Returning to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

When I think back to my child years, one of my favorite places to go in the summer was the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, California. Sitting alongside Monterey Bay, it is the states oldest amusement park, providing fun for families and people of all ages since 1907.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California, Monterey Bay

The Boardwalk is free to walk around to soak in the atmosphere whether the park is open or closed. If you don’t have much time, you can purchase a ticket for just an individual ride. The ride to go on is the Giant Dipper. It is one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world running since 1924 and recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

dwalk, California, Monterey Bay

dwalk, California, Monterey Bay

My feet as a child always gravitated to the Sky Glider and Logger’s Revenge. Beautiful panoramic views of the park, ocean and surrounding area await up-top the glider. Nothing like cooling down to a big splash on a warm summer day on a log ride.

dwalk, California, Monterey Bay

dwalk, California, Monterey Bay

dwalk, California, Monterey Bay

dwalk, California, Monterey Bay

The Casino Arcade alongside the amusement park contains hundreds of video games, new and old school. You’ll find plenty of spots outside to enjoy the carnival food of the boardwalk or have a picnic.

dwalk, California, Monterey Bay

Lots of beach awaits to soak in some sun and/or go for a dip. Straight ahead is…

dwalk, California, Monterey Bay

the Santa Cruz Wharf where you will find shops, souvenirs, seafood opportunities and you might even spot a sea lion or two.

dwalk, California, Monterey Bay

While walking down the wharf, look back to get beautiful views of the beach, palm trees and the half-mile long boardwalk. I got goosebumps returning to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Hope to relive more fun memories and make new ones there again soon.

dwalk, California, Monterey Bay

dwalk, California, Monterey Bay

Ten Ideas for taking San Francisco By Foot.

San Francisco is known as one of the more walkable cities in the US. Where ever your shoes take you there is bound to be natural beauty in all directions. Having spent a lot of time walking in The City by the Bay over the years, below are ten ideas for taking San Francisco by foot.

Walk the Golden Gate Bridge. Gravitate to where ten million other walkers, runners, tourists and cyclists go every year and head out onto the open International Orange painted bridge. Foggy or sunny, dawn or dusk, the half-plus mile journey one-way will be a bucket list type experience. If you are there on a sunny day, breathtaking San Francisco skyline and bay views await.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

Just beyond the Golden Gate, walk Marin Headlands.. I know technically it’s not San Francisco, but the views of the city and beyond make this a journey worth taking up in the hills. Walk from vista point to vista point. On the nearby trail within the headlands, head out onto the open, steep path towards the still active lighthouse, where the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean come together. Wild landscape awaits.

Marin Headlands, Sausalito, California

Walk an off-the-beaten path neighborhood. Tourists flock to Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown, but places like Inner Sunset continue to be off the radar for non-locals. While roaming head into places like the 22nd & Irving produce and vegetable market. You’ll get a feel for what real life is like in the city and off the tourist track.

Walk up-and-down the Tiled Steps. Continuing on in the Inner Sunset neighborhood and visit the hidden gem, The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project. Walk up and down the 163-step staircase, where each step is mosaic masterpiece created by locals. Grand View Park sits up-top and views of the Sunset District and straight out to the Pacific are in view as you head down. If you’re a runner it’s a great place to test your endurance, as many people will probably go flying up-and-down the stairs as you’re visiting.

The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project, San Francisco

Walk through and around the Ferry Building. Head to the plaza in the back to check out the bay, watch ferries come-and-go and if you like to people watch. Locals use the ferries to get to-and-from work at rush hour times. Inside shop the marketplace. After walking for a while dine at the numerous cafes and restaurants. Recommended stops are Blue Bottle, Pepples Donuts and Far West Fungi. Three days a week your feet can take you through a local farmers market.

Walk up to the top of Terminal Hill via the Filbert and Greenwich Steps. Checkout the homes, gardens and greenery as you’re moving along. Once up-top head to the top of Coit Tower to get panoramic, 360 degree views of the city. Rest up and hang out on the grass just behind the tower.

Walk/hike the California Coastal Trail.. Looking for a longer, half-day adventure? Start out anywhere along Ocean Beach with the Pacific Ocean in full view. Walk/hike the 8+ mile trails passing by Point Lobos, Baker Beach and countless park benches and vista points. Lots of stairs, landmarks, hidden gems and the Golden Gate Bridge at the end of your journey awaits. Lands End is a recommended spot to relax and soak in all the views.

