Friday, September 30, 2016

Welcome To Halloween

Six Flags Magic Mountain, CA
 Slowly over the last couple of weeks there has been a change in atmosphere that I'm sure you all have noticed. Billboards and signage are adorned with creepy crawlies and spooks and specters. That of course can only mean one thing. It's time to celebrate Halloween.
  I've always loved Halloween. Something in my morbid brain feels extra comfortable with the ghosts, witches and the occasional undead and I'm not alone in this considering that Americans are expected to spend near $8 billion dollars this year to celebrate. I wouldn't be placing myself too far out a limb by saying that a good portion of that money will be spent by your favorite local theme parks. Here in southern California (the theme park capitol of the world) Disneyland, Universal Studios, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott's Berry Farm all have great events happening in their parks this year.
Universal Studios Halloween Horror NIghts
  Six Flags Magic Mountain has Fright Fest which allows you to wonder the park and experience their decorations and stroll through a variety of terrifying  mazes to get your heart pumping. An added bonus they have a group of ghoulies called the "scare squad" that wander the park looking for great opportunities to make you scream.
  Universal Studios Hollywood has chosen to relive American history in their creepy decorations representing different historical events. If you're a fan of zombies then you need to make sure you check out the Walking Dead walk through attraction. Here you can experience some of the popular walkers from the show and then some. Universal takes things pretty serious as they warn you that some of these attractions aren't intended for a younger audience. A unique feature form Universal that you can take the "Terror Tram." On this attraction you actually take one of trams down to specific areas along the well known Back lot Tour to experience Universal's own haunted mazes. One of these locations is at the Bates Motel set which a very fitting location if you ask me. You can learn more here.
Disneyland, California
  Of course we can always count on the House of Mouse to amaze us with their Mickey themed decorations. When it comes to decorating they are the king. This is the place to come if you want to keep things a little more kid friendly but still get the feelings of the holiday. Space mountain is converted into Ghost Galaxy where you are chased through the dark ride by an ominous specter that doesn't want you to return home. While this isn't really a scary ride it is just enough to make it fun. For a unique experience for the youngsters you can purchase a separate ticket on select days where they can actually trick or treat in the park. We did this a few years ago when it first started and the kid's loved it and came home with very large bags of candy. They've since changed and expanded how it's done and I'm not sure what the differences are but it's kind of a fun thing to do if you don't mind spending the extra cash.
  Of course there are a plethora of other things to do around town that aren't shying away from celebrating Halloween. The Queen Mary always has ghost tours as an option during your visit but they also have the Dark Harbor event. Basically it's a haunted maze on a historic ocean liner. If the thought of being trapped on a ship with the undead doesn't creep you out there might be something wrong with you.
  So there are just a few things going on here in SoCal that we are experiencing this year. What are you doing to celebrate Halloween 2016? If you know of something that we should check out let us know. Have a good weekend and a happy start to the Halloween season. See you next week.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Town That Funded A Country

