Tag

travel

By Land Or By Sea?

The husband and I aren’t exactly flush with vacation time right now after both starting new jobs in the last year. And actually, I’m not really accruing that quickly since I started at the bottom of the federal scale. A big vacation was out of the question this summer and so was our planned 15th anniversary vow renewal Vegas trip [first I typed vowel renewal and giggled to myself for a few minutes]. Instead, we loaded up the kids (and dog!) for a long weekend at a rented house in Sea Ranch, California.

All we wanted out of this trip was quiet, relaxation, and waves . . . and it delivered in abundance!

Sea Ranch is this picturesque planned community about 100 miles north of San Francisco. It is this fantastic little architectural marvel – all of the homes are abstract with large windows and definite 70s flair. Wikipedia tells me that this is called Third Bay Tradition that was “characterized by turning the horizontal form of the California ranch house into a vertical form.” I don’t know anything about architecture, so I’ll just show you these nice creative commons photographs to explain.

Abalone-Bay-Sea-Ranch-dusk

Sea Ranch, California is noted for its distinctive architecture LCCN2013634736

The architecture was actually what first attracted me to the location when I was searching around for a nice beach location to visit. It is right up my alley. Sea Ranch is absolutely the place I would buy a vacation home, if I was the kind of person who could afford a vacation home. I was happy to see that the house we rented had a copy of the original plans framed in the dining room. The archivist in me was happy to learn a little bit about the family who built the place in the 70s.

The second thing that attracted me to Sea Ranch was the view. Here is an unfiltered image of what we woke up to every morning. I took this from the deck – that entire side of the house was large picture windows to capitalize on the unobstructed view.

And every evening we were able to enjoy unbelievable sunsets.

We stocked the refrigerator and spent most of our time lounging in the living room. The little man got a bit bored by day three, but the rest of us had one of our best vacations. Reading, surfing the interwebs, and playing card games filled the time we managed to stay in an upright position. Bonus: a family of wild turkeys visited the house each day.

We weren’t total hermits during the trip – we did make it down to the beach one day. Absolutely beautiful and so peaceful.

Instead of driving back down Highway 1 on the way home (because frankly I wasn’t up for driving it again), we rerouted through redwoods and along the Russian River. We stopped at Russian River Vineyards for lunch (+ oh so much wine) and enjoyed a couple of hours on the patio. Marv (the tiny dog) was a huge hit and I especially loved the guitar player rocking out slow jazz versions of 90s alternative favorites. I didn’t know I needed a slow jazz version of Smells Like Teen Spirit, but my world if definitely a better place now that I know it exists.

Georgia On My Mind

I’m back! Maybe. Hopefully. I have several posts banging around in my head and think I have time to write again. So let’s get on with it. . .

Last week I took a red eye flight from San Francisco to Atlanta to present at a conference. This was my first time on a red eye and my first time flying across that many U.S. time zones in one go (international travel doesn’t count, as it’s a whole other ballgame). It wasn’t quite what I expected.

Red Eye Misconception #1: The flight wouldn’t be as full.
I’d always heard that late night flights were appealing because they weren’t as packed. Boarding would be smoother and empty seats would leave room for spreading out. Nope. This flight was 100% full even after bumping a few volunteers. Coming home, I landed at the same gate at 11pm and saw a similar crowd waiting to fly out.

Red Eye Misconception #2: The flight would mostly be adults.
Again, nope. Lots of kids, several toddlers, and even one infant. We didn’t board until 11:30 and those toddlers were in that extreme-hyper-to-avoid-sleep phase. You parents know what I’m talking about. This might have been a product of the flight distance – I can see the appeal of taking my kids cross-country during a time they would easily fall asleep once belted into a seat. And – despite the nervous energy at the gate – they were quiet on the flight.

Red Eye Misconception #3: The flight would be cheaper.
And another nope. This flight was the same price as daytime options. It was about $20 less than other non-stop options; that is a plus, but not a huge one. I mean, $20 is $20, but that isn’t enough of a discount to compensate me for the inconvenience (if price was the only reason I was flying at midnight).

That brings me to a big plus of this flight – it was nonstop. I’d gladly fly out at any time to go 2500 miles without having to change planes. Living in Little Rock, it was next to impossible to go any large distance nonstop. I’m enjoying this big city perk.

And of course, you take the red eye so you can sleep. That was nice, but my internal clock lost four hours so it wasn’t quite as helpful as it might had been if I was traveling the other direction. Overall, I’ve always enjoyed evening flights more and the red eye was no exception.

