Yesterday, for the first time in the ten months I’ve been living in America, I felt homesick.
Of course I think of home, and my friends and family, all the time, but never before in a I-wish-I-was-there-so-bad-I-could-punch-someone kinda way. Maybe it’s because my mother came to stay last month, or because I know I’m going home at Christmas. I’m not sure. But yesterday, there was a surprise party to celebrate one of my Very Best Friends turning 30 and I was the only one not there. To add insult to injury, this particular friend really doesn’t do surprises. Oh, to have seen her face. And photographed it.
They called me from the pub and tagged me on Facebook and emailed a picture, but it really wasn’t the same. I sat on the couch watching the clock, calculating the time difference and wondering what mischief they were making while I tried to concentrate on Things To Do in Denver When You’re Dead.
Oh well. They all have hangovers today and I don’t. That’s fair, right?
As I’ve proudly proclaimed here before, I’m a big fan of The Food Network. Actually, I’m a big fan of anything to do with food, especially eating it. One of the shows I’ll happily watch for hours is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, presented by Guy Fieri (pronounced Fee-eddy). You know him, he’s the one with the offensively bleached hair and the sunglasses on the back of his head.
Guy basically has my dream job: travelling around America in a sweet red convertible, stuffing his face in quirky little independent eateries. The places he visits definitely aren’t fancy but boy, do they look delicious. And whaddya know, he popped into a restaurant just a few minutes from my house earlier this year.
In case you’re not arsed watching the six-minute video, Chino Bandido (1825 W. Chandler Blvd) is a Mexican Chinese restaurant with some Caribbean influences. Yes, you read that right. I know it sounds a little cray-cray, but its so popular here (according to a cab driver we had at the weekend) they must be doing something right.
Eoin and I decided to give Chino a whirl on Sunday, when we were feeling a tad hungover and adventurous. Hmmm, maybe we were just a little drunk still? Anyway, as restaurants go, it’s spacious and bigger than most, but it was pretty much empty when we rocked up at about 2pm. Never a good sign.
If you watched the video, you’ll know the ordering system here is ridiculously (and unnecessarily) complicated, but thankfully it was quiet and the lovely lady at the cash desk talked us through it like we were babies. She also offered us lots of samples, which were mostly meat-based, so while Eoin stuffed his face I had some beans (they were yummy, to be fair).
We both decided on combo plates. I went for the Chile Relleno with rice, beans and salad while Eoin had the Guy Fieri Special. Well, it would have been rude not to.
Our food arrived promptly and the portions were nice and generous. I was very pleased with my choices, particularly the amount of cheese stuffed into that chile. I’m a cheese fiend, you see. The crumby coating was fresh and crisp and the beans (Cuban I think?) were sweet and spicy. The rice was, well, rice but the broccoli was a bit too raw for my tastes.
Eoin said his meat-fest was also delicious; spicy and tasty.
Apparently there are something like 9,000 combo meals you can create with the Chino Bandido menu, as well as quesadillas and burritos to beat the band. Would I go back? Just try and stop me. There are plenty more dishes I’m dying to sample and the whole space was airy and relaxing, with great service. Plus, if it’s good enough for Guy, it’s good enough for me.
Yesterday I turned 29. Yuck. I spent the day consuming. Yum!
Not pictured are all the cards, presents, texts, tweets, Facebook messages and emails I got from all my favourite people here and at home. Well, I didn’t want to make you too jealous. I’m sound like that.
Poor Milo scratched his eye on our walk last night which resulted in a visit to the vet first thing this morning. His little peeper was all swollen and he kept swiping at it with his paw. As usual, he was a bit excitable but very good (especially when he had a thermometer shoved up his ass).
After some tests, the vet concluded that he had some abrasions on his left eyeball. She gave me some drops for him and instructed me to give him Benadryl three times a day and to come back Monday. She also gave Milo something he wasn’t too pleased about.
I know I shouldn’t laugh at my poor sick dog but you should have seen him struggling up the stairs to the apartment. Hilare.
As I write this, I’m standing at the kitchen counter in our new apartment in Phoenix. Since we don’t have any furniture yet (apart from a bed and one chair from Ikea, which we take turns sitting on) I now do everything from this spot: email, Skype, eat, lean, sob quietly. My legs ache from standing around all day but the end is in sight because I think we found a nice couch at the weekend, and a possible table and chairs. Hopefully, there will be lots of sitting in my not-so-distant future.
We’ve been here a week today, and despite the distinct air of emptiness in the house, I feel settled already. I’ve met some really nice people and am more than happy to grow old here and never move house ever again for the rest of my life. Plus, the fact that the weather has been in the 30 degree range since we arrived ain’t bad either.
Our roadtrip from Oregon took nine days, and thanks to my nerdy little schedule, we made good time and were able to relax along the way. We went whale watching in Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast, camped in the Redwoods State Park in Northern California, spent three days in San Francisco, drove on the Pacific Coast Highway and stayed in Pismo Beach, Huntington Beach and Palm Springs before we crossed the state line into Arizona. We mostly stayed in Motel 6s where we could as they’re very dog-friendly, as well as being cheap and clean. Milo was a little champ through all the travelling, apart from one or two days when he didn’t eat or got sick and the tick he picked up when we camped. So gross.
