Category Archives: Viajes

Forty hours in New Orleans

It's like Disneyland, but with a lot more alcohol.

I’ve been a little lax on blogging. I’ve been out and about doing some cool stuff like taking a super quick trip to New Orleans for a wedding. Sean’s former ZogSports (intramural football) teammates, Tony and Christina, got married on May 12th.

I arrived on Friday. Sean picked me up at the airport. He flew in the day before and had an extra day to party and reunite with his New York friends. We dropped my stuff off at the hotel, Maison Dupuy, and walked around the French Quarter for a little bit.

Beignets at Café du Monde

Café du Monde

We had café au lait and beignets at Café du Monde and stared out at the Mississippi for a moment. Later that evening, we met up with several others for a delicious dinner at Emeril’s Delmonico.

Afterward we went to a club to meet up with the groom and more friends. We didn’t hang out too long since I was tired, still recovering from my cold and not really up for enjoying the New Orleans nightlife.

Pouring outside our window

On Saturday we had brunch near the hotel and then shared some beers with friends in a pirate-themed bar. I felt like I was at Disneyland with the pirate and French Quarter thing going on. We didn’t do much that afternoon except get ready for the wedding since we weren’t too interested in walking around in a storm.

Mr. & Mrs. Buglione

Tony and Christina’s wedding was a lot of fun and worth the too-quick trip. They had a short ceremony at Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was the first time I attended a Catholic wedding that wasn’t a full Mass; they just did the liturgy (readings) and vows. The reception was held at Maison Dupuy. Since the courtyard was still wet from the rain on Friday and Saturday, the party was moved to two smaller ballrooms indoors.

Highlights from the wedding:

Tony sings a song he wrote for Christina

- Tony sang/played a surprise song he composed for Christina. It was really sweet. Tony’s mom asked Sean how he was going to top that.

- The excellent band of about a dozen musicians and singers. They played covers of current pop songs and old rock hits but it wasn’t cheesy at all. They were great and once I started dancing I couldn’t stop. I guess when you’re in New Orleans there’s no shortage of great live music.

- The food. They set up a buffet of hors d’oeuvres, gumbo, roast beef carving station, fruit and cheese. Judging by how I felt the next morning on the flight home, I liked the food and champagne a little too much.

Suit up My Wedding Date

- My handsome date.

Teal twins!

- Being teal twins with Jen (totally unplanned). I think the color suits us well.

Go Dodgers!

- Dancing and partying with the NY crew. I hope they bring the party to our wedding, but leave the Yankee fandom out of our decorations. Sean really liked the groom’s cake.

Second Line through the French Quarter

- The second line through the French Quarter at the end of the party. It’s been a dozen years since I’ve been in a parade with a brass band. Last time, Rose Parade 1999, was much different since I (a) didn’t need to play my trombone and (b) wasn’t in a band uniform. Instead I just marched/walked to the music and waved a white handkerchief as is customary. Since it was a Saturday night, there were lots of spectators cheering on the wedding party as we circled several blocks in the French Quarter.

Second Line through the French Quarter

When we arrived back at the hotel, we danced a little more. I’m really glad my purse was big enough to hold a pair of flip flops. I wouldn’t have made it back to the hotel in my heels.

Adios, NOLA

We only got a few hours of sleep before waking up at 5 am to make our 7 am flights. Ugh. The trip home was not fun.

All non-iPhone pictures borrowed from Sean since I forgot my camera.

A few days in Lake Arrowhead

Lake Arrowhead sunset

Early last week, my brother Adrian called and asked about my plans for the week. He was on vacation from one job and spring break from the other. He and his girlfriend, Alexis, had rented a condo up in Lake Arrowhead and invited Sean and I to join them for part of the trip.

“We’ll probably be just sitting around eating, drinking and relaxing.”

I liked the idea of going up to the San Bernardino Mountains. I used to go pretty often in high school and college with church and school groups, but it’s been nearly 10 years since my last trip with family. I wasn’t sure if I could get away during the busy first week of spring quarter, but I was able to leave early on Thursday and take Friday off. Sean and I drove up Thursday afternoon. Traffic was light due to the holiday weekend.

Capirotada - so delicious!