Lands End, San Francisco, California, Golden Gate Bridge

Walk Lombard Street, don’t drive down the famous curved road. As you’re heading down or climbing up the famous red bricked road, closely check out the colorful Victoria mansions that line the street. Also capture the beautiful flowers all around and the skyline opportunities that await around the middle. As with most things on this list and in travel, you gain a greater appreciation and see a place more in-depth on foot then you could ever do so in the car.

Lombard Street, San Francisco skyline, California

Walk the Hayes Valley neighborhood with a coffee in hand.. Of course I’m going to work coffee into the list. :) Within Hayes Valley, grab a shot of espresso at the outside Blue Bottle Kiosk and/or a pour over at the Ritual Coffee shipping container and walk the boutique style, tree-lined neighborhood streets. You’re bound to get lost in the moment, getting the feeling of being in a completely different town.

Walk into The Buena Vista. After all that walking outside, walk into the home of the original Irish coffee to unwind. Make sure to grab a seat at the bar so you can see the magic happen. Watch the white-coated bartender’s line up glasses on the bar and make what it seems like dozens of Irish coffees at once. There is latte art, and then there is the art of an Irish coffee!

What other places and neighborhoods in San Francisco would you recommend checking out on foot?

An Ohio and Midwest Winter Scene.

A few months back I captured the Autumn colors of Findlay and Hancock County right in the heart of Ohio and the Midwest. This past weekend it was time to capture some of the snow and winter scene. It might not be as colorful, but it is just as beautiful.

Downtown Findlay, Ohio, winter

Main Street, Downtown Findlay, Ohio

Findlay Reservoir, Ohio, winter

Romantic park bench enjoying the Findlay Reservoir scene.

Findlay Reservoir, Ohio, winter

Out on the open wintry trail along the Findlay Reservoir.

Findlay Reservoir, Ohio, winter

Romantic park bench enjoying the Findlay Reservoir scene.

Findlay Reservoir, Ohio, winter

Romantic park bench enjoying the Findlay Reservoir scene.

Findlay Reservoir, Ohio, winter

Out on the open wintry Ohio country road.

Hancock County, Findlay, Ohio, winter road trip

Out on the open road between Findlay and Tiffin, Ohio.

Hancock County, Findlay, Ohio, winter road trip

Out on the Ohio open road!

Findlay, Ohio, winter, Blanchard River, Riverside Park

The Blanchard River in Riverside Park

Findlay, Ohio, winter, Blanchard River, Riverside Park

The Blanchard River in Riverside Park

Findlay, Ohio, winter, Blanchard River, Riverside Park

The Blanchard River in Riverside Park

Findlay, Ohio, winter, Blanchard River, Riverside Park

I’m not the only one enjoying winter in Findlay

Downtown Findlay, Ohio, winter

Park Bench overlooking the Hancock County Courthouse

Downtown Findlay, Ohio, winter

Fire hydrant enjoying the snow in Downtown Findlay

Litzenberg Memorial Woods, winter, Findlay, Ohio

The trails of Litzenberg Memorial Woods

Litzenberg Memorial Woods, winter, Findlay, Ohio

The trails of Litzenberg Memorial Woods

Litzenberg Memorial Woods, winter, Findlay, Ohio

The trails of Litzenberg Memorial Woods

Annual Coffee Review: The Passion Continues to Grow.

Last year my focus was more on savoring the coffee and the experience then just trying to visit x amount of coffee shops and drink as much coffee as I could. I still managed to checkout many new spots around home and while traveling and returned back to favorites like Octane Coffee in Atlanta, The Wormhole Coffee in Chicago, Koffee Café in Cleveland and Rowster Coffee in Grand Rapids. New favorites emerged like Strange Matter Coffee in Lansing, Michigan, while others unfortunately closed like Glassbox Coffee & Juice in Ann Arbor.

The goal of experiencing different coffee brewing methods was a success both at home and on the road. Moving past the single cup pour over on the road, many coffees made via French Press, AeroPress and with a clever coffee dripper were enjoyed. I found myself taking to outside the norm combinations like espresso and Coke as well.

