Pssst… You may want to check out Part 1 of our 23-day roadtrip before diving into Part 2! Just a tip! Now to pick up where we left off…
Day 5: Las Cruces, NM + Drive to Phoenix, AZ
We were at the Hotel Encanto for what felt like the blink of an eye, having gotten in at 2am and having checked out early the next morning. But, we had to get a relatively early start because Phoenix was at least a good five and a half hours away.
I remember walking out to the car that morning, feeling the beating sun and the cool air on my skin, and getting really excited that it was finally starting to feel like we were worlds away from home. I haven’t spent much time at all in the Southwest as an adult, so even as I took a good look around while I packed the car with my stuff, I felt this sense of childlike wonder come over me.
We had made plans the day before to meet up with our friend Ben for breakfast in Las Cruces. We’d never actually met Ben because he found Jason online through IWearYourShirt years back. It’s always fun for me when I get to see Jason finally meet fans of the brand that have followed him from the beginning of his crazy t-shirt wearing idea. The internet is a pretty cool thing when you think about how it can connect people that otherwise never might have had the chance to meet.
Anyway, we met up with him and his friend Kyle at a breakfast spot called… wait for it… A Bite of Belgium. Yes, you read that correctly. Just a quaint little Belgian restaurant in Las Cruces, NM. Totally makes sense. Well, I gotta give it to them, their breakfast is pretty ridiculous. I got the waffles (because DUH it’s A Bite. of Belgium.) and they somehow stacked them into a little magical waffle tower of sweetness on my plate. I’d recommend it to anybody stopping through the bustling metropolis of Las Cruces.
Lesson #9: You can learn something new from every person you meet.
I also want to mention just how cool is was to chat with Ben and Kyle. I mean, when you meet people for the first time you have no idea what to expect, right? For me, I don’t do well with small talk so I get nervous that when I meet new people, we won’t have anything to talk about. I’ve been focusing lately on just trying to ask people better questions so that it eliminates the small talk altogether. I think to myself, What can I learn from this person? What story are they just waiting to share? It makes meeting people more fun and interesting to me.
Ben and Kyle both actually live in Carslbad, NM (of Carlsbad Caverns acclaim) which has turned into quite the oil town the past few years. Kyle, a photographer, explained what it was like working on an oil rig – an extremely demanding and dangerous job – just to save up for the camera that he had his eye on. Ben told me what it was like to see the town he grew up in undergo such a transformation from the influx of people and money. It was really fascinating to me because it was something I knew absolutely nothing about, and it again reminded me of how much there is to learn from people whose experiences vary so much from your own.
Since by that point we hadn’t seen very much of the actual city of Las Cruces, we decided to head to the old town of Mesilla (basically in Las Cruces) right after breakfast. We had read online that it was a historical little town square with an old church and some shops. I have to say though I was slightly disappointed to find that it had been transformed into kind of a touristy spot. The old buildings were really neat and beautiful, but overall it was a lot of gift shops, upscale galleries and expensive jewelry stores. Just a tip if you’re ever stopping through.
Lesson #10: Appreciate the freedom and perspective that new places and landscapes offer.
After a few photos, we hopped in the car and headed West to Phoenix. I enjoyed that drive simply because we finally starting seeing desert. Not something people would typically be excited about, but for me it was so fun to feel like I was in a different world. However it’s possible, I think every person should try to go somewhere that looks completely foreign from the world they know. I can’t quite explain what it did for me being surrounded by basically nothing that reminded me of my routine and the bubble I created from my own reality. It’s a feeling of freedom, like your eyes are opening and you’re allowed to view your environment back home with a new perspective.
Lesson #11: Have MORE patience. (aka You’ll get there when you get there.)
So, I don’t know if maybe Jason was a little excited about the 80 mph speed limit we had enjoyed in Texas but, as we were about an hour outside of Phoenix, Jason had the cruise control set to 80 in a 75 mph zone. By the time we noticed the patrol car we passed, it was too late. Those ominous flashing lights turned on behind us and we pulled to the shoulder of the highway. WHOOPS.
Now, keep in mind, at this point we had already made plans with our friend Pam to have dinner at her house in Mesa, about a 45-minute drive from the place we were staying, and we still had to check in and drop off our bags. Basically, we were in a time crunch. Which just sets the scene perfectly for the encounter that followed.
