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Coast to Coast.
West to East.
Pacific to Atlantic.
Old home to New.
15 days
14 tourist attractions
13 bathroom breaks
12 cities
11 states
10 familiar faces
9 hotels
8 state sign pictures - missed a few!
7 hours - the longest drive
6 Starbucks trips
5 fast-food chains
4 are we there yet? 's
3 hours of One Direction
2 beaches
1 lifelong memory
0 hotels with 'reliable' Wi-Fi

    We are finally here! To be fair, it's been two weeks, but it's been a whirlwind since with signing our lease, unpacking, and getting somewhat settled here in Charlotte while also catching up on work, finishing my hygiene application, and helping Tyler get in the swing of his new role! The original plan was to document along the way, but with the in-and-outs of hotel Wi-Fi causing endless hours spent on two posts alone, I soon realized that was not going to be possible if I still wanted to get out and have fun in the cities we were stopping in! Here's a quick recap of what we did post-Los Angeles and Las Vegas [click the city to see the previous posts on those two fun cities!].

Nevada/Arizona

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    It was so fun to see one of the 7 Man-Made Wonders of America! A 3-inch thick, 4-foot wide sidewalk could be built arounf the earth's equator with the amount of concrete used to build this monstrosity. We took a tour of the power plant on the Nevada side and were able to see and learn about the hard work of generations past.
    One of the things that stood out to both of us the most was when one of the tour guides was describing the manpower that went in to building the dam. The work was constant, 24 hours, no breaks other than lunch, no sick days. If you missed one day of work, that was it, your job went to someone else who wanted to work. His exact words that hit so hard: "nowadays we have union breaks, smoke breaks, sick days, paid vacation, and yet we still complain."
    Before heading to the dam, we stopped at the bridge first and took a walk across the Nevada/Arizona state line while getting a beautiful view of the dam from wayyyy up high. Driving a little farther we found ourselves on top of the dam and headed to the Arizona side for free parking [there is one lot on each state side that is $10 parking and Arizona also has a second lot that is free but is also a farther walk which isn't terrible on a mild day]. Major tip: according to our guide, temperatures can get higher at the dam than they do in Death Valley and they are frequently in the 100's in June-August. If you're brave enough to head there during this time, drink water and do not wear black, they have so many people pass out there every year, don't let it be you!

New Mexico

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my stud of a husband - unfortunately not many of the photos in the caverns turned out due to lighting
    We stayed in New Mexico for two nights: one in Albuquerque, and the other in Carlsbad. We didn't do much exploring in Albuquerque, but we did have dinner with an old friend from high school and her husband.
    The main draw for us to make Carlsbad a stop was the caverns. Large enough to house 14 football stadiums, we traveled down 750' via elevator to see this underground masterpiece! We walked over a mile in what felt like the cave from the Goonies movie! Definitely a must-see if you're ever stopping through! The tickets were $10 a person and the audio was $5 a person but did not have headphones so we ended up sharing it because it was loud enough for both of us to hear. This is in the middle of nowhere so be prepared!
    Other than the caverns, the town didn't have much to offer and we got our hopes up when we saw a McAlister's Deli across from our hotel.. only to find out that it wasn't even open yet! Hotels can also be pretty pricey because they know you have no other options. Overall, I wouldn't consider this a vacation destination, but like I said, if you're passing through then stop to see the caverns!

Texas

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    The greatest state. Ever. Period. Let's just put it this way: I didn't even care to drive the 7 hours through West Texas to get from Carlsbad to Fort Worth - I was just THAT excited to be in Texas! For those of you that don't know, both Tyler and I have strong ties to the state; it's where my grandparents were born and raised, where my grandpa played high school football with Tom Landry, where dad was born and raised and most of his family lives, it's where Tyler's dad was raised and went to college, where Tyler's mom went to college, and where Tyler's parents met. Texas is also where Tyler got his name [all three boys are named after cities in Texas], although with his comedic antics, I think Tarzan, Texas should have at least been an option for his name.. Karen? Doug?
    Enough family history.. after making the 'dreaded' West Texas drive [95% driven by me, pat. on. the. back.], we were treated to an amazing home-cooked meal by Tyler's grandma complete with homemade cherry pie for dessert. We got to spend time with family that evening but unfortunately, the morning after we arrived, Tyler's grandma and cousins left on a vacation that had been planned for a while and we completely forgot to get a picture with all of us before they left! With the day to ourselves, I did laundry and relaxed a little before we headed to Railhead BBQ [a favorite] followed by walking around the Fort Worth Stockyards. As we were getting ready to leave the Stockyards, it was time for the Cattle Drive! For some reason I have a weird obsession with cattle so this was extremely exciting for me.
    Before leaving Texas, we had to get some Joe T's in! If you're ever in the Dallas/Fort Worth area - Joe T Garcia's is a must! We had the pleasure of going with my cousin and his lovely girlfriend! It was so fun to spend time with them and really get to know them! On our way out of town the next day, we made a detour to Houston to have lunch with Tyler's cousin Ben and then headed to New Orleans!
    In my opinion, this was too little time to spend in Texas, especially with as much family as we both have all over the state!

