good week. My mood has been good, for the most part, and I’m feeling like I’m getting to a good place. Not that I haven’t been at a good place, but letting go of committing myself to public speaking appearances and other similar engagements where I’m required to prepare or say something has definitely helped nudge me further toward enjoying each day. 

There’s just something about the black cloud of public speaking looming in the distance, no matter how far, that affects my mood. 

At the moment there is no event I’m committed to or obligation I’m thinking about and dreading and I find myself waking up each day, looking forward to what’s on the agenda. Yes, even the dishes and grocery shopping and laundry. Fascinating right?! 

I will say all that doesn’t change how I feel about picking up after teenagers or cleaning toilets.  I Don’t think anything will ever change the way I feel about that. But imma call this week for maid service, at least for the bathrooms, and that’s just another step in the right direction. 

That’s blog worthy news right? I mean, doesn’t everyone want to read about the saga that is the cleaning of the toilets? 😜

I suppose that’s as good a place to wrap as any. It’s Sunday again, and it’s going to be a rainy one. I did a lot of work in the garden yesterday so I could take advantage of the rain we are going to get this week. 

The rain today just means my attention will be on all the indoor tasks, the first of which is catching up on reading poetry submissions for the GLR contest. I hope there are some gems in the pile… to make the reading more enjoyable. 

Ok now I’m ready to wrap. 

With Peace and Love and Peaches, 🍑 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-04-24 Arizona Adventure Day 6: The Journey Home 🌵🌸

Day 6. Saturday. The journey home. But first, flowers! 

One might recall 6 days ago when I arrived in Phoenix that had time to kill before getting on the road, that I tried to go to the Botanical Gardens, that it was “sold out”, and that I promised myself we would make time for it before going to the airport to go home. Well… promise kept.

We got tickets in advance and picked as late in the day as we could because the gardens were closing at noon for a special event. Actually, it did not say they were closing for a special even, the website just said closed at noon, but when we arrived, they were already setting up for some sort of shin-dig (my guess wedding and reception) so it was a given that is why. 

That morning, we packed and made the drive from Flagstaff to Phoenix and arrived at the gardens at about 11:AM. I thought we would not be able to see the entire thing because we were short on time, but I was wrong. 

Something happens to a person when they are walking around outside in the 90 degree heat under a blazing sun. It makes them move really fast so they can see as much as possible as quickly as possible. It makes them take rapid fire pics on the move without even checking the shot. And it makes them skip some of the farther reaching loops so they can make a beeline for the exit and get back in a delightfully air-conditioned car. In light of that, the rest of this blog post is going to mimic that experience.

After that we had lunch, did some sightseeing in Phoenix, went to the airport, and flew home.. The End.)

Peace,

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-04-23 Arizona Adventure Day 5: Flagstaff Friday Funday

Day 5. Friday. Much ado about nothing. 

Much of our vacation to this point had been go-go-go. Lots of activity—tours, hiking, navigating, driving, stopping, starting, and exploring. We had nothing planned for Friday and when we got to Friday, there wasn’t anything in particular we wanted to do. 

We talked about going to the Grand Canyon again but decided it wouldn’t be worth the drive to see what we have already seen. The same held true for Sedona. 

In truth I think we were just over driving more, so the decision to stick around Flagstaff and explore what it had to offer was a good one. Being mindful that this was the direction we were leaning even before we got to Friday, we had made early dinner reservations at a nicer Flagstaff restaurant. Early because by the time we were making the reservation, 5:15 was the only time left for Friday night. 

Having all day to cruise around and do a whole lot of nothing was delightful. 

We hunted antique shops for signs or Route 66 memorabilia and had a leisurely lunch at Fat Olives (I refused to eat at the same Mexican restaurant a third time in the same trip even though it was the best Mexican food I’ve had in a long time). 

In the afternoon we decided to see what we could discover in the forest that surrounds Flagstaff and did some google searches for a good spot. We came up with a few options including a cave. However, navigating to the trailhead that would lead to the cave, we ran into a bit of difficulty. It wasn’t the first time google maps had failed us on the trip. 

We ended up on private property in a little rural community and then crossed to the other side of the highway and found a campground. Neither was correct. We then followed some road signs to a different trailhead and gave up on the cave exploration idea. 

The trail we ended up on was completely ordinary compared to the one we were on the day before in Sedona. We hiked for about 2 hours and I wasn’t compelled to take any pictures. And that’s saying something since I had taken hundreds of pictures the previous 4 days. 

We saw some neat lizards, birds, and ground squirrels… but nothing as exciting as the coyote, elk, and deer on previous days. 