We made a pit stop at my mom’s for to-go burritos and capirotada (Mexican bread pudding, a Lenten tradition). I’d been craving capirotada for weeks and dug into some leftovers my Madrina Chilo left behind when she visited my grandparents. I’d like to believe she knew I was stopping by and left this for me because I’m her goddaughter.

Highway 18 up to Lake Arrowhead

We arrived at the condo just in time to enjoy some views of the lake at sunset from the balcony.

First view of the lake from the balcony

Adrian and Alexis were great hosts. There were no luchador fights, just a lot of smiles and good drinks.

First game of Taboo

Ping pong time

First round of king's cup

As Adrian promised, there was a lot eating, drinking and games. We played card games, Taboo, Uno, ping pong and king’s cup. It’s a good thing we were all staying in the condo since no one was going anywhere after king’s cup.

Brief walk along the west end of the lake

Brief trip to Lake Arrowhead village for food & drink

The condo is right on the lake and is a short walk away from Lake Arrowhead Village. Each day, we walked along the lakefront path to the village for groceries and drinks. On Friday evening, Alexis’ co-worker and friend drove up, our group grew to six.

Looks nice, but it was still cold

It was a little too cold to kayak or go swimming in the lake, but we did spend a lot of time on the balcony just staring at the water, sipping sangria and enjoying some time in the sun.

Good Friday sunset over the lake

Although I’ve been to Lake Arrowhead many times, I’d never stayed so close to the lake. We didn’t take advantage of the proximity due to the cool weather, — there was still some snow on the ground — but it was nice to be able to walk out from the bedroom and be immediately by the water.

Alexis and Adrian

I’m thankful to the little brother and Alexis for the hospitality.

Joshua Tree National Park trip

Swoon.

While a bunch of Angelenos were all excited about a rock from Riverside County making a very slow trip to the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA), Sean and I decided to go to Riverside County and see some more impressive rocks… and trees.

Making pictures

In the middle of the week, I suggested taking a trip to Joshua Tree National Park to celebrate our second anniversary. A few things made it attractive: neither of us had visited; it’s close (2 hours is close in Southern California); it’s inexpensive; and it’d offer lots of great views/sites to photograph. About the first one, I’ve been to the Coachella Valley and Palm Desert several times with friends and family but I’d never been to the park. My Mojave Desert camping experience had been limited to Kern River. Sean was down.

IMG_9780

We headed out Sunday morning and arrived in Joshua Tree early in the afternoon. Our first stop was at the visitor’s center to get more water and some maps. Our plan for the day: lunch at the Hidden Valley picnic area; exploring the Hidden Valley nature loop; and then hanging out at Key’s View until sunset.

Continue reading

NY vacation and engagement party eats

Sean and I didn’t have much of an agenda for our NY trip. There were only a few things we wanted to do and see. Of course, some of those things were food related.

We arrived on Wednesday night and went straight to the future in-law’s home in Long Island. We were very hungry as we’d only eaten breakfast and snacks on the plane. Sadly, JetBlue stopped carrying Munchies. That was one of my favorite parts about my monthly flights to/from JFK. I actually complained about it on the customer satisfaction survey. Kenny (future brother-in-law) picked us up form the airport. On the way there he told us Mrs C (fMIL) had made a steak dinner. It was delicious. No, I don’t have photos.

We took advantage of being near a Dunkin' Donuts

A few hours later, we were ready for dessert: Dunkin’ Donuts. LA transplants, especially those from NY, have a lot of valid reasons to complain about LA. One of those is often the lack of DD. We used to have DD, but the donut market was already saturated with mom and pop shops and Winchell’s. Although you can’t go to a DD in LA, you can buy a gift card at drugstores or grocery stores. Sean ate a few vanilla donuts. I tried a few of the season flavors (pumpkin, apple spice), but my favorite is still the simple glazed donut. We had DD a few more times on our trip.

On Thursday night, we went out to dinner with friends for Filipino Food Nite at Tito Rad’s in Queens. I missed the first Filipino Food Nite, but was glad for the second. We ate family style and had several dishes including: fried calamari, lumpia (yum!), chicken adobo, pork adobo, sisig, pancit, tuna, and plain white rice.