Louisiana

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    We did not have a lot of time in New Orleans to really see all that we would have liked to, but we did hit some major points. Our first stop that morning was the famous Cafe Du Monde, aka Cafe Du-licious. The Cafe Au Lait and Beignets were to die for - powdered sugar was everywhere! If you're planning to make this a stop, be sure you have cash on you as they are cash only [but you won't need more than $15 if it's just two of you]!
    After getting ourselves into a sugar coma, we played tourists and walked all around the French Quarter including Peters Street [win], Royal Street, and Bourbon Street [before all the crazies came out]. The architecture is so beautiful in this area! We of course stopped and got some Gumbo and Poboys for lunch before heading to Alabama for the night!

Alabama

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    Alabama was also a quick in-and-out pit-stop on our journey, but there were a few things I wanted to see in Montgomery before heading to Hilton Head! Lucky for Tyler, all of the places I wanted to see were less than a mile apart and, even luckier, because it was Sunday none of them were open so I couldn't beg to go in for tours. We stopped to see the bus stop where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, Martin Luther King Jr.'s church, and the parsonage where he and his family lived while in Montgomery. We also stopped to see the first White House of the Confederacy [simply because of the history and beauty of this old southern home].

South Carolina

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    Somehow we managed to get so lucky that Tyler's first week of work lined up with team meetings in Hilton Head [score!]. We stayed at the Sonesta Resort right on the beach with a beautiful pool area and a turtle pond that I was obsessed with [sorry if you got all of my 100 turtle Snapchats..]! I have never been to HHI so I don't know much about the island or hot spots to stay in, but we were just fine at Sonesta! I particularly liked the drive in to the resort through the trees.
    Tyler had meetings and lunches and dinners to attend while we were there so, poor me, I laid by the pool and on the beach by myself ordering room service and take-out a majority of the time. On our last night there, spouses were invited to dinner out in Harbor Town by the famous lighthouse. We ate at CQ's and it was the most amazing meal ever. We arrived early enough for the tasting menu option which was an amazing value for the perfect portions [coming from a lady - my husband might not have been fulfilled]. For dessert I ordered the bread pudding and wasn't expecting that it was going to be chocolate AND strawberry flavored.. you can't even imagine.
    Harbor Town was fun to walk around after dinner but most of the shops were already closed. We ended up sitting outside at a bar/grill to listen to a local artist sing and play guitar, but even that ended and closed up at 9pm - not necessarily a big "night life" scene but a great place for families, retirees, and relaxing.

    Overall, our trip was amazing and memorable - and surprisingly we didn't really get that tired of each other! We are so grateful for the time we had to see parts of the country we normally wouldn't, visit with friends and family, and spending time with each other, all while s l o w l y and gradually getting adjusted to East Coast time!
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    Yes. I did sing that song in my head all. weekend. long. We left LA the morning of the 25th and stayed in Las Vegas through the morning of the 27th. The drive from Los Angeles to Vegas isn't too bad and it reminds you of a scene from Cars or the main ride at Cars Land in Disneyland!
    We had a blast in Vegas, but 48 hours was not enough time so we will definitely be going back! You get the feeling of a compact strip and assume everything is close but once you start walking, you realize just how BIG everything is. It took us more than 5 minutes to get from the entrance of the MGM Grand to the CSI exhibit which is inside MGM.
    Our first night there we stayed at New York, New York - not our first choice [hello Venetian] but a less expensive alternative [we went on a weekend which was not intentional, it's just how it fell. For our next trip we will know to stay weekdays when the rate isn't so high]. The hotel was in a good location but it didn't have quite as much to offer as some of the others we went inside [again, hello Venetian] and the Wi-Fi was absolutely horrible; like, I-lost-two-hours-worth-of-work horrible. Thankfully, the hotel did rectify the situation by refunding our "resort fee" which included Wi-Fi.
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    Day one we toured the strip, waited a well-worth-it hour for some treats from Carlo's Bake Shop inside the Venetian, and drove to the Pawn Stars pawn shop - but only for a picture, that line was just as bad as Carlo's Bakery was with no promise of treats at the end!
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    On day two we played Crime Scene Investigators [per my request, total forensic fanatic] at the CSI: The Experience exhibit. This was not entirely what I expected it to be; I wanted more of a mystery, several suspects to choose from and I had to use the clues and my amazing detective skills to choose at the end and they tell me if I'm right or wrong.. but they pretty much gave the answer away. Despite the simplicity and the fact that it was "so easy a kindergartener could do it" it was still fun to see how a CSI analyzes clues from a crime scene. Plus, we got these amazingly green-screened photos [total sarcasm, although I do like the photos]:
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    On the evening of the second day we went to see Mystère by Cirque du Soleil - amazing! This was my first ever Cirque show and I loved it! I have nothing to compare it to, but I do know that the show provided humor as well as the acrobatics and I believe it is the longest running Cirque show on the strip. I'd be interested to see other performances in the future to compare!
    After Cirque we went to the Bellagio to see the famous fountain show which ended up being cancelled due to high winds, major bummer! After the letdown, we drove down the strip one last time and headed to a hotel about 20 minutes east of the city to get a head start on the next day's drive.
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    My only complaint about Vegas [other than ridiculously priced hotel rooms with sub-par Wi-Fi] is the smoking. Even if you avoid the casinos, you still end up smelling like smoke just from walking by them. We kept our Febreze bottle handy the entire trip. We aren't into gambling, and Tyler hates to lose at anything, but we do enjoy a good Dave and Buster's game every now and then so we treated the casinos like that with the hopes of getting money back and not a cheapy toy or candy. We used $20 budgeted "fun money" [Tyler would die if he lost more than that, and I would cry] and ended up walking out $80 richer - hello fancy dinner somewhere later on in the trip!
    We are currently over halfway through the "48 hour" road trip and just arrived from Carlsbad, NM to Tyler's grandma's in Fort Worth, TX! Thankfully it looks like the weather to the East will be calming down by the time we make our way out, but when you're praying for our travels, please keep the families that have been affected by the weather in mind!

