Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Lots of big changes in my life lately.. As such, things have been busy as ever! I’ve been spending a lot of time in the mountains, and there have been a lot of unexpected trips. This phase of my life is something I’m very grateful for; I’m learning that spontaneity is good, being busy is good, and I’m being reminded of just how strong my support system is.

Much of my down time recently has been giving me a “reset” of sorts – revisiting my past interests and trying new things that interest me. One of my short term goals (which I’ve been making good on) is to spend more time outdoors. I mentioned recently on Instagram that Ryan & I invested in an “America the Beautiful” pass while visiting Yosemite following the fires, and it’s already more than paid for itself in our travels.

Another of my goals is to be more diligent with writing. Despite that, this post isn’t very word-intensive. In my opinion, my blog posts about nature-y trips don’t need a bunch of words detracting from the quiet beauty of these locations.

In short, Ryan and I stayed at the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge. We spent one day of our trip exploring further along 198 through Sequoia National Park, and the next day up 180 into a small portion of Kings Canyon National Park. This trip was seen as a way to get a feel for the area, and we plan to go back and explore further!

Montecito Lake – on property at the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge where we stayed
General Sherman in the background

General Sherman
Downed tree along the General Grant Trail

Fire scar on General Grant tree

My Revolt Story

Ink Master has been among my favorite competition shows since it’s inception, and in 2014 it introduced me to a few tattoo artists I have dreamed of being tattooed by. One of these artists is Season 4’s runner-up Walter “Sausage” Frank. Since Ink Master, he relocated to Las Vegas and opened a shop, Revolt Tattoos, with Season 3 winner Joey Hamilton (another truly gifted artist). I have driven through the area numerous times since the shop opened, but I had yet to find a design nor actually set foot in the shop. His tattoos are striking, bold, and legible photorealistic designs, and I knew someday I would find myself wanting something sizable, detailed, and meaningful enough to contact him. I also knew my Revolt story would happen organically, when it should, but I never could have guessed what the price of that inspiration would be.

After Colin died, I knew I was going to get something tattooed on my body in remembrance of him, and initially I was decided on red roman numerals on my side of his date of death. Later, after his mom found a zoo worth of owls in his room, my plan changed. I started my artist search around Fresno, but realized that anyone who could accomplish the photorealism that I wanted would be expensive and I would have to wait. It then dawned on me that if I was going to be paying as much as I was and waiting as long as I would be, I might as well go to one of my “dream” artists.

I first contacted the shop in December 2016. I filled out the basic contact form, explaining my flexibility in timeline and in design so long as there was a photorealistic owl. Additionally, I was open to color so long as it was mostly neutral toned. For how much I like to be in control, I was pretty open about what the tattoo would look like.

Through our communication, an appointment was booked for me to come in on October 3, 2017 at 10 a.m.

From the inception of the idea, I decided I was going to make a small trip out of this appointment. I chose to not fly for a number of reasons, but fortunately for me, I have made the drive between Fresno and Vegas half a dozen times and find it relatively easy.

As it turned out, Emily’s bridal shower was the Saturday before near Pasadena, so it made sense for me to go down then, stay in the LA area, and then head to Las Vegas from there (my last post, “SoCal Adventures,” details that part of the trip). As it turned out, I made my way to Las Vegas on October 2nd.

October 2nd in Las Vegas turned out to be a dramatically different day than I had planned. The original itinerary I had included going to the Luxor to see the Bodies Exhibit, and possibly walking The Strip. With the shooting the night before, everything was closed and eerie, so I loitered in LA a little while longer than intended. I took myself to breakfast at Twisted Sage, a place my darling Sarynna had showed me on my trip with her to Azusa nearly a month before. From there, I headed into Vegas, drove past the Strip on I-15 before getting off the freeway, after which I checked into and sat in my hotel room for awhile before heading to a Yard House that was south of The Strip right off the freeway.

The following day, I had my appointment which was far and away the most well documented tattooing experience I have ever had.

My mom and aunt drove into Vegas that morning from Fresno, arriving at the hotel around 9 a.m. They ate breakfast, took their stuff to the room, and then we made our way to Revolt.

I met Walter Frank for the first time just after 10 a.m. as we discussed in more detail what I was looking for. Through our talks and looking at pictures, we decided moving the image to my hip from my side would be a better decision as far as fit, size, and longevity were concerned. This move required me to change out of the yoga pants and athletic shirt I had originally worn to the shop and into a dress which would allow easier access to my hip.

