the end | Arizona Part IV

Arizona.  We came, we saw, we loved.  

Our fourth month in the desert flew by.  We weren’t exactly sure what to expect when we left the south in June, but I don’t know that we knew what a fantastic experience our four month extended honeymoon would be.

The #SuiteLifeofWillandJamie

To our little hotel suite, with its tiny kitchenette, huge desk, desert themed photos, and ever failing internet.  You were just what we needed and more.  Despite the hotel turning off the AC half way through October so that our room became boiling at 80 degrees (really, we can’t be happy because without the heater is was 59 degrees), and despite the monsoons through the summer that curbed our camping exploits, we really could not have had a better time.

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We had a whole crew that went to the same church every Sunday.  The church was a great little place with good people and a good culture and great taste in music.  This one Sunday the boys all dressed alike.

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We went to see Smallfoot!  Guys.  It is such a cute movie.  Will and I really enjoyed ourselves.  It is funny and feel-good and we left much happier than when we went in.  This was also our first time at this tiny theater and Will discovered that I love the candy “Dots.”  Anyone else with me?  They’re delicious!

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I finished the seventh Harry Potter book and had intentions to read the following “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” when we got to North Carolina, but our storage unit flooded and that book was one of the casualties.  

(Don’t worry I will blog about the storage unit catastrophe later.)

Book seven was way better than I remember it being and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

I also almost killed us one night while making spaghetti.  I (accidentally) poured almost this entire thing of garlic powder into the sauce.  Let’s just say, we will be safe from vampires for quite a while.

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I ran out of contacts right before moving home so I popped into an eye doctor to update my prescription.  The doctor was probably the nicest eye doctor I have ever had and was super awesome.  If you are ever in need of an optometrist in Sierra Vista, Arizona, head on over to the Walmart vision center.  You know I wouldn’t steer you wrong!

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Adventures

Our months in Arizona were packed with adventures, and October was no different.  We began the month with a trip out to San Diego to visit Will’s family (blog post linked here), and over Will’s birthday weekend we explored Bisbee a little more with some friends.  

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The Queen Mine Tour was so much fun!  If you are in the area and have the chance to go, you definitely should!  It is on our list of favorite things we did while in Arizona.   

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We wore our warm clothes, got decked out in fluorescent vests, hard hats and flashlights, and set out underground with a hilarious and informed tour guide.  We told him we were from North Carolina and he decided to use the two of us for examples on the tour a couple times.

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After the tour we drove into the historic part of town for an incredible steak dinner at Cafe Roka.  Another place we would highly recommend!  Be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.  They are only open three days a week and serve some absolutely exquisite food.  The friend we went with was born in Bisbee so she knew everyone and we were treated very well.  It was a blast!

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Our very last hurrah was to visit Saguaro National Park.  It was the perfect bookend to our incredible Arizona experience.  

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If you want to see more photos of Saguaro, check out the blog post here.  To be honest, when I think of the desert I definitely think of these cacti, which are actually called Saguaros.  They are the universal symbol of the American West, can live up to 200 years, weigh more than a ton, and will probably grow to be more than forty feet tall.  If there was one thing we did not want to miss before heading back to the east coast, it was spending a sunset with this incredible plant life.

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Saying Goodbye

I’m not going to lie.  Writing this blog post has been hard!  We had SO much fun in Arizona and made so many great memories.  Saying goodbye has definitely been bitter sweet.  We miss our people, our mountains, and our animal style In-N-Out burgers.  The authentic Mexican food is making my mouth water as we speak.

Really, I am just so grateful that we had such an amazing time.  I am grateful that we had the opportunity to call Arizona home for a few months.  That we got to explore so many amazing National Parks.  That we got a little bit of time, just the two of us, to established our marriage.  And that we had so many amazing people championing and supporting us through all of it.

Thank you all so much for everything. 

