Two weeks with family on our favorite Caribbean island.
Mañana, vamos por viaje. It's that time again, everyone. Our travel bugs have been biting pretty strong recently so we are thrilled to be packing for an island adventure after a few months in the desert. For the next two weeks, we'll be soaking up summertime bliss in Puerto Rico with Loren's family. We'll be visiting old haunts in Utuado, Rincon, and San Juan. Our travel wish list includes surfing, snorkeling, fishing, hiking in the US's only tropical rainforest, and exploring the island's rich culinary delights (mofongo, tostones, pasteles...). It'll also be great to flex our Español muscles again. Hasta luego!
Kristen is lucky enough to have family in the beautiful city of Bozeman, Montana, which is where her mom grew up and most of the family has remained. Who can blame them? It is a stunning outdoorsy town which has maintained a lot of the historic sites and neighborhoods that make it a gem. Plus, it’s perfectly located a few hours from, arguably, the best national parks in the country: Glacier, Yellowstone, and Tetons. Also, the weather started changing for the better the closer we got to Bozeman, such that when we arrived we were greeted with a warm sun. Our first stop was Grandma Ruth’s old house, which is where Kristen’s mom grew up, and is just down the road from the elementary school they attended (which now is home to artist studios and galleries, we’re told). If and when that house goes on the market, we’d consider buying it - no joke.
We unpacked our stuff into Kristen’s cousin’s house, set up the tent to air out and cleaned up and got ready just in time to get together with the rest of the family. Loren finally got to meet Aunt Roxie, Uncle Jack, (cousin) Jess, her husband Carl and their two adorable kids, Annie and Eric, and enjoyed dinner together on Bozeman's historic downtown strip at Bacchus Pub.
Kristen ordered her standard fish and chips, while Loren got to enjoy a burger with avocado and bacon. We also splurged and ordered moscow mules, delicious cocktails with vodka, ginger beer, and lime. It was great catching up with the family, and they gave us some insider tips on other good spots to check out in the area.
Once we got home, we were all a bit sleepy. We stayed up long enough to catch the tail end of Obama’s DNC speech, and then retired to bed, happy to be inside and under a down comforter!
Even with intentions of waking early, we slept in a tad and had just enough time to have coffee and some homemade molasses oatmeal bread before riding the family cruiser bikes down the street to Roxie and Jack’s house, a quaint bungalow that they’ve restored beautifully. Roxie, Jess, and the kids had to head over to MSU to meet with an entomologist to identify a spider they'd found in Roxie's basement (turned out, their fears were warranted: it was a hobo spider, which delivers some nasty venom known to cause necrosis)!
From there, we rode to the Cafe Francais des Arts, where we enjoyed another caffeine boost and split a crepe with egg, ham and onions (sans fromage). To wrap up our Main Street tour, we made a quick stop at the Vargo’s Jazz City & Books store (no photos allowed) and then a trip to The Co-op grocery store to stock up for the road.
By the time we got back to Jess’s house, it was much later than we’d planned for. We had a bit of fun with the kids on the trampoline, and then hugged everyone goodbye. We hit the road, thinking what a great place Bozeman seems for raising a family. Yep, we could definitely live here!
Thanks so much for having us, Jess!
In desperate need of laundry, good sleep, and family time, we made it to sunny San Diego. The weather alone seemed like a refuge after the oppressive heat in Vegas and surrounds – with temps about 20-30 degrees cooler during the day, we were in heaven. On top of that, a beautiful sunset of oranges, yellows, and purples greeted us, and we let our guards down to have another vacation from our vacation.
Our timing brought us to the Thomson house in Rancho Bernardo in the final few days of summer vacation for our nieces and nephew. After sleeping in, we all packed into the van to head to Oceanside Harbor for some brief beach time (also doubling as a birthday party for a friend of the two eldest girls). It was great to sample a part of the Pacific Coast that isn’t quite as numbing as some spots up north (ahem, Oregon).
