Tag Archives: travel

Six Months in San Diego in Photos

Six months ago, on a snowy February 14, my dad and I packed up the Camry and started a 2,800 mile journey to a far-away city that was to become my new home.

On the 19th, we arrived. (Though, from my blog posts, you’d think we were still stuck in New Mexico! I’ll share that last day soon!)

Now, it’s August 19. It’s been an up-and-down six months, with a trip home, two visits from my family, one from Tom’s, a vacation in Colorado, lots of furniture shopping and apartment decorating, several expensive vet visits, lots of great food, and, the primary reason I moved here, fun and adventures with Tom.

Here are some of my favorite memories from the past six months:

We made it! 

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Lots of dog walks in our new neighborhood, Bankers Hill.

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All the fish tacos. 

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And all the produce. Avocados every day! Blood orange margaritas!

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A Colorado Summer Vacation

Tom travels for work pretty often. Too often, in my opinion, for it’s far different for him to be out-of-town now than it was when I lived in Virginia. Just this week, pup and I dropped Tom and his suits off at the airport at 5 a.m. Monday for a three-day conference he’s putting on in Chicago, leaving us with lots of time for decorating and napping together. (And, job searching? And a puppy’s tooth extraction.) But the perks of his work-travel allow Tom to explore new cities (and countries!), and every once in a while, I’ll try to tag along. (San Francisco, you’re next!)

Last month, his company produced its largest event in Denver. A trip to the midwest seemed ideal for my own summer “funemployment,” since I’d last traveled to Colorado when I was but 1-year-old. Memories of hiking in the mountains during that trip are nonexistent, though a photo proved I had fun. This time, I’ll remember the vacation. Colorado is completely stunning.

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The conference was still ongoing when I arrived mid-week, so I roamed along the 16th Street Mall for most of the afternoon, and relaxed on the banks of Confluence Park. (Travel tip: Getting to downtown from the distant Denver International Airport is incredibly easy and doesn’t require an expensive taxi. A public bus runs about every hour, and is only $11, exact change required. A free shuttle along the 16th Street Mall dropped me off right by the hotel.)

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Day 4: Driving Across Texas

Before leaving San Antonio that Monday morning at the end of February, we had to get another good Mexican meal in our stomachs. The west of Texas was waiting; we better be prepared.

Taco Taco is a small taco shop that’s been featured on Food Network and in national food magazines. Bon Appetit proclaimed it to have the best tacos in America. The interior and food is nothing fancy–seat yourself at one of the small tables, so close together that your chair may be touching another customer’s. While we opted for breakfast plates rather than tacos, our dishes still came with the soft, warm homemade tortillas, served in a cast iron comal. My dad ordered huevos mexicanos, while I enjoyed my huevos rancheros. While not as spicy as some may hope for, the food was flavorful and fresh.

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Day 3: San Antonio

Don’t let the title of this post fool you. Texas didn’t swallow the three of us up, with it’s sky-sized flags and cowboy hats. We made it to San Diego long ago–I have a job! It’s sunny! We need to buy furniture!–but first, I want to finish telling you about how my dad and I got here.

After leaving snowy Virginia, driving through flat Mississippi and eating tasty fried seafood in Baton Rouge, my dad, dog and I began the drive into Texas. Let me tell you, it’s a huge state, more than a day’s drive across. I-10 keeps going and going and going. Luckily, this first day wasn’t too bad, for we only drove 5 hours from Lake Charles, Louisiana (home to many oil refineries) to San Antonio.

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Day 2: Tuscaloosa to Baton Rouge to Lake Charles, LA

Mississippi is flat and full of pine trees. The best fried fish swims on one end of a building and gets fried on the other. And dogs DO NOT like tigers, statues or the real animal.

Those were among the lessons we learned on Saturday, Day 2 of our cross-country road trip. We left our not-so-great Motel 6 south of Birmingham very, very early that morning (7:30 a.m.!), since neither of us slept well. Rachel made herself quite comfortable on my bed that night, a habit that I’m hoping to break immediately after this long drive. But, she’s stressed, and doesn’t know where her new home will be, so, I’m OK with it for now.

A search for green spots on online maps showed that the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa had a nice-sized arboretum with trails. We got off the interstate in a rundown section of town and didn’t see any evidence of the massive college. The road took us to what appeared to be a back entrance to the arboretum—gated. As we sat in the car, the website didn’t want to download, and our iPhone maps told us this was actually a golf course. Not ready to give up, after a few more minutes of driving and hoping maybe there’d be somewhere else to walk, we saw signs and finally found the arboretum, apparently adjacent to land that used to be a golf course. The pup was more than ready for a walk through some quiet woods.