To be fair… I was also sort of tired of hiking. I was thinking the entire time about getting back to home base, getting ready for dinner, and having a lovely relaxing evening with drinks, hot-tubbing, and settling into a movie. 

Which is exactly how the rest of the day went as soon as we arrived back at our car. 

The highlight of the day was dinner. The restaurant was called Tinderbox and it was a somewhat fancy gourmet place. The atmosphere was a little upscale yet casual and the menu was limited to a single page of about 25 unique appetizers and entrees. 

We each selected a small plate to share. I chose salmon with crackers and Jim ordered the foie gras. The salmon was really good and I tried the foie gras and found it disgusting. 

For my main course I ordered the beef shoulder and it was quite possibly the most delicious dish I’ve ever eaten. The presentation was pleasing and the sauce and accompaniments were perfect.. enhancing the flavor of the beef without being overpowering. 

Normally I would only be able to eat half an entire but I could not stop eating it was so good. I ate the entire plate! Then our server offered us dessert and I simply could not refuse. If the main was that good.. how much better would dessert be?? 

The answer is pretty freaking great. I ordered the cinnamon donuts served with coffee ice cream, drizzled with chocolate. Again, I ate the entire thing. Well, Jim had a bite or two but I had the rest. 

Feeling very satisfied, we made our way back to the car and back to theAirbnb. We made a couple of drinks and cranked up the hot tub. It was a super relaxing night and a good way to spend our last evening on vacation. We both agreed we were ready to go home. 

That’s pretty much it for day 5. 

And the beat goes on, 

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-04-22 Arizona Adventure Day 4: Doing Sedona Take 2

Day 4. Thursday. Thirsty Thursday. 

Thursday is what happens when something doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes, it’s all wrong, but sometimes it turns out alright.

My big plan for the day was a hot air balloon ride over Sedona. It was one of the things that Jim and I talked about after the big reveal about the destination for our vacation, which remained a surprise to him until about 1 or 2 days before our departure. Neither one of us had done a balloon ride before and I wanted to, but recalled a conversation we had early in our relationship where he said he would never do it. 

My friend Rebecca went on one with her then boyfriend Jeremy when they had their first big vacation together which just happened to be in Arizona. She recommended it and said it was an incredible experience. So I asked Jim about it again. He did a few google searches to see how safe it was and gave me the green light to book it. 

The catch with this sort of thing is that there are no guarantees and the best time of day for calm winds and weather is early am. They kick off around sunrise and since it was in Sedona, we had an hour to drive to make it to our pick-up spot. With a 5:20am pick up, we had to wake up at 4am to make it. Somehow with the anticipation of it.. that was not a problem. 

The unpredictability of the weather means things can also go awry. We rode out to the launch spot with a bunch of other folks. It looked like about 6 balloons going up based on the trucks and trailers pulling gear. When we arrived we got out and proceeded to stand around with these other folks in 40 degree temps, shivering and waiting for something to happen. 

All the dudes working for the company huddled around as well, periodically sending up little black balloons and watching their lift and direction. We could hear them talking and laughing and pointing. After about 25 minutes the guy who drove 6 of us walked over to deliver the bad news. The winds were not favorable and they were scrubbing the launch. 

The driver told us it was less about safety and more about quality of experience. He said that because of the winds, we couldn’t get very far before coming back down or be at risk for going way off course and end up hiking half a day back to civilization. Good to know. 

Well… you win some and you lose some but sometimes when you lose, you actually win. 

He dropped us back off at about 6:15am and gave us a few recommendations for places to get coffee, breakfast, and find good hiking. We went to the breakfast place he recommended, had a lovely meal, and talked about alternate plans for the day. 

After breakfast we drove to a popular trailhead and found the parking lot completely full already. Damn.. these people are serious about their hiking. I then navigated us to an alternate trail close by and found a virtually empty lot. Perfect.

The trail was called the “Airport Trail” which sounds very unappealing. The Sedona airport is situated on top of a large hill and the trail runs along the outside on the side of the hill. But, for 90% of the trail, you can’t even see the fence that surrounds the airport property. And since the trail goes all the way around, you get incredible views of the area the entire 365 degrees.

At the start of the hike we went to the right and headed to a place called “The Summit” first. It was a short hike to get to an area with steps up to the top of a large rock formation. You know when you see pics of people sitting or laying on top of a giant rock at the top of a mountain? That’s exactly what it was like. A great way to start.

After climbing back down, we continued on the main trail which was a lot longer than I thought it would be. I thought I read that the hike was a 1.5 mile loop but that just has to be wrong considering how large the airport has to be for planes to take off and land. Still, we were committed to doing the whole loop so as it got long, we pressed on.

