Bay Area Update

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My travel update is much overdue – many weeks have come and gone since my last post. Finding creativity to write about my own life is a great challenge; writer’s block at its finest. When I’m not sleeping, eating, or working, I’m walking up and down iconic San Francisco streets and along the vast San Francisco Bay waterfront. Let me catch you up!

I’m a distance runner. I love exercise – it’s freeing. All my life I’ve had the ability to step outside my home, turn one way or the other, and start running. Simple enough, eh?That’s the luxury of living in a neighborhood outside of the city. Traffic lights exist sparingly. Dense traffic is rare. In stark contrast, I walk at least a mile through downtown San Fran to find a decent area to run. For the first time in my life, all my springtime running was in the sunshine and heat. I avoided this spring’s dreary drizzle in the PNW – an appealing change. My favorite run spans from Ghiradelli Square westward to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a beautiful five to seven mile run. But, getting to the square is almost a two mile walk.

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Close to midway point of my Square-to-Bridge run.

My most convenient and common run starts with a mile walk east through the financial district to the San Francisco Ferry Building on the Embarcadero. From there I run south, anywhere between three and five miles, to AT&T Park and back. The best part of the route is running along McCovey Cove behind the ballpark. I quickly added these two runs to my collection of Bay Area memories.

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McCovey Cove

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McCovey Cove

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Willie McCovey statue with the Bay Bridge stretching toward Oakland.

In early May I traveled to Toronto, Ontario for a regular and much anticipated family visit. The trip included numerous coffee house visits, jammin’ to Ed Sheeran’s newest album “Divide”, and late nights of tasty homemade grub and flavourful red wine (note my selection of flavour instead of flavor).  If you ever get the chance to visit Toronto, I urge you to go. It’s a beautiful city with plenty to experience.

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Aunt Marr and Pippin along the north shore of Lake Ontario

I must mention our favorite San Fran breakfast spot. Eats, a cozy American cafe, is located on the west side of town, just south of the Presidio. The menu offers the best variety of breakfast/brunch options and is packed full of people every weekend. What’s a common indicator of a great cafe or restaurant? Regularly adding your name to the list of those waiting to get it for the good stuff. Eats was worth the wait every time.

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Erinn’s cousin Kellen and her husband Andrew live in the Bay Area. We were blessed to spend quality time with them both in and out of the city.  In late May we hiked Angel Island State park, both around the island perimeter and to the summit of Mt Livermore. It was a stunning, clear day with beautiful views of San Francisco Bay. I highly recommend an Angel Island hike if you’re ever in the area!

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The Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, stretching across the mouth of the Bay

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Looking north toward Tiburon and San Pablo Bay

Wrap up of our San Francisco exploring will be shared later this week, including some memories from my parents’ early June visit and the rest of our adventuring!

 

The Walking City

Living in a metropolitan hub is both magnificent and pungent. As I step outside our apartment building most mornings, I immediately sense the hectic pedestrian rush and funky city smells. The streets of San Fran are not as friendly as Seattle or Portland. Seemingly everyone needs to be somewhere five minutes ago. If you don’t know the art of speed walking, you soon assimilate or instead risk your well-being. And because spring in San Fran sees fewer rainy days than the PNW, the ubiquitous urine whiffs are nearly painful. Without consistent rainfall, the odor builds and follows you everywhere. This is a busy, smelly city. What metropolis isn’t? You get what you ask for! Even though San Fran is my first big city home, I am not exaggerating the smell of urine. Time we get used to it.

All that aside, San Fran is uniquely beautiful and awesome. Dad reminds me of his past San Fran visits and appreciates the city most for being an exceptional walking city. After a month here and plenty of wandering in all directions, that sounds like an understatement. San Fran is surrounded by water on the west, north and east sides. Hills exist in all directions and challenge anyone walking more than 500 feet, while also creating stunning urban views. Moreover, the incredible Victorian architecture scattered throughout the city only adds to the beauty. No complaints here.

My favorite part of town stretches along the water from AT&T Park to the Golden Gate Bridge. Almost an eight mile walk, many San Fran landmarks are included: the Embarcadero, Pier 39,  Fisherman’s WarfGhirardelli SquareFort MasonCrissy Field, the Presidio of San Francisco, and the ever-iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

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Embarcadero Station

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Pier 14

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Pier 7

They Bay Bridge conveniently connects San Francisco and Oakland, which is just across the bay.

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Pier 41

Alcatraz is barely visible, sitting out in the bay just to the right of the second lamp post. Erinn eagerly looks forward to a night tour of the prison.  Yikes.

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Pier 39

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Love Bug at Fisherman’s Wharf

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Window box succulents in Chinatown

Erinn’s favorite picture to date, shot about a week ago after our first visit to Coit Tower. I love how she caught the Victorian row homes in the window’s reflection.

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Russian Hill

This last shot was taken in the Russian Hill neighborhood. Facing westward, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance. Lombard Street, the famous San Fran attraction, is only a couple blocks away.

Our time in the Bay Area is quickly running out, but we are not slowing down! What an experience it has been to date. Even though we very much miss our PNW family and friends, we are thankful for this grand opportunity to travel and experience San Fran. I will soon share additional city exploration, stories, and photos, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio, and more. Also, if you know of any Bay Area musts, let us know! We welcome new ideas.

PDX to SFO (and everything in between)

March was by far the busiest month of travel I’ve ever experienced. To say we traveled frequently is an understatement. We enjoyed our last week in Portland, visited San Diego and Denver for long, friends-filled weekends, and moved to San Francisco. I even squeezed in a SW Washington cross-country ski day with Mom. Frankly, travel is expensive and tiring, but more than worth it when you spend that time with special people!

Our time in Portland was a wonderful combination of family, downtown PDX exercise and exploration, and high-quality coffee consumption. While Erinn dabbled in downtown exercise classes, I enjoyed many Esplanade walks/runs up and down the Willamette River.

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Eastbank Esplanade along the Willamette River

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PDX Union Station

Portland offers numerous high-quality coffee options and we definitely found our favorite. Fehrenbacher Hof is a cozy German coffee shop a few hundred feet from the Goose Hollow MAX station, nestled just behind Goose Hollow Inn. Both the coffee and food are exceptional! Fehrenbacher Hof is a must if you’re ever in the area.

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Fehrenbacher Hof

I greatly miss Greenway Park, which sits just minutes away from Erinn’s childhood home in Beaverton. The morning and evening dog walks were perfect. Never too many people around and commonly quiet, Greenway Park is a great bird-watching green belt. One morning in particular, Jake (dog) and I observed a blue heron wading in the marsh for about ten minutes. We would have stayed longer, but Jake’s finite patience waned.

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Greenway Park

Before our Northwest departure, Mom and I manage a trip to White Pass for some cross-country skiing. As usual, the setting was breathtaking and I barely kept up with Mom. She has decades of XC skiing experience and makes it look all too easy.

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San Diego was an absolute blast. We met close friends from Nebraska, Michigan, and South Dakota for nothing but fun and were 100% successful. The weather was surprisingly mild (PNWish), but we took advantage of the sun breaks! Our visit included stops at La Jolla, Cabrillo National Monument, USS Midway, Little Italy, Balboa Park, and more.

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La Jolla

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La Jolla Seal/Sea Lion Party

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Tide pool exploration at Cabrillo National Monument

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Old Point Loma Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument

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USS Midway

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Little Italy

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Spanish Village Art Center at Balboa Park

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Balboa Park

The San Diego nightlife offered plenty to do, drink, and eat. Our group conquered The Great Escape Room, where we found ourselves trapped in an ancient Aztec temple. It happened. Believe it. There were moments I thought our lives were about to end, but with our brain powers combined we escaped at the very last minute (with ten seconds to spare). Significant credit awarded to Drew.

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The Great Room Escape

Soon after the San Diego trip, we packed our bags and flew to Denver to watch our close friend Brendan Fitzgerald perform with the Colorado Bach Ensemble. He played the role of Jesus in St. Matthew Passion. The entire performance was outstanding; professional musicians really are spectacular. Brendan continues to amaze us with his musical abilities. Check out his CBE profile here!