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    We spent our last California days [April 23-24] in Los Angeles. Other than the smog, which can ruin a would-be-perfectly-gorgeous view on a sunny day, there's only one thing we truly hate about LA: the traffic. We both decided we could never live there unless we were billionaires with access to our own helicopter to take us places - so, we will never live there. If we ever vacation there again, we will be staying on Manhattan Beach, Hermosa beach or Santa Monica - but on our Cross Country budget, we took every free-on-points room we could which required us to stay a little farther out and deal with the heavy traffic getting places.
    We have been to LA as a couple a total of four times now, and Tyler has been twice more with friends to watch soccer games. On this trip, we squeezed in our favorites, Pink's Hotdog Stand, Lemonade [both food, surprise!], and Manhattan Beach, as well as adding the Griffith Observatory which we both had been wanting to see.
    Tyler wanted to go to Sugarfish [another restaurant, can you tell we like to get our eat on?!] and I wanted to go to Disney, but there wasn't enough time this trip! If you're ever planning to visit LA, under each section of pictures* below I've highlighted some of our favorite things to see and do and of course, eat, from prior trips! Most all of them have click-able links that will take you directly to the site. One thing we never did that I wish we had was a celebrity home tour - but I don't know if I could get Tyler to sit still that long - he is not nearly as interested in architecture as I am!

To Do:

 Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure – you don’t even need kids to go here and no one judges you for coming as an adult without kids! The best part is both parks are compact with most all of the same rides as Disney World and are both easily doable in a day each [without kids]! If we’d had the time I would have gone back in a heartbeat, but Tyler’s rule is there must be a 5 year span between each Disney trip so that you can forget how awesome it is and be blown away again. Guess this will have to be my Babymoon if I want to come back without kids again – coming solo after having kids would be cruel.

Paramount Pictures Studio Tour – really any studio tour would be fun, we just did this one on recommendation from friends and loved it! Find out where your favorite movie and/or TV shows were filmed then do that tour! We did the 2hour tour and that was plenty for us. It was so fun to learn a few secrets of the industry, plus you may even spot a celebrity! We saw the cast of Glee when we were there.. unfortunately no one on our tour [including us, we don’t have cable] knew who they were and they seemed slightly angry no one was waving at them until our guide told us to, oops!

Red Carpet Event – if you ever have a chance to go to one, do it! Even if there’s no guarantee of a bunch of major A-list celebrities there, go – you never know who might become famous later and you can say, “I met them!” We were lucky enough to get tickets to the X-Factor Finalist Party through Tyler's work and I got to touch Mario Lopez - enough said.

Santa Monica – so much more than a beach! This is the end of historic Route 66, has a fun pier with games and rides, is home to Muscle Beach, and a huge outdoor shopping center, Third and Promenade. But the beach is pretty, too! I would love to stay here for a week or so, get up, run to Muscle Beach for a workout then down to Starbucks for coffee, and that’s saying a lot since I hate working out!

To See:

Griffith Observatory – the best parts of this place are the views and the price! If all you want to see are the views, then it’s free! If you’re interested in the planetarium then there is a fee. Be sure to check on their website before heading there as they are closed some days and have special hours. The telescope is also free to see but only at night and we were interested in seeing the views of the city during the day. There are a few hikes around the observatory that looked fun but we did not bring our hiking shoes nor did we have time! Also, depending on which way you drive in [we went in on the Greek Theater side] you’ll go through a neighborhood with some gorgeous cottage-like homes [on the larger scale] and meticulously maintained lawns - so beautiful it made us re-think our, "we're never living in LA," statements, if only for a moment!

Hollywood Sign – surprisingly this is not as visible from as many places as you think it would be! I would recommend following the directions on this site to get a good view!

Hollywood Walk of Fame and Chinese Theater – my recommendation for the Walk of Fame is that you decide who you want to see beforehand and find out the exact location of that star then you’ll see some other unexpected stars on the way – faster than walking around looking through all 2,500+ stars to find one! There's also an "Upcoming Star Ceremonies" tab that you can plan your trip around based on if you want to see it or you want to steer clear of the traffic! We didn’t go in the Chinese Theater, just slipped our fingers and toes into some of the hand-and-footprints outside for photos!

