Friday, January 29, 2016

Calico, California

  A road trip wouldn't be a road trip without stopping at a few unique places now and again. While traversing the deserts of southern California we happened upon one of these unique places. Calico.
  Founded in 1881, Calico became known for the silver being extracted form the Silver King Mine but as is the case in most mining towns, Calico was abandoned after silver prices dropped and was no longer profitable. The mining of Borax in the same area helped to extend Calico's life longer than it should have but by 1907 the town was shuttered and many of the buildings were moved to nearby towns of Barstow, Daggett and Yermo.
  Walter Knott (from Knott's Berry Farm fame) purchased Calico in 1951 and restored the town's building to their original form by referencing old photographs. He held on to the town until 1966 when he donated it to San Bernardino after which the town became a County Regional Park.
                                   
  Today the town, still looking much like it did over one hundred years ago, welcomes visitors who take the time to veer the four miles from I-15 to it's dusty doorsteps. I won't lie to you. This place is a total tourist trap. There is a fee to enter and they want to sell you everything. Literally. One store charges you a dollar to photograph a hat. For another dollar you can have a photo of you wearing the hat. Please don't laugh, I'm not joking.
  In town you can purchase a bag of dirt and pick up a gold pan and pan for your own treasures. The bags are "salted" so everyone walks away a winner and it gives you an idea of how it was done back in the day. Only not here because they were silver miners but who cares, really?
  Of course there are snack places, souvenir shops, and historical mock ups to keep you interested for longer than you thought possible (I think we were there for over two hours.) There is a mine tour available but we didn't have time for that so I'll have to stop by again someday. There is one more thing that I'll have to check out the next time I visit and that is their ghost tour. Call me crazy all you want but I get a kick out of those things. Whether you're a believer or not doesn't really matter because most of the time what you're paying for is a guided, historical tour through town and that alone can be worth kicking in a few bucks.
  On this visit we also found out that this area is home to the Calico OHV Area. Through some research that I've done since getting home I've learned that there are miles of roads waiting to be explored with dry camping available. Trails can take a couple of hours or all day if you're in the mood. This looks like a place I may have to explore in the winter very soon.

  So yes, Calico is the definition of a roadside tourist trap as I said but it's these kind of places that add flavor to an otherwise bland drive down a boring road. However, it's also good old fashioned American history preserved by people that care about keeping our past in our present for the upcoming generations to experience and as long as there are people out there willing to put forth the effort then I'll continue to donate a few dollars to help the cause. So if you find yourself just outside of Barstow and you need to stretch your legs stop in and say hi to the folks of Calico Ghost Town. They'll welcome you with open arms.

Brandan

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Adventure At Any Cost

  I didn't know him, in fact I hadn't even heard of him until today but when I read his story he instantly had my respect. Henry Worsley, a British explorer had been attempting to be the first person to cross the Antarctic unaided. It was a daunting task that would take him 943 miles through an icy landscape and expose him to extreme cold temperatures. However, as fate would have it, after 71 days at the Earth's southern pole and 913 miles Mr. Worsley had to call for aid effectively ending his expedition just thirty miles from reaching his goal.
  So you ask why someone would take on such a difficult and punishing task. For many reasons. First Mr. Worsley was a former British Army Officer. He was using this expedition to earn money for the Endeavour Fund an organization devoted to helping injured servicemen and women rediscover adventure and even themselves after being injured. Henry Worsley reached his monetary goal bringing in over $142,000 (U.S.) A feat to be applauded on it's own. But that wasn't the only reason.
  He was also commemorating the 100th anniversary of Ernest Shackelton's ill fated attempt at crossing the Antarctic. Shackelton's ship the Endurance became frozen in an ice flow in January of 1915 and moved with the ice until she finally sank in November of 1915. Shackelton was a hero of Worsley and his story is an inspiring one to me. If you have a minute look up their story.
  Of course their is one more reason someone would try to do something so "crazy." It's simply the search for adventure. Being willing to take on the odds and the unknown, to do something no one has ever done before. It's testing yourself because you can and not to prove yourself to anyone. No, I may not have know Henry Worsley but I get where he was coming from.
  Henry Worsley called for assistance on Friday during a blizzard. His health was deteriorating when he was airlifted to a hospital. His last statement from Antarctica was: "The 71 days alone on the Antarctic with over 900 statute miles covered and a gradual grinding down of my physical endurance finally took its toll today, and it is with sadness that I report it is journey's end -- so close to my goal."
  Today it was announced that Mr. Worsley, 55 years old,  had passed away due to "complete organ failure." He leaves behind a wife and two children. His journey here on Earth may be done but I imagine his exploration of the great unknown has just begun. Our prayers are with his family.
  Hope to see you on Friday when we talk about something a little less sad.

