Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Southwest Travels Part Duex (2 of 2)

Friday 11/1 marked a new month and the beginning of an action packed adventure weekend! Tess and I had a late start to the day but we headed up to Jerome, AZ around 12:30pm so we arrived shortly before 3pm. We realized, upon arrival, that most of the shops closed around 5pm we busted arse through town to check out all the cute shops and galleries, of which there are many. Luckily we are power shoppers and not only did we get some great stuff, but we did almost all our shopping before the shops closed! We also had photo ops of the views and some unique things we saw about town (like a crumbling jail!) Once we checked in and got settled in the Connor Hotel, we headed up to the Asylum restaurant at The Grand Hotel at the very top of the hill (the entire town is built into a side of a mountain, about 5300 feet elevation and used to be a copper mining town). 

The view from Jerome
The Connor Hotel - our crash pad
Selfie with Jerome behind us on the mountain
The Asylum was still gruesomely decorated for Halloween. It was definitely spooktastic. We got seated right away and enjoyed a two hour fancy meal with a side of awkward winking from the waiter. Hahaha!
We intended to maybe go listen to some live music but I was so overly full from dinner it was all I could do just to get my home. It was good, though, because Tess and I just sat and talked for hours. Finally I could not keep my eyes open a minute longer and around 11pm I was out like a light. 

Saturday we packed up and had breakfast at the Mile High Café. It was really very good and we finished a bit of shopping we didn’t get to hit the day before. Around 11am or so, we headed out of town toward Sedona. The road out of town was so windy that it took us 30 minutes to go only 10 miles. AND come to find out, we were heading south (when we should have been heading north) so we had to turn around and go back through Jerome and down the mountain and finally headed toward Sedona. We got to Sedona around 1pm. The original plan was to have lunch there and head straight to the Grand Canyon but we were both enjoying Sedona so much that we decided to enjoy the afternoon there and hit the canyon in the morning so not to be rushed or miss out on anything. We spent a good chunk of the afternoon walking through an art fair where I proceeded to spend more money than I should have on gifts and goodies. 

Beautiful red rocks everywhere
Just one of many amazing outcroppings in Sedona

 We headed out of town around 4:30 or so and luckily made it through the curviest part of our drive before dark. We got to our hotel around 6:30 and had some grub at the hotel restaurant. Afterwards, we moved to the lounge area and ordered several rounds of wine (beer for Tessa) and taught two Australian couples how to play Yahtzee. 

Yahtzee lessons proved fruitful as the blonde kicked all our arses
We had decided to watch the sun rise at the Grand Canyon so Sunday started for us at 5:05 AM and we were on the road by 5:20 toward the Canyon. We really had no idea where we were going but luckily we got to bypass the park entrance fee and we found a great view point right away. It was dark and FREEZING and we had to wait about an hour for the sun to fully rise but it was amazing and incredible. There ended up being a huge busload of other people there, but despite that, Tessa and I enjoyed the serenity of the moment.

Sunrise at the Grand Canyon
The canyon in full morning light.
We found breakfast down the road at El Torvar Lodge which was quite lovely and then back to the hotel for a 2 hour nap (luckily we got a 1pm check out). Then up, shower and it was time for Tessa and I to part ways as she headed back down home to Phoenix and I headed northwest to Las Vegas.
On the way to Vegas, I did stop at the Hoover Dam and although I did not drive all the way through it, I’m glad I stopped. I also loved the viewpoint over Lake Mead. From there, it was only 30 minutes to Layne’s house…
Welcome to Nevada and then reminder to turn my watch back an hour!

Lake Mead lookout
And the rest is yet to tell! Have a wonderful week everyone!

Southwest Traves Part Duex (1 of 2)

And so the adventure continues! ….. I arrived in Phoenix around 5pm-ish on Saturday 10/26. I had just enough time to unload, settle in for a bit and put on my borrowed Halloween Costume. Tessa (my hostess who so kindly let me crash her pad for the whole week) and her boyfriend Esteban had plans to go to a Halloween party so Tessa loaned me a costume, we grabbed a sushi dinner and to the party we went! 

There is a new sheriff in town!

The Penguin and the Sheriff

The party was HOPPING and there were tons of great costumes there, but we didn’t know too many folks so we didn’t stay too late. It had been a long day for me anyway, being as I was only in Palm Springs that morning, so I did get tucked in for my beauty rest by 11pm, which I was appreciative for.
Sunday (10/27) was my visiting with friend’s day. I met up with one of my best friends from high school in Central Phoenix and we had an amazing meal at Chelsea’s kitchen. I had lost and regained contact with her so many times since high school with this last bout being at least 8 or 9 years. I was SO happy to see her! She looked SO amazing and exactly the same. 


Combating bright Arizona sunshine (the anti squint faces)
 We sat and caught up for hours and I was so sad when I had to leave her, but alas… I had other plans that afternoon in Scottsdale. I met my mentor, Deborah, at Houston’s in Scottsdale and enjoyed a wonderful snack with her and her fiancé, Carlos. I worked with / under Deb on several projects during my early career with my company and she had (and still has) a great influence on me. I am very happy I got to see her during this visit. 

