Category Archives: travels

beer fools

We departed Amsterdam for a long day of travel to Belgium. Our cheap tickets required two changes, so three trains to get to Bruges. The first train was a short 20 minute hop to a random station where we changed to a train to Antwerp. We arrived in Antwerp with only 12 minutes to make our connection. Antwerp station was one of the biggest train stations I’ve seen. We arrived on the lowest level and could see four levels more above us of trains coming and going. Of course, our next train was on the top level, so we had to pretty much run in order to catch it.

IMG_5387We arrived in Bruges in the afternoon, and Jeanne made contact with the agency to meet at our apartment. Fortunately this one had not been double booked and it was a short taxi ride from the station. We arrived and met the agent who made quite a show of having us enter the apartment. I understood why once we opened the sliding doors from the main entrance into the living space. This apartment was amazing. A modern, updated kitchen complete with automatic coffee/espresso/latte machine and an electronic juicer led into a large living and dining area. A high end massage chair looked to a large flat screen TV. The chair was pretty much fought over the entire trip.

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Beyond the living space, sliding doors opened to a small, but nice backyard. At the back of the yard, more glass doors opened into a room with a large sunken hot tub and a brand new steam or infrared sauna. Yes…this place was relaxation central!

Three bedrooms on the two additional levels upstairs meant no dorm style bunking. Col and I found our room to be small, but comfortable with a weird shower and sink tucked into the corner of the room. The house was wired for a sound system throughout; all we had to do was plug in our music and we were good to go. We set out right away for a short five minute walk into the main part of the town to find some dinner. Lisa and Jeanne had been to Bruges before, so they knew the lay of the land. We found a small Italian bistro and ate outside as the town picked up for evening activities.

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We’d known since arriving in Europe that the weather would take a turn on our second day in Belgium, so we decided on a trip to the coast for the first full day. We walked to the train station and boarded the train for a 30 minute ride to Oostende. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but figured it was worth the time to at least go see the North Sea. We arrived in Oostende to some blustery weather, but decided to make the best of it and walked down to the shoreline/boardwalk area. There really wasn’t much to see, as this are is pretty industrial. We had some fun with a large, random sculpture exhibit and then Lisa, Jer, and I decided we at least needed to get our feet wet. We kicked off our shoes and socks and made our way down to the water, which wasn’t as cold as we expected. And, now we can at least say we’ve dunked our toes in the North Sea. We wandered the city a bit and stopped for lunch to warm up before heading back to Bruges for a homemade dinner at the apartment.

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The next day greeted us with cold temperatures, wind and rain, so we stuck with our original plan to park ourselves in pubs or other indoor activities. We visited the national french fry museum (yes, Belgium claims credit for this tasty treat!) and a chocolate museum before finding a pub Lisa and Jeanne remembered with more than 400 beers available.

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In Belgium, whenever you order a beer it’s served in a glass designed specifically for that beer (think Stella and their “chalice”). If the glass specific to the ordered beer is not available, the server will come and offer you the option of drinking from a non-branded glass or order another beer. More often than not, Belgians will choose a different beer rather than drink from the wrong glass. In many of the tourist shops you can purchase a bottle of beer along with the designated glass as a box set. We hung out and enjoyed several progressively stronger beers while we waited for the weather to clear. Once the rain stopped, Jer, Lisa, Jeanne, col and I climbed to the top of the belfry in the center of Bruges. The weather hampered the views a bit, but it was still pretty spectacular to look at everything from the top of the 366 step climb! After the tower, we visited the Basilica of the Holy Blood where we supposedly viewed dried blood from Jesus Christ. We headed back to the apartment for another dinner in and evening in the hot tub!

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Our last full day in Bruges was another dreary weather day. We decided to brave the weather and rented bikes for the relatively short ride from Bruges to Damme. The ride is really nice and mostly along a canal on a dedicated bike path, but getting to the start of the path can be a bit tricky with all the cars and traffic in Bruges. We also had to wait about 30 minutes for two large barges to cross under the drawbridge that blocked our way. The ride was very chilly, but we still had a good time. It was clearly off season in Damme and combined with the weather pretty much everything was closed. We wandered a bit before finding what seemed like the only open cafe for lunch before heading back to Bruges.

