Written July 15, 2021
Traveled February 12-15, 2021
Serendipity is not only a lovely 2001 film, but also appears to be the theme of my 2020 cross-country move from West to East Coast. The signs started pointing towards a path of least resistance before I even knew I’d be moving to Boston. On a random drive to work, the local country radio station in Seattle, WA was playing commercials from Boston. “Come down to Beantown,” they exclaimed! I happened to be at a national physical therapy conference (APTA’s CSM) at the same time as the Human Resources representative I was speaking to from Boston Children’s. My coworker was able to take time off to drive cross-country with me, where Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road opened on the day we’d be there.
Once I arrived in New York on July 18, 2020, I had a pocket full of faith in the alignment of the universe and manifestations of my desires. My personal life and professional life found alignment in perfect synchronicity with all I’d imagined.
What I didn’t expect was development in relationships. I knew I’d be moving closer to loved ones and would welcome more meaningful connections into my life with the transition to the East Coast, but the surprise of finding alignment with someone else was not even something I was thinking about.
When I met up with Justin for brunch in Astoria on a Sunday in July, I thought I’d just be catching up with an old friend. Crossing paths momentarily. Seeing what we’ve been up to all these years. Little would I know how our paths had found a way to align. All our little life changes, challenges, and transitions made it possible for us to be together in New York on a beautiful day. Enjoying brunch, a long walk, a sunset, and an endless stream of conversation.
One date turned into one year, six months of distance, two trips to Northern California, and countless video chats (& shots of tequila… hehe). The gratitude I have for our alignment is palpable as Justin drives cross-country almost exactly 365 days after my road trip departure date.
In January 2020, Justin traveled to Northern California for a six-month residency program in Physical Therapy. Having spent the last few months intentional about our relationship, I knew the distance could be challenging, but there wasn’t a doubt it’d be worth it. Having known each other since our undergraduate days at SUNY Stony Brook, we had a strong foundation (side note: GO SEAWOLVES!!!). Originally, Justin was supposed to do this residency in the Summer of 2020, but because of his own life changes and COVID, it was delayed. If all happened the way it was originally written, he wouldn’t have been in NY when I arrived in July 2020. We wouldn’t have met for bunch. We wouldn’t be where we are today.
Justin’s departure to California was difficult, as I had just spent the last five years living a plane ride away from all my loved ones. I kept thinking, I moved to the East Coast to be closer to people–why the distance again?! Yet, I realized my time spent in distance relationships was preparation for this moment. All my resistance and fear was met with support and love. I knew I could do this because I was surrounded by my tribe and I had faith in the unfolding of our journey – the serendipity that allowed all to align in the first place.
During the only days Justin had off from his program, I planned to visit him in Northern California for the three-day weekends: President’s Weekend in February (which aligned with Valentine’s Day! FUN!) and Memorial Day in May!
February in Northern California
Justin is the perfect travel companion. He somehow perfectly balances spontaneity and planning. It’s awesome. I planned to be in California from Friday, February 12 to Monday, February 15. During our three days together, we were reminded how important it is to slow down together. “We plan, God laughs” became our mantra for the weekend. But we’ll get there in a second.
Traveling to California
My February 2021 trip to Northern California was my first flight in a year. With COVID still being a concern, I was as mindful as possible with my travel plans, with COVID testing, masking, and sanitization. According to research, airplanes have been deemed one of the safest places because of the ventilation. Yet, many airlines were still carrying restrictions on the number of passengers, seats available, and flight options. I traveled on JetBlue where the middle seats were still not being booked (win!). It was a very comfortable and easy, direct flight from Boston to San Francisco (SFO). Oh and they still served snacks, which was wicked awesome.
Once arriving at SFO, I still had a few hours before Justin would be out of work. I took the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) directly out of SFO International Airport, which was a super cheap way to get closer to Benicia where Justin was living. It was about an hour of travel to Concord Station, where I met an Uber driver to bring me to Justin’s long-term AirBnB! I arrived to a quiet home overlooking water and rolling hills, made myself a little brunch, and did some writing while waiting for Justin to get home from work. Yes, it was a lot of travel! Yes, it was worth it!
