Monday, May 31, 2010

3 Best Kept Secrets of DIA...

Happy Memorial Day! First and foremost, in honor of this day, I want to give a special shout out to my brother Jake and his colleagues who risk their lives everyday for our country. Coming from a family of US Veterans, I also want to thank all the men & women who have sacrificed their blood, sweat, and tears for us over the years. I saw a shirt that said, "Home of the free because of the brave!" I totally believe that and I am grateful for all you do!

I am celebrating from the halls of the Denver International Airport, on my way back to San Francisco. Being a frequent traveler through DIA, I thought i share it three best kept secrets, in Late-Night Show style:

Secret # 3: Terminal A Security Check-In

Anyone who has gone through the long security lines in DIA knows how time consuming they can be. The secret is the Terminal A entrance on the Departures level by the airlines check-in desk. (If you are facing the Burger King, head left to the end of the corridor.) First of all, even with long lines, its quick and fast. And there is always an interesting art/history exhibit in the glass cases along the way to keep you entertained. If your flight isn't departing from Terminal A, no worries - just shoot down the elevator to the Tram. Believe me, this has saved me hours of long security line waiting.

Secret # 2: Bathrooms by Arrivals

As any woman traveler knows, using the restr
ooms in the airport means long lines and small awkward stalls with gross sinks. Take my advice, and use the restrooms on the main floor of DIA next to the Arrival exit in the main hub. Not only are the stalls super big, the restrooms are beautifully designed with tile inlay and extremely clean. But the best part is that there is almost never a line!

Secret #1: The New Belgium Taproom in Terminal B

Makers of my favorite beer, Fat Tire, I always try to find an excuse to visit New Belgium brewery in Fort Collins, CO. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that New Belgium have a Taproom/Restaurant at the end of the United Terminal (Terminal B, by gate 90) Not only do they have my favorite Colorado beers on tap, they have great food and views that overlook the runways. If you have a long layover or arrive early for a flight, swing by and enjoy one of Colorado's best exports.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

MeadowGrass Music Festival - Part 2

Here are some photos, courtesy of my Dad, for today's closing acts, Great Lake Swimmers and The Greencards. Both were outstanding! Check them out!

The Great Lake Swimmers!


Friday, May 28, 2010

MeadowGrass Music Festival

My Dad surprised my mom and I with a BBQ picnic dinner and tickets to the MeadowGrass Music Festival in Black Forest, CO this evening. What a treat, especially with the unusually warm Colorado weather! This bluegrass festival is hosted at La Foret Camps, with the beautiful Black Forest and Rocky Mountains as a back drop.

Tonight's line-up was sponsored by the Black Rose Acoustic Society, a community that hosts an open stage concert bi-weekly at the Black Forest Community Center. My parents are members and are looking forward to going to more shows now that their youngest chickling is leaving the nest.

The concert kicked off with Changing Colors, a Manitou Springs based band of two brothers (Conor and Ian Bourgal
) that sounds like a cross between Glen Hansard of The Frames and Guggenheim Grotto, with s sprinkle of old school Ryan Adams. In other words, my kind of sad folk music.

Next, we were in for a treat with a special jam session of a group of instructors from the Colorado Roots Music Camp called "The Uncamped Band." The group included Cary Black on Bass, Raul Reynoso and Cyd Smith on Guitar, and Fiddle virtuoso Kailin Yong. This group of talented musicians played a variety of music and jazzy solos that gave a peek into what happens when you put a room full of talent together and see what happens. Their rendition of Nuages by Django Reinhardt brought the crowd to their feet with a standing ovation.

The final band to take the stage is a Colorado Springs treasure called Grass it Up! This fun bluegrass band lit of the stage with a mixture of old blueglass covers and original music. It was hard to stay in your chair with their fast picking tunes sung by lead David Jeffrey and the fantastic fiddling of "Black Beard," aka Ben Lewis.
Grass It Up performs every Wednesday in Colorado Springs at the Front Range BBQ, a venue that has grown into a hub for bluegrass music in Colorado and a showcase for nationally touring bluegrass bands. If you are in the Colorado Springs area on a Wednesday evening, I recommend you check them out.

As it was getting late when Grass It Up wrapped up their jam session, we didn't stay for the BonFire post-show picking contest with the various bands. I am sure it was a ton of fun! As the La Foret camps have both cabins and campsites available for the weekend as part of the entrance fees, I told my parents that next year we should make plans to camp-in at least one night. Either way, I am planning to go back on Sunday night and hopefully see my old friend, Brock Gleeson. (Shameless plug, check out Brock's new EP "Water" at his website linked here.) With the Sunday line-up including the Great Lake Swimmers and The Greencards, I am sure it will be a ton of fun! If you are in the area, check it out!