Our friend, Officer Peterson, approached the car and asked for Jason’s license and registration. I obviously tried to get a read on him with the most friendly and cooperative expression I could display. As he went on to explain Arizona’s harsh penalty for people speeding over 85mph, I was almost dumbfounded by the slowness at which he speaking. His lonnnnnnggggg, drawn-out way of speaking had absolutely nothing to do with his intelligence; I just got the sense it was his manner. The best way I can honestly describe it is if you were to take your image of a California stoner and put him in a uniform. It was almost comical how labored the conversation was. Has that ever happened to you? (Not the stoner in a uniform part.) You’re in a hurry somewhere and it feels like the one person holding you back is speaking or doing something in super slow motion. I was dying.
He walked back to his cop car and we saw him typing up the customary paperwork so Jason and I assumed we were getting ticketed. When Officer Peterson returned, he picked right back up where he left off, launching into a diatribe about cruise control… and speedometers… and radar detectors… and perhaps anything he could think of. And at the very end of alllllll that, he had Jason sign an electronic warning. A WARNING.
Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic. But like, for ALL that trouble I was thinking to myself maybe a “Slow down unless you want to get a ticket” would have sufficed. Anyway, the funniest part of Officer Peterson was that once we wrapped things up and Jason and I were thanking him for the kindness, literally out of nowhere I think I blinked and he let out a rushed “Ok, bye!” before practically speed-walking back to his car. It was like someone suddenly sped him back up to real time. Weirdest cop exchange EVER, but Jas and I got a good laugh out of it as we thought back to our Sonora Caverns tour guide adventure. It was yet again a lesson in patience for us.
We got in to Phoenix just as it was turning to dusk, but we had to drive way out near the area called Fountain Hills to get to our “casita” that we booked through Airbnb. This was one of the places we were most excited about staying when we booked it, and it most certaintly didn’t disappoint.
In order to even GET to the place, we had to drive about 2 miles through this meandering dirt road. It was really remote, but there were also ranch-like houses sprinkled throughout this “neighborhood” off the beaten path. The entire area was surrounded by gorgeous desert mountains. When we finally found the spot, it was exactly what we had hoped for. It looked almost like a brick railway car just propped up on stilts and plopped down in the middle of the desert.
Lesson #12: Look happy.
We were greeted at the place by Neil, the owner, who was probably one of the kindest, most gentle people I’ve ever met. He was this slight, quiet, older man with a huge smile and kind eyes. He introduced himself and explained to us about how he and his wife live primarily in Montana, but one day when they were visiting the area and driving around looking for some land to potentially buy, a real estate agent happened to stumble across them and show them the Casita, which they fell in love with. He told us we were the very first people to stay in it through Airbnb, and that he said yes to our inquiry because “We looked happy.” I MEAN, really? My heart couldn’t stand it. (Also, as a lesson, I’m just going to start giving things to people because they look happy.)
Lesson #13: Less is more.
The Casita was actually originally built by a metal worker who designed and constructed the whole thing himself. We were surprised at how spacious it felt inside despite its small size. Neil, being the sweet man he is, also insisted that he bring us fresh flowers and multiple (I mean, like MULTIPLE) large jugs of water because “It gets dry out here.” (Half the fun of staying in the place was just meeting such a kind soul.) Staying at this gorgeous little hut of a place over the next few days would truly teach me how much space we DON’T need. As long as you enjoy where you are, who you’re with and you have a place you love to call home, I think that’s all you need. (Subsequently I’ve been trying to convince Jason every day since that we should downsize to a “tinyhome.” My argument is turning out to be poorly suited for a 6’5″ person.)
Lesson #14: You communicate what’s important to you by the effort you make.
After we dropped our stuff off and took a moment to soak in the amazing place we’d get to stay for the next four nights, we headed off to Pam’s house. Pam Slim is an incredible author and coach, and I had the pleasure of getting to know her at the conference Jason and I attended in Fargo, ND last year. We really wanted to see her while we were in town, but unfortunately she’d had a busy day and was heading out on business travel the very next day, so meeting somewhere for dinner seemed unlikely. Instead of just saying Sorry I’m busy like most people would though, Pam just invited us toher home for dinner. I can’t even tell you what that kind of gesture meant to us. I could only imagine how exhausted and busy she was, trying to spend time with her family AND pack for her trip, and yet she so clearly made the effort to see us and invite us to meet her family. It was a powerful reminder of how that kind of effort goes such a long way.
