how to leave your heart in SF


San Francisco is one of the world’s great cities.  Sitting up high on the tip of a Northern California peninsula, it’s natural beauty and cooler climate is as unique as the citizens that inhabit it.  For being such a small area in terms of acreage, SF packs so many things to see and do in every square mile.  There’s no way you can see everything, or afford everything, as it is one of the most expensive places in the world.  But, there’s also many free or affordable things to do as well, which we’re all about.

One visit, one dozen visits are not enough to experience the entirety of “the city,” but this what I like to do on a weekend visiting the city by the Bay.

save me, san francisco

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3 days in the wilderness: Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, WY


I am a fan of national parks.  I love them.  They are our national treasures, and I think they are the best thing about this country, by far.  American National Parks feature various ecosystems, geological formations, showcasing the topographic wonders of this country while always continuously championing conservation efforts.

Yellowstone was the first National Park in the United States and one might say it’s the granddaddy of them all.  It was signed into law by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 and covers a vast land area over Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.  Yogi Bear also lives here.

Just kidding, I know he lives in Jellystone.

Let’s go get us a pic-a-nic basket…

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3 days in Pittsburgh


Steel City is good old fashioned blue collar town, and it’s a good time.  The people are genuine, there’s innovation in food and industry and healthcare.  Sports culture can’t be beat there.  I’ve been to the ‘burgh a few times, for assorted work related trips and a wedding, and I’ve had memorable visits each time.

won’t you be my neighbor?

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know before you go: MSP

F7B6AB76-AA9E-46B3-BA42-0EF876238C17MSP and I have a long history together, back to the days when it was a Northwest Airlines hub.  Now it’s transferred into Delta’s hands, it’s a popular layover site for bicoastal travel through that airline.  And it’s a really nice airport.

Located 10 miles from the city, there’s a very convenient light rail Blue line train that will get you there quickly.  The Blue line also goes beyond the airport to the Mall of America too, making it easy to get to the airport from either destination.

You can probably skip the MoA because the middle area is like its own mall, with decent shopping.  There’s a lot of food options, especially the cool “food truck” area with different cuisines and styles of food.  They have really good bakeries here, too.

There are ~115 gates split into two terminals named after famous son: Lindbergh and Humphrey.  Lindbergh Terminal 1 is further divided into 7 concourses A-G–most airlines.  Humphrey Terminal 2 is made up of concourse H and serves regional and Southwest.

Remember: ✈️ = when doves cry to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = party like it’s 1999

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (quick train ride from the city)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it’s a large airport, and getting from one end to another takes a hike)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (apparently they have the best k-9 unit in the country, extra points for the dogs)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (The food truck area is awesome and is something I haven’t seen in many other places.  Decent choices, running the gamut from Chick Fil-A to Mill City Tavern.  Actually there’s an abundance of brewery/pub restaurants and fast casual)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️ ✈️(seems like there is  always someone cleaning them, has art)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️  (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Delta, United Lounges.  Decent shopping, live music, chiropractor, Snoopy.  There’s an actual 1/4 mile walking path for exercise–there’s a reason why MN is the country’s healthiest state and it starts here in the airport)


day trip to Des Moines

When I lived in the Midwest, I used to drive all over the place.  It’s so easy to get from point A to point B in the US.  The freeways are well kept and well demarcated, and it’s really low stress driving along the open highway.

Des Moines is an underrated, sleeper city.  A capital city, it’s the most populated in the Hawkeye state.  What you might be surprised to find is that there’s a ton of arts and culture in this city.


The gold domed State Capitol building is one of the more ornate state capitols.  Along Locust, Grand and Walnut streets are local boutiques focusing on home decor, clothing and gifts.  Des Moines is nice in that way, that there is a real focus on small business owners.  The most amazing shop, Eden, is located on 6th street and is a very carefully curated perfumery and cosmetic shop.  They have products by Tokyo Milk, Malin+Goetz, Voltivo.  There’s Diptyque and Tocca candles and pretty things and it’s adorable, perfect for gifting.  There’s a vespa in the showroom, it’s like a store version of Zooey Deschanel.

