San Diego, CA: January 4th – January 10th
When I found out I was on the West Team, I immediately started thinking of all the cool cities I would get to see, and San Diego was always at the top of my list. But as the months ticked by and my time out west began to run short, almost all of my desired cities had been checked off while SD remained. Finally I caved and took matters into my own hands; I sent a desperate email to my boss essentially begging her to get us to San Diego. Either she likes me or she just wanted me to stop bugging her, but finally it showed up right at the end of our tour.
After the struggle of getting it on our schedule and my two weeks in the Midwest Tundra, I had an immense appreciation for the temperate weather and constant sunshine of Southern California. I spent nearly every moment possible outside either laying in grocery store parking lots to get sun during work breaks or taking long walks and runs both mornings and nights. Even though it wasn’t anything crazy or exciting, these walks were one of my favorite parts about San Diego. Maybe I was just feeling the time with my Westies coming to an end, but I truly enjoyed just walking around and talking with both Elise and Conner and discovering new things around us (the best thing we found was an abandoned mission-style building way up on a hill overlooking Old Town).
It was also during one of these walks that I realized we happened to be staying right across the street from Old Town SD, which is a cool area with old-time buildings and tons of restaurants. We ate at several of these restaurants during our stay, enjoying the authentic Mexican food and homemade tortillas that you could watch being made. One of my favorite food places was Roberto’s Taco Shop, which was little more than a run-down shack, but served the best California-style burritos (Cali style means with fries inside – an unhealthy, but ingenious invention). We also got margaritas one night at a huge, outdoor Mexican restaurant that had a live band and was so beautifully decorated that Conner said it reminded him of the movie Coco.
One thing the three of us all wanted to do was visit Coronado Beach. The day we had set aside to do so turned out to be awful weather, but we didn’t let that stop us. Instead of bikinis and flip flops, we packed rain jackets and headed off to Coronado, which we arrived at, of course, right as the storm set in. We fully embraced the rain and danced and ran through the waves as it came down harder and harder, not caring how soaked we got until we left the beach and had to walk toward shelter while miserably cold and wet.
It’s hard to do San Diego justice through writing, but it really was my favorite city. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve been because it was not only covered in palm trees, but also lush with other types of greenery lining the ocean and mountains. San Diego also has such a unique culture from Old Town to the Gaslamp Quarter, and everyone in the area seemed to have a friendly, easy-going vibe about them. It was definitely the type of place I could see myself living, and bugging my boss to get the NUTmobile there turned out to be 100% worth it.
Phoenix, AZ: January 10th – January 15th
For our very last city on the road, I couldn’t think of a better place than Phoenix, AZ. More than anywhere else, Phoenix feels like home to our team. We have friends there, favorite restaurants and things we don’t mind doing again and again. We even stayed at our traditional hotel, The Red Lion, which is honestly pretty sketchy but worth it because it’s right across the street from Bikini Bean and only a mile down the road from ASU.
Most of the people we know in the PHX area weren’t around for our last trip to the city, but that worked well because we had a ton to do to prepare for Winter Staff (we had to re-pack and ship all of our stuff to Madison) and we wanted to spend time together as a team for our last week. We of course did all of our favorite things: a night out at Devil’s Advocate and eating at Postino Annex and Culinary Dropout. We also woke up at the crack of dawn one morning to make a last attempt at completing the treacherous Camelback Mountain hike, but we were instantly turned away as the mountain was too busy and there was no parking for the NUTmobile. It was a huge let-down, but also a good reason for the three of us to take a reunion trip back to Phoenix one day to finally finish what we started.
On our last night in town the three of us went out for our last dinner as a team. At Christmas, my Aunt Melinda had generously given me a check that was to be used on our last dinner and drinks, and we decided the best place to use it would be one of our very favorites, Culinary Dropout. Even though I knew my friendships with these two weren’t coming to a close, our time as the west team definitely was, and we all got a bit teary-eyed as we talked about all of the experiences we’ve shared as well as our goals moving into the next half of our journey.
The next morning we woke up, packed all of our stuff into Shelly for the last time and headed off to Penske where we’d be leaving her for good. As our only form of transportation for seven months, Shelly was our closest thing to home out west and she was always present, if not integral, to our favorite experiences and stories. She may be an in-nut-imate object, but she was the real MVP of our team, and we all had an extremely emotional and heartfelt goodbye with her before we had to leave Penske without her. Our next, and final, stop out west was the PHX Sky Harbor Airport where we’d soon be taking off for Wisconsin and our reunion with the other Peanutters and Hotdoggers.
Cashew Later, West Coast!