Almost 2 hours later, we had a sketch, he prepped his station, and we were ready to apply the stencil.

Checking fit/size vs. my body
Walter’s Station

The shop offers live streams of their tattoos, so I took this opportunity to share the link to Walter’s station so that friends and family not present could watch the process unfold.

The course of the next 5 1/2 hours consisted of lots of tattooing, lots of jokes about ass, and walking breaks. I’ve included the “progression” pictures below:

**BLOOD WARNING**

I wanted the owl’s eyes to be Colin’s eyes. For those of you who are unfamiliar, his eyes were a dark brown that became a vibrant green in direct light. The group present acted as voting committee of how to best do them in the likeness of his eyes as to not get too muddy with the black of the outline and the pupils. We opted for a green color toward the center, becoming brown at the edges.

Applying the wrap that would cover it for the next 4 days

Walter was such a great artist to sit for. He humored our questions, sass, and the emotions associated with what we were there for for nearly 6 hours that day.

Whole gang post-tattoo

We ended up leaving the shop around 6 p.m., heading to Yard House for dinner. That evening was highly emotional, and we were all spent by the time we got to dinner. We all were asleep by 9 p.m.

The day following my appointment, we all made the drive back to Fresno.

I am so happy with my experience and the end result. This trip helped create a small light in an otherwise grim situation. As much as I don’t like the fact that my reason for going to Walter was to memorialize Colin, there is no one I would have rather had as my artist.

3 1/2 weeks later

SoCal Adventures

What was originally going to be a short trip to Las Vegas for my newest tattoo turned into a 5 day trip that started Saturday, September 30, in La Cañada, California for my darling Emily’s bridal shower!

Emily has been a close friend of mine since she moved to Fresno and started playing for the same volleyball club as I did between 7th and 8th grade. A few months back I visited her and her fiancé Bobby in Santa Barbara. Since then, more wedding plans have come to pass, and we are now a few weeks away from their big day! The shower was brunch in a family member’s backyard. I’m proud to say I won the game that was guessing Em’s age in a collection of 16 pictures!

One of my favorite features of the shower was the video Emily’s sister-in-law Amanda made with Bobby that consisted of Amanda prompting 20 questions to Bobby and him guessing Emily’s response. His answers were so genuine and honest, and Emily’s reaction to some of his answers was priceless.

I ended up staying with Emily’s mom that night near Anaheim. Being the Disney addict that I am (and knowing I was going to bite the bullet and get an annual pass again), I decided to take a quick detour on my way to her home. I was hellbent on seeing Disneyland in all of it’s Halloween glory, so I reinstated my annual pass (I went with the signature pass, I previously had a signature plus pass.. I’ll go more into this on a later post), and went into Disneyland with the intent of walking up Main Street, looking at all the decorations, and riding Haunted Mansion. Yes, that is all that I did in the park that day.

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The next morning, I got up and drove to North Hollywood where another dear friend of mine lives: Catriona. We planned to spend a portion of our Sunday at Universal Studios exploring the Harry Potter section before her show that evening.

While there, we ended up seeing a friend from high school who is currently in the frog choir, and went on a studio tour tram narrated by another cast member of the show she was in that night.

Overall, I thought the Harry Potter section was very well done, and the food was fantastic! The “big” ride that part of the park features, though, is not one that sat well with me because I cannot do 3D or copious amounts of movement in rides (for comparison, I can’t do Star Tours at Disneyland because it gives me motion sickness).

The show Cat was in that night was called The Scarlet Pimpernel, one I wasn’t familiar with. It was a very small production, but the actors were all talented, so it was enjoyable.

The next morning, October 2nd, I started my drive to Las Vegas.

 

..to be continued.

Tuolumne Meadows

Since our trip to Yosemite last September, Lela and I have both been determined to make it to Tuolumne Meadows in a timely manner. We knew going into it that in order to properly do Tuolumne Meadows and surrounding area hikes, we would need more time than we had. Nonetheless, we both wanted to get up there to see what it was about. It took us nearly a year, but on Saturday, August 5th, we finally made it.