Don’t worry—now that we are back in North Carolina, the exploring is not ending!  It might change a little bit, but if there is one thing I have learned in my thirty years (UGH I still hate saying that.  Thirty.) it is that life is always an adventure.

Until next time,
Jamie out.

the end | arizona part IV

a cacti goodbye to Arizona

Arizona, what do we say?  We had an absolute blast.  Four months is just not enough time to really explore and get to know you.  

For our last Saturday in the desert, we drove out to Saguaro National Park to see the nation’s largest cacti.  Little known fact, they are actually called saguaros.  Will had the great idea to drive out to see them around golden hour and sunset, and then to have a farewell dinner in Tucson.  

We stamped our National Parks Passports at their visitor center, drove a dirt road loop, and took photos on the side of the road as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Instead of embellishing this experience with words, I think that I will allow our photos to do the talking this time around.  If you find yourself in Tucson at any point in the future, Saguaro National Park should be high on your list of things to experience.  

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If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and let us know in the comments!  If you haven’t joined the family yet, hit that subscribe button and we’ll see you next time!

Until then,

Jamie out.

Our 5 Favorite Things We Did in Arizona

Our four months in southern Arizona are over!  We will always have our memories, and I have a couple more blog posts lined up, but our extended honeymoon has come to a close.  That being said, we spent much of our time in the desert exploring.  Here are our five favorite things we did while in Arizona this summer.

Hiking the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon

We went on a really long hike

We have already blogged about our Grand Canyon experience, but if you missed it, here are some sunrise photos, and here is the complete story of our hike.

The Grand Canyon has been on my bucket list for a while.  It is one of those things that you sit and dream about, like Rome, or the Great Wall of China, or Iceland.  It is a destination I was dying to experience.  And boy did we experience it.

We got up at three in the morning to drive to the National Park and arrive in time to watch the entire sunrise over the canyon walls.  We then spent the next seven hours hiking along the rim.  Clearly it was a dream come true for this hike loving, National Park exploring, photography enthusiast couple.  The Grand Canyon is so much more than just a giant hole in the ground.

Our 5 Favorite Things We Did in Arizona

We made reading a priority

Back in North Carolina, life and busyness got in the way.  We were often running around and stressed, trying to be at every event, plan a wedding, work 50 or more hours a week, and sleep when we could.  Arizona has been much more relaxed and manageable for us.  One thing we were able to really enjoy was making reading a priority.  

Most nights you will find us reading a good book in bed before turning out the lights.  The weekend usually involves at least a few hours of dedicated book time.  And the goal has generally been to read one book a month.  This is something that I seriously hope we can continue once we get back to North Carolina.

Books I have been reading: the Harry Potter series.  

Books Will has been reading: the Inheritance Cycle, “Just Walk Across the Room” by Bill Hybels and “Ghost Soldiers” by Hampton Sides.

Chiricahua National Monument

We made some friends 

I have always said that it is the people that make or break a place.  Well the people in Arizona have absolutely made it for us.  The community we have experienced, the church family we found, and the friends we made have not only made these four months in the desert so much sweeter, but have made saying goodbye so much harder.

From the movie nights, hiking trips, lunch dates, and hotel breakfasts, we had an absolute blast with everyone.  

Our 5 Favorite Things We Did in Arizona Our 5 Favorite Things We Did in Arizona

We toured a mine and ate really good food

On one of our first weekends in Arizona, we visited Bisbee, which you can read about here.  We didn’t quite know where to go, where to eat, or what to do.  After a few hours in the hot weather, we drove back home.  But ever since then, we had a hankering to tour the Bisbee copper mine.

The weekend of Will’s birthday, a couple we met took us to the Queen Mine Tour and followed it with dinner at Cafe Roka.  I definitely recommend both things should you ever find yourself in southern Arizona.

We wore our jackets, hard hats, and flashlights in the mines and rode a train to the very back.  Our tour guide showed us how miners would drill, what drills they used throughout the years, their dynamite techniques, and other mining habits to include how they went to the restroom.  I got to demonstrate for everyone.  Who thinks this should be our Christmas card photo this year?