Manhattan Beach – it’s a beach and it’s gorgeous, enough said! Ps. the parking spots on either side of the pier are 5hour limit vs. the 2hour limit parking lots a few streets up – so you’re closer and you can stay longer, win.

Rodeo Drive – so what if you can’t afford anything?! Stroll the streets and snap some pictures in front of your favorite “I wish” stores! I went in to Juicy Couture just for fun and ended up finding a shirt for $17 including tax, so naturally I had to get it!

To Eat:

Lemonade – the only Lemonade to rival Chick-fil-A’s! They have a ton of flavors but our favorite is the Guava Lemonade! I was confused at the food options and ordering process the first time I went in, but the employees were all super friendly and helpful, plus you can sample almost anything before choosing to buy it - definitely try things! They have so many different "salads" with crazy ingredients that I thought sounded nasty but were heavenly! This last time I had a cauliflower, raisin, and nut salad that was to die for but had the employee not insisted I try it, I wouldn't have gotten it!

Pink’s Hotdog Stand – seriously the best hotdogs ever! They have so many different combinations, they are reasonably priced, and it is a popular LA spot, plus I just love their story! You can read about their story here! They have their own parking lot with free parking which is hard to find in LA! The lot is small but we’ve never had an issue finding a spot.

Sugarfish – I have never been, but my husband raves about this sushi place stating that the sushi is warm and melts in your mouth! I’ve just recently gotten in to sushi and am not a big fan of many rolls but if you are, I’d give it a try!


*all photos are our own

Ps. We currently just arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico after two days in Vegas and a night in Flagstaff! Vegas post coming soon - we update our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts almost daily, so you can follow along there: #PeterCrossCountry
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Off We Go! Our 15 day cross-country journey to Charlotte has begun!
And I may or may not have purchased the outlet version of the above purse in celebration. Kate Spade, you kill me.
Last night, after the movers finished packing, we said goodbye to our first place together in Walnut Creek and drove south to Los Angeles where we will officially begin our road trip! I have booked all of our hotels and have all confirmation info printed [thanks to Marriott Rewards, AAA, and Hilton Rewards we were able to get great deals and a bunch of free nights], had the credit card company try to cancel a few night stays thinking they were fraud [thanks for having our back, Chase?], booked Mystère by Cirque du Soleil and have plans to make Tyler solve crimes with me at "CSI: The Experience," wrote out all of our stops on a calendar, have MapQuest Directions printed out for every location, packed the car full of "can't-live-without"s that had to come with us and not with the movers [including our Tempur-Pedic pillows, Clarisonic brushes, my bkr, and Tyler's Gaiam foam roller, and of course Secret Deodorant for this #epic48 hour road trip], loaded a car snack bag to keep my hangry husband from going insane, downloaded the Frozen soundtrack to battle his One Direction concerts, and thanks to already getting bored of music on the 5 hour drive to LA, I think I've convinced him to hit up Barnes & Noble for a book on tape! We have over a week of driving to go but I can already hear the, "are we there yet?"s - and we don't even have kids. I will definitely write a "How To Prepare for a Cross Country Road Trip" blog after getting settled in Charlotte.

For the most part, we will be sticking to the original schedule laid out in the original post with a few changes. We chose Albuquerque as the spot between 'E' and 'F', 'F' became two stops [White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns], and 'I' switched from Atlanta, Georgia to Montgomery, Alabama.

I am going to try to update the blog as frequently as I can with pictures and such - thinking about maybe getting a WiFi 'hotspot' to keep up with writing on the sections of longer driving - but no matter what, we'll be keeping our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts active and using the hashtag #PetersCrossCountry. Feel free to tag along!
Please keep us in your prayers for safe travels!

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Planning a Cross Country Road Trip

    As you may know, in less than a month we are moving across the country from San Francisco, California to Charlotte, North Carolina. As if getting ready for that wasn't crazy enough, we've decided to drive across the country. It was an on-and-off "yes, we're doing it" and "no, that's crazy" decision-making-conversation - but almost every adult we talked to [yes, I know we're technically adults] told us to "do it while you're young" so, last night we made the decision to go for it and started planning our once-in-a-lifetime trip!
    We have it set up so that the movers come the 23rd of April and we get our keys to the new place on May 9th. Since we're only in each apartment partial months, we've had each rate prorated and are using the "saved" amount as well as the price of what we would have spent on airline tickets as our budget for the trip. It also helps that we have Marriott points galore! Below is our tentative travel schedule with a few ideas - if you have any ideas to share, must-see places along the way, or [most importantly] food stops, we'd love to hear!
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Tentative Schedule
[subject to change on a whim or a suggestion]

A. WALNUT CREEK, CA
farewell to our first place together and home for the past 1.75 years
I will cry

B. LOS ANGELES, CA
the Griffith Observatory
Pink's Hotdog Stand and Lemonade for the last time [at least for a while]
maybe Disneyland California Adventure again if I can convince Tyler

C. LAS VEGAS, NV
hopefully Cirque and CSI: The Experience
shows and food and not losing money

D. MOHAVE COUNTY, AZ
Grand Canyon Skywalk Bridge

E. FLAGSTAFF, AZ
just a pit stop to rest

Point between E and F. TUCSON, AZ or ALBUQUERQUE/SANTA FE, NM
what's cool in this area?!

