I went on a long weekend solo trip to visit Grace in Las Vegas. I left work at 3:00PM, took the rapid to the airport arriving in plenty of time and had an easy direct flight arriving 8:00PM Vegas time. Grace picked me up at the airport and we drove home to her apartment where I was staying with her.
Thursday, December 12, 2019
I dropped Grace off at work after stopping for coffee and then hit the road for Red Rocks Canyon Park which was just a quick 30 minute drive. I drove down a road towards Calico Basin which was actually a residential neighborhood with just a few amazing houses in the desert. I parked the car at the end of the street and walked toward the hills taking in the amazing scenery. Blue skies, no one else around and beautiful scenery. I hit the road, paid the fee to get in the park, drove around the scenic loop soaking in the scenery and stopping at two or three spots to explore on foot. I stopped at “Ice Box Canyon” and started on the trail that goes up to the mountain and through canyons but ran out of time and didn’t get to the end… next time. I drove back to LV to pick Grace up as she was only working a half day. We went to lunch at Esther’s Kitchen in the art’s district. It’s a popular place and was perfect for lunch. We each had pasta, bread and wine – all excellent. We drove back to Grace’s place so she could change out of her working clothes and then hit the road for more hiking. We drove about an hour and a half north to Valley of Fire State Park. The park was amazing – like walking on the moon. Truly breath taking. We drove around the loop, stopping at different places, taking lots of photographs and going on short hikes. We drove back to Grace’s place and took a rest for awhile and then drove to the strip. We had dinner at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill at Caesar’s Palace. We both had margaritas. I had ancho rubbed pork tenderloin and sweet potato tamale and Grace had whatever the fish special was. Everything was very good. After dinner we walked the strip – checking out the Christmas displays at Bellagio and getting dessert at the Momofuku window in the Cosmopolitan. Their cereal milk soft serve, that we had in NYC in the spring was our goal and it did not let down. So good.
Friday, December 13, 2019
I dropped off Grace at work in the morning and then worked for two hours at a coffee shop downtown called Mothership Coffee. It was a cool little place in a set of new shops that someone converted from an old motor motel. That section of Las Vegas, just beyond Freemont Street, is quickly turning into a great spot. I decided to drive to Hoover Dam to check it out as I never have been there. It was just about an hour drive. I took the tour that brought you into the powerhouse and then to some interesting viewing areas. Amazing to say the least. Pictures don’t do it justice. I liked all the art deco details and the hugeness of everything. I tried to find a hiking trail in the area but wasn’t able to find it so I decided to head back to Grace’s neighborhood to explore. I had lunch at a place called Honey Salt in Summerlin. I sat at the bar and had an Anchor Steam and avocado toast. I browsed a bit at some stores and then went back to Grace’s place, took a nap and waited for her to get home from her holiday party. We went to Fremont Street for the night. We grabbed some drinks and walked around enjoying the craziness. We stopped and played some $5 blackjack but had really bad luck and only lasted around 20 minutes – my only gambling of the trip. We had a really good dinner at a popular Thai place on Fremont Street called Le Thai. It had a great atmosphere and the food was excellent. After dinner we walked around some more and stopped at a club for one last cocktail. Fun night.
Saturday, December 14, 2019
We slept in a bit. I drove around the corner to get some coffee from Starbucks and stopped at a fancy donut place and brought them back. We eventually got ourselves going and went out shopping. Grace needed some side tables and lamps for her living room so I told her I would get them for her. We went to Target which didn’t have much of anything so we then went to IKEA which of course had everything and then some. We stopped and In and Out for burgers for lunch. I’ve never been to one so that was a nice treat. Burgers were good but fries were only so so. We then went shopping for a couple of hours at a nearby outdoor shopping place that had lots of good stores. We bought some Xmas presents as well as some things for the upcoming wedding. We went back to Grace’s and put together the IKEA items and rearranged her living room just a bit and it looks great. After taking a good afternoon nap, I packed up my stuff as I was flying home at 11:00PM and we hit the road. We decided to go to Chinatown. First stop was the Golden Tiki. An over the top tiki bar with all the trimmings. We sat at the bar, each had a good tropical drink and listened to the cheesy bar playing in the corner. The bathrooms are worth the trip. We then went a few blocks down to a small pho place that Grace heard was good. There were only about 8 tables that were all full and about 12 people waiting for one so we decided to go somewhere else – next time as it looks like a good spot. So we ended up going to Sapporo Revolving Sushi which ended up being super fun. After waiting for about 30 minutes at the bar, drinking a beer and sampling some sake from the very nice bartender we got to our table. A revolving track of little plates of sushi went around and you picked what you wanted, piling up your plates on the table so they knew how much to charge. You could also order from an ipad thing and a little robot rolls out with your order. So cool. We ate lots of sushi and ordered some pho and then match creme brulee. Everything was great… and relatively cheap. It was time to get to the airport after dinner so Grace dropped me off and was off to another party. My red eye flight was on time and I actually slept for most of it… a first. The flight was even thirty minutes early getting to CLE. Courtney picked me up at the ungodly hour and we went right back to bed when we got home.