To hear songs from last year's line up, click here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bon Voyage, Peanut!

My littlest brother, Peanut, graduated from high school last week and is now on his first solo flight... all the way to Germany. Inspired from his departure, I thought I post a eight step guide for departing on your first solo flight (paparazzi style).

Step #1: Say Goodbye to those you love...

Step #2: Check to see if you have all your valuables. aka: Track down the postman with your European cell phone...

Step #3: Pack your fragile items with care...

Step #4: Make sure you have all your paperwork...

Step #5: Get some fatherly advice...

Step #6 (thanks to Caribou Coffee): Be a Hero minus the dorky cape (otherwise known as, give your sister a hard time so that she misses you...)

Step #7: Leave without looking back (so you can't see Mom crying)...

Step #8: Don't forget to send postcards back to those who love & miss you...

All joking aside... I love you, Peanut! Have an awesome time! I can't wait to hear about all your adventures!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hiking Colorado - North Cheyenne Canyon

Today, my mom and i decided to enjoy the beautiful summer weather and go for an "easy" hike. After debating the many amazing trails in the Colorado Springs area, my mom suggested that we check out Helen Hunt Falls in North Cheyenne Canyon Park.

Up for an adventure, my mom, uncle, and I jumped in the car and thought we check it out. We were in for a surprise. As we winded through the long mountain road in North Cheyenne Canyon, we drove past a beautiful river surrounded by several trail heads and picnic grounds. Only a few minutes short drive from Old Colorado City and downtown Colorado Springs, I was surprised how close this mountain refuge was... and more surprised that I never hiked the trail before.

The trail started at the base of a water fall. The late afternoon sun quickly racing behind the mountain, the beautiful waterfall and greenery was a delicious respite from the early afternoon's heat. The hike, although a short 1/2 mile, follows the river straight up the mountain to beautiful views. Although it is a good 15-20 minute w
orkout for the out of towner, it was worth it. (There are a lot of benches to stop and catch your breath along the way! My mom, the local, did the hike with her arm in a sling with no problem.)

Doing some quick detective work, I came upon this description of North Cheyenne Cañon Park by the city of Colorado Springs:

North Cheyenne Cañon Park, known for its towering evergreens and wildflowers, stunning rock formations, hiking paths and waterfalls, was a popular camping ground for American Indians, particularly the Ute tribes.
Purchased in 1885, General Palmer and Fred Chamberlain enhanced the park with more donations of land. The High Drive and Crystal Park Trail traverse the steep sides of the mountains. The Bruin Inn provided visitors a spot to buy refreshments near Helen Hunt Falls. Eventually, the Columbine Trail was built from the mouth of the Cañon three miles up to Helen Hunt Falls. Between 1914 and the 20s, massive stone bridges, walls and arches were constructed throughout the valley. North Cheyenne Cañon Park is now 1,626 acres, including the Stratton Open Space. Helen Hunt Falls and Starsmore Discovery Center are popular visitor centers in the park which feature nature exhibits, a climbing wall and educational programs.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hiking Colorado - Garden of the Gods

Located only a few short miles away from my parents home in Colorado Springs is a majestic park filled with dramtic red sandstone rock formations that has made it world famous. It wouldn't be a trip home without a hike in Garden of the Gods and a snapshot or two of the infamous rock formations, include the one called "the kissing camels" in the photo above.

According to legend, the 1350 acre city park got its name from two surveyors, who started out from Denver City to begin a townsite, soon to be called Colorado City in August 1859. While exploring nearby locations, they came upon the sandstone formations. M. S. Beach, who related this incident, suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden" when the country grew up. His companion, Rufus Cable exclaimed, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods."

With a plethora of hiking trails and magnificent views, this is a must stop for any visitor to the Colorado Springs. Whether it is an easy stroll winding through the largest rock formation on Perkins Cental Garden Trail (which is a 1.5 mile paved loop that is handicap accessible) or the challenging and rocky 3 mile Chambers/Bretag/Palmer Trail that nearly circles the entire park, there is something for every level of hiker.

For those history buffs: The land was originally purchased in 1879 by Charles Elliott Perkins, the head of the Burlington Railroad, with the intent to build a summer home by the urging of General William Jackson Palmer, who founded Colorado Springs. According the park website, Perkins later added to the property but never built on it, preferring to leave his wonderland in its natural state for the enjoyment of the public. Perkins died in 1907 before he made arrangements for the land to become a public park, although it had been open to the public for years. In 1909, Perkins' children, knowing their father's feeling for the Garden of the Gods, conveyed his four-hundred eighty acres to the citizens of Colorado Springs and declared the park, "forever free to all the people of the world."

