Touristy Tuesday: San Diego & Santa Clarita, CA

It’s a double whammy Touristy Tuesday Saturday this week as I’m trying to catch up on our road-tripping adventures across the Southwest. It’s been awhile, but the blogging absence has been because we’ve been having so much fun!

After the trip to Madison, Abe and I flew back to California and made our way down the coast to San Diego. Hungover, jet-lagged, and exhausted from too much Midwestern fun, the sight of the Pacific coming into San Diego was more than enough to get us pumped up for the week.

Incredible sand castle from Coronado Beach

It was a pretty busy week, with only one day off, but as I posted about in my previous blog, I still got plenty of running in. In addition to being a great week for scenic workouts, it was also a great week for meeting up with people.

The Hotdogger reunion continued with a trip to Hotdogger Monica’s, from Class VII, Pollo Grill restaurant in Lemon Grove.

Talk about some hardcore delicious authentic Mexican food. We visited her in the afternoon after my 23 mile run so the grub hit the spot!

I also stopped by the Hotel del Coronado to visit my old coworkers in the marketing department there. It was great to catch up with them and hear about all the exciting new things going on since I left. It could have only been better if we were able to meet up over Sunday brunch in the Crown Room!

From San Diego we headed to Santa Clarita, CA in the San Fernando Valley. We had two days off right away there and here’s all the exciting things I accomplished:
– Assembled a 1,000 piece puzzle
– Finished the book “When Everything Changed”
– Started 50/50 by Dean Karnazes about his 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days
– Ate a ton of fro-yo

It was two days of total vegging out. Literally the least two exciting days on the road yet… but not the least fun! Doing that puzzle was actually a total blast. I had been telling Abe that I wanted to do one (semi-joking, semi-serious) for weeks. I started the first evening and watched chick flicks all night (Mean Girls, Runaway Bride, and Sliding Doors – yeah, clearly Abe wasn’t around) and then finished the puzzle in the morning while streaming This American Life and The Truth podcasts. It was the perfect way to relax.

I also got some quality reading time in. It seems that I’ve got a growing library collection in my bags right now. I finished the book “When Everything Changed” that chronicles the women’s movement since the 1960’s, which was both inspiring and informative. After starting it I also ordered “The Feminine Mystique” and “Sex and the Single Girl.” While I haven’t opened “The Feminine Mystique” yet, I did start and give up on “Sex and the Single Girl,” which was far too dated for me to really get into.

Instead, I nursed my sore legs in the hot tub next to the fire-pit (the reason I love Residence Inns) while digging into Dean Karnaze’s book “50/50 – ” Talk about absolutely incredible! My two friends Josh and Barrett got to meet Dean when they did their Northface Endurance Challenge ultra-marathon in Wisconsin. Very jealous now, although at the time they posted the picture I didn’t even know who the guy was!

I did leave the hotel eventually, to meet up with Cleveland Dave (from Monterey and Fresno) for dinner. He’s on orders with the military, moving from Monterey to Virginia and stopped through LA on the drive.

We had some great pizza, but more importantly some phenomenal beer. I tried my first Lambic – where has that been all my of-age life? That stuff is delicious!

Work this last week has easily been the best week on the road yet. We’ve had fun event after fun event.

While in Santa Clarita we did have two days of grocery stores, which are usually the least glamorous part of the job. They were a total blast though because they were really busy from all the media attention we scored this week.

Abe and I did two radio interviews in Lancaster. During the first one the rock station DJ Fathead made a joke that Ron Jeremy should drive the Wienermobile, which we greeted with awkward silence. I thought he was might have been confused and trying to talk about Paul Ryan or that this guy was some rock musician and that I was the confused one.

Well, I later learned just who Ron Jeremy was and was absolutely mortified! Google it if you don’t know who he is, but make sure you’re not on the work computer for that one!

Friday we drove down to University of Southern California for an event on campus. It was a total blast being back at a college and USC was a lot of fun!

When Abe and I showed up we initially thought everyone seemed to cool for the Wienermobile and I was definitely jaded when they told us we couldn’t play the jingle horn. But the day turned out to be one of the best events yet! I tried to sell just about every student on postponing life in a cubicle to drive the Wienermobile for a year and we also got to network with some Kraft bigwigs.