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Back in Bruges the weather continued to make things difficult. Walking the narrow sidewalks with all the tourists and their umbrellas got to be a bit annoying…and dangerous! We made our way to the brewery that still operates in Bruges for a tour and tasting. The tour guide assigned to our time was really funny and did a great job of sharing the history of beer in Belgium. At the end of the tour we hung out and sampled some of the brews while we waited for Cheryl who was off shopping for a new handmade wedding band.

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We wrapped up the afternoon with a visit to the famous Chocolate Line chocolate shop. With some very interesting flavors (chocolate with bacon and a stencil of Miss Piggy on it), the shop was a lot of fun. We took a sample box back to the apartment to share while we had our third consecutive home cooked dinner. One more night of hot tubbing and the massage chair and it was time to get ready to head back to the U.S.

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The agent from the rental company was nice enough to come to the apartment early in the morning to perform our checkout and make two trips to the train station so we didn’t need to call a taxi. We caught an early morning train to Brussels for our flights home. The heavy loads meant no business class for Col or me. The rest of the gang flew Delta to JFK while Col and I hitched a ride on United to Washington D.C. The Economy Plus seats were nice enough, and the flight attendant in our cabin took a shine to us. She provided several free beers and cocktails to us making for a pleasant ride.

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We landed in DC and cleared immigration and customs rather quickly. Initially, I was going to give my Global Entry pass a try, but ended up waiting with Col in the line for immigration since it wasn’t too long. We were listed for a flight to Las Vegas later in the afternoon, but after some checking, I found we could fly to Houston and then Vegas and be home about two hours earlier than the non-stop flight. We quickly changed our listing and headed to Houston for a tight connection to Vegas. We were rewarded with first class seats for the last leg, which meant we could get a couple hours sleep before our long drive home. 28 hours after we left our apartment in Bruges, we walked through the door at home to a couple very happy doggies.

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This is one of my favorite trips. We had such a great time seeing new places and spending quality time with our friends. An added bonus to me were the new transportation experiences making our way to and around Europe. I can’t wait until our next adventure!

The full photoset from this trip is available here.

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caynul

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After executing our backup to the backup plan and making it safely to Holland via planes, trains and automobiles, with a ferry added for good measure, it was time to meet up with the rest of the gang in Amsterdam. It was finally time to start our actual vacation!

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I didn’t activate any international calling on my phone for this trip, so we made contact via iMessage with everyone else when they were in Boston boarding their flights for Amsterdam. We agreed to meet in front of the main ticket area at the Amsterdam Central Station at a particular time. So, Col and I left the boat behind and hopped on a train headed toward Amsterdam. We had to transfer to get on the line into Amsterdam, but we weren’t sure of the correct city to do so. We followed some others who we knew were going to Amsterdam and it turns out the train we ended up on made a stop at the airport station. As we pulled in, I commented to Col how funny it would be if we saw the rest of our travel group among the hundreds of passengers waiting to board. Right after I said that I looked out the window and saw Jer and Jeanne standing on the platform! I jumped up and ran down to call out to them, and for a second Jer’s face didn’t register recognition since he wasn’t expecting to see me in that place and time. We had a good laugh and enjoyed our good timing.

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With the whole group reunited, we made our way into Amsterdam. Our apartment would not be available for check-in until late afternoon, so we stored our bags at the train station and set out for a day of sight seeing. First stop was a cafe to enjoy our first beer in Amsterdam! We found a nice spot on Dam Square and paid typically inflated tourist prices for a round of drinks while we made a plan for the day. The weather was beautiful, so we decided to do a canal tour to get a nice overview of the city. We found the boats at the dock and chose a smaller, slightly more expensive tour to get a bit more personal experience. We enjoyed a couple more beers while we waited for our tour time, then boarded the boat of about 20 passengers for the tour.

