The coastal town of Florence, Oregon, population 8,500, is situated in the central portion of the state where the Siuslaw River flows into the Pacific Ocean. In the charming Old Town district, Bay Street runs parallel to the river where locally-owned restaurants and shops are housed in historic buildings. In the summertime, brilliant flowers rise beside the sidewalks and overflow from pots hanging from street lamps. Strolling the street with an ice cream in hand from the bridge down to the wooden docks is an ideal way to soak in the atmosphere.
We chose Dublin, Ohio – my home town – as our home base for our U.S. Family and Friends Summer tour for two reasons: first, because we have so many of our family and friends living in the area and second, because my mom let us stash the few possessions we don’t carry with us in my childhood bedroom – and she let us reclaim that room as living quarters without charging rent. Thus, we became temporary summertime Ohio residents.
I loved growing up in Ohio and have fond memories of long summer days spent outdoors. Back yard cookouts, hikes, baseball, boats, parades and fireworks defined every summer of my youth. In addition to seeing family and friends, introducing Kris to a few of these middle-America pastimes was high on my list.
Most of the stops on our U.S. Summer Family and Friends Tour had us feeling slightly out of our element. We weren’t on vacation, but we weren’t working, either. Things were the same, but different. Our two-day stop in Boston, however, was like taking a page out of Weekends From Our Past, complete with friends, a sporting event and bar hopping.
We were staying in Southie with our friend, Lowercase (who had met up with us in Spain for the holidays). Dinner was around the corner at a trendy seafood restaurant, Stephi’s In Southie. But, we made it as far as a shared plate of nachos and sliced kielbasa before dinner was forgotten in favor of wine. Lowercase’s friends met us for a few more rounds of drinks and storytelling before they called it a night – and we moved on to Amrheins, a historic, local spot that has been around since 1890.
After spending Father’s Day in Fort Myers, we headed back west for the next stop on our U.S. Family and Friends Summer Tour: Colorado – with stops in Boulder, Silverthorne and Golden.
It is often difficult for me to define a specific place as a favorite, but, with a heavy dose of certainty, I can claim that Colorado reigns as one of my favorite U.S. states. For someone like me – who equally loves nature and city – Colorado ticks all the boxes. I can sit on a rooftop patio in a buzzing city while staring at the mountains and breathing crisp, clean, pine-scented air. It just doesn’t get much better than that!
As the plane descended into Phoenix it hit us: We were truly coming full circle on our ‘Round the world journey. It had been 402 days since the morning we dragged our mattress to the dumpster, strapped on our packs and headed to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. When we took off, we left everything behind. The lease on our apartment was up, we had sold our cars, gave away our furniture and clothes, resigned from our jobs and promised our friends that we would be back someday. We left it dangling out there like a hanging chad. Someday. The ambiguous ‘someday’ was materializing, but only for a quick four-day visit.
Summer is in full swing and hopping on flights as stand-by passengers to navigate our way around the United States hasn’t been as easy as we thought it would be. Getting stuck in the Philadelphia was just the beginning. To get from Columbus, Ohio to Phoenix, Arizona, we had to fly east to go west with a connection in Washington DC.
After Phoenix, we headed to Oregon to visit Kris’s parents, who live in the coastal town of Florence. The closest airport to their town is in Eugene, but there are no direct flights there from Phoenix Sky Harbor. We considered a stop in Los Angeles, but those seats quickly disappeared. In a last minute decision, we got on a plane in Phoenix headed to Portland, which put us 172 miles from our final destination.
The morning after a pub crawl is never greeted bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and our morning after the Flagstaff Ale Trail was no exception. What was worse was the daunting task of the road trip south on I-17 back to Phoenix. The not-particularly-scenic, 2-hour long drive on the 2-lane highway is jammed with RVs, semis and other Phoenix residents rushing to get back home.
In an effort to avoid all of the above, we decided to take the longer, more scenic, less traveled way home via 89A, otherwise known as the Oak Creek Canyon detour. The stunning views of the red rocks were enough to clear the cobwebs from my head.
Our interest in locally crafted beer is what led us to the Flagstaff Ale Trail pub crawl. The official $6 Passport isn’t necessary, but it does offer discounts, introduces you to places you might not otherwise go, supports the local community and, besides all that, you get a fun, stamped souvenir. Only a few places on the trail were new to us, but we had never tried to knock it out as a pub crawl before – and we were up for the challenge.
Heading north out of the Valley of the Sun I felt a strong sense of adventure and excitement. It was our first road trip in nearly two years and we were kicking it off in true road trip fashion: No time frame, good tunes and a like-minded crew. The final destination: Flagstaff. Purpose: Escape the desert for some nearby mountain R&R. Main objective: Hit the Flagstaff Ale Trail and get a dose of nature at Agassiz Peak.
Vinny took the wheel, Kris was co-pilot and I snoozed in the backseat until the desert landscape gave way to fields of pines and we could roll the windows down and let the cool wind rush in. Although I often (perhaps too often) complain about living in the Arizona desert, it really is a beautiful place to live that is quite diverse.
Over the years, I have had many “Perfect” San Francisco Weekends. From our first visit when I discovered the Sea Lions on Pier 39 to the weekend we sneaked off to get married to a birthday celebration with friends. But, this past trip ranks as our most perfect San Francisco weekend. Everything seemed to flow in such a relaxed atmosphere that our short weekend felt more like an entire week.The highlights: The Cool Weather, Ferry Building Marketplace, Ferry across the Bay, Walking the Golden Gate, and Two Baseball Games.
Arriving Friday evening (a little early due to ditching out of work before five o’clock), we were greeted with the open arms of cool breezes ready to take us in. We had found a great hotel in a great location, Hotel Griffon, on Hotel Tonight, where we scored a great deal. For dinner, we headed to one of our favorite spots, The Thirsty Bear Brewing Company, for fabulous tapas, amazing brews and we even caught the end of the baseball game. If the Diamondbacks could have pulled out a ‘W’ over the Giants it would have enhanced the beginning of the trip even more, but there is only so much we have control over.