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It’s National Park Week!

Happy National Park Week! All 52 weeks of the year are good chances to go to a national park, but if you’re looking to save a few bucks, this is the week to go! The National Park Service is waiving entrance fees to all national parks from April 18-26th.

This past weekend, I visited the beautiful Point Reyes National Seashore, listened to a park ranger talk about the gray whale migration, saw a mother whale and her pup, dipped my toes in the freezing Pacific water, and hiked/strolled out to Cliff Rock. It was a wonderful day trip, despite the overcast and fog that hid miles of coastline. Looking forward to going back on a clear day, and maybe camp!

In March, I visited Zion National Park again, but instead of going up the main road through the park, my colleague/friend, Tina, and I decided to check out the less traveled Kolob Canyon area. We got to hike the trail to the Kolob Arch in near-solitude. To be totally honest, the arch was underwhelming, mainly because there is not really a good angle to get a sense of how big the arch is. But this is one example where the journey was more important than the end goal. The views along the way were as incredible as anywhere else in the park.

And those were my national park adventures this past month! Which park(s) will you be exploring this week?

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Westbound: cross-country road trip from DC to SF

3,344 miles, 13 states, 7 days,  3 national parks, 1 snow storm, 1 broken headlight, and countless replays of Taylor Swift’s album later, Thuy, Haruka and I finally made it to San Francisco!

People warned me it would be crazy to do a cross-country road trip in the dead of winter. We took our chances and the trip went as smoothly as I possibly could have hoped (my car didn’t break down, what more could I have asked for!). We did hit a snow storm on the first day while approaching St. Louis. The final two-hour stretch turned into a five-hour nerve-wracking 30 mph drive. It was painful, but we made it through!

We slowed down on the third day and took our time for the rest of the trip to cruise through one of my favorite parts of the country, the Southwest! And then drove up the famously beautiful coast of California. By the end, we definitely felt like we could use a long deep-tissue massage and stay off the wheel for a week or more, but it was all worth it.

Thank you, friends, for all your suggestions of places we can hit up along the way!

Our route:

  • Day 1: St. Louis, Missouri
  • Day 2: Amarillo, Texas
  • Day 3: Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument; Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Day 4: Petrified Forest National Park; Flagstaff, AZ
  • Day 5: Grand Canyon National Park
  • Day 6: Joshua Tree National Park; Morro Bay, CA
  • Day 7: Pacific Coast Trail; San Francisco!

Some highlights:

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Goodbye, DC

After more than three and a half years in DC, it’s finally time to say goodbye.

As anyone who has lived here for more than a year would know, DC is an extremely transient city, with 20-30 somethings spending a few years here to kickstart their careers.  I’ve seen a number of friends come and go, and sometimes come back. It’s always sad to see yet another person leave, but after awhile you get used to it, and more than that, I always knew eventually I will be one of those people. Except, now after three years, I finally feel at home and more comfortable here than anywhere else. But it’s the same comfort that’s telling me it’s time to move on.

As soon as I finalized my plans to move and it became real, I started reflecting on the things I would miss most about DC. I’m definitely going to miss the incredible collection of museums, most of which don’t cost a penny to visit. I sure won’t miss the paucity of decent Asian food in DC, but I will miss the crabcakes benedict at Matchbox, the damn good Amsterdam falafels, happy hour cocktails and chocolate onyx at Cocosala, pupusas and unbeatably cheap meals at El Rinconcito, Satin Sheets at the Gibson, the beer menu at Birch and Barley, and Hot and Juicy anytime anyday. Oh and that new Laotian place in Columbia Heights, Thip Khao. So. good.

I’m going to miss not needing to travel thousands of miles to be part of Inauguration Day, or getting last minute invites to go see Obama at an event, or being in the nation’s capital during election years (it’s really quite exciting and the only time I’m really caught up on politics).

I’m especially going to really miss being surrounded by a group of genuinely kind people who haven’t lost faith in their abilities to affect change in the world, even if in tiny increments, as an individual or as a member of a larger community. As Frank Underwood said, people in DC are driven not by money, but by power, which I agree, but would argue that for many people, it is not the self-serving, ladder-climbing kind of power that they seek (though no doubt there are plenty of those too), but the power of influence, to be able to work on issues of importance to them and contribute to progress.

And finally and most of all, I’m going to miss all the wonderful friends I’ve made while in DC. I know I said friends always come and go when you’re living in this town, but you also know when a friend is one that you’ll keep for a long, long time. I have made a few of these and I’m extremely lucky to have them.

This weekend, I packed all my belongings into my car and headed out of DC. It still feels surreal that I won’t be walking Keiko around the same block and taking the same route to work and picking up coffee along the way and going to happy hour at the usual dingy Irish pub and cooking dinner in my lovely apartment and watching our usual shows with my lovely roommate, anymore. I’m now on a week-long cross-country road trip with two friends. It’ll probably sink in when it’s over and I get to my destination. But for now, DC still feels not too far away.