Thank you,

Brandan


 Henry Worsley

Friday, January 22, 2016

Made For Midway

Coronado Bay, San Diego, CA
  I haven't dedicated a lot of time to explore San Diego. Usually when I have enough time to visit southern California we spend it in Disneyland, well, because kids. This trip we decided to set aside two days to visit the area with only three places in mind to see: Seaport Village, Old Town, and the USS Midway. We were sure we would struggle to fill our time even though we only allowed two days. Well I'm here to tell you that we grossly misjudged out time frame.
  We spent the entire first day at Sea World. We were there five minutes after the gates opened at 10:00 AM and walked out the gates ten minutes after they closed at 5:00 PM. We saw just about everything you could want to see with the exception of the tunnel that travels under the shark tank. For some reason it was barricaded off. This single, short walk was to be the highlight of my visit and it didn't happen (sigh.) But my children were able to see the killer whale show which was something we wanted for them since it was announced that the show would be ending. The dolphin show was also closed because their enclosure is being remodeled but this didn't bother us since we got to swim with dolphins last year during our Caribbean cruise. Overall it was a fun day and I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would.
  Day two turned out to be a surprise for us. We had big dreams of seeing Seaport Village, Old Town and the USS Midway, a 972 ft long aircraft carrier that served from 1945 until 1992. We imagined that we would spend only a couple of hours in each location and still be back to the rooms early enough to pack up for our departure the next morning. Wrong.
USS Midway, San Diego, CA
  We hit the USS Midway first. Once on board you can choose to explore the ship on your own or you can pick up a handy headset with an audio tour which costs you nothing. I suggest picking one up. Simply find a number next to an exhibit and type it into the hand held device and it will give you a little history on what you're looking at. But the real magic of the headset is that it magically transports you five hours into the future and you find yourself only 3\4 through the tour and wondering where the time went. 
  Here is what I'll suggest to those that want to visit the Midway. Pick up the headset and be selective of what you want to listen to. You will find yourself exploring multiple dining halls for the different classes of sailors which after awhile started looking alike and got a little boring to me. The sleeping quarters are fun to explore and the pilot ready rooms are kind of fun because you can sit in the seats and dream of getting briefed for your next mission. Also there are a number of people on board that hang out in specified areas that will answer questions and tell stories that are just as interesting if not more so than what the audio tour gives you. If you want to hit every number on the ship go for it, just remember to allow time for it because you'll be there all day.
  After leaving the Midway we walked down to Seaport Village to grab some fish & chips and do a little shopping. The food was good and I got out of there without spending a whole lot of money but once we were finished the sun had set and there was no time to head up to Old Town which was a little disappointing because I really wanted to visit the Whaley House again. But I'll have to save that for another trip.
  So the moral of the story is to always leave more time than you think you'll need to make sure you get to see everything you plan to. I enjoyed the time we spent in San Diego and I'm looking forward to a return trip. Have a fun, safe weekend, folks. See you next week.

Brandan





Tuesday, January 19, 2016

California Dreaming

The USS Midway, San Diego, CA

  Whew! We're back from what felt like a whirlwind trip through southern California and as usual I think I could have used a few more days to explore. The cool weather didn't dampen our spirits any especially considering we left high temperatures in the twenties in Salt Lake City. No we enjoyed every moment of the trip in fact I would go as far as to say that it was more fun this time than it has been in previous years.
  I am a little surprised that Disneyland was as crowded as it was. In the past when we visited in January you didn't really have to wait in lines longer than twenty minutes but that wasn't the case this time. Maybe we've just been lucky in the past but hey, life goes on.
  Also in our travels we managed to hit Universal Studios before heading south to San Diego. The last time I visited San Diego my son was still in diapers and my daughter wasn't even a thought in my mind. Fourteen years later proved to be just about the right time to take them to Sea World as they were mesmerized by the killer whales and other marine animals that they were allowed to be so close to. Watching them it was like experiencing it for the first time. They laughed as tiny fish picked the dead skin from their hands (yes it sounds gross but it's kind of cool.) The size of killer whales amazed them and they gave little protest to posing for the camera as a sea turtle passed overhead. On the other hand I had to eat crow because I disagreed with my wife about how much they would enjoy it and in the end it didn't taste all that bad. But I won't make a habit out of it. Unfortunately some attractions were closed so they couldn't get the full experience so I guess we'll just have to go back in the future.
 
