Wanderlust: Tulsa, Twin Cities, and Tour de Compadres (via KC)

I mentioned in an earlier post the whirlwind that was April for me. It appears that May is becoming very similar. During early April, I remember thinking “I can’t wait until this month is over”. This is probably very unfortunate because I know I should be savoring precious time, but April was a crazy roller-coaster of planning, preparation, and executing. I spent a week and a half of traveling away from home, seeing some really cool places, but missing my own home with a strong longing.

The first stop on my travel train was Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The four and half hour drive was broken up in both directions with stops to visit my grandparents. I attended a college fair down there and visited a few high schools, meeting some incredibly engaged students! While I was only there for two days, I had a little down time between a couple of my high school visits to search for a coffee shop and accomplish some office work. Miraculously, I think I ended up at one of the most eclectic work spaces I have ever seen! Nestled in the urban, downtown district of Tulsa called The Pearl District, The Phoenix is home to whimsical furniture including mismatched, oversized armchairs and columns made entirely from books. I knew I was at home when I noticed that many of the menu items were named after great literary works, from some of my favorite novels to a Shakespearean comedy. After whipping out my computer and plugging away for a solid hour, I bit into “The Giving Tree” – turkery, bacon, swiss cheese, granny smith apples, and a spicy chipotle ranch on a rosemary and olive oil bagel (AKA heaven in my mouth). I’ve also heard rave reviews about their cold-press coffee, but unfortunately they were out of this already by the time I stopped by. After enjoying a little lunch, I hopped into Made, a little store across the street with only local items for sale, each made by 80 different artists in the Tulsa area. It seemed like a great place to do some exploring! If you’re looking for a stop off the beaten tracks and a place to relax, I think The Pearl District definitely should be on your list of places to stop in Tulsa!

The Deli Counter inside The Phoenix
The Deli Counter inside The Phoenix
The Pearl District
The Pearl District

After a quick weekend back in “Manhappiness”, I prepared to take on the Twin Cities for the second time this year! I’d been gearing up for this trip for months. Upon my arrival, I knew I was in for an adventure when I was greeted by slow drifting snowflakes instead of April sunshine. While the snow continued to fall, the trip was full of events and even driving with my boss in city traffic (which is very stressful for a girl who grew up with absolutely no stoplights in her hometown). I was infinitely grateful when the sun decided to shine near the end of my trip, and took advantage a park I found downtown to accomplish some work outside. I’ve decided that if you need some rest in the hustle and bustle of a city, a park is the perfect place. And in Minneapolis, Cedar Lake Park was the perfect spot for me. The Twin Cities treated me well—with time spent catching up with family, work well spent, and finding the time to breathe in a city—and I was so thankful for a successful week there!



I wrapped up my travel adventures in April with a quick visit to KC for a weekend. Ben Rector is one of my all-time favorite artists. His piano ballads speak to my soul, and his latest album The Walking in Between was an absolute knockout. Naturally, when I heard he was rambling around on tour and the closest he would get to me was in Kansas City, I knew I absolutely had to attend (even if it was the day after I returned from my marathon week in Minnesota). Thankfully, a friend tagged along. I thought Ben would be headlining the event, but he was part of a group of friends (hence the name Tour de Compadres) performing together! The concert took place at the Crossroads KC venue, located behind the bar Grinders. After a day of rain and chilly air, I was worried about the outdoor site and the mist certainly didn’t stop in the evening. The ground was soggy, and I was very thankful I decided on a whim to wear my cowboy boots. Although we were all pretty damp by the end of the concert, I think that the audience’s spirits were definitely lifted. Needtobreathe headlined the event, and I enjoyed hearing many of their songs for the first time. My favorite discovery, though, was Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. Folk with a little indie flair, these are the perfect songs for a rainy day, a road trip, or a pick-me-up! My favorites are Here We Go and Shine Like Lightening! The concert was an absolute blast and definitely worth the trip. I hope to make it back to that area of KC again because I spotted a few food and coffee shops I wanted to check out!

Ben Rector performing!
Ben Rector performing!

This week, I’m off to Estes Park, Colorado for a little vacation time! Hope your travels are treating you well!



Wanderlust: California Dreaming

On chilly January days, it’s easy for me to recall the warm days of California that I experienced this summer. I’m lucky enough to have a grandmother who lives in “the golden state”, and even luckier to have visited her this past year. Before I started my job, my mom decided to whisk me away on a mini-vacation filled with sunshine, Sonoma, and reading Steinbeck.

We decided the big highlight of the trip would be traveling to Sonoma for a few days. I was so excited to spend time with my mother and grandmother on this trip. It’s very unique to go wine tasting and exploring with three generations! My mother arranged the day with a guide that would take us to four various wineries, each known for something different. I really want to share my experiences at two with you.

