Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Let's Go Surfin' Now! Adventures in Cali!

Me in front of the Doubletree Marina in Berkeley, CA.
Well as most of you know I am already back in DC for a short stint but I feel so guilty not completing the first leg of my trip on this blog.  So I am going to give a short description of San Fran, San Diego and Palm Springs and then of course show you all lots of pictures!

San Francisco - We got to San Fran late afternoon last Monday, we actually stayed in Berkeley, CA.  This was one of my favorite locations because it reminded me so much of the Cape.  The marina and hotel especially reminded me of Downtown Falmouth, where the Flying Bridge and Island Queen are, except of course it was Cali and much nicer weather.  My hotel room was really nice and I had a lovely little was an extremely refreshing change of pace.  Our event was Tuesday morning in front of SF City Hall and it went really well.  I definitely did not have enough time in SF and will need to make a trip back out West sooner than later!
Looking out over my balcony!
Pretty sail boats, way way in the distance is the Golden Gate.  (view from my balcony)
Loved this room, I felt spoiled!
Sweet Dreams!

One of my happiest moments on the trip, finally getting to visit the Golden Gate Bridge.

Picture taken from the Vote Travel bus of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Looking down below at Sausalito!

Our drive to San Diego was nice once we reached the coast and could see the Pacific Ocean and all of the beautiful beaches.  We had an evening event in San Diego at Petco Park for the Padres game.  Our event went off without a hitch!  We had some time to spare (which never happens) and we got to go into the ballpark for a little of the game.  Then it was back on the road en route to Palm Springs for an early morning event.


Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres!  Awesome field with a dog park, mini baseball field for children and the most amazing pulled pork sandwiches =)

Palm Springs - My trip to Palm Springs was quick!  But I did get to experience some of that desert heat.  The morning of our event we experienced record temps -it was about 100 degrees by 10:30 AM!!  Our event had a great turnout, we met with lots of influential leaders in the Palm Springs community and everyone was happy to have us in their city.  Win-Win for all =)  As soon as the event ended, Michael and I took our bags off the bus and got a rental car to drive to LA.  Big Blue had to get serviced in Palm Springs and it was a good thing we didn't stay with the bus because it go serviced for 6 hours!  I had a red eye flight at 11 PM out of LAX which I got to at about 2 PM.  I found a hotel by LAX that gave day passes for their gym and restaurants and I just killed time.  I can't even begin to explain how badly I just crashed on my flight from LAX to Charlotte.  I got to Charlotte at 6:30AM ET and boarded my quick 1 hr flight to DCA at about 7:20AM.  I wasn't the most pleasant person to be around but I am thankful I made it home safe and sound!  I got home and was greeted by Kristen's not so little puppy, Murray, of course I had to dress him in a Vote Travel shirt! Pictures below =)

I am in DC for two weeks and then I leave again on Tuesday, May 8th then I am off to Philly, Boston, NYC, Pitt and then a few NC/SC stops and I will end in FL.  All and all I will be off the bus until further notice on May 22nd!

Driving to our event in Palm Springs!
Taking my bags off the bus...I may or may not have overpacked!

Murray modeling our Vote Travel shirts!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Monday was a crazy day since we had back-to-back-to-back Meet & Greets; Seattle, Portland and Eugene. But thankfully both turned out great! Our Seattle Meet & Greet was held right under the Space Needle. It was so cool to finally see the iconic symbol up close and it was a good time to do it since the city is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Visit Seattle, Visit Oregon, Boeing and Expedia staff members all came out to our event. And we even had local press; the NBC Affiliate, Seattle Times and an ABC affiliate. Great team work by all, both on the East Coast and West Coast!

As soon as the event ended we had to quickly hop on the bus and get going to make it to Portland by 2:30pm. Jimmy did another great job getting us to our destination quickly and safely. I have been so lucky to have been assigned to this tour with such great leaders, Jimmy (our driver) and Roy (our fearless leader) have had us to every single event either on time or early. These guys are absolute pros at their jobs!

We pulled into the city of Portland and parked inside their Pioneer Courthouse Square, which is one of their public gathering spaces. Portland's Meet & Greet was a small gathering which was kind of nice since our morning was so busy in Seattle. Travel Oregon and Travel Portland staffers came out to the bus for lots of pictures and of course to tour the bus and get some swag. They shared fun facts with us about Portland and all that it has to offer. #1 thing I heard... the State of Oregon does not have sales tax. I spotted a Nordstrom out of the corner of my eye but Roy gave me a choice, shopping or frozen yogurt, I figured that food was more important. Roy really does keep us on a tight schedule, before we knew it we were saying our goodbye's yet again to another city.