Sea World, San Diego, CA
   It wouldn't be a trip with me if you don't dash a little history into the mix so we also took half of a day to visit the USS Midway, an American aircraft carrier now retired in Coronado Bay. This tour took a lot longer than I expected which caused us to miss out on our plans to visit Old Town. Although disappointing in that respect the tour was great. Being able to see how our sailors live day in and day out is an amazing experience and I learned quickly that at 6' 4" I would have had a miserable experience living life on a carrier.
  On the trip home we stopped into Calico, CA, a once booming mine town just a few miles off of I-15. Now more of a tourist trap that's a fun place to stretch your legs when you're driving through the desert.
   This is just a quick overview of our trip and in the coming posts I'll get more in depth with the coverage of these locations. For now though, I wish you all well and encourage you to get out of the house and find an adventure of your own. I know I feel a lot better after a nice break from the ordinary. See you Friday!

Brandan

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Unexpected

  If you've traveled at all you already know that sometimes things don't go exactly as you planned. A flat tire or a missed flight can really throw a wrench into your leisure time. Of course some things just can't be helped but there are a few things that I've learned to help me be ready for when certain travel disasters take place.
  Always, always take a small first aid kit. A kit with a few band aids and some aspirin can make a big difference for mild cuts and some aches and pains. If you will be doing a lot of walking such as a hiking trip or a trip to Disneyland you should take some mole skin with you. This came in handy on multiple occasions on one of our recent trips. Also take into account that if you are on any medications you should have enough to get you through the trip and if you have any food allergies in the family as we do, take some Bendryl with you as a first line of defense for tingley lips.
  During a road trip I like to know how far I can travel on a tank of gas and I want to plan where I will be stopping along the trip. Knowing this helps me stay relaxed because I don't have to worry about fuel as I watch the guage creep toward the big E. Also, as I mentioned in a recent post, take the time to change or top off fluids and tire pressure before leaving to keep the vehicle running smooth and don't forget the spare tire if your car has one. You don't want to find out it's flat on the side of the road.
  Now this one might sound a little strange but it makes sense to me. I always pack an extra day worth of clothes no matter where I'm going. I may find myself getting drenched in a rain storm or stuck riding a log flume over and over with my daughter. On a good trip I may even decide to stay an extra day of course it's more likely that I need to stay an extra day due to something going wrong. Either way I'm covered.
  Well there are a few examples of what I do for a trip. I'd like to give you a few more but I'm unpacking from an awesome trip to Southern California. More on that next week. For now I'll leave you with one last tip. Make sure you remember to charge your camera batteries and empty your memory cards often. You don't want to miss those memorable moments with the family. See you next week!

Brandan

 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Vacations Are More Than Leisure

USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum Price, Utah
  We all like to travel in some fashion because we work our guts out all the time and damn it we deserve a break. But there are reasons to work while you travel. Now I'm not talking about taking your laptop to the beach with you or making conference calls while the kids play at the pool. That sucks and should be against all international law. No, I'm talking about using travel as a teaching/learning tool for the kiddos and if your're lucky, yourself.
  Most of us didn't like the learning part of school back when we were young. The constant bombardment of lectures and homework weren't our thing but I'll bet if you are like me you wished you had paid better attention to some of those subjects (not math, math still sucks.) I love history. I've loved it most of my life and unfortunately I think maybe I discovered that love a little late in life but them's the breaks. I can, however, share that love with my kids.
  I don't care where you travel there is always a place where you can learn something new. Museums are a great place to see exhibits that showcase life as it was, is and will be.
  The image to the left was taken while on a trip back from Moab to Salt Lake. I have passed through the town of Price on countless occasions over the past twenty five years and never took the opportunity to stop in to the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum. One day we finally made the time to stop in and we weren't disappointed. It's not every day you can stand toe to toe with a Mastodon.
Mel Fisher Meritime Heritage Museum Key West, Florida
  Last year while on a cruise through the Caribbean we had the chance to stop in Key West, Florida where history is everywhere you look but one neat stop is the Mel Fisher Meritime Heritage Museum. Here we saw the salvaged treasure from the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a Spanish galleon that sank off the Florida Keys in 1622 taking 260 lives and roughly $400 million worth of silver, gold and jewels. I would not have gone into this museum on my own but it was something that interested my Dad so we stopped in. Worth it. It was cool to be that close to a lost treasure. The best part is that if you want to own a piece of that history it's right there in the gift shop to purchase. I want to use the phrase "gift shop" loosely here. You're not going to walk in and find cheap trinkets. In fact don't touch anything unless you have the money to back it up. This shop had actual recovered gold and silver coins recovered from Atocha for sale. After seeing a single coin being sold for $45,000 I walked out. I'll just have to live with the photos.
  These are just a couple of examples of what you can find in your travels if you just keep an eye out. I encourage you to take the opportunity to visit as many museums or unique places as you can as you travel. It will make the trip more fun for the family and the memories you create are priceless.