Chile relleno meatballs at the Meatball Shop Butternut squash

The Meatball Shop was the only restaurant on our to-do/see/visit list. We went on Friday afternoon, our first day back in Manhattan. Luckily, there was no wait. I had the special, the chile relleno meatball. It was less spicy than I expected and they were a little stingy with the perfectly spicy tomatillo salsa. I tend to load my tacos with cilantro, and was sad that it could barely be tasted in the meatballs. I had butternut squash with ricotta and candied walnuts on the side.

Ziti pizza

On Friday evening, we attended a birthday party at the Mercury Bar. The bar is two doors down from Pizza 33, which Sean recommended. Rather than eat at the bar, we stepped out for Ziti pizza. The pizza was too dry, adding red pepper flakes helped. It wasn’t the best pizza I’ve had in NY, but it was certainly enough to fuel some drinking and dancing.

Cherry tomatoes Engagement party food

Jerk pork one of several meat/seafood dishes Fried chicken

On Saturday night, the future in-laws hosted a small engagement party. Although Sean’s met most of my extended family, I’ve only met his parents and brother. Mrs C did a great job cooking up a variety of Jamaican dishes for the party. I’m not too familiar with Jamaican food. I’ve had a few typical dishes (e.g., beef patties, jerk chicken, oxtail soup, red beans and rice), but still have a lot to learn. The menu for the party included: jerk chicken, jerk pork, BBQ ribs, fried chicken, mussels, salmon, oxtail soup, a paella-like seafood and rice dish, a few different types of rice, mac n’ cheese, green salad, beef patties, saltfish and crackers, and green beans. I know I’m forgetting something.

Plate 1 of 2: ribs, salad, jerk chicken, salmon, green beans, rice and mac n cheese

Despite filling up my plate twice, I didn’t get to try everything. There was a lot of food leftover which we ate for the next couple of days. My favorite was the very tender jerk chicken and jerk pork. It was quite spicy (much more than the one Sean occasionally makes).

Very potent rum punch

I washed this all down with some wine and later some very sweet and potent rum punch and rum cake.

Labor Day weekend in Napa and San Francisco

Grapes

Sean and I spent Labor Day weekend in Napa and San Francisco. It was a fun trip and I’m glad I got to see some Bay Area friends. I used to go up monthly for school. Most of those trips were day trips, but I occasionally had time to hang out with friends.

We arrived in San Francisco on Friday afternoon and headed out to Sonoma. Despite rush hour holiday traffic, we made it just in time for Suzzy and Terry’s wedding rehearsal dinner. It was fun to reconnect with Sean’s NY friends who I hadn’t seen since December.

Cattails

The next morning, I did my long run in the neighborhood near our hotel in American Canyon. I found myself running along the American Canyon wetlands. After brunch, I too Sean back there to check it out before getting ready for the wedding in the afternoon.

Vineyards at Gundlach Bundschu Winery

We split a cab from Napa to Sonoma with some friends staying in the same hotel. Suzzy and Terry’s wedding was held at the Gundlach Bundschu Winery on the edge of the vineyards. It was a short and sweet ceremony where they both spoke about the importance of their families.

Sean in suit = swoon

Afterward, we cooled down with many glasses of white wine and snuck in to the cool cave between the vineyards and the patio where the reception was held.

Suzzy & Terry's first dance

Suzzy and Terry had a fun and low key wedding. We danced and drank more, took pictures in the photobooth and then boarded the shuttle to the after party bar/club. We got a ride back to our hotel with the same cabdriver. Taking a cab was definitely worth it.

Crissy Field... there were a lot more dogs around than you can see in this pic

The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and had a quick picnic lunch at a park. We drove to SF and decided to visit the Golden Gate Bridge since Sean had never been. We parked in the Marina and walked from Crissy Field to Fort Point and then on to the bridge. (Thanks to Alex for the idea.)

Golden Gate Bridge

As expected, it was cold, windy and crowded on the bridge, but worth the view. We left the Golden Gate Bridge and headed over to our hotel. We checked in and then took BART from Union Square to the Mission where we met up for burritos, a mini Mission mural tour and ice cream with Rio.