As with most Yosemite trips, we left around 6 a.m. to head up the hill. Weather was forecasted to be a reasonable temperature, but there was a good chance of thunderstorms, especially in the afternoon – we planned outfits accordingly. The drive was a relatively easy 3 hours up, and the direction we came from required we go through part of the valley before getting onto 120 for Tioga Road.

Along the way, there were many places to pull off. One was Olmsted Point, which gave us a gorgeous view of Half Dome from the opposite side of the usual Valley view.

Broke out the big lens on my Olympus Camera for this one. It was taken from the same spot the selfie above was.

After that, we approached Tenaya Lake, which was breathtaking. The reflection of the mountains off the lake left us both speechless.

Excitedly running to the end of the log

We reached Tuolumne Meadows midmorning, and as expected, we were met with slightly overcast weather.

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Little Blue handled the drive like a dream

Due to our time constraints, we decided that wandering around the meadows would be the best course of action for this trip. On a map of Tuolumne Meadows, we found a point of interest that we wanted to have as a true “destination” on our walk, so we headed to the east end of the meadows. We parked the car on the dirt road by Lembert Dome that leads to Tuolumne Stables and walked up the road to where the true path to the meadows starts.

Our “set” destination for that day was going to be Soda Springs and the adjacent Parsons Lodge. The path toward the heart of the meadows offered stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges, including Cathedral Peak (which Lela was rather taken with).

Lela with Cathedral Peak in the background

The paths through Tuolumne Meadows (that we experienced) were roughly car width, and were very well maintained. Altitude was the only thing not on our side, but overall, the weather was lovely, so we didn’t notice it much on our hike/walk.

*Disclaimer: this sign is actually on the part of the path between the springs and Parsons Lodge*

A short while later, we made it to Soda Springs. The springs were small but fascinating:

From there we continued up the trail to Parsons Lodge, a gorgeous stone structure built in 1915 that is still used for events by the Yosemite Conservancy.

Meadows from the Lodge

When we left the lodge, we headed towards the Tuolumne Meadows Footbridge, which allowed us to cross the Tuolumne River.

View of the bridge and river from Parsons Lodge
Lela and I sitting on the Tuolumne Footbridge (note the Davis Farmers Market hat making a reappearance in our Yosemite trips)

From the bridge, we continued along the path that lead toward the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center, though the visitor center was busy, so we opted to not go that far. Walking through this part of the trail made me feel like I was wandering through the set of Lord of the Rings, which made me even happier than I already was.

Looking back at Lembert Dome

Perhaps my favorite part of the walk led us to a weird rock/embankment on the edge of the river. Water is probably my favorite element, and there were so few people that you could hear everything happening in Tuolumne Meadows. Lela and I sat on the water’s edge for a little while listening to the birds in the nearby trees and the water running down the river.

Some time later we headed back to the car. We decided we would go back by Tenaya Lake to eat lunch; Lela had gone to Subway the night before and picked up sandwiches for our lunch that day. We took our food and made our way down to the edge of the lake. There weren’t many people in this area, so lunch was very peaceful.

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When we were done there, we started to head back toward the valley (Yosemite Valley because we have to pass through it to get back to the 41, and more broadly the Central Valley). By the time we made it back to Yosemite Valley, traffic was getting a little ridiculous, and until that moment we both had forgotten that it was the last real weekend before school was back in session.

We were both very impressed with Tuolumne Meadows, and our only regret is that we didn’t have time for any of the other hikes with true destinations at points of interest like lakes or peaks. I cannot wait to make it back up there, though that will likely have to wait until next year.

Yosemite Falls Had Us Mist-ified!

Hiking is a hobby I picked up while I lived in Colorado. Towards the beginning, I was still experiencing joint pain that was most likely caused by my time playing volleyball, and that limited the types of hikes I could take on. Due to that, I tended to limit my hikes to those rated moderate or below. Three years ago, on June 18, 2014, Charlotte and I attempted Yosemite Falls, rated at moderate to strenuous, and only made it to Columbia Rock before opting to turn back and get into the pools below Lower Yosemite Falls. Reminder: All collages can be clicked on to see the individual images in a larger format.

Charlotte and I met in 7th grade and she has held a special place in my life since. She is one of the most strong willed, ambitious, and charismatic people I know. Our relationship has always been one based in a more “adult” perspective – we can go months without talking but there is no hesitation with picking up right where with left off. For undergrad, Charlotte went to Cal Berkeley, and is continuing her education with Law School at Ole Miss. This trip fell during a break in her school schedule when she happened to not only be in town, but have a full day free.