Next door is a Gong Fu Tea, which is a nice space to sit and contemplate the intricacies of life.  Another place to do that is down the road at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park.  This is probably one of the best sculpture parks around and it’s located smack dab in the middle of Des Moines.  It’s stuck with me for all these years, and for good reason.  It features works from heavy hitters such as Louise Bourgeois (whose Spiders also sit in front of the Kemper Art museum in Kansas City),


Keith Haring’s Untitled and my personal favorite sculptor, Jaume Plensa’s Nomade.


Here you can see Juno by Deborah Butterfield (driftwood horses), and Thinker on a Rock by Barry Flanagan.


As an adult, I still don’t quite understand what venture capitalism is, but it seems that Mr. Pappajohn was very, very good at it, to be able to donate all these works to the Des Moines Art Center.

For an artsy, or at least eclectic choice for lunch, go straight to Zombie Burger where they serve artfully crafted burgers with a horror show theme.  I had a Raygun, which was a medium patty piled high with bacon, guac, fried jalapenos, monterey jack, and caramelized onions.  They have burgers with gouda, proscuitto, peanut butter, mac & cheese, croquettes, fried pickles, you name it.  If that won’t kill you, the scary decor will.  They also have neon-hued milkshakes with cereal, twinkies, cake mix, the works.

On your way out of town, you should be a total weirdo like me and seek out a covered Bridge in Madison County, as made famous by the book and movie.  The movie with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep was filmed on location in this area.  They are not the easiest to get to, off the beaten track, but the one closest to my route was the Cedar covered bridge, and it was an adorable landmark to cap off a quick road trip.


Happy weekending!

3 days in Seattle


Seattle is one of my top five destinations.  The drizzly climate suits me, there’s an abundance of arts, music and food, and it’s just so damn cool.  The people here are hip, tech savvy and seemingly pave the way for the rest of us without caring if we know it or not.  It’s also so close to the effortlessly amazing Vancouver.  I love the Pacific Northwest.

That being said, it’s hard to do a city guide for a few days because there’s just so much to see.  I could probably do a half dozen guides representing each trip I’ve taken here in the past 5 years, and maybe one day I will.  I’m a true believer that you should do the touristy things on your first trip to get them out of the way so that you can start exploring the local vibes of a city, but in Seattle some of their tourist spots are the best and I like to visit them every time I’m in town.

SO much to do, you’ll probably be left sleepless in Seattle…

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know before you go: Stockholm (ARN)


Stockholm is a huge Scandinavian hub for SAS and Norwegian, so it’s no surprise that it’s a pretty big airport.  I spent the good part of a 3 hour layover here looking for Swedish meatballs, finally finding one place that had them.  They need more Swedish meatballs.

Arlanda is the main airport in Stockholm, and is about 23 miles (37 km) north of city center.  Terminals 2 and 5 serve international flights, while 3 and 4 are domestic.  There are around ~72 gates (?) and this may be the only airport where they advertise wedding ceremonies to be held in the VIP lounges.  Would not be my first choice for a wedding venue (taking the plunge is not something I’d want to hear in an airport), but to each his/her own?


There is a large shopping/restaurant facility called Sky City in between the terminals, and I’m sure there’s a way to get to it without having to re-enter security from Terminal 2 to 5, but I could not find it.  However, security is very fast so it wasn’t a huge deal.  The design is very aesthetically Swedish, simple, clean lines with lots of windows and modern light fixtures.  There are also Volvos on display throughout the concourses, can’t get more Swedish than that.  It was a great place to have a layover, lots to see and do, but installing a people mover would be helpful.