Atlanta's own @CocaCola with espresso shots. What you get is Ameri-cola from @OctaneCoffee yum!

A photo posted by Aaron Cruz (@elatlboy) on

At home the coffee pot and Keurig were more-and-more being rotated out by the Chemex and single cup pour over. I even broke out the espresso machine at home to enjoy shots and start the process of learning how to make lattes.

Latte anyone? Cranking out the Sunday morning #coffee. #ilovecoffee

A photo posted by Aaron Cruz (@elatlboy) on

That helped to meet the goal of enjoying a variety of lattes at home, as well as at indie coffee shops. The Lavender Latte has become my favorite. Latte art is still something I want to explore soon.

I’ve started interacting more with baristas, the owners of coffee shops and other coffee lovers. Questions are usually being asked while my drink was being made, while also striking up random conversations with other visitors. The favorite thing from that has been getting tips on coffee shops and other places to checkout in the area, usually unsolicited.

Lots of interaction with the coffee community has been done on Twitter and Instagram as well. A lot more of my coffee knowledge and experience is coming from social interaction, versus me researching in a silo online and picking places to go.

Lots of people post pictures of their coffee online these days as with anything else. I have and continue to try to come up with unique ways to photograph and present the coffee that is in front of me.

Looking ahead to the rest of this year, I look to expand my love of coffee by:

  • Getting the latte making process down and venturing into the latte art world.
  • Starting to make coffee via French Press and introduce other gadgets at home.
  • Learning more about where the coffee beans I experience come from.
  • Trying coffee beans from a variety of places. I’ve gotten a head start thanks to Pola of JettingAround who is sending me bags from different hot spots in Chicago.
  • Making coffee in mass. I’ve already gone out on the open road with my coffee gear, making one latte after another for a large party.
  • Enhancing the section on the blog dedicated to coffee, continuing to post my unique way of enjoying coffee.
  • Interacting even more online and in-person with the coffee community.
  • Hopefully returning to favorites like Press Coffee Bar in Dayton, Ohio, Stauf’s Coffee Roasters in Columbus, Ipsento Coffee in Chicago and Fourbarrel Coffee in San Francisco.

The passion for coffee continues to grow. Out on the open caffeinated road I go!

Do you have any recommendations or ideas on things I should try to take my passion to the next level?

Kicking 2015 Into Full Travel & Coffee Gear.

A belated Happy 2015 to all!

Hope everyone has had a great start to the year. Sorry I have been scarce. Over the last month I’ve enjoyed the holidays and laid low as well as spent some time bouncing around Lake Michigan checking out lighthouses and resort towns in Michigan. I’ve been active as a Contributing Writer on The Awesome Mitten as well as recently writing my first guest post for the Pure Michigan blog.

St. Jpseph, Michigan lighthouse, Lake Michigan selfie

St. Joseph, Michigan lighthouse along Lake Michigan.

It’s now time to kick the coffee consumption and elATLboy adventures and writing back into full gear. In addition the process has begun in figuring out where I want to take this blog going forward. There will be lots of Michigan travel ahead, with Atlanta, the Great Lakes region and long distance trips having their place as well.

I look forward to what the rest of the year will bring in terms of this blog, travel and coffee consumption. Hope to see you “Out on the Open Road” along the way!

Cheers,
Aaron

The 2014 Coffee Moment for Me.

While out on the open road in 2014 many great coffee and coffee shop moments come to mind. The one that sticks out occurred during a random 4.5 mile walk I took one morning from the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago to the Loop (Downtown area) primarily along N. Milwaukee Avenue.

My feet took me from Ipsento Coffee, passing through Wicker Park and The Wormhole Coffee, into the River West neighborhood and Big Shoulders Coffee. At Big Shoulders I grabbed an iced coffee which really hit the spot on that muggy morning.I continued the rest of the way with the iced coffee at my side. The coffee decided to take a break on a random park bench in West Town.

Big Shoulders Coffee, Chicago, iced coffee

Big Shoulders Coffee, Chicago, iced coffee

The travel goosebumps were in full force at that moment. I was roaming in one of my favorite cities, with a good-looking java. :) A coffee moment I will always remember.

.@BigShouldersCW iced #coffee just hanging out in West Town. #Chicago #choosechicago #ttot

A photo posted by Aaron Cruz (@elatlboy) on

Do you have a memorable coffee and/or travel experience from 2014?