We had a delicious meal and fabulous time hanging out with Pam, her husband Darryl and beautiful family, and her friend Sergio, an amazingly talented photographer. After almost a week on the road and eating at restaurants, it was such a welcomed change to feel invited into a home and to sit around a big table, swapping stories and being entertained by her two energetic and inquisitive kids. After dinner, I thanked Pam sincerely for inviting us, making a comment about how grateful I was for her opening up her family time to us. Her response has stuck with me. She said that she and Darryl intentionally welcome the opportunity to bring friends like us and like Sergio into their home because it helps expose their kids to different people, perspectives, cultures, etc. from their own. Such a wise little nugget of parenting, and one I hope to take forward with me one day when I have my own.
Day 6: Phoenix, AZ
Day 6 started with another nice Jason-led yoga session on the front porch of our casita facing the mountains. By then I was actually really enjoying the early wake-ups (between 7-8) because at the time we left for our trip back home I was typically sleeping in each day until about 9:30, something I wanted to get better about.
Jason thought it would be cool to spend our morning going for a desert hike, so we looked up a few trails out by us. That led us to the McDowell Mountain Regional Park where we found a three-mile walking trail. When you arrive they give you a little info sheet so you can learn about the plants and animals as you pass them on the trail. It was pretty cool to learn about the different cacti, especially the Saguaros that are so iconic of the area. We saw a couple Saguaros that had fallen and died (as sad sight indeed), but as they decay their woody, lightweight “skeleton” is revealed, which looks a lot like bones in a strange way. Definitely something we wouldn’t have seen had we not gone on the hike. What WASN’T cool was the tiny baby rattlesnake that we met about a half-mile into the trail. Not gonna lie, it was just a tiny little guy but it freaked me out because it reminded me that you’re walking on this narrow little trail surrounded by wildlife that you probably can’t see. Like, who knows how many rattlesnakes we walked past that we had no idea even existed!
Overall, it was an amazing start to the day. Even though the trail was flat and pretty easy, it was still a really neat way to get acquainted with Phoenix and experience the desert landscape up close.
After the hike we went to a breakfast restaurant in Fountain Hills called Flapjacks. The service wasn’t fantastic but the food was really, really good. They also have an oven-baked pancake that’s supposed to be out of this world, but it takes a while to cook and we were starving from the hike so we didn’t end up ordering it. After that we went next door to the grocery store to pick up some supplies to make tacos for lunch back at the casita. It only seemed natural.
Lesson #15: Make more time for focused solitude.
Back at “home” we set some time aside to get work done, although it didn’t feel like work with the mountains greeting me every time I looked up. I wish that was my view every day from my office. It’s amazing how well the ideas flowed out there in the isolation of our tiny cabin. Now I know why writers so often try to escape to a remote place to write their books. There’s just no better way to think – without all the distractions of our fast-paced lives. As a goal I reminded myself to try and search for ways to replicate this feeling back home. Whether it’s escaping for an hour a week to just think at the beach or whether it’s 10 minutes at lunch time to sit on our back porch. We all need that time to just be with our thoughts instead of drowning them out with to-do lists and social media and emails all the time.
For the evening, Jason had made a few calls to some former coworkers to get us a great deal on tickets to the Phoenix Suns game against the Cavaliers. Now, I’m pretty open about the fact that watching most sports games on TV bores the crap outta me. Like, I’d most definitely rather play sports than watch them. However, I have to admit I was pretty excited to see the whole thing live since I’d never been to a pro game before.
I had no idea what to expect, but when we got to the arena I was surprised at how small the court looks in person! Jason pointed out that it might have to do with the fact that the guys playing are freakishly large which makes the court shrink in comparison. Fair point, but it still looked WAY smaller than it does on TV. The part that really made the difference for me was that our seats were so close – basically the first row of seats behind the floor seats, and we had a great view behind one of the baskets so we got to see a lot of contact up close. The only downside of that (depending who you ask) is that one of the Suns dancers’ “marks” was literally DIRECTLY in front of us, which made it incredibly awkward while she was getting her groove on because it was legitimately difficult for me NOT to make eye contact with her. Jason found this much less obtrusive, no doubt.
I had fun in spite of the fact the Suns were pretty much down the whole game, and like true out-of-town fans, we decided to leave near the end of the third quarter to go get something to eat. Our friend Lindsay recommended a place called The Duce near the stadium, and we were actually intrigued by the place because we saw it from the street driving into downtown. It looked like a really cool, converted warehouse.