F. ALAMOGORDO, NM
white sands

G. FORT WORTH, TX
to grandmother's house we go
laundry and some yummy TX food!
visiting with family

H. NEW ORLEANS, LA
French Quarter
begging to see all of the architecture and boring Tyler

I. ATLANTA, GA
pit stop to rest
and let's be honest, probably eating Chick-fil-A

J. HILTON HEAD, SC
Tyler's first official days of working on his new team - team meetings in HH
I will be relaxing on the beach after crossing the country and mentally preparing to unpack

K. CHARLOTTE, NC
home sweet, new, home
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Pacifica State Beach

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    Last weekend Tyler used a Groupon to take a 2 for 1, 3 hour course on learning to surf in Pacifica. I was invited to be #2 but had been saying 'no' since he bought the Groupon almost a year ago. The warm weather didn't change my mind, so he extended the offer to a friend from work who has surfed before. I offered to go and take pictures but he thought I'd get bored after 3 hours [and I secretly think he was nervous about learning something new]. He had the biggest smile when he got home and of course regretted telling me not to come take pictures, so when he decided to go again this weekend, I was invited - both to surf and take pictures! After rearranging the living room for an at-home crash course in surfing, I again declined but agreed to go take pictures and relax on the beach [secret ulterior motive: work on my tan]!
    Pacifica is located just south of San Francisco so it was an easy drive to and from home! Still a beginner, Tyler wanted to go earlier in the day when the waves are calmer. The morning conditions were windy and 'cold' to California standards, but it was starting to warm up when we left around noon. Albeit chilly, the beach was beautiful and we had a great time! Covered in jeans and a sweatshirt to brace the cold, I was stunned [read: thrilled] to come home to sun-kissed cheeks!
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Waiting for Waves
    Taking pictures of surfers is hard. Like, really hard. You spend half your time waiting for the right wave to come, then wait to see if out of the 20 people waiting, your subject will be one of the 10 to attempt getting up on it, and one of the very lucky 3-5 that the wave doesn't eat during their attempt to stand. If not, you're back to waiting for the next perfect wave. Not to mention that they're far out, so if your camera doesn't have a million times zoom, it's going to be pixilated. All that to say, in about 3 hours I only got two action shots, and they're not even thaaat great - although Tyler was super impressed that I managed to capture a picture of the only wave he and his friend rode together.
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My main squeeze up on his first Wave of the day
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Tyler and Ronald surfing the same Wave
    I did get some shots of the beach, some washed up jellyfish, and some not-so-action shots as well as getting my jeans soaked up to the knees when walking in a little too far to capture some shots! Other than playing photographer I spent the rest of my time relaxing, playing nurse when Tyler's leash got tangled around his toe slicing it open, and praying - that the sharks wouldn't be able to smell his blood through the bandage - seriously a concern for me and he didn't even think twice about it. Boys.
    Since we missed church to go, I did my own self-titled, 'Devotion by the Ocean' and let me just say, I could totally get used to doing that. Nice to be close to God through His beautiful creation.
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I won't lie, I touched it with my toe!
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So mysterious and beautiful
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a pause before the next round of fighting and riding waves
    Watching Tyler fight the waves was exhausting enough for me. I think I was a little hard on him every time he came in for a breather and claiming, "I'm just not good at surfing." While I'd love to agree that there's at least one physical fitness feat he's not good at, I can't. Even if he didn't catch every wave, or any over 7' - he stayed with it the whole three hours we were there [with plenty of tough love encouragement from me..]. So proud of him for getting out there and trying something new and adventurous. Me on the other hand, I'll stick to sunbathing and being his personal photographer.
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*I personally took and edited all pictures in this post. Tyler rented his board/wetsuit from NorCal Surf Shop in Pacifica Beach. I am clearly not an expert on anything surfing related, but I was shocked at the pricing [in a good way]! For an entire day rental it was less than $40 for both. The Groupon for lessons was not through NorCal, but they do provide lessons which I'm sure are just as good.
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    With my birthday/Valentine's Day trip on the horizon, we spent the weekend getting me prepped for skiing by visiting the slopes in North and South Lake Tahoe. For someone who pretty much just learned to really ski last year, I felt like I needed a little refresher before hitting the big slopes in Whistler this coming weekend.

