save me, san francisco.

It was a privilege and a blessing to meet up with my dear brother and sister-in-law in San Francisco last week. They invited me to tag along and be Melissa’s partner-in-crime while Dave attended a conference for work – of course I said yes! Melissa had been to the city a couple times before, so she was pretty SF-savvy. I felt like I had my own personal tour guide – she could almost pass for a local. While we were planning for the trip, Melissa asked me what I’d like to see and do while we were there, since it was my first visit to the area. My list was pretty simple: hug a redwood, drink wine in Napa, see the Golden Gate Bridge, and go to Alcatraz. We accomplished all of that and more – all while enjoying sunshine and warm weather. Now that I’ve stepped on actual ground (airports don’t count) in California, I’ve added another state in my quest to visit all 50 – only 15 more to go!

While Dave was busy hanging out with thousands of ridiculously smart techie people, Melissa and I walked a million steps (that’s a conservative estimate) and soaked up all the Vitamin D we could as we explored the city.

k&m golden gate

sisters at the golden gate!

We started off our adventure at one of San Francisco’s most iconic structures – the Golden Gate Bridge! We traversed the terrain in very sensible footwear and made our way down to the water’s edge for some fantastic views. It was so therapeutic being by water again. It’s not everyday an Oklahoma girl gets to look out at the horizon and see nothing but water.

Next on the docket was a visit to Golden Gate Park (which is not next to the bridge) and the Japanese Tea Garden. It was so beautiful! The landscaping was gorgeous and the entire area was so serene. I need one of these in my backyard!

japanese tea garden.

japanese tea garden.

We finished up the day with a delicious dinner at a great little Mexican restaurant in the Mission District and gave our feet a nice little rest after all that walking. Time to rest up for another day of fun!

Dave joined us the next morning for a stroll by the piers as we made our way to the ferry that would take us to Alcatraz. He wasn’t able to join us for the tour, but we all enjoyed our morning coffee together while on the move. The ride to Alcatraz was so beautiful – the San Francisco skyline, Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge were all in view as we made our way to The Rock.

golden gate & alcatraz

I’m on a boat.

alcatraz

Alcatraz.

The audio tour of the Cellhouse was fascinating and heartbreaking all at the same time. As I strolled through the corridors, voices of actual prisoners and guards told the stories those weathered walls have seen, revealing just how far some of the tenants were willing to go in efforts to regain their freedom. The contrast of the bleak buildings – some simply heaps of rubble at this point – with vibrant gardens such an impressive location was poetically ironic. The brokenness of man, the beauty of creation. Visiting Alcatraz was one of the highlights of the trip for me, for sure.

view from alcatraz

what a view.

garden view

it was totally tempting to take trimmings of all the succulents home with me to start my own gardens.

Melissa and I met up with Dave after lunch and headed north to Muir Woods. If there’s anything that rivals my love for big water, it’s big trees. And these were the biggest trees I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing what a few quiet moments in a place like this can do for the soul.

k&d muir woods

brother & me.

redwoods

a walk in the woods.

On our way back to the city, we stopped at Marin Highlands just in time to catch the sunset. It was ridiculously beautiful.

view from marin

just whoa.

sunset marin

the last little bit of sunlight on the west coast.

What a day. So much beauty. And with two of the most wonderful people I know. I’m a lucky girl.

Our last day of fun involved some cable car rides, a walk up the steepest city street I’ve ever seen to check out Lombard Street (the zig-zag street that’s really fun to watch people try to navigate in their SUVs), lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf, and our final adventure – a roadtrip to Napa! We made a few rookie mistakes when it came to planning our Napa outing (way too many places close before 5 p.m….which kind of stinks when you don’t get there until 3:45), but we still managed to have a great time! Dave and I enjoyed a cabernet tasting at Silver Oak (a wonderful recommendation from a friend), we all had a glass of sparkling wine at Domaine Chandon (we missed the last tasting by 15 minutes…boo!), and found a place that was actually open past 5:00 for our final wine tasting that also introduced us to the most incredible brie ever (thanks, Priest Ranch!). After a delicious meal in Yountville, we began the trek back to San Francisco to pack our bags and get ready for our flights back home.

d&m silver oak

my travel buddies at our first winery stop!

I was grateful to have two wiggly weimaraners waiting for me when I returned home. Upon my arrival, Charlie proceeded to lick my hand incessantly and Nimitz wouldn’t let me be more than three feet away from him for the next 36 hours. Oh, the love and loyalty of these dogs. It’s easier coming home to this quiet house knowing they are here.

The opportunity to get away for a few days and explore a new part of the country was a welcome change of pace. But I couldn’t help but think of Ben and how much fun it would have been to have him with us, how much he would have enjoyed Napa, and how much I miss him. That hollow spot in my heart that marks his absence is overwhelming at times.

Before he went overseas, Ben made me promise that I would live life to the fullest and embrace opportunities to travel and play while he was away. He was so supportive of me going on this trip, basically to the point of insisting on it. Who’s going to argue with that? He might try to hide it under his rough-around-the-edges persona, but that man has the biggest heart.

I struggled with feeling guilty about playing around in San Francisco while Ben is overseas working endlessly and has extremely limited options for recreation. I can’t really picture where he is right now because I don’t have many details, but I know he’s not out gallivanting. He works, he sleeps, repeat. I know it’s healthy for me to keep busy and to be out doing things – I guess in a way the feelings of guilt are somewhat twisted sense of gratitude and a reminder of the privilege it is to have the freedom and ability to explore new places and try new things. My head knows that it’s okay to have a little fun while he’s gone, my heart is having a harder time accepting it.

Having this trip to look forward to helped the first few months of this deployment pass quickly. October still seems like forever away. I guess it’s time for me to start planning my next adventure…where to next?

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