Turns out it was even more awesome than we thought! This is definitely a place I would recommend checking out if you’re ever in downtown Phoenix. The place is a hipster’s paradise. The kitchen resides in an airstream trailer behind the counter where you order, and then the rest of the place just goes on and on in surprising delightfulness the farther you step inside. As we thought, it was an old converted warehouse, and inside sits a vintage boxing ring, an pretty impressive bar, a designated cornhole area, and a clothing shop.
It got an A for ambiance in our book big time. In terms of food, it was really good but not great – a lot like what you might expect from a top notch food truck. My highlight was a little thing called Mac N’ Cheese Muffins… which are exactly what they sound like, and as a self-proclaimed mac n’ cheese connoisseur, I found them to be heavenly. The Duce – definitely check it out.
Day 7: Phoenix, AZ
Friday we woke up and made our way back to Downtown for Jason’s speaking gig at the CGA Conference on behalf of Call 811. (Small shoutout: Call 811′s “Can You Dig It?” game that we created for them is live right now and you can win CRAZY cool prizes like an Apple TV, new Chromebook, Jambox, and more all throughout April. Every day there are new winners so check it out!) Anyway, back to the trip.
Lesson #16: Commit to making your dream lifestyle a reality.
While Jason kicked some serious speaking butt, I hung out at a local Starbucks to get some work done. It was a gorgeous day, and I just remember being so grateful to have the flexibility to truly work from anywhere. Flexibility is something that I value immensely, and as I’ve made transitions in my work life, I’ve done so with the goal in mind of eventually having full freedom to work from anywhere. I’m finally at that point in my life, and the effect that it’s had on my happiness is indescribable. It’s just a reminder though that anyone can do it – not just me. All it takes is a commitment to making that lifestyle a reality, and figuring out a way to do it. That’s one reason why I love sharing my stories here on the blog. To show you it’s possible to live the life that you want on your terms. There was a time I wasn’t sure everyone could do it, but now I believe so more than ever.
About an hour or so later, I picked Jason up at the convention center. One of my absolute favorite times to hang out with Jas is right after he’s just given his talk. Sharing his story with other people gives him such an awesome energy and excitement, and I just love seeing that fire in people – those times when you can see people are lit up from the inside out because they’ve just done what they love to do.
For lunch we met up with our friends Ben and Mike, who we haven’t seen in something like two years! Ben and Jason actually became really close friends after the company Ben was working for at the time, LifeLock, bought sponsorship days with IWearYourShirt. They’ve been like cross-country, Cheezit-loving brothers separated at birth ever since. It’s hard to believe we hadn’t seen him or his awesome wife Lindsay in over two years. Mike used to work at LifeLock with Ben too but now the two of them have teamed up to work on a startup idea that they are incredibly passionate about. It was so fun to see the fire they both have for making their dream a reality, and Jason and I got to give them feedback from an outsider’s perspective.
Lesson #17: Look for what makes you come alive and Lesson #17: Build friendships based on shared values.
As I was sitting there listening to them talk about their idea, it reiterated a couple of things for me. First, it is a magical thing to see someone doing work that they love. There’s nothing like the feeling of believing in an idea so badly and wanting to bring it to life. I would know, because it’s how I feel about the future of Made Vibrant. I know what I want it to be for people, the value it can offer, and I just can’t wait to grow it into that vision. Chatting with them also made me realize how important it is to have friends that GET you. Throughout our entire conversation, it was so clear that the four of us – while having completely different lives and even being on two sides of the country – were on the same wavelength. We talked about what was meaningful to us in our work and what brings us happiness. There is nothing like building honest friendships that strengthen your values and push you forward in life and in business.
I also have to mention that we ate at one of my new all-time favorite restaurants, True Food Kitchen. I wish so badly that we had one in Jacksonville. Their motto is “Honest food that tastes really good” and that’s exactly what it is. They have some of the most creative, healthiest, most awesome dishes I’ve ever heard of. I think they’re in like 10 cities so if you have one near you, just know that I’m jealous of you, and if you don’t have one near you, definitely check them out when you’re traveling.
Later that night we made dinner plans with more awesome IWearYourShirt friends, Scott, Aubrey and Frank. (Can you tell that our trip revolved heavily around delicious meals… yeah that was definitely intentional.) We ate at one of our go-to spots in Scottsdale, The Herb Box. Ben and Lindsay originally introduced us to it because it’s one of their favorites. It was another night of great food and great friends. I continue to be grateful for the fantastic friendships Jason and I have been able to form because of IWearYourShirt.