  The moment a boom town springs up from the hardened soil of the Earth the clock starts ticking on it's life span. Whether mines held gold or silver has never made a difference because sooner or later the ore would dry up and the miners that brought that ore to the surface would have to move to the next town to find work. Some towns only lasted a year or two, others would last for ten or more but for the most part these towns would fade into history and were forgotten. There is one town however that has survived it's own successes and failures for almost 160 years and that town is Virginia City, Nevada.
  Silver was discovered in the hills above what is now Virginia City in 1859 and almost overnight the town grew. At it's peak in the 1870's there were an estimated 25,000 people living here which is a stark contrast to today's population of  just over 850. The strike would be the first substantial silver discovery in the United States and would be forever known as the Comstock Lode.
  There were plenty of mines surrounding town but the Ophir, Gould, Curry, and Consolidated Virginia mines were responsible for bringing $300 million at a minimum into the U.S. economy. These mines were part of what is known as the Big Bonanza. People like John Mackay, William Sharon and John Hearst became millionaires and the money from the Comstock Lode helped build San Francisco and even helped fund the Union Army during the Civil War.
   Of course with every success story there were a thousand failures and as I stated before Virginia City's mines eventually dried up from mining or from becoming victims of their own success as the silver market became saturated and no longer in demand. In 1875 a large fire roared through the city consuming mining equipment and homes that would leave around 2000 families homeless and caused approximately $12 million dollars in damages. I've learned that this is a pretty common occurrence in mining towns throughout history. I guess it makes sense that stuffing thousands of wooden buildings in a dry desert is going to lead to disaster.
  Money wasn't the only valuable contribution Virginia City offered to the world. Some would argue that Virginia City is the birth place of the famous Mark Twain. Okay, so Samuel Clemens was born in Missouri in 1835 but it was in Virginia City where Clemens, a reporter at the Territorial Enterprise newspaper, honed his craft as a writer when his campaign to become a rich prospector fell apart. His sometimes controversial stories about people and events around town caused some irritation to the people of Virginia City to the point that he basically was run out of town. Of course after leaving Virginia City the world was introduced to good ol Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I guess every good author has a few demons that need to be exorcised.
  Many of Virginia City's buildings still stand and welcome people with open arms but today these walls are filled with restaurants, candy and other trinkets rather than tycoons and treasure seekers. The history and crazy events like camel races and the Hot August Nights car show bring folks in every year to experience this little gem. We spent a day and a half in town and unfortunately we were too early for the car show and the camel races which I plan to return for because why not? Where else can you find such spectacular entertainment?
  There are old homes, churches and mines available to tour like the Mackay mansion where you can see how the big dogs lived or for the morbid one in the group, you can visit the Red Dog Saloon and see the "Suicide Table." Many of the owners of this table met an untimely end by their own hand. Coincidence? A curse maybe? That's up to you to decide.
  Of course I can't delve into Virginia City history without mentioning the ghosts. I have a strange fascination with things that go bump in the night and I often will seek out a so called haunted locations while I'm on vacation just to say that I've been there. Is there anything unusual or special about these locations? Eh, that's a point of view matter that is best left to the individual. Well if haunted locations are your thing then Virginia City is the place for you. They have completely embraced there spirits here, maybe for some too much but none the less they are more than happy to share their ghost stories with you . Probably the most famous haunted building in Virginia City is the Washoe Club which we toured during our visit. I would love to get into our Washoe story but I think we'll save that for an October post since it fits in with our month long Halloween theme.  Come back for that story later and we'll see you on Friday.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Out With Summer, In With Fall

  All good things must come to an end, at least that's what they say. So in that case we now say goodbye to Summer and say hello to Fall. It's my favorite season. The cooler temperatures and the changing leaves are just a few of the perks of the latest season. In a matter of weeks we will be surrounded by jack o lanterns, spooks, and specters as we head into Halloween. So in honor of Fall I think we'll do a Five Facts Friday on the subject. Let's get into it.

1.Autumnal Equinox- The first day of fall is know as the autumnal equinox. On this day the daylight hours equals the night time hours.

2. Migration- Birds migrate south during the fall to find a nice place to winter when the snow falls. As a side note, certain demographics of people do the same thing and are known as snowbirds.

3.It's Aurora Season-Geomagnetic storms occur twice as often during fall according to NASA so grab your cameras and head north.

4.It's Always Sunny Here- Those areas that are located on Earth's equator don't get to experience fall however they do have mild climates all year.

5. The Harvest Moon- The full moon closest to the equinox is known as the Harvest Moon. During the days before electricity this full moon was extremely important for farmers during the harvest season as it provided light for them to work with late into the night.

 It's right now that I'm missing my Utah mountains the most. Although I can't see it for myself I can imagine what the valley looks like as the colors start show themselves. I haven't seen anything that remotely resembles fall leaves here in SoCal but I'm sure the winter here will be amazing.
  With these cooler temperatures it's a great time to get out on those ATV's and hit the trails so get your cameras and binoculars and get outside before old man winter shuts down the roads for winter. Have a good weekend!


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Got Sand?