Our second attempt at the Yosemite Falls Trail (which we were determined to complete) was scheduled for Monday, June 19th, coincidentally just one day after the 3 year anniversary of our first attempt. We left town around 6 o’clock that morning, and by 8 a.m. we were in the valley.

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On our way through the valley just as we crossed the river to get to the north side of the park, we stopped to capture this gorgeous view of our only plan for the day:

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls from the parking lot by Shuttle Stop #11

Spring into May and June is typically when waterfalls in Yosemite experience peak runoff, but due to last week’s snowfall, there is a tree-mendous volume (my dad gets credit for that one!) of water coming over Yosemite Falls right now.

We didn’t take any pictures of the trail while we were on it, but the National Park Service webpage for Yosemite National Park allows you to navigate to the information below about the Yosemite Falls Trail (also linked above):

Yosemite Falls trail stats - captured from nps.gov

Needless to say, we had quite a day ahead of us. We parked the car in the lot just across the road from the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail, and had to walk from there to Campground 4 where the trailhead is located. At 8:53 a.m. we left the valley floor on our journey to summit Yosemite Falls. Note: The only two times we know for sure are when we left the valley and when we got back down, every other time listed is based on picture timestamps.

Around 9:30 a.m., we made it to Columbia Rock. This portion of the journey was much easier to accomplish than I remembered, though my memory served me correctly in just how steep and winding it was.

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View of Half Dome from Columbia Rock (yes, I’m wearing the same Maserati hat as I did the first trip)

From that point, we started the strenuous portion of the hike – 2700 ft elevation gain over about 2.6 miles. About a mile into that, we got gorgeous views of the falls and benefited from all the mist coming off the fall.

After the mist comes what seems like a desert. The trail coverage that is relatively abundant for the first half disappears, and all that is left is the sun and the sandy path. Around 11:40 a.m. we summited the falls and were pretty exhausted. The overlook was an open, rocky area that had signs pointing toward stairs which provided a closer look at the falls.

Excited to *finally* reach the top

Good news – thanks to my beloved Camelbak (this is the one I have), I didn’t run out of water, nor did I feel or exhibit signs of dehydration. Bad news – the muscle fatigue was very real. Getting to the top was a push, but let me be clear, the last few stairs to and from the actual edge of the falls were painful.

As we approached Yosemite Creek, we were expecting just that – a creek. We did not anticipate just how much water would be coming down the mountain. The staircase pictured above was very narrow and led down to a lower lookout point.

From the higher point, we could see a bridge up the Yosemite Creek which was surrounded by a bunch of rocks on the bank that would be great for laying out on. Based on trail markers we saw just before reaching the outlook, we figured the bridge was a short way up the Yosemite Point Trail which branches off of the Yosemite Falls Trail. After crossing the bridge, we opted to go opposite the direction of the trail to get to the rocks on the edge of the creek (this part is definitely not recommended by the NPS as the creek is fast moving and directly above the falls, you should stay on the trails, kids).

While down by the creek, we had the lunch we had packed – crackers, salami, and cheese, various bars, and PB&J sandwiches. We also took this time to soak up some sun, and give our bodies some reprieve from the hike up. The water was quite possibly close to freezing, but it felt great! We spent quite awhile up there, and around 1:30 p.m. or so we started our descent.

Truth be told, we didn’t take many pictures during our ascent because of how strenuous it was and our focus being on reaching the top. The descent was when the bulk of our scenery pictures were taken, and I’ve provided a compilation below.

The trip down the mountain was much faster than the trip up, and we made it back to the valley floor at 3:20 p.m. According to Charlotte’s Fitbit, with all of our adventures included, we took just over 31,000 steps, traveled about 13 miles, and climbed the equivalent of 380 staircases. I am so proud of what we accomplished and the view was worth every muscle-screaming step. On our way down the hill, we stopped at Robert’s Frosty in Coarsegold for soft serve as a reward for making it all the way to the top of the falls.

This trip also marked Lil’ Blue’s first to Yosemite! I greatly appreciate Charlotte letting me be *that* person who stops to take artsy pictures of my car.