Day 8: Phoenix, AZ
One of the things that Jason and I really wanted to do while we were in Phoenix was climbCamelback Mountain. Camelback is a pretty prominent landmark in the area and a popular place for hikers and rock climbers. Jason had hiked one of the Camelback trails with Ben a few years back, but I really wanted to experience it myself. Ben couldn’t join us, but when we were at lunch the day before, Mike said he’d be up for it, so we met him in the morning (to avoid the crazy heat) ready to hike up to the summit.
Now, Camelback’s summit is 2,704 ft high. I had NO idea what to expect going into it, so I was a little nervous as we met up with Mike and started the trek up an inclined dirt trail. First off, I was really surprised at how many people were on the trail with us. There were ALL kinds of people – crazy fitness dudes with weight vests on, in shape people, out of shape people, old people, young people, kids, families… it was nuts. Once I saw that I started thinking, Okay, maybe this won’t be so hard. Boy was I wrong.
The climb up the mountain was a STRUGGLE for me, if I’m being honest. Once we got past the deceivingly innocuous incline trail, that’s when we hit the first stretch of rocks. And it was pretty much a steep scramble up the rocks from that point on. Early on I could feel my lungs starting to burn, and while my legs were definitely feeling the burn from all the climbing, it was my lack of breath that held me up the most. Who knows if it was the fact that I haven’t done regular cardio in over a year or that my body’s not used to the elevation or whatever (probably a combo of the two), but for whatever reason I kept having to stop to catch my breath.
At first it was really frustrating to me. Mike was bouncing off rocks like a little spider monkey and Jason just about never quits anything so I felt like the weak link in our group for sure. After the first few stops though I realized that my frustration and self-consciousness would ruin the experience for me if I let it, so I just kind of stopped worrying about what the boys thought of me and tried to focus on physically making my way up the mountain at whatever pace I could. Thankfully they were really patient and never made me feel like I was holding them up. With what extra breath I had, we managed to chat about life and have a number of really good laughs. And whenever I needed to take a break, we’d find a rock out of the way of the other hikers and I’d just look out over the amazing view.
We did eventually make it to the top, and the view made all that struggling so worth it in the end. When I finally peeked out over what looked like the entire city of Phoenix, I felt so proud of myself that I was able to power through something that was physically so demanding for me. There was a sense of peace up there, and a very cool sense of community since everyone at the top had just conquered the same demanding feat.
While the view was stunning, in hindsight it actually wasn’t the top that made the experience so enjoyable, it was the hike itself. I think I realized why mountain climbing is so often used as a metaphor for life – the parallels are obvious now. Here are a couple things I thought about during that tough but rewarding ascent:
Lesson #18: focus on what’s in front of you.
When you’re climbing, you have no choice but to think about where your next hand is going to go or foot is going to go in order to get to the top of that mountain. If you don’t focus, you could very seriously hurt yourself. Experiencing that kind of intense concentration shows you the benefit of making everything else fade away – the fear, the goal of making it to the top, everything – and you’re left with simply the task at hand. A lesson that can serve us all well not just in hiking but in life.
Lesson #19: Respect your journey.
Imagine mustering every ounce of perseverance to move your foot just one more boulder upward, as a woman twice your age with ripped abs and a sports bra goes dashing up beside you at a speed that you’re not even sure is possible. It definitely puts your pride into check. But that’s the thing about life, right – there’s always going to be someone that feels like their “passing” you. Who cares. If you don’t focus on yourself, you’re liable to fall off the face of a mountain. If I had focused on every person that was hiking faster or better than me, it would have taken all the enjoyment out of the experience. Yet another reminder of the ever-present danger of the comparison game.
Lesson #20: Feel the flow.
I can now say that in some small way I can understand the passion and obsession that rock climbers seem to get. As I was so focusing so intently on scrambling up this trail, it’s hard to put into words, but I experienced this weird connection with my route. There were times when I was more calculated and careful, and then there were times when I seemed to pick up momentum and flow through the rocks with an almost intuition. Maybe it’s similar to that elusive “runner’s zen” that I’ve never felt, but it was so neat. It reminded me of moments I’ve experienced in my life – times where things seemed to kind of flow in alignment and times that felt more like a struggle. I think the key is settling into that energy and recognizing the flow so that you can kind of surf it from phase to phase.