We had one last stop at 6pm in Eugene, OR and we had no idea what to expect, all that was on our schedule was "Adventure Center." Personally I thought it was going to be an amusement park or something like the "Rides" down the Cape but it was actually the Eugene, OR Visitor Center. As we pulled in their staff came out of their office holding props; some had fishing poles, bikes, wine, the Oregon Duck and even snowboards. They were so funny they each wanted to hold something in front of the bus for a picture that represents all the "adventures" you can take in the Eugene area. They even had some small snacks and drinks out for us, which was wicked nice of them. We didn't stay there very long but we were so glad we stopped because they were so much fun and so great to talk to. Oregon really does have a lot to offer, it has the best of both worlds the ocean and the mountains and you can visit both in the same season!

We finally got to our hotel in Roseburg, OR and Michael and I ran to get a quick dinner before we all just crashed. It had be a long but very productive day! Today's stop this morning was another small Meet & Greet in Medford, OR but I was particularly excited about this one because a) Medford, OR is my co-worker Lindsay's hometown and b) our event was at the original Harry and David! I can't even tell you how excited I was when I saw an employee of Harry and David coming out with a giant basket, just for the bus! It definitely was the highlight of my day =) The people of Medford are so sweet and were so excited to hear all about our travels in the Northwest. We even had an ABC affiliate there to cover our gathering. I shipped some goodies home to Clairebear and Bill for them to share with my family and I picked up some treats for my Hamilton Place family too!

Before we knew it we were back on the bus and headed to San Francisco where we have an event early tomorrow morning. I can't believe this is my third week on the bus, seems crazy that I am driving across America on a bus but it's been a lot of fun and a great work experience. I fly back to DC on a redeye Friday night but here is what my schedule looks like this week:Wednesday San Francisco Meet & Greet in front of City Hall, Thursday San Diego Meet & Greet at the Padres Game and Friday morning is our Palm Springs Meet & Greet in front of their visitors center. Lots of pictures below of my Northwest travels, looking forward to seeing all that Sunny Cali has to offer!

Typical Seattle rain but we still had a great event.
Vote Travel bus parked right under the Space Needle.
Group shot at our Portland Meet & Greet in Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, OR.
SkinniDip Frozen yogurt from Portland, OR - SO YUMMY!
What a crew in Eugene, OR! We had so much fun at their Visitor Center.

The Vote Travel bus in front of Harry and David in Medford, OR.
Harry and David, Visit Medford and Vote Travel crew!

Candid from our Meet & Greet!

Monday, April 16, 2012


I got a little break from the bus in Reno and flew to Seattle Friday night. The bus dropped me off a few hours before my flight but it was nice to get some work done with uninterrupted internet. I didn't get into Seattle until 10ish Friday night since I had a layover in SLC but it was definitely worth it, so nice to get into a hotel room knowing that I would be staying more than one or two nights. I actually got to stay three whole nights in Seattle!

I woke up Saturday morning with the sun pouring into my hotel room and I almost forgot where I was! Stefania's cousin Anna and her husband Ron live in Seattle so we made plans to spend the day together. I got a little work done in the morning (blogs and pictures for U.S. Travel) then Anna came and picked me up. It was so nice having a friend in a city that I had never been too. And Anna was a fabulous host, first thing we did was some shopping. I was so happy - nothing like a little retail therapy! Then we began our tour of downtown Seattle. It is such a neat city because it has so much to offer; beautiful parks with lush greenery, the water which was crowded with sail boats and ferries and of course the famous fish market. We walked around a little checking out all the cute little local stores, the weather was amazing literally 60s and sunny! Never thought that type of weather even existed in Seattle but I was pleasantly surprised.