  We decided to take a trip to Costa Mesa this weekend because rumor had it there was a big sand and sport expo being held there. So we loaded into the car and headed south. What we found when we got there was just short of amazing. I had no idea just how large this thing could be and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little overwhelming.
  The Sands Sports Super Show was held at Orange Counties fair grounds and aside from the swap meet being held on part of the grounds the SSSS took up the entire fair grounds. Now as I understand it this show used to be big for the sand rail and dune buggy crowds but you wouldn't know that if you hadn't attended this event in the past because today's hot tickets resides with the side by side market. If you didn't realize just how much side by sides have changed the All Terrain Vehicle market this place just might put it into perspective for you.
The who's who of UTV's made there presence known with huge trailers and displays from the likes of Polaris, Yamaha, Arctic Cat, Can Am, and even Honda made an appearance to showcase the latest and greatest line ups of side by side vehicles to date. Not only that but we saw sound systems from Rockford Fosgate, helmets and gear from Fox including some awesome new Marvel and Star Wars paint schemes inspired by Bob Fett and Iron Man. If LED's are your thing then you wouldn't be disappointing. The only way to see more light up whips in one place would to be to visit Glamis on Thanksgiving. They were everywhere. Communications, custom wraps, storage solutions, the list goes on and on. This place truly had anything you can think to bolt on your UTV of choice for you to sift through. It was almost too much.
  The dune buggy crowd still showed up despite the glory days being well in the past it appears but I have to admit seeing them brought back a few memories from my childhood and yes they are still pretty cool. Also on display were the race trucks from the Speed Energy Stadium Super Trucks Series which is a series started by Robby Gordon. Unfortunately this event and the races that took place this weekend came only a couple of days after tragedy struck the Gordon family (you can look that one up on your own if you wish.) I'm not sure if I would have the stomach to make a public appearance so close to such a horrible tragedy but when your the boss you gotta do what needs to be done and Robby was there promoting his series.
   I guess it only makes sense for these massive shows to happen in California. The companies are here and so are the people. I'm not kidding when I say there was no elbow room. As we made our way through buildings it was extremely difficult to stay together which is a dad's nightmare while trying to keep his kids close but I guess it's something I'll just have to live with for the time being. Overall it was a cool experience to be there and they have successfully held this show for 18 so if you are interested in attending you'll be safe in making plans for next September. The only bummer for us it that it really makes me want to get out and go riding but our RZR is sitting in Utah waiting for me to come and visit. I guess I'll just have to make a trip home, huh?
 Have a great week and go ahead and daydream about whatever comes to mind, you never know where it may lead you.


