Saturday, July 19, 2014

Arizona, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Base, and Home

Amazing Arizona!

After leaving California, we headed for Flagstaff, Arizona. I love Arizona! It has a beauty that is uniquely its own. We spent the first night in Flagstaff and headed to the Grand Canyon the very next morning. My husband had never been to the Grand Canyon, and we were excited to enjoy the experience together.

I won't try to describe everything that's great about it. I don't think anyone ever could. There are different parts of it, and I can't imagine how long it would take to see it all - which would include exploring the floor of it.  We chose to only explore the parts we could drive our Jeep close to and get out to walk a bit. This time of year, they run shuttle buses to many of the trail parts, and you aren't allowed to drive yourself. Neither of us had any desire to stand in line and get on a shuttle packed with people.

One of our favorite stops was to have lunch at El Tovar, which gave us a lovely view from the rim. We also enjoyed visiting the Hopi House and one of the National Park Service's stores. It was at the store that we met a retired teacher named Gene who worked there. He was very helpful and suggested we take the east exit out of the Grand Canyon to see the Desert View and other interesting sites we might not otherwise see. Gene was also kind enough to give me a real map of Arizona, as my phone's GPS did not work in that area at all.

I can tell you, without hesitation, that Gene's suggestion was our favorite part of the Grand Canyon. No one had ever told us about the Watchtower at Desert View. We loved it! We ended up staying there longer than anticipated. The view was incredible because you were able to see the canyon, the Colorado River, and a volcano! Exploring the tower was another great adventure, with even better views of the canyon from the top of it.


We made it to Sedona by nightfall, and we were starving. We'd been so busy looking at the sights around us, we realized we'd not eaten since lunch at El Tovar in the Grand Canyon. We were both tired and agreed we didn't want to go too far for dinner. It was late, our choices were limited, but I found a place that had good reviews and was right across the street from our inn. You couldn't see it from the inn, as it was located in the back corner of a shopping center.

I'll be honest. I didn't have high hopes that a place located in the back corner of a shopping center was actually going to be any good. As we crossed the street and walked through the parking lot to find all the stores were already closed, I held out even less hope.

Now, here is where I tell you just how wrong I was...

As Tom and I approached the restaurant through the dark parking lot, the first thing I noticed was how inviting their patio looked. It had nice tables, umbrellas, plants, and little, white lights strung around it. (Who doesn't love little, white lights?) The closer we got, we heard music emanating from the building. Right as we approached the sidewalk, two couples walked out of the place laughing and talking. One of the men looked at us and said, "You two better get in there!" Then, one of the women looked at us with a big smile and said, "Yes, we need some more people on the dance floor!"

Dance floor?

When we walked through the door, you could tell everything was in full swing and everyone was enjoying it! There was live music and some people were up dancing on the dance floor, located right in front of the band. Others were eating dinner, while their bodies kept rhythm with the music. Either their head was bobbing or they were tapping their hand or foot. It was a happy place!

We were welcomed by a lovely lady at the door and told it was 'Sock Hop' night. While we loved the lively atmosphere of the place, we really were a bit tuckered out. I asked if we could sit on the patio. She assured me we could and escorted us to our table outside. It was perfect. We were the only people on the patio, and we could still enjoy the music and watch the fun because the walls to the patio are glassed in. From our table, we could clearly see the dance floor and the band.

Our waitress, Heather, was fabulous! She made suggestions about what would be good, what the local favorites were, and what the night's specials were like. Tom had the fish and chips, and I had chicken quesadillas. I mention the food here, specifically, because every bite was delicious! Tom couldn't stop raving about the fish and chips, even after we made our way back home later in the week.

We had expected to just find a place that "would do" after a long day of being outside. We had hoped to just find a decent place, grab a bite, and hit the sack in preparation for the next day. Instead, we had a wonderful experience, a relaxing evening, and lingered on that lovely patio for much longer than we would have thought we could stay awake. I made sure to mention to the hostess, on our way out, how much we enjoyed both the food and our excellent server. To my surprise, she seemed genuinely interested and asked what we had for dinner and what we liked. She wished us a good evening, and we felt the warmth of such a wonderful place stayed with us long after we were gone.

So, if you're ever in Sedona, be sure to visit The Marketplace Café. You'll be glad you did!