Remember: ✈️ =  S.O.S. to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = you can jive, having the time of your life (Dancing Queen)

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (far from city center, there are trains/buses that go directly to the airport, if you have a very long layover, probably doable)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️ (there has got to be a way to get to Sky City without exiting, so I’m taking a plane off for lack of directions to it)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️  (it was very fast, even though the line was long)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (Scandinavian, Asian, Italian, pubs, McDonald’s, juice bars, Starbucks.  Taste of Scandinavia has Swedish Meatballs and it only took me walking around like five times to realize it was the only place that had it)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️  (clean, each stall has its own sink, but very long lines)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, fair amount of charging at the gates)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (decent shopping-longchamp, marc jacobs, victoria’s secret; two hotels, airline lounges, pharmacy, medical clinic, hair salon, dry cleaning, DHL.  And like I said you can get married here, so basically it’s its own city)



3 days in St. Louis


St. Louis has one of the most recognizable features of any location in the world, the St. Louis arch.  There’s so much more to see here though, with charming neighborhoods and stunning architecture, cultural character and museums and one of the biggest parks in the US.  The best thing is, a lot of attractions are free here.  Which cannot be said about most places.  Most importantly, it is home to the best frozen custard in the US, nay, the world, Ted Drewes.  I love Ted Drewes. I dream of Ted Drewes.  Marry me, Ted Drewes.

One taste of the Big Apple concrete will have you saying, meet me in St. Louis.

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2 days in Kruger National Park


Going on safari in South Africa was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Seeing these magnificent animals up close was thrilling and surreal and I still can’t believe I’ve had this opportunity.  It’s fun to look at pictures, but the reason I work hard is to get out and see this beautiful world we inhabit amongst so many other beautiful creatures.  It’s easy to get caught up in ourselves and in our everyday routines, but traveling opens your mind and reminds you that there’s a bigger picture out there.

South Africa is an incredibly beautiful country, with distinct terrains and landscapes, and to best experience it, make sure you see everything from Cape Town to Johannesburg (you’ve come this far).  And you certainly can’t miss Kruger National Park, home of the Big 5 animals: lion, water buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros and elephant. Formerly used as a term to denote the most dangerous animals to hunt, it is now thankfully used to delineate the most exciting animals to shoot with cameras only.

I bless the rains down in Africa…

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know before you go: Oakland (OAK)


This is not my favorite airport.  I actually don’t care for either SFO or OAK, but at least SFO has a decent international terminal.  Oakland is an older airport that has limited amenities and dining options.  If you are stuck here as I was on a delay, it can be painful.

The airport itself is located about 10 miles from Downtown, and is very close to San Leandro.  There’s two terminals, T1 and T2, with 17 and 12 gates respectively.  T1 serves Alaska, Allegiant, American, British Airways, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Norwegian, Southwest, Spirit and Volaris.  T2 is exclusively Southwest.  The terminals are connected by a walkway and it’s a small airport, so it’s not too much of a hike from one end to another.

The thing it has going for it is that the BART station is very convenient to get to Oakland or SF.  I used to fly into Oakland to get to SF to avoid SFO.  And if there’s delays for SFO, usually you can hop on a flight to Oakland that may get you to the Bay earlier.  Of the NorCal airports, San Jose and Sacramento are better, but for convenience sake, Oakland just edges SFO out in my experience.

Remember: ✈️ = basket case to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = time of your life

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (BART and amtrak stations; freeway access can be real crowded at rush hour)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (not too big of an airport)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️ (the check in area is small and the security lines can be long and slow)

Dining: ✈️✈️ (T1 there’s a chili’s to go and the Silver Dragon chinese isn’t bad.  They also have blue bottle coffee cartons, which is a plus for the bay area.  T2 has more options in typically airport fare: vino volo, gordon biersch, CPK and Fenton’s ice cream)

Bathrooms: ✈️  (I would literally give it negative planes if I could–the toilets are old and missing porcelain–every toilet is like this)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi available, could have more charging areas)

Amenities: ✈️ (very few shops including Raiders store and an Escape Lounge)