Travel Advice: Wandering the PNW.

I don’t mind dirty fingernails, damp mornings, coffee in a tin cup and salty cheeks.

Sometimes my favorite noise in the quiet crunch of a wooded pathway.

I love finding new ways of seeing light through trees, leaves and moss.

Therefore, days spent exploring nooks and crannies of the Pacific Northwest are some of my favorite.

Two years ago I dreamed of visiting Seattle and Portland for the first time.

Funny how I said a lot of prayers about new adventures, opportunities to see new places and someone to love–and God handed over a woodsy city boy from Washington state.

This week marks my FOURTH trip to the PNW over the course of the last year.

In the funny rhythms of life, last Wednesday when I touched down in Portland it was also one year to the day since I first touched down in Seattle. August is a good time to visit the Northwest.

In the midst of seeing Andy’s new life in Portland, I’ve also already trekked back up to Seattle this past weekend, and am looking forward to next weekend on the Oregon Coast.

While I don’t have pictures QUITE ready to share. I do have some tips that I have learned over the past year if you’re planning a trip to the PNW any time soon (but honestly, I think these tips can go for any travel adventure):

  1. Do not pack an umbrella. The locals will laugh at you. Opt for that lightweight North Face parka instead.
  2. Do bring a lot of layers because it’s not rare to have a week where there are 90-degree days followed by 60-degree ones.
  3. Go see the tourist spots; but don’t make them your die-by priorities. That always gives you a reason to come back.
  4. Wander into neighborhoods you’ve never heard of fearlessly. Odds are that you’re going to find something you’ve never known you were looking for–and it makes for a way better story when you get back anyway. Hello, we’re explorers here — not just visitors.
  5. Take notes of the places that you visit. That wine bar that had the BEST view? Write it down. You’ll want to remember one day and there’s no guarantee that you won’t forget to take the receipt out of your pants pocket before those babies go through the spin cycle.
  6. Find a good camera. Yes, our iphones are a gift to on-the-fly photography. But you paid a good buck to be here. Take photos worth putting in an album. 
  7. Ask a stranger to take your photo. I know that sounds weird. But your kids don’t want to see all your selfies one day. They may however like to see a nice photo taken of you in a scenic or historic place — where you can actually see you + the background in good proportion.
  8. Don’t eat out for every meal. Not only do you feel like a whale by the end of your trip; but you maybe miss some of the nice al fresco parts of the city you’re in. For example, find a farmers market — get something local. If you don’t have a kitchen accessible, eat something that doesn’t require cooking. Picnics are a fun excuse and if you don’t want to cook or make your own; find a good local grocery store that likely sells pre-made food. You’re doing your stomach, wallet and overall experience all favors.
  9. Read the fliers on light poles. Not every evening of your trip may be jam-packed (and honestly, even if you love itineraries like me — try to avoid it — I PROMISE you that you will still have fun and not waste time) and for those evenings you have more time; what better way to spend it than to walk down the street to the Viking Boat Festival you had never heard of? Or maybe that adjacent neighborhood is having free family movie night down by the Willamette River. Find experiences you wouldn’t otherwise plan.
  10. Prepare yourself to want to return. You’re never going to get to do everything you want. All of the hikes, wineries, breweries, festivals, shows, attractions, ‘hoods. You’re never going to do it all in your trip like you plan. So instead, just plan for this to be your FIRST trip. Do and see as much as you can; but don’t make your itinerary make you miss an experience in the place you’re at. Stay longer if you need to at a restaurant. Wander further down a road. Add an extra stop on your hike. And then just find a way to return later. Because, let’s face it. When you visit, you’re going to fall in love anyway.

No matter where you’re going, when or why–take a deep breath–and if you’re just BEING. Odds are, you’re doing it right.

That’s what vacation is all about!

I can’t wait to show and share the most MAGICAL hike I’ve ever taken later this week. (Thank you, Oregon.)

But before that, I need to go find some Portland tacos….

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Turn it up: Band of Horses

Song: “Laredo”

Artist: Band of Horses

Why I picked them: I’ve always liked the acoustic, rock style of any artist like Band of Horses. Soft lyrics. Surprising harmonies. Strong vocals and touches of instrument variety. Similar to Dawes in some ways. Surprisingly I don’t think I’ve included them yet AND Andy always likes to play them for me when we’re together. (They’re from Seattle, spoiler alert.) I’m still in my Andy hangover so of course he influenced my Tuesday music.