Friday, September 16, 2016

The Off-Road Love Affair

  In our early years of life we all liked to play in the dirt. We kicked it, threw it and probably ate it by the handful at least once in our life. I for one have never grown tired of playing in the dirt. I was fortunate enough to come from a family that had a history of camping, exploring and playing with off road vehicles of all kinds. Heck I was put on my first Honda 70 three-wheeler when I was three years old and our obsession has only grown over the years.
 You see, if you've never had the opportunity to explore the back country on the back of an ATV or in the comfort of your dad's old Jeep then you wouldn't realize that you've missed out on some great family time. My love affair with Jeeps spans back to 1989 when we attended our first Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. My grandparents purchased a three bedroom rambler in Moab and a short time later we had an Autumn Gold CJ-5 appear in his driveway (that's how I remember it anyway.) We explored every dirt road that was on a map and even a few that weren't and as our curiosity grew so did our group.
  The CJ-5 was great but it only held the four of us and we needed room for six so a CJ-7 was added to what looking back now I would describe as a fleet of Jeeps. We also had other friends buying Jeeps and joining us on our travels and we expanded our borders of exploration throughout the entire state of Utah. We spent a lot of time out in those deserts and I was driving the most difficult trails Moab had to offer before I even had a license and I'm pretty sure that teaching me to drive was partly responsible for the thinning of Grandpa's grey hair. He never complained though and was always willing to take me out for a lesson.
  By the time I got married I had a Jeep of my own, my wife's aunt and uncle had purchased one and so did her mom and dad. I guess they figured if they wanted to see their kid they would need to buy a Jeep and I'm pretty sure they haven't regretted it. The funny part is that the same "Jeep disease" has infected my brother's in-laws as well over the last couple of years which has led them to purchase three of them. I don't think my dad and grandpa would ever have guessed the impact the purchase of that little CJ-5 would have on so many people over the years. The hardest part is getting everyone together at the same time. In fact I don't think that we have managed to have everyone in our group together in one place at one time. There are just too many of us with different schedules to make that work. But I'll take who I can, when I can I guess.
  Our Jeeps have taken us to some of the best scenery Utah has to offer. Our ATV trips to the sand dunes have led to some great fun and even greater camp fire experiences. We've experienced weather from mild to wild and on rare occasions we've even dealt with an injury or two along the way. Of course the best part of it all is that we got to experience these things together as a "family." Why the quotes around family? Because many of the people I'm referring to are friends that I've known for so long and have become to close to that they are family, kinda like a Fast and Furious type of thing. So I guess the point of this post is one to say thanks to my friends and family and to show those of you out there that haven't experienced something similar this that you're missing out. Off roaders are one of the most welcoming people I have ever met and thanks to the Jeep Safari I've met a lot of people from all over the world. We all love what we do and we all want to share in it and spread it to all that seek it. Trust me, if you run into a Jeep guy at the gas station and ask him where he's going he's more than likely willing to let you tag along.
   So I encourage you to grab your family this weekend and go do something fun together. It doesn't have to involve a Jeep or a desert, just get out of the house without the electronics and do something together. And as always, don't forget to grab a camera. Stay safe and we'll see you next week.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Bugs Land in Disney's California Adventure Park

Disney passes are not an easy purchase.  The cost keeps going up and I always hear people say that they are getting so expensive that people cant go any more.  Tell that to all the people that made the line to Radiator Springs Racers 75 minutes long.  The fact is that Disney has magic and there are a lot of people willing to pay for the chance to be part of it.  We are those people for now.  A day pass to one park on a value day can be as cheap as $95 or hop between the parks for $155.  If you live in SoCal you can get a locals  annual pass for $329 but don't plan on seeing any holidays or weekends.  The deluxe pass is $599 and only blocks holidays and peak days.  The passes go up from there.  Its easy to see how it can add up really fast for a family.  Here you can learn more about each pass and what perks they offer.  With Brandan working so hard all week we went for the Deluxe pass that has a lot of great Saturdays we can attend. I opted to get the Premium pass for myself because it includes parking which can add up fast and slightly better discounts on food and merchandise.  I am a penny counter and this made sense for us.

I feel like when I describe anything Disney I use the word magic a million times.  Although I may over use it the word fits and I am probably going to beat it to death in this post here.  Disney magic has always been a favorite of mine.  From the Electric Light Parade to the Enchanted Tiki Room the place bursts with adventures fun for everyone.  Now that we live near enough to make a day out of it I'm positive we will be able to show you all the little gems we love about the Happiest Place on Earth.

Today I want to focus on the magic of Bugs Land in Disneyland's California Adventure Park.  When you step through the gates you are shrunk down to bug size for some big sized fun.  Beyond being in a land where every detail is immersed in shrunken fun there are five attractions you can explore too.

Right after you walk through the gates you can step into the theater to become an honorary bug for a moment.  With bug eye glasses you will be pulled into the 4D experience of It's Tough to be a Bug to see the world through their eyes.  This show can be scary for little ones.  With spraying acid, big cans of bug spray, falling spiders and little bugs scurrying by your seats it can be a little intense.  You might want to sit the littlest of bugs on your lap but for sure don't miss the show.

After you see the world from the eyes of a bug you can continue on to Flik's Fun Fair.  Flik has created a fair just for us and its a blast.  He has brought us attractions like Flik's Flyers, Francis' Ladybug Boogie, Princess Dots Puddle Park, Tuck and Roll's Drive em Buggies and our favorite Heimlich's Chew Chew Train.  While you wait between adventures you can sit on benches made of Popsicle sticks that fit you perfectly.  Every ride here is geared toward our littler friends so the bumper cars (Tuck and Roll's Drive em' Buggies) are slower and not aggressive and the spinning ride (Francis' Ladybug Boogie) similar to the Teacups ride on the other side of the park is not as stomach wrenching.

