Palm Springs Paradise

I spent a relaxing weekend in the desert. California has so much to see, and the desert is a place that I have wanted to explore.

Travel logistics: Flights from SFO to Palm Springs are about an hour and can usually be found for under $100. I rented a car for less than $20 for an entire weekend, and my Airbnb was affordable, especially since my gracious hosts gave me breakfast each morning!

Palm Springs International Airport: A beautiful, mostly outdoor airport full of palm trees that was a 5-minute drive from my Airbnb. The rental car process was quick, easy, and cheap. Ridesharing (see end of this post for more) is available to the airport, but they won’t pick up at the airport. You can walk to the nearest traffic light—a short walk—for pickup if you decide to use ridesharing services.

My Airbnb: A gorgeous house full of art, photos, and books. I relaxed poolside in a comfy cabana and enjoyed views of the mountains. My hosts rent three rooms in the house: Room 1 · Room 2 · Room 3.

Food recommendations: Fresh Juice Bar (I had the Immunity Rocket), Bill’s Pizza (I had the Elton John), and Shanghai Reds (I had the World-Famous Fish Tacos while listening to live music after the Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade-the best!).

Aerial Tramway: I took a 360-degree rotating tram (the world’s largest!) two and a half miles up Mount San Jacinto. I enjoyed views of the entire Palm Springs area while drinking a hot chocolate and eating lunch at 8,500 feet. The top featured giant trees, snowy trails, and chilly 23-degree weather. Tickets are available in advance, but since my goal for the weekend was relaxing and being as spontaneous as possible, I just purchased my tickets ($25.95 + tax) when I arrived and only waited a few minutes for the next tram.

If you don’t rent a car and decide to use a ride sharing service to get to the Aerial Tramway, you can be dropped off and picked up right at the visitor center, but cell service can get spotty. If you can’t get a signal when you’re trying to order a car upon departure, log in to the free Wi-Fi provided by the visitor center. In fact, Wi-Fi is available throughout the buildings—at the bottom and at the top of the mountain—I even got some work done from 8,500 feet while enjoying the views!

Spa: Aside from the tram and exploring Joshua Tree, my only other itinerary item for my Palm Springs weekend trip was spending time at the spa. I treated myself to a manicure, pedicure, and massage in downtown Palm Springs and a soak in natural mineral hot springs (three pools at 89º, 101º, and 104º) at The Spring Resort in nearby Desert Hot Springs. The spa access at The Spring was $40 for the day.

I took breaks between soaks by relaxing by the fire pits and in the sauna. I witnessed a gorgeous sunset as the sun dipped behind the mountains, turning the entire sky pink. I felt incredibly lucky to be able to experience so much in this massive, beautiful state.

Boston in the Fall

Ethan and I planned another weekend getaway reunion—this time on the East Coast. He’s been trying to convince me to attend The Game, the Harvard-Yale rivalry, since he was a student there (2006-2010). It was unseasonably warm for late November in Boston this year, and I haven’t attended a college football game since Michigan State lost to Notre Dame in 2012 (the beginning of the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax), so I booked a flight and traveled 3,000+ miles to watch two Ivy League schools play football.

It wasn’t quite Big Ten play, but it was fun to see how the East Coast tailgates, eat cannoli from Mike’s Pastry, explore neighborhoods in Boston and the historic Harvard campus, drink beer on the Samuel Adams brewery tour, wander through Quincy Market, take a trolley to Doyle’s in Jamaica Plain and eat way too much delicious chowder and lobster rolls. We spent the last day of the trip exploring the Museum of Science on the Charles River. We watched National Parks Adventure in the IMAX theater, which inspired me to make it a mission to experience as many national parks as I can during future travels in the US.

A quick October weekend in MI

I’m originally from Michigan, and spent the first 24 years of my life there. I have a big, close-knit family and a network of friends from high school and college that are important to me. Because of this, I visit at least twice per year (and sometimes six times—which I did in 2015) for things like weddings, holidays, and other life events.