The most fun part of the day was when this comedy troupe showed up across the sidewalk from us. Commedus Interruptus does improv comedy and they were absolutely hilarious! Their show was about an hour long and had students stopping the entire time. Afterward Abe and I tried to recruit the whole cast to apply to be Hotdoggers.

We thought one of the guys looked familiar and when Abe googled him later we realized it was because it was this famous actor who has been on Glee! What a sweetheart for not stopping us and saying, “listen guys – I’m famous and a big deal – there is no way I’m driving a hot dog!”

After the awesome day at USC our next day at work consisted of a parade in Agoura Hills, CA.

If you ever see the Wienermobile in a parade and the Hotdogger is singing the jingle, will you please send some love and join in? Those solos from the bunroof were rough – it’s way more fun when the whole parade route joins in!

We finished our tour of the region with an event called Bark in the Park in Lancaster.

THOUSANDS of dogs, from 4 lbs to 180 lbs! They had costume contests, best “human barker”, and lots of obstacle courses for the dogs. Talk about an easy and fun day!

I can spend a Sunday hanging out with a bunch of fur children any day!

Abe and I also had the incredible opportunity to give rides to two Make a Wish siblings. Riding in the Wienermobile wasn’t their wish (they both took trips to Disney) but it was nice to bring the whole family a sense of joy. They definitely relished that experience.

On Sunday, our last night in Cali, Abe and I went separate ways. He headed off to Universal Studios with one of the Hotdoggers from Class XXIV for a Fright Fest. Since being scared isn’t really my thing, heavens knows Abe does it far too often and I get my fill of fear that way, I decided to do something a little different.

That night I went and saw The Giver at the Canyon Theatre Guild, a local playhouse. It was unbelievable! Not only was it really cheap, but the performers were phenomenal! The Giver was one of my favorite books as a child and I was really excited to see how it would turn out as a play. It was so well done. The lead was this 17 year old who blew me away with how well he played the part. The rest of the cast ranged from a 3rd grader to a retired senior. I told the five young performers how floored I was with their talent and how proud they should be of being able to get up there like that!

That was about it for San Diego and Santa Clarita. While we took it fairly easy I still had a great time! I’ve told people before how much fun this job is each week, but having fun can be hard and tiring. It was nice to have some nice and easy fun for a change!

That was perfect timing too because this week we’re in VEGAS!!! Yeah, no nice and easy here. I can’t wait for next week’s blog – it’s going to be a good one… you can bet on that!

Touristy Tuesday: Claremont, CA Edition

This week we reluctantly left Monterey and headed back to the LA area! The drive down had it’s highs and lows, as in – low on gas and high on stress.

After the six hour drive, Abe and I checked into the hotel. As Mitch Hedberg would say, “I can’t tell you what hotel I’m staying at… but there are two trees involved.” I booked the hotel in Claremont, CA which is where my friend Aaron from my Mizzou days lives. I knew it was a cute area with a lot to do, and as an added bonus it turned out Aaron only lived about a mile away from the hotel!

Our first night in town Abe and I met up with Aaron for dinner. We went downtown to Claremont Village to a local place called Eureka Burger. They both tried the beer samplers, but I went with a local white wine. We all had early bedtimes that night though (Aaron being in med school and all) so we called it a night after dinner.

On our first day off Abe and I were determined to have a Ferris-Bueller style day, only the LA version. The La Brea Tar Pits, Hollywood, Sunset Blvd., the sign, were all on our to-do list. To start the day we met up with Kevin, another friend of Abe’s from the military. Kevin was also playing tourist for the day and was seeing a lot of the sights for the first time as well.

After picking up Kevin in the company car we took off to the La Brea Tar Pits. I felt like I had done my homework, having watched the movie Volcano at least somewhat recently!

I was a little disappointed when neither Tommy Lee Jones nor Don Cheadle were there to greet us with news of an impending geological disaster, but it was still very cool!

