Phoenix Fun – Days Three and Four

It felt weird to check out of my hotel room today. I’d started to feel really at home there.

I started Sunday with a quick trip down memory lane, driving by the university and then my old apartment. I recognized a lot of what I saw (there was the history department! Those were the railroad tracks I had to cross on rollerblades! That’s where Hollywood Video was!) but there’s a lot that’s been built up since I left. In the vacant space beside my apartment complex there is now a huge modern multicolored monstrosity that looks like it belongs, well…it doesn’t belong anywhere really, certainly not in the southwest.

I spent most of the rest of Sunday with Ashley and Wayne at their place. We started with brunch (waffles and eggs and bacon…so much bacon!) then visited for a long while. Ashley and I took a mile long walk along the back of the complex. Even though we spent a good while catching up on things because it’s been nearly a decade since we last spent time together and even longer since we were in school, I’m pretty sure we look just the same as we did at graduation.

When I left to go back to the hotel, I took the roundabout way, going past the cheap, fast-foodish type restaurant that I used to love: Samurai Sam’s. Their teriyaki bowl was one of my go-to weekend dishes, so I had to have it again. It was just as tasty, even though it’s just a cheap thing. Maybe I wouldn’t love it so much if I could have it in Ohio from time to time.

Monday started with a trip to Bookmans, another used bookstore. I met Bethany and Diana (another grad school friend) there and spent some time catching up. Then it was on to the most important stop of the trip, Sacks.

Sacks is a sandwich shop. No, it’s the best sandwich shop. I loved it in school and whenever I’ve been back since I had to get food there. Even the trip when I had only a few hours during a layover, I got Sacks. I picked up sandwiches for me and for Ashley and had lunch with her at the historical society. I got an extra sandwich for dinner tonight.

With a few hours to kill before my flight I set out for South Mountain. I’d forgotten how curvy and high the roads are. The drive up and down the mountain is beautiful in that desert way: browns and blacks and greens, saguaros and other flora I don’t recognize, rock formations that beg you to try climbing them.

I made it to Dobbins Lookout and was rewarded with a spectacular view of the city. It was cloudy, but still impressive and less oppressively hot than other times I’ve been there.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time for a hike, although there are a lot of trails. Instead I settled onto a rock to do some reading in the fresh air. I didn’t manage much before the cold breeze forced me into the shelter, and even then I was quickly chilled.

Eventually I had to face reality and head back to return the car and get on my flight back home. It was a quick trip, but great to see my friends. Next time I’ll plan more time so I can fit in some more touristy activities.


Phoenix Fun – Day Two

My hotel is right by the highway, and I thought that might make it hard to sleep, but I guess jet lag after an early morning is helpful. I slept pretty well. Well enough that I had energy to get on the treadmill in the morning. I think this is the first time I’ve ever wanted to do exercise on a trip. Well, when it wasn’t the point of the trip. I guess walking the Camino probably counts as doing exercise on a trip.

The plan for today was simple: Renaissance  Festival! Bethany, Ashley, and I (along with others) had gone in the years I lived here, so it was a no-brainer. And since it’s opening weekend, we could go for half price courtesy of some coupons from Wendy’s! It was a bit of a drive to get there, but unlike the Ohio Renaissance Festival the parking is free. We had a good time walking around, people watching, shopping, eating tasty food, and seeing Bethany’s favorite: The Ded Bob Show (Sho?). Google it, find videos, and watch. Good fun, lots of laughs.

Only one problem. All that time in the sun bleached my hair, so the purple is fading pretty fast now.

After dropping Bethany at home, Ashley, her boyfriend Wayne, and I headed for Mexican food. I managed to eat more than half of what was on my plate, which was impressive since I was still full of the chocolate and nuts and milkshake from the Renaissance Festival. I guess this is my indulgence day.

We stopped at Changing Hands Bookstore, an old haunt for me when I lived here. While I didn’t feel the need to get any books (insert gasps of disbelief here) because I brought three with me, I did pick up a souvenir or two. And I had fun wandering and collecting titles for later reading.

Back at the hotel, the reality of all that I ate caught up with me, so I headed back to the fitness center one more time. Now I plan to spend some time reading!

Still to come in Phoenix: Another bookstore and the best sandwich shop ever.

Phoenix Fun – Day One

Now that I’m not consistently employed, I’m finally making a long overdue trip to see friends in Phoenix! It’s been 9 years, not counting an hour or two during a layover at the airport on 2014.

To keep my flight costs down I flew out of the Cincinnati airport, which everyone knows is actually in Kentucky. Since I had to drive through the city right at rush hour, I wanted to give myself plenty of time to make my flight. I left pre dawn, and was rewarded with a fabulous view of the skyline against a purple pink sky as I crossed the Ohio River. I’d have taken a picture, but crashing the car would have guaranteed me a missed flight.

The flights were…like all flights are. Long and cramped and full of coughing people you hope don’t have some variation of the plague. I had window seats for both, but clouds obscured the sights on the first flight. For the second I had a great view of the desolate desert and mountain landscape of the southwest. I can see the potential beauty, but it’s so stark and brown right now. I’m glad to live where trees and grass and rivers are plentiful.

Once I picked up my car and educated a guy on the rental car shuttle that Cincinnati was a city in Ohio, and not its own state (seriously!), I promptly got stuck in traffic on the way to the hotel. After I got settled into my room (a king bed all for ME!), I headed to the Arizona Historical Society to meet my friend Ashley. While she finished up work, I admired clothing displays, learned about Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, and oohed over minerals.

We met another friend, Bethany, for dinner at Cornish Pasty Co, where we had delicious pasties and a hot dessert served in an adorable and scalding cast iron miniature cauldron. The. We wandered along Main Street in Scottsdale, window shopping at the art galleries. Anyone got extra money to loan me so I can decorate my house?

