While blessed with many, many friends, there is only one Unicorn Squad.
The Squad is the three couples that Vegas together yearly, plus make merry in countless other ways. We have distanced ourselves a lot since spring, but have convened in the great out of doors when we have felt safe (and the rules have allowed it). But we needed more than a few hours around a bonfire — and Vegas was neither in the cards nor on the table.
We had a bunch of timeshare points burning a hole in our pockets, but clearly 2020 has not been a great travel year. I wanted to take us all somewhere we could be outside, and where it wouldn’t be crowded, and where we could stay in separate condos. I wanted to have fun, but wanted to minimize risks — so we went to Vail, the week before the ski slopes opened (it didn’t hurt that one of the Unicorn offspring lives and works there so we got to see her in her element!).
After piling into the not so glamourous but highly functional multi-passenger not quite windowless van (there were many van down by the river jokes that weekend), we headed west from Denver airport through the stunning mountains to Vail. On the way, we stopped for lunch at the highly recommended (and rightly so ) Beau Jo’s for pizza and beer. Before we arrived, the Vail Offspring asked us to pick her up an order of crust with honey. We were baffled. Then we tried it. Oh my…I am a convert!
Back on the road, we hit up a grocery store for provisions. Wisely, We separated by couples to make it quicker. Foolishly, we did not compare carts so there was much overlap (more on that later).
We were staying at the Marriott Streamside. Each of us had cute one bedroom condos with 2 baths, our own kitchens, living rooms, fireplaces and balconies. It was perfect for spreading out so no one felt on top of each other. I think we all felt the need for a change of scenery from our homes. Who hasn’t seen more of their home’s inside in the past several months? Within an hour of checking in, I was out on the balcony, watching a gorgeous fox wander around outside. In case you were wondering, he didn’t say much. But he was stunning, and came to visit often during our stay.
That night we made our first foray to Vail Village, where we enjoyed dinner at The George, another fave of the Vail Offspring and her man. It was super casual and comfy — noshing plum duck on the couch surrounded by friends and cold beer? Yes, please. The place was pretty empty, which we appreciated. All the folks there seemed to work at the resorts, and were enjoying their last few days of calm before the tourist storm hit. I can totally picture this pace busy filled with the après ski set, smelling of damp wool sweaters, ringing with laughter, offering glimpses of the snow outside world through steamed up windows.
The next day we tried to kick off with breakfast at another fave spot, but they were closed. So we found another cool spot known for Bloody Mary’s, the Westside Cafe. It was here I discovered hatch chile chili, which immediately became by Vail food obsession (I ordered it everywhere I could).
After breakfast we headed to Vail village, where I had set up the morning’s activity. We were doing a Scavenger Hunt, from Let’s Roam. When I announced this game, I now my friends’ eyes rolled behind my back, but when we were done even the grumpiest skeptic agreed it was a fun way to see the area. This particular hunt focused on art, so we were always searching for hidden and not so hidden pieces of pubic art. We also had to do fun activities! I love doing these! I highly recommend you find out of there is one in your home town, and in the next place you travel!
Dinner was at The Fall Line, where we were probably a little loud and silly for such a nice place. I think altitude, lack of sleep and adult beverages contributed to our silliness.
We slept in the next morning, and ate in our rooms. Then it was off to the famous hot springs. It was a gorgeous drive, about an hour long, to get to where we were supposed to be going.
But we never made it there — because we (I) put the wrong hot springs place into the GPS. While we did find a hot springs establishment, it was a little more like the swimming pool in Cocoon than the natural, glamorous place we had picked out. In fact, at one point we saw three women gliding about that totally were a glimpse into our future. One blond, one brunette, one with a crazy leopard print hat (guess which one I was?).
We needed a night in, so the couples decided to pool our resources and meet in our condo. Clearly, we had similar tastes, as we each brought meat and cheese platters to the party.
After much laughter, and an 80s trivia gane we all decimated, we crashed so we could enjoy our last full day in Vail.
For breakfast we finally made it to the restaurant we’d been aiming for the first morning, the famous Little Diner. My hunger meter guided me towards a spicy bloody and pork green chili, and I was not disappointed!
Today was our wander and shop day. You could tell the slopes were opening the next day. The energy was different. Shops were stocking up and decorating for the holidays. As the day progressed, more people were in the village. Ordinarily, I would like some hustle and bustle, and I would like to return when it’s “normal.” But we started to feel a little more vulnerable, and were glad that we would be leaving before the crowds arrived.
With cocktail breaks at El Segundo and the Red Lion, we finished up our shopping. My fave purchases were some super splurgy leather mittens for myself, an some antique dice cufflinks for HWSNBN to wear on our next Vegas trip. Then it was time to chill before dinner. When planning for the trip, I had struggled finding places that were open for more than just takeout. Again, most weren’t opening until we left. I chose a place called The Fitz. It was a bit too casual for our last night, so that was disappointing, but the food was good!
This definitely seems like a great place to eat outside and enjoy the view, so on a return trip we might try that out.
We made the Vail Offspring and beau come back to the condos with us so we could load them up with all the food and alcohol we wouldn’t be finishing. Sa you can see, they were set for awhile.
Leaving Vail was sad, but, as I said, it was started to get busy so timing was perfect. I wouldn’t have felt okay about the trip if it had been crowded. Being able to spread out inside and be outside in the sunshine was just perfect. Batteries recharged, we headed back to Minnesota. Not sure when the Squad will get to travel together again, but we are planning it — and we know it will be fun.