The first was called Petroni Vineyards, nestled into mountains right outside Sonoma. We sat outside and sampled different wines, all while taking in the gorgeous scenery of vineyards within their valleys. They also mentioned they are currently developing storing their wines within caves, relying on the landscape even further. Petroni was unique because the views, but I loved the experience of relaxing outdoors and trying new things. I would highly recommend checking this Vineyard out, despite the two mile drive to the top on very narrow roads!

A view from our tasting spot.
When I started this trip I was purely a fan of white wines, but then our host poured a Petroni’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Thus began my love affair with red wine.

The other winery I really want to talk about is called Benziger Family Winery, a vineyard known for their techniques in organic farming. For some of you, I can guess exactly what you’re thinking. (Isn’t this the girl who boycotted Chipotle for six months because of their anti-agriculture campaigns? Why are you talking about organic wine making?) Here’s the thing; Benziger was a great experience because I learned more about organic agriculture from the standpoint of a guide who understands that green farming is not applicable for everyone. I repeat—this guide knew that going organic doesn’t work in all places for all people! My mother’s ears perked up as soon as she heard the mention of “biodynamic”, and fired off tons of agriculture related questions. Our guide here was fantastic. He informed us that Benziger was located on a site unique even to the Sonoma region. Their farm sat in a round valley formed by a volcanic explosion that occurred millions of years ago, and as result, had high deposits of nutrients in the soil. In short, the guide told us that the soil, formation of the land, and even the drainage specific to this vineyard made it possible to have a business rooted in organic farming.

A photo from our tour at Benziger.


His small farm was only two miles away, yet he couldn’t grow grapes without relying on some of the same practices that my family, too, must use in the middle of Western Kansas. There has been such a negative view of production agriculture lately due to the media and a lack of education in the general public. It was such a pleasure to hear about wine-making from the standpoint of someone who is pro-organic and, for lack of a better term, pro-GMO. I think both practices can work hand-in-hand, and I hope that more of society learns to adopt this ideology.

Other highlights of our trip to Sonoma included lots of tasting adventures such as checking out the gorgeous Sunflower Café, enjoying crepes in the town square one evening, and a delicious dinner featuring lamb!




After a few days of wine-tasting and relaxing by the pool, one of my most memorable experiences was checking out The Fremont Diner. We had heard raving reviews in Sonoma about this place, and as we pulled up to the small, white-washed building with a tin-roof, my mother remembered seeing it featured on the Food Network. Bordering notoriously high-end Napa, it was a breath of fresh air to walk into a small diner with a tin roof and a rusted pick-up out front. I ordered the Chicken & Waffles, and adored the classic mason jars! If you have the chance to check out this little place, it is well worth the wait!


So, here you have my trip to Sonoma (and a lesson in my beliefs on agriculture practices to accompany it). Hope you all are finding a way to stay warm, even if you’re not California Dreaming like me.



Wanderlust: Lost in New England

About a month ago, I made a wonderful trip to New England to visit a friend of mine. My friend Sam is great—she rock climbs, loves carrot juice, and trail runs barefoot. Sam is nothing like me. Last year I was fortunate to meet some incredibly cool people when I was studying in Scotland. When I met Sam, despite how little she and I had in common, we could talk about almost anything. We created an incredible bond and loved traveling together in Prague and Switzerland. After graduating, I decided to visit her in Rhode Island and see more of this beautiful country I’m so lucky to call home.

After traveling across Europe last summer, I thought New England was going to be a piece of cake. Oh, was I very much in for a trip. Upon my arrival, Sam took me to a beautiful seaside restaurant that served copious amount of fish. Because of my love for travel and food, I always try new things when I’m in a different place. Oysters were on the menu for the night, and while I didn’t gain an appetite for the slimy sea creatures, I’m so happy I ventured out of my comfort zone once again. Other fishy adventures included swordfish, smoked bluefish, and halibut which we purchased from a little fish shack called Zeek’s Creek in Jamestown.

I continued the theme of risk taking for the majority of my trip. Sam knew that I was dying to travel while I was in New England, and her mother graciously lent me her car to drive while I was in the area. Throughout my time traveling, I am constantly amazed at the kindness strangers can show me. I was very nervous about driving in a strange place, but I was also dying to see more of the area so I took Sam’s mom up on her offer. In a silver Volvo, I took off to Narragansett which is on the southern shoreline of Rhode Island. Narragansett has amazing beach views (check out a shot I captured at Hazard Rock below), but I can’t use the same description for their cheap beer, unfortunately. I tried a Narragansett Lager and was less than impressed, although their Summer Brew deserves a little higher praise. After exploring the town, I met up with Sam to try out rock climbing for the first time. Sam took me to a gym to meet a few of her “climber friends”, a group of really fun people who taught me that it was okay to be terrible at climbing on my first try. While I definitely could use a lot more work on my climbing skills, it was so much fun to learn more about the sport and I definitely felt accomplished after reaching the tops of certain routes in the gym and attempting bouldering, which are shorter climbs without gear.

