travel

#manazombateeze in Florideeze

It may have taken a year and a half, but I finally made it back to Florida at the end of October. Coordinating schedules and time off between two busy people is hard, but we eventually made it happen. The timing turned out to be perfect, anyway, since work was just about to get insane due to a project launch. I told my manager I wasn't going to work at all during the week, needing to come back feeling refreshed, and that wasn't a problem at all, thankfully. I hadn't been on a real vacation in six months, and during that one I still had to do some work, so this was a much-needed break. (Plus, that last trip was to Arizona, which I think only half counts, since I'm there so often.)

My flight came in Tuesday evening, and we spent the following day in Sarasota. Although it was too wet to kayak alongside gators, we saw plenty during (and after) an air boat tour. We also collected several air plants, however a giant one fought back via at least a hundred fire ants that came pouring out of it. One of them bit me, but beer tasting and giant Connect 4 afterwards helped.

This was the view for most of Thursday, and honestly I could seriously get used to it. No fair... Seattle beaches are so dirty from bonfires and the water is so cold.

Friday was fairly perfect, beginning with kayaking/paddleboarding with a new manatee friend that played with us for several minutes and ending with beers on a rooftop bar where the average age was 60. I even (finally!) got to see a dolphin off in the distance during beach time.

Apparently I like to go to Florida for holidays. My last visit coincided with St. Patrick's Day, which we spent in Key West, and this time I was there for Halloween. I really do love Halloween, even though I'm generally too indecisive to make costume decisions. Even if I start thinking about them a month in advance, nothing is decided until Goodwill. We spent a lot (LOT) of time on Pinterest, and I think we made a good call going as treasure troll dolls. The idea came together really well, especially for being last-minute, and we got a ton of compliments, including from another fellow troll! Strangely not many people were dressed up for the CHVRCHES show (though Lauren Mayberry herself was dressed as Edward Scissorhands), but that just meant our costumes were that much better. (And CHVRCHES, for the record, was 10x better than either of the other times I've seen them. That new album is amazing.)

It was so hard to come home at the end of the trip, especially knowing that Seattle was already dark and cold. (The whole "fall back" thing is such a blessing and a curse.) Frankly, it was more than a little tempting to "accidentally" miss my flight and stay another day or two, but logistically that wouldn't have panned out so well. Now, though, I kind of just want to go back.

Mariana, thank you for being such an awesome host (again!) and for making sure I had a great time (again!). I would have had fun no matter what, I'm sure, but petting a manatee, seeing gators, drinking on beaches, and dancing along to an awesome CHVRCHES show made the trip all the better. I loved being able to spend time together, sharing stories and laughing, watching Walking Dead and doing nothing at all. Those are the things I miss every day. All the x's and all the o's, bap!

#manateeze and #keybreak in #swamplandiaz

One of my goals this year was to visit a state I hadn’t been to before, and having a friend move clear across the country made that a very easy goal to accomplish. I bought my flights before she’d even left, knowing I’d want to see both her and the sun before too long.

Sunrise over Mt. Rainier on the way to Tampa, Florida

Sunrise over Mt. Rainier on the way to Tampa, Florida

One of the only requests I had was to see a manatee while I was there, so we bought Groupons for a tour in Crystal River and drove up there on Friday. Apparently a lot of the manatees swam out of the area with the tide earlier that day, so we didn’t see too many. However, we were able to find one to swim with, and I touched it with one little finger. (It felt like sandpaper.) Mission accomplished!

Underwater selfie while looking for manateeze

Underwater selfie while looking for manateeze

Hello, Mr. Manatee!

Hello, Mr. Manatee!

We only had one day between our trips to Crystal River and Key West to spend closer to where Mariana lives, and it resulted in a lot of day-drinking in pretty Clearwater (as well as one of the weirdest-looking sunburns I’ve ever had). Dolphins sighted: zero. Vanilla Ices: one

Sunset in Clearwater

Sunset in Clearwater

Key West was nothing if not memorable, and I hadn’t laughed that much in so long. There were spring breakers everywhere, and because our trip also overlapped with St. Patrick’s Day, it was even crazier. We saw body shots, a completely passed out/possibly drugged girl, cover band trolls (groupies), old people grinding, and more. Much more. I didn’t get a key lime pie (I was never hungry whenever we walked by a place selling it) and I didn’t see any six-toed cats, but it was a great side trip with lots of dancing and booze. And if you’re ever considering taking a ferry down to Key West, think twice. I think Mariana’s Instagram caption put it best: sunset with a side of barf bags.