Our 5 Favorite Things We Did in Arizona Our 5 Favorite Things We Did in Arizona

After our tour, we went to the historic district for our reservations at a seriously delicious Cafe Roka.  We all ordered the filet on a bed of mashed potatoes and veggies.  The starters, salad, soup, sorbet, entree, and dessert sampler platter left nothing wanting.  We had a fantastic time and will definitely come back the next time we are in Bisbee.  We highly recommend it.

Coronado National Memorial

We explored a cave

Our absolute favorite adventure, despite having hiked the Grand Canyon Rim Trail, was exploring a cave in Coronado National Memorial.  It was so cool!  Caves and caverns are super fascinating, a little scary, and very very fun to explore.  This cave in particular was at the end of a short hike up the mountain and was not guided.  We climbed down a hill of rocks at the cave mouth (which distinctly reminded me of the movie “Descent,” although I tried not to think about that) and then used our headlamp and flashlight to explore its depths.  You can read more about that here.

Will and I are so excited to head back to the east coast and North Carolina!  We are seriously looking forward to seeing my family, eating my mom’s cooking, hanging out with our Taco Tuesday crew, and reconnecting with our church fam.  

Have you ever been to Arizona?  What was your favorite part?  If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and don’t forget to join our family by hitting that subscribe button if you haven’t already.

Until next time,
Jamie out

San Diego, Zoos, and Dolphins

Being out in Arizona has been an absolute blast.  We have been able to explore so many different places!  Over Columbus Day weekend we had the opportunity to visit Will’s brother and his family in San Diego for a few days.

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Friday

We left pretty early in the morning, making sure to get in a good breakfast, and of course running into more of our dinosaur friends on the road.  If there’s one thing I’m going to miss about the desert, it’s how many dinosaurs there are hanging around.

Lunch was, obviously, a very satisfying stop at In-N-Out.  I’m already internally crying about the east coast not having my animal style burger fix.

We got to the Shugart house in late afternoon and had a fantastic evening catching up with John, Kristina, and our nieces.  The boys burned things, we ate Mexican food, and our hearts were happy.

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Saturday

We indulged in the traditional Shugart breakfast the following morning.  I love my cheesy eggs, fancy bacon, and delicious waffles, but this girl canNOT get enough potatoes.   They’re so good!  Will is also hardcore into potatoes for breakfast so our marriage was basically a match made in heaven.

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SeaWorld

Some of you may not know this, but I actually used to live in San Diego.  For almost five years I called southern California home and I lived right across the bay from SeaWorld San Diego for some time.  I could almost see their evening fireworks display every night during the summer from my back patio.  

Despite being so close, I never visited while I lived there, so taking the opportunity while we were in town was top of the list.  Having now visited, I highly recommend going to SeaWorld if you have the opportunity.  It is the best aquarium you have ever been to on steroids.

The Sea Lions were great.  You could buy fish to feed them and the birds would always swoop in to try and steal them.

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I have always seen pictures and videos of these cool underwater walkways at aquariums but have never been in one before!  It was so cool!  Even though I am usually terrified of sharks, it was just so awesome that I wasn’t afraid at all.  

We saw several types of sharks just sitting still on the bottom.  I didn’t know they could do that!  Apparently certain species of sharks can keep water moving through their gills by a pumping motion of their pharynx, so they don’t have to keep moving.

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After we saw the sharks, we went to the Dolphin Encounter show.

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I’m not super into splash zones or walking around in sopping wet clothes, so Will was a champ and let me hide behind him when the dolphins soaked us.  Besides that it was an excellent show.  It was fun to see the relationship between the dolphins and trainers.  There was even a big whale that took part in the show, and its personality was so cute.  It reminded me of a giant golden retriever.