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My Outback below the Three Brothers rock formation on the North Side of Yosemite Valley

3 Days in Redwoods National & State Parks

It has officially been one year since Shannon and I went to Redwoods National and State Parks just north of Eureka in Orick, CA. This was a trip we first conceived shortly after finally meeting in our Senior Honor’s Seminar at Colorado State the semester before we both received our Bachelor’s degrees.

Shannon and I had been Facebook friends because of common interests realized from a “CSU Class of 2016” page for four years before we actually had a class together (and realized that we should have been real friends the whole dang time). We are both fans of adventure and loosely structured plans. Our seminar got us talking about National Parks which led Shannon to bring up the Redwoods, I mentioned I hadn’t been before, so we decided right then and there to make a trip together. We got closer over the course of the semester, too, and that definitely encouraged follow through. After graduation, we figured out when we would be in California at the same time and planned from there.

We decided that we would leave on June 5th, and come home on June 9th. It didn’t make sense for either of us to go to the other to begin the journey because of our relative starting points in California, so we opted to meet just off I-5 in Los Banos because it was the least out of the way for Shannon and the most reasonable for me to get to. From there, we got back on the 5 and headed north towards Eureka. We hardly needed directions as Shannon has been going there throughout her life to visit her paternal grandmother. Additionally, her older sister now lives in the Santa Rosa area, which is conveniently on the way to Eureka. We made a stop in Santa Rosa in the early afternoon, and met Shannon’s sister and brother-in-law for lunch.

As we drove up, we searched hotels online and made hotel reservations at the Eureka Inn. From Los Banos to Eureka is about a 6 1/2 hour drive without any stops, and we figured we may as well make it scenic. The next detour we made on the trip was at the Chandelier Tree in Leggett, CA. Unfortunately, Shannon’s truck wouldn’t fit through this tree because of the height, so we settled for walking the property.

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We left from there and continued the journey north. We made it to Eureka in the early evening, checked into the hotel, and settled in for the night.

The next morning, June 6th, we got up bright and early and drove north about an hour to the parks. These parks are particularly unique in the National Park System because there is no true park entrance or exit gate, and thus, no standard park entrance fee (though there are a couple areas that are pay areas, Fern Canyon being one of them).

To start the day we parked in the Big Tree Wayside parking area and sprayed copious amounts of bug spray on our bodies. Our first move was starting up Circle Trail and moving on to Cathedral Trees Trail before crossing the road with the intent of hiking Prairie Creek Trail and finding the Corkscrew Tree. During the latter part of our hike, we definitely got a little bit lost and ended up stumbling upon the tree we were in search of, but there are much worse places to be a little lost. On the way back to the hotel for the day, we stopped in Klamath for lunch. Across the street from the diner we ate at was a drive-thru tree, and Shannon was hell-bent on getting her truck through one, so we went. Spoiler alert, success was hers!

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Shannon is in the truck which very narrowly fit inside the tree

That night, we drove into town and met Shannon’s grandma for dinner. After eating, we went to Humboldt Bay for ice cream.

On the morning of June 7th, we made our way back into the parks early, and decided we would go to the visitor center to get a permit to hike Tall Trees Trail. The road to get to this trail is relatively narrow, tree-lined, and unpaved, and requires passing through a gate that is locked and the code is changed daily. The drive was easy, and we reached the trailhead quickly.

The trail starts with 800 feet of elevation change, going down in order to get to the Tall Trees loop area. This trail was the first we encountered with wildlife that wasn’t flying or trying to bite us – I could hardly contain myself upon finally getting to see banana slugs in person (sorry Shannon!).

The path became relatively leveled out just before reaching the loop portion that runs alongside a river. These trees seemed so diverse in form despite being in such a relatively small area, and the walk was relaxing.

The trail where it levels out just before the loop
Shannon on the loop portion of the trail

Tree burned through the middle
Me getting really excited about the trail and the trees (and the possibility of more banana slugs)

When we were done in the park for the day, we headed south towards Eureka. We stopped in the town of Trinidad for lunch and to sight see.

When we got to the hotel that night and were beat, so we decided to have burritos delivered to our room (yes, to the door of our room) from a local restaurant. They were AH-mazing.