We also had great experiences the next day, as we explored Sedona. I suggest, if you ever go there, you make sure to enjoy something out on the patio of Canyon Breeze. We chose to start our day there with coffee, looking out over the Red Rocks of Sedona. Later in the day, we had lunch at the Open Range - another place I recommend highly and not just because of the fantastic view. The service was great and the food delicious. We shopped around a bit that day and found that the owners of the small shops were interesting and friendly. We enjoyed several little conversations with some of the shopkeepers. We bought some interesting things and had an overall pleasant day.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

When we headed out of Sedona in the afternoon, we planned on driving all the way to Amarillo, Texas. However, we changed our mind about an hour outside of Albuquerque.

I have to stop here and mention that there is a soundtrack of music I have collected over the years that plays in my head. I don't think I've ever thought of Albuquerque and not heard The Partridge Family's song in my head. So,...I just had to pull the song up on Youtube and play it as we approached the city. I mean, was a must. ;)

Hotel Tonight found us a really nice hotel in this lovely city for a good price. We had a good experience at Hotel Albuquerque. We were on the top floor with a balcony that gave us a beautiful view of downtown. Even though we arrived after dark, we had no trouble getting a delightful dinner in their Mexican restaurant and top-notch service.

Through Amarillo and one last stop...

We were back on the road the very next morning and headed to Amarillo. It was when we were almost to Amarillo that we decided, before we headed  home, we'd make a slightly larger loop and stop in to see our baby girl at Tinker Air Force Base, near Oklahoma City. We all enjoyed the surprise, and it was nice to see where she was living and working for the Navy now.
Home again, home again, jiggety jig...
When we pulled into our driveway, we had been 4,328 glorious miles. It had been a really fabulous trip and, we were surprised to find, we weren't tired and exhausted like we usually are when returning from a vacation trip. We had taken our time, enjoyed everything, and never really got stressed about anything. Wow. Who knew that was possible? I certainly didn't.
I'm thinking...we need another road trip like this next year!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Few More Stops Along the Way...

Muir Woods

After spending two glorious days in San Francisco, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and headed into Muir Woods for a nice little hike. We had never been before, and we found it to be beautiful in every way. It wasn't just the gorgeous trees, it was the sounds of nature and the wonderful scents. It was very hushed, very relaxing. People told me it feels like a magical place, and it does, but it also feels like a place to be very reverent. It's mystical.

I also loved that, as we passed people on the trails, I heard many different languages being spoken. I found myself smiling at young families around us, as I noticed that a parent speaking to a child sounds the same no matter what language they are speaking. And child's giggle is a universal language...and a universal joy. Everyone seemed happy in Muir Woods. I know I was. Perhaps, that's part of the magic.


Speaking of magic, our next stop was the little town of Sausalito! It's one of my favorite places to eat and look out over the Bay to San Francisco. There's a little Italian place, right on the water, where we love to sit on the dock at a café table and enjoy great panini sandwiches with a couple of cold drinks. It's also fun to people watch and walk around visiting the little shops.

Napa Valley

After spending most of one day in Muir Woods and Sausalito, we headed to Napa Valley. It isn't far, maybe thirty minutes, from Sausalito. I loved the hotel my Hotel Tonight app found for me, and we were in our poolside room just in time to freshen up and head out for a nice dinner. I opted for just walking across the parking lot and eating at a Mexican restaurant that seemed pretty popular. Tom said we should look for some place special, not some place convenient. He said that convenience was probably the only reason the restaurant was popular. Well, that,...and the margaritas.(You know, have a few drinks,...and you don't have to walk far to your nice hotel.)

Tom decided to pick our restaurant after looking at some reviews of other places in Napa Valley. The place he found was absolute perfection! We had dinner on the patio at Bistro Don Giovanni, surrounded by beautiful fields of grapevines. It is a true Italian restaurant with fabulous food and wonderful service! I didn't struggle with the extensive wine list, as I know what I like in wine, but I did struggle with the menu. Our server was extremely helpful and gave great suggestions based on the things we said we like to eat. Our meal was served in four, delicious courses and our dessert was the perfect finale!

After our meal, we took a stroll around the property. The landscaping was so beautiful! There were fruit trees around the building and a lovely garden. There were also roses everywhere. Even the parking lot was amazing because everywhere you looked, fields of grapevines stretched out in front of you with a backdrop of majestic mountains. Amazing.