The lovely Deborah and her fiance Carlos (and me)
Monday I did have to work but Tessa put me up in her office so I had a quiet and bright place to hunker down during my week days, which I was eternally grateful for after working from bed with a nasty cold most of the week before. Tessa has 3 pugs so it was hilarious to see which one wanted to come and sit at my feet during the day, to watch the puppy wrestle with the others, and listen to the biggest one snort and snore. They were definitely entertaining!

Monday evening, Tessa took me to The Music Man in Scottsdale. We had no idea what to expect and when we noticed that the theatre was tucked away behind a strip mall, we were nervous. When we walked in and saw several “actors” none of which were over 17, we were officially skeptical. But, much to our pleasant surprise, we were genuinely entertained by the show and the cast and had a wonderful time laughing and singing along. 

Tuesday, Tessa and Esteban took me to my first NHL hockey game (AZ Coyotes against the Los Angeles team). We were about 5 rows down from the very top, but we could see all the action just fine and, even though it was freezing in there, it was a good fun time.

Bundled Up - BRRRRR

 Wednesday and Thursday were more mellow days. Wednesday Tessa and I went and had 90 minute massages and met up with Esteban for a late dinner where we feasted on chicken wings. Thursday was Halloween, so we carved pumpkins, handed out candy to trick or treaters and played Yahtzee. It was a wonderful night!

I'm a traditionalist
And on that note, I’ll save the next phase for the next blog. My time in Phoenix was better than I could have imagined and I was so happy to see old friends and do such fun and interesting things with Tessa and her boyfriend!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Southwest Travels Part Uno (2 of 2)

So picking up where I left off….
Thursday 10/24 I was starting to feel a bit more recovered from my cold. I was definitely still very congested but my energy level seemed more in line to normal. I had a dinner date with my long lost friend Hedieh-Jan (jan means “dear” in Farsi) in Torrance so I headed down to Redondo Beach in the early afternoon to nosh on some lunch, work, and hopefully set my eyes on the ocean for a little bit. The weather on Thursday was LOVELY until I was off of work and then by the time I made it to the ocean, it was overcast, windy and FREEZING! If I wanted those things, I’d go to the Oregon Coast! It was lovely nonetheless, but I didn’t withstand the weather in shorts and a short sleeve top for more than 20 minutes before I moved on.

Redondo Beach - a cloudy sunset 
I met Hedieh at a casual Persian restaurant in Torrance and when she walked in I could barely contain my excitement! I stayed with Hedieh the first several times I came down to L.A. to visit after graduate school and we’ve always gotten along very well. But we had lost touch for a few years until I found her on the Facebook. There was so much I had to know about what had been happening in her life (she’d gotten married!) but had been waiting for an in person interview to get the dish. We had a nice meal and talked for about two hours before I, regrettably, had to leave to make the 1.5 hour drive back to West Hills. It was so amazing to see my good, dear friend, though, and I feel confident that with social networking such as it is, we will not lose touch again J
Hedieh and I at Fanoos restaurant

 Friday I had SO much to do. I had to get up, finish packing, say my goodbyes to Sayra and her family, and head east to San Bernardino for an 11:30 lunch date with my old professor and thesis advisor, Mark.  I had to stop at Rosa Maria’s anyway (outstanding burrito stand) so I met Mark there for lunch. Again, SO much to catch up on. Did I mention it’s been FOUR year since I’ve been down to SoCal? In the four years since I’d seen Mark, he’d gotten married and had two lovely boys. It was wonderful to hear about his life and his continued work at the university. It was a great visit!

Rosa Maria's - amazing food!

My professor from Grad School - Mark
 After lunch, I was feeling sentimental so I drove my old apartment and drove up to the university to check it out. I didn’t park and walk the campus, just drove up to the turn around and turned back. After all, I had a date in Palm Springs!

That bottom corner unit used to be mine!

The center of campus - the San Andreas fault right behind it

 I could NOT believe that Palm Springs is only about an hour outside of San Bernardino. So I was there in a jiffy. As soon as you pull into Palm Springs, it’s like you’ve pulled into an alternative universe. It’s a little oasis in the middle of the desert. Not only is there plenty of green, but it’s BEAUTIFUL! I didn’t much time to explore, but I checked into my hotel and as soon as I saw the pool, I knew I was going to spend my extra time right there. The hotel was called Skylark and it’s only been open since September and it’s a wonderful cross between 1960’s retro and modern décor. I LOVED it! The hotel manager walked me to my room, showed me where everything was, made sure I knew how to work the air conditioning. And it used a traditional key with one of those triangle fob thingies attached? Omg, I loved it so much! So I immediately got into the pool to kill some time. It was absolutely divine.

