Jason and I stayed at Rush Creek Lodge in Groveland, CA, just outside of Yosemite National Park’s Big Oak Flat entrance, when we visited the park in June. It was our second stay at the lodge, so I thought I’d share our experience there.
Surprise, surprise — Jason and I traveled to California for our Summer 2017 vacation!
Ok, this probably isn’t a huge surprise to those who know me or who have followed me for a while.
This summer we did change things up a bit. Instead of flying into San Francisco or Las Vegas en route to Yosemite National Park, we flew into Reno, NV and drove through the Lake Tahoe area.
Since I barely blogged last year, I figured I would backtrack and share some of our adventures from 2015. From weekend getaways to trips with the camper to sporting events, Jason and I had lots of fun during the spring and summer months. It all kicked off in April with a weekend trip to see Bruce Hornsby in concert.
Let me give you a little insight into our obsession — and that’s not an exaggeration — with Bruce Hornsby. I have loved Bruce Hornsby and the Range’s music since I was young. From an early age, their songs became deeply connected to memories of family vacations and other significant life events. Then there were the band’s songs in the movie White Water Summer, a movie which sparked my interest in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the obsession was born.
As Jason and I began our camping and national park travels, Bruce Hornsby and the Range songs were the foundation of our travel playlist — which now sits at 170 songs and can get us driving from Wisconsin to Alabama without starting over (fun fact!). Thanks to Pandora, I discovered some of Bruce’s newer solo music that quickly was added to the list. Since I’ve always associated music with my memories, I can’t listen to a Bruce Hornsby song now without thinking about all of the incredible trips Jason and I have taken.
Seeing him in concert was a matter of sheer luck. We were in Illinois to see Michael McDonald (I swear we’re only in our mid-30s) and Jason and I started talking about how great it would be to see Bruce Hornsby in concert, too. Out of curiosity, I jumped on my phone and looked to see if he was touring. He was, and the closest he was coming to Wisconsin was Iowa. Done!
We set off for Cedar Falls, Iowa, on Friday morning for the evening concert. Now, ask anyone in Wisconsin about driving through Iowa — or Illinois for that matter — and you’ll be met with pity. Both states are flat, flat, flat — nothing to see but cornfields. But we found that driving through Northern Iowa wasn’t so bad. Much more interesting topography, which made for a much more pleasant trip.
Once we got to our hotel, we started investigating good dinner spots. We settled on The Brown Bottle, a highly rated Italian restaurant near downtown. The restaurant had just opened for the evening when we pulled up, and by the time we left, the parking lot was full.
The food did not disappoint!
After dinner, we made our way to the University of Northern Iowa campus and their Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center. From my days working at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, I knew that UNI was a comparable college. It definitely was … but it was so much better! The campus included many old buildings, and the Gallagher Bluedorn was a very impressive venue attracting some impressive acts.
What put it over the top for Jason and I? Adult beverages in adult sippy cups — Score!
The concert was perfect! When Bruce chatted between songs, it reminded us a lot of seeing Richard Marx in concert several years ago — he was so funny! One of my favorite songs is Mandolin Rain, and his live version is hauntingly beautiful. Dare I say I love it more than the original?
Everyone received a copy of his Solo Concerts album which includes the live version of Mandolin Rain. So happy!
The next morning, we decided to have breakfast at a Maid-Rite. Maid-Rites are concentrated in Iowa — and when in Iowa, do as the Iowans do.
On the way home, we made a slight detour through Galena, Illinois. Given the time of year, we thought the tiny town would be quiet. Little did we know there was a massive Boy Scout event that weekend — kids everywhere! We did a little shopping at some of our favorite stores, grabbed some lunch, and got the heck out of dodge.
It was so fun to take a quick little weekend trip, and it’s something I would love for us to do more often. While I absolutely love traveling far from home, there are a lot of great things happening in our own and neighboring states.
And if you ever have the chance to see a favorite band or singer live that you’ve loved since childhood, do it! I can now add Bruce Hornsby to my list that includes Duran Duran, Prince, Sting, The Police, and Richard Marx. And it’s made me love their music that much more.
Question of the Week
What was your first concert?
My first concert was New Kids on the Block — Oh, the 90s!
What’s a visit to the Pacific Northwest without enjoying great food?
During our stay, we ate and drank at:
- Crockett’s Public House
- Maximilien at Pike Place Market
- The original Starbucks (also at Pike Place)
- Salish Lodge
- Kalaloch Lodge
- Bar Bistro
- The Buttered Biscuit
Whether it was the food or the view, I didn’t have a bad meal on this trip.
Crockett’s Public House was apparently featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. I loved the atmosphere, and the service was fantastic.
We ordered the cheesy cheddar and parmesan kettle corn as a starter. Some of the pieces didn’t get as much of the cheese coating, and they were just ok. But if you snagged a piece smothered in the cheese — oh so good! For my entreé, I went with their cobb salad — so fricking good!!
Before my trip, a co-worker tipped me onto Penn Cove mussels. These mussels are said to be the best in the world, and spotting them on the menu outside of Maximilien at Pike Place Market sealed the lunch deal. I have never seen so many mussels in my life. They did not disappoint — they were super fresh and amazingly good!
Being tourists and all, we had to grab a coffee at the original Starbucks at Pike Place Market. Luckily, the line wasn’t too bad mid-afternoon. The whole operation is surprisingly efficient given the crowds. We got our drinks, I picked up a souvenir cup, and we got on our way.
We celebrated my birthday at the Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie, Washington. I can’t imagine a more incredible setting to celebrate turning 37 — or any age for that matter.
We started off with drinks and appetizers in The Attic. Their house-made potato chips with caramelized onions & herb sour cream dip were delicious! And it being my birthday, I felt the need to celebrate with a little bubbly — the Salish Lodge & Spa Brut Rosé.
For dinner in The Dining Room, we were seated in a private alcove with the best view of Snoqualmie Falls. I had a nice piece of salmon for my entreé … along with a little more champs.
Kalaloch Lodge was another colleague recommendation. The food was nothing special, but the view was hard to beat.
Finally, The Buttered Biscuit. Jason and I went for breakfast on the final day of the trip. There were so many tempting options on the extensive menu, and I went with smoked salmon eggs benedict. It was my first eggs benedict experience, and it was incredible!
One of my favorite things about traveling is enjoying the food, and it was on point this trip. I can’t wait to go back, again and again, to explore even more Pacific Northwest eats!