Another plus – congestion at the Atlanta airport at 7:30am was well above manageable. I stopped to go to the bathroom then picked up a coffee and by the time I reached baggage the first class* luggage was already taking a ride on the carousel. No line for a taxi either. I was at my hotel downtown within half an hour of walking off the airplane.

In this case, I picked the red eye because I needed to make it to Atlanta with enough time to take a short nap and put in a full day of work in my hotel room. I could have worked all day Wednesday in my office and traveled to Atlanta that evening, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t as jetlagged for my Thursday morning panel. That went great, by the way. Standing room only for our session and excellent feedback afterwards. I was talking about a couple of projects I worked on at my last job and it was a really nice send-off for something I’m passionate about and hated to leave behind.

*I’ve mentioned this before, but when I fly alone I like to fly first class so I have room for my fat ass.

California. . . Knows How To Party

SNL CaliforniansIt is 9:30 am on Sunday and I am sitting in a Starbucks inside a Barnes and Noble. I just dropped my family off at the airport and I am officially both a Californian and alone. Quick! – Someone tell me how an adult in a brand new place where they don’t know a soul makes friends. Is there a book I can check out from the library?

I’m avoiding reading about the tragedy in Orlando, as I just don’t have it in me today. I’ll focus on some good news instead. . . I have an apartment! I’m so happy to be out of a hotel and especially glad the family was able to spend a night there with me (even if it was only with sleeping bags and a slowly deflating air mattress).

We ended up in our first choice complex in Foster City. I actually like a building in Burlingame better; it had wonderful 1960s architecture, but couldn’t compete with the other’s location. We actually had two options opens in our preferred complex. Both with the same layout, but different plus and minuses due to their building locations. Eventually, the high ceilings and extra windows beat out the more private location. Our balcony overlooks another building, but it is a small price to pay for the extra bonuses inside.

I feel a little bit like a college student. I have only the most basic and inexpensive essentials. No point duplicating what we already have in Arkansas. I’m also on that aforementioned deflating air mattress, so that is going to be a problem. It isn’t going to make it until when the bed arrives at the end of July, so I’ll have to find a new solution. I am not sleeping on the floor for two months.

I’m also not going to have internet or television until the family gets here. We need to keep expenses low – operating two households is an odd balancing act. Especially when one of those households is in one of the most expensive areas in the country and when one of those adults is still on an Arkansas salary. And a nonprofit salary, at that! No extras for a little bit, but it is hardly something to complain about too much.

Door-to-door, the new place is 1,958 miles from the old. I think the new place is going to be nice. It will be an adjustment, for sure – we’re moving from a three-bedroom home we owned to a two-bedroom apartment we are renting. It feels a bit like a hotel and I wonder how long it will take for us to stop whispering in the hallways. The noise is going to be a big adjustment for us too. It seems to be a fairly complex, but people are everywhere and there is noise. Plus, the windows are open 24/7 since the weather is wonderful in the bay area. We were officially welcomed to the building by a fussy baby in the next building over. I’m going to try not to be cranky about it.

Other bonuses of the new place – there is an Asian grocery, Starbucks, pizza place, and Korean bbq place in the shopping center next door. The library is only a couple of blocks down the street (already signed up for my card). Travel a couple of more and you’ll find Target, Safeway, and Costco. Asian food is in abundance (duh) and the family loves Asian food. You’ll hit water just about any direction you go and the heated/covered pool overlooks a canal. There is a dog park just across the water. It has a full size washer and dryer, none of that stackable nonsense. Parks everywhere. Very walkable, including kids going to and from school.

Well, I can smell real food heating up at Starbucks. That is probably a good cue to move on. See you Wednesday!

And I Would Move 2000 Miles

13178599_10100453791027146_7722111268941119391_nSo, California. Yeah. We are about to move 2000 miles.

There is a long story surrounding this with a lot of details, but you don’t really care about that so I’ll give you the short version – I accepted a great new job in San Francisco with a start date only seven weeks later. The employer was able to be more flexible about the start date, but we made the decision to go ahead with it, assuming it would work better for us in the end if I set up on the west coast and left the rest of the family behind until the end of summer.

Seven weeks might feel like a lot at first glance. But remember – this isn’t just stopping one job, taking a little time off, and then starting another. This is uprooting a family of four across the country. In that scenario, seven weeks is just a drop in the bucket.