Lesson #21: Embrace the climb.
This is a mantra I stole from Jason, but since he wrote about it, I had never seen it lived out in such a literal way. The amount of time I spent on the top of that mountain was just a fraction compared to the time I spent going up and going down. And that’s the truth, isn’t it? We often spend so much time working toward these goals, only to realize that the moment where we receive the award or do the interview or get the promotion lasts a matter of minutes. That’s because it’s not about the top of the mountain, it’s about the climb. The CLIMB is what made that hike such an unforgettable experience. So remember to enjoy the climb in life, not just the destination.
The climb down was another challenge in itself because the steepness made it pretty dangerous if you didn’t carefully control your footsteps and pick your moves carefully. Thankfully we all made it down unscathed, and Jason and I fled immediately to our favorite breakfast spot The Daily Dose for some much-needed sustenance. I think we said about ten words to each other during breakfast because we were both such zombies (me more than him, obviously.)
Afterward we drove back to the casita and in the distance I saw some rain clouds starting to form over the mountains. We made it back into the room just before the skies opened up and let out a gentle shower over the desert. Originally I had planned to do some work, but instead I just laid in our big fluffy bed with the sliding door open, listening to the sound of the rain and a neighboring horse periodically let out an enthusiastic whinny.
Lesson #22: Soak up moments of joy.
That afternoon was another favorite moment from the trip. It was magical. Everything in my head said You have client emails to get to. You have things to post, things to do. But instead of letting those voices win, I closed my eyes and tried to paint a picture of that moment with each of my senses. Now it’s like I have some kind of 4D mental photograph of that single point in time. Experiencing joy fully is all about intentional acknowledgement and gratitude. Eventually I fell asleep to the sound of the rain and the breeze coming off the porch.
When I woke up, we got ready for dinner. We thought about trying a new place, but both of us were so in love with True Food Kitchen that we ended up just going back there (a fantastic decision all around.) Complete side note: On the way there we listened to a great interview of Elon Musk, continuing our new fascination with him and with Tesla. I now believe him to be one of the great visionaries of our time, and I say that with no exaggeration. No problem is too big for him to take on – not energy consumption, not even SPACE – and I really respect that kind of forward thinking. Check out the interview if you get a chance! It’s fascinating.
After dinner it was back to our casita for one final night and then it was off to Palm Springs in the morning!
Day 9: Drive to Palm Springs, CA
Before we made our way out of town, we HAD to stop by Ben + Lindsay’s place to say hello to their little guy, Keegan. The last time we had seen the two of them was when they were out in Florida visiting us and Lindsay was pregnant with Keegs, so this intro had been a LONG time coming.
Lesson #23: Great friendship endures.
A morning of catching up reminded me just how much can change in a matter of two years. Here our friends were, now parents, in a different home, with different jobs – basically with completely different lives as we knew them before – but the four of us were able to pick back up where we left off. It was an important reminder for me not to let that much time go by again, but also that friendship can span an endless gap of time if it’s based on something true and genuine.
From there it was off to make the three and a half hour drive to Palm Springs. (But not without stopping by In N’ Out Burger first. What? We HAD to.) Based on our previous drive times, three hours felt like a piece of cake. (Said the girl who didn’t drive a single mile.) Everything around us looked like your typical desert/mountains type of terrain until… the palm trees.
Ya’ll, I’m here to tell ya, Palm Springs is a curious little town. It was the funniest thing seeing just dry desert for the longest time and then all of a sudden coming upon this lush oasis of a town at the foot of these huge mountains with palm trees lining the roads. It’s like if you took the desert and Key West and Las Vegas and Los Angeles and mixed them in a pot and spit them out again. It has a vibe unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Part dry and part lush. Part middle class and part high class. Part serene escape and part busy tourist town. We didn’t know what to make of it at first.
Our first priority at that point was LAUNDRY because we both were in desperate need of clean clothes at that point, but first we checked in at our hotel, The Ace Hotel & Swim Club. When we booked our room weeks prior, we kind of knew that the Ace was known for its hipster style, and it truly lived up to its reputation. I kid you not, we pulled up to the front entrance and as I got out in my little yellow cardigan, it was like a swarm of fedoras and mustaches and macrame swimsuit coverups started literally pouring out of every corner of the place.