North Lake Tahoe: Squaw Valley

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    On Friday morning, we got up before the sun, hit Chick-fil-A for breakfast right at opening, and headed to Squaw. Squaw Valley was the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics. We were not impressed. Maybe it was because there wasn't much snow, or because it was my first day back on the slopes in a year, or maybe it was just because it was awful. I learned to ski last year in Breckenridge, Colorado and skied later in the season at Northstar, another North Lake Tahoe ski resort. At both places, the slopes were marked, there was no chance of this beginner ending up on a black diamond because of unmarked terrain, at the top of each lift there was a map, some lifts had maps on them, and even some had guides at the top to make sure you knew where you were going. My nickname might be "Mapquest," but I can't map out mountains for the life of me, and apparently, neither can Squaw.
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    Tyler stayed with me until lunch then we split up so he could challenge himself on blacks while I continued practicing the basics on greens and pushed myself back up to blues. By "back" up to blues, I don't mean from last year - one of my first runs at Squaw was a blue because it was marked green at one point then when we got to it, it was blue. Not only was it more difficult than stated, half of it wasn't covered by snow so I had about a 7ft ridge between rocks and a huge drop. I was one unhappy camper, but not as upset as Tyler who had to sit at the bottom and coax me down.
    I also ended up in the Olympic half-pipe thanks to unmarked areas. Surprisingly I didn't do half-bad with that misfortune until I went a little too high on one side and when I went up the other half, I got stuck in rock because it wasn't covered in snow. Other than when I forced myself to fall on the green-turned-blue run to slide on my butt down the narrow part, this was my only fall of the day!

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    The only way down the mountain [other than the gondola] was to take blue runs. I can pretty much conquer any blue at this point except blues that have moguls. I also hate crowds and since half of the trails on the way down were sheets of ice forcing everyone to one side while we're all trying to come down the mountain at the same time, add in a section of moguls and I was glad the day was over.
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There is an ice-rink under the snow on top of the building to the right of the Olympic Rings
    There were some great views of Lake Tahoe and it was neat to see some Olympic facilities, but overall, we wouldn't recommend Squaw. Tyler said some of the blacks were good but difficult to get to. And while there is one side dedicated to greens and beginners, it was too easy for me but difficult to find anywhere else to go with no maps anywhere.

The Drive from North to South Lake Tahoe

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    I really could have taken 100 pictures, but I chose to just take it all in in mental images.. okay, and I fell asleep for part of the ride! This was an attempt to show how at this point we were surrounded by the lake on both sides.

South Lake Tahoe, California, and Nevada: Heavenly

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riding up the gondola from Heavenly Village
    Since Heavenly is owned/run by the same group that runs Breck and Northstar, we had high hopes. Heavenly was immediately different. When we got to the base of the lifts there was a huge map and a friendly guide who helped us map out runs that would be good for my level of skiing. Like Breck and Northstar, there were signs at the tops of lifts, maps on some of the chairs, and plenty of signs at splits in runs to make sure you stayed where you were supposed to. I was in map heaven.
    We were nervous at first because from Heavenly Village you can't see many runs at all. You take a gondola up for what feels like forever and just when you feel like you can't go any higher, you go over a peak and see another mountain full of runs!
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    The fun part about Heavenly is that half of the runs are located in California and half in Nevada. We skied Nevada in the morning and met friends for lunch on the California side of the mountain. At this point, Tyler broke away with the guys for more challenging runs and I stuck with the girls for our blue runs. This is the same group we're going to Whistler with, so I'm glad my "Happily Intermediate" girls will be with me! It's difficult to follow Tyler down the mountain because I know he's been doing this his whole life and he can do it all. Skiing with the girls forces me to push myself to stay at their level because I know they're new to it too!
    We had some great runs, I never fell, and I even managed to navigate myself around fallen skiers, so I'm feeling ready for Olympic park #2 [Whistler] this coming weekend!
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Back down the gondola at the end of the day
    On one of the lifts, Amanda posed the question to Anna [friend, not sister] and I, "What would you name a ski run if you had the chance to?" I said, "Rae's Run" - my middle name and an alliteration which I'm super fond of. What would you name a run?

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// Be Mine //

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    This Valentine's Day I received a heart bkr water bottle - which I wanted really bad - but still, nothing compares to the first Valentine I ever received from Tyler. The kid handmade the heart above,  came over to my house before school, waited for me to back out of the garage and asked me to be his Valentine. Cue 'awws'! The "E" is a little broken from the move, but it's still something I treasure. Not many high-school boys would go into Michael's before their shift at work and pick out craft supplies to hand make a Valentine for someone they'd only been dating six months.
    Despite the sweetness of our first Valentine's, this was probably one of my favorite Valentine's Days to date. So simple and relaxing! We ordered pizza, made our couch into a bed, baked cookies, and watched a DreamWorks movie on Netflix. I have to say, for being a kids movie, we both actually enjoyed "The Croods." Nicholas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, and Clark Duke had some funny 'prehistoric' characters. The animation was great, and I liked the combination animals such as flying turtles, alligator skunks, elephant mice, and what seemed to be an iguana tiger - to name a few. The animals seemed more futuristic despite the prehistoric background of the movie. Overall, it kept us entertained.