You can find maps and more information at

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cave Creek, AZ

I can't believe its already my last day in Arizona! I have already started to plan my next trip out to Phoenix, and I haven't even left yet. This morning I asked Amanda and her family if they could show me some of Arizona's famous desert country... and so they took me to the town of Cave Creek in the Sonoran Desert. I've seen more varietals of cacti today, than the rest of my life combined.

According to the city of Cave Creek's website, the town of Cave Creek derives its name from a stream that runs past a large overhanging bluff about two miles out from town. Cave Creek was a stopping point for local Indian tribes. However, its modern history can be traced back about 100 years. Its roots beginning in the Arizona Gold Rush and US Army/Native American disputes of the 1870s.

Anyone who has had the privileged of visiting some of the local retail stores and restaurants that including the Horny Toad, Big Earl's Greasy Eats, The Bad Donkey, Big Bronco, the Tumbleweed Inn and the Silver Spur Saloon... you will notice that the town has not changed its aesthetics much since the 1870s.

Amanda and I met up with some friends at the Cave Creek Coffee Shop, and then headed to Frontier Town for some wild west sized retail therapy. We finished up the visit with a stop at the Horny Toad Restaurant in an attempt to stay out of the 96+ degree heat. All in all, it was a fun to get out of the haven of Phoenix and see a bit more of famous Arizona desert. I just wish I had time to see more of the Cave Creek/Carefree area like Bartlett Lake (yes, there is water in the desert) and the Spur Cross conservation area. I guess I will have to save it for next time...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Some Retail Therapy in Phoenix, AZ!

Greetings from the land of sunshine and resort living, Phoenix, AZ! After a much needed break from the San Francisco fog, I am visiting my friend Amanda and taking in some of the famous Arizona sunshine. (Amanda said i needed to get some color to my "porcelain" skin.)

Amanda did not waste time in taking me to her favorite local brunch hangout, La Grande Orange. The easiest way to describe this restaurant/grocery is to say it is pure deliciousness. Take Anthropolgie-esque class and blend it with comforting southern french cuisine, and you have this little gold mine. How could you not fall in love with this place?

We entered the restaurant through the kitchens past the racks of rising dough, red velvet
cakes, and other goodies - which any foodie will know is a treasure in its self. Taking the advice of the locals, I ordered an english muffin sandwhich with eggs & bacon. Was I ever in for a surprise. Not only was the sandwhich to die for, but the english muffins are unlike any sort of muffin I have ever had before. The grocery sells the muffins at $9 for a pack of six... and let me tell you that its a steal. These muffins are worth their weight in gold. If you are in the Phoenix, swing in and buy a couple packs for home. (And while you are at it, send one to me!) Coupled with an iced Havanna Coffee, and you think you died and went to culinary heaven. (The Havanna Coffee is a Spanish style coffee that reminds me of the kind my father makes from Puerto Rico.)

Attached to the cafe is a pizzeria and gift/grocery store. The gift/grocery store was a great place to pick up gifts with a range of culinary supplies, to fun trinkets, as well as an excellent selections of wines including my favorite summer white, Rias Baixas from Spain.

Afterward our delicious brunch, Amanda took me to a fun clothing boutique called Francesca's Collections. If I didn't believe in love in first sight, I would have after a stop at this store. Filled with great clothing, fun one of the kind jewelry, and unique home furnishings it is a great stop for some retail therapy...
and the best part is that it is at reasonable prices. Open in 1999, Francesca's provides an unique shopping experience by taking its inspiration from travelers who search the world for beautiful luxuries and gifts to bring to their friends and family. Apparently, this chain has stores in 28 states... including Loveland, CO and will be opening this summer in San Francisco! Amanda had to drag me out of the store. But not without making a dent on my checkbook.

Final stop on the tour was a store called Charming CHARLIE. This fashion accessory boutique is organized by color!
Filled with fun & flirty jewlery, bags, shoes, and other great finds... you are first overwhelmed by the color coordinated displays. If you are in the area, this is a must stop... and with reasonable prices this is a great place to pick up fun gifts for all your girlfriends back home. I picked up a great turquoise necklace for my mom that she loves and some stylish and fun black sandals that i would sleep in if I could get away with it!

I want to thank Amanda for sharing these great treasures on our retail therapy tour of Phoenix. I can see why she loves living here so much and I can't wait to plan my next trip to the desert...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Return From Sabbatical - 5/1

After a long break which involved too many stressful late nights in the office, a couple stressful moves which reminded me of how much junk i don't need, my kid brother's wedding and my nephew's marriage to their soul matez, the opening of an art gallery in the office focusing on internal artist, and a lot of adventures both near and far, I am returning to the blog.

I hope to have some great updates in the next couple of weeks, with trips to Phoenix and Colorado coming up soon, my professional website to be released in June... and a trip to Europe in July. In the mean time, happy travels to all...