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My First 2015 Trip: Popping Around the USA!

As currently envisioned, 2015 is going to have a lot of travel – and virtually all of it vacation.

The past week and a half, I was stateside, hopping around: Las Vegas to see a college friend; San Diego to see ex-Berlin friends and a college friend; and Bloomington to see – well, to see Bloomington friends. I stopped in Indianapolis to see an ex-Jena friend on my way out of town.

The cherry on top was seeing one last college friend at Chicago O’Hare during my layover. He was also making a connection – mentioning it on social media.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park – I have incredible memories of this place from when I was a child. It is still impressive now that I’m a grown up.

Las Vegas is, as any sane person knows, a depressing city if you go there for its purported purpose. Fortunately my friends extracted me from the city (I’d had no really strong wishes as what to do), taking me to a cabin in the woods of Utah – with the added bonus of driving through Zion National Park – where I met several of their friends (a total of 3 couples, 3 kids, and me).

Let me just say: Zion may be the most beautiful national park in the US. It certainly is more awesome and amazing than it’s neighbor to the south, the Grand Canyon. I have incredibly fond memories of Zion from a childhood trip that I took with my parents – a string of national monuments and parks in Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. Zion was the next to last stop and by far the best.

The time spent at the cabin in the woods was incredibly relaxing and laid back: drinking wine around a campfire, munching on some American snacks that I hadn’t had in years (Cheez-It are more disgusting than I remember), and playing Cards Against Humanity. I actually did surprisingly well at Cards Against Humanity – I own a set of the game, but since it requires strong English skills (and American experiences), I’ve not actually played it in Berlin.

A set of early morning flights and I found myself in San Diego. My first day (Martin Luther King Jr Day), I spent with ex-Berlin friends. We enjoyed the scenery of Sunset Cliffs, delicious fish tacos at Oscar’s, a bit of wine drinking around a bamboo table, and amazing Italian food in Little Italy.

Great Scenery in San Diego

San Diego has amazing scenery.

Fish Tacos at Oscar's

Fish Tacos at Oscar’s.

My second day in San Diego, I explored Ocean Beach for a few hours, including walking to the end of the pier. There are two awesome things about the pier: first it lets you walk out to where surfers are surfing to watch them up close – or even from the ocean-side perspective. I managed to get some very nice shots. The other awesome thing about the pier is that it has a restaurant – where I had an early lunch: one fish taco and one lobster taco with a spectacular view of San Diego and the ocean.

Surfing at Ocean Beach

Surfing at Ocean Beach.

Surfing at Ocean Beach

Another Ocean Beach surfer.

Fish Tacos on Ocean Beach Pier

My early lunch was this: Fish Tacos (one fish, one lobster) on the Ocean Beach Pier café.

Dinner was with my college friend and his family – I’d never met his wife or his daughters before – all were very nice. However we split up fairly early: he and I were both hitting the road obscenely early on Wednesday.

Wednesday was, essentially, a travel day for me. Going east within the USA eats up entire days: I left San Diego at 6:30 in the morning and, with a short hour long connection in Houston, got to Indy just after 4 in the afternoon. I was in Bloomington at 5:45 in the afternoon.

This was after an argument with the rental car agent who tried first to upsell me to an SUV for $12 a day – “I’m only driving to Bloomington, why do I need an SUV?” and then the roadside assistance for $6 a day – “I’d rather gamble that I will have to pay to have the tire changed for $100 than pay $6 a day. While I can afford $100, I cannot afford $6 a day every time I rent a car.” I really despise the rental car experience – the constant attempts to sell me more insurance, to pay for a “better” car (trust me, a mid-sized car is far better than an SUV), and – with some companies – an urgent desire to know what hotel I’m staying at (Sorry, I’m not telling—I don’t want you to steal the car I’ve rented).

Sorry – off topic rant. Bloomington is Bloomington and other than Wednesday night dinner alone, all my lunches and dinners were with fantastic people.

French Toast, Biscuits and Gravy

Wee Willie’s on Walnut — French Toast with a side of biscuits and gravy — might be the most perfect breakfast on the planet.

I even made it to the Back Door – Bloomington’s only gay bar – Friday night to meet up with an ex-roommate and his boyfriend. What an amazing couple they are. I was thrilled to see how happy my ex-roommate is – and how awesome the boyfriend is. About the only downside to the Back Door was how INCREDIBLY LOUD THE MUSIC WAS. It was challenging hearing people who were right next to me. I really do miss Uncle Elizabeth’s – the downtown location. Uncle E’s was such a sedate, civilized environment – rarely was the music too loud. Perhaps what I miss most about Uncle E’s was one of the regulars (and sometimes bartender) who was quite attractive.

My last full day stateside, I popped up to Indy – stopped at the Fresh Market for their amazing honey roasted Thai cashew nuts (it’s safe to say, I’m an addict) – and then hung out with my ex-Jena friend and her husband. For dinner we stumbled into Las Casa de los Mariscos Mexican Grill (7940 Michigan Avenue). Honestly, it’s the first restaurant I’ve ever been in the USA where I had serious trouble communicating in English with the wait staff – but the struggle was worth it. I cannot tell you what I had, but it was an amazing seafood stew that came out in an enormous bowl that was far bigger than the one pictured on the menu.

Happily my trip home was uneventful – save for the excitement of seeing another college friend who happened to be transiting O’Hare at the same time I was.

With regards to my pals at United: they’re doing a great job. Of the eight flights I took with them, six were substantially early, one bang on time, and one a mere 10 minutes late (mainly due to ground related weather issues).

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