// Chinese New Year Celebrations //

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    Saturday we went downtown to celebrate two of our friends' birthdays as well as to watch the Chinese New Year parade. San Francisco hosts one of the top ten parades in the world with this yearly event that draws thousands of viewers. I have no idea where the first half of that statistic is from other than one of our friends saying it at the parade, I can however vouch for the thousands of people in attendance! We arrived 2 hours before the parade was to begin and it was already crazy.
    If you're like Tyler and I, you're confused as to why we were celebrating Chinese New Year this late.. San Francisco has one of the largest Asian populations in the country, many of whom go home to China to celebrate the Chinese New Year with family. Hosting the parade two weeks later allows those who went 'home' time to get back and prepare for the parade.
    The parade was great but for some reason really slow.. it would keep stopping for some reason and it would take forever for the next float or band to come along. We ended up sitting inside a bar to watch the middle section and coming back out for what we thought was the end.. it ended about an hour after that point. With tired feet and empty stomachs, we grabbed the closest, most expensive, greasy pizza and headed to a friend's to eat. It was definitely an experience to remember! If you ever have the chance to go, I recommend watching towards the beginning of the parade - you'll be able to stand 1-2 rows back or even have front row as we did towards the end. Watching from where the parade ends in Chinatown guarantees you'll be smooshed up against other - multiple - people and probably won't be able to see much at all!
    Sorry for the awful pictures! A pro photographer I am not, and the lighting was terrible!
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Left: Tyler, Right: My good friend Bri
    Hope you all had enjoyable Valentine's Days and Happy Chinese New Year! It's the year of the horse, fyi. Which is my year. Feel free to get me gifts throughout 2014.

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The Queen Anne Hotel

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    Originally we had planned to head to Tahoe and ski for my birthday, but thanks to our last Weekend Warriors travel adventure resulting in a sprained foot - that was cancelled. The good news is I am 95% back to normal and should be able to go skiing soon - thank goodness because my wonderful husband got me a legit ski jacket for this season!
    Once we decided to nix skiing, Tyler worked on planning a fun weekend in the city - not expecting rain. We've been in a serious drought over here and of course the rain finally came this weekend! It may have cut our time in the city short, but it made for a super relaxing weekend which in my opinion is a perfect birthday.
    On Friday night, Tyler made us reservations at the Queen Anne Hotel in San Francisco. He knows how much I LOVE the old Victorian homes in the city, and how much I love anything historical. Thankfully I didn't have time to research the building beforehand or while we were there - formerly a girl's boarding school, apparently the place is "haunted" by the late headmistress. No ghost sightings or weird stories on this end, although I'll agree with other reviewers on the creepy elevator, but I believe that's more of an age thing than anything supernatural.
    We were able to spend the night walking through the Pacific Heights area viewing other old Victorian homes before heading to a friend's going away party. Although it was a sad "celebration," it was good to be celebrating with friends for my birthday weekend, planning our upcoming group trip to Whistler, eating cake, and staying out later than usual, not worried about a late drive home since we had a hotel reservation.
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    The hotel was beautiful and most importantly for me, clean! My favorite parts were the fireplaces that burn 24/7 [very nice after walking in the rain], the detailed woodwork, and the beautiful chandeliers. [*All pictures above were taken and edited by myself other than the wide lens picture of the parlor which was taken from the Queen Anne Hotel website linked above]. I did not take any pictures of the inside of our room - I have seen pictures of some of their other rooms online and was more impressed by the period decor and styling in those than our particular room. Still lovely! The hotel does offer an extended continental breakfast but we were headed to Mama's so we just grabbed some fruit and a coffee to-go for the line at Mama's!
    Lombard Street was between where we stayed and Mama's, so despite the fact that we've done it before multiple times, we battled the tourists and drove down the famous crooked street again. Not disappointing even with the overcast and rain!
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Lombard Street

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Mama's

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    Mama's is a true San Francisco favorite, almost more famous for its wait time than its food. While the long line may deter some, I assure you it is well worth the wait. The pictures above and below are from our first ever Mama's visit, where we arrived 15 minutes before opening and still waited 45 minutes in line to get in. This time, we allowed ourselves to sleep in, arrived a few hours after opening, and had to wait an hour and a half in the rain. I would not recommend doing this on a rainy day unless it's your only opportunity - and I would not recommend doing this with kids unless you have one parent who is able to walk them around the park across the street.. Locals typically do not wait when the line is this long, and we wouldn't have either had it not been my birthday. I needed to indulge in some French Toast, and when it comes to French Toast, Mama's does not disappoint. We both got the same thing we ordered the last time and again, cleared our plates.
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    Fully stuffed and tired from waiting in the rain, we cut our time in the city short and headed home! It was nice to be able to relax for a change - that's needed every now and then! On my actual Birthday I was surprised by some amazing gifts, red roses and red velvet cake, a sushi dinner followed by The Monuments Men, again, I love history [especially WWII] so the movie was the perfect ending to my birthday weekend! Thanks to my husband for making 24 special!

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    We are trying to squeeze as much action and fun out of the West Coast as we can before we move to our next location! Read on to see what we were up to this past weekend! Also, the lack of posting is due to an Emergency Room visit and the fact that it now takes me 3x the amount of time to do anything thanks to the reason for the ER visit which you will find out about in this post!
    PS. All pictures expand if you click on them! Enjoy!

Highway 1

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    We thoroughly enjoyed taking scenic Highway 1 up to Mendocino, although we were not expecting the cattle crossing signs to be real! Two curves later and there was a cow in the middle of the road in the opposite lane. As my husband sped past I realized he didn't notice - right as I was about to say something, he started slowing down, in awe that a baby cow was that close to the road. We both found it amusing that there is a fence on the side of the highway 5' from the road to keep them from going to the ocean! Wouldn't it make more sense to just put one fence on the opposite side to keep them from both the highway and the ocean?! Despite the fact that it takes almost double the time, Highway 1 is worth the drive! Most of it is right along the coast with beautiful sights of the ocean! It was so fun to drive up as the sun was setting over the ocean!