Best part of this song: I love how upbeat the melody is–you can’t help getting your shoulders moving while you listen.

Favorite lyric:  Impossibilities at the door  //  I won’t be needing them anymore

Turn it up, Monday morning: Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers

Week 43: Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers

I’ve missed the last two weeks, eek! I need to stop drawing attention to when I’m underserving this blog–but part of me feels like that’s some accountability to step it back up. Zoe Muth was pointed out to me this weekend (credit to Andy)–and they’re pretty great. Reminds me a little bit of Americana like Gillian Welch, but also with some ties to old country like Johnny Cash and Patty Griffin. Definitely par for the type of music that makes me feel at home and the same music you know I love so dearly to share with you. I like the one above, “I’ve Been Gone,” but also like “Heart Like A Wheel” also. Now I’m in a very country mood, hope you are too–Happy Monday.

Turn it up, Monday night: Bryan John Appleby

Week 42: Bryan John Appleby

Should I rename this series “Turn Indie up, Monday morning”? I don’t know. Maybe. But I did post Selena Gomez last time . . . Regardless, back on track this week with Seattle-based songwriter Bryan John Appleby. Very mellow and laid back, this primarily acoustic artist is a new favorite. I somehow found him based on liking The Lone Bellow and have really been enjoying this main hit, “Honey Jar” shown above. Happy Monday night, my friends.

Wanderlust.

I’ve had a serious curiosity about the West Coast the last month or so. I’ve never really lusted for trips out West until I traveled to Utah this winter. Now I want to go further and drive all along the A1. I want to see San Fran and San Diego. I want to go to Portland. I want to go to Seattle. I want to dip my toes in the Pacific and wander around national parks to see sequoias and marvel at canyons and new waterfalls. I’m hoping that maybe next summer I can find a time to do some more traveling. 2013 sadly doesn’t have it in the cards––but we’ll see what 2014 holds.

I stumbled on society6 yesterday (and wow, how have I not heard of this?) and promptly lost an hour looking through different artists and works. LOVE. This Seattle print was one of the many that caught my eye. I love vintage-themed prints. I have so many hanging around my apartment. This particular artist, Jenny Tyffany’s work in general was lovely. Now I want to buy all of the things!

These make me want to immediately pack up my tent and sleeping bag, go make a fire and spend the night out under the stars. ❤

 

 

Finally home with considerably fewer 25 by 25 to-dos remaining.

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Well it started with a slumber party in Charlotte and ended with a burger run in Charlotte. Both were wonderful; but it was the in-betweens that really made the past week and a half so breathtakingly, incredibly amazing.

I was reminded that:

– I’m blessed to have a wonderful job.

– I LOVE the outdoors. I am a woodsy girl through and through.

– Sometimes doing scary things alone are even more awesome than doing them with someone else.

– You should push yourself to do things. You should push yourself to be active.

– It’s not enough to look. You have to try.

– Traveling (especially air travel) requires an immense amount of trust.

– Some friendships are like steel. They just stay and stay and stay.

– I’m an adventurer at heart.

So, this is what alive feels like?

It started with a long flight to Utah that checked off the 25 by 25 to visit a new state when I set foot in the Minneapolis airport. Then I checked it off again when I stepped out into Utah.

Salt Lake City, Utah was never a place that I imagined visiting. It never would have made a “see before I die” list. So I’m all the more thankful that work sent me there and I saw some pretty wondrous beauty that I may have otherwise missed entirely. The mountains there? Wow. I thought I would compare them more to my home–but they were just simply so different. Every turn I saw another amazing landscape and probably took 500 photos.

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I was lucky and not only got to crunch in some quick downtown Salt Lake City sights like the Mormon Temple and City Center mall/plaza; but I also got to go skiing at Brighton resort and even made the trek over to Park City to see the hubbub over the Sundance Festival.

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If only I had been able to see a movie! Not only was that night my first night in Utah, first trip out West and first business trip–it was also my first night staying in a hotel alone.

The following two days were spent working the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and it was another layer to the great experience of Utah. Since I worked in outdoor retail with Mast General Store for almost five years it was awesome to see all of the brands that I had once sold and experience the excitement of the retail trade show atmosphere. I text my mom so many times to tell her that I had “found my people.”