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Of course the weather turned colder as soon as we were on the canal in our open boat, but fortunately it didn’t rain during the tour. The tour lasted about 90 minutes and we saw quite a bit of the city, enjoying the colorful commentary from our guide. I think this was a great way to get introduced to the city. After the cruise, Jeanne attempted to make contact with the owner of our apartment with no luck. We killed some time grabbing a bite to eat and retrieving our bags, but she still couldn’t get anyone to answer the phone, email or text messages. She called the agency we booked through and after some back and forth we found out the owner had double booked the apartment and it was no longer available to us, even though we had a reservation and had paid a deposit months in advance. Jeanne and I both had some heated words with the rep from the agency, and eventually they found us an alternative that was supposedly nicer than our original booking for the same price. We’ll never know if that was true since we never actually saw the original apartment. But, we weren’t homeless, which was the important thing!

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We dragged our bags the two miles or so to the apartment and got settled. The apartment was nice, and it was in a great location. It also came with an additional guest…a mouse who made appearances in the living room over the next couple days. Once we dropped our bags, we headed to a nearby grocery store to pick up items for breakfast and, of course, beer! A 24-pack of Heineken was on sale for about 6 Euro. Amsterdam rocks!! We ordered pizza in that night since everyone was exhausted from travel and time changes, and we planned an early start the next day for sight seeing, eating, drinking and shopping.

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Over the next two days we explored Amsterdam, including a visit to the Heineken brewery. It was a typically tourist experience, but we had fun with the gimmicks and even got “certified” in the proper Heineken pour! Now we have another certificate to add to our bar wall at home.

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We visited the Rijksmuseum for some culture, which was not my favorite part of the trip. It’s not that I don’t appreciate art or the experience of seeing it. I just don’t appreciate the hundreds (thousands?!) of other people pressed up against me while I do. It’s no secret I can’t handle crowds, so I pretty much breezed through the museum, sticking to the more open areas.

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Our most somber day included a visit to the Anne Frank House and Museum. I’d read the book version of the diary and seen several movie adaptations, but nothing really prepares you to actually see the place involved. Someone can describe the conditions and how small the space is to you a million times, but until you stand in it you really have no concept of what it meant to have so many people hiding in such a small place. And, for such a long time. Other than that, trying to put it into words seems so…insignificant.

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I know I shouldn’t have been surprised about the bikes in Amsterdam, but I was. It’s well known the Dutch enjoy their bikes and that they are a key mode of transportation, but it’s still somewhat overwhelming to see for the first time. Bikes are everywhere, and it takes some getting used to in terms of building an awareness for them as you’re walking around the city. Several times I glanced to see no cars and proceeded to cross a street only to disrupt and anger several bikers. It seems the pecking order in Amsterdam is bikes > pedestrians > cars.

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We enjoyed a nice variety of food in the city, and while it was all decent, nothing really struck me as exceptional. Prices varied, and we went from meals spending very little to meals that could easily break the bank. What struck me is the expensive meals were really no better than the cheap meals. None of us are particularly food adventurous, so we stuck to pretty basic fair, which was easy in a city this size. We did enjoy a nice Indian meal on our last evening, and it was probably the best meal we had during our stay in Amsterdam.

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Amsterdam, despite all the bikes, is a very pedestrian friendly city. We walked everywhere and never took any transportation during our stay. From our apartment we were able to easily walk to Dam Square, as well as the flower market and many other tourist spots. Since we had several days in the city, there wasn’t a need to rush from activity to activity, so we were able to really enjoy and explore at a nice pace. We took advantage of that and sampled all the fun Amsterdam had to offer.

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On our last day, we cleaned up the apartment to reclaim our deposit and headed to the Central Station to make our way to Belgium. The station ticket employees were not particularly helpful, and there are many options for traveling by train to Bruges. We ended up on a cheaper ticket, but with two connections, which meant a long day of travel ahead. But, weary travelers that we were, we still had several days of holiday and the beers of Belgium were beckoning us forward for the next stage of our adventure!