The other great thing about the hike is that we were already up on the side of a sizable hill so the trail did not have a lot of elevation change. You could basically walk the trail and not get too winded. Great for those of us who live in the flatlands and are not acclimated to the elevation.

Noteworthy is that when we arrived back at the parking lot, it was practically full and there were tons of people everywhere. I guess that’s the bonus of going super early.

When the hike was over, we were sweaty, kind of jazzed up, and not sure what to do with the rest of our day. I had been dressed in long pants and layers for the balloon ride and quickly peeled everything off to try and cool down. Jim drove as we talked about where to go.

Renting ATVs was an option folks had been talking about at the balloon launch site so we went to one of the places on 89A and did just that.

There was an area just outside of town called Red Rock State Park and I had wanted to visit. What better way to get up close and personal with the rock formations without another long hike?!

The trail we opted for was a pretty tame one as were just beginners. Actually, after riding the terrain for about 5 minutes, I had no desire to drive at all. Riding was stressful enough. And bumpy as hell.

The scenery was amazing… again… and we rode to some cliffside ruins; dwellings constructed by native peoples hundreds of years ago. That was pretty cool. The ATV was a 4 hour rental but we were done after just that one trail. As it turns out, Jim didn’t think it was that fun either.

By the time that little adventure was over, we were exhausted, filthy, hungry, and seriously parched. It was also reaching the time of day when all the spots to eat got super busy in Sedona and we weren’t really in any shape for finding parking, waiting, or sitting down for a nice meal. We decided just to drive back to flagstaff and cook our own late day lunch. 

It feels like the day ended there. I suppose, in a way, it did. That’s the other thing that happens when you wake up at 4am… you’re ready for bed by like 7pm. 😜

What day am I writing about again? Oh yeah… thirsty Thursday. It was a very thirsty day indeed. 

Rolling Dice and Taking Chances,

~Miss SugarCookie

2021-04-21 Arizona Adventure Day 3: Deep Impact

Day 3. Wednesday. Hump Day. Free Skate. 

Wednesday I didn’t have anything planned but did think we would end up having a longer visit to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. However, we also wanted to visit the Impact Crater near Winslow Arizona at some point too. And since we were still not adjusted to the time difference and waking up early, we decided to do both.

The Impact Crater is the largest crater in North America. The fact that it’s a desert with very little variation in weather, it’s very well preserved. Only a small amount of sand debris is swept into the crater by wind each year so it looks just about the same as it did when people began studying it in the late 1800’s.

They actually thought it was a volcano vent for the longest time until Science stepped in and proved otherwise. Now, the site has a visitor center with tours running on the hour 8am-5pm every day. Because charging money to see something like that is the American way.

The winds at the rim are fierce and as our guide told us, the current visitor center is the 3rd building to be constructed on site for tourism. The first two were literally blown away in wind storms. Yikes!! 

Aside from fighting the wind, it was a really cool thing to see and hear about and I’m glad we took a half a day to do that.

Returning to Flagstaff, it was lunchtime and we made our second visit to El Tapatio, as the food and margaritas there were some of the best we’ve had anywhere.

Once we were full of fajitas, enchiladas, and silliness… we hit the road again for the South Rim. 

This time we had a little more time to walk the paved trail that runs several miles along the south rim. We also picked a different spot to see the sunset which could only be accessed by shuttle bus.

With a half hour to spare, we made our way to Hopi Point and found a nice quiet pair of rocks to sit on and wait. I suppose the fact that it’s still pretty early in the season, the crowds were at a minimum, which I very much appreciate.

The sunset itself was hazy and you couldn’t really get a good shot of the canyon, but I know what I saw and it was pretty incredible.

We didn’t stay long after that. 

Noteworthy here is that sometime during the Crater Tour, our guide mentioned that before Americans settled in the area, native people migrated through at different times of the year hunting and gathering. One of the main food sources was the pine nut from the Pinion tree which is high in protein and micronutrients.

So,,, walking the south rim trail, I decided to pick a few pinion cones and pluck the nuts out and eat them. 

Fast forward to just after sunset, and I began having horrible cramps. This was followed by an extended visit to the restroom at Hopi point. And I continued to have cramps the entire ride home and into the night. Shame on me for doing something so dumb. 

Dumber still is that I didn’t even connect the dots until the next day. I had been wrecking my brain trying to think of what I had eaten that Jim had not. We both had a little of each other’s meals at both lunch and dinner. Oh well… guess I learned my lesson on that one. 🙄

And that’s how my Wednesday ended… with a whimper AND a bang. 

So much for free skating, 

~Miss SugarCookie