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Beautiful sunset in the coastal town of Gualala, California. I love saying that now!

Mendocino

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    I was beyond impressed with my husband's choice for a Bed and Breakfast! The MacCallum House Inn was so charming, and only a block from the beautiful beach! I love historical sights so it was fun for me to be able to read about the history of the house we stayed in as we waited to be seated for dinner in the main floor restaurant.
    Dinner was excellent! As we indulged in our banana split dessert including Tahitian Vanilla Bean and Irish Coffee House Made Ice Cream, candied nuts, and pomegranate, a live band played "A Horse With No Name" - a song my dad use to play for me as a child that I was able to completely impress my husband by knowing all the words to the chorus. Thanks, dad, you're the coolest.

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    Our room was fresh, clean, and airy, and complete with our own private 'water closet' and sink area. Please note that the bed was not that wrinkled when we got there! We arrived at night so I did not take pictures until the next morning when it was light - and the bed had already been slept in! I loved the antique furniture, my favorite piece being the dresser!
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     Breakfast was also incredible, and although it's hard to tell in the picture, you could see a glimpse of the beach directly out the windows! The light coming in through the beautiful glass windows was so refreshing! Breakfast is also where the funniest part of the weekend took place:
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    My husband and I both ordered coffee. As a hygienist, I try to steer away from drinking things with straight sugar in them [minus Chick-fil-A's glorious Sweet Tea]. Noticing that there were only sugar cubes on the table, I gestured to that area as I asked the waitress if they had any other sweeteners. They did and she brought them over. The next thing I know, I look up and Tyler is dumping salt into his coffee. Through tears of laughter I managed to get out, "What are you doing?! That's salt!!" His response, "Oh. Well, I saw you motion to this area about sugar, I looked over I saw sugar, cinnamon sugar [the pepper] and a bowl of croutons."
    While he later admitted that he knew the "croutons" were sugar cubes, it doesn't make up for the fact that he thought the salt and pepper shakers from the night before were replaced with ground sugar and cinnamon sugar! This photo was taken after he took a sip of his salt coffee, to which he said, "not bad," and insisted on drinking [after adding more cream and 2 packs of real sugar]. Macho man.
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Beautiful Mendocino!
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Yes, we're obsessed!

The Famous Drive Through Tree

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    Yes. This actually does exist, we were able to drive [and walk] through it, and it is crazy cool! It's a bit of a tight squeeze, and you have to pay, but it's still cool!
    After driving up the 1 to where it intersects with Highway 101, we got off to go visit this phenomenon before heading to the Avenue of Giants. Although this is pretty giant itself!

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Beautiful, humbling reminder for the journey into the Giants that lie ahead.

Avenue of the Giants

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    The Avenue of Giants is a 30ish mile scenic route next to the 101 that goes through the Humboldt Forest which contains the area's largest group of "Virgin Redwoods." Yeah. I had to look that up. Basically it just means that they've been relatively untouched by humans and uninfluenced by human activity.
    The drive was spectacular, but a minor accident 1/4 of the way through [see below] made the rest of the journey less than exciting for me. Luckily we drove back through the next morning after I'd had rest, ice, Advil, and Starbucks. Much better.

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    So, the accident. I like to call it, "A Fallen Tree and A Fallen Me." Mind you, this was on our first hike. Above you see a fallen redwood, and to the right you see me climbing up it's base. What you can't see, is that Tyler is taking this picture from about 3-4' higher than where I began my climb, so I'm actually 4' off the ground. Initially, I stopped here, but Tyler said he wouldn't take a picture until I got in the hallowed out hole, so I climbed on. The wood was slick, we for some reason weren't wearing our hiking boots despite having them in the car, and I slipped. I slid straight down, somehow managing to only get mud on my palms, and landed on the side/top of my left foot. Within seconds it felt like my shoe was strangling my foot. Tyler told me to "walk it off!" so after hobbling back to the car, I screamed, "get the shoe off!" and saw what I thought was my ankle. Really, it was a swollen golf-ball sized bump about an inch in front of my ankle. Having ruined the trip enough by cancelling out hiking for the rest of the day, I sucked it up and we continued the drive with my foot on the dash and an ice cold water against it. Luckily, I got it x-rayed and made out with just a bad sprain!

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    The morning drive was so serene! We had the entire road to ourselves and the sun coming up over the trees was spectacular!
    We even stopped for a hike to see the Founder's Tree and Dyerville Giant. Yes, I hiked on my foot [sorry moms!]. It was only 0.5mi and Tyler carried me for parts.. and I found I am good at hopping on 1 foot!
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Above: pre-hike photo of road to the trail
Right: Founder's Tree - so tall!
Below: Dyerville Giant
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Absolutely love this photo of the new tree sprouting out of the fallen! For scale, my husband [pictured to the left by the base of the tree] is 6'4" - funny how he looks so tiny next to the roots!
Look forward to sharing more California adventures with you!

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