More photos from this trip can be found here.

hard way…

We’re off today to Denver and Salt Lake City to see Brandi Carlile (and Josh, of course)! I can’t wait to experience Red Rocks Amphitheater for the first time.

dublin in a day…or so

I realize it’s June and I’m just writing the second part to our February trip to Europe. I was just building suspense and anticipation.

In planning our trip to London to see Brandi Carlile, we ran into a cost issue when trying to book flights home. I booked our trip over using miles and we enjoyed United’s BusinessFirst to get some rest before the longest two days ever, but we planned to travel home using our United NRSA (non-revenue standby) privileges. The only problem is flying out of the UK results in a litany of departure taxes that drives the cost of the “free” standby seat to well over $600 each. At that price, it’s actually not significantly more to just purchase a confirmed seat. But, after doing some digging I found a loophole. Ireland.

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Ireland doesn’t bog down tickets with all the taxes travelers encounter leaving the UK. In fact, our standby BusinessFirst seats cost about $150 each when all was said and done. Sure, we paid for train and ferry transit to Ireland, but I figured we would still spend less than the taxes out of the UK and we’d get to see something more than just London.

We happily left our disgusting hotel in London behind and made our way to Euston station where we boarded Virgin Trains for the trip to Holyhead. The trip took about four hours and was a really cool way to see some of the English countryside. We paid about $55USD each for a coach train seat and a ticket on the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin. The train was basic and clean. The only puzzling thing about it was the lack of storage for suitcases. Aren’t many making trips like this traveling with backpacks and luggage? As it was, everyone in our car piled luggage into a precarious mountain at the back of the car. It looked like it would topple at any moment, and as passengers departed it was like a game of Jenga trying to retrieve various bags.

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We arrived in Holyhead around mid-day. The connections to the ferries are very easy, but the station was really gross. The bathrooms were filthy and sparse, and there were no services to speak of in the waiting lounge. Fortunately, our wait was brief and boarding started and completed very quickly. We were immediately impressed with the size of the ferry. I hadn’t really put much thought or research into the concept, but I was expecting a smaller vessel similar to those that make the run between LA and Catalina Island. What we boarded was a large ship with staterooms, lounges, bars and restaurants…even free wifi. We had a great time on the trip over and enjoyed beer as we crossed the Irish Sea.

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We arrived in Dublin and grabbed a cab to the city centre and our hotel, the O’Callaghan Alexander Hotel. What a treat it was to have a clean, spacious room with a large bath and fantastic shower! The best part…no hair in the bed! We prepaid the room using an online service and paid about $93 USD per night, which I think was a steal. We grabbed dinner at a local restaurant that was very pretentious and not very good,  then hit the hay to be ready for our one day of sightseeing in Dublin.

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I really only had one objective in Dublin, and that was to see the Guinness Storehouse and get my certificate for pouring the perfect pint. But, people would probably think I have a problem if my only sightseeing experience in a city was related to beer. So, we started the day out with a visit to Trinity College where we toured the Old Library and saw the Book of Kells. Once the high-brow culture soak was over, we headed over to Guinness.

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As in London, we didn’t take any transportation around Dublin; we walked the entire day. I don’t think we covered as many miles as London, but my feet were still sore at the end of the day. We muddled our way through the city and made it to the Storehouse. The tour is self-guided and a lot of fun. It’s also a really deep look not only into the history of Guinness, but also the history of Ireland and Dublin in particular. The exhibit on transportation in Dublin was really interesting, and we spent a couple hours wandering the various displays. Of course, we finished it up with a short class on pouring the perfect pint and earned our certificates. Mission accomplished!

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We left the Storehouse and wandered the city taking in some of the sights with the objective of touring the Jameson Irish Whiskey distillery (I know, I know…). Unfortunately, by the time we arrived there was a long wait for the tour and we had dinner plans, so we were unable to experience the tour. We walked back to the hotel and got ready to head out for the evening.