You know it’s a great day for me when I get to wear plaid, a down vest, jeggings and boots to a work day. I was totally in my groove. Not to mention there were quite a few beautiful boys there, but that’s beside the point . . .

After a lot of hard work, long hours and awesome fun showing off my client and great food (Red Iguana Mexican is totally worth the wait if you’re ever in the area; the mole tasting was just the best) Thursday came way faster than expected.

Unfortunately so did a huge ice storm.

After waking up to see that one of the major interstates was closed, I had to rush a grand old 25 miles per hour on the other interstate to get to the airport in time to return my rental car and check my gigantic baggage. Rushing through security and scurrying to my gate, I was shocked to see that it was still labeled “On Time” when I finally saw our board. After a fairly quick boarding and finally settling in, I got a little anxious thinking about the four hours of flying in front of me. But at least I was going to have WiFi.

As we got ready to taxi over to the runway, the pilot came over the speaker. “Well, looks like a plane slid off the runway, so the airport will be closing indefinitely. We’re going to be sitting on the tarmac a while.” It turned out that a landing airplane had done a 180 on the runway and no departures or arrivals would be taking place for quite a while.

At first I thought we’d be back on the road in no time, but I soon retreated to the terminal. When the speaker announced that flights would likely be re-commencing at 2 p.m. I got excited. Plans were still alive. I would still be in Boston that night, hopefully.

But hopes were dashed quickly when a short ten minutes later my flight was officially cancelled.

The next two hours were spent in a fury finding an alternate route to Boston. It was either a 9:55 AM flight the next morning or a flight schedule from hell that would take me through two connectors overnight.

That meant that I had seven hours to kill before my 8:10 flight to Seattle.

To a restaurant I went. I needed food. And a stiff drink.

Squatters brewery not only gave me a solid lunch and great beer; but the longer I sat there–the more friends I made. There was the cowboy, the North Carolina lady, the Google people and the runner moms. It was so incredible the cycle of people who came through my table. Some staying for 30 minutes, some staying for hours. Before I knew it I had wasted my entire layover with strangers who became short-term friends and all was restored.

It’s funny how the unplanned became one of the most memorable and dramatic parts of my trip. The unplanned made the story pretty lively.

When I finally made it to my Seattle gate I laughed to see a fellow passenger from my original flight also braving the horrendous overnight flight schedule.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to sleep I thought.

Once I touched down in Seattle I notched my third new state. And also about dissolved to tears. Dear airports, when a person has had that much travel drama in one day–don’t make them go through security again.

While at the gate many people were sharing their travel woes and tires. All it took was a man in fatigues with a sheepish smile saying he was coming from Afghanistan, headed to North Carolina, to give us all a little perspective.

With a little help from a Benadryl, I didn’t even see the take-off from Seattle. After sleeping the whole way to Minneapolis, the next flight to Boston was also a breeze.  Again, a lot of sleep. And a smile when I woke up to see that a flight attendant had left two packs of cookies next to me.

As we finally touched down in Boston at 10 a.m. the next morning the six or so of us who had somehow all united on the final flight let out a bit of a cheer. We all looked gross. But we had made it. 26 hours, four time zones and airports later–we were there.

I was so relieved to not only see my baggage somehow made the full trip, but it was a huge treat to walk outside and see an old, very close friend. It’s funny how you don’t have to talk to some people constantly for them to still feel like home every time you see them.

Sarah and I had tried to plan many trips in the past. But we’re both a little plagued with follow-through issues.

It was a gigantic victory that Sarah mentioned Montreal. I booked a flight. She found us a discount. And we freaking were there. In Boston. And we were roadtripping it.

Massachusetts marked new state number four. A short few miles down the road, New Hampshire became new state number five and a handful of mountains and white steeple churches later we found ourselves in new state number six, Vermont. So many new states. And I only asked for one!

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The next six hours were a great adventure of crossing the border and finding ourselves eventually in Montreal, Quebec.

I vastly underestimated the amount of French that we were going to encounter and it was a happy surprise to find myself testing my memory everywhere I turned. I’m sure Sarah got tired of me reading all of the signs out loud; but darn it, I just couldn’t help it ha. It was a lot of fun to remember everything and actually put it to use. Give me a few months there and I was just certain that I’d be mumbling along the French fluently with the best of them. I’m counting this as my 25 by 25 to surround myself with French.

