Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Adventures in Cabela's Lehi Utah Store.

What does home mean to you?  To me home is where my people are.  When we are looking for a place to set up a house it is always about making it the best place for you and your people.  Utah is one of our homes and it always will be.  We planned a fun filled weekend in snow kissed Utah but reality had different plans for us.  We were derailed by a little bit of a cough and the desire to not share it too much so we spent a lot of time watching movies.  Jurassic Park movies to be exact.  All four Jurassic Park movies really.  We ate good food and relaxed a lot.  We did sneak out to one of our most favorite stores while we were in town though.  Cabela's is a home away from home for us.

Located in Lehi, Utah on 2502 Cabelas Blvd sits a massive 150,000 sqft outdoor lovers paradise.  From an awesome walk through aquarium to a shooting gallery everyone in your family will love this place.  You can buy hunting, camping or exploring equipment from outdoor loving staff that can help you make the best purchase.  You can buy fresh made fudge in their candy shop or feast on a roasted elk sandwich in their deli.  You can test out cots, buy yourself an emergency toilet or build up your awesome supply of cast iron cookery.  Do you need a Yeti cooler large enough to get a bear back home after an adventurous hunt?  You can find that here as well. We walk in the door and all run our favorite ways.  You can usually find Brandan searching for his next gun purchase or adding to his growing collection of hunting calls.  I love to look at the fly fishing section.  They make it simple to pick the right fly for your local fishing with little tips on what fish are hitting on in your favorite fishing hole.  Its like a toy store for the outdoors.  

If your family is like our family you can spend a good chunk of an afternoon there.  In the far back corner past the guns but before the off-road section sits a museum walk.  I'm half sure the animatronic hunter telling you tales is designed after President George W. Bush.  Take a look and tell me if you agree.   Don't forget to check out the Bargain Cave.  Owning outdoor gear can add up so every little bit you can save can be spent on more gear later.  Save a quarter for feeding the fish though.  Its a must do for your kids or the kid in you. 

If you want to see how fun Cabela's of Lehi Utah is then we have a treat for you.  Here is a virtual tour of the place.  Check it out and plan a trip there to prep for your next adventure.  


Friday, January 27, 2017

Flying Again

   If you want to see what the world has to offer you have two choices. You can either go to your pocket sized device and transport yourself across the globe in seconds and enjoy the sites through the eyes of someone else's lens or you can make the better choice and pull yourself away from the comforts of home and actually visit these places for yourself. Well in order to get to these locations you have to travel and in this day and age with demanding jobs with moderate pay or extra demanding jobs with no freedom or pay it can be difficult. So you're likely to have to get on an airplane to make the most of the time you have. This is of course a great way to see places that are ordinarily too far to drive in the time you have to vacation but for me its a bother.
  I know, I know. Sometimes you have to fly. I've heard it all before. "You'll never be a good travel writer if you don't fly," they say. I can see how someone would ask that. "What are you going to write about if you don't go anywhere?" Someone that would ask this to me is a little close minded. "What is it about flying that you don't like." Ah. That's the question isn't it? That's the one question that I have to ask myself on occasion. Its usually after a long break between flights and when I'm looking at a vacation being planned far in advance. Well I just took a plane ride that reminded me.
  Here's the answer. Its not the flying. The flying is actually fun. I love the acceleration at take off and the feeling of a little G-force pressing down on you as you climb to cruising altitude. I like to see Earth from a bird's perspective. I think that it's only natural to want to see things differently and there is no quicker way than jumping onto a plane. If you're lucky you might even get a clean window that allows decent pictures to be taken. It's the rest of the flying experience that I have a problem with.
  Okay so I'm going to admit this right now. I'm a baby. I don't like to be inconvenienced in the slightest. I'm not a big fan of crowds and I sure as heck don't like being told what to do. I know that we all feel this way but for some reason my tiny little brain is inept at handling these things as an adult. Oh well, I've managed for 38 years and I'm still going strong.
  I was reminded the other day just how much of an inconvenience the airport can be. Parking lots full of people rushing to get inside the airport because they didn't bother to manage their time properly, crowded lines to check in and don't get me started on baggage fees. I think if I could make it work I would fly with no more than one carry on and purchase a new wardrobe when I arrived at my destination. At the end of the trip I would just donate the clothing to a local homeless shelter or something just to save me the hassle of luggage. By the way, I'm pretty sure there's a special corner in Hell for you people dragging two bags behind you, crashing into everyone without even an apology. Yeah it's right next to to where all the T.S.A. agents will be. Okay not all of them but I've met a few that I'm pretty sure will be there. I just hope they have to stand on the burning coals of Hell with their shoes and belts off. They can leave their coats on though.
  Of course the worst part of flying unfortunately is your fellow passengers. Everyone fighting to get past one another in an aisle only 22 inches wide and jamming carry on bags that clearly aren't carry on size into the overhead bins. I don't get it. Why can't you be responsible and make sure you're bags are going to fit? Is it because you really don't understand or are you that selfish that you think rules and guidelines don't apply to you? I have my opinion but feel free to make your own. After the flight we're all cramped and grumpy and ready to get off the plane but the only way to do that is to patiently wait and exit the plane. Unless you're a jerk like the people that nearly knocked my daughter back into her seat so they could get off the plane a mere 3 seconds faster. To you I have words and strong feelings that would shatter the family atmosphere of this blog. 
  Yes I'm whining a little and for that I'm ashamed. But I can't help but be reminded why I like to drive as much as I can. Sure it takes longer to get where you're going but you get to see much more of the world at your own pace and up close. I know I'll be on a plane again, in fact we'll be going to Alaska later this year so it's guaranteed but I don't have to like it. I applaud you all that get through the airport experience with a smile on your face. Forgive me if I think you might be a little crazy, though. Have a good weekend folks.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Endeavor