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When we planned the trip to Dublin, I contacted a former colleague (and now friend) from Ernst & Young who I knew was living in the city. Giada and I met several years ago in Germany when I was working on a project for which she coordinated logistics. Giada is from Milan, but had taken an assignment in Dublin and she agreed to meet us for a pint. We met her at the hotel and walked to one of her favorite local pubs where we enjoyed a pint and had a great time catching up. She had plans for the evening with friends, so a few of them met up with us and they invited us to come along to dinner. Her friends are all Italians living in Dublin, so it was pretty interesting seeing the city from their perspective. We went to a local Italian eatery, then they invited us along to a nightclub. Knowing we had to leave for the airport at 6AM didn’t stop us from drinking too much and staying out late with them. It was a blast.

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We left the girls at the club, and I decided I knew exactly how to get back to the hotel and that we didn’t need a cab. After an hour of wandering the city in the wee hours of the morning, we flagged a cab and made it back to the hotel. We’re lucky we didn’t get mugged (our hotel was across the street from the park where Geek Hiker was attacked).

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After a brief nap, we got up, packed out bags and headed to the airport for our trip home. Departing Ireland for the US is great because travelers clear US Customs and Immigration while still in Ireland, so when the flight lands in the US there isn’t the hassle of clearing C&I, retrieving bags, re-checking bags and going through security again…you just get off the plane and head to your domestic connection. We knew the flight was very open, so there wasn’t no stressing about whether we’d get seats, and just before boarding started our names were called and we were given our seats in BusinessFirst. We boarded and enjoyed the service of a great cabin crew on our way to Washington Dulles. The lie-flat beds were welcome considering how little sleep we had the night before.

We arrived in DC to find our flight to Vegas was overbooked. Some quick changes (what did we do before smart phones?!) and we jumped on a flight to San Francisco. Once we arrived in SFO we ran from the main United terminal to the international terminal (all the Vegas flights seem to leave from the international terminal for some reason) where the flight was mostly boarded. We were 8th and 9th on the standby list, so it wasn’t looking good. We practiced exemplary non-rev etiquette and waited patiently to the side with bags ready. The gate agent looked over and asked if we were standby. We confirmed and provided our names. He printed boarding passes and handed them to us. How we managed to get on we’ll never know, but we sure appreciated it. I slept on the short hop to Vegas so I would be ready for the two hour drive home to Utah.

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It was a whirlwind five days, but we had a blast. The concert was awesome, and it was so much fun to see some of the sights we’ve seen our entire lives on TV and in movies. I definitely want to go back to Dublin and see more of Ireland. I’m looking forward to another trip there some day!

 

london in a day…or so

I had a last minute work engagement in December that resulted in a missed Brandi Carlile concert. As a consolation for working up until Christmas Eve, Col and I decided we’d go see Brandi in London. I know…poor us.

We planned the trip with a combination of miles and non-rev travel and quickly realized it is super expensive (even when your’re flying standby for almost free) to fly home from the UK (several hundred dollars in departure taxes). So, we planned a whirlwind trip that looked like this:

  • Tuesday afternoon – Depart US for London
  • Wednesday afternoon – Land in London
  • Wednesday night – See Brandi Carlile
  • Thursday – See London in a day
  • Friday – Travel to Dublin
  • Saturday – See Dublin in a day
  • Sunday – Depart Dublin for US

It was agressive, but we figured it would still be fun. We flew over on miles, and I was able to get us some Saver awards on United that meant we’d fly LAX to LHR on the 777-200 in BusinessFirst. It was worth the extra miles to have lie-flat beds, as the flight is about 10 hours and we planned on a late night at the concert. Flights were uneventful and enjoyable.

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We landed in London, passed immigration and went straight to our hotel. We paid the premium for the 15 minute Heathrow Express train into Paddington Station, which was only about three blocks from our hotel. I had booked the hotel via Booking.com, which I will never do again. The reviews were all pretty good, the rating was high and the photos of the rooms looked nice. Other than a modern, updated lobby, the hotel was a dump. The room was tiny, which is to be expected in a city like London. But, when we pulled back the duvet and found several short curlys, we were thoroughly grossed out and spent the next two nights sleeping in our clothes.