While we were there we mostly ate. It was so freaking cold that you didn’t want to be outside any longer than you had to. But we also fit in a few sites, mostly exploring around Old Montreal. My favorite was the Notre-Dame Basilica. It was absolutely gorgeous and throwback to my 90’s childhood–it was the place where Celine Dion got married. Crazy gorgeous architecture and impressive stained glass. Also came with a side of a history lesson, so that was appreciated.

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Yup, that’s escargot. And then some poutine. It was a tasty trip. And we walked away with some totally awesome slippers and syrup — ha.

Crazy enough, winter storm Luna caught back up to me on our trip back and we were faced with a ridiculous snow storm driving the six-hour return to Boston. We made a short pit stop at a Mom and Pop Vermont restaurant for breakfast and booked it back to the States.

The best part? Getting my iPhone to work fully again. Oh how I missed mobile internet.

Once we made it to Boston it was really my first opportunity to get a taste of the city.

It’s amazing how different it was than I imagined. Somehow I simply lumped it into the New York City bucket and boy, was I proven wrong. Instead Boston had this great, neighborhood, home and cozy feel. It’s rare that I visit a place I could see myself living; but I really loved Boston. In a mere 24 hours we did the trip halfway downtown to explore Brighton, Alston, Kenmore and peek downtown. We had coffee and bagels and then wandered to Cambridge to see Harvard and some shops, then having some pizza and Sam Adams.

It was such an adorable day. Boston was covered in snow and everyone looked helplessly bundled up. Compared to Montreal though, Sarah and I finally felt comfortable! There were drinks with Sarah’s boyfriend and friends and navigating the train back to their apartment.

Boston was really something and while I was there only for a flash we really packed in some sights. The next morning before my flight home we made a trip to Brookline for pretty much the best French toast I have ever had, witnessed drama when someone fell in front of a train (I don’t think they were hit, but it did cause quite a delay) and a final awesome last stop to see Fenway Park. It was again. . . one more kind of beautiful.

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Once I finally returned to Logan International Airport I couldn’t get home fast enough. An anxious flight to Atlanta, a gorgeous sunset from Atlanta to Charlotte and then I was back in Katie’s Jetta. Finally, finally on my way home. This time with some pretty worse-for-the-wear luggage, dirty snow boots, wind-burnt cheeks and a lot more travel savvy.

Truly one of those once-in-a-lifetime trip opportunities and I am so glad that I sucked every good second out of the eight days. I am so proud. I’m doing things. Saying I’ll do them. And doing things. Whew, but I did have one small failure.

That 25 by 25 to get a stamp in my passport? Border services failed me.

So . . .who’s up for some tropical international travel? Let’s start planning. Preferably before October 7 : ).

In the next few weeks I want to do some closer recaps on the great restaurants we visited–but in the meantime, no more hold-ups on me making new posts!

Today has been nuts.

Suffice to say, I was supposed to be well in Boston hanging out with Sarah, Brian and Egor by now. But instead I’ve spent six hours at a restaurant in the Salt Lake City airport making new friends with fellow estranged travelers.

When I woke up to an ice storm I figured the day could get ugly; but I didn’t really know what to expect.

Needless to say an interstate was closed, it was an obstacle course to return my rental car and I made it to my gate in time to board . . . only to be informed that a plane had slid off the runway and we were officially grounded with the runways closing.

So we waited two hours. Were given hope, only to hear that our flight was officially cancelled.

And then I was able to LUCKILY get on an 8:10 p.m. flight to Seattle. To then fly to Minneapolis. To then fly to Boston.

It is going to be a hella long night. And I’m already sleepy. But, hey–adding another state to those new ones. Now I’ll be up to:

– Minnesota

– Utah

– Washington

– Massachusetts

– New Hampshire

– Vermont

Now, please everyone, say some prayers that the next THREE flights go: smoothly, uneventfully and on time. Because mama needs to get some sleep and needs no stress about missing any more flights or having any more cancellations.

The good thing? Most people here are in a good mood. Sometimes you have to take life for what it is; and how often does it go not to plan?

On with the adventure!

Side note: I will have flown over North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia and South Carolina. WOW, that’s ALMOST half of the United States. And honestly, West Virginia might have been in there I just can’t be sure.