A friend from high school got married near our hometown in October, so I flew home to attend. Luckily, I was also able to be part of two special engagements, and I even made time to try on and find a wedding dress. What a productive, wedding-themed weekend—and an efficient use of airline miles for the ticket!

My friends Caitlin and Brandon got engaged on the Friday of that weekend. They have been together about as long as Grant and I have, and they’ve grown up together, through high school, college, and half a decade post-college. It was time for them to get engaged. I knew both through the band / choir group in high school and stayed in touch while we were at Michigan State. During college, I lived in Caitlin’s family-owned apartment—her dad and uncle were my landlords—and Brandon lived in the apartment below mine. We became closer during those years, and Brandon ended up introducing me to the company that moved me to California in 2012. They’ve both visited me a few times out here, and I try to make time to see them when I’m in Michigan. We’ve been able to work on fun things together, like the Michigan Beer Show podcast and blog.

Brandon told me in early 2016 that he was going to propose during the Michigan State homecoming parade and I knew I had to make the trip back in October. Prior to the parade, Brandon and I met up at our old stomping grounds, the Peanut Barrel on Grand River in downtown East Lansing, for beers and burgers. I admired the beautiful ring he’d picked out to give Caitlin, and when we parted ways, I met up with Caitlin and walked through campus with her. We “randomly decided” (ahem, Brandon and I had been planning for months) to check out her old dorm in the West Circle neighborhood of campus, where Brandon was waiting with a photographer and the ring. He proposed, I (sort of) got it on video—sorry, too excited!—and we spent the rest of the evening celebrating.

I attended a wedding the following day with my parents and sister, Melissa. My longtime friend Isadora’s boyfriend Reuben texted me during the reception that he was going to propose that night, so we headed back to East Lansing to celebrate with them. On the last day of my trip, my sisters Melissa and Olivia took me wedding dress shopping before I flew back to California. I’ve been engaged since Thanksgiving 2015, but we’re taking wedding planning slow and are going to get married in an intimate Northern Michigan getaway with our siblings and parents as our witnesses in September 2017.

I am so happy and excited that so many (10 couples that include cousins, siblings, and good friends from childhood, high school, college) are saying “I do” this year. It will be interesting trying to manage travel for all of those events, but I’m happy that we decided to keep our guest list small (16 people) and our wedding plans low-key.

Fall Redwood Getaway

Fall in California is an interesting season. We live in Palo Alto, on the San Francisco Peninsula. It’s full of tree-lined streets, gorgeous gardens and parks, and brilliant fall colors. I love that the leaves change and fall and then GROW BACK green! Fall seems to last forever, and the 50-60º temperatures are crisp enough for light jackets and boots, but not actually cold.

I wanted to see “real fall” this year, and I’ve been wanting to explore more of the redwood forests up in the mountains. We’ve spent time in the coastal redwoods in the Bay Area, Redwood National and State Parks in northern Northern California, and I wanted to see giant sequoias in the central part of the state.

I booked an Airbnb in Arnold, CA—near Stanislaus National Forest and Calaveras Big Trees State Park—and we drove about 3 hours east up into the mountains. Our cabin in the woods was beautiful and quaint, and the weather was wet, cold, and reminded us of fall in Michigan. We stopped at Snowshoe Brewing Company before checking in to enjoy giant piles of nachos and flights of local beer. When we arrived at the cabin, we lit a fire in the gas stove to warm up and made plans for the next morning.

We had breakfast at a local spot nearby, watched the Michigan-Michigan State game on our iPhones (thanks to iPhone 7 Plus screens and Verizon LTE service in a place without WiFi or cable), and then headed out to the forest to explore. The trees and fall colors were majestic, but my favorite part of the hike was encountering a pack of (wild?) cows. We saw them before we made it to the trailhead and then again as we were finishing our hike, excitedly talking about the burgers we wanted to devour.

We enjoyed burgers and cold, delicious craft beer at The Lube Room Saloon, which is definitely the best dive bar we’ve ever visited. Since our main activities involve hiking, eating, and drinking, we continued exploring the area and loved the wineries in and near downtown Murphys, Grounds restaurant for breakfast in Murphys, and the Moaning Cavern. The Moaning Cavern holds the largest vertical chamber in a public cavern in California-it could hold the entire Statue of Liberty!

