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Journey’s End – A Summary by SammyB

It’s been about a month since the end of the road trip. Part of me misses the road…all of the adventures & misadventures, exploring new places, meeting new people, seeing old faces… But another part of me appreciates being in my own bed again, not having to worry about what we’re doing, where we’re eating, where we’re staying, finding a WiFi spot, taking photos & video, trying to upload said photos & video, etc. The road trip was much more Go, Go, Go than I expected it to be. I even packed workout clothes and books. Such wishful thinking… I look back and think how naive I was before the trip.

Amazingly, despite our different personalities and agendas, Shanghai & I managed to not kill one another on the trip. A large part of my agenda was to explore places I might like to live. Before the trip, I compiled a long list of possible cities and towns by researching many different publications and websites. Since I’m looking for a place with a lot of nature & recreation, the most influential sources ended up being the last several years of Best Cities & Towns lists from Outside Magazine and Men’s Journal Magazine. Basically, I decided I need an ocean and/or mountains and lots of sunny days to enjoy them. The question I’ve been asked the most over the past month is, “so, where do you want to live?” Below is a list of some of my favorite things from the trip. And that’s where you’ll find the answer, I think.

A Few of My Favorite Things

Favorite Region: Pacific Northwest
Portland, Seattle and Vancouver were some of my favorite cities. I’d been to Portland a couple of times before but saw it in a whole new light during the road trip. Downtown Portland had more of a big city seedy feel to it than I remember it having. (That’s a good thing.) Seattle was just an all-around cool city, though it seems to have gotten a little crowded there. I’d passed through Vancouver before on my way to Whistler/Blackcomb, but this time I got to spend a decent amount time in the city. Can’t-miss Chinese food and close proximity to the world’s best ski resort…what’s not to like? Well, the weather for one thing. It’s generally overcast throughout the Pacific Northwest nine months out of the year. My friends who live there say it’s not that bad, but I really love my sunny days.

Favorite State: Oregon
Far Northern California and Oregon were some of the lushest areas I’ve ever seen. All kinds of plants thrived there and the trees were verdant and ginormous. Oregon is of course home to Portland, but also has Mount Hood (the States’ only year-round ski resort), Crater Lake, Bend (see below), and other interesting cities and towns such as Ashland.

Favorite Metro Area: Denver
It took a trip around the country to confirm this: Denver is the only big city near the mountains that gets good weather the majority of the year. I feel like Denver is still a bit of a hidden gem, maybe because people mistakenly believe it’s cold and snowy there. I guess that’s a good thing. Otherwise, it would be too crowded and the cost-of-living would skyrocket. Denver gets about as many sunny days as San Diego (another one of my favorite cities) and the air stays nice and dry so the cold doesn’t feel so cold and the hot (yes, it can get hot there) doesn’t feel so hot. The city is big enough to offer most anything a city person could want. (As much as I love the outdoors now, I did basically grow up in Dallas.) There are some super tasty Japanese restaurants, cool bars & clubs, a large self-contained performing arts complex, and all the major sports teams. Most everything is concentrated within the bustling Lower Downtown (LoDo) area. Traffic isn’t too bad. The city has made huge strides over the last several years in smart growth, something I followed heavily while in commercial real estate. They’ve implemented a good mass transit system and transit-oriented developments (communities centered around mass transit stations) have flourished. There are many interesting pocket neighborhoods in Denver. Denver is also surrounded by smaller cities, each with their own personality, all within a half hour to hour of downtown. You have Golden and the majestic Rockies to the west, the Great Sand Dunes to the east, Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park to the northwest, Fort Collins to the north, and Pike’s Peak, Garden of the Gods, and Colorado Springs to the south. Haha…I think I should work for the Denver Chamber of Commerce.

Favorite Smaller City: Bend, Oregon
Friendliest City: Spokane, Washington

Favorite Radio Station: 101.5 FM – Martini on the Rockies
When you’re on the road for over 10 weeks across the entire country, you end up listening to a lot of different radio stations. Funny that my favorite radio station would be in my favorite city. I’m pretty sure this station didn’t exist when I used to live in Denver. They play an eclectic mix of [mostly] traditional jazz with a nice helping of Ol’ Blue Eyes and the rest of the Rat Pack. Sure their tag line is a little cheesy (personally, I’m all for cheese) but we were truly sad to lose the station as we left the Denver area. Luckily, I can listen to the station again now through their website.

Favorite Restaurant: The Old Fashioned
As you could probably tell from all the food pictures, we spent quite a bit of time exploring the best local places to eat across our great nation. There were many memorable gastronomical experiences, yet somehow one place that we almost missed in Madison, Wisconsin, stood out above the rest. Microbrewed draft root beer in frosty glass mugs, fresh cheese curds with a variety of dipping sauces, the best gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches ever known to mankind, and even some pretty damn good salad made this place serving “traditional Wisconsin fare” my favorite of the entire trip.

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