Brandan

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Hotel Snob

  There are many factors that folks take into account when choosing a hotel. I think cost and location are the two big factors but things like having a pool or continental breakfast are important to some people also. To me, however, cleanliness trumps all of them.
  Over the last few years it seems that I have acquired a reputation as a hotel snob. At least that's what my wife claims. To a certain extent she's correct. I have no issue with sleeping on the ground in or out of a tent. I've slept in the back of pick up trucks and on one occasion I even slept under a truck but that's a story for another time. The point is that when you're camping there is a certain level of dirtiness that comes along with it. I get it. No problems from me. Why is that? Because it's through my own actions that I'm in the situation and I know where and what I've been doing the entire time. It feels safe to me but a hotel room is something different.
  I'm sure most of us have had an experience where we checked in to a place and found the room to be not quite what we expected even though you did your research and read many reviews. Some things you can ignore while others you can't. In my mind though, people can be just plain disgusting. The thought of spending the night in other peoples filth makes me want to scratch my skin off. I can't handle it. So in order for me to suspend the reality that others have slept in the bed that I'm about to lay down on, the room has to be presented to me like "new" or at least clean.
  The worst experience I've had was in a hotel room my wife and I stayed at in Anaheim, California ten years ago. Back then we didn't have a lot of money and we were traveling with friends that were in a similar situation as we were. We found a hotel that had good reviews and we felt comfortable staying there. I imagine that if you were standing with me when I opened the door to that room you would have witnessed the color fade from my face for a brief moment before turning beat red with anger. The ceiling was half drywall and the other half was drop tile ceiling like you would find in an office. The tiles were stained yellow and sagged from water damage that I imagine came from someone in the room above that forgot they were running the bath water and just left for the day. Yes it was that bad. I don't know what color the carpet originally was but it sure wasn't the dark brown and black that presented itself to me on that day but it did seem to match the comforter on the bed, though. The shower had to be my favorite part. The plumbing must have had some kind of leak because there was now a 3/4" PVC pipe running from the tub's spout up the wall to a shower head with straps holding it to the fiber glass enclosure. It was great. I felt so nasty in the place that I slept on top of the sheets and refused to walk across the floor without shoes on. I really can't explain how bad I thought the place was. My wife claims to this day that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was and that I was over reacting but whatever, to me it was bad. I promise you this though. If I had had the money to change hotels during that trip I would have.
  Those things can happen in a nicer place too. Not too long ago we stayed in a suite where two out of the three beds had blood stained sheets on them. Now before your imagination runs too wild it was more like someone had a bloody nose rather than a murder. It was gross. I couldn't believe that a reputable hotel would allow such an over site. There were a couple of other things that bothered us too but it had nothing to do with cleanliness but I wanted to make sure that I mentioned that I've had bad experiences in nice places as well as dumpier places.
  It's true that I'm extra careful now when researching and booking hotels but I know that things aren't going to be perfect at every location I visit. I'm more careful than I am picky when it comes to hotels at this point and if that makes me a "snob" then so be it. But in the end it's more important to enjoy my adventures then it is to worry about whether the maid really washed my towels the night before. That's really why I'm there. And to be fair if I hadn't had these experiences I wouldn't have such fun stories to tell.
  So the moral of the story. Know what features you want in a hotel. Research the property as much as possible from as many sources as possible. Be prepared for anything and save room in your budget to run far far away. Good luck travelers. See you next week.