The geology nerd in me loved it! The tar pits are actually asphalt and on cool days they’re not even viscous! Our tour guide Jesse was an absolute doll and I wish I had time to ask him where he went to school and what he studied that led him to the Tar Pits. He was outshined though by these two middle school boys who knew an impressive amount about geology and spent the entire tour WOWing all of the adults!

From the La Brea Tar Pits we moved on to your more traditional LA experience – Hollywood Boulevard! Having already been to Hollywood several times, consistently pretty disappointed, my hopes weren’t too high. Well let me tell you, when you’re driving a 27′ long hot dog it’s a lot more fun!

At the Walk of Fame in Hollywood – Foreshadowing of things to come this week!

We also grabbed some equally enormous slices of pizza while on the strip.

This pizza this came from is 28″ in diameter!

With the promise of a shiny dime to whoever saw the Hollywood sign first, we set off to find it. What’s weird is that it’s surprisingly difficult to see around Hollywood! We looked up the best place to take pictures of the sign at, and sure enough, we ended up getting some good ones!

That night Kevin and Abe hit the town, while I hit the sack. I had hopes for a big run in the morning and felt I had already had my fill of dates with celebrities for the year! You would think exercising such good judgment would have scored me some good karma points, but that next day was when the company car spent the morning parked along the freeway.

Thursday we were off to Torrance, California for the town’s 100th Birthday and classic car show. With the company car still in the shop we joked that she also had a birthday this week – her 76th birthday, and at that age everyone needs a little TLC. However, Penske called us at the event and we were able to pick up the Wienermobile and surprise everyone at the event.

Even with the company car in attendance, she still may have been one-upped by some even cooler cars and drivers.

Friday night I headed back down to Claremont Village with Aaron. Before we went out for the night, I stopped by his house and formally met Mr. Bittles, his cat. While the cat was a new addition to the Chambers’ household, I recognized a few familiar items from his college days. Including some scandalous coasters I may have jokingly made one Friday Crafternoon and the infamous OPEN sign.

It was a high class evening with drinks at the Hip Kitty Jazz and Fondue Bar. The Band – Big Papa and the TCB – was incredible! You might actually recognize some of their work – they do the song in the Papa John’s commercial.

I stuck with white wine for the fondue, but switched to my new favorite – Black Russians – later in the night. I meant to be in bed by 10:00, but between the music and the good conversation that just wasn’t going to happen. I love catching up with Aaron when I’m in LA because we always have so much fun together and pretty much have an identical sense of quirky and sarcastic humor.

On our final night in Claremont I convinced Abe to do something I had been wanting to do since we arrived – go see the Music Man at the Claremont Dinner Theater, which was next door to our hotel.

I absolutely adore musicals. I mean, one summer in Kansas City I saw the entire summer lineup of broadway shows at the Starlight Theater. If that’s not enough, my iTunes is pretty much a show choir soundtrack. Being an Iowa girl, I especially love The Music Man! It’s so whimsical and charming, with such good tunes, that it will never get old. After talking Abe into going, he convinced his friend Duane to come with us – I guess misery loves company!

We all had a blast though! The dinner portion was, admittedly, just alright – your typical banquet chicken/beef/veggie + starch options. The drinks and cast were phenomenal! We caught the show on its very last evening performance and you could tell the cast was really putting their all into it. Everyone from Music Man Harold Hill to little Winthrop was outstanding!

I had one more stop in the area before I could call the week a success though. My friend Michelle from Mizzou, who I have known since the first day of freshman year, had moved back home to China my senior year and I hadn’t seen her in about 15 months. She since has returned but transferred to Cal State – San Bernadino – right in the area! Monday we managed to get together for lunch and catch up!

This last week in Claremont has been really great – the perfect mix of adventure and playing tourist, but also getting together with college friends.

Up next: Simi Valley, California. It’s just the first day of the new week and I already know the next edition of Touristy Tuesday is going to be awesome! But as always – any recommendations for what to do, where to eat, or people to meet in Simi Valley?

Touristy Tuesday: Prescott, AZ Edition

Yee-haw! It’s been one hell of a week in Prescott, Arizona! Prescott, pronounced “Press-Kit” by the locals, is home to the World’s Oldest Rodeo – the Prescott Frontier Days, which were going on while we were in town!

