My Husband Makes me go to Buffalo

A small industrial town in the North West corner of New York so close to the edge you can drive to Canada in 30 minutes was never on my list of places I wanted to visit and yet, I've been twice in two years.  My husband makes me go to Buffalo and we are those people who hop on a plane and fly cross country to watch a sporting event.   

I didn't realize it until I saw the team schedule in the program once we got to the stadium, but my husband had two choices for September games this year.  That is my Buffalo cut off point, because after that, this California girl would surely die of exposure.  It was to be the Colts or the Patriots, and he chose the Patriots.  We all know which team the Bills had a better chance of beating and if you fly thousands of miles for a game you'd like to see the win.  At that point, he had to admit that I wasn't the only one interested in seeing Tom Brady play.  MJ is not a fan, by any means but he wanted to see if he is really as good as all that.  I watched the Tom Brady deflate gate controversy closely.  It would make them harder to beat, but I was glad that he got his suspension overturned.  I'm no football fan, but hotness factor wasn't the only reason I wanted to see him play.

You see, in 2007 I set out to learn football.  I'm over here all excited about the World Gymnastics Championships, which half the time isn't even televised, but everyone else I know is obsessed with football.  Once football season hits that's all anyone talks about.  Football season this and fantasy football that.  I found myself going to a lot of parties to watch a sport I didn't even understand so I thought it might be nice to actually understand what was going on.  That year I started paying attention and learning how many yards are in a down and how many downs you have to make a touchdown.  The Patriots were unbeatable that year and I watched with interest as they won game, after game, after game.  I was accustomed to seeing a throw followed by a huge dog pile of men and not really understanding what it was all about, but that didn't happen when Tom Brady threw the ball to Wes Welker.  When Tom Brady throws the ball, someone catches it and seeing the ball advanced down the field so quickly without all the dog piles, helped it all click for me.  It was like, "Oh, so that's what's supposed to happen."  I had never seen a team move the ball like that and not only did it help me understand the game, I was impressed.  I thought about becoming a Patriot's fan, but that would have been too easy and bandwagon like because they are so good.  Plus, I couldn't make my interest in football stick.  I tried to watch it on TV for one season and even though I understood what was going on more or less, I just couldn't get into it and gave up.  I settled for being a Tom Brady fan.

While it is more interesting to see it in person it makes it a little bit harder to follow without the TV graphics.  At last years game,  I tried and just couldn't get into it.  This year was totally different.  Tom Brady was there and everyone was really excited about their starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor.  The Guinness Book of World Records was there.  We had amazing seats and the weather that day was made for football.  Mid 60's and warmish, when it was raining just the day before.  Vanessa Williams was going to be there too for the national anthem.  Buffalo Bills fans are freakin' awesome.  They tailgate like crazy and then they take it into the stadium so don't expect to sit down much during the game. Their excitement and energy is contagious and I had the most fun I have ever had at a football game in my life.  I paid attention.  I watched the score board.  I did not understand all the technicalities and flags on the play--and there were a lot of them, mostly against the Bills--but I knew when to cheer and when to groan without waiting to see what everyone else did.  I knew when to yell Defense and I was even upset right along with everyone else that that the Bills just couldn't pull out a win.  What an amazing story that would have been, and even though I like Tom Brady my loyalty to my husband and his Bills is far greater.  I cheered for them as loud and as long as I could.   The score was 40 to 32.  They put up a good fight.

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Buffalo fans wanted Tom Brady's head on a stick.  Cries of cheater, cheater broke out at one point during the game and people can say mother-F** Tom Brady all they want, but the truth of the matter is that the guy is good.  He is exceptionally gifted at quarter backing.  Is that even a word?  Even me, not really a football fan kind of girl recognized it.  He is like a football god.  The Bills made some good plays, but for them and a lot of teams the only way they stand a chance is if Tom Brady messes up.  He is just that good.
Ralph Wilson Stadium
As for the Guinness Book of World Records.  I was told that a guy started a Go Fund Me account to raise the $9,000 to get them there.  It was never mentioned at the game, so I don't even know what the rules were.  Loudest at any point?  Loudest the whole time?  We heard on the radio the next day on the way to the airport that Bills fans did not beat the Kansas City fans record from last year.  Apparently it isn't likely that anyone ever will because their stadium is engineered for loudness. 

Last year we went to Niagara Falls, a museum and then jetted off to New York City.  This year we spent a day in Toronto.  It rained.  It's a beautiful city, but there is a lot of traffic.  We walked to dinner every night from our hotel on High St., but I still can't figure out where all the people are in Buffalo.  We went to Gabriel's Gate twice.  We loved it so much last year, we went back Mulberry Italian Ristorante, this time after the game.  The restaurants in Buffalo are bustling.  Well, the ones that are open anyway, except for this one place that we walked past several times last year and this year and saw not a single customer inside.  There was this girl wearing a crop top and spandex with holes and rips all up the front asking if we knew of a clothing store that was open.  Ha!  I about died, because my first thought when I saw her is that she needed some more clothes, but most of the shops we passed were closed.  At 7:30pm.  Downtown.  There was an unfortunate hilarious incident that we will forever laugh hysterically about involving big spiders and me being dragged screaming down an entire city block, but thankfully not a single soul was around to witness it.  Ralph Wilson Stadium was obviously packed, but Buffalo has this deserted feel about it that is far different from what I'm used to at home that I can't quite put my finger on.   