La guerrillera

As soon as we came out from the 24th Street BART station, I thought it would be nice to check out some of the Mission’s famous alley-filled murals. I didn’t even have to bring it up to Rio as he suggested it as a good way to walk off our dinner.

The "we're so hip and urban" faux engagement shoot

Sean and I took the opportunity to take some “hip and urban” pseudo engagement photos.

Rio is awesome. Can't you tell?

Rio and I tried to be serious.

Vanilla + sprinkles for Sean

We ended our evening in the Mission with some ice cream at Mitchell’s Ice Cream. It was delicious.

On Sunday, took BART in to Berkeley for lunch with our friend Mariam. I’ve been reading Mariam’s cooking/travel blog for a while, but never tried any of her delicious dishes. This time around, she offered to make lunch. We were too hungry to stop to take photos of any the food. Good thing Mariam has photos and recipes on her blog: sesame chicken, Chinese chicken salad, clams with black bean sauce, and spicy eggplant. We were stuffed, but we couldn’t turn down an offer for ice cream, Turkish delight, and Iranian tea. It was nice catching up with Mariam about travel and puppies.

We left Mariam’s apartment and took BART back to San Francisco. After picking up the car at the hotel, we made a quick trip to Nob Hill (Bob’s Donuts!) and then drove to SFO.

I wish we would have had a little more time to catch up with friends, but the weekend went by pretty fast. There’s always next time. We’ll be sure to bring warmer sweaters and coats.

Yosemite day 3: Tuolumne Grove and thunderstorms

Showing off their guns

Tuesday was our final day enjoying Yosemite, but we didn’t expect it to be. Everyone slept in that morning and we had a lazy breakfast before heading out around noon to Tuolumne Grove about 15 minutes away.

Sequoias

Tuolumne Grove is home to some of California’s famous Giant Sequoias. It’s not as famous as Yosemite’s other grove of Sequoias, Mariposa Grove. It’s also not as crowded. There were only a few other people in the grove that afternoon.

Tunnel Tree

The hike down the grove (yeah, down) is only a mile. Once in the grove you can follow several paths through the grove. The paths lead you around the trees and placards with information about the Giant Sequoias. Since I’m a nerd and find the very old trees fascinating, I read all the placards. And then I quoted them to my cousins as #treefacts.

Junior, Rene and Sean atop a dead Sequoia

By the time we ended our tour of Tuolumne Grove, the weather had changed. It was cooler and clouds were starting to move in. We had a chilly lunch at the picnic tables and then returned to the campsite.

Roasting Marshmellows

Dinner back at Hodgdon Meadows was simple (hot dogs cooked on skewers; s’mores) and we got things cleaned up and ready to head out to the Starry, Starry Night free program 15 minutes away. Even though it was cloudy, we hoped the clouds would clear up. I was really looking forward to this program. I did something similar with my family when we visited the Grand Canyon in the early 90s.

Sadly, we never left the campground. It started to rain around 8, a little before we originally planned to leave for the starry night program. The rain never let up. Everyone rushed in to the tents and hoped they would keep out the rain.

How we kept our bags and clothes dry

They didn’t. Instead, we started to pack up our clothes up in case water seeped in to the tents. Everything was placed in sleeping bags. Adrian and Alexis put away their tent (which they had abandoned the previous night when their inflatable mattress deflated for the second time; they slept in the Durango). Along with De’Shaun and Jen, they were the first ones to abandon the tents for the cars.

Lori Tries To Fight The Leaks In Our Tent During The Thunderstorm

Lori, Sean and I (who shared a tent) listened to the heavy rain, watched the flashes of lightning and listened to the thunder. Lori kept worrying about rain seeping in and never sat down. I chilled on the air mattress even though water was already starting to drip in through the seams. We moved the mattress slightly and moved anything we didn’t want to get wet away from the edges.

Over the night, water seeped in to the tent

Lori then went to Nancy, Vanny, Valerie and Junior’s tent to hang out with them. They had some snacks and acted scared of the rain, until they noticed that they wouldn’t be able to sleep in the tents because was water was seeping in.We heard Rene yell that there was a river running through his tent and a lot of scrambling outside.

Yeah, that made it tough to sleep in the tent

Everyone abandoned the tents for the cars. Sean and I stayed. I knew I wouldn’t sleep in a crowded SUV. The tent was cold, and the thunder and lightning was scary, but I was still relatively dry. I even slept a little. Sean wasn’t so lucky and got dripped on a little more later in the night. My cousins joked that we were like the old couple in Titanic cuddling on their bunk as the deck flooded, resigned to their fate. At least we didn’t get washed away or had the tent collapse on us.

The Campsite Is Soaked.  Time To Go Home.

When we awoke the next morning, it was still raining, but the campsite was no longer full of puddles. Everything was wet, including our firewood. If we were better prepared for the rain, we may have been able to salvage the trip. A couple of umbrellas and emergency ponchos weren’t enough. Junior sadly delivered the news that we’d be packing everything up and heading home a day early.

“Besides, we won’t be able to do much today as all the trails will be wet,” he reasoned.

The Campsite Is Soaked.  Time To Go Home.

We worked quickly to get food, clothes and supplies packed. We placed the muddy and wet tents in Junior’s car since there was a plastic cover in the back. Everyone was freezing (it was in the 40s) when we finally checked out and began the trip home. We warmed up in the cars although some us were still in wet clothes.

El Capitan shrouded in clouds

Although we were all bummed about being rained out, the rain and clouds gave us some more breathtaking views as we drove home.

Bridalveil Fall

I’d love to return to Yosemite. There’s so much to see and do that even a 4 day trip would not have been enough. It’s easy to see why it was the first National Park and why you have to plan ahead for reservations. Next time, I’ll prepare for the rain, especially if we go early in the summer.

Several of the photos in this post and the previous Yosemite posts were taken by Sean, my sister Lori or cousin Vanessa. If you’d like to see any more of the photos, just click on any photo and it’ll take you to the Flickr set. Enjoy.

Yosemite trip day 2: Nevada Falls hike

Nevada Falls and Liberty Cap

The hike to Nevada Falls was definitely the highlight of the trip even though our Lucky 13 group got split up.

The plan for Monday was to get up by 6 am and have breakfast and be ready to leave for our hike by 8 am. That didn’t happen. It takes a while to get 13 people dressed, fed and ready for a day hike. Also, bear boxes make eating and cleaning everything up a big production.

Our Options

We left the campsite around 10 am in all three cars. Before the trip, we agreed we’d do a day hike to Nevada Falls. It’s a popular hike, but not nearly as popular as Half Dome. Some of the campers in our group wanted to do Half Dome, but we lagged in getting permits until they were no longer available. Half Dome is a challenging hike (18 miles roundtrip, 4,800 feet of elevation climb) and we knew not everyone in the group would want to do hike it. Nevada Falls, with its 6-mile roundtrip and 2,800 feet ascent, seemed much more manageable for a group of mixed fitness and hiking experience. The night before we agreed to take the shorter Mist Trail up to Nevada Falls (about 1 mile shorter roundtrip) rather than the John Muir Trail (JMT). I was okay with the decision, but would have preferred the switchbacks of the latter.

Getting in some stretches before a day of hiking

By the time we arrived in Yosemite Valley, parked, took the free shuttle to the trailhead at Happy Isles, stretched and all went to the bathroom it was past 11:30. I was getting antsy and annoying my fellow campers.

Yosemite crew

I just wanted to get up to Nevada Falls early. It was already warm and sunny, with highs projected to get up to the 80s. It’s great weather, but I prefer to work out when it’s cooler and darker. Thankfully, a lot of the trails were shaded.

Merced River

From the beginning of the hike, I set out from the rest of the group. Sean followed close behind me as we hiked up the first leg to the Vernal Falls footbridge (~1 mile, 400 feet elevation climb). This first leg is paved, steep and quite crowded. It was a bit frustrating to walk around slower hikers, kids and tourists amazed by a dumb squirrel on a boulder. We stopped a few times to take some pictures of the Merced River and the view as we ascended.

The group with Liberty Cap and Mt Broderick in the background

Soon, we were ahead of the other campers except for Adrian, De’Shaun and their girlfriends. We all paused at the footbridge to take in the sights and enjoy the cool air and mist rising from the river. Just beyond the footbridge, we encountered a fork. The two trail markers showed the same destinations with slightly different mileage. Rather than wait for the rest of the campers, we chose the longer route. I later found out that if I would have led my small group to left, we would have ascended via the crowded and popular Mist Trail.