We had such a wonderful time in Napa Valley, we considered staying a second night. However, Sonoma was just down the street (literally), and we knew we wanted to stay somewhere within walking distance to the Sonoma Plaza where my favorite winery has a tasting room. (And, yes, for the same reason people were eating at the Mexican restaurant near the other hotel. ;)

Hotel Tonight found us a wonderful place just a couple of blocks from Sonoma Plaza. We had a lovely room with a fireplace and our own balcony. A delicious breakfast was included, along with afternoon cookies. We were pleased to be given two discount cards for two wine tastings on the plaza, and it was a nice touch to be escorted to our room and shown where things could be found and how things worked. The name of this special place I will return to is the Inn at Sonoma, and our gracious host that day was a lady named Linda.

There is a great deal of historical things you can see on Sonoma Plaza, as well as shops, restaurants, and different wineries have wonderful tasting rooms. We tried one of the wineries and walked around to see the different tasting rooms, but there was only one winery I was truly interested in...

Roche Winery

I discovered Roche Winery a couple of years ago with a friend of mine, Robin. We had gone to San Francisco and decided to take a wine tour. It was a wonderful experience, and I learned a great deal. I also tasted a good deal of different wines from different wineries. Or, as Robin always says, I educated my palate.

When our tour shuttle arrived at Roche, I had no desire to go anywhere else. I had never had a tasting where I truly liked every wine I tasted. I also loved the way their tasting room was set up right off the plaza. You could taste at the outside bar and enjoy your wine at a patio table, you could also go inside and do some barrel tastings, as well as shop for different wine products. Did I mention the people there are really wonderful? They are. Roche is a family-owned winery, and they make you feel like family when you're there.

Oh, and one more thing. You can't buy Roche anywhere but Roche. I've never belonged to a wine club, never thought I'd want to, but I have been a member of Roche Winery's club for over two years now. Yes, it's that good.

I knew Tom, who had never been, would be enjoy experiencing Roche first hand. He's always loved the wine that comes to the house, but he'd never had the experience of enjoying an afternoon at the tasting room on Sonoma Plaza. We both had a wonderful time and enjoyed making some new friends out on the patio, as we enjoyed some wine and appetizers. 

All in all, it was a few lovely days spent in Wine Country!

Next stop, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon...


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Need Hotel Tonight?

Need a hotel room tonight?
Before I continue telling you about the rest of my trip, I think now would be a good time to tell you about Hotel Tonight. I knew nothing about Hotel Tonight until a couple of days before my trip when my friend, Tammy, told me about it. I am not exactly a technology-friendly person, believe it or not. I like simple. I was a bit skeptical when Tammy told me, but I trust her - so I tried it. And I loved it!
Here's how it worked...
First, I downloaded the Hotel Tonight app to my phone. Then, I put in my information, including what credit card (or cards) I want to use to pay for hotels. After that, we hit the road and decided where we wanted to stay as we went. This was SO easy, thanks to Hotel Tonight!

Every day, we would travel as far as we wanted to and, at some point, decide what town we would end up in. Once we knew where we were going to stay (or actually arrived there), I would pull up my app and Hotel Tonight would show me what was available in the area that they had reviewed. The app tells me where the hotel is, what they like about it, and the price I could get it for. It also shows me pictures and consumer reviews. 
The Hotel Tonight app also labels the hotels so you'll know what you're getting. Some of their labels are: basic, solid, luxury, and hip. The app defines what those labels mean. After all, sometimes you may just need a 'crash pad' on the road, while sometimes you want some luxury. The app suits what you need where you are.
Another thing I really liked about the app was all I had to do was pick the one I wanted, book it for the price (the exact price w/tax) that would be charged to my card, and confirm I really wanted it by using my finger to trace their logo on my phone's screen. Once I gave final confirmation, I immediately received a confirmation on my screen and a confirmation email in my inbox. All we had to do was pull up to the hotel, walk in, show I.D, and (in some cases) the hotel would require a card on record for incidentals.

When I checked out the next morning, all I had to do was say, "Thanks for they stay! Have a great day!" And, no, I didn't actually have to say that, but I'm a nice, friendly person. I also like to let the front desk know I enjoyed my stay, which I always did. Every. Single. Time.
Amazing, right?! I sure thought so!
Truth is, I didn't even have to check out if I didn't want to. There was never a receipt to sign for the hotel because I didn't pay them. I had paid Hotel Tonight before I ever slept in the room. We were very pleased with every hotel and the service at every hotel. It was also nice to have my receipts on record, as we went, so I knew our total cost without guesswork.
Two more things you should know...