  It's no secret that technology has infiltrated our lifestyles and intertwined its high speed, copper wired tentacles so deep throughout our day to day activities that if somehow the switch turned off society may just tear itself apart. Really, think about all that technology has given us. We have fuel efficient hybrid cars that get fifty miles an hour. We have the opportunity to watch the big game anywhere and everywhere on pocket sized screens and we can call a family member from 400 miles away and see their smiling faces on the very same device. It's an amazing time we live in.
  Advancements in technology are happening so fast these days that it's hard to impress us anymore. You would be more shocked to learn that I wrote this article on a laptop over six years old than you would if they announced a 1000 megapixel camera on a smart phone. 
  Of course all of this is a result of successes and failures of brilliant minds that made it their life's work to push the boundaries of what man and machine can do together and there is no better example of this than that of space travel. 
  For many of us middle aged American kids when someone mentions space travel our first thoughts will run to the iconic white and black space shuttle. The first reusable space vehicle was used from 1981 until 2011 and combined the shuttles logged more than 1322 days orbiting the Earth.
  Back in 2014 I was pleasantly surprised to come face to face with space shuttle Atlantis on a visit to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Since that day my interest in space exploration has been rekindled in a way and I have now decided that I would like to see all of the remaining shuttles that are currently on display across the country. So it was great to learn that space shuttle Endeavor was on display just an hour south of my house. So we packed up the car and headed to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
   The exhibits related to Endeavor are quite intimate. I was quite surprised to come face to face with an astronaut toilet and was intrigued with the video that explained how they used it and if there's something that might discourage a person from wanting to being an astronaut, that toilet might be it. Luckily a few steps away is the galley. With all the safety rules and procedures on board a shuttle it's a miracle that astronauts are allowed to cook at all but you can see the machine that does it. Of course by cook I mean heat up and that requires some type of re-hydration which is also done in the galley. The water supply for the galley comes from an unexpected place, however. It is actually made by liquid oxygen and hydrogen inside the fuel tanks. After some filtration the water can be used for food and drinks and for personal hygiene.
  The shuttle itself rests horizontally in an annex of the museum with a large American flag proudly hanging behind it. Here you can get so close the taller of us could actually touch it, although you can't, unless you want to get thrown out. If you want to make things interesting you could count the individual tiles that line the bottom of the orbiter but FYI it's going to take some time so get there early.   The museum does a great job explaining the journey Endeavor took just to get into the museum. We watched the very interesting time lapse video documenting the journey from the airport to the museum. It took 63 hours to go 24 miles which by the way, is about typical for LA traffic. 
 Now comparing the Endeavor's display to Atlantis' isn't really fair. Atlantis' open bay doors and extended Canada arm really give you a sense of how the shuttle worked in space while Endeavor just looks like it's parked. But what seems to be on the horizon for Endeavor may be just one of the coolest ways to display a shuttle. They are currently planning on building a structure that will allow Endeavor to stand vertically attached to the only remaining fuel tank on the planet. It currently sits outside the annex waiting for it's day to shine. I look forward to seeing this display when it's completed. Until then we'll enjoy Endeavor any way we can get it. 
  There is plenty more to see at the California Science Center and we'll bring you more from there in the future. In the meantime if you're interested in learning more you can check out their site https://californiasciencecenter.org/   Here you'll find information on the other displays and how to reserve tickets to view Endeavor. 
   I guess it's now two down and two to go when it comes to our new goal of seeing the space shuttles. Discovery and Enterprise will have to wait for the time being but I think we may be shifting our future travel plans around to get this goal accomplished sooner rather than later. Only time will tell. Until then we'll just have to fill our time with other adventures that we'll continue to share with you. Have a great week and we'll see you back here on Friday.


