On July 31st, I looked at my August calendar and practically had a panic attack. The calendar on my phone has red blocks for my schedule, and all I saw was that there were only four days without red in them. Four. I got tired just thinking about what was to come.

However, in those 27 days of something happening were two trips that landed back-to-back. As exhausting as travel can be, these trips were my saving grace of the month.

T for Texas

It all actually kicked off with my parents traveling up to Nashville for a weekend. Unfortunately, I had to work through chunks of their visit, but thankfully they understood. In addition to work, I was preparing to leave my home for two weeks. I found friends to give me a ride home from the airport after my trip, and another to check on my cats while I was away. I cleaned house. Packed carefully so I didn’t have to care too much luggage. And suddenly their weekend visit ended, and my week-visit to Texas began.

I rode with them back to Texas, where I got to spend time with family, catch up with friends, do a maternity photoshoot, and I was on a committee for the Association of Former Students at Texas A&M.

I will always call Aggieland “Home,” no matter where life may take me.

I was so excited and honored to be on this committee. The youngest person on the committee by 20 years, I felt like I had to really step up and hold my own. And I feel like I did. I left hoping this wouldn’t be the last time the Association called on me for my input, and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face the rest of the day.

My mom and I had a girls night out while I was in Texas, and I got to spent time with my brother and family. My niece is a senior in high school this year, and I truly couldn’t be more excited for her and what is to come. I’m super excited to go back down later this year and do her senior portraits. 

I think the maternity photos I took while in Texas deserve their own post, but suffice to say they were really special. Really special.

If you know their story, you know how this photo captures it all. 

As always, my time in Texas is never long enough to do everything I’d like to do while I am there. Places to go. Things to do. People to see. I know there will be a next time, soon. But the trip always seems to end just a little too fast. 

Let’s go to California…

Now, to be brutally honest, I don’t think I’ve ever uttered the words, “Let’s go to California!” Even after taking a trip there three years ago to rescue a bus with my husband, it wasn’t really a place that ranked high on my “places to visit” list.  I blame the news media for that. California has always, in my eyes, been painted as this place whose views were so different from my own having grown up in Texas and still living in the South. I’m not saying one side is right and the other side is wrong. I’m just saying… DIFFERENT. I always felt like there is no way I’d feel comfortable there. 

Spoiler alert: my views changed on this trip.

The tour my husband is on right now had a week’s hiatus this month. It pushed pause while in California. Specifically, in the Los Angeles area. Our original plan was that my husband would break and fly to meet me in Texas (because I had that meeting at Texas A&M and would be there upon time for the tour to break for a bit).

But as happens in our life ALL THE TIME, plans changed and I ended up flying out to California instead. And thanks to the magic of time zones, I was able to still have one last (almost) full day in Texas before taking an evening flight to Ontario, CA, that got in that evening with plenty of time to still have some fun. My husband rented a convertible for us to get around and he’d be waiting at the airport when I arrived. 

Good bye, Texas.

Ah… if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I had a lay-over in Phoenix, and of course it was scheduled to land right as they randomly got summer storms. I mean, it IS Monsoon Season there, but who really expects their flight to be one circling over Arizona waiting to land. 

I got really lucky in Phoenix. My gate never changed, and while I landed late, my out-bound flight was also delayed. So I was able to just sit at my gate and people watch for an hour. Not a big deal, except that now instead of landing in Ontario at 10 pm, I was landing after midnight. And I hadn’t eaten since around 4 pm Central time. 

Thanks to Yelp, though, I successfully found a great bar & grill open until 2 am maybe 5 minutes from our hotel, and we got the first of multiple amazing servers. We also got to catch up after not seeing each other for a few weeks. Before we knew it they were calling last call and it was time to head to the hotel for some sleep.

One of the things my husband asked me over our late night dinner was, “Beach or mountains.” I told him that was probably one of the most difficult questions I’ve ever had to answer. Because I love them both! And it was in this moment, though, that California swayed me…  because over the course of two days I got to experience both.

Our first day, we headed up into the San Bernardino mountains. We had the top down on the car, and we twisted our way through the mountains up to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake. Of the two, I absolutely fell in love with Lake Arrowhead. Big Bear was great (we hit the brewery there) but the lake was so down it made me sad. Lake Arrowhead, though, I could have spent the entire day poking around in the little shops around there. I was proud of myself, though. I only bought sunscreen at a surf shop there. I was on lockdown due to not having much room to spare in my luggage. 

OF COURSE I had to visit the brewery! Their Sidewinder Red Ale was good!