Pack of mules coming down the John Muir Trail

Our hike was fun an uneventful (except when I dropped our PB&J sandwiches on the trail… we ate them anyway, they were just a little grainy). Adrian said he felt we made it up to the top rather quick because I was pushing the pace. I had my Garmin watch on and tracked mileage which helped us mentally. I could tell the others, “We’ve done a mile! Only two more to go.” We stopped to catch our breath, take pictures of the sights and eat. We all had plenty of water and had no problem staying hydrated. The JMT wasn’t too crowded, but it was stinky with lots of mule droppings in the early part. We didn’t see many people but heard several languages. We joked that Yosemite was like Disneyland, an international draw (with lots of lines and crowds too!).

Half Dome, Mt Broderick and Liberty Cap

After about an hour and a half, we made it up to the top of Nevada Falls. We admired the scenery of the falls, Half Dome in the distance, Mt Broderick and neighboring Liberty Cap. To cool down, we dipped our legs in the cold water for the ice bath effect. We re-applied sunblock and ate more of our snacks. I’m wary of heights, so I kept my distance from the open ledges. When I did try and look down at the water crashing down over the falls from the ledge with the rails, I got dizzy. Yeah, I’m a weenie.

Jen and De'Shaun

We waited atop Nevada Falls for an hour for the rest of the group to show. Even if they had ascended the other trail, we all had the same destination. They never showed so we began our descent via the Mist Trail. At the top of the trail, we encountered Rene and Vero.

We Saw Rene As We Prepared To Make Our Way Down The Mist Trail

They told us that they split from Lori, Vanny, Valerie, Nancy and Junior who took up the JMT. We chatted before continuing down the Mist trail. Unfortunately, Rene and Vero didn’t warn us that the trail was tough, steep and very technical. At least we saw another beautiful waterfall.

Looking down at the Mist Trail

The Mist Trail takes you closer along the Merced River and the two falls, hence it’s name. In the early summer the river is quite full and you get drenched with mist as you hike near the falls. The Mist Trail is very crowded; one of my friends described it as the 405 at rush hour.

Heading Down The Mist Trail

At several points we stopped and pulled to the side let hikers pass us on their way up. Although the trail is shorter, it’s tougher since it’s crowded, narrow, steep and rocky. There were points when each of us almost slipped on the rocks and the guys complained about knee pain. Needless to say, we took our time coming down.

Vernal Falls and the Mist Trail

We took a short break at the top of Vernal Falls, which was crowded with lots of hikers taking breaks and enjoying the sunshine. Then we continued down the wet steps and hoped we didn’t slip. There’s parts of the trail that have handrails and others where it’s just steps (of varying heights) and a ledge overlooking the rough waters of the Merced. I’m not sure we could enjoy the views since we were so busy looking down at our steps. We put our cameras away so they wouldn’t get ruined by the water.

Post hike pic. Tired, hungry and probably a little stinky.

Four hours after we began, we made it down to Yosemite Valley. In the last mile or so, some of us ran down the trail just to get it over with. We took the shuttle (which almost ran me over) back to our car where we dug in to salty snacks. It took us longer than expected to get back to Hodgdon Meadows due to Yosemite Valley gridlock. Once at the campsite we took “showers” in the woods and made cheeseburgers for dinner.

The other half of our group didn’t arrive for a few hours. They had a good time too and returned with stories to tell.

Atop Nevada Falls (where they met up with Vero and Rene)

They hiked up together

Backpacks

Yosemite camping trip: Day 1

Vanny and Junior first proposed the idea of a cousins’ trip to Yosemite. We’d all been camping as a group; the previous time being in 2006. Everyone was interested. Seven of us cousins were in. Adding plus ones, the group quickly doubled.

Junior, Vanny’s boyfriend, took the lead in organizing the trip. He reserved two sites at Hodgdon Meadows campground as soon as reservations opened up. He seemed a little bummed, because he wanted to get campsites in Yosemite Valley rather than at the northwest edge of the park (a 45 minute drive away). I was happy. Our campsites were numbers 30 and 31.