Here is a quick trip video sneak peek of A Bugs Land.

And here is the entire ride of our favorite Bugs Land attractions, Heimlich's Chew Chew Train.

Thank you so much for following our fun.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cabin in the Woods

  People tend to be creatures of habit. It's something I've heard for a long time and it seems to be accurate as far as I can tell and to be honest I find myself to be a good example of it at times. But every once in awhile an opportunity comes along that, if accepted, will open your world to new avenues. For us this new avenue led us to renting a cabin for our trip to Yosemite.
  Typically we would either be staying in our RV's or in a hotel room but this trip didn't lend itself to RV's very well and really when you think about it a hotel room really splits up a group to the point that it becomes annoying when you're trying to coordinate meals and activities. So while searching for a place to stay we came across The Redwoods At Yosemite. They are a property management company that care for what is essentially a small neighborhood of cabins located inside of Yosemite National Park. We needed a cabin that would hold the ten of us comfortably and affordably. Turns out they had just the cabin for us and it's called "Soots Me."
  We picked up the keys in the late evening of our first of three nights (the minimum by the way) and pulled into the spacious driveway with just enough time to unload the Jeeps with the remaining daylight. We were greeted with a spacious great room with a river rock fireplace, a large table and plenty of seating options. The four bedrooms had plenty of room for our luggage and then some and it has two bathrooms to serve guests.
  Of course the draw to the cabin for our group was the fact that there was a kitchen. Food is always a huge expense when traveling and we had hoped to save us some cash by shopping and cooking our own meals. This ended up working out as close to the script as you could hope for. We got to eat good food that we were interested in eating and three days of groceries ended up costing little more than one meal would have cost us had we chosen to find a restaurant. By the way the nearest restaurant to Wowona is over twenty minutes away and out of the park. I'm sure the Wowona Hotel has a restaurant in it but we didn't really check in to that.
  Another bonus to this cabin was that the owners were happy to give a little history about the cabin to those staying here. A guest book welcomed us with a quick description of when the cabin was built and black and white photos of swimming and skiing adorn the walls of the great room revealing more details of what I can only say is a very well loved cabin.
  We had never been to Yosemite before this trip and we were a little surprised by how crowded the park was and how little there was to see without a lot of hiking. Not that hiking is a bad thing but we would have just planned things a little differently. But "Soots Me" gave us a place to fall back to for some card games, casual conversations, and some horseshoes. I would have to say that it was the first vacation that I've taken in a long time where I actually had time to relax. I'm the kind that likes to go go go and see as much as I can while I'm away from home so it was a nice change of pace (but I don't see me getting used to it anytime soon.)
  In the end I'm very happy that we took the chance on renting the cabin. I wasn't sure how well it would work out but it turned out better than I could have ever hoped for. I could see us doing this again in future travels and I would encourage families to give try it. If you have enough people in the group to help split the costs it really doesn't cost any more than a hotel would so you're only obstacle is deciding on your destination. Good luck.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Universal CityWalk and It'Sugar.

 This week we went back to one of our most loved places in SoCal, Universal Studios Hollywood. We're getting excited for the upcoming Halloween season and the parks are buzzing with news of their individual fall attractions.  I'm guessing there will be a lot of scares coming in the next little while here on our blog.  From the terrifying Halloween Horror Nights at Universal to the tame Mickeys Halloween Party at Disneyland, we are going to have lots of choices for Halloween fun.  We are counting down the days but for now were still in full summer fun mode. 

One of the things we haven't explored nearly enough is the Universal CityWalk.  If you park in general parking you will exit the parking garage into this huge mall.  Its not just a mall though, its an experience.  King Kong hangs off the buildings and the walk features stores like Universal Studio Store where you can get the park swag without the need to enter the park. You can eat in a sit down restaurant like the Wolfgang Puck Bistro or snag yourself a Smashburger to go.  You can catch a movie at the AMC or try your luck at indoor skydiving at iFly. Maybe you need some new flip flops from the Flip Flop Shop or maybe you are more of a sock lover which you can pick up at Los Angeles Sock Market to cover those toes. 