February in Northern California
On FRIDAY, we enjoyed dinner from Benicia’s local Aung MayLiKa Burmese Cuisine – a type of food I’ve never had before! The Burmese Style Chicken Biryani is something you CANNOT skip. We also enjoyed Garlic Noodles, soup, and wings. Yeah, we like to eat well.
SATURDAY started our adventures in Sonoma, CA! Did I mention how stellar Justin is at planning?! We started with brunch at El Dorado Kitchen, where I got Smoked Salmon Benedict and Justin got Huevos Rancheros. We both got a cocktail similar to a pisco sour with pineapple juice. We wandered around downtown Sonoma, stumbling upon a kitchen gadgets shop where Justin bought me the most adorable mini mug from quotables. Our wanderings brought us to Roche Winery’s Downtown Sonoma Tasting Room, where the host cleared an outdoor table seating space for us, then we got unsolicited information from a passerby about town gossip. We got the Select Family Flight, which included 4 wines for $20. Our favorite white was the 2018 Carneros Chardonnay, which got the Gold Medal in the 2020 North Coast Wine Challenge (94 pts).
We eventually realized our wanderings had to come to a halt so we could check into our AirBnB in Sonoma and prepare for the evening’s activities! We worked well under pressure and changed quickly before heading out to drive amongst rolling hills and vineyards to our tasting at Mumm Napa – home of sparkling wines!
The Reserve Tasting came with three glasses of sparkling wine – which were labeled by the coasters (so neat)! Our view overlooking Napa Valley and the vineyard was beautiful. Each glass had different tasting notes and were delicious, though I opted for a second glass of the 2012 DVX Brut.
For dinner, we continued on to reservations at Long Meadow Ranch’s Farmstead, which features food from LMR’s farm AND ranch! The menu options change seasonally – something I always admire in a restaurant. We started with a drink in the café (can’t go wrong with the Farmhouse Margarita!) before being seated outdoors.
Sadly, our fun came to a bit of a halt after dinner. I’ll preface this part of the story with saying that NONE of the above restaurants or vineyards are to blame for what happened! En route to our AirBnB from dinner, we stopped to pick up some Pepto Bismol for Justin’s upset stomach. Was in the sparkling wine? His burger from dinner? Who knew, but I was feeling fine. Little did we know a few tablespoons of Pepto Bismol couldn’t have stopped the next 2 days of hunkering down with the one and only… norovirus. *dun dun dunnnn* (Yes, before coronavirus, there were other viruses we talked about.) Our first night in the AirBnB ended up being our only night (albeit a sleepless night), as we opted to return to Benicia for comfort.
SUNDAY was spent eating white rice and drinking chicken bone broth. Since I was feeling A-OK, I was able to make some runs to the grocery store and nurture Justin. We hoped he’d maybe feel better and we’d be able to carry through with his Valentine’s Day plans, which were expertly crafted, but never experienced. Would I change a thing? Sure, I would definitely have preferred we* NOT get sick, but some things are simply out of our control (*spoiler alert, I know). Spending the day binge watching Vikings and just being together was simply enough. Like I said, “We make plans, God laughs.”
And laugh we did! Until I was on my JetBlue flight from SFO back to BOS, sitting in the way back, with a glorious burrito from San Francisco’s El Farolito waiting for me to indulge when I got a pang of stomach pain. “I’m just hungry,” I thought. “Must be the turbulence.”
Hunger and turbulence it was not. I, Kristen, spent 95% of the flight in the restroom which was gratefully only two rows behind me. Many people have described this as their travel nightmare. I will vouch for the fact that it is not fun and I don’t recommend having norovirus on an airplane to anyone, at any time.
All I can say is – I am grateful for redemption trips, patience, and genuine care for each other. And genuinely being to laugh about it now, months later… haha!
My next post goes into waaaaaay more adventure and travel options in Northern California… click below to read for the continuation of J&K adventures: