Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Evolution of an Adventure Rig

Yosemite National Park, California
   When I was a kid I had an assortment of "dream cars." Many of them were expensive, exotic and, as I'm well aware of today, unattainable. Heck, even today I dream of owning a fancy car. It's hard not too here in Los Angeles. I manage to come to my senses as I think about the things I like to do and let's face it, a Ferrari will never go where my Jeep can take me.
  Jeeps and trucks were around me from birth and off-road adventure is my nature so it should be no surprise that I have built many Jeep projects. Not only that but our family has expanded the off-road lifestyle through friends and family members just by getting married. I can count eight Jeeps that have come into the fold just because my brother and I introduced our new family members to Moab, Utah.
  Everyone has their own style of adventure but we all have to use some type of transportation to get to our destination. Regardless of the type of vehicle you choose there is usually some type of customization done to the vehicle to fit our needs. This may be as simple as a GPS unit for the family sedan. But for those of us that choose to spend our adventures a little farther away from civilization a little more work has to be done.
Grafton Ghost Town near Zion's National Park, Utah
 Our current choice of adventure  vehicle is a 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Until a few years ago this Jeep served as my daily driver.  I knew that I wasn't going to have this Jeep in any difficult or potentially dangerous situations because I already had another Jeep (a 1988 Wrangler) that had been purpose built to tackle the most difficult terrain that Moab had to offer. Plus, I was still making payments on it. But I still made a few upgrades in preparation for the day when it would eventually take over for the older Jeep.
  Once the aftermarket parts start going on you now have yourself a project and a project needs a name so this Jeep has been dubbed Klondike. The bright yellow makes me think of gold and of course I enjoy history so if you think gold rush then I imagine you get the idea of where I'm coming from. If not, read this.
  There are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to aftermarket parts and you really need to know what you plan to do with your rig before you start placing orders. Some parts that work for a vehicle used primarily for rock crawling may not exactly be necessary for a vehicle that will be used for over landing or highway use. On the other hand there are a lot of aftermarket parts that work well for all conditions (like an ARB fridge) and you just need to decide the type that works for you. We knew that Klondike would spend a lot of time in the dirt and rocks so it would need locking differentials. We opted to use a combination of cable activated and electronic OX lockers. This was the first upgrade that we chose to undertake. Because these lockers are selectable they don't have an adverse affect on the handling of the Jeep while on the road and so far I've been happy with them.
  Because of his length, Klondike received rock sliders as the second upgrade. This allowed us to do some mild off-roading without the worry of destroying the rocker panels. These were actually rarely used until we did the Rubicon trail last year. During that trip they were well used.
  I was going to build Klondike to strictly be an over land vehicle while our other Jeep stayed the rock crawler. I would only put a 2" lift kit with 33" tires to keep the ride comfortable for the longer trips. Then things changed. We decided to par down on the all the "things" we had. If it didn't have more than one purpose, we didn't need it. So, Klondike would have to pull double duty. We sold the '88 Wrangler and we chose to put a 4" Old Man Emu lift kit on Klondike. 35" BF Goodrich KO2 tires were selected to keep the ground clearance high enough for Moab but not too extreme for over land travel.
  The 9000 lbs. Warn winch is an older unit that came off of the '88 Wrangler and has served me very well over the years. Eventually I will switch it with a newer one but for right now it works great.
  If I stopped now I would still have a pretty good rig. It has conquered trails in Moab and it handled the Rubicon with ease.  But as anyone that builds there own project vehicle knows, they are never finished. So what's next for Klondike? Soon we will be replacing the stock rear bumper with an aftermarket swing away tire carrier. This will take the weight of the 35" tire off of the tailgate and won't cause damage if the tire were to come into contact with a rock. 
Near Grand Canyon National Park
  A roof rack will be fitted to overcome our storage issues and perhaps someday a rooftop tent. With a family of four we need to carry a lot of items for extended trips. Clothes, school work, food, and camera gear take up a lot of precious room so the rack is a must for overnight trips. In addition to the rack we'll add an awning for shade on those hot or rainy days as well as plenty of lights for use while driving and to see what we're doing around camp. 
  Custom built drawers will be installed to hold our recovery gear, stove and utensils for our galley during our over land trips. To complete the kitchen I'll add a tailgate mounted folding shelf and a fridge/freezer to keep our goodies nice and cold. 
  In addition to our current CB radio we will install a HAM radio to extend the range of our communications. It's about time since Misty and I have both had our licenses for six years now. Oh, well. I would also like to hard mount a GPS capable tablet with a mapping program to compliment our paper maps.
Klondike on the Rubicon Trail
  I could probably go on but it wouldn't be fair. The more I think about it the more I could write about. Like I said, a project is never finished, they just continue to evolve with the tastes and needs of the owner. Most of the things I've mentioned here aren't going to happen all at once. That would be cool though. In the meantime we'll continue to use Klondike for most of our back country outings. I say most because we haven't covered our "fleet" of ATV's yet but that's for a different article. No matter what vehicle you choose to find adventure don't forget to keep if safe and fun. Hope to see you out on the trails.