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Next up we rode some rides.  The one on the left is the first rollercoaster Will and I have been on together!  I had plenty of anxiety leading up to it while we were waiting in line because we didn’t put our phones in the available lockers.  Anyone else with anxiety get super stressed about the small things sometimes?  Will saved the day with his pockets, and despite lots of screaming on my part, it was a seriously excellent rollercoaster.  

I bowed out on the Atlantis ride, though, because I was a little cold and didn’t feel like getting wet again.  

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I hung out with my niece as everyone else took turns riding.  We made sure to stand outside the splash zone while we watched everyone come down, and then went to look at the fishies and sting rays for a while.

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My five year old niece took the photo on the right.  She’ll be a photographer in no time.

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As the afternoon turned into evening, and the unnaturally chilly San Diego day seeped into our bones, we stopped by a Starbucks for coffees and hot chocolates to warm up while we waiting in line for our next adventure.

Confession time: Will’s fave from Starbucks is the caramel frappe.  He claims this is the best one he had ever had.  Way to go, SeaWorld Starbucks.

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Their Orca show has, apparently, changed a lot.  It is now primarily an educational show where they teach you all about the different kinds of Killer Whales and absolutely no one gets in the water with them.

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After the show, we went down below to watch the Orcas swim for a little while.  

Will and I have taken to getting magnets for every state we have been through, or for significant places we have visited.  We also like getting Christmas ornaments, but in SeaWorld we opted for the Orca fridge magnet.  They are seriously majestic animals.

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I can’t pick a favorite thing we did in SeaWorld because it was all really good.  I definitely recommend a visit the next time you’re in San Diego.

When we left the park, we grabbed some dinner and then went back to John and Kristina’s.

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Sunday

On Sunday morning we went to church, where they had coffee and donuts available beforehand.  That’s my kind of church!  

Afterwards, we went out for brunch to Broken Yolk with the Shugarts and Kristina’s family.  You can never have too much breakfast food.

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San Diego Zoo

Okay, if you think me never going to SeaWorld while I lived in San Diego is bad, listen to this.  Will had never been to a zoo before.  In his life.  Ever.  

When we heard that we knew that we absolutely needed to visit one of the best zoos in the world—the San Diego Zoo.

And don’t worry—I definitely changed into good walking shoes before we went in the park.

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It was so COOL to get to share that moment with Will.  His first time seeing rhinos, giraffes, elephants, lions, gorillas, etc.  He even broke out his phone to take his own pictures and video, which does not happen very often, folks.

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The gorilla was so cute!  A woman played a gorilla video on her phone and it just sat there and watched the whole thing.  

We power walked through Africa, the arctic, stopped for some ice cream, and ended at the orangutans, which were my favorites of the day.  Will’s favorite was the gorilla.  

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After a few hours in the zoo, Will and I took off for a little while so that I could show him all of my old stomping grounds.  We drove up to north county and I showed him a few places I lived, worked, and shopped for groceries, before we headed back south to Pacific Beach.  We drove by my old townhouse and then parked and ran to the beach just in time to watch the last rays of light from the sunset.  It was such a special moment to be able to share with him.  

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Still feeling all grateful and mushy, we stopped at a restaurant called Fat Fish by the pier to get dinner.  It was super delicious and special.  

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Monday

We had a great and relaxing morning with the family before we got back on the road.  We stopped a few hours into our drive to spend a some time with the sand dunes.  Will had never seen sand dunes before!  Yet another cool moment to share with him!  They were pretty big, and super white.  It doesn’t take greenery or oceans for something to be beautiful.  

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We had a fantastic trip and whirlwind weekend with the family.  There is so much to do in San Diego, it actually became overwhelming for me at one point because I realized that there is so much I want to share with Will.  I’m so grateful that we had this time with family and with San Diego before we head back to the east coast.  It did a lot of good for my soul.

Have you ever been to San Diego?  What was your favorite part?  The food is pretty high on my list!  If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and don’t forget to join the family by hitting that subscribe button if you haven’t already.

Until next time,
Jamie out