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Day 1: Roanoke to Birmingham

The nearly record breaking snowstorm only set us back by about 2 hours Friday, and we left Wilbur Road around 11 a.m. with 122,557 miles on the Camry. Tissues, dog bones, lots of water bottles and Valentine’s Day brownies tucked in the little car, the 3,000-mile trip began.

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The first day of driving, aside from the snow, was fortunately uneventful. On Interstate 81, we passed several tractor trailers overturned in the median and other wrecked cars in the ditch. So glad that we had heeded the advice to stay home Thursday when 8+ inches of snow was still falling, and, really, that we had planned anyways to leave Friday morning. The sun reflecting off the snow along the interstate was so bright! Who said sunglasses were only for summer?

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Roanoke’s third worst snow can’t stop us

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We started our cross-country road trip in the midst of Roanoke’s third worst snowstorm, ever. Twenty to 25 inches of snow fell Wednesday afternoon through late Thursday afternoon, stopping interstate traffic and trapping Virginians in their houses. Meteorologists started saying over the weekend that this wouldn’t be one of those over-hype clipper systems; this was the big ‘un. And it was. After my parents helped pack up my house and fill in the dog’s holes in the backyard over the weekend, I spent my last two days of work running errands to the post office, UPS (quite the sticker shock for some of those 50-pound boxes), UPS again and Goodwill. Plans to wrap up my life in Fredericksburg on Wednesday had to change quickly–I wasn’t messing with this storm, and it wasn’t messing with us.

So I said goodbye to friends and coworkers, played Tetris with my remaining bags and boxes in my car, and drove to southwest Virginia late Tuesday night. The snow began just about 12 hours later, flakes immediately sticking to the frozen ground and accumulating on roads. The world turned gray, and cars skidded on slippery roads. The next morning, we had about 1 foot, but plows had already come through our neighborhood once. My dad and I thought we would be set… and then, it started snowing again.

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Over Thursday afternoon, another 8+ inches fell as a system swirled over and over Roanoke. We watched the radar, and the gray blob kept circling. Cars, patio furniture and tree trunks disappeared, but Rachel found all this snow to be one of the best things ever. She leaped and bounced and smiled as her lean body plowed paths through our yard. If only she understood this would be her last snow for awhile. Using a fair share of s#!&’s and other appropriate words, my dad, aunt and I shoveled out the little Camry from the front yard, hoping plows wouldn’t block it back in, if/when they returned. All we could do was eat soup and wait.

When we woke up Friday, amazingly, our road had been cleared, and the warming sun  was beginning to soften the remaining snow.  Other streets in our neighborhood, and three-quarters of the city, hadn’t been touched even once, so I’m incredibly grateful to Roanoke City for taking care of us. My little sister had loving shared her stupid cold with the two of us, so, on top of it all, the two of us were sneezy and sniffly. (We’ve since been quickly working through a few boxes of Puffs Plus and a bag of drugs.) But, we were determined to begin the trip. A tarp on the snow became our staging area, and we ferried boxes and bags down the driveway to where the car had been parked before the storm.

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Somehow, it all fit. Even the three extra boxes of pint glasses, the half-full bottles of liquor from the Firefly Distillery, the Kitchen Aid mixer and two trash bags of extra clothes that I was trying to avoid paying to ship. The car is cozy, for the side contains our overnight bags, a blanket and pillow, a huge bag of snacks to tide us over the next 3,000 miles, a lunchbox of yogurts and hummus, and a whole bag of refillable water bottles, which we go through daily. Pup has about half the back seat, which is at least more than what she had on our trip home to Roanoke.

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And by about 11 a.m. Friday, we were off. On to Tennessee and Alabama for Day 1.

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L.A. day trip includes Pizzeria Mozza, La Brea Tar Pits and Hollywood

One of my beach books this summer was Bill Buford’s “Heat,” part memoir, and part biography of Mario Batali, the New York chef made famous by Food Network. A girlfriend loaned it to me, along with some light chick lit, but a bright yellow cover drew this particular book to the top of the stack. I’d seen the old episodes of “Molto Mario” a few times, but knew little about the red-haired pony-tailed chef.

This isn’t going to be a story about Mario’s journey as a chef, because you should just read the book or use Google for that.

What I do want to share is that on my latest West Coast trip, I had the chance to eat at Batali’s newest restaurant venture, a partnership with baker Nancy Silverton, in Los Angeles, Calif.

A two-and-a-half hour drive up I-5 from San Diego, L.A. itself is overwhelming, meaning that Tom and I would have to pick and choose just a few things to do. Visiting the La Brea Tar Pits, a walk along Hollywood Boulevard, and a drive through Beverly Hills seemed like good starting points. But with more than 20,000 restaurants, I wondered how we’d choose, and how we’d avoid getting caught in a tourist trap, though we seemed to anyway for a quick dinner at Venice Beach. Continue reading

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