Brandan



Friday, August 25, 2017

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles: P4 Wrap up.

 Last post about this museum, I promise!  Are you getting that its a really big place with a lot of stuff to see?  There is no way we can even touch all there is to tell you about here.  We even did four full posts about it and still there is stuff left to be explored.  I can't help but wonder how many museums there are like this one out there that can hold fascination like this one can.  I could go back a dozen times and it would still be a new experience.  I love this place if you can't tell. 

Inside this museum is three separate mammal halls.  That doesn't count the temporary Extreme Mammals temporary exhibit.  You can see the Hall of African Mammals,  North American Mammal Hall and the Age of Mammals Hall.  Each hall has its own unique theme to it while staying true to the feel of the museum overall. 

 The Hall of African Mammals had the elephants and lions we all know well set in displays that look like a natural surrounding.  It was very well done.  Their attention to detail even includes the plants and grasses that you would find these animals living along side.  They also had animals we might not know as well such as the Arabian Oryx or the Okapi





 The Age of Mammals Hall covered mammals in a different way.  This hall covered how much change has happened as our world has evolved.  While the Age of Mammals Hall has a total of 240 specimens, it had some fascinating displays on being human.  We don't often get to see how our brain rests inside our skull, but you can here.  You can see a cheetah next to a skeleton of one to see how it fits inside.  You can also stand next to a shadow of three kinds of bears to see how you measure up.  




The last mammal hall is the North American Mammal Hall.  Here you can see the animals that dot where we spend most of our time.  The Bison reminded me of one of my most favorite places on earth.  Yellowstone National Park is absolutely the one trip I think everyone needs to take.  You can also see moose, polar bears and seals on display as well as a ton of other animals that remind me how large our own backyard really is.  

Becoming L.A. tells the story of how a big chunk of dirt grew to the bursting landscape it is today.  We learned about the Spanish and Mexican influence on the area including all those awesome missions that we stop at from time to time.  There were displays on how the Great Depression influenced things and how immigration changed blocks to little cultural centers.  We also saw how the auto and movie industry added their touch to the flow of things and how Sleeping Beauties Castle was built in Disneyland.  This section could have been a museum on its own with all it covered.  Being from Utah I didn't know about a lot of the things that the average school child could tell me all about.  I knew a bit about the oranges here but I had no idea how much of a part that citrus wonder really played in forming L.A. as we know it.


Tlingit totem pole from Alaska. 
Beyond everything I have told you about in these last four posts there is still a lot to cover.  Have you ever wondered what museums keep in their vault?  This museum has their vault on display.  You will see fragile archaeological treasures from ancient Latin America in a darkened room covered with safety straps.  We also saw a totem pole from the Tlingit people in Ketchikan, Alaska.  We learned all about them on our latest cruise so it was fascinating to see something they created in a museum so far away.   You can read more about that experience here

There is a Hall of Birds, a wetlands display, shells, art and a bunch of other stuff we can't even cover without going on and on.  The place has something for everyone.  The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is an awesome place.  If you love history and traveling then you might want to add this place to your next southern California vacation.  We loved it and will be back soon.  Until then, Happy travels. 
❤ Misty

How do you measure up? 





Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles: Part 3- The Dinos

Hi.  I am Faith and I am the reason we went to see this museum.  I have been begging since we ended up here in Cali.  Back in Utah there is a really cool museum called the Museum of Ancient Life.  It was fairly close to our home so we spent a lot of time there.  I love to learn about dinosaurs so coming to the NHMLA was pretty cool.  

We saw the gems and minerals first but I was wanting to head to dinosaur hall as soon as we could.  I wanted to get there before the crowds got there.  It was a little bit of a walk to find it but when we did it was just as exciting as I could have imagined.  

One of the best parts of this museum is that we can actually touch real dinosaurs.  Well not real dinosaurs since they are long ago extinct but we got to touch real dinosaur bones.  There was a frill from a Triceratops and a fossil toe bone from a T-rex.  
They both felt a lot like rocks that had been touched by a lot of people.  The bones were darker from where everyone was touching it which helps me understand why we cant get near the big ones on display.   This museum has a lot of glass between us and the dinosaurs.  It kind of throws a lot of glare and makes things not as easy to see.  While I would like to see it without the glass I want these to still be in great condition for people in the future.  

Id like you to meet Thomas.  Thomas is one of the most complete T-Rex fossils ever discovered. He was found by a local school teacher Robert Curry in southeast Montana in 2003-2005.  He is about 70% complete which makes him in the top 10 of the most complete to be discovered.  They think he was about 17 years old, 34 feet long and 7,000 pounds.  When found the excavating team wanted to name him Bob but Robert requested his name be Thomas, after his brother who loved to fossil hunt with him as a child.  On this display you can look into these lighted holes to see close up details of the clues used to learn more about his life. 
Here you can see a close up of the vertebra and the details they learned from it to help determine his age.  Each of the little lighted holes holds another piece and the story it tells.  I loved the way it was magnified to see the tiny details. 


In the center of the Dinosaur Hall is a really cool display of T-rex growth. It has a baby T-rex that was about 2 years old when it died.  It measures 11 feet long and is the youngest known T-rex fossil in the world.  Next to the baby is a juvenile T-rex.  It is about 13 years old and 20 feet long.  This T-rex could have weighted about 4,000 pounds.  That is about my age.  I am glad I am not a T-rex.  My parents wouldn't let me in the house.   
The larger of the three T-rex on display is Thomas.  It is very large compared to the other two.  Its weird to see how much they change over time.  



Getting dinosaurs out of the ground isn't an easy process.  In the Dino Lab you can see them working to get the fossils clean and ready to display for us to see.  The all were wearing gloves and working with small brushes the size of a toothbrush or even smaller.  Its not a fast process.  

Before they get it to the lab though they need to get the fossil out of the ground and in this museum you can see the tools they use.  They have a wall of tools and the descriptions of what they are used for.  



They also have a display of how things are found in the ground.  Its not as simple as just finding a dinosaur in the dirt.  The bones are often scattered from the conditions they died in, the shifting of the ground they are in and the compression of years under ground.  Every step of getting the bones excavated is very difficult and involves a lot of digging. 

I really loved this place.  Dinosaurs are awesome and I love to learn more about them.  Between this museum and the one back in Utah I am wondering where else I can find more cool dinosaur museums.  Vernal Utah is one place on my dinosaur bucket list for sure.  

Thank you, 
Faith. 












Friday, August 18, 2017

Natural History Museum Of Los Angeles: Part 2

On our last post we talked a little about the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles but it is such a big topic we had to split it up into multiple posts.  I bet you can guess what todays post will be about. 
For those that know me, I have an obsessive love with gems and minerals.  Not necessarily the bling of jewelry but the incredible things that are spewed out of the earth naturally.  We all have our back stories in life.  Mine is one of recovering from gold fever.  Mine is one of fascination with the red layers of rocks in Moab, Utah, fossils in the dirt and the caves of the mountains.  I love mining town history and the draw of finding a gem of my own from the earth.  You can imagine my excitement when we left the space of the Dueling Dinos to see the wing of the entrance to the Gem and Mineral Hall. 

When they say hall I think of a long walkway with space on each side.  This is not what we found when we entered this hall.  It is a large room full of every kind of gem and mineral you can imagine.  It will tell you what a mineral is and how they differ from another.  You will learn about the differences between metamorphic, sedimentary and igneous creations. You will see displays showing the color changing abilities of rocks with florescent qualities that glow under UV lights.  You will learn things you never knew you never knew and you will love every minute of it. 