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We showered and changed and headed out for the concert. The show was in Islington, which was about a 30 minute tube ride on two lines from Paddington. We had expected Londoners to be polite and courteous. I think that’s the impression most Americans have of the Brits. Well, we threw that preconceived notion out the window. Over the two days, I found the people of London to be mostly rude and unhelpful; they made New Yorkers look like Georgia Peaches. People had no problem putting their hands on you to shove you out of the way so they could go through a turnstile first, or pushing you off the train to make room for themselves. It was nuts.

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The concert was awesome as usual. A local band called Holly and the Wolf opened. We really liked their sound and Holly’s vocals are amazing. But, after nearly 18 hours of travel, we needed something a little less mellow. So, we were happy when Brandi came on stage and started what turned out to be a two hour set. It was a fun venue and we can happily say we’ve seen her play on two continents now.

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Thursday was a long day, and we basically hit every single tourist hot spot we could to see all the iconic sites. In all we walked nearly 14.5 miles over the course of the day, but we did see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Parliament, all the bridges, including Tower Bridge and the London Tower. We did a quick pass through one museum, and capped the night off with a ride on the London Eye, which was really cool at night. Even if Col found it a little unnerving. We finished our night with an amazing meal at Noor Jahan, a great Indian restaurant about four blocks from our hotel.

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Friday morning found us up bright and early for our departure from London. We booked a rail/ferry combo through Virgin Trains, so we took the underground from Paddington to Euston station for our direct train ride to Holyhead on the coast. The train was clean and comfortable, and the combo ticket was only about $50 USD per person. The train journey was about four hours, and we got to see some amazing views of the English countryside and Wales. And, a lot of sheep.

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We departed Holyhead on Stena Lines for the three hour or so journey across the Irish Sea to Dublin. I was impressed by the size of the ship; I was expecting something similar to the boats that ferry passengers to Catalina Island in California. But, this was a fairly large ship with many decks, free wifi and a nice bar and restaurant. We cruised over to Dublin under mostly sunny skies and calm waters, enjoying the view and the ride.

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Next up…Dublin in a Day!

almost havana

It’s nearly Winter, and everything moves slower in Winter. Including me and my updates to this space. Since the great backpack trip over Labor Day, most of the travel has been work related, including a trip last month to Miami. But, capitalizing on an employer paid hotel, Col and I headed out a couple days early, cashed in some Hyatt points and spend one night in Key West.

I have never been to Key West, and it turns out it’s the one place in Florida that I could easily see myself living. Or, at least spending more time. We had a great time relaxing, enjoying the atmosphere and bar hopping. I can’t wait to go back and spend more time, and we’re talking everyone into a trip there in February for some hijinks.

I didn’t take my camera, but I thought it would be fun to document this adventure with my Instagram shots for a change. We flew into Miami, rented a car and made the very long drive to Key West. It’s only 100 miles, but it takes between three and four hours depending on traffic due to the bridges, low speed limits and tourists clogging the way.

 

We stayed at the Hyatt Resort and had a great waterfront room. An evening of walking, bar hopping and Cuban food rounded out the weekend before returning to Miami where we had a great city and water view room at the Epic hotel. I spent the next few days locked in a convention center during daylight hours, and entertaining clients in the evening. Col got to experience a little solo-traveler experience and explore Miami and South Beach on his own.

Sadly the trip ended too soon, and it was back to the daily grind that these days consists of early morning drives to Vegas to catch flights to Minneapolis. And so it goes.

“the shitter’s full!”

Last weekend, eight of us did what any red-blooded American has to do at some point in life. We piled into an RV for a sauced-up road trip. Shirley had never been on an RV trip, so Jer promised her one as her birthday present. A Brandi Carlile show in Flagstaff was the perfect excuse for an adventure.