My room at the Skylark hotel
Skylark from the outside. Renovated motel = SO CUTE!
The pool.  The floaties have smiley faces on them! <3 td="">
My feet and the jacuzzi
 After the sun started to set, it was time for me to get ready to go see Jayme. I hadn’t kept in touch with Jayme since graduate school so it had been 11 years since I’d seen or talked with her (other than some very basic and generic greetings on the Facebook in the last year). Jayme was one of my very dearest and closest friends in graduate school. I definitely spent most of my time with her as we lived the closest together. I met her about 45 minutes away from Palm Springs in LaQuinta at a fancy little Italian restaurant that was super busy and cute. Afterwards we went to a Piano Bar we could walk to and listened to some music, had an adult beverage, and kept talking. We certainly had plenty to catch up and we talked for just about three hours before I had to part ways to make the drive back to Palm Springs to rest up for the night…. I had a long drive ahead of me the next day so I wanted my beauty sleep J
Jayme laughing at the Sandbar Piano Bar

Jayme and I

I got a slow start on Saturday but I was finally up and heading out of town by noon. I stopped at In N Out burger and had me some lunch and then hit the road to Phoenix! The drive was relatively unspectacular but I had great tunes and loved looking at all the rock formations. It was 97 degrees out and blue skies as far as the eye could see.

My first In N Out burger in 12 years!
I-10 East to Phoenix
I did stop at this Jerky spot just past the border into Arizona to pick up some jerky for my love. It was in a total po-dunk down and the man working at the shop hit on me! Like… blatantly. Not just flirted with me. I almost never get outright picked up on. It was very flattering and totally amusing, even while he helped me pick out hot sauce for my sweetheart. Hahahaha

More on Phoenix adventures to come! J

Southwest Travels Part Uno (1 of 2)

I consider myself a moderately adventurous person. I like trying and doing new things and going new places. But the fact is... I haven't been all that many places. I have never been to Europe or Asia or South America. Or even Mexico. I have never traveled more than 8 days somewhere. So even though I'm 10 days into a 21 day trip, I'm still in shock I'm here. I'm so proud of myself for letting go enough to just pack up and ditch town. 

And it has been amazing. 

I arrived in Los Angeles last Saturday (10/19), picked up my rental car and head straight out to Sayra's house in West Hills. Sayra is someone I knew in high school. We weren't particularly friends, but we weren't NOT friends either. We didn't stay much in touch but we found each other back in the MySpace days and before I know it, we've developed an amazing real life, adult friendship and I see her at least once a year when she comes to Portland to visit her family (sometimes I get lucky and see her twice a year!). I was even honored to have attended her wedding in 2009 in Malibu. 

So I get to Sayra's and I hunker down for the next 6 days. I got to spend so much time talking with my dear Sayra and being amused by her firecracker of a 1 year old, Maggie.

Me with Sayra and Maggie
Sayra was an incredible hostess and I was so thankful for the time I got to spend with her and the opportunity to  have her home as a jumping off point for me to visit friends from graduate school who live in L.A. 

Sunday 10/20 I ran some errands and lounged about a good chunk of the day with Sayra and Magster but headed up to Westwood in the late afternoon for dinner with Lisa. I had invited almost everyone I knew to the dinner but the universe conspired to give Lisa and I our alone time together to catch up on the last several years since I'd seen her last. We had an amazing Persian meal accompanied by wine and 3 full hours of conversation and laughter. Every time I see her, I feel like I get my future told. She is such an intuitive energetic force field ... and I am continuously in awe of her amazingness.

Lisa and I at Shamshiri Grill in Westwood, CA


Sunday after dinner it became apparent I was getting a cold. But I had plans Monday night for dinner, dang it, so I was able to keep the cold at bay enough for me to spend the afternoon in Studio City where I had a late lunch at Aroma Cafe (lines around the block!) and working before meeting up with Kevin, another grad school peer, at The Salsa Bar.

My lunch at Aroma Cafe, Studio City, CA
Kevin at Salsa Bar, Studio City, CA


Tuesday I was officially down and out with a cold and I spent all day in bed working and blowing my nose endlessly and feeling awfully sorry for myself. I did manage to get up and out in the evening and saw Gravity in 3D which was amazing. There were full on recliners for seats and only THREE other people in the huge theater. 

Wednesday 10/23 I spent the day feeling all that much more sorry for myself that I was still super sick and phlegmy (yuck). I did, however, get lucky enough to score a dinner date with my hostess, Sayra. We went to a restaurant called Red Ginger in Woodland Hills where they serve sushi and Thai food. The food was incredible! The sushi was top 3 best I've ever had, it was so fresh and amazing. Unfortunately I did not get pictures of our cute selves that evening... despite the 4 previous days of chatting and talking, we just had too much conversation to be bothered with the camera. We did try to take ourselves out for FroYo at a place called yozen frogurt (say that 10 times real fast!) but we were too full so just took it home to eat later. It was a wonderful night and I'm so grateful I got a couple of hours of one on one time with her. She is so amazing and lovely and talented.... I'm constantly reminded how blessed I am that we have become and remained such good friends. 

And on that note, I will continue the rest of the week in another blog! More to come soon! :)