Hotel in the Mojave Desert?
Of course not, but I loved the
search response.
Hotel Tonight doesn't go "live" with deals until nine in the morning. If you try before then, you'll get a cute "early bird" sign that gives you a countdown until deals come on. I don't know who writes all the different little messages on the app and blurbs about the hotels, but I felt like I was carrying around a wise and witty friend with me in my phone. Also, as the app will tell you, it is Hotel Tonight, not Hotel Tomorrow. The deals are only for that day.
Deals can be for more than one night. You can choose whether to stay one night many as five nights. I noticed that you can sometimes get an even better deal the more nights you stay. We stayed in a couple of nights in two places. We found, in more than one case, we really wish we had booked for more than one night because the experience was so wonderful...we hated to leave. Of course, to make the road "loop" we wanted and get back home in two weeks, we needed to. We made notes of the places we'd love to revisit one day.

Now, I'm not a saleswoman, and I don't own stock in Hotel Tonight. I do, however, like to share when I find something wonderful because my fabulous friend was willing to share it with me. I used it, I love it, and I continue to use it now. In other words, I don't have a trip planned, but I pull up deals in different cities on days I could take off somewhere. If my options look good, I'm gone for an unexpected adventure! What could be more fun than that?
Try it. You'll like it!

Trust me...
The Inn at Sonoma was the perfect place for us in Sonoma, California.

Friday, July 11, 2014

San Francisco Love

On the sixth day of our trip, in the afternoon, we arrived in beautiful San Francisco - a city that gets a blog post all its own. It deserves it. I've been to San Francisco several times over the past few years. I've taken day trips and spent long weekends there. I have been at different times during the year. I never get tired of it and have yet to run out of things to see. The difficult part is that I already love what I love about it, so I sometimes hesitate to branch out to new places. This time, though, we decided to try a little blend of new things along with old favorites.

Now, if I try to blog about all my favorites, old and new, I may never finish. While I believe in sharing good things you find when you travel, I also believe in exploring and find out some things for yourself. In the spirit of that, I'd like to share two favorites and encourage you to plan a trip of your own to discover (or rediscover) the City by the Bay.

One old favorite...

When asked about favorite places to eat in the area, I will always start with Empress of China in Chinatown. I have never been to San Francisco, not once, that I haven't found my way to this place for dinner. Tom and I found it, purely by accident, on our first visit to the city. We had been walking around all day and found ourselves in Chinatown. We spotted this lobby with an elevator and all over the walls were pictures of old movie stars who had eaten in this restaurant. We thought that was pretty cool, but didn't quite understand where this restaurant was located. We then realized you had to go up in the elevator to get there. We decided to try it.

The fabulous hospitality and wonderful food and glorious view we enjoyed on our first visit is the same we receive every time we go. It's why we go back. We love everything about the way we are served and how lovely it all looks. All the waiters wear black suits and are excellent at their job. The food is delicious and served in courses, if you choose (and we always do). There are different options. But, you don't just have to take my word about the food, I tell all my friends to go there and have taken some friends there myself. Everyone always loves it!

One new favorite...

I've stayed at The Argonaut Hotel (another favorite) a couple of times, but I've never tried the Winery Collective Tasting Room in the same building. Tom suggested we try it this time, and we had a lovely time! The lady who presented the wines to us, Karen, was very knowledgeable about the wines, the regions they come from, and current concerns wine growers have in the area. We really enjoyed learning about the California wineries while tasting the wines.

We also learned what we want to try the next time we're in San Francisco. Karen told us to head over to Treasure Island next time we're in town for a weekend (we were there during the week) because Vie, a San Francisco winery, has a wonderful place over there to enjoy and explore their wines and learn more about the region. Treasure Island is somewhere we've never tried, and she told us it's only one exit off the road after you cross the Bay Bridge. Needless to say, I put it on my list for next time!

What do I love most about San Francisco?

To be completely honest, I can't tell you that...because I don't know. I love it all. I've been all over the city and explored all parts of it. I've walked in the neighborhoods to see how people live, sat in the parks to enjoy people watching, and biked the Golden Gate Bridge over to Sausalito and back. I've been there during Fleet Week and enjoyed watching the Blue Angels perform over the bay. I love the perfect weather and being able to sit outside in the cafes to enjoy my breakfast...or my lunch...or my dinner. I have my favorite ice cream place on Fisherman's Wharf and always enjoy the live performances that take place on the pier. I've ridden the cable cars, the vintage-style buses, and the BART. Every experience has been a good one, which reminds me to tell you about the first time I knew this was my kind of city.

My first visit...