These weekend getaways are amazing—I will forever be amazed at how massive and diverse California is. I’ve seen snow-capped mountains, forests full of skyscraper-high ancient redwoods, rolling hillsides covered in grape vines, rugged coastlines, quaint beach towns and mountain towns, massive cities, and vast, intimidating deserts. What an incredible place!

Point Lobos

My friend Monica lives in Marin County, which I think is one of the most beautiful places in the Bay Area. She’s so close to the gorgeous Mount Tamalpais (one of my favorites), but she told me that one of her all-time favorite hikes was Point Lobos on the Central Coast.

I drove by Point Lobos on my Pacific Coast Highway road trip with my friend Ethan in early September, but it was foggy. We’d just done the always pretty 17-Mile Drive in the fog (it was spooky!) and were headed down to Big Sur and eventually Santa Barbara, so we kept going.

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I found myself on the Central Coast again the following weekend: my fiancé Grant took me on a “-1 Anniversary” trip to celebrate beginning the 365-day countdown to our wedding day. He booked a seaside Airbnb in an artist’s residence, complete with colorful paintings, interesting books, a nice garden, ocean views, and a pot-bellied pig on the premises! We enjoyed drinks and a sunset on the ocean after arriving Friday evening, a delicious dinner at a romantic restaurant nearby, and made plans to hike Point Lobos on Saturday morning.

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Monica drove down from Sausalito(!) to hike with us, and it did not disappoint. The hike was not difficult, and the views—along the ocean the entire way!—were incredible. I think it just might surpass the 17-Mile Drive as my favorite stretch of the Central Coast. We saw marine animals, birds, secluded beaches, sparkly seashells, intricate tidepools, rocks that looked otherworldly, and massive, mossy trees. We saw friendly and knowledgeable park volunteers who let us use their binoculars to get a closer look at the action below the cliffs.

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After our hike, we enjoyed delicious burgers and cold beer at one of our favorites in adorable downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea: Brophy’s Tavern. We watched the Michigan State-Notre Dame football game at a friend’s house in the area, and then met friends at Post No Bills craft beer house after the game. The beer house had Michigan beer—Founders, of course—on tap, and was conveniently located at the bottom of the hill in our Airbnb’s neighborhood.

I love weekend getaways—a great way to experience a lot in a short amount of time. Photos don’t do this place justice! I highly recommend this hike: it’s along the ocean in a beautiful nature preserve, it’s not difficult, and it’s close to other attractions like the 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach Resorts, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Carmel Valley wine trail, and adorable boutique shops, restaurants, wine tasting rooms, and beaches in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Mt. Tamalpais Hike

The views from Mt. Tam are some of the best in the Bay Area: redwood trees, views of the Pacific Ocean, and views of the San Francisco Bay and the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, including both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge.

Spots for fueling up:

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

Part 1: Palo Alto to Pescadero

I met Ethan in the fall of 2003. We were both first-year students at Interlochen Arts Academy, a private boarding school for the arts in Northern Michigan. He was studying creative writing, I was studying ballet. I ultimately decided to finish high school at my hometown public school, but Ethan and I stayed in touch. We haven’t lived in the same town, state, or even time zone in many years, but when someone is important to you, you make those relationships work.

We love planning reunions / adventures. See the photos below for the last seven years—we don’t have many photos from before that! Ethan visited me when I was studying in Rome in 2009, I visited him several times when he lived in Chicago post-college, he’s visited me in 2012 and 2014 in the Bay Area, we went to Hawaii in 2014, I visited him in New York in 2015, he spent a few weeks in California this fall, and we’ll meet up in Boston later this year. In between those visits, we’ve met up in Northern Michigan, which will always be a special place because it’s where we met!

During this trip, we went to happy hour at the Rosewood on Sand Hill Road, had late night In-N-Out in Redwood City, had lunch at the Stanford Faculty Club, and  we rented a Mustang convertible to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. Our first stop was at a goat farm in Pescadero. We drove from Palo Alto through winding mountain roads and tall redwood and eucalyptus trees until we arrived at Harley Farms Goat and Dairy.