Friday, January 20, 2017

The Monarch Butterflies of Pismo Beach

 Every year thousands of Monarch butterflies flock to Pismo Beach, California. Really thousands.  On the day we went there were 20,000 butterflies clumped together at the Pismo State Beach Butterfly Grove.  You can see these butterflies from late October through February every year.  On February 4th they will celebrate Monarch Day from 10 am to 2 pm.  There will be talks and educational booths with an art project for the children.

When we first arrived we saw cars lining both sides of the street.  Parking isn't perfect there but its worth the bit of walk to see these beautiful creatures.  There is a fence you walk around and then you are there.  The day we went there was a trailer selling all things Monarch.  The trailer is open from 10 am to 4 pm daily and can answer all your related questions.   A few feet from the trailer you walk into a butterfly wonderland.  There is no cost to get into the grove and it leads to a path system you can walk to the beach from.  The path takes you through a small campground with ponds filled with ducks.  It had that familiar stale water with ducks smell too that reminded me of golf courses back in Utah.  You can see the whole place in 30 minutes if you are looking for a quick stop or make it a day with a picnic and a kite on the beach.  The beach is wide and open, perfect for running a kite.  We saw a half dozen or so at any given time.

There are signs from time to time reminding you to look where you are walking.  With 20,000 butterflies around they tend to land in the walking path.  From the path you just look up in the trees.  The Monarch Butterflies cluster together in the limbs of the eucalyptus trees with their wings covering the near by others.  This provides shelter and warmth for the whole group.  At first glance it looks like fall leaves on the trees.  When you look closer you see each golden leaf is really a butterfly.  A few flutter about as you go from tree to tree.

A typical butterfly only lives for six weeks.  The last generation of the year goes into a special phase that can't reproduce until spring arrives.  Because of this they don't use the energy they would to reproduce and they live in a cooler area that slows down their metabolism.  These factors add up to a much longer life for them. These butterflies here can live for six months as they overwinter and prepare for the spring.  At 11 am you can sit down for a quick talk about the Monarch life and the details about the grove.  The volunteer docents are there to answer your questions or just tell you a few facts you didn't know.  We missed the sit down but didn't feel at all like we missed out on information.  There are signs around the grove telling you why the butterflies are there and what you would want to know.  They even have a few spotting scopes out to get a close up view high up in the trees.  Bring a camera and take a lot of pictures.  This feels like a once in a lifetime experience even though you can come back every year.