We had a version of these as Astoria on Detroit Ave – which is a great place to go by the way – that were so good. I made this recipe for the clambake this past weekend and they were great on the cheese board.
Place the nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until they are warmed through. Meanwhile, combine the rosemary, pepper, sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl. Toss the warm nuts with the rosemary mixture until the nuts are completely coated. Serve warm.
PJH notes: I think I might roast them for just a few more minutes next time – I liked the really brown ones. I liked them better at room temperature as they were crunchier.
Courtney and I were up at 4:00AM to catch our 6:00AM flight to Denver. We freaked out a bit when we saw the security line snaking through the airport with just over an hour to go before boarding but the line moved very quickly and we had no problems with the direct flight that got us to Denver at 7:00AM Mountain Time. We rented a car and took off for the mountains. We drove about 1 1/2 hours to Rocky Mountain National Park. We stopped for breakfast at Estes Park – the last town before going up into the park and had a good hearty breakfast at a local diner kind of place called Mountain Home Cafe. We then hit the road going up up up stopping briefly at the welcome center, stopping at various look out points and gawking at the amazing scenery. We followed Trail Ridge Road – listed on the national register of historic places for being the highest paved road in continental US – up to as high as you can go. It was very difficult to hike at all due to the elevation and given that we just got there and weren’t used to it so we mostly just took it all in. I did manage to walk up some grueling stairs to get up to over 12,000 feet. We took the same way down through the park and then cut over to Boulder where we were staying. We got to our AirBnB around 3ish, unpacked and relaxed for awhile. We met my cousin Julia and her family at Bohemian Biergarten in downtown Boulder off Pearl Street. It was great to see Julia and Hampton and especially Anna who was just learning how to walk. Hampton was off to see the Dead and Co who was playing a show in Boulder but we were able to spend a few hours with Julia and Anna catching up and playing. After bidding our adieu we had dinner at The Kitchen which turned out to be just around the corner from the bar. We sat at a table on the street, watched the people walk by and had a great bottle of rose, oysters, fish tacos and a crab cake. Perfect. We walked up and down Pearl Street after dinner and went back to our place as we were tired from a long day. After a nice moonlit hot tub we were quick to fall asleep.
Sunday, July 7th, 2019
After a great night’s sleep, an early hot tub and a nice breakfast chez airbnb we headed to Boulder’s flatiron mountains for a morning hike. It was just a 15 minute drive away and we hiked up up up for the first 30 minutes or so which was still tough for our Midwestern lungs, but once we made it up there were nice trails through the woods and beautiful scenery everywhere. We hiked down a different path that led to Boulder’s Chautauqua, a relative of the NY Chautauqua. We walked around the grounds checking out the early 20th century buildings, nice little cottages and great gardens. We headed into downtown Boulder and had a leisurely lunch at West Flanders Brewing Co. sitting outside again enjoying the passing crowds. We stopped at Whole Foods to get provisions for the evening festivities and headed back for a rest. Our real reason for coming to CO was to go to Red Rocks to see The Avett Brothers and Lake Street Dive who were playing this night. It was about a 45 minute drive and got there plenty early to tailgate for a bit, take our time wandering up to the venue and enjoying the pre-game festivities. Red Rocks was beautiful and the concert was great. We’ve seen both groups many times and think they were both at their best. The setting I’m sure brings out the best in everyone. Bucket-list item: checked off.