By March, we were ironing out some details. At least we tried to. Discussions over food and transportation (who’s going to drive?) quickly devolved into shouting matches. It wasn’t that we were mad at each other, that’s just the way we communicate.

Up until two weeks before departure, we were still finalizing the group. A few people backed out due to work and other obligations. Soon we were down to 13 (four people are missing from the group above).

Lucky 13.

***

We met up in Hacienda Heights at my mom’s house early Sunday morning. Call time was 4 am, but we didn’t get cars loaded, burritos made, and cars fueled until shortly before 6. We had a long road trip and wanted to get started before it got too warm. We split up in to 3 trucks/SUVs loaded down with camping equipment and coolers filled with food:

Cholos 101 – Junior, Vanny, Lori and Valerie
Mocos 414 – Nancy, Rene, Vero, Sean and me
Pimps on a Mission – Adrian, Alexis, De’Shaun and Jen

And we were off. The road trip was uneventful. Vero, Sean and I played Scrabble as we drove through various Central Valley towns. I won. We made a couple of pit stops. As we got to Yosemite, I brought out the bacon-flavored potato chips another cousin had brought with her after her post-college graduation European tour. They were delicious.

Around 1 or 2, we arrived to Yosemite National Park. We stopped in Wawona to go to the visitor’s center. Afterward, we drove in to gridlocked Yosemite Valley, home to iconic views of El Capitan, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. We all gasped as soon as these breathtaking monuments came in to view. I love Ansel Adams’ Yosemite landscapes, but they’re poor substitutions for the real thing. Like good tourists, Vero, Nancy and Sean snapped photos of the breathtaking granite formations. I sat in my middle seat, tired, grumpy and jealous that I could barely see much.

We hung out in Yosemite Valley for half an hour before reading the visitor’s guide and realizing we could buy ice and fire wood at the gas station in Crane Flat, only 8 miles from our campground.

We drove to Hodgdon Meadows and set up camp. As soon as the tents were up and food was unloaded we made dinner (spaghetti). It was the perfect way to carb load for our 6+ mile hike the next day to Nevada Falls.

New York state of mind

Um. Swoon.

I was looking through an old wallet a couple days ago and found the MetroCard I used all last year. It reminded me how much I’ve been missing New York lately. The nice thing about 9 months of a bicoastal relationship was that it allowed me to get to know NY more.

I miss visiting NY, but don’t miss the distance. Living across the country from Sean was hard and only became more difficult as the year wore on. The day he arrived at LAX after dealing with several delays (snowstorm, flight delays, etc) for good was the one the best days of the year.

Last December, I didn’t think I’d come to miss my trips to NY. At least not so soon. The flights, summer heat and humidity made me grumpy. Sean seriously thought I’d refuse to make summer trips. I still went in the summer, but those trips were short compared to spring and fall trips. I liked NY but didn’t love the crowds, expensive food and crappy weather.

I miss the trips. I even miss the flight, sorta. I looked forward to eating Munchies, watching TV, and taking in the breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon and the Rockies on my flights. I loved our reunions at baggage claim and long airport hugs. I miss riding back in the rented ZipCar through Queens and in to familiar Harlem. I miss people watching on the train, running the outer loop of Central Park, watching Sean’s football games, happy hours with his team (who all seemed to know me even though I’d just met them), indie concerts, and delicious food.

I know I’ll be back, but it’ll be different. I won’t have the feeling that I only have a few days to spend with my love. He’ll be coming home with me too.

Santa Barbara anniversary trip

Santa Ynez Mountains north of SB

On the short hour and half drive up to Santa Barbara, Sean asked me why I’d chosen the coastal city to celebrate our one year anniversary. I shrugged, it just seemed better than another trip to Disneyland and California Adventures. “This way you can have a real California adventure,” I responded since he’s new to the state and doesn’t know much beyond LA.

SB is close enough for an affordable and quick weekend getaway. More importantly, it’s far enough to feel like I’m out of the city. I’ve been to SB several times, but I was usually stuck in daylong meetings or conferences at UCSB. I was in elementary school the last time I’d done sightseeing in SB.

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