Oh: and helpful hint — oxygen canisters for the win in high altitudes (and maybe a good Vegas pick me up, too, lol!)
Hey now! I didn’t say sleeping around IN Seattle. Get your mind out of the gutter!
No, this is about our last trip before the world melted. It was a mini vaca of sorts to Seattle and a few surrounding areas, taken to witness and celebrate Sailor Boy’s re-enlistment in the US Navy.
He could pick any time, really, to do this, as long as it was done a certain amount of time before his contract was up. We chose the last weekend in February, because it was the beginning of Singer Girl’s spring break, and she was able to escape and meet us cross country. She’d never been to Washington, so we decided to add some touristing to the schedule.
Sailor Boy picked us up at SEA-TAC, and we took the long, meandering way around Puget Sound to get to Bremerton, where his aircraft barrier is docked. We had a lot planned for the next three days, and, as we were eager to get to sleep — but we were hungry. Thought a drive-through would be a good quick option, but evidently, Taco Bell is the place to be after 9pm in a Navy town. An hour later, our border run complete, we stuffed tacos u our faces and fell asleep.
The next day we had to meet Sailor Boy and his fellow sailors for the swearing-in. It’s always interesting being a civilian at these things, as you really don’t get all the procedures and, frankly, they speak another language.
First, he was honorably discharged from the Navy, which took me by surprise. I didn’t expect that step, and for a moment I thought “he is free — maybe he should walk away?” Evidently, I wasn’t the only one thinking that because a sailor piped up “Run!” But everyone laughed, and his lieutenant shifted gears to swear him back in. Last time I saw him sworn in he was freshly out of high school, and we were all a little terrified about what was coming next. It was easier this time, even if it meant not having him home for an even longer period.
But we had him now — for the next 48 hours!
All were invited to a celebratory lunch at his favorite restaurant in town, The Curry. It was fun breaking bread with the sailors who were able to join us! Next, it was off to the ship. Singer Girl had never been on the aircraft carrier before, so a tour was a must-see.
The next stop on our agenda was checking into a new hotel, in a different town. My brother and sister in law live in Olympia, so we were meeting them for dinner. As always, we were fashionably late on our drive to the new digs. But we cleaned up quicky then feasted at one of their favorite places, Basilico Ristorante.
After dinner we hung at their house, celebrating and going through my brother’s record collection. He let Singer Girl pick 10 of them as a birthday gift, and it was so fun listening to them — especially since so many of them had been our parents’. It was bittersweet in retrospect, as my parents had been huge Kenny Rogers fans back in the day, and he passed away so shortly after this. Gotta love The Gambler!
The next morning we checked out and hustled back to Bremerton to have brunch at Sailor Boy’s fave diner, the Big Apple Diner. I love this place, too! Super kitschy and great food (the potato pancakes are to die for!). After eating it was time to get on the ferry to Seattle.
I loved that someone had left a puzzle on one of the tables. Singer Girl and I tucked in and got to work. Who knew that would be the first in a series of puzzles in the coming months?
Once in Seattle, we checked into our VRBO. I picked a place right downtown, minutes from the ferry and walking distance to everything. If you are looking for a place, check it out.
Before we left, I borrowed a date night trick and booked a scavenger hunt via Groupon. I love these as a way to get to know a city and to give you an idea of what you want to come back to. We started up by the Space Needle, wandered around by the museums and gardens there, then headed back down towards Pike’s Market and other downtown sites. Halfway through we met up with our niece/cousin Alyssa who lives and works in Seattle.
As always, whenever I get near a market, I am camera happy. The colors are always too tempting for me!
Scavenger hunt completed, we went back to the condo to chill and get ready to go out to dinner. Dinner was at an awesome place — in all ways. The ambiance was terrific, the food was delicious, service outstanding! If you happen to be in Seattle, check out Toulouse Petit!
HWSNBN had to fly back on Sunday, so it was just the three of us left to pal around. At Sailor By’s suggestions, we breakfasted at a Seattle landmark, Biscuit Bitch.
I had an orange latte, and the Cheesy Pork n’ Bitch,(middle picture), which was biscuits and gravy with bacon and cheddar cheese. Sailor Boy had the Smokin’ Hot Bitch — biscuits, gravy, andouille sausage, and jalapenos. Singer Girl had some sort of breakfast sandwich which looked awesome — until a hunk fell on the ground. Sadness.
We had some calories to burn so we headed north to where we started our scavenger hunt the day before. Our intended destination was MoPOP, the Museum of Popular Culture. This place is a must-see! It highlights everything from music to TV, Movies, books, art and more.
Some of my fave exhibits:
Next, it was off to the Chihuly Museum, another fantastic place. Yeah, it sounds kind of boring: a bunch of glass sculptures. But seriously amazing.
Singer Girl is not a fan of museums, so she had grumbled at our itinerary when I revealed it that morning. But she loved both!
We did a bit more wandering (and a lot more photography for Singer Girl’s Insta page). The next day it was back home for us and back to the ship for the Boy. During the two days there we heard rumblings about the Coronavirus outbreak in Seattle and joked that we probably all had it. Thankfully, almost a month later, I can say we most likely did not. But unbeknownst to all of us, this was the last trip for a while.
I am glad we had the time together!