Belated Touristy Tuesday: Return to SLC Edition

Touristy Tuesday is just a LITTLE late this week! Whoops – at least I got around to it eventually. This week we headed back to Salt Lake City, Utah to pick up where we left off two weeks earlier!

Our drive down from Boise was pretty uneventful, until we found ourselves in the Middle of Nowhere – literally.

The gas station owner definitely had a sense of humor at this place!

This place was part gas station, part “history” museum, and part petting zoo!

Just like the last time we pulled into Salt Lake City, we had a friend waiting for us. Matt, a character you might remember from Fresno, had flown out to meet up with us for a few days while he was on vacation.

Our first day off in Salt Lake City we checked something that off the Bucket List that we’ve been waiting to do for quite some time. Being in the Southwest, we often hear people say, “Ooh! The Wienerschnitzel car is here!” WRONG!! NO. NO. NO! And as much as we pridefully defend Oscar Mayer and the Wienermobile, a small part inside Abe and I has been secretly wanting to find out what these Wienerschnitzel wieners are all about! So with the Wienermobile off the hot dog highways for a bit, we walked on over to the nearby Wienershnitzel.

Stripped of all company apparel, we covertly ordered. Abe got the Junkyard Dog – complete with just about everything on the menu, which was delicious.

Yes – those are french fries loaded on top of an already loaded hot dog!

When I started Hotdogging and had to pick my nickname, I originally wanted to be Corndog Kelly – you know, because I like to ham it up! Legal turned me down though and so I was dubbed Cookout Kelly. On our undercover trip to Wienerschnitzel I figured why not be a real rebel, and ordered a corndog after my wishful namesake.

The friendly Wienerschnitzel employees had me try it with four different types of sauces too – ketchup, mustard, BBQ, and fry sauce. I can now report that if I’m going to eat a corndog, I’m going to dip it in BBQ! Fun fact though – most corndog enthusiasts actually choose mustard! (Who does that?!)

Once we had our fill of the competition, we braved SLC public transportation. Let me tell you, those Mormons may be classy, but public transportation is pretty scary no matter what city you’re in. The three girls surrounding us openly debated the benefits of “having a number” and going to prison over doing the time in a county jail.

We were dropped off downtown after our fun-filled bus trip and walked down to Temple Square. Finally!

We went into the visitor’s center, where we spoke to several missionaries, all women, That was pretty interesting.

We weren’t allowed in the temple since we didn’t have the necessary ‘Temple Recommend’

I really like Mormon’s – they’re so darn friendly and really not judgmental for being so zealous in their own religion. Plus, the first girl didn’t blush a bit when I asked about the special underwear! I did ask about their beliefs on homosexuality and another girl said that they are raised that it is corrupt outside influences that cause those feelings. She said SHE went through a stage when she was younger but her family and church helped her change. Then I abruptly, quite admittedly awkwardly and inexcusably forwardly, asked, “So are you attracted to men now?” Well, let’s just put it this way, she didn’t exactly say yes. So yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have asked such an overly personal question, but honestly I’m glad I did! haha!

While downtown we also walked around the City Center shopping area – where we stumbled upon a really neat, modern looking two story Harmond’s grocery store. Now one time Abe said to me, “Asking me to go grocery shopping with you is like asking me to go to hell.” If that doesn’t capture how much he hates grocery stores, I don’t know what does! But luckily it was 2-to-1 with Matt in the picture, and Matt and I went off to explore with shared enthusiasm.

It turns out that this grocery store actually has a cooking school on the second level and they had a class that very evening! I was THRILLED – what a fun thing to do! I really enjoy cooking but am not that great at it, plus the course was based on using herbs and spices – something I know nothing about.

Later that evening I returned and joined about 10 others for the class. it was really neat – there was a newlywed couple, a mother and daughter duo, an older married couple, and one other single girl. We spent the first half of the class learning about the differences between fresh and dried spices. Chef Adalberto was from Cuba and absolutely hilarious – he made the class that much more fun. “There’s a time and place for dried herbs,” he said, “the least amount of the time!”

After the group lesson we broke into smaller groups and each helped cook part of the menu for the evening. Fresh herb dressings to go on spring salads, smoke paprika chicken and garbanzo salad, and a marinated fruit salad with sorbet!

I even learned how to supreme and orange, which is like cutting it up grapefruit style – which I was terrible at!

The best part of the evening was eating, of course! Tyler was Chef Adalberto’s assistant and it was his last day because he was returning to school for vocal performance. He serenaded us over dessert with an opera song!

Talk about dinner and a show! They were both absolutely charming and I had a total blast on my single-gal night out!