It is a vacation, but it isn't. He calls it a pilgrimage.  He is a Bills fan through and through which I find adorable and his Bills cap is a conversation piece anywhere we go.  A Bills fan, in San Diego?  Growing up, he hoped that someday he would be in a position where he could attend a home game in the home town of his favorite sports team.  I love it that he gets to do something he dreamed of as a kid, but I kinda wish he had fallen in love with the Miami Dolphins.  Do I really need to say why?  Or Dallas Cowboy's so I could watch the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, but  there isn't anywhere that I wouldn't go with him.  If it is important to him I'm there.  If it is Buffalo, I'm there.  We can make any place fun together, and I'm happy he wants to share the experience with me. 

I thought he was kidding when he first suggested we fly to Buffalo for a football game, but clearly he is very serious about this.  So serious that he's already talking about "next time."  It's a good thing Buffalo is starting to grow on me, but don't ever make me go in the winter.

Buffalo, NY 2014

The Real Thunder Mountain and The Deep End

We've hiked in Idyllwild, Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and at home in San Diego but Sedona was the first time I've ever felt like I was risking my life.  In Kauai, I worried about potentially getting lost because it was so rugged, but in Sedona there the concern was that if I mess up, I could really get hurt.  Hiking Cathedral Rock is probably the closest I will ever get to actual rock climbing, because I don't see myself doing that ever.  I'm way to scared to hang from a rock by a rope, but I will hike one.  It didn't take long to see how this hike was going to be.  We were barely getting started and already there was a giant rock sitting where I thought a trail was supposed to be.  

We were lucky enough to have some cloud cover that day, but it was hot.  Upper 80's.  I was already out of breath with a steady trickle of sweat rolling down my back just 20 minutes in.  I was enjoying the challenge and then we saw this deep crevice with a pretty steep incline.  That's when I got a little bit nervous.  I let MJ go first, and then started up carefully placing my feet and hands in whatever rock divots that felt sturdy enough to bear my weight.  I didn't even want to think about how we would get down.  There really wasn't a lot of margin for error.  If I lost my balance or grip I wouldn't die, but it would definitely be a nasty fall that I didn't want to take and that was the case at several points along the way.  Cathedral Rock is short, but it is steep.  It only took us about 50 minutes to get to the top with several stops along the way to check out the view.  It is only 1.5 miles round trip, but there is a 600 foot elevation change along the way.

We stopped for ice cream in town after that, all sweaty and gross, and since we obviously didn't get enough exercise on the first hike we did a second one.

Thunder Mountain
I was expecting Airport Loop to be short and sweet, but it was a long sweaty booby trapped trail of cactus and rocky road almost the whole way.  And I'm not talking about ice cream.  It was so late in the day that we had the whole trail to ourselves and only saw one other set of hikers.  Our guide pointed out Thunder Mountain on the jeep tour but we had an even better view of it from here.  I'm talking about the real Thunder Mountain.  The very same one the ride in Disneyland is named after.  I thought that was so cool, to be able to see it in person.  There wasn't a whole lot of incline or decline on this hike but it was still challenging.  It took us 1 1/2 hours of steady walking with no breaks to finish and then we checked the map at the trail head and found out it was 3.3 miles.
Needless to say, we were beat after that.   We picked up Filet Mignon the day before, so MJ threw those on the grill and we had us a nice meal of steak and 'taters on our patio.
Our only appointment on our last day was the Spa and dinner reservations.  We spent the morning at our favorite 21+ pool, where I had a serious break through.  I always talk about how I can't swim, so it was a really big deal that for the first time ever in my life I jumped into the deep end.  I've always been terrified of not being able to touch the bottom, but after much coaxing and practicing I finally did it.  I think it really helped that we had the entire pool to ourselves so I didn't have to worry about anyone staring at the grown ass woman who is afraid to jump into the pool.  I did not sink to the bottom like a stone.  I came to the top, swam towards the shallow end and then flipped over on my back and floated--which is also a newish move that I am mastering.  I may not ever be able to save my life in an ocean, but it is a big accomplishment for me to be able to get around in a pool without fear of the water so I was super excited.  I did it twice and I have both jumps on video for posterity.  This pic is a screen cap of it.