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Erinn & Brendan at dinner in Denver

March was as busy as ever. Erinn and I are now fairly settled in San Francisco, soaking up the new surroundings as we are able. Our home is the size of a grapefruit and cable cars regularly roll right past our tiny, temporary establishment. San Fran is big, busy, and known as a great walking city. How far have I walked so far? 216 miles in 22 days (thanks Fitbit). Watch for another blog post later this week! I have plenty of photos to share. Here’s a San Fran sample:

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San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

 

Let’s Eat

I love food. Don’t you? If your response is “no” or “meh”, you must be kidding yourself. Food fuels the human body, cradles erratic emotions, and even sparks elaborate creativity. Eating food is one of my daily rituals, especially as an avid walker/runner/hiker; refueling is so important. In recent years I moved away from processed crap and focused on the real stuff: whole foods. Your body needs whole foods to operate properly. The additives and artificial substances in processed foods are awful for your body. Making a lifestyle change toward healthy, whole foods is challenging, and can require some guidance from others. Thanks to my Mom, her passion for farm fresh food somehow breached my young adult habits.

Mom continues to be an amazing cook. She’s timely, prepared, and adaptive. For those lucky enough to have tasted her paella, you know what I am referring to. While I am not much of a cook, I do prepare most of the food I eat and occasionally dabble with a new dish. Cooking is much enjoyable, but incredibly difficult, too. More frustratingly, cooking takes significant time out of my day (and likely yours, too).  A favorite remedy of mine is the occasional meal out.

When Erinn and I eat out, our plan is simple: find a restaurant with fresh food, an appealing menu, and affordable prices. How do we achieve this? We focus on breakfast! Breakfast sits hierarchically above lunch and dinner. Disagree with me? Let me briefly explain. For the sake of simplicity, let’s abandon lunch altogether. Dinner offers so many options it can be difficult selecting something from the menu. Once a selection is made, you might spend the next hour regretting your decision, wondering what could have been. This happens to me all the time. Instead, breakfast menus are relatively simple and consistent. You can find a traditional American breakfast anywhere. Additionally, if you overeat at dinner you can end up ruining your evening and possibly your night of sleep. Conversely, if you overeat at breakfast, you have all day to walk off the full belly. I could continue my breakfast versus dinner run-on, but want to move on to better things.

Portland, Oregon offers plenty of restaurant options and the food is spectacular. Unfortunately our personal pockets aren’t deep enough to try all the best spots in town, but I have a couple of favorites to tell you about!

Bijou, Cafe´ 

Near the Willamette River’s west bank, this cute cafe offers wonderful breakfast favorites with a French twist. The baked goods are tastefully fresh and organic avocado can be added to any breakfast (avocado makes everything better). Additionally, the local coffee is brewed to perfection and makes for a lengthy morning visit. If you are ever in Portland, Bijou, Cafe´ should be at the top of your to-do list!

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Fried Egg I’m In Love

Created and managed by a fellow PLU alum, Fried Egg I’m In Love is an excellent breakfast choice on the east side of Portland. This supreme food truck in the Hawthorne District offers scrumptious breakfast sandwiches, coffee, and mimosas. While it’s a food truck, you better call ahead if you want to grab-and-go. Many locals call in their orders because of the overwhelming popularity. I can understand the frustration for some, but I think it’s the best indicator of all. Check out the tasty menu!

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TTNC Pilot

Travel is one of life’s essentials, with a firm foundation anchored in adventure, exploration, and inconsistencies. I absolutely love travel. Raised in a road trip oriented family, I ventured cross-country to reunions and historical landmarks throughout my early years. Numerous national park visits peppered our family travels in the spacious western United States. Again and again I struggled through the stale interstate drives and the inevitable youthful boredom, but the scenic spectaculars made the wait all the better. Nostalgia is now slowly pulling me back. Travel is calling out, baiting my unfenced future.

In September 2016 my other half, Erinn, completed her third year as a labor and delivery RN at Tacoma General Hospital’s Birth Center.  Erinn then shifted her career in a unique direction, snatching a position with Travel Nurse Across America. Erinn now contracts herself as an L&D RN throughout the United States. We are embracing travel’s unpredictability and the shedding of our possessions, better know as ‘stuff,’ has begun.

As we visit and explore different U.S. cities, I will share our particularly exceptional and captivating experiences with photos, details, stories, etc. I want to express the characteristics that make each city both culturally unique and vibrant!

Some sound advice when reading TTNC posts: brew a fresh cup of joe, find a comfy seat, sip the joe, relax, and (as necessary) repeat. Tea is welcome, too!

First stop: Portland, OR.

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Crisp pine cone snow drops from the recent winter storm.

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Old Town PDX.

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Da Tung and Xi’an Bao Bao (Universal Peace and Baby Elephant) at the North Park Blocks in downtown Portland.