What’s our theory behind this two separate household things? It gives us time to transfer all of the little man’s services, find new medical providers, set up insurance, etc. It also gives more time to sell our house with someone actually still living in the same state at the property. If we all moved together right now, the husband would have to wait to find a new job until school started up again (since we wouldn’t know anyone to set up care for the little man). Another plus of doing it this way is his continued salary during this very expensive move.

Let’s talk about the move. We’ve never moved this far before, so I tried to do some research online. But almost every source I found only offered one bit of advice – get rid of as much as possible. Sources that actually offered more details tended to either be 1) moving with a full service company or 2) flying to the new location and starting over. Once this whole thing is said and done, I’ll recount our process and maybe offer some insight to someone out there.

There are some sad bits to this move. Obviously we are leaving behind family and friends. Aside from that, our older dog Leela isn’t going to be able to come with us. Poor thing would hate living in an apartment and we made the difficult decision to find her a new home. It will be better for her. Still hard to do though.

I think I’ll stop this post here. This move is all I’m going to have to talk about for a while; I don’t want to use all my material at once.

Thirty Hours in DC

Last Tuesday/Wednesday I took a bit of a whirlwind trip to Washington DC, waking up at 4am on Tuesday to catch a 6:05 flight. I immediately regretted my decision to book such an early flight when the alarm went off.

My flights were uneventful, going first to Atlanta then to DC. I had an hour layover in Atlanta, but it wasn’t needed as I arrived in one gate and left in the very next gate. Oh well. I spent most of my flights (going and returning) listening to an autobiography of Catherine the Great. So good. This audiobook is thirty-something hours long, but I can’t really tell. I’m really into the story, but sorry that I’m going to have to struggle to find time to finish it now that I’m back in the real world.
Washington DCSo, why exactly did I go to DC? It was work thing. Sometimes instead of an over-stressed mom, I’m a badass archivist who works very hard at her job. Sometimes I’m both.

This particular work function was to attend a reception in the Senate building for the unveiling of an official portrait of Blanche Lincoln, former Democratic senator from Arkansas. I’m in charge of her senatorial papers at the moment and went to represent my archival peeps. Don’t worry, I didn’t say “peeps” when I was in the Senate building. I did wander around though, explore the basement, and ride the senators only elevator.
Senate Building

Blanche Lincoln
Former Senator Blanche L. Lincoln doing her thing.

After the reception, I walked over to a restaurant called The Monacle, billed as sort of an old-school Capitol Hill spot. The restaurant was a pleasant place to be and was busy, even on a late Tuesday night. I made the mistake of ordering the vegetarian pasta. I forgot to take a photo before I stirred it up, but here it is, non-food porn style:
The Monacle This dish was a disappointment. The menu said it included wilted spinach and wild mushrooms. I expected an inspired, delicious dish. I got a throwaway pasta dish only added to the menu so the veggie-people would have something to eat. My dish had six pieces of spinach. There were more mushrooms, but they were covered in this thick sauce – not the light far I expected. It really seemed like they had a chicken pasta dish and just removed the chicken to make it veggie. I had intended to treat myself to dessert, but the pasta dish was so heavy I just wasn’t up for it. The pasta wasn’t bad, exactly, but it was Olive Garden fare. Bummer.

On Wednesday, I purposely booked a 6pm flight so I would have time to do at least one thing DC. I decided to set out for the Newseum, as I’d never been there before.

Newseum - Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall and an unfinished statue of Lenin that eventually lost its head too.
Newseum - 911 Overview Nellie
Left: a piece of the World Trade Center. Top: the open lobby of the Newseum. Bottom: Nellie Bly getting some attention.

The best way I can describe the Newseum. . . it was like a punch to the gut. The current exhibits veered into painful territory and I really felt like I needed to do something lighthearted afterwards. Not to discourage you from going though – it was spectacular.

On the flight home, I decided to take advantage of my free-drink first class perk and helped myself to three glasses of white wine during the leg to Atlanta. I noticed I was getting a little tipsy when I opened my window to watch the lights below (something I usually don’t like to do because it makes me nauseous). Then as I walked up the gangway, I started to contemplate the origin of the phrase “drunk as a skunk” while laughing to myself. At that point, I realized I hadn’t had anything to eat in nine hours except for three pimento cheese crackers. I headed for a sandwich on the way to my next gate to rectify that situation and avoided the wine on the second leg of my trip (I was driving home afterall).