I will never forget what a resident of the city told us on our very first trip there. We had taken the BART from the airport to San Francisco. We just went for the day to try it. We must have looked a little perplexed about which way to go when a business woman walked up to us and asked if she could help us find something. We told her we were just there on a one day adventure and didn't know where to start. She smiled and said we had nothing to worry about, we could walk anywhere we wanted and always find what we needed. After pointing out which direction to head for various popular places (like Fisherman's Wharf), she wished us a good trip and went on her way. It was a wonderful introduction to a beautiful city I continue to fall more and more in love with every time I go.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tuesday's Post on Wednesday...

Yes, I know. I promised to blog "tomorrow" on my last post...and didn't. My apologies. I was a bit obsessive yesterday about trying to finish up going through all my photos from vacation, and it drove me a bit nutty. All better now, though. I finished them up and don't have to sort through them anymore. Enough with my excuses. Let's continue, shall we?
Before the Pacific Coast Highway...
Our first destination in California was San Diego. We would not be able to pick up the PCH until we were farther up the coast in Dana Point. We stayed in the San Diego area for two days, and I wish we could have stayed more. It really is a wonderful place with perfect beaches and really nice people.
On our first morning, we had breakfast on the beach. Well, not literally 'on the beach' in the sand, but just a couple of footsteps away on a beach-level patio at a place that served wonderful food with a smile. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast and some great coffee before exploring the beach and enjoying some sun.

On to Coronado Island...

After we stayed at the beach for awhile, we took a short drive over to Coronado Island. All I knew about it was my daughter had been there and assured me it was paradise. I also had friends that had been to the Hotel del Coronado, where the movie "Some Like It Hot" was filmed. I wasn't sure what I expected, exactly, but it surpassed whatever my preconceived notions were.

Everything they said was true, and it was very beautiful. I also found that the people were especially nice. I say 'especially nice' for a reason. I had been up and going since early that morning. We had already been to one beach exploring, walking, sitting in the sand. I had Jeep hair on top of beach hair! But, no matter where I went, no one seemed to notice. No one looked at me like I had a Medusa head, which is my new nickname for the combo 'Jeep hair/beach hair' since going to California. I was quite impressed with the non-judgmental, California hospitality I received.

You see, Coronado Island is a place where the wealthy live and play. And, while you can tell that from everything you see, it doesn't feel that way. I didn't feel out of place or unwanted. There is ample public parking for free, and there are lovely neighborhoods to walk through. It doesn't have that 'don't touch me' feel at all.

We went into the Hotel del Coronado, enjoyed walking around freely, and bought a few things in the very nice shops. I have a sincere appreciation for good customer service, and I received it everywhere I went in the hotel and on the island. It was a top-notch day and evening we spent on Coronado Island. I can't wait to go back!

Next stop, PCH...
We left San Diego the next day and got on the Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point, California. I was so thrilled I took pictures of the first road sign we came across. I had no idea, at that point, just how thrilled I really should have been. You see, I'm an East Coast girl. I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but I guess I thought it would be something like Myrtle Beach. Oh, sure, I had seen movies where people drive the PCH,'s a movie - not reality! Or, so I thought...
I will never forget coming down that first bit of road and seeing the coast for the first time. We were on a fairly straight piece of the highway and, as we came over a little incline in the road,...there was the Pacific Coast in all its glory! Wow! It was like a postcard picture!

Now, the beach is gorgeous all by itself, but to have one side of the road look like paradise and the other side of the road display these magnificent, dramatic mountains is...awe-inspiring. I also found that it is impossible to convey how that feels in photography. I mean, I took good pictures I really love, but it doesn't even come close. You have to sense it. It gives you that awareness of...just how small you are in this world. And, I don't know about you, but I love that feeling. It makes me feel much less stressed about life. No wonder California Coast people are so laid back and relaxed.
We drove the PCH and stayed at various hotels along the way, deciding each evening where we wanted to stay. I'll tell you how we did that in my next post. For now, just enjoy a few pictures from different places along the highway.

At this point, we thought we might never want to go back home...


Monday, July 7, 2014

The Journey Begins

The first couple of days...

My husband, Tom, and I headed out on a Tuesday morning with no real plans other than to drive the Pacific Coast Highway. The truth is, we thought we were going to take a route through Flagstaff, Arizona, right up until the morning we left. We changed our plans and decided we'd rather make a loop around. In other words, go across Texas through New Mexico to get to California. We would then ride up the PCH to San Francisco and decide what to do once we got there. We weren't quite sure how big we wanted the loop to be, and we wanted to set our own time schedule. We agreed we wanted to get to California in good time, and then take our time up the coast.