Monday, July 8th, 2019
We slept in after getting home pretty late the night before. We decided to head up the mountains to the little town of Nederland. It was a scenic drive up the mountains marveling at every turn the rushing rivers, steep cliffs and mountain views. The road was under construction for most of the way so it made it extra treacherous avoiding all the equipment. Once we got up to Nederland we drove about 10 minutes out and hiked at an area called Mud Lake. We had a good hour and a half hike through the woods, lakes and mountain views. It was nice and not crowded. We then went down and walked around the little hippy town, had lunch and a beer and a great BBQ place and then headed back down to Boulder going a different way. We relaxed for a few hours and then hit another couple of Boulder Breweries. We went to Upslope which was just a mile or so from where we were staying. A little place in an industrial park. It had a great vibe and we had some great beer. We next went to Avery Brewing which was a humungous place that several people told us to go to. We put our name in for a table, got a beer from the bar, and did the self guided tour of the brewery. We didn’t wait long and had a nice dinner and more great beer.
Tuesday, July 9th, 2019
Our flight home was in the early afternoon so we enjoyed the hot tub one last time and packed up. We stopped for one more hiking excursion at Eldorado Canyon State Park. Once again – amazing scenery, trails and mountains. We spent an hour checking out the rushing water going through the canyon, the huge vertical cliffs and the completely crazy mountain climbers scaling straight up. We made it to the airport with no trouble. Returned the car and made it back to CLE with no troubles.
Courtney and I wanted to go on a trip to celebrate our anniversary so we found a cheap direct flight to Savannah a few weeks ago and decided to spend a long weekend there as it’s always been somewhere we’ve wanted to visit. We both took the day off work and worked around the house as our flight was not until 5:00PM. Sophia drove us to the airport and we had no trouble with the flight, car rental or finding our AirBnB. We found a condo in the middle of the historic district which turned out to be nice and a perfect location. We settled in and hit the street around 9:00PM looking for a late night spot. We walked a couple blocks down to the Grey which we really wanted to check out and lucked out and found two seats open at the bar – we tried to get a reservation weeks ago but the whole weekend was booked. Grey is a rehabbed Greyhound station that is now a trendy new southern place. We recently watched an episode that focused on their young African American female chef on Netflix’s Chef’s table. The place was very cool and we had cocktails, oysters, pimento cheese and crackers and fried chicken with biscuits and gravy. All great. We walked downtown towards the river after dinner checking out the old warehouses, bars and restaurants everywhere and made it back around midnight.
Saturday, May 11th, 2019
We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning. We had breakfast at a place called J. Christopher’s a few blocks away. We sat outside enjoying the nice weather and had a big breakfast. We walked through the Colonial Park Cemetery which was beautiful with huge dripping trees and hundreds of year old gravestones and crypts. We started exploring the area goggling at the beautiful houses, gardens and squares that have all been well maintained. The live oaks with the hanging moss that are everywhere are amazing to behold. We walked down to Forsyth park, checked out the farmers market that was going on there, stopped and got some coffee and sat on a bench in the park people watching and soaking in the sun. We continued exploring the area, visiting each of the squares and went on a guided tour of the Mercer Williams House which is a 19th century mansion that was rehabbed in the 70’s by a wealthy art dealer – and part of the novel and movie Midnight in the Garden of Evil. We were checking out the impressive Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) store and somehow managed to join one of their school’s admissions tours that started in the store. Now we have been on dozens and dozens of college tours throughout the years and this one was quite amazing. It was like you were at Disney World with secret doors opening up, projections, special effects. It was crazy. The story of SCAD is pretty interesting though… started only in the late 70’s it is now the largest design school in the country and was a big part in the recent revitalization of Savannah. We were looking around for a spot for lunch and ended up in the City Market sitting on a patio in the sun, listening to a band, drinking beer and eating bar food. A nice way to spend the afternoon. After a nice rest we went to dinner at Husk which was just a block around the corner. The original Husk is in Charleston, but they recently opened places in Savannah and Atlanta. The restaurant was gorgeous in a beautifully restored mansion and we had a great table. We shared some fresh shrimp as an appetizer and I had pan fried catfish on spring vegetables and Courtney had pork loin over farro. All great.