One of the experiences we had this week was in the biggest candy store I have ever been lucky enough to visit.  It'Sugar is a candy store with every candy you can imagine and some you can't.  The sizes were amazing.  I'm pretty sure the suckers alone were considered a life time supply.  If you are looking to wear your favorite candy themed shirts or sleep on a pillow look alike of your favorite sweet treats or get yourself a sweet stuffed animal you can find those treasures here too. 

You can buy Butterscotch Beer from the famous Flying Cauldron here.  I'm not sure if this is the same stuff as the Butter Beer they serve in the parks but it looks double yum.  These would be fun to buy and keep as Halloween decorations after the soda was consumed.  The Harry Potter geek in me thinks these will be a fun addition to our Halloween party this year. 

Faith loved the bulk sections.  This was her by the giant jaw breaker sections.  She said they have a size for all of us.  From a giant one the size of a grapefruit for those of us with big mouths to tiny sized ones you can pop like mints.  I'm not sure which one of us she thinks has a mouth the size of a grapefruit and to be honest I'm afraid to ask just in case she thinks it's me.  The other bins had every kind of sour candy you could ever imagine.  FYI the sour cola bottle gummy candies were not a hit with us here and I am a big fan of Diet Coke. They had walls full of flavored jelly beans and box after box of the Bertie Bots Every Flavor Beans.  I once got a vomit flavored bean and I don't think I can ever play that candy roulette game ever again.  Its just not worth it. 

The store had us in awe at every turn.  Even if you aren't a candy lover this store will give you giggles.  The kids cant wait to go back to pick a new treat they have never tried before. 

Of course we made a quick video to show the fun.  We put it out on our Facebook page yesterday, but if you didn't see it there you can catch it here. 

Thank you for being a part of our adventures.  Until next time...

Friday, September 2, 2016

Five Things Friday:Labor Day

Nap time for Jeep
  September is here and it won't be long before the morning air becomes a little cooler, the leaves will become more colorful and the days will fade to black just a little earlier. These of course are symptoms of Summer 2016 demise. But we are given one more holiday weekend to send Summer out with a bang in the form of Labor Day.
  Whether you're hitting the trails, beaches or backyard BBQ's with your family don't forget that there are still plenty of good weekends left in the year to get out and celebrate adventure. Today in honor of Labor Day we take a closer look at the holiday in this week's Five Things Friday. Enjoy!

1. Labor Day is held on the first Monday of September and is intended to celebrate the achievements of the American work force. That's right, this holiday is all about you so live it up.

2. Around 15.6 million people are expected to be flying over for Labor Day in 2016. But if you're wondering how many people will be driving this year you'll just have to count them yourself. The national Auto Club, who usually forecasts these statistics, has decided that Labor Day isn't a big enough holiday to do the math for this year. Sorry, Labor Day. You can't win them all.

3. Oregon was the first state to sign Labor Day into law in 1887. Other states followed Oregon's lead but it wouldn't be until 1894 that Congress would make it a national holiday.

4. Labor Day isn't unique to the U.S.A. I counted 93 other countries that celebrate some form of the holiday although not on the same day. Each country has their own history as to how Labor (or Labour) Day was created which of course is reflected by all the different dates.

5. The first recorded category five hurricane to hit the United States happened over Labor Day in 1935. Known simply as The Labor Day Hurricane, this storm made landfall in the Upper and Middle Florida Keys and a second landfall in the Big Bend region of Florida. This storm ended up taking the lives of 400 people (some papers of the time reported more) including author Earnest Hemingway. I only bring this fact up because we currently have Hurricane Hermione creating some rough weather for the folks living on the east coast of the U.S. so be careful out there.

So there they are. Five things to ponder as you head out on your adventures for the weekend. Please keep it a fun and safe one and don't forget to come back next week to see where our next adventure leads. And keep up the good work!