If you are going to come see these beautiful butterflies plug 400 S Dolliver St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449 into your GPS.  Its not too far of the 101 freeway.  While you're there head on up to the pier.  The pier walks out over the ocean for a view like no other place in the world.  It was a chilly January day when we went and the beach was still active and fun.  When I say chilly I'm talking a light jacket and not a bundled up coat like January generally describes.  We were able to watch surfers riding the waves beneath us as we reached the end.  You can also fish of the pier without a licence.  There is a shack that rents the supplies for a reasonable hourly rate.   That is definitely on my list of things to come back and try.  I could easily spend a weekend there and never get bored.  Pismo Beach is a beautiful place with long beaches and lots of things to do.  Another magical memory made.  On to the next.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Rainy day's at Disneyland and the Storyteller's Cafe.

We often get the same question.  When is the best time to go to Disneyland? There used to be an off season but its gone now.  Your best bet is when the kids are in school and when its cooler temps.  Think January through March avoiding anything that might be a spring break of any kind anywhere.  If you get lucky you can hit the super best time to go and that is any day it rains.  I love a good rainy day.  The roads to the parks are slow going but the park is generally low crowds.

You know when you walk through the park and you are struggling to keep a hand on your family because the crowds are so tight.  Not on this day.  It was January 10th, 2017 and there was a light rain.  Not really enough to soak you but enough to scare people away.  We packed some of the cheap rain ponchos and ran the park until our legs were tired.  We got a little wet at times but we never hated it at all.  We took our golf jackets that somehow let air through but not water.  It was perfect.

I know we only live an hour away without traffic but we were lucky enough to spend the night at the Grand Californian hotel.  It is my favorite hotel of anywhere I have ever stayed.  Its on the pricey side but so worth it.  It is in the heart of Downtown Disney and has its own private entrance to Disney's California Adventure.  There is never a line to get in.  You even get in the park an hour early to get on those rides that always have a brutal line.  Its pure Disney magic.

Inside the Grand Californian hotel is a character dining restaurant that I think might be my dads favorite restaurant ever.  The Storytellers Cafe is a buffet that makes a great Chip n' Dale Critter Breakfast complete with made to order omelets and mickey waffles. While you eat you get to visit with some of Disney's furry woodland type characters.  They visit you at the table and make things extra fun.  We reminisced about when we took Jer to the breakfast as a tiny guy and he was so amazed with the shiny noses that he thought he had to keep them.  The place is beautiful and fits right in with the feel of the Grand Californian.

The Grand is also home to Whitewater Snacks.  That is an awesome place to stop in and get dinner to bring back to your room.

One day we wont live close enough to drive to Disneyland for the day.  For now we do and we are making the most of it. Making memories is my favorite thing to do.

Happy Adventures

Friday, January 13, 2017

World of Color with Dining at Carthay Circle.

The Carthay Circle Theater was once a famous movie palace of Hollywood's golden age. If you look at the blueprints you can see the theater was shaped in a big circle. The theater first hosted Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on December 21st, 1937.  As a tribute to history Disney's California Adventure is home to a fine dining experience themed after this amazing piece of Hollywood past.  There is no theater behind these doors but there is a lounge and restaurant that lets you step back in time.  Reservations are highly recommended up to 60 days in advance at (714)781-DINE.
The food is fancy, The menu is simple and the wait staff are incredible.  It was for sure a dining experience instead of just another meal.  You pay for it too.  At $43 a person you get three courses and your fast past type tickets to special selected spot at World Of Color that night. Quick tip though, if you want to experience it but save a little money the lunch is much cheaper than the dinner.  Still great food but a little more spending money to use elsewhere in the park. Also its a fancy water out of wine glasses kind of place.  If my kids were younger they probably would have gotten more out of a character dining experience instead.  After lunch we enjoyed a day at the park and returned to the World of Color viewing spot with our tickets in hand.  Cast members showed us to our area and let us pick a spot.  Next to us was people sitting at small tables eating what looked like desserts.  That is on my Disneyland bucket list now.