2014: The Year in Travel, Instagram Style.

It’s hard to believe the end of 2014 is already upon us. A great year it has been with lots of time out on the open road. I’m going to highlight the year in travel by picking my favorite Instagram photo from each month.

Winter in Michigan brings snow, cold temperatures and way to early in the day sunsets. Those sunsets though with snow and ice in the foreground never seem to disappoint as on this January evening roaming around Kensington Park in Milford.

Kensington Park, Michigan, sunset

There are many places I try to get to once a season to capture photographs. Edgewater Park just west of Downtown Cleveland is one of those spots. The camera is always directed back to the east and the Cleveland skyline, with February usually bringing piles upon piles of lake effect snow.

Edgewater Park, Cleveland, Ohio skyline

College town Ann Arbor offers many architectural marvels on-and-off the University of Michigan campus. One such place, a favorite of mine to walk through, is Nickels Arcade. On this March day, I hung out on the ground to get a different feel of this gem.

Nickels Arcade, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The end of April brought lots of time out on the Michigan open road along Lake Michigan. Hoffmaster State Park near Muskegon brought picturesque views, a remote beach and made me feel like I was hanging out along the Pacific. My hand in the photo was showing off that I was indeed in The Mitten (Michigan’s Lower Peninsula). I was also up to something else in that photo. :) :) :) :)

Hoffmaster State Park, Muskegon, Michigan

May brought lots of time in Niagara Falls and not just a trip or a vacation, but also my honeymoon. The Ontario, Canada tourist town served as the first place I got to experience with my wife. While there we passed by scores of flowers, including these yellow daffodils which were guarding the American and Bridal Veil Falls.

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

The beginning of summer and June brought me to the Windy City. One of my favorite spots to walk when in Chicago is Grant Park because of the greenery and skyline views.

Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois skyline

Another month, another honeymoon. Niagara Falls wasn’t enough, so my wife and I decided to take another trip, this time to St. Pete Beach, Florida. Every evening it didn’t matter what we were doing, as long as it involved being on or along the beach at sunset. Watching the sun go down into the Gulf of Mexico night after night was one of the more beautiful scenes I have seen.

St. Pete Beach, Florida sunset

August brought me back to roaming Michigan, this time the Lake Huron coastline. It’s not just sunsets with me. Getting up and on the road super early leads to scenes like down below. The beautiful sunrise near Tawas City opened a new day of travel possibilities!

Lake Huron sunrise, Michigan

I have spent a lot of time in small-town Findlay, Ohio over the years, but it took until this September to visit the Findlay Reservoir just outside of town. So close to civilization, yet this gem gives off the feel of being far away from everything. I climbed the stairs to reach its vast body of water. It was a relaxing morning with just me and reservoir hanging out.

Findlay Reservoir, Ohio

It being October in Michigan and the Midwest meant I was out roaming and capturing as much Autumn color as possible. The most memorable spot I found was Parker Mill County Park in Ann Arbor. The variety of colors, along with the piles of leaves decorating the ground made for a great place to relax and enjoy the season.

Parker Mill County Park, Ann Arbor, Michigan

I gravitated to Atlanta, Georgia in November, where the Autumn color was still in full swing. That meant going to my favorite place in the city to walk around, Piedmont Park. Right in the heart of Midtown beautiful color and ATL skyline views awaited me at every turn.

Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia, Autumn skyline

In December I figured to finish the year out right by visiting arguably my favorite spot in Michigan. I climbed up the sand dunes at Grand Haven State Park along Lake Michigan to checkout the lighthouses, catwalk, pier and vast body of water. A romantic spot and view if there was one. :)

Grand Haven State Park, Michigan, Lake Michigan

2014 brought lots of roadtripping and being out on the open road but ultimately when I think back on the year travel won’t be the first thing that comes to mind. That special day in the Spring when I married the love of my life, Erin, will always be front-and-center! :) My favorite Instagram shot of the year, look The Mitten now has a ring. The picture earlier was taken a week before, my last trip as a single guy.

elATLboy Wedding, Wedding Day

The elATLboy is wishing everyone a safe and happy start to the holiday season. Almost time to get Instagram and my camera ready for some 2015 travel adventures. :)

Cheers!
Aaron