Our final morning to go in the parks, we decided to stop for brunch on the way in downtown Arcata (also known as the cutest little town I’ve seen to date). We went to a local cafe where we could order crepes, and it was a delicious choice! When breakfast was done, we headed north with Fern Canyon on our minds. The 1 1/2 lane “road” that Davidson Road becomes looks like an extended, unintended off-roading adventure through Jurassic Park. This entire day in our trip blew my mind – most of the road in and the trail for the hike looked like it genuinely hadn’t been disturbed for 325 million years.

After we made it back from the trail, we decided to walk out on the beach.

From there, we decided to go to Patrick’s Point State Park. This area was a pay area, and there were a lot of campgrounds, but we also found some fun stone buildings and got to see some whales.

Shannon and I concluded the day with her grandma on the way back towards Eureka. That evening we went back to the hotel and began packing so we could leave as early as possible (and reasonable) the next morning.

The trip was so memorable, and was just the beginning of a string of adventures that Shannon and I have shared in. Since this big trip, the scale has been much smaller (mostly spending time on the Central Coast of California), but there are already more big trips in the works for the two of us, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Baylor Graduation and a Road Trip

Early flights are things I only willingly sign up for in special cases – this was one. Maddy, who has always been more like a sister to me than a friend, was graduating from Baylor after completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science in just 3 years. I was not only flying out to go to her graduation, I was to help her move from Waco, TX to Phoenix, AZ where she is set to start her Master’s Degree in the fall.

My mom, her parents, and I flew out just after 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 11th to start our journey to her. After we arrived in Dallas, we waited for her grandpa to land, got the car, and started our ~90 minute drive down to Waco. I had been to Texas during summer prior to this, but I forgot that the weather there can be just as bipolar as the weather in Colorado can, and before the day was up we experienced 2 rain storms and otherwise lovely weather.

After the parents checked into the hotel they were staying at, Maddy joined us and we made our way to the Magnolia Market Silos. As “Fixer Upper” fans, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to stop into the shop and check out what the grounds had to offer.

Prior to this trip, I did not expect the Silos to be located within the city. The property was, however, every bit as precious as I was expecting. We chose to go on the Thursday before graduation ceremonies started, and because of that it wasn’t too busy to fully enjoy the experience.

During our visit we got food from the on-site food trucks, bought our fair share of merchandise from the market, and made sure to hit the bakery and seed shop.

From the Silos, we decided to keep the shopping theme rolling and headed toward Spice Village, which is a single shop that contains and sells products for a bunch of smaller shops. Their products range from jewelry to clothes to home goods and novelty items. On the way in, we stopped for a drink at the bar next door called Cricket’s where Maddy’s mom got wine and the rest of us ordered their frozen Jack & Coke (which was delicious!). We spent a good hour or so wandering around there before heading to the hotel to pick up the rest of our group before heading to dinner.

Dinner for that night was at a BBQ restaurant called Uncle Dan’s that Maddy had stumbled upon about a year before – she accidentally walked in the back door and ran into the Uncle Dan who welcomed her and let her continue on her way to get to the dining area. We were all left stuffed, but not too stuffed to go back to Maddy’s apartment to sample the eclairs she had made that morning. From there, the parents headed back to the hotel, while Maddy, her friend Kailee, and I ended up having a game night.

First thing the next morning, we got up and met the parents so we could get the “Maddy” tour of Baylor.

Our tour led us around the campus starting on one side of Pat Neff Hall, looping up the center mall, and around to the other side. On that far side is a statue of Judge Baylor, the namesake of the University. Apparently a tradition is to climb the statue to sit on his lap (it’s pretty worn down) and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to do it myself.

The last stop of our tour was at the Armstrong Browning Library, which was also a small museum of sorts and a study area. This building is gorgeous, featuring tons of stained glass windows and marble. We didn’t spend too much time here, but it was definitely worth the stop. I linked the history of the building above in the library’s name.

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The large room to the back of the building. The archival rooms are at either side of the foyer.

After we toured the campus, we went to brunch at IHOP. Once we had finished, it was about time for us to go back to the apartment/hotel to get ready for the ceremony.

Baylor’s graduation ceremony was relatively quick and efficient. Once it was over, our travel group and a few of Maddy’s friends met for dinner. When dinner was through, Maddy, Kailee, Julia (another friend of theirs), and I went back to campus and to the Waco Suspension Bridge to take more pictures.