Despite the chilly water, we made our way into the waves... but didn’t completely submerge! We warmed up on the beach while watching our talented nieces, all gymnasts who can easily do back walkovers and handsprings at the water’s edge. Also entertaining was our nephew’s insisting on building a sandcastle, then promptly destroying it, with uncle Loren.
The next day, we made it to Point Loma, which is a peninsula to the west of San Diego. With views of the cityscape and Coronado Island to the east, and to the west, views of the Pacific which are probably prime during whale watching season (Feb). A stop at the lighthouse and some tidepool exploration capped off our visit.
From there, we broke with the group and went for lunch at a bar/restaurant near the park called Sessions Public, where we enjoyed happy hour specials on food and drink. A bit of indulgence (read: duck summer rolls) and overindulgence (read: calamari) put us over the edge, forcing us to nap before heading out on the town again for dinner.
After our breather, we headed back downtown to Little Italy, where we happened upon a tasty restaurant, Buon Appetito, and later met up with friends at the most hipster bar we’d ever seen, Craft and Commerce. Taxidermy animals hung from the walls and ceilings, the bartenders wore suspenders, and they have a strict no-vodka and no-ketchup rule throughout the establishment. We ate it right up, even if it was a little overkill here and there.
Despite staying out late, we kept to our plan of visiting the nieces’ gymnastics practice before heading next door for some gym time of our own, to climb. Our youngest niece accompanied us and eventually became the focus of most of the gym, because she was both small and fearless! To say we were proud is an understatement. Once the older girls finished their gym session, they also joined in on the action, again with an audience exclaiming their natural ability and fearlessness. If they ever decide to stop with gymnastics, they could definitely pick up climbing!
That evening we grilled burgs and drank margs with a mishmash crowd, which included Loren’s high school geometry teacher (the short story is that the teacher’s daughter is Loren’s sister’s best friend from high school, who was also visiting).
We wrapped up our stay with a lazy morning, including watching the most recent episode of Project Runway and painting nails. It was such a relaxed visit, and so good to see the Thomsons, that leaving seemed unthinkable. But we turned North to head up the coast, taking solace in the fact that we'll soon return.
Albuquerque was such a good rest stop for us, offering a soft bed, cool house, warm shower, full kitchen, wireless, and a chance to see more of the Olympics. After sleeping ourselves out of the sleep debt we’d accrued while tent camping/acclimating to the high elevation, we made breakfast and set off for the climbing gym to start “training” for our upcoming outdoorsy lifestyle in Colorado.
From the gym, we met Loren’s mom for sparkling wine tasting at Gruet Winery, where we loosened up, and then to REI for some camping supplies. To top off the spoiling, Kristen was treated to a mani-pedi.
For dinner, the group went to the quirky and fun Range Cafe for delicious food and clever drinks. Below are some highlights.
Day two started with renewed energy. The Subaru (aka Subie) got its oil change, Kristen practiced yoga for the first time since setting off on the trip, and we made it to Petroglyph National Monument just before the visitor center closed. Because of the sun glare, the glyphs were a little trickier to find! Afterwards, the whole group made it out to dinner at Pasion Latin Fusion, where we shared 2 bottles of wine and some delicious plates for dinner.
Good company, good weather, good food, good drink. Thanks so much to Vilma and Jim for being our generous hosts!
Smith Mountain Lake has been the perfect remedy in the aftermath of our stressful packing/cleaning/moving process. It's a place that exudes happiness, excitement, and pure zen. And for anyone who dares to get behind the boat or jetskiis for tubing, waterskiing, or wakeboarding, there's always the challenge to hold on! We are so happy we've gotten to spend the past few days here with the Leary Fam, during which time we've been able to catch some Olympics, relax, play in the water, and get ready for the upcoming adventure. AND it's been a wakeup call that we need to get some more exercise: just one session of watersports has both of us groaning when we lift our arms.
Thanks, SML, for the good weather, the taste of what's to come, and the inspiration to pursue a more active lifestyle. Next stop, SC!