Despite feeling slightly out of place, I have to give it to them: the Ace has a vibe unlike any other. I loved the way the rooms were set up – a cool retro clock and record player, beautiful mid-century chair and desk, cool wood bar/vanity, and french doors that opened up onto our own front patio, enclosed with a wrap-around couch.
After admiring the room, we immediately went on a trek to find a laundromat. Jas found a place not too far away that did wash & fold for an unbelievable price, so I was glad we didn’t have to camp out in a laundromat for a couple hours. Instead we dropped our stuff off and headed out for an early dinner at a restaurant called Native Foods, a recommendation from our friend Paul.
Lesson #24: Vegan food is not terrible or scary.
Native Foods is a completely vegan, organic restaurant with surprisingly tasty food. They also have this killer “Watermelon Fresca” which is like watermelon-flavored water with little bits of delicious mint – I could drink gallons of that stuff. Anyway, I had basically their version of a Philly Cheesesteak with a meat substitute and it was really flavorful. It might be the first all-vegan restaurant I’ve been to, and I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it.
After that, I remembered an article I had read a few weeks before on Houzz.com about how Palm Springs is like the mecca for mid-century modern architecture and design, which Jason and I both love. The article suggested checking out the Uptown Design District which is basically a more upscale strip of interior design studios and shops away from the more touristy part of town. At that point most places had closed for the night but it was actually kind of nice because we just got to window shop without that awkward “You know I’m not going to buy anything” tension between us and the shop owners. There are some really fantastic stores there, my favorites being Just Fabulous and Pelago Palm Springs.
On our way out of the Uptown Design District, to get back to our hotel we drove through Downtown Palm Springs which is a completely different feel from Uptown. I mean, there’s a giant statue of Marilyn Monroe for Pete’s sake (like… 30ft tall. People take photos under her blow-up dress. Oh, tourists. We really are so predictable.) Anyway, as far as our taste of things go, if you’re in Palm Springs, I’d try and avoid the more crowded spots on the main strip.
Day 10: Palm Springs, CA
For breakfast we thought we’d head back towards Uptown, but as it turns out we were a little behind the 8-ball because the rest of Palm Springs had beat us to it. Just about everywhere had at least a 45-minute wait. We were starving, so thankfully we found a spot at the outdoor bar of a really lovely restaurant called Jake’s. This is definitely a good spot to grab a meal – a little on the pricier side but worth it for the quality of food.
After a delicious breakfast, we had to get some work done, so we looked for a good local coffee spot for our caffeine fix. We’d seen a couple locations of a shop called Koffi, including one across the street from our hotel, so we stopped in for a drink. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the coffee or the ambiance – it felt a little bit like a local version of a Dunkin’ Donuts. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been to some really amazing coffee shops with love and passion poured into every inch of the place, but it missed the mark for me. I’d say a no-go on Koffi. (Plus, come on with the K in coffee you silly geese.)
We spent a few hours just enjoying the day from our little patio and working on our various projects. (ps. Does anyone know if they’ve invented a way to prevent the awful glare on your Mac when working outside? It always bums me out when I want to work outside on a pretty day but I can’t see anything going on from my screen. Just curious.)
We went back to Native Foods for lunch (what can I say, when we like a place, we really like a place) but this time I got one of the bowls instead of a sandwich and I wasn’t as crazy about it. After that we decided it was a pretty gorgeous day so we just spent an hour or two driving around neighborhoods and admiring the architecture. Some of these houses were unlike anything I’d ever seen before. So modern and so cool. Along with the mid-century influences, it felt like driving through the past and the future at the same time which was really cool.
We hung out back at the hotel for a while after that, and then decided to splurge on a nice dinner since we were going to be off the next day to camp for the week in the desert. My friend Brittni from Paper & Stitch had just been in Palm Springs a few weeks earlier so she recommended an awesome spot called Workshop. We got there early so we could get a booth (half of the seating in the restaurant is at a giant community table in the middle of the place) and I’m glad we did. The decor was awesome – each booth was separated by this huge 20ft tall concrete frame. The food was pretty good too – I had a truffle risotto, very rich but good – but the drinks were what stood out for me. All in all it was a great meal but for how much money we spent I think I wanted the food to be a little more outstanding. Just sayin.
After our early dinner, we went back to the Ace to soak up what would be our last night in a comfy bed for an entire week! The next morning we would be off to our next stop – four days of camping in Joshua Tree National Park!
Tune in tomorrow for the next leg of our trip: our week in Joshua Tree!
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