Sunday, May 12th, 2019
Unfortunately I got sick overnight with flu like symptoms and didn’t get much sleep. Thankfully it didn’t last too long and I was feeling better enough by late morning to hit the rode. We drove to an old plantation about 30 miles out of Savannah. Wormsloe plantation is know mostly for it’s amazing mile long allee of live oak trees. The trees did not disappoint. A spectacular sight. We walked around the ruins of the 18th century plantation that was set on the river enjoying the views, the tropical vegetation and the quietness. After spending a few hours there we headed to a recommended restaurant called The Wyld Dock Bar which was a super chill place in the middle of nowhere on a dock. We waited for about a half hour having a beer and playing bean bags and then had lunch at a perfect table on the dock looking over the river. The food and drinks were A+ too. Great find. We headed back to Savannah and had a rest. We walked around some more in the evening admiring the gardens, squares and the trees, not really too hungry, but ended up eating at a diner place late night.
Monday, May 13th, 2019
We had leisurely breakfast at a coffee shop down the street and then checked out of the airbnb. Our flight was not until mid-afternoon so we had some time to explore. We drove to Bonaventure cemetery about 30 miles outside of town and walked around for an hour admiring the crumbling graves and crypts and the old trees. We then drove another 30 miles to the coast to Tybee Beach and said hello to the ocean and went for a nice long walk. We had one last beer at a little place on the beach and then hit the road to the airport and made it back to CLE in no time flat. Fun trip.
Grace and I went on a spring break trip to NYC. I haven’t been to NYC in 15 or so years and Grace has never been so we were excited for an adventure. I woke up at 4:00AM for our 6:30 AM flight, showered, got ready and then saw message that our flight was delayed an hour and a half. We went back to sleep for an hour and then Courtney drove us to the airport and had no troubles on our quick flight to Laguardia. We bought our subway cards at the airport and then took a shuttle bus to the nearest subway stop and then took the subway into Manhattan. It only took about a half hour and only cost $2.75. We were staying at Pod51 on East 51st and 2nd Ave in midtown – just a block and a half from subway stop. We were able to check in early to our tiny little room, dropped our stuff off and hit the pavement by 11:00AM. Our first stop was Essa bagel, just down the street where we waited in line for about 1/2 hour. I had an everything bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese bacon and onions. Best bagel ever. We walked downtown on Lexington happy to be exploring. We went into Grand Central, explored, gawked and then caught the train to Hudson Yards. Hudson Yards is a new development that just opened up a few weeks ago. We climbed the Vessel – an M.C. Escher-ist sculpture? photo op? stair master?… whatever it is its pretty cool and has amazing views. The new buildings surrounding the plaza are all impressive and the soon to open shed looks amazing. Billions and billions of dollars. We walked through the mall with lots of glitzy stores, bought a few things at the Japanese store MUJI and then hit the high line which started next door. Walked the high line enjoying the architecture, art and people; walked through the Chelsea Market half way through; bopped into the Diane Von Furstenberg boutique where there was an exhibit by Ashley Longshore that Grace was excited to see. Walked the rest of high line and checked out the Whitney museum, walked around the meatpacking district for a bit and hopped back on the train back to the hotel for a much needed rest. After sleeping for an hour an a half we hit the happy hour trail – took the subway down to the East Village and went to Upstate that was on our list of $1 happy hour oyster spots. I had a half dozen oysters and a glass of champagne, Grace had a beer and then had clam linguine and I had some crab cakes. The food and atmosphere were great. We walked around the neighborhood for a bit and then stopped at a little place called Maiden Lane and had another drink and people watched and then went to Rue B which was our original destination as they were advertising jazz with no cover. We had one drink but weren’t feeling it – especially when they told us we had to pay a cover – so took off on the subway to walk through Times Square and then walked back to our hotel. Total miles walked: 12.2
Tuesday, March 26th, 2019