The Pacific Coast Highway

We checked out nearby Pescadero and bought too much (have I ever said that?!) goat cheese, goat cheese chocolate truffles, goat cheesecake, and fresh French bread to enjoy it with. We continued down the PCH to San Gregorio State Beach, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Carmel. We stayed in Carmel and drove through the 17-Mile Drive early the next morning—the fog was eerie but beautiful. From there, we continued down to Big Sur, enjoyed Pfeiffer Beach (still foggy!), and saw more of the rocky, steep, rugged Pacific Coast.

After Big Sur, we made it down to the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, only to find out that the shuttle for the last tour had just left. We contemplated heading to Paso Robles / San Luis Obispo wineries, but it was approaching 5:00, which is when most wineries close. We decided to continue on the 101 to Santa Barbara to catch the sunset on the beach. We saw elephant seals, took photos of our lovely ride, and saw the sunset in Goleta.

We stayed in Summerland, just south of Santa Barbara, after wandering around State Street and eating dinner downtown. We slept in on our last day, had breakfast on the beach, and took a surfing lesson! After surfing, we relaxed on the beach, checked out a brewery near the University of California, Santa Barbara, hung out at another beach, had dinner near the Santa Barbara airport, and I flew back to San Francisco.

 

Tour de Michigan

Summertime in Northern Michigan is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I can confidently say that after spending summer months elsewhere: Southern France, the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Rome, Prague, Germany, and in various parts of California—nothing quite compares.

Northern Michigan is beautiful, and when you combine that beauty with my favorite people (friends and family), it’s the best. Grant and I took several weeks during the summer of 2016 to relax, unwind, and spend as much time as possible on Lake Michigan.

Some highlights: snorkeling around a shipwreck off of Old Mission Peninsula, exploring a huge lavender garden, watching epic sunsets, boating across the East Arm of the Grand Traverse Bay in rocky conditions while blasting the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, boutique shopping in Elk Rapids, Traverse City, Leland, Suttons Bay, and Northport, kayaking Lake Michigan, hiking Pyramid Point, and driving through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We enjoyed local wine, beer, and food on the Sleeping Bear Ale Trail, Old Mission Peninsula, at Short’s in Bellaire, at a food truck park in Traverse City, and on the Leelanau Peninsula. My favorite discovery of the trip (aside from the shipwreck) was the adorable lakeside town of Frankfort and its local brewery, Stormcloud Brewing, which was just named the top new brewery in Michigan for 2016.

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Santa Barbara weekend getaway

I surprised my fiancé Grant with a trip to Santa Barbara for Christmas. We flew from SFO and rented this cute little Airbnb near downtown.

Our adorable Airbnb
I managed to keep the surprise from Grant until shortly before we checked into our flights—we share a United travel account, so I figured he’d get notifications on the app anyway. Oh, technology. We enjoyed breakfast in the sunshine at The Shop Café after landing in Santa Barbara.
At SFO, ready to fly to Santa Barbara
Lunch on the patio at The Shop Café
Walking the beach in Isla Vista near the University of California Santa BarbaraThe sunny weather did not last, but my backup plan was to check out Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, a neighborhood near the beach full of wine, beer, food, and art. Paddleboarding will have to happen next time we visit.
Craft cocktails at The Good Lion · Santa Barbara
Dinner at milk & honey
Wine tasting at Santa Barbara Winery
Flights of beer by the fire at Corks n’ Crowns
We had a fun day and night exploring wine, beer, food, and craft cocktails on State Street and in the Funk Zone. We loved the atmosphere and craft cocktails at The Good Lion, we met fun locals at wineries like Santa Barbara Winery, the fireplace was a nice touch at wine and beer tasting room Corks n’ Crowns, and dinner at milk & honey was delicious.
It wasn’t the sunny, warm Southern California getaway I’d hoped for, but drinking, eating and wandering our way through a beautiful beach town was memorable. Our return flight was canceled due to weather in San Francisco, so we rented a Mustang convertible and drove up the coast. The rain did not let up during our impromptu road trip, but we found a new favorite winery near San Luis Obispo: Kynsi Winery.
This trusty Mustang convertible got up safely up the coast when our flight from Santa Barbara to SFO was canceled due to weather
Our amazing oceanfront resort—it’s foggy but beautiful, and we booked this last minute (and for a deep discount) on HotelTonight
Rain delay wine tasting in San Luis Obispo
I love planning trips, but the unexpected scenarios that cause spontaneous decisions—like renting a room through an app for nearly 70% off the regular rates at a beachfront resort, driving a Mustang up the coast for an extended wine tasting vacation—make each travel experience even more memorable.