 World of Color is a show for all ages. It touches on powerful scenes from loved Disney movies all on a wall of water.  Its hard to explain the magic at work here.  Its an experience only Disney could come up with.  Its a 19,000 square foot projection screen created by 1,200 fountains shooting 200 feet into the air.  Lights and music play along with the show as well as magic ears, gloves and wands you can purchase.  These items you purchase will light up along with the show synchronizing with the other people in the audience.  It was really a cool thing to watch. You can be part of the show.  When the show is over you can switch your items over to demo mode and they will light up on their own.  Descriptions really can't do this show justice.  Its worth the effort to make the time to get there and watch it on your own.

Happy adventures.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Ghost Town of Mentryville, California.

I remember how odd I thought it was that there was oil pumps all over in California.  They seem to sit in the middle of huge bustling cities. It will never not be odd to me that one sits right between the Beverly Center mall and Cedars-Sinai, the hospital of the stars.  Seriously, look it up on google maps.  The mall makes a turn around it like its not even there.  California has a rich history in oil and one of those oil pumps sits right up the hill from our little place in SoCal. 

Mentryville sits at the end of a road named Pico Canyon and was home to the first commercially successful oil strike in California named Pick number 4. It was the longest running as well being capped off in 1990.  Where there is work there will be workers.  Where there are workers there will be a need for a town and so up sprang Mentryville.  Mentryville, named after an oil field superintendent Charles Alexander Mentry, was a boom-town from 1876 to 1900. 

When the boom was finally over the town packed up and left like they seem to do leaving only a caretaker and a ghost town.  Still standing is a 13 room mansion that was build by Mentry.  The house was badly damaged on January 17th, 1994 Northridge Earthquake and is no longer safe to go into.  The conservatory is working to get funds to restore it so one day we can see the inside as well.  

Near the mansion sits the movie house.  Although it looks like a house outside the inside is finished more like a garage for storage. While it fits right in with the rest of the area it was not a part of the original oil town. The small yellow house is really just a movie set built by Disney to film "One Magic Christmas" in 1984. The superintendents house was once used in Lassie, Return to Green acres and many western movies through the years.  

Down the path from the two houses sits a red and white one room school house.  The Felton School District was named for Charles N. Felton. Felton was president of the Pacific Coast Oil Company and later a US senator. This was the first school house in Santa Clarita that was not also used as a private home. Children in the first through eighth grades were taught here until the school closed down in 1932 when the child population dropped below the required 5 students. 

The ghosts of the past have left us with a few houses and some aged and weathered equipment to tell the story of how life once was.  On a warm January day in Santa Clarita, California my little family was able to take a fun walk up a paved street to a trip back in time.  We laughed and visited as we strolled along the path to the parking lot where for $5 you can drive right up to the gate.  Cell service is very hard to find here so if you are having trouble pulling your kids away from those little devices this is the place.  

This week has been a wet one here and we lost a historic redwood tree in the storms.  Time, weather and even earthquakes can take these places from us.  Thank you to the people who worked so hard to keep places like these here for us to see.  Make the time to get out an see them.  Life leaves no guarantees that these little gems will be here tomorrow.  Life also ticks away at a neck breaking pace.  My baby turned 15 this month. At 15 he still thinks were cool enough to hang out with.  I guess I'm pretty lucky like that.  I have two great kids with a love for adventure.  I'm not sure how many years I have left to cram non stop adventure in before college, work or relationships slow them down, but Im going to take it for all its worth.  I wonder how far of a drive Gettysburg is from here? 

Happy Adventuring


Friday, January 6, 2017


  The calendar has flipped to 2017 and we are well into planning our year of adventures. Most will be quick trips that won't require us to travel far while one or two destinations may take more than just an airplane ride to reach. But that's for later because as cliche as it may be, I just can't put a period on 2016 without reflecting on the places we've been and the things that we learned throughout the year. I will just hit the highlights because if you want a more detailed rundown of our adventures you can always look through our older posts. So, here we go.
   Early this spring we attended the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. This event celebrated it's fiftieth year and shows no signs of slowing down. If you're into off-roading you've likely heard of the event and if you haven't you need to check it out. Southeastern Utah's gorgeous red rock canyons and breathtaking vistas are on full display by way of over 30 back country trails and nine days. You can learn more about this event at www.rr4w.com. 
  We returned to one of my favorite places on this Earth in 2016, Yellowstone. It's hard to beat the beauty of the world's first national park. In my mind Yellowstone must have been the last place that God created before putting away his paint brushes. The deep canyons, numerous water features and it's unique wildlife are preserved in the most natural state as possible in this technology fueled age. The only piece of technology needed here is a camera. Don't forget to bring extra memory cards.