I was dying to try some seafood so Anna took me to Seatown Seabar & Rotisserie. I enjoyed myself a nice glass of well deserved white wine and Anna had a local Seattle beer. The cool thing about Seattle is that most restaurants incorporate local food in their menus one way or another, that's why it all tastes so fresh. Since we were having an early dinner we stuck with a couple of appetizers. Check out the menu for yourself but we ended up getting a dozen oysters that were a mix of Penn Cove, Kusshi and Deep Bay (my favorite were the Penn Cove) then we had some dungeness crab on top of a seaweed salad with cucumbers that was absolutely delicious oh and we had some pickled veggies :) Anna and I had a good time reminiscing about Justin & Stefania's wedding while people watching all that Seattle has to offer. It was a lot of fun and we had a lot of good laughs, something that I needed desperately after a long hectic week at work.

Don't worry we didn't spoil our dinner, Anna took me around to a few more pocket neighborhoods and then we ended at Madison Park Conservatory where we had another amazing meal. Anna and Ron know the owner and head chef, Cormac Mahoney, so when we arrived we had samplings of almost every appetizer off the menu. We also had a bottle of local red wine waiting for us at the table with fresh bread and local butter. I am telling you I have never tasted such amazing bread and butter before.

The food at Madison Park is unlike any other, the oysters are fresh, the pasta with east coast squid was spicy but delicious and of course you know me, I got the lamb which was wicked good. To say the least I left as a very full and happy camper. I thought our night was done but Anna wanted to swing by her friends' home downtown by the water. We went to this super chic condo that has 180 degree views of Seattle, including the Space Needle. Actually from their dining room table you can look straight out and see the Space Needle, can you imagine that view every night? It was pretty cool. I had such a nice time just relaxing and not having to check my phone for emails. I was really glad everything worked out with meeting Anna and Ron (Thank you Stefania and Antonella!)

Sunday was another chill down day but I just stayed around the hotel and caught up on work and my personal blogs as you can tell. And I may or may not have gone back to that mall :/ I look at it as supporting the local economy, just doing my part. I also took advantage of my free time and organized my bags because I leave the bus Friday night and don't meet it again until on the East Coast in May. Pictures below from my adventures in Seattle!
Down on the wharf in Seattle, checking out all of the fresh fish =)

Anna made me hop on the famous "pig" supposedly all the tourists have to!
Anna and I outside Seatown.
Ron and I at Madison Park Conservatory.
My amazing meal - lamb, fava/garbanzo beans and a yogurt dressing. YUM
View of downtown from the condo.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


The drive to Reno was pretty rough in terms of internet access and cell phone service, on top of that we were all completely exhausted and had a 7-8 hour drive ahead of us. Roy said that we weren't even on the bus for an hour and he turned around and I was just passed out. (I fall asleep very easily but I think the 4:30 wake up call did me in). I managed to take a quick cat nap and then get some work done. We also got some satellite tv back and I got to watch my B's beat the Caps while plugging away on my computer.

So one of my favorite things on this trip is definitely seeing the landscapes of America. They have all been so different but so beautiful at the same time. From time to time I will hop up in the cockpit with Roy and Jimmy and just chit chat and take pictures of our drive. I've seen so many different places I don't want to forget them! My Christmas present from Mom and Bill has really come in handy I haven't put down my safari camera since I got here!

Since we didn't have an event in Reno/Lake Tahoe this blog isn't too exciting but we did get to see SNOW! I know ... I forgot how cold it has to be for it to snow and to be honest I was getting used to the sunny and 60s weather. The snow was heaviest on our way to Lake Tahoe Friday morning, so much so that we couldn't make it all the way up to the lake because we didn't have chains on our tires. And I DID NOT want to test our tired and neither did Jimmy or Roy! After we came back down from Lake Tahoe we quickly toured through Reno and then I headed to the airport for my flight to Seattle. (I skipped ahead of the 800 mile trek to Seattle to a) Keep my sanity b) recharge my batteries) Snow pictures below =)

On the road to RENO!
Beautiful lake on the way to Reno.
"Searching" This doesn't help me!
Another beautiful view, how gorgeous is this?
Lake Tahoe in a snow storm.
Vote Travel bus in its first snow storm.
Driving up alongside the lake.
My first snow storm of Lake Tahoe =)


As I mentioned earlier, I was preparing myself for the early wake up call Thursday morning but nothing was worse than going to work in the dark! I managed to get up on time (4:30am) and make myself a bagel with peanut butter in my room before I headed out the door - don't know how I did it! The boys were all on the bus waiting for me, god only knows what time they all got up. So we pulled into the Cashman Convention Center with t-minus 1 hour and 30 min. till guests arrived... we had lots to do!

