Seventeen years ago last week, I made a decision that changed my life forever. There I was, a pimple faced sixteen year old kid, driving to school on my birthday with a brand new license in my wallet. Like any kid that gets their first taste of freedom, ditching school in favor of the open road sounded like a brilliant idea. That is, if I had a single rebel blood cell in my body - which, to no ones surprise, I don't. Instead, I made use of this new freedom with a stop at Dunkin' Donuts where, bursting at the seams with adult bravado, I ordered my very first iced coffee.
Boy did I think I was hot stuff. I mean, not only did I just pull into school driving my awesome 1988 Chevy Celebrity, but now I was without question the only kid in America sitting in homeroom with an iced coffee. For the first time in my life, I was a trendsetter. That coffee shop they had at Harbor on The O.C.? Yeah, you're welcome Seth and Ryan.
|She was a sweet ride.|
But as is often the case with teenagers that think they've got the world figured out, I had no idea how that morning stop for an iced coffee would impact my life, and my travels, for years to come. To this day, I can count on one hand the number of times I have had a hot cup of java, and while iced coffee has become far more mainstream, there are still times when finding a proper dose can be a challenge. I can't tell you how many times I try to order it in a restaurant and the server looks at me as if I've asked them to explain a Credit Default Swap.
|Very happy after finding the Clover machine in Monterey.|
Although the challenge of finding a fix might drive me Britney-Spears-at-the-barbershop-crazy from time to time, for the most part I've come to enjoy the quest for iced coffee, especially when traveling. As soon as the sun peaks through the strategically placed gap in the hotel's blackout curtains, I'm up, dressed, and out on a mission. But it's not just the coffee I'm after; it's the experience found along the way.
|Yeah..this was breakfast. Big whoop?|
After years of morning iced coffee jaunts, I've come to learn there just is something insanely beautiful about walking the streets of a city while almost everyone is still asleep. In San Francisco, I stood outside La Boulange for several minutes as one of the world's iconic buildings - the TransAmerica Pyramid - played peek-a-boo in the fog. On the walk to Jean Philippe at the Bellagio, I discovered that Las Vegas is a very different place early in the morning. And few times have I felt more connected to Mother Nature than sauntering through the French Laundry's dew covered garden en route to Bouchon Bakery in the sleepy town of Yountville.
|Could have sat here all morning...|
The journey to find iced coffee has even become one of my favorite routines during our many trips to Disney. When we stay at one of the Epcot resorts, catching the sunrise over Crescent Lake is easily the best part of visiting the Swan and Dolphin's Java Bar. Well, that and their amazing chocolate frosted donuts. Otherwise, when staying at any other Disney hotel, I start every morning by driving clear across property to the Contemporary Resort. For some reason, the security guard out front always looks at me funny when I tell him I'm only there for coffee at Contemporary Grounds...
|Hard to beat the morning stroll at Disney.|
In all of our travels, however, no where has the iced coffee quest been more challenging than when sailing the high seas. A cruise ship might have a crew of 2000 from all over the world, but I can assure you none of them will know how to make an iced coffee. Enter: Oasis and Allure of the Seas - the savior to iced coffee loving cruise ship passengers everywhere. Their full fledged Starbucks - where you can even pay with the smartphone app! - has officially ended my morning misery while also ensuring that I'll never sail on another class of cruise ship again. OK, so the "as many free donuts as you can carry with two hands" shop might be equally responsible for this decision.
If only that sixteen year old kid knew the impact that trip to Dunkin' Donuts would have on his future life. With the luxury of hindsight, there isn't a single thing I'd have told him to do differently that day. Sure, it's just iced coffee, but both my everyday sanity and travel memories just wouldn't be the same without it.
Enjoy Your Stay