On campus, the girls climbed the Judge Baylor Statue. After we started taking pictures on the Waco Suspension Bridge, Maddy and I were inspired to take pictures that were reminiscent of a picture she and I took years ago. On the way back to the car, we stopped at the Chisholm Trail sculptures.

From there, we made our way back to Maddy’s apartment where a group was gathering to have another night of games.

Saturday morning Maddy, Kailee, and I met the parents at a local restaurant called Cafe Cappuccino for breakfast (it was adorable and delicious). Once breakfast was done, we made our way to McLane stadium to walk the grounds there a little bit.

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After the stadium, we headed to Maddy’s apartment to pack the clothing and furnishings she still had in the apartment into her car.

Once we were done with our business in Waco, Maddy and I headed towards San Antonio – the first stop in our drive to Phoenix. On our way, we stopped in Temple, TX at a rest stop on steroids (part of a chain) called Buc-ee’s just for the novelty of it.

Pressing on, we made it from Waco to San Antonio in about 3 hours. After checking into the hotel, we walked less than two blocks to get to the Alamo.

Of the more interesting site facts for me included that most of it was rebuilt (very little of the original building exists) and that the original property holdings were surrounding to the front, not the back as the current lot might suggest. Something I appreciated most is that the original property lines on the current lot were marked by small plaques between pavers.

Once we finished with the Alamo, we made our way to the Riverwalk. Starting somewhere in the middle, we picked a direction and just started walking, taking in everything around us. After awhile, we realized we probably needed to find a place to eat, and after picking a direction to search in, found a place within minutes.

Dinner that night was at Casa Rio, the first restaurant to take advantage of the riverwalk. It was easy to see why their business had lasted so long on the river, and after splitting a liter of peach sangria we walked back to the hotel where we called it an early night.

The next day was little more than driving from San Antonio to Las Cruces, New Mexico. We did stop in Fort Stockton at a seemingly random Mexican restaurant called Taqueria Guadalajara (the closest to an actual website I could find).

Our only regret is that we have no real reason to go back to Fort Stockton, TX, ever again.

The journey continued along I-10 West, and we hit a point in the road close enough to the border that our cell carriers believed we had left the country and sent us “Welcome to Mexico!” auto-texts advising us of our rates (this has since been cleared up).

Late in the afternoon we made it to Las Cruces, NM, and settled for the night into our hotel room. There, we had a somewhat healthy meal at Cracker Barrel (I paired vegetables with dumplings and Maddy got a salad with fried chicken on it), I helped Maddy with the basics of WordPress (her newly created page for her wood signs can be found at Maddy Ave Marvels), and we turned on Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix.

On Monday, we were up relatively early (we both originally woke up at 4 a.m., had independent thoughts that we could just get on the road now and decided against it) and on the road to Phoenix.

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For the most part, this drive was uneventful. We did see a few billboards we took interest in, one of which was for Steins Ghost Town. When we got to the exit we decided to get off and see what it might be. It was noteworthy in that (unless we missed something) we were pretty sure we had stumbled into something that was supposed to be a site to stop at, but had since become a residence for about 4 people and no one took down the billboards.

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After re-entering the freeway, we finished our trip to Phoenix. We made it to the house around noon, which gave us plenty of time to unload the car and start unpacking the boxes in the house.

Despite making it to the house early in the day, everything the day entailed did a number on the two of us, and we decided the best course of action for the rest of the night was to have pizza delivered, put on pjs, curl up on the denim couch (aka the best couch ever) and get through a couple episodes of Sherlock.

The next morning, May 16th, I packed for my flight, and we decided we would use the time leading up to my departure to visit the Phoenix Zoo.

We got general admission tickets and spent about 3 hours there. One of the distinguishing features of this zoo is it’s monkey walk area – after taking an anthropology class on primates my last semester of college, it was really awesome to be in a situation where I can get that close to some of the smaller creatures I learned about. I also appreciated that the lemurs had a home on islands in the middle of a gorgeous pond just off of the “Tropics Trail.”

Leaving was bittersweet. This was the first time I had gotten to spend any meaningful amount of time in Phoenix, and what I saw of it was lovely. Truth be told, I enjoyed getting to visit just about everywhere Maddy and I went. Road trips are truly a unique experience, and I’m thankful we had the flexibility in our schedule that a trip like this required. I’m grateful I got to help with this big move, and I’m so excited to see what Maddy does in her life from here!