Luckily there were plenty of people there all ready to get to work and help set up. We had a photo booth to set up, swag table, the PA system and for me most importantly I had to find internet access. I live tweeted for @USTravel during the event, a little stressful but it was wicked fun and helped me improve my skills a bit. The rally went off without a hitch and everyone had a really great time, although it was 7 in the morning (can you tell I'm not a morning person?!)

We had the President & CEO of U.S. Travel, Roger Dow, make remarks and get the crowed all pumped up for the travel and tourism industry. We also had three other guest speakers. The event was covered by three major tv network affiliates and a Vegas newspaper. We were really pleased with the turnout and glad everyone enjoyed themselves. Valley High School marching band also attended the event and got the crowd going. When all was said and done it was only 10:30am and none of us could believe it! OH! I forgot to mention we also had real Vegas showgirls at the rally to take pictures with everyone.

After the event the showgirls and some of my U.S. Travel co-workers boarded the bus and headed to the famous "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to take some pictures. After that the boys and I grabbed a quick lunch at In n' Out Burger (it was pretty good!) and then headed to Reno/Lake Tahoe. I have lots and lots of pictures from the event but here are just a few!

Setting up bright and early inside the Cashman Convention Center.
Jimmy posing with one of our campaign signs.
Jimmy and his showgirl =)
Valley High Marching Band lead the Vote Travel bus out of the convention center.
Roger Dow, President & CEO U.S. Travel Association
Group shot!
Playing tourista in Vegas!
Our show girls~
Nothing says Vegas like feather headpieces!
The Vote Travel bus pulling in!

National Lampoon's Drive to VEGAS!

Roy, Jimmy and I hit the road following our SLC event (Allie headed back to DC). We joked about our cross country trip and we all got started talking about our love for National Lampoon movies, hence the title of this blog. Since we had such a great turnout for the SLC Meet & Greet we ran a bit over schedule and had to scratch our trip to the Grand Canyons. Good news is we weren't going to be driving late into the night and I had time to catch up on some much needed sleep and a morning gym session. We stayed in Utah Monday night and the Tuesday morning we did a tour of the Tuacahn Canyon's and Amphitheater. The pictures below don't even do this area in Ivin, UT justice. It was quite incredible to see the massive size of these canyons up close and personal, I stole some red rock too...shhh don't tell =)

While on our drive to Vegas we were able to go into the Valley of Fire State Park, which is a 26 mile wide state park full of mountain climbers, cyclists, tourists from all over (including MA!) and crazy people like us rolling down the hills in a big blue bus! I did a little rock climbing to get some touristy pictures and realized I better not get too crazy because I was only wearing Jack Rogers, don't worry pictures are below.

We got to Vegas early in the afternoon Tuesday and I 100% took advantage of the full internet access and was able to get a lot of work done to prepare for our big kickoff rally in Vegas. The deal with our event was that we teamed up with the local chamber of commerce and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to host an event that recognized employees who have performed excellent customer service. Since the event was going to be heavily attended, U.S. Travel thought it'd be a great opportunity to have that as their "kick off rally." The event was Thursday morning but there was lots to be done between Tuesday and Thursday.

Wednesday we did B-roll of the city and took tons of pictures down the strip. Then we headed over to the Cashman Convention Center to do a run through of the next morning's big rally. Since we were actually brining the bus into the convention center it was a necessary rehearsal and all went well. After that our team gathered for a couple of drinks and dinner, it was so nice to have a real meal. I was hoping to meet up with an old family friend, who now lives in Vegas and works at one of the clubs but I had an early wake-up call (4:30AM) and just wasn't going to put myself through that... next time I visit Vegas I will make sure it's for leisure!

Pictures below of our travel to Vegas and then some of the beauty shots we got! For the days I am not updating this blog you can always visit the Vote Travel blog which I am writing for:

Forgot to mention I got my glasses fixed at a Wal-Mart =)
View from my hotel last Tuesday morning.
Tuacahn Canyon
Me inside Tuacahn Canyon (stealing some red rocks...)
Casually rock climbing in Valley of Fire State Park.
Posing on some red rocks.
I was just being artsy with some Instagram.
The bus inside the Valley of Fire State Park.
The bus in Vegas, outside the Golden Nugget.
Rolling down the "Old Vegas"