Day two off in SLC we made the mistake of going to check out the Great Salt Lake AGAIN. You think we would have learned our lesson from our first visit, but nope! This time Abe, Matt and I ventured to Antelope Island, a state park that promised a great beach for lake swimming. When we arrived we were just thrillllled to hear from a family, “You’re in for one disgusting treat! There are a foot of flies out there!” Not deterred, we braved the sand barefoot. I’m not sure which was a worse choice, deciding to go out to the water in the first place or going out barefoot.

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

We returned disgusted as promised, they were accurate with the foot of flies comment, and with sore feet. What a bust! On the plus side, I acquired one more stamp for the Park Passport. Naturally, I forgot it again and this one was on a post-it!

This is how we felt about the “Great” Salt Lake

That evening we continued to be tourists and went to the Tabernacle Choir Rehearsal at the Tabernacle in Temple Square. The organs and the choir were equally impressive!

Friday and Saturday were both busy work days for us, so we didn’t do too much adventuring after that, which was fine by me. I’ll be honest, Salt Lake has been fun to visit, but after two trips I’ve decided it’s not somewhere I’m dying to go back to – ESPECIALLY if you’re talking about the Great Salt Lake!

Sunday we took off to Boulder, Colorado, which I’ll blog about in the next Touristy Tuesday!

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Touristy Tuesday: Fresno, CA Edition

Let me start off by saying that when we told people we were going to Fresno we heard absolutely NOTHING positive. Not one kind word about the city. Ghetto, hot, and boring were all common ways to describe the place. Personally, my only familiarity with Fresno was from the Fresno Bulldogs, a violent urban gang featured on the show Gangland. Abe and I had low expectations for the place, but I am excited to report that Fresno was an absolute and total blast.

Touristy Tuesday this week doesn’t actually start in Fresno though. As soon as Abe and I got into town we stopped by Hertz and I picked up a rental car for the night – I was headed off to Monterey! Remember Cleveland Dave who I met in the tattoo parlor while we were in the area with work? Well, Fresno isn’t too far from Monterey so we planned a little spur of the moment rendezvous.

When I left Fresno it was 107 degrees. By the time I pulled into Monterey the sun was replaced by dense clouds and the thermometer was reading 58 degrees! I had quickly forgotten that Monterey doesn’t do summer!

What was memorable about Monterey was the great dinner Dave took me out to on our last night in town. He kept his track record up by taking me out to the Whaling Station – a fine steak and seafood restaurant right off Cannery Row.

This place didn’t joke around with their steaks. Our waiter showed us all of the (enormous) cuts of meat they had available and also told us about the fresh salmon that was caught that morning.

I couldn’t resist! Dave ordered the biggest steak on the menu (or waiter commented it was definitely a “man’s meal”) and I went with the salmon – both were incredible choices. There wasn’t a bite left to be had of either!

The waiters were absolutely hilarious and completely charming. They let us both try cuts of the prime rib that they serve table-side. If you get the chance to have dinner in Monterey, this is the place for good wine and good food!

After dinner we headed out on another adventure – dessert at the Navy Lodge. Being in the Army, Cleveland Dave had the hookup with the coolest place to stay in town. (No question it easily beat out the Best Western Plus of Salinas!) It was a beautiful, historic hotel with 12′ ceilings – I felt like I could have been staying at the White House in my corner room!

I kept the theme of recent Touristy Tuesday posts alive with my choice of dessert for the week – S’mores! On the way into Monterey I stopped and grabbed wine and the fixings for my favorite treat.

After having two delicious variations the last two weeks, it was awesome to have the real deal. Granted, we made them in the microwave, but still delicious.

Because we only had one day off this week I had to say goodbye and take off for Fresno early in the morning. On the way there I had passed one of those brown interstate signs for roadside attractions that had caught my eye – Dinosaur Point. Eager to get into town I had forgone stopping, but on the way back I just couldn’t resist and pulled off the highway.

Luckily the drive was absolutely gorgeous because the final destination was a bit of a disappointment. I was expecting a geologic marvel. Turns out it was named Dinosaur Point because from the sky this portion of the reservoir kindof-sortof-but-not-really looks like a dinosaur. Luckily I asked the park ranger what the deal was before paying the $10 park entry fee!

With our one day off, Abe and I made the most of it. First on our agenda was a tour of the Kraft Capri Sun plant. You get special treatment with the Wienermobile sometimes and because Oscar Mayer is also a Kraft brand we were lucky enough to score a private tour. Unfortunately, due to top secret German engineering, I don’t have any pictures to post from inside the plant. What is interesting though is that Capri Sun and Kool-Aid Bursts are both made start-to-finish, including the packaging – nothing is shipped in! We saw the bottles and packets being made, then, filled, then packaged!

After our insider look at the technology behind the favorite drink for sack lunches, Abe and I went to check out the Forestiere Gardens. This was a TripAdvisor find of the highest quality.

