Day 415

Of all the cities I’ve visited on our journey, I’m coming to find that LA is far and away the oddest of them all. And I don’t mean odd as in quirky (I doubt anyone will ever top Portland in that regard). No, I mean odd as in ‘I don’t understand what is going on’. I mean… LA has to be the only place in the US where you can find valet parking in the back of a Best Buy. Plus, it’s the only stop I’ve been to that’s so expansive I can’t walk from point A to point B, even if I wanted to.

To me, it all seems rather silly but to the people living here it’s just another day. That’s the running theme I’ve encountered over and over again since arriving in California at the end of November. Having never been to this part of the country, I’m constantly coming to grips with the fact that everything here is actually real. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling when I realized this state really is going through a draught. Before I landed, I'd always heard about it on the news but in my head that’s all it was—a news story. Now that I’m actually here, I’m experiencing the situation first hand and trying to comprehend how people are adapting to it all.

In a way, this final stop has fully justified my initial desire to embark on the project. I’ve always believed that going somewhere can teach you much more about a place than reading about it in a guidebook or through a travel site. Every city has so many little quirks and characteristics that no one ever talks about and they can make all the difference. For instance, I can tell you that Uber drivers hate going to/from the valley; most of the area Targets are smaller than the ones you’ll find elsewhere in the nation; and there are very few ‘cheap’ dining options around unless you want to eat at a Subway or Carl’s Jr.

Of course, these are all reasons as to why I wanted to end #TGAA in LA. I had a feeling this place would be vastly different than my other stops and it turns out I was right. I’m pretty bummed that I just wrapped up my last weekend here though (I’ll be in Las Vegas this coming weekend). I feel there’s so much more to explore that I could easily spend another 3-4 months in town. Then again, once I’m sitting on the 405 on my way to work, I’m pretty sure I’ll rejoice in the month almost being over.

I’m also finding myself overwhelmed with emotion about it all. Mostly because the site is garnering more traffic than ever before and I’m getting congratulatory emails left and right. So, while I’m uneasy about the project coming to a close, I do feel grateful in the fact that we reached so many people along the way.

-Steve-

Day 373

Wow! I completely misjudged the size of San Francisco. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve been frequenting smaller cities as of late, but I just had no idea how massive SF was. If you add in the rest of the bay area—cities like San Jose and Oakland—the scope just grows and grows. I don’t foresee myself running out of things to do this month, that’s for sure.

That’s why, for the first time on our journey, I actually sat down Friday night to plan out my weekend. Usually, I just tend to wander around until I find something cool. But I’ve had so many recommendations flood in over the past few weeks; I don’t have nearly enough time to visit them all. So, sadly I’m forced to pick and choose my destinations this month.

So, I went about hitting up as many of these recommended locations as possible. On Saturday, I started out with the biggie—the Golden Gate Bridge—and then ventured east to Ghirardelli Square. They're both located on the north side of the city and there’s no denying that the area is absolutely beautiful. You can’t help but feel relaxed as you walk down the beach with the waves crashing in the background. Once I finished up there—and soaked my shoe via a rouge wave—I headed south and caught a glimpse of the tourist trap known as Lombard Street. I didn’t dally there too long though; instead opting to snap a quick picture and be on my way.

Next, I ventured an hour or so southwest to check out Amoeba Records. Now, I’ve been to a lot of records stores across the country at this point and I was still in awe when I walked through their front door. It’s huge! I’m talking Best Buy or Target huge. There are just endless rows of records, CDs, DVDs and music memorabilia. I think I ended up spending a good two hours there, just sifting through their stock. Seriously, if you’re a music fan, you have to visit Amoeba once in your life. It’s like a haven for collectors. As the day turned to night, I wrapped things up with a quick dinner at Cha Cha Cha, another recommended spot. It didn’t disappoint and I’m definitely glad someone put it on my radar.

The following day, I decided to keep things pretty relaxed. I started out by attending a 49ers / Raiders tailgating party in Mission Bay. It was jam-packed with fans—I’d say at least 200—and located in the SoMa StrEat Food Park. They had a rather impressive selection of food trucks, accompanied by a few giant TVs sprinkled throughout the area. I had a good time chatting it up with locals, even though they didn’t really enjoy my love of the Browns. After the game, I grabbed a beer at Anchor Brewing, before journeying a bit north to 21st Amendment Brewery—one of my absolute favorites. I immediately got to ordering a Hell or High Watermelon and then kicked back to enjoy some more football for the rest of the afternoon.

All in all, I’d say it was a rather eventful weekend. I hit up several of San Francisco’s neighborhoods and even got a chance to bond with some locals. If I learned one thing about this city though, it’s that no matter where you go there’s always a beautiful view just around the corner.

-Steve-

Day 260

Minneapolis is an incredible city and from what everyone tells me, I came at the right time of year. Turns out, it tends to get a little cold up here in the winter. So, how does the city combat the scourge that is snow, ice and wind? Well, as I recently learned, by building the Minneapolis Skyway System—a climate-controlled walkway that links sixty-nine full city blocks. That’s more than 11 miles of walkway! 

In all honesty, the existence of the walkway didn’t even register until someone at Campbell Mithun told me about it. I guess I just don’t look up enough. But once I started to explore the various paths and halls, I have to admit that it's a pretty ingenious idea. Not only does it connect nearly every building in the downtown area, but each hall also offers a variety of shops, eateries, stores and outlets. It’s like a whole other world in there. You can go from Campbell Mithun Tower to the Target Center to the Wells Fargo Center to the Minneapolis Convention Center and never have to step foot outside.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I find that pretty incredible. Of course, since learning of the skyway, I’ve come to find it’s not the only one in the world. Cities like Montreal and Toronto also have them, while Houston's resides underground. But to me, it’s impressive nonetheless and I think more cities should consider investing in a similar system (ahem... Cleveland). 

That’s not the only interesting thing I learned about Minneapolis either. I discovered the Minnesota Fringe Festival, an annual performing arts festival that began in 2008. Each year, they host between 150 and 180 shows over the course of two weeks, while drawing in an audience of around 50,000. While this year’s event began before my arrival, I did learn of it in time to catch two great shows.

The first was a comedy show called, “Captain Do-Good Saves the Future From Wal-Mart,” while the other was, “Top Gun: The Musical.” Both were highly entertaining and it’s clear that this is one event everyone should check out if they’re in town for it. In my opinion, more cities would benefit from an art-focused festival such as this, if they only give it a chance to shine. 

-Steve-