You can’t talk about gems and minerals of the world while in California without talking about gold.  The California Gold Rush began on January 24th, 1848 when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutters Mill.  The glittery gold brought a blast of immigration and money to the area of California.  With the increase in miners it also brought in ranchers, farmers, shop owners, bankers, saloon keepers and ladies of the night.  The United Stated jumped on the growth of the area and in September of 1850 California became a state.  This earned California the name The Golden State and it has since grown to the huge beast we know today.
 
Nature makes incredible things.  Some the displays we looked at I couldn’t imagine how they were ever removed and kept intact.  Crystals grow in so many ways and patterns.  It was like looking onto an alien planet but right here from our own backyard.  If you are looking for things from an alien planet though they have that too.  A meteorite cut in half looks like something imagined from a sci-fi movie.  The patterns and lines are so beautiful.  If you love the idea of something traveling through space and landing on Earth you will love to know that you can buy your very own meteorite in the Gem Store next door.  You can also buy geode bookends, crystals, books, jewelry, salt lamps and a variety of other related items.  We walked out with just a salt lamp though there were a handful of things I wanted to take home with me.  I used self-control and it was tough.
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While I loved to see all the displays in the Gem and Mineral Hall, the Gem Vault was my favorite stop.  Here you found cut stones and jewelry quality items from all over the world.  When you go on a cruise you can take classes on the jewelry you can buy when you hit land.  Some of these stones are rare and hard to find which is what makes them worth taking a class on.  Here in the Gem Vault we were able to see rare gems like we had learned about but huge.  For example we saw a 15 carat Alexandrite bracelet from Russia.  Alexandrite is a fascinating gem.  Legends claim that it was discovered in 1834 on the same day the future Russian Czar Alexander II came of age so it was named honoring him.  What makes this gem stone unique is that it changes colors based on the light it is under.  It can be emerald green in the daylight but change to a ruby red under incandescent light.  It is one of the more valuable stones available.

 In the Gem Vault you can also see a display of Tanzanite, which is another rare stone that is running low on availability.  They have said that in our lifetime we will see the end of the mining of this beautiful blue stone.  If diamonds are your thing there is a display there too.  Most any stone you are wanting to see can be found in this one place on a simple display waiting to be enjoyed.  And to think, we came to this museum because our little lady wanted to see some dinosaurs.  We got to see those too but that will be on our next post.  

Until then make some memories! 

Misty


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County: Part One


Thank you Howard Robertson. There is a plaque on the wall in the museum that tells us all that you first foresaw the need for a museum here.  Oddly enough the webpage on the history of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County doesn't mention you at all.  Digging all the way down into page 360 of a book titled "A History of California and an Extended History of Los Angeles and Environs" written by James Miller Guinn we can find a little more.  William M. Bowen (who is mentioned on the museums website in the history) presented a plan for the government of the museum.  The museum was to be managed by a board made of two members from the Historical Society, two from the Academy of Science, two from the Fine Arts League, one from the Cooper Ornithological Society and one Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.  The building was to be managed by William M. Bowen, Dr George F. Bouvard, J. M. Guinn,Dr. A. Davidson,William A. Spalding, Mrs. William H. Housh, T.E. Gibbon and Howard Robertson. 

Breaking it down to a simple version of the same story.   On the history page of the website it tells a story of a local attorney and Sunday School teacher, William Miller Bowen, who was alarmed at the saloons, gambling halls and other vices that were growing up in the area.  He led the fight with some friends of his to develop this once agricultural fairground into what it has become today.  On November 6th, 1913, Exposotion Park and the new museum opened to the public.  The history, science and art collection outgrew the space of the 1913 building and in 1963 the Art Museum relocated to its own space in Hancock Park.  At that time the museum became the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County or NHMLA and was joined by the Memorial Coliseum, Sports Arena, Swimming Stadium, California Science Center, California African American Museum and the largest municipal owned rose garden in the nation.  The entire place is incredible and a must see.  