The gardens were developed by a Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere who originally worked as a subway tunneler in New York after coming to America. He moved to Fresno to start his own citrus garden though and eventually the heat inspired him to dig out a space underground to stay cool. From there, his two passions collided and he started burrowing out rooms.

Baldassare wanted to create an entire underground resort and over the course of decades he dug out almost five acres, complete with a ballroom, chapel, bedrooms, and a kitchen!

Each room in the garden had an individual skylight which allowed the trees to grow upward.The amount of engineering and science, combined with the necessary green thumb, was incredible. It was very cool to see this guy’s life work!

Friday we were off to work at the Naval Air Station in Lemoore, CA. Let me get this right, I get to essentially work on the set of Top Gun for the day? Best. Job. Ever. We were at the Commissary and then surprised the daycare with a visit as well. I bet those daycare workers really appreciated our visit after we gave all 80 children Wiener Whistles!

While on the job we also met the base Fire Department. Perfect timing because it was our day to wash the company car. They said they would help us wash it, so we headed over to the station after work. Immediately they started hosing it down and Abe and I asked how we could help, to which they replied, “sit back and relax.” They washed the whole thing for us! How awesome was that? Thanks guys!

 Because Abe has a military ID our day on base continued with a trip to the gym. It’s not every day i get to workout with our Military Might!

After our workout Abe and I cheers’d in the one way that’s OK in the company car – to muscle milk!

Although we left Lemoore after that, my day wasn’t done with men in uniform! Cleveland Dave was making the same drive I did the day before and coming to visit me in Fresno! He had a little better ride though – an absolutely beautiful Sebring Convertible! I don’t know what looked better – him or the car!

We grabbed dinner at a local “creative Japanese cuisine” place. Sushi is a cuisine I admittedly haven’t explored much and have been reluctant to try. Trusting Dave, with some Sake for liquid courage, we tried three different rolls!

Saturday Fresno got even better! That evening Dave let me drive his rental, and I have to say – it just might be better than the Wienermobile!

I had been running in Woodward Park all week, which is this absolutely fantastic park that the Eaton Trail begins at. In addition to some gorgeous views, the park is also home to a Japanese Garden that I took Dave to.

It was beautiful and at $3 it was a fun and cheap date!

After that we met up with Abe and Matt, a friend he met while I was in Monterey, at this wine bar called Vino & Friends. (My two favorite things!) You could order wines by the half-glass or glass and they had what was essentially a wine vending machine.

The dispenser allowed you to try 1oz, 3oz, or 6oz pours of different wines – from $7 to $70 wines. Abe just loved all the red wine options! Dave got the boldest red wine on the menu, and again the server commented on the manliness of his choice. Noticing a trend here? Matt and I both went with the sweetest white wines available!

This was easily the best night of Fresno and the new friends were a blast to hang out with, not to mention absolutely hilarious!

I spent Sunday night recovering from the weekend with a 10.5 hour nap, followed by an 8 mile run Monday morning.

Monday made for a great last day in Fresno. Professionally, it was fantastic – we had six interviews with local Fresno media!

After work, we celebrated by checking another item off the Abe & Kelly bucket list – going to the shooting range. This is something we wanted to do since Prescott, but didn’t get the chance to until Fresno. We got a .22, some zombies for target practice, and grabbed a lane. This was my first time shooting (outside of summer camp in middle school) and I couldn’t believe how much fun it was! Maybe I lived in Missouri too long, but I could definitely see myself buying a gun now!

I’m glad Abe was with me because his military experience was really helpful in teaching me the best way to stand and hold the gun. I didn’t kill any kids, so that was a plus.

We offset the bruteness of the afternoon activities by a nice Italian dinner to carbo-load for my morning run. Matt joined us for dinner again and I got to pick his brain about his job. He works for the Economic Development Council for Fresno and told me all about what he does. How have I never heard of this job before?! It seems right up my alley! After filling up for the morning run I went back to the hotel and promptly entered a food coma.

This morning I took advantage of my final chance to enjoy the running trails of Fresno. We lucked out and our hotel was connected to a fantastic bike path that went up to Woodward Park and connected to the Eaton trail. The views from it were absolutely spectacular.

Today I checked my long run off for the week with a 16 mile run, which went great. I decided to transition from the water belt to the full-on Camelbak – you know that means these runs are getting serious.

I did reminisce for a bit about my last 16 mile run, which I did along the Charles River in Boston over spring break. It seems so crazy to think I was doing the same run, just four months ago, on the verge of finding out I was about to become a Hotdogger driving the Wienermobile!

So that was Fresno – more new friends, lots of adventures, and quite a few good stories from it all. Now we’re off to Susanville, CA (yeah, who knows where that is – Mt. Lassen anyone?) and then Salt Lake City later on in the week!