The week was kickstarted Monday night with dinner downtown at a great local place called The Raven Cafe.

With a ton of farm-to-table food (which I just adore) and an upstairs patio with views to kill for, this place was just what we needed to relax from a day on the road.

When we got to the hotel we immediately jumped into the hot tub, which definitely hit the spot after a nine hour drive day!

Our place in Cali didn’t have a pool or tub, so I’ve been taking full advantage of it the past week. While down at the hot tub, Abe and I made friends with a handful of other guests who were passing through! Let me tell you, the Rodeo brings in some fun people!

Typically, whenever we get to a new city we get two days off. We spent our first day off visiting the Grand Canyon.

Now THAT was a fun trip! When I was younger I had a National Park Passport that my grandma got for me, filled with stamps from the Rocky Mountain National Park. Starting this job, I knew I’d see a few more parks and purchased another one while visiting the Central High School site in Little Rock, AK. Now I’ve officially added another stamp!

Our second day we spent catching up on things. We washed the company car at the local firehouse, which was a blast.

That evening we decided to venture into Downtown Prescott and stumbled across the Prescott Cloggers! What an unexpected delight that was.

The next few days could be characterized by working in the hot hot Arizona sun, going home to the pool, and then hitting the town with the locals!

Passing out poolside after 6 hours in 100 degree temps!

Friday night we went to the Rodeo, which was Abe’s first. I wanted to get a run in and he wanted a nap, so we ended up getting there at 8:30, when it started at 7:30. While we may have missed the beginning, we ended up getting in free!

After we got our fill of bull riding and hog tying, we headed down to Whisky Row. With more than 15 bars in just a few blocks, Whisky Row had endless options. What I found really interesting though, is that you could be at the same bar and feel like you’re in three different ones. For example, one bar we walked into had live country music in front and in their back room had a hip-hop DJ. That was actually awesome!

I love living on the road because you really stop caring about what people think about you. I probably went dancing a handful of times in college, but I’ve easily gone dancing twice as much in the month since starting this job!

The next morning we drove the car in to see the Prescott Rodeo Parade. We didn’t stay for the whole thing though because it lasted four hours! The parade was fun, but when you’re too big to get candy tossed your way and you’re not registered to vote in Arizona to glad-hand with politicians it’s just not the same!

Saturday night we headed to the Rodeo Dance. We went Saturday night because it was supposed to be 21+ night. Being around families so much with our job, we were looking forward to a night out with people our age. That is, until we got to the dance. I looked at Abe and said, “Wait, is it 41+ night?!” Haha! Prescott really is a retirement town at heart, so there were plenty of older couples tearing it up on the dance floor.

The rodeo dance was fun, but short lived, and we headed back to Whisky Row. There was one bar that we hadn’t made it to yet, which had been recommended to us by every local we asked – Coyote Joe’s. Holding true to the Prescott bar scene, Coyote Joe’s had three different levels and they were all totally different. Country on the downstairs patio, billiards and a more mellow tone on the lower level, and dancing on the second floor and upstairs patio! Even better than the scene were the $2.00 margaritas!

Somewhere along the night I was christened a bridesmaid! I didn’t have the sash long, and instead passed it along to the next girl who seemed worthy of the title!

Overall, Saturday night was a rootin’ tooting’ good time! All that fun though and the next morning I was up at 6:30, lacing up the running shoes to run with the Prescott Mountain Milers running club at Groom Creek!

On our final day in Prescott I ended up going on a hike to Granite Basin. Abe and I had met two grad students at Embry-Riddle who were both pilots and I got the local scoop on this hike!

Before the hike, a carbo-load was much deserved and I had the chance to try Two Mamma’s Pizza, in downtown Prescott. Holy Cow. Best. Deep. Dish. Ever. What is this – Chicago?

The Margherita Pizza was phenomenal! (Can you tell I love anything Margarita? haha!) The hike was beautiful, especially because it was close to sunset!

I don’t think there was a single day in Prescott that wasn’t memorable! I had never even heard of the place, and now I would be excited to be back!