We left Friday afternoon for the five seven hour drive to FLG. Our route on the way took us across SR 9 through Hurricane and Colorado City (heyyyy, Warren!) to Fredonia. From there we headed south/southeast on the US 89 bypass via Jacob’s Lake. I’m always amazed how quickly Southern Utah’s scenery can change. One minute were driving through parched desert surrounded by painted red rock cliffs, and the next we’re in a high alpine forest with lakes and streams. Blink and you’re back in the sandy lowlands.

From Jacob’s lake we continued east and made a stop at Lee’s Ferry. My iPhone said it was only 94 degrees, but it felt much hotter…well over 100, so I think the weather app was asleep on the job. We took a few minutes to soak our feet in the Colorado and watch in envy as a large group prepared to put out on what must have been a 10 day river run. The water was surprisingly cold and it turns out the temperature never even reaches 60 degrees at this point of the river.

We arrived into Flagstaff, picked up a rental car to get around town and hooked up the RV at Black Bart’s Truck Stop, RV Camp and Steakhouse. AKA Flagstaff’s ghetto. Jer was finally able to crack a beer and start catching up with the rest of us who had been drinking since Hurricane. The ninth member of the group (who drove up alone after work) arrived, officially transitioning the RV from motorhome to motorhomo based on our numbers.

Dinner that night was culled from Jeanne’s Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives research: Salsa Brava. The food was great and the salsa bar was a lot of fun. Afterward, several of us headed into the downtown area to check out some of the bars. The Friday nightlife in FLG is wild. The streets were full of people barhopping and partying and for a moment it almost felt like New Orleans. The bars were packed and the music was loud, but we had fun hanging out on the second floor balcony of Charly’s, which is in the historic (and supposedly haunted) Weatherford Hotel. As usual, we went out the gate on the first night of our trip like a group that just released from years of lockup. It made for a rough Saturday morning, but we didn’t care since we were headed to see Brandi later that night.

We spent most of Saturday checking out downtown. A late lunch at another DD&D hotspot, Brandy’s Restaurant, proved a good choice. It’s Monsoon in the southwest deserts right now, so an afternoon deluge passed quickly and we headed back to the RV to get ready for the concert. We got in line around 5:30 PM for a 7:00 PM door opening and were about 20 spots back. The girl at the front of the line had been there since 11:00 AM, which didn’t seem like a great rate of return in my book. We met a mom and daughter duo in line and had a great time talking with them, so the time passed quickly and we headed into the Orpheum Theater for the show.

Andy Hull, lead singer for Manchester Orchestra (although Haley had been telling people it was the Flagstaff Orchestra) opened. Brandi and the band went on about 9:15 PM and rocked the house for more than two hours. It was a great mix of songs from all her albums, including six off the new Bear Creek album. I’ve always said Brandi is one of the best live performers I’ve seen, and she didn’t disappoint this time. It’s fun to see this band evolve and get better and better each time with a stage presence that makes it impossible to not be up on your feet singing along. Just as in SLC last month, the band covered Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which really got this crowd going. Two encores later the show was finally over, and even though we were all sore from standing for hours we were sad it was over.

A quiet night back at Black Bart’s led to a relatively early morning rise on Sunday. We fueled up the RV, dropped off the rental car and got back on the road to head home. Our route back kept us on US 89 through Page and across the Glenn Canyon Dam at Lake Powell. We stopped at the dam for a bathroom break and photo op before making the last leg back into Hurricane and St. George.

Filling the propane and dumping the shitter proved problematic on a Sunday evening in zion. After cruising around for 45 minutes, we finally found a mobile home park with an unprotected dump station. While WE had a rule nobody would do #2 in the RV, the people who rented it before us did not subscribe to our philosophy. When I reached in to pull the dump hose from the storage in the bumper, my hand came out covered in what can only be described as…poop. Good thing I’d been drinking since noon AND good thing Lisa and Col forced me to down a couple shots as part of that. So, I didn’t really care and we got our “cargo” offloaded quickly.

Great trip overall, although I dont’ think any one of us was sad to see the end of the RV time. It’s definitely a fun way to travel with friends, although the one who has to drive kind of gets screwed a little.

Here is the photoset for this trip: Flagstaff RV trip – August 2012