 The highlight of the year would have to be the trip we dubbed the "Rubisemite" trip. We put together our first major road trip for this one with the main objective of running the Rubicon Jeep trail in California. Of course the challenge was to drive from Salt Lake City, Utah to the trail where we would need to keep four Jeeps in one piece while traversing over twelve miles of the roughest and most technical trail known to the off-road community, take a road trip to two ghost towns and a national park, and return home intact. No problem. With the added challenge of fighting off record numbers of bees we finished the trail a little battered, a little tired and a lot happy. We pushed south into Yosemite National Park where we were met with large crowds of people and some gorgeous views of Half Dome and the Yosemite Valley.
  An epic trip yes but looking back we may have been a little crazy in trying it but in the end it worked out and I can't think of a trip where I had more fun. 
  2016 brought us a lot of fun adventures but it wasn't without it's difficulties. We up and moved to California, something that wasn't really expected but we are dealing with it. And the worst part of the year for us came in late October when we had to say goodbye to our dear friend, Jeep the Adventure Dog. He enjoyed rides in the Jeep and didn't seem to mind being bounced around in a Polaris RZR either. It still hurts that he's gone but in the end we know it was for the best. 
  So that was 2016 in a nutshell. Overall I think we had a great time despite some of the challenges but if every experience was easy the stories that came from them would be boring. We thank you for being with us in our first year and we look forward to bringing you more stories from 2017's adventures. Stay safe, find adventure and get off the couch. It's time to live life in 2017.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Just Visiting

  They say that home is where the heart is and while that may be true for me my heart and home will always be in Utah. Since starting a two year construction project in Los Angeles, California back in April we haven't been able to spend much time at home. In the eight months we've been gone we've only managed to make it back to Utah on two occasions and both were to take of some personal business and were very quick which left no time for fun or family. So we took a few days off and loaded up the Chevy to head home for an extended visit. 
  Okay it isn't the best time to head to Salt Lake. The winter weather brings cold air and an inversion to the valley which doesn't make for the greatest air to breath and the view of our towering mountains is blurred by the smog and we also left 70 degree weather behind in California to get there. But we didn't come here with a plan to get out and do much. We had a few items to take care of at our house but this trip was more about spending some time with family. We had never been away from home for Christmas before and we found that our holiday spirit was lacking a little jingle this year. What really bothered us is that Halloween and Thanksgiving felt the same way. I guess that's just part of change and we just have to get used to it.
  At first glance things didn't look much different than when we left. In fact it just felt like we were coming home from a long vacation. But then we started to notice the changes. Buildings stood where dirt lots had been bringing restaurants, gas stations and businesses still to be determined into our once little town of Saratoga Springs. We found many new faces filling the pews of our old church when we stopped by which has been normal over the past few years but it's a lot more noticeable when you've been gone awhile. The good news is there were still a lot of familiar faces that we were very glad to see and although our time with them was very brief it was great to see them again. It was the same with our families as well. We had a small gathering that brought together people that I hadn't seen in the same room for years and it felt like the good old days. My only regret is that we still didn't have time to see everyone that I had wanted to. With only a few days, holidays and birthdays we were pretty booked up for time. So I guess that means I'll just have to come back and visit again. I just don't know when that will be.
  I guess the point of this article is to say that sometimes travel brings you home and at times you need to be home more than you realize. It's a lesson that I didn't understand that I needed to know but I'm glad that I had the opportunity to learn it. I truly hope that over the holidays you had the chance to spend time with your loved ones and for those you didn't see I hope you take the chance soon to see them. For those of you we missed on our recent trip don't worry. We'll be back soon.