The sky could be counted on for a good show.
We made it to Las Cruces, New Mexico, the first day and spent the night there. It's a beautiful place, where I found myself wondering if the people in that area get up every morning and take those beautiful mountains for granted. When we stopped at a very nice Safeway on our way out of town the next morning, I couldn't believe the beautiful view from that parking lot! Mountains everywhere!

No, obviously this isn't the Safeway parking lot, but it IS one of my views from the highway.

It was a scenic drive from Las Cruces to Dana Point, California. I couldn't take my eyes off the changing landscape. I loved the rugged terrain, the mountains, the steep roads, and the big, white windmills against the bright, blue sky. I never took my eyes off everything around me. In other words, I never opened a book (now that should tell you something). I loved everything I saw...

The clouds not only added beauty to the sky, but they also painted the mountains with lovely shadows.

Good thing we have a Jeep!
At first, the mountains were in the distance. Before long, they were right in front of my eyes, and we were going through them. I took lots of pictures, but none of them do justice to what it feels like when you're in the middle of them, climbing up steep roads, and winding through them. It's really incredible.

Top of the mountain
At the top of one of the mountains, I had Tom to stop the Jeep. I just wanted to take it all in, as the sun was setting and casting a different light on the landscape. I love taking photographs, and one of the most difficult things is letting go of the changing light. It's like...I want a picture of the same landscape with each shade of light and shadow as the sun descends. Every picture is different. I can't do this, of course, so I try to capture a little of the light in different ways - ways that will help me remember stopping in one particular spot along the roadside and trying to take a small piece of that moment with me in a photo.

(In tomorrow's post, we reach the PCH and begin falling in love with the California Coastline!)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Take a Road Trip

Two weeks on the road?

That's the very same question I asked. I mean, don't get me wrong, I grew up taking road trips with my family when I was young. We didn't take vacations by airplane. However, most of our road trips only covered three states: North Carolina (where I'm from), South Carolina, and Tennessee. To be honest, most of the trips were from Charlotte to Myrtle Beach. Those are my fondest memories of road trips.

That being said, I usually travel by plane now. You see, my husband has worked for an airline for twenty-five years now. It's actually cheaper for us to fly somewhere than it is for us to drive. Gas costs money, you know, and usually more money than it takes to just a rent a car for a week in a city we can fly to.

I have traveled internationally and love it and, when given a choice for vacation for the summer, I usually opt to go abroad. This summer was no exception. My husband and I had planned and saved for six months to go to Israel to visit some friends. We were supposed to be there for two weeks. These are the same friends who lovingly hosted me for a week last summer  in Italy before they moved to Israel the following autumn. We were very excited about seeing Israel for the first time with our friends, but the closer it got to the time to go, the worse the flight availability looked. You see, while we love the benefit of "flying free," we can only do so when there are seats available. Needless to say, there weren't seats available for us to go to Israel during the time period we needed.

Was I disappointed? Of course, but...I'm also used to changing plans due to flying standby. You see, even after all these years of flying standby, I still consider it quite a wonderful privilege. I don't take it for granted. I've seen things I never thought I'd ever see. I'm very blessed. So, with our plans for Israel off the table,  my husband and I began trying to come up with "Plan B."

After learning our original plans fell through, I decided I really didn't care to get on a plane at all. Not this time. Not this particular vacation. I didn't really know what I wanted to do. When I told my husband this, he suggested we drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. It sounded interesting, so I let him show me possible routes on a map. We talked it over, I mulled it over, and...I still wasn't sure I wanted to spend two weeks on the road.

What convinced me?

I talked to several friends who had seen the different areas of the country we would be going to see. They all raved about how wonderful their favorite places were, and they just knew I'd love it. I guess I still seemed a bit unsure about agreeing to it, so - as the last week of school wrapped up - my friends continued to talk up the trip to me. They gave me great hints and suggestions and promised me I'd love it.

Once I agreed, my husband immediately took care of all the things we needed to have a good, safe trip. I should tell you what I mean by that. It means he made sure the Jeep was in good working order, he took out the back seat completely, and he made plans to secure the house while we were gone and asked our neighbor to gather our mail. That's it. We had no "official" plan, that was the beauty of it. We were going to take it day by day and decide - as we went - where we wanted to go, where we wanted to stop, and when we wanted to stop. It was one of the best decisions we ever made for a vacation.

(Because this was a two-week trip, it's too much to write about in one blog post. I have decided to post a little each day this week about different parts of the trip and include pictures to go with each part.)