Hazard Rock, Narragansett, Rhode Island
Hazard Rock, Narragansett, Rhode Island

One of my big goals for the trip was to explore Concord, Massachusetts which contains a long literary legacy. Once home to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Alcott family, and Henry David Thoreau, Concord has produced some of the most celebrated literature in America. A few days after my solo trip to Narragansett, I decided to make the 2 hour drive up through Providence and into an entirely different state. Concord is in close proximity to Boston, so I was incredibly nervous about the traffic. An additional problem was my lack of service in Rhode Island. Like any 21st century traveler, I tend to rely on GPS often so I was taking a big chance by using printed-off directions and maps of New England that I could hardly read. I was determined to take the trip, however, so I hit the road feeling a bit fearful. I made it to Concord and had the opportunity to check out Orchard House, which is where Louisa May Alcott lived while she was writing Little Women. After taking an English course during my senior year and writing a 25 page paper about Jo March of Little Women and much of Alcott’s life, I was so excited to check out the historical museum inside the house. I enjoyed the tour and visiting with some of the women who worked there, and I found myself channeling Jo March when I had to bite my tongue keep myself from disagreeing with the tour guide about her Alcott facts. After my visit to Orchard House, I headed to downtown Concord and strolled the district, checking out a few of the antique stores and the book shop. I grabbed lunch at a recommended café called Helen’s Restaurant where I enjoyed a delicious shrimp wrap and a scoop of ice cream afterwards. While there, I realized that this was my first time eating out completely alone, without technology to even accompany me. A number of people who are in my generation tend to eat out with their laptop and cell phone keeping them entertained. I was left with the option of listening to conversations around me and enjoying some peaceful reflection time. In my solitude, I felt very adult-like. Eventually, I finished out the afternoon by checking out Emerson’s home and taking a mile hike around Walden Pond, home to Thoreau’s great transcendental experiment involving self-reliance and a return to simple living in nature. I always laugh when I think about Thoreau’s “great” attempt, though, because he was nowhere near wilderness (two miles within the civilization of Concord actually) and received a lot of help from his mother and sister who would bring him food and clothing.

Orchard House, Concord, Massachusetts
Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts

On my way home from Concord is where I hit a bit of trouble. I left around rush hour time and was in stop-and-go traffic for about an hour and a half on the way to Providence where I was supposed to meet Sam at her friend’s home. My phone had very little battery and I didn’t have the location of where I was supposed to meet Sam yet. I’m sure you can see where this story is going, especially when you reflect on my title “Lost in New England”. It gets much worse. My exit to Providence that I was supposed to take according to written directions was blocked off due to a terrible accident. No knowing which where to turn (literally), I took the exit which took me into Boston. To avoid getting too far into the city, I hopped off the first exit, taking a random highway in Massachusetts with no idea where I should be heading. After frantically attempting to call Sam and figure things out, my phone died, leaving me with barely any options. I took a few directions that she and her friends recommended before I lost contact with them, and miraculously made my way into Providence though traffic and turning around a few times. With no idea where to head, I hit an Interstate which I knew I could take south in the direction of her home in Coventry, RI. I stopped at a hotel near the airport and shamelessly begged for directions, which they graciously printed out for my use. Unfortunately, things continued to get worse. It started to rain. The sun set, and darkness started to fall. I got lost and ended up two towns in the wrong direction (all towns run together in Rhode Island, I swear, just like all roads). After two more stops at a coffee shop and a FroYo place with boys who chuckled at my expense, I was sobbing, praying, and dangerously low on gas when I finally recognized a few signs near Sam’s house. I made it home safely and could finally breathe. My mom now jokes that the trip was half brilliance for my bravery at exploring a new place and half stupidity. I’m proud of myself for finding my way around, 4 hours later, but I learned I could not survive in a world without GPS. Even after some traveling experience, I know I still have a lot to learn about myself. It’s so important to keep calm and not be afraid to ask for help.

Other major highlights of my trip were exploring to Boston, taking Sam’s sweet black lab Avery to get ice cream in Connecticut, watching friends rock climb outside, and eating a cannoli for the first time!

A cruise in the Boston Harbor
Cuties: Avery and Sam
Climbing Adventures

I’ll never forget my time in New England and I loved meeting new people there. Their kindness was overwhelming, and I love connecting to people even who are halfway across the country. I would love to go back soon, next time with GPS.



Wine in RI