I’m less tired than I should be given how early I got up and the time difference, but I have a full day ahead of me tomorrow so I’ll try to sleep anyway.

Hiking in the Hills

No lazy morning for us today. We got up, had breakfast, and were on the road before nine!

We spend the morning at the Blue Hills Reservation, which has (according to the website) 125 miles of trails. We only hiked about 3 miles of them. You can really see how rugged and rocky the terrain in Massachusetts is on this hike; it’s a miracle early colonists managed to do any farming around here considering how many rocks they must have had to move. No wonder there are stone walls!

Our hike lasted about two and a half hours, with a lot of up and down throughout. It was nothing compared to Mount Jefferson in toughness, but I still felt the strain in my legs and lungs with every ascent. Andy is apparently part mountain goat when it comes to going down over rocks and roots, but I had to be more careful as I picked my way down. Unfortunately, the observation tower was closed, but we did get some great views along the Skyline Loop.

Once we made it back to the parking lot, it was definitely time for lunch, so we headed to another one of my “must dos” when I’m visiting Andy: Cabot’s! As Andy said, we’re adults, so we’re allowed to have ice cream for lunch if we want. And of course, we had to get Danielle’s Choice. If you’re a chocolate and peanut butter person like I am, there’s no other possibility on the menu.

After lunch, we headed back to the apartment for some rest (me) and work (Andy). In the evening we walked to The Independent in Somerville to meet Andy’s friends for #geobeers. Andy and I split some food and it was absolutely delicious, especially the arancini. As always I enjoyed spending time with Andy’s friends.

Tomorrow I return to the real world. It’s been a great trip!

Fun with Family

I had another lazy morning, but Andy did make us a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, and oatmeal. And I made up for spending hours just reading with a fun filled afternoon.

After lunch, Andy and I drove over to Woburn to spend the afternoon and evening with our cousins. We arrived about an hour after the kids got out of school, so they had time to get homework out of the way before we played.

We met their foster kitty, a tiny thing with the outsized name Alexandria. Then the kids picked out some games for us to play. We started with Pit, which I managed to win most of the time (what really counts is that Andy didn’t win, ever!). Then we played The Oregon Trail card game. I survived until one river before we reached Oregon, when starvation took me.

After a short walk around the neighborhood and over to the middle school, we came back to throw around a football before eating a delicious home cooked meal (thank you, Carol!). After dinner we played a few more games (Rapidoodle, where I beat Andy again, and Bananagrams, where Andy handily beat the rest of us most of the time).

Tomorrow we have plans for some more hiking. I’m hoping it helps loosen up my leg muscles. Hard to believe I only have one more full day left in this trip.

Noshing in Newton

After yesterday’s exertion, I felt I deserved a lazy day and that’s (mostly) what I got.

Andy spent the morning working so I spent the morning reading. We broke for a lunch of leftovers before returning to our individual activities. (Okay, I might have also thrown a little nap in as well.)

In the late afternoon, Andy decided it was time for a real break from work, so we took a 3+ mile walk to the Millers River Potato Monument, recently made famous in a tweet from Andy that went viral (see here!). I took my obligatory pictures, then we hopped on the T to go to Newton.

We met my high school friend Amanda at the Deluxe Station Diner, which she aptly described as the Steampunk Diner. It’s in the old station at Newton Centre and the decor is very much Steampunk in nature. As a bonus, the food is good too! It was great to catch up with her and find out all the things we (still) have in common—including our hair color preference! Her purple is a bit more subdued than mine but with more variation.

We had a wait for the train home and then a 20 minute walk on top of it, but I’m telling myself that all that walking means the residual stiffness from yesterday’s hike will pass all that much faster.

Jaunt up Jefferson

We had the best intentions for an early morning, waking up before 6:00 so we could eat, pack up, and leave by 6:30. We were only 35 minutes late.

On the drive up into New Hampshire Katie taught me a new game: (I’m Thinking of Something and It’s) Not French Toast. I’m not very good at it but I can see how it’s a great car game. I’ll need to improve my lateral thinking if I want to play it well.

We arrived at Mount Jefferson a bit after 10. I was fooled (Katie and Andy were not) by the small flat stretch at the start. It only took minutes for the uphill to start, then we went up for the next 2.5 miles. At first we had shade and trees with lots of rocks, but after a while hiking and a stop for a snack we left the trees behind.

The rest of the hike was a steep rock scramble. We wedged our feet in tiny cracks, braced our arms, pulled ourselves up along a jagged ridge line for miles. (There was some walking too, of course). By the end, my leg muscles were screaming at me and shaking. I guess that’s because in our 2.5 mile hike we gained about 2700 feet in elevation.

The summit was a windy pile of large rocks with great views of the rest of the mountains. We were high enough that my lungs protested the atmosphere; Katie tells me that the summit is at a higher elevation than Denver, so I guess my lungs weren’t just being whiners. I found a sheltered flat rock to lie on my back for a while, but eventually we had to head back down.

Down went a lot faster than up, but really strained my knees and ankles. I ended up sliding on my butt at times and have nice big holes in my new pants as a result. Several times I looked behind me and thought, “How the hell did I get up there?” I couldn’t understand the physical accomplishment and certainly not the mental one given my fear of heights.

We finally got back to the car around 6:00, and we chowed down Doritos as a reward for our efforts. Poor Andy had to drive the 3 hours back to Boston to cap off a long and tiring day. He did get a break when we picked up some Chinese food to eat on the way home. After I ate, I did what I do best in cars—slept.

Now we’re back at Andy’s apartment, unpacking and unwinding. Tomorrow I have big plans…to be lazy.