Brandan

   

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Where In The Winter? What Kind of Winter Traveler Are You?

  I've mentioned before that I live in Utah, a desert state. Did you know that it can snow twelve inches in a matter of hours in the desert? Well it can. It does. It did. I am not one for long winters. In fact, if I had any control I would fast track spring to the day after Christmas. Of course that wouldn't leave any room for our friends that ski would it? Well I'll tell you what, if I ever get powers that allow me to control the weather I'll keep the snow in the mountains for you until March 1st. Don't say I never gave you anything.
Over 12" in 8 hours Christmas Morning
This Christmas snow storm got me thinking about what types of travel people do during the winter. Like I just mentioned I tend to be done with winter after Christmas because most of my outdoor activities require little to no snow. Some would make fun of me because while I live in Utah with it's so called "greatest snow on Earth" I do not ski. Never have. I will also not say anything bad about it because I think you need to try something before you can really have an opinion. Skiing just never interested me. I did try snowboarding once and unfortunately it didn't stick.
  This time of year I'm looking for some warmth. I'm looking for a place where I can where a polo shirt during the day and maybe a hoodie in the evening. The closest to me is St. George just four hours south of Salt Lake. Here I can take the ATV's or go on a hike and escape old man winter for a weekend. St. George is also only thirty minutes from Mesquite, NV if I need to get my gambling game on (which is almost never by the way. I work too hard for my money.)
  But judging by how many people come here to ski during the winter I guess it's nice for you to come hang out in the cold for a weekend too. But I bet you don't stay that long. Do you? Nah, I don't blame you. There's a reason you live in warm climates. Maybe I'll follow suite some day. But for right now I'll come borrow some SO CAL sun.
  Last year we tried to avoid the winter by heading to the Caribbean for a cruise. It was a great trip made even better by winter not really showing up at all. But this was followed by a summer of water regulations and brown lawns. Go figure.
My winter ride. I wish.
   Everyone has different motivations for when and where they travel I suppose. Kids are in school, busy work schedules are just a couple of them. But if you had more time and funds to travel would you do it during the winter months?  Would you stay somewhat close to home or would you travel abroad? It might be interesting to travel to a foreign country to ski during their winter season. No, not for me but for somebody.
  Yup you're all welcome to come on out for some world class skiing but as for me I'm looking out the window at twenty degree highs and pacing the floor for my upcoming trip to California. You'll be able to tell which one I am. I'll be the pale guy wearing a t-shirt and shorts with a grin the Joker would be jealous of. Even in the rain. Don't forget to say hi, okay. See you on Friday!

Brandan

Friday, January 1, 2016

Rolling Into The New Year

  Happy New Year! 2015 has flown past us and now we're in to 2016 staring down new routes and locations to visit. The blog is now a month old and we are really excited to bring you stories and photographs from our 2016 travels. Our social media presence is slowly progressing especially our Twitter (get with it Facebook) and we hope to grow even more over the next year. Thank you to all that continue to follow us and to those that tell their friends about us. It's only going to get better. I'd like to give you an idea of what you'll be seeing from us in the next month to hopefully get you excited of what's to come.
  January we'll be talking about winter destinations. Where do you like to go? Do you prefer winter sports or do you want to escape the cold? Since we have a road trip coming up in a matter of weeks we'll talk about what it takes to get your vehicle and yourself ready for a long car ride and we'll talk about that dreaded cabin fever that tends to creep up on us during the winter. Since I mentioned the road trip I'll tell you that we're heading to southern California to escape the Utah winter for a week and we'll cover our fun and experiences here. I'll take lots of photos for you too. I can't wait. It seems that Old Man Winter has been roosting in our area since Christmas and he's a bit grumpy.
 February and March things will be heating up with the annual Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah coming up. This event is turning 50 this year and we wouldn't miss it for the world. We'll talk about what the event is, what it takes to get ready for it and of course we'll share our stories with you here and at our YouTube that we hope to launch very soon.
  There is a lot more coming in 2016 but since it's a holiday I'm sure you'd rather be doing something else right now (even though I like you to be here) so I'll keep it short. Thank you again for being on this journey with us. Please tell your friends about us and have a great New Years day! Stay safe out there and we'll see you next week.

Brandan