A photo posted by Cece (@mahoganydrive) on

Later on, we stopped at the Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery and did one tasting flight each.  MJ was not impressed, but I do not discriminate against wine in any way and it was all good to me.  I almost booked a winery tour, but I didn't want to commit and I'm so glad I didn't. I did not want to over schedule our trip and it turns out we needed a nap after just the one.  Since Sedona is all about relaxing and rejuvenation we could not leave without going to a spa.  We got amazing massages for our tired muscles at New Day Spa and then went to dinner at El Rincon in the Tlaquepaque Shopping center.

We have had a lot of really great vacations, but I have to say Sedona was one of my favorites.  I fell in love with the town and it felt so good being there together.  I liked that we didn't have too much to do.  I loved our little condo and the relaxing and casual vibe of the whole place.  Sedona is my kind of town.  Half the people run around in Uptown Sedona wearing gym clothes and I shouldn't have even bothered to bring make-up because I didn't use any of it.  I loved the warm nights and that we didn't have to get on a long flight to get there.

Simply put, I loved Sedona.  It's a really special place and I definitely want to go back.

Sedona:  Rough Rider

Rough Ride

We spent Labor Day weekend in Sedona and it was AMAZING from the moment we checked into our hotel until the moment we had to leave.  The drive there took about seven hours including a Cracker Barrel stop for breakfast.  I am very grateful to MJ for driving us the entire way there and back.  I really try to be a good road-trip partner and I only fell asleep one time.  It was raining when we got there, but we didn't see a drop after that.   We had four nights there and it should have been plenty, but I got a bad case of red rock fever and didn't want to go home.  Then again, I never want my vacations to be over.
I have to include multiple pictures of where we stayed because the place was just so nice to look at.  I was in awe as soon as I flung open the door.  We've stayed in nice places before, but the attention to detail at Sedona Summit is exquisite.  In the bathroom, the water closet was behind a heavy wooden sliding pocket door with a dark bronze handle.  The shower was enormous, the tiling intricate and the super deep textured sink was the color of a brand new shiny penny.  There wasn't a typical stand alone closet in the bedroom, but there were a total of three wall cabinets to hang clothes.  To compensate, the wooden bed was designed so that larger items like shoes and luggage could be stored underneath.
The kitchen and living room were equally gorgeous.  Granite, stainless steel, stone tile everything and pretty wooden cabinetry.  In the living room, the wooden ceiling beams, ceiling fan, fireplace, unique wall art and wood trim details were amazing.  Even the window coverings in each room were nice to look at.  This place really had it all.  More important than aesthetics, the place was clean and spotless.  I was so impressed and we hadn't even gotten to the mountains yet.

The town itself is positively quaint and idyllic.  There is a city ordinance that requires every building to fit the theme and look of Sedona right down to the McDonald's arches.  They are green instead of yellow in Sedona.  The town is nestled in the foothills of gorgeous red rock mountains which loom majestically in the background and are visible from every location.
The mountains are stunning.  They are dry as a bone, but just as relaxing and calming to look at as the ocean in their own way.

On our first full day there we did the Rough Rider Canyon tour with Earth Wisdom along Broken Arrow Trail.  The off-roading section.  It was rough and rugged as promised.  On the way there, we gained some elevation on a paved road until it abruptly ran out and things got bumpy pretty quickly.  We were the only ones on this tour so we had the whole jeep to ourselves to bounce around in.  The pink jeeps are cute and all, but I found a Groupon for a much better price and didn't lack for anything on the tour.  The red jeep got us where we needed to go and our guide Zac was very friendly and informative.  He took us to the very tip top of the trail beyond a gate where a lot of tours end and the views were amazing.  I was a little bit nervous about just how rough the ride would be, but it was fine.  I held onto the cross bar almost the whole time, caught air a few times and managed to hit my elbow on something which only hurt for a few hours.  Other than that it wasn't anything too crazy.  It is definitely not something I would recommend for anyone who is fragile for any reason.
It was a cross between Mad Max and the Wild Wild West out there on the trail.  Tom Cars, ATV's, dirt bikes, motorcycles, SUV's, bicyclists and pedestrians converged in an organized dusty cloud of chaos that I would want no part of driving myself in.  This area is open to private vehicles, and our tour guide has seen sedans and mini-vans trying to make it up there which sounds positively insane to me.  There are some serious boulders along that trail and vehicles moving every which way.  MJ says he'd be game to drive it, but I would probably manage to drive myself off the mountain if I were behind the wheel so I was happy to leave the driving to the professionals.

The tour was just a little bit over one hour and thirty minutes but felt like much longer.  It was plenty of time to enjoy the experience and we both had a great time.  My body felt a little worn out from all the hanging on and bracing. 
I went from having gone to Whole Foods once in my life to going three times in one day.  We went once in the morning to pick up something for breakfast.  Another time on the way home from our jeep ride to get water and a third because after the pool we were hungry but didn't want to go out to eat. We sat outside on our patio and pigged out on the goodness that is Whole Foods before settling in on our cozy couch like two bookends to watch a movie.

Our Sedona vacation was off to an excellent start. 

Hiking Sedona.