I fell into my bed at 11:30, exhausted, but happy to be home. I really enjoy DC – I think it is my third favorite US city (after Chicago and Kansas City).

Adventures in Nashville-ing

The husband, the daughter, and I took a short trip to Nashville over the weekend to hit up an Ed Sheeran concert. The husband is a huge fan and I enjoy several of his songs, so it seemed like a good thing to do.

Nashville or Mordor?
It is a little known fact that Mordor was based on Nashville. Tolkien had a bad experience with the Coyote Ugly girls and the rest is literary history.

An Aside: Do you guys ever listen to entire albums now that things like iTunes and Spotify exist? I don’t. This means that I end up liking individual songs rather than artists. For example, right now one of my favorite songs is “2 Heads” by Coleman Hell. I can’t tell you a single other song by that person/group/robot. I’ve never even clicked on the band name to see their other songs until just now when I went to discover that Coleman Hell is in fact an individual.

So, Ed Sheeran was all sort of awesome.

First of all, as I already posted on Facebook and Instagram, I’m thrilled to live in a world where a shaggy ginger in cargo shorts can stand on stage and command the attention of a sold out arena.

Secondly, it was just him in stage with a guitar, a couple of microphones, and a foot-operated loop board. Every song had a really long intro while he laid down the individual parts and started them looping. Even if you don’t care for or know who Ed Sheeran is, you have to have some respect for a dude who can do that. I can’t even walk in a straight line. Plus, he is only twenty-four.

Thirdist, it was loud. I mean, really loud. Ed Sheeran was as loud, if not louder than, the System of a Down/Rammstein/Slipknot concert I went to once. [Fun fact: I went for just Rammstein, one of my all-time favorite bands.] How is that possible? My ears were ringing when we left.

Ed Sheeran
Tiny dude. Big stage.

This started me off on a concert-going-nostalgia party. I’m not a big concert goer (more of a broadway play seer, really), but I do get out occasionally. Here is my short concert life rundown.

Who I’ve seen with opening acts, if I can remember:
Maroon 5/Sugar Ray/Matchbox Twenty
Uncle Cracker/Kid Rock [well, this one is embarrassing]
Barenaked Ladies [some lady opened for them, like Alanis Morrissette, but not Alanis Morrissette]
Mudvayne /Rammstein/ System of a Down /Slipknot
Queens of the Stone Age /Nine Inch Nails
Justin Timberlake [no opening act]
Jamie Lawson/Christina Perri/Ed Sheeran

Who I tried to see:
Bush [sadly, I was only 13 and this kid was shut down]
Rob Zombie/ Ozzy Osbourne [ Ozzy broke his leg]

Who I could love to see:
Die Antwoord [but that seems like the kind of place you would get stabbed]
Mumford & Sons [as long as they don’t play anything from that last album]
Adam Lambert/Bruno Mars [Seriously, I’d like this to be a thing.]
RuPaul
MIKA/Scissor Sisters

Who I can never see:
The Doors
Queen
Hanson [shut up]

Aside from the concert, we hit up the County Music Hall of Fame and explored a four-block radius from our hotel. I’m not a fan of country music, but the museum was interesting and did a good job appealing to people who aren’t visiting because they know anything about the style of music. Also, I saw Dolly Parton’s handwritten copy of Jolene. Worth it.

Jolene
I do love me some Dolly.

What else did we do: ate duck fat tater tots, bought candy, visited Loretta Lynn’s Dude Ranch on the drive home, bought a t-shirt, took NyQuil. Head on over to Instagram to see the rest of my photos.

Meet Me in St. Louis, Day 5 (Goodbye!)

This was going-home day, but we did have a couple of more things we wanted to do on the way out of town. I don’t have much to say about this day, but wanted to share some photographs. Overall, it was a great day and a nice trip back. Shorter too!

Stop #1: Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Wow! Gorgeous and probably the prettiest cathedral I’ve seen in the United States.
church 1

church 2

church 3
Stop #2: Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. I love frozen – especially a concrete with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. This custard was good and I’m glad we made the stop and respect Ted Drewes for setting a high standard, but it wasn’t any different than what we can get ten minutes from our house at Shake’s Frozen Custard. Just keep that in mind – yummy, but don’t expect a life-changing experience if you are already a enjoy-er of the frozen custard.
Ted Drewes

Meet Me in St. Louis, Day 4

Sunday!