Follow my adventures on The Michigan Beer Show blog and on Instagram.

Sierra Nevada Brewery Tour

I had the opportunity to check out Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s headquarters in Chico, California over Memorial Day weekend. I took the brewery tour and hung out on the beautiful patio at the brewpub. The food, beer, service and camaraderie could not have been more perfect.

Craft Beer Beginnings

I was first introduced to Sierra Nevada when I worked at a restaurant in Northern Michigan during college. A retired gentleman would come in every day during the downtime between the lunch and dinner rushes. His order was always Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which he would enjoy while sitting on the deck, enjoying the views of the Leland River flowing into Lake Michigan. He was always very relaxed and appreciative, and I have associated Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale with that attitude ever since.

This was during the summers of 2007–2009, and I was just learning about the craft beer industry through my work in the restaurant. Short’s Bellaire Brown was one of the first Michigan beers featured on tap, and many traditional Northern Michigan residents were puzzled by this strange new dark beer that cost $5 a pint, which was pricey compared to what they were used to paying. Fast forward almost a decade later, and Michigan craft beer is synonymous with all things #PureMichigan. Through Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Short’s Bellaire Brown, I was introduced to a whole new world.

Drink Local

I’ve always been passionate about locally-owned businesses: my dad has worked for himself since I was young, I supported myself in college by working for locally-owned businesses, and I moved to Silicon Valley in 2012 to pursue the #startuplife.

I’ve enjoyed watching the Michigan craft beer scene explode over the last several years; it’s a big part of why I got involved with the Michigan Beer Show in the first place. I love hearing stories about humble homebrew beginnings. Businesses started in a garage, like a pretty infamous one down the street from my Palo Alto apartment, will always hold a special place in my heart.

Ken Grossman, founder and owner of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

Sierra Nevada’s Story

Sierra Nevada was started in the 1970s by Ken Grossman. Ken drove his Volkswagen bus—my dream car—from the Los Angeles area through the Sierra Nevada mountains and decided to stay in Chico. Ken opened an (illegal) homebrew operation and store. Homebrewing was finally legalized in 1979, Sierra Nevada became a legitimate business, and they have been brewing delicious beer ever since.

Sierra Nevada’s first brewery in Chico, CA
I took the 90-minute beer tour where I learned about Sierra Nevada’s humble beginnings and can-do attitude—the founder built a lot of the early equipment by hand! As we were lead through the facilities, we learned how sustainable their process is: spent grains are fed to cows that are then served at the brewpub restaurant (yum) or turned into delicious bread and pizza. The glass used for bottles comes from recycled materials, and even the carbon dioxide produced during the process is re-used! There are solar panels everywhere, and Sierra Nevada actually offers sustainability tours every day to talk more about their mission to stay off the grid.
Sierra Nevada uses whole-cone hops, which we were able to touch and smell during the tour.

Collaboration beer

After the tour, we sampled several of their Beer Camp Across America collaboration beers. My favorite was the Sweet Sunny South, inspired by Southern flavors like tea, honey-sweet peaches and corn grits. It was a beautiful beer that reminded me of the color of grapefruit juice. It was way too easy to drink. Sierra Nevada collaborated several craft breweries across the Southeastern United States for this beer.

Sweet Sunny South
We stayed after the tour and tasting and enjoyed delicious food, more beer, and good music in the beautiful outdoor area. Next on my craft beer bucket list: visiting Sierra Nevada’s second location in North Carolina, a place that our tour guide called “The Disney World of Beer.”