Our little hotel offered free walking tours every morning so we decided to go on the one this morning that was going to the lower East side and Chinatown. After a quick breakfast at a coffee shop around the corner it was a long subway ride downtown as there were traffic problems in the city. The tour was good – we went to places we never would have gone to, learned a lot about graffiti and the history of Chinatown. On our tour guides suggestion we went to Xi’An Famous Foods in Chinatown for lunch. We had bowls of noodles that were fresh, spicy and delicious. We hit the pavement again and walked south walking back through Chinatown, exploring the area around City Hall and then doing what was #1 on my NYC list: walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge was of course beautiful, full of people and the views were great on a bright sunny day. We walked all the way across into Brooklyn and took the subway back to Manhattan to the World Trade Center area. We walked through the Oculus – amazingly huge and modern – like you are in a Star Wars movie. We got lost in there trying to find the way out but eventually made it out to ground zero to check out the memorial fountains and the plaza. Serene and powerful. The sky was bright blue just like that fateful day. Hard to imagine. We walked further down to Wall Street, checking out the famous buildings and banks, found the graveyard where Alexander Hamilton and Eliza were buried and wandered over to the 1/2 price ticket booth that was down there and bought some show tickets for that evening. Took the train back to our hotel for a quick rest and then walked to Broadway. We saw The Band’s Visit. Never heard of it before but it sounded interesting and we got pretty good seats for a good price (NYC prices that is). It was great. Very different kind of musical. Relaxed, cerebral, great music and great story. It’s coming to CLE next year and I for sure would go see it again. After the show we walked through Times Square a little bit and then went back to our midtown neighborhood and had a late night dinner at Cornerstone tavern – a sports bar on 2nd Ave around the corner from our hotel. We stopped for cookies at Insomnia Cookies and then crashed. Total miles walked: 10.8
Wednesday, March 27th, 2019
We woke up early and took a quick subway ride to the ABC studios on W66th as we had tickets to be in the audience for The View. We got there around 9:30AM, stood in line for awhile and after going through security they herded us into the cafeteria where they had a Starbucks so we had breakfast. We sat with a couple of NYC women who were hilarious. They were secretaries for HBO and one was a comedian and they were ripping on everyone. We made it into the studio and was part of the live broadcast which was fun. Stacey Abrams was the guest which was cool and we got a copy of her book too. After the show we walked to Central Park right next door. We met one of Grace’s friends from school who lives right there and we walked all around Central park with her on another beautiful early spring day. We walked through the Plaza, ate lunch in the bougie food hall underneath the plaza and then went to Grace’s friends family apartment which they just moved into and was very nice. We said goodbye and walked around the area some more, went into MOMA but decided to just walk around the grounds instead of going in the galleries and then walked back to our hotel for a rest. After our siesta I went to Crave Fish Bar, a bar a few blocks away and had some oysters and a beer. Grace met me there and then we went down to the East Village as we had tix to a comedy club later in the evening. We stopped and had dinner at a bar down there somewhere that I don’t remember the name of. The comedy club was fun. There were all different comedians each doing their schtick for about 20 minutes or so and then it kept going. We were right in the front row but just got picked on a little bit. We stayed for about an hour and a half enjoyed our minimum of two beverages. We wandered around the village for awhile, stopped at Momofuku milk bar and had the cereal milk ice cream and cake truffles. OMG. Hopped on the train back after a fun night.
Total miles walker: 9.5
Thursday, March 28th, 2019
We packed our stuff up and checked our bags with the hotel and hit the streets for one last morning. We went to a place called Remi Flower and Coffee that Grace wanted to go to a few blocks away. It was a combined coffee shop and florist. It was pretty cool. Grace had a lavender latte that was beautiful. We walked and walked all morning. Walked to the NY Public library that unfortunately wasn’t open yet, walked through Bryant park that was very spring like, and then walked through the fashion district looking for Mood – which we couldn’t find. We walked through Macy’s which had a flower show going on and then down to Union Square and did a bit of shopping at a couple of places. We had an early lunch at Shake Shack in Madison Park and then walked all the way back to our hotel – another 20 blocks. Grace wasn’t too happy with me that I made her walk. We collected our bags, hopped on the subway and made it to LaGuardia in plenty of time and back to CLE with no troubles. Fun trip.