Here are some pictures from the trip for your delectation. Please enjoy.
This is where Milo spent most of our days without a peep out of him. Good dog.
Depoe Bay, where we saw (bits of) a grey whale (not pictured).
We also saw some big fat sea lions (pictured).
Local royal wedding humour. Fnar fnar.
One of the zillions of little towns we drove through on the 101. Can't remember the name.
Crossing the state line into California. Hide your fruit and veggies.
Our spot in Elk Prairie Campsite. We were a bit underprepared so we won't be doing that again for some time.
In case you didn't know, redwoods are quite tall.
Dinner. Giant marshmallows (me) and wieners (Eoin).
Like I said, redwoods are big. And old.
Our first glimpse of San Francisco. Such a pretty city. Stunning views from every street.
We arrived via the foggy Golden Gate Bridge. FYI there's a surprise $6 toll on the other side.
Gorgeous houses on Alamo Square. Wantsies one, please.
Alcatraz. One of the highlights of the trip for me. The audio tour is enthralling.
The beach at Carmel-by-the-Sea. Cutest little town ever. Clint Eastwood used to be mayor here, fact fans.
We stayed two nights in Huntington Beach, which has an off-leash dog beach. Milo couldn't believe his luck.
The only picture I have of Palm Springs. 'S okay though, cos I'm defo going back.
And that’s how we got here. Travelling in America so easy, with lots to see. Hopefully we’ll get to do more very soon.
Saturday was an absolute scorcher here in Oregon (well, about 20 something degrees and sunny) so we decided to take advantage of the great outdoors. I’m so conscious that we’ll be back in the desert soon that I’m making a real effort to appreciate the trees, grass and running water while I can. We decided to go to Hood River, a little town in the Columbia River Gorge at the far side of Mount Hood, and spend the day walking/hiking. It’s about 60 miles away.
The journey was a breeze so we got there in under an hour and a half. I bought a pet barrier thingy last week for the car so Milo doesn’t need his crate anymore, he can roam around in the boot area with his toys. I think he appreciated the luxury, although he acted as nonchalant as ever.
After a little wander around the town (quaint, non?) we sat outside a cafe in the sun and had a quick lunch. A local Montessori school was holding some sort of a parade for Earth Day in the town square opposite so it was a bit hectic. Lots of dogs and people wanting to say hi to Milo. I didn’t get to snap a pic because my hands were full with sandwich and excited puppy.
After that, we went off in search of a walking trail which took us across a bridge…into Washington. Yup, we crossed a state line for the first time! It was uneventful. Over in Washington, we stopped at a little beach, which was accessed via a train line. Every fibre in my body told me walking across working train tracks was a bad idea, but apparently it was the only way.
About 10 minutes up the road we stopped again, this time at the foot of a little mountain, and decided to go for a longer hike. There was a little stream running alongside the track which Eoin dropped Milo in to cool off. He enjoyed it.
As we climbed further upwards the view got even prettier. See?
Once we got further away from the road I decided to let the dog off his leash and see what happened. He was really good! He ran around us but never strayed more than 20 feet away. If we stopped for a break, so did he. This bodes well for camping. I’m now confident he won’t leg it into the woods never to be seen again.
And just look what I spied on the way back to the car. Another snake, this time much bigger. I spotted it slithering across the road in the distance. So gross.
And so, after a quick ice cream stop, we set off back to Hillsboro, all of us pooped. That will probably be the last time I’ll be in the Columbia River Gorge since we’re leaving on Saturday. It’s so beautiful it reminds me of home. I’m sad to say goodbye, but excited to start the next chapter of this little adventure.
There’s a phrase I never thought I’d hear myself say, but I did, on Tuesday, when Milo was randomly reunited with one of his littermates.
We were in Hondo Park, the lovely off-leash dog park I go to at least once a week. It was warm and sunny for a change, so the place was kinda jammers. Five minutes after I released the hound I noticed he had made a little chum who looked a lot like him. Creepily so, actually. They were chasing each other and generally having the craic, as puppies do. After a quick chat with this little dog’s owners we deduced that Milo, and his new BFF, Briley, were in fact brothers. Their whole litter had been called after Santa’s reindeer because they were born before Christmas. Milo was originally named Blitzen (yuck) and Briley was Dancer (double yuck).
What are the chances? I’d always wondered what became of Milo’s littermates and now I can say that one of them, at least, has a lovely home. Briley goes to puppy school twice a week and is very obedient. In fact, he made Milo look like the village idiot. The two got on so well that, of course, Milo wanted to take the relationship to the next level, as usual. Incest is best, wha’?
Twins! Briley (left) has an even sadder face than Milo, something I didn't think was possible
Adorbs. So familiar and yet so different
Their first ever watercooler moment. Probably talking about the Timbers opening game
Milo, ever the sexual predator, tries to perform an act that's illegal in all 50 states. BAD DOG.
Briley’s owners said they often pop into Hondo Park so I really hope these two run into each other again before we go. They make a really cute combo, don’cha think?