Unfortunately, the altitude, sun, and twisty roads started to take a toll on me. We were going to explore the mountains more, but I ended up asking to go back to the hotel. Where I took a glorious, glorious nap before we went to dinner and called it a night.

The next day… BEACH!

Newport Beach

You’d never believe the first time I saw the ocean was the same day I got engaged. Oh I’d seen the Gulf of Mexico, but to stand on the beach beside the ocean had eluded me.  Ever since then, though, I’ve come to jump at every chance offered me to stand beside the ocean and let it remind me how small I really am… and how massive this world is.

This was one of the few times, though, that we planned ahead and got to spend time with our toes in the sand, soaking up the sun and listening to the waves crash.

Beautiful afternoon on the beach.

I think I could have sat out there until darkness fell, but we wanted to explore a little more. After a refreshing stop at Newport Beach Brewing Company, we cruised up towards Huntington Beach. As we drove through, I glanced to my side to see vendors lining one of the streets. We took a fast right turn and found ourselves right at the start of a block party! A woman gave us a ticket for free parking in a garage, and we set out to “act like a local” for awhile.

I had ONE souvenir I wanted on this trip, but I knew it was a long shot. I wanted a new toe ring. Little know fact about me: I love toe rings and 99% of the time I am wearing one. But I always only ever get the cheap ones at WalMart that ultimately fall apart or turn your toe green. So I wanted a REAL toe ring.

We walk down an alley and the first booth I see: Sterling Silver Toe Rings. My husband got a phone call at that exact moment and… well… when husband is distracted, wifey gets her toe ring. Oops? #sorrynotsorry

Huntington Beach Pier

We walked around looking at the various booths. We grabbed a snack and a drink at a little bar, then walked out onto the pier where we watched people surfing for a long time.

You know how you see things in pictures, maybe watch them on TV, but never really think, “Oh I would like to see that some day.” That is me with surfing. Never thought I’d like to watch it. Never thought I WOULD watch it. But man that was fun to witness in person. 

We walked around until the shadows were starting to get long, and my feet were definitely starting to complain. My husband was dealing with a toothache as well, and as anyone knows… that will cut down on your fun levels! So we wrapped it up and made our way back into Ontario. I was tired… but more I was super relaxed.

Me and my love.

The next day was the beginning of the end of our trip. We checked out of our hotel, and the bus became our home for the night. We did a lot of housekeeping tasks on the bus, and we began that shift from vacation mode to work mode. As darkness fell, we made out way towards San Diego. I’d like to say we got to explore that city as well, but really all we did was find a place to park for the night.

But let me tell you this: I grew up in Texas but I specifically grew up in Central Texas. I was a good 5 – 6 hours from the Mexico border. So as we traveled closer and closer to San Diego, the signs regarding border crossings were so surreal to me. As we crested a hill close to Chula Vista, my husband commented, “You realize the lights you see ahead are Tijuana, Mexico, right?” 

They’re what? Really? Wow.

We called it a night on the bus. I slept on the couch in the front lounge while my husband slept in his bunk. I’m definitely not accustomed to those bunks, and while I am not typically claustrophobic… ehhh… hard pass if I can. 

So long, San Diego

The next day we had a very delicate time-balance to deal with… my husband was picking up his band at the airport and I was being dropped off at the same time. I prayed they weren’t delayed, because that would mean he’d have to make two trips to the airport.

So we got up, and we found a Wal-Mart parking lot closer to the airport to stage-up and wait. My cell phone started going off with people in Nashville asking if I was back yet, to which I wanted to go, “NO! LEAVE ME ALONE! I’M STILL ON VACATION!” But of course didn’t and couldn’t.

Amazingly? The band landed 10 minutes early! So soon we were off to the airport. And just like we had planned and hoped, I jumped off the bus, hugged a bunch of band and crew members as they got on (many going, “You’ve not staying!?” Awww…) and I made my way to the gate.

I’d like to say my trip home was boring, but it kicked off with a comedy of errors. I commented finally that I felt like I was on candid camera. Between the plane being too heavy with too much fuel, to the fuel truck being broken, to having baggage claim changed upon arrival… I had to laugh. Yup. Vacation was definitely over.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve hardly stopped running. I did have this past Saturday end up freeing up, though I didn’t really take advantage of it to rest as well as I should have… using it to do work around the house. But thats okay. Being a little behind is worth it for the memories I made this month and the adventures I went on… 

And yes… I now consider California one of my favorite vacation destinations.

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