We took advantage of nothing being open in the morning to sleep in. First stop of the day – brunch at Layla, “St. Louis’ only Gourmet Burger & Shawarma Joint.” The regular menu online looked delicious and the brunch menu looked okay, but not as delicious (we forgot about it being Sunday and didn’t look at the brunch menu beforehand). From our seats, we could see the line waiting to get into Sweetie Pie’s. No thank you; there should be no lines at brunch.

I ordered the Havanah Sunrise Stacker (menu description: shaved ham, smoked pulled pork, melted swiss, chartreuse pickles, dijon aioli and two eggs any style on grilled sourdough). The husband ordered the Pork Belly Skillet (menu description: smoked cured diced pork belly, peppers, onions, and sweet potato home fries. topped with two eggs any style and a roasted garlic aioli). The daughter settled on a traditional burger. She was the winner of the day – that burger was spectacular. The husband and I found our meals to be lackluster. I’ll give my stacker the benefit of the doubt because I like my eggs scrambled and therefore deprived it of the drippy goodness that might have tied everything together. The husband’s pork belly was disastrously overcooked.

Next stop: Budweiser!
Budweiser
We had the most fun of the day here and ended up staying for several hours. It was busy – we had to wait an hour and a half for our free tour – but the gift shop was big and the beer was on tap. The tour was approximately forty-five minutes and was wheelchair accessible. A lot of that time spent leading the group from building to building, so I think it was a good length to keep people interested. They had several other tour options too (some free, some not).

At one point our tour guide said my favorite line of the day “After this step you have a beer, but not the king of beers.” I’m not a Bud drinker – or a beer drinker, really – but I thought that was really funny and effective. Adult visitors get a sample of beer in the middle of the tour (just Bud or Bud Light) and then a token for a full-sized free one at the end (anything they have on tap). FYI: Sodas are free at the bar, but it gets very backed up when a tour lets out.

Let’s be honest though, I was just there to see the Clydesdales.
Horse
It was late in the day when we left Budweiser and we didn’t have time to go anywhere else before Sunday-night closing time. We ended up driving to St. Charles to see their historic Main Street. The city was founded in 1769, was the site of the first state capitol, and was the starting point for Lewis and Clark. The Main Street is adorable. I may have squealed a bit. We didn’t actually get out and walk around, so I’ll just show you some taken by other people.

Top: "Historic Saint Charles Main Street 3". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.  Bottom: "St Charles MO Stone Row" and "1st Capitol St Charles MO" by Smallbones. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Top: “Historic Saint Charles Main Street 3”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Bottom: “St Charles MO Stone Row” and “1st Capitol St Charles MO” by Smallbones. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Meet Me in St. Louis, Day 3

We were slow to get up on Saturday morning, but once we finally rolled out of bed and made ourselves presentable the first stop was the St. Louis Science Center. My family is a sucker for a good science center and this one delivered.

Overall it was your standard science center – a mix of new shiny exhibits and older well-loved exhibits. It also had animatronic dinosaurs and a crap-load of stuff to touch. My daughter’s favorite part was the area dedicated to different kind of structures. She actually did the activities at all of the little centers. The little man’s favorite part was the fossil/dinosaur section. Lots and lots of things to touch.
Science
We ended up staying long enough to eat lunch at the science center (pretty good for museum food, if you are curious). Next stop: Gooey Louie for delicious gooey butter cakes. The owner at Gooey Louie was a little odd (talking about the cakes being homemade and not from a Chinese assembly line, etc. It was borderline racist.), but the cakes were delicious. Are delicious, I mean; we brought it home with us and are still eating. You do not need a big piece to satisfy that sweet tooth.

We headed back to the hotel to save the cakes from melting in the family truckster and took the opportunity for a little rest. Nothing wrong with all four family members piling on top of a king-sized bed to close their eyes, talk, and snuggle.

With our second wind approaching, we got back in the truckster bound for the St. Louis Galleria for shopping. Why this mall? Eh, it seemed like the most well-rounded to spend a few hours in. And we did spend a few hours; we walked out the door ten minutes before the entire place closed.

Of course, that stay also included dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. This kind of breaks on of our vacation rules: Local food only! On one hand, it is a national chain and really isn’t anything special. On the other hand, we don’t actually have a Cheesecake Factory anywhere in our home state and well. . . cheesecake. Here, let me throw in a visual aid:
cheesecake
One final stop before bed (Walgreens for blister band aids and green tea) and – once again – we fell into bed, satisfied and exhausted.