Southernmost Point

Southernmost Point

Foot selfie, the first time these toes have touched the Atlantic Ocean

Foot selfie, the first time these toes have touched the Atlantic Ocean

Sometimes statues take good selfies

Sometimes statues take good selfies

Pelicans are weird

Pelicans are weird

The boat of sick, sick nightmares

The boat of sick, sick nightmares

Then it was time to head back to Seattle… It was a wonderful week—and a much-needed break—and I was sad to see it end. But with as much PTO as I have, and now that Alaska is going to start flying to Tampa directly, I’m sure I’ll be back. There was so much that we didn’t get to do, that I’ll have to!

Bye bye, Florida…

Bye bye, Florida…

Mariana—Thanks for being such a fantastic hostess and for taking me to such fun, beautiful places! It was definitely a memorable trip, and it was great to spend so much time together again, bap! xoxoxo

New York, Part Two: SNOW DAY!

It’s a good thing they didn’t decide to move the Super Bowl, because it snowed at least six inches of snow in the city on Monday. Snow is one of my favorite things, so this it was kind of the cherry on top of an incredible trip. We didn’t get a ton of final sightseeing in due to the late night after the game, but it was amazing to see Central Park covered in snow, and we also made it over to the Empire State Building, which was still lit up in blue and green from the Seahawks’ win the day before.

Next stop: New York City

Surprisingly, I’m a pretty spontaneous person. Maybe it’s because I struggle to plan things for other people and so over time I learned to just kind of wing it (especially when they are also spontaneous), but it doesn’t bother me making last-minute plans. “Oh, I’m driving to Portland in five days and haven’t found a place to stay when I get there? It’ll happen, it’s okay.” I grew up with a compulsive questioner who, I imagine, can’t stand this aspect of me. “How long will you be gone?” “What time is your flight?” “How are you getting to the airport?” “What will you eat? Do you want me to make you a sandwich?” Most of the time, my spontaneity is like deciding to go out for drinks after work, or tagging along to a party at the last minute, but other times it can be more extreme. Case in point: the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl!

It’s no secret that I’m easily susceptible to peer pressure. I get cases of FOMO (fear of missing out) like no one else, and it was never more intense than when people kept telling me I should go to the Super Bowl. For a while ticket prices were so high that it was barely an idea, but as the days went by, they dropped by hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Suddenly it was a very real possibility! My cousin sent me texts nearly every day, telling me I should just bite the bullet, like he did. Everyone at work said I should go, even though the timing wouldn’t be ideal. My friend who moved had her ticket, too, and it may have been missing her a lot, as well as the idea of experiencing the spectacle with some of the biggest fans I know, that finally helped me make a decision. So on Monday, after hearing from another friend that he would be in, as well, I stumbled across two “cheap” tickets (about $200 less than I had been seeing for days), and bought them on the spot. See, sometimes it pays to procrastinate! On top of that, I was able to use only miles for my flights after checking and rechecking every airfare site on the planet. Now the hotel is booked, too, really close to all the Super Bowl Boulevard action.

So I leave Friday! And I can’t wait to be there with friends, bringing the 12th Man to the east coast! I’ve never been to New York City and haven’t researched it much, so I don’t know what I’ll do when not doing Super Bowl things. I’m sure there will be no shortage of options, though! Packing bulky warm-weather gear into a carry-on suitcase is proving to be a challenge, so I’m going to try to wear as much as I can and be that annoying person in the security line who holds up everyone while unlacing huge boots and stripping off at least two coats. But it will be worth it when I’m not freezing all day and during the game! I’m a little nervous about the whole trip, as I always am before doing something new, and I’m going to miss my dog, but it’s been an amazing season for the Seahawks and I’m so excited to be there for the end. See you soon, New York! (And please don’t be too cold.)