To plan your visit I highly suggest that you check out the website first.  Since the park is so close to so many amazing things it tends to have a lot of events.  Some of these events will effect the times of the museum, the crowds in the area and the parking situation.  The website is great for giving you a pop up type heads up of things going on.  The day we went there was a preseason NFL game between the Cowboys and the Rams in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum that would bring in crowds that night.  There was a warning on the site and we knew that we would be fine to attend the museum that morning.  

Parking is $12 cash only and this number can change during special events.  We are early risers here so it wasn't an issue for us but if you like to sleep in you might want to know that the crowds tend to build up through the day so the earlier you get there the better your views will be.  The museum opens at 9:30 a.m. We got there as it opened and the crowds were ideal.  Tickets are $12 per person for the museum alone, kids are less as well as students and seniors.  They have rotating exhibits that cost more.  Budget wise I think the annual pass is a great deal since you get an entire year to see the place and you get the rotating exhibits as well.  A family pass for us would be $99 and would also include the La Brea Tar Pits Museum and the William H. Hart museum (which is free as far as I can tell).  If we were to have gone to the museum plus both of the exhibits our total for the day would have been a total of $102 just for the day.  Plus members get these cool member stickers to wear around the place if you are into that kind of thing.  Brandan says I have an annual pass problem.  He might have a point but I still stand by the fact that it would have been a good option for the day.  I went along with his wishes and we just got the day pass.  We were only into our first area when we realized the museum is huge and it would take more than a day to really dive into the place.  


As we walked in the doors we were thankful there was a greeter there to give us a map and some ideas of how to explore.  There is no wrong path but the more popular areas do tend to fill up faster so start there.  I can't explain how huge this place is but I can show you a map.  Click that link and you can get an idea of how much time you will want to spend there.  They have shows at different times through out the day so you might want to plan around that as well.  This picture is of the Dueling Dinos.  This is the first room you will enter as you walk in.  As you can see its a large room with a lot of space.  Now if you look at the map and how small that room is in comparison you might get an idea of how much space is here to see.  

We decided that with all the things there are to cover here we couldn't cover it all in one post and give it the attention it deserves.  Stay tuned to Fridays post where we dive into the cool things you can see here.  

Until then, happy travels.  

❤ Misty

Friday, August 11, 2017

KWERK at Six Flags Magic Mountain


Six Flags Magic Mountain is a favorite place of ours.  We do love the Disney's of the world.  Universal Studios will forever be a favorite too but Magic Mountain is different and wonderful in its own way.  Its easy and that is a big part of it.  Parking is easy.  Understanding where to go is easy.  With the dining pass it is easy to get drinks and food with out carrying wads of cash and coins.  It is thrill coaster after thrill coaster.  When I think about Six Flags Magic Mountain I think about how it is so fun to go in, wear our selves out, grab a snack and come home in how ever long we feel like spending there.  Id be missing a big part of the equation if I didn't mention that it is affordable too.  When you are comparing prices to the house with the mouse, this theme park can give you a full day of fun at a fraction of the cost.  

In all fairness there is an area where the Disney's blow most parks out the water.  It is their shows and non ride experiences.  Universal excels here too but I wouldn't say that it could top Disney's magical experience.  Before Kwerk I would have said that Magic Mountain was not even in their league when talking about shows.  We have watched music played there and it was fun.  We have watched Batman walk by and his costume was very believable.  But I just wasn't convinced that a sit down show would leave me awed.  

Six Flags Magic Mountain.  I owe you an apology.  I am sorry. I didn't give credit where credit was due.  I had no idea that in that steampunk Gearworks theater was such an incredible show.  Ive walked by dozens of times while on my way to my favorite coaster, Twisted Colossus, and never had any hints that there was so much I was missing. 

There is no explaining the experience you can have here.  There are no pictures and no videos that will help you understand how much talent was packed on that stage.  It was like steampunk meets dance meets acrobatics meets circus meets magic.  It was a well spent 20 minutes of my life and my only regret is that I didn't take advantage of it well before now.  

The show runs Memorial Day through August 13th for the 2017 season.  Last year they had a Kwerk holiday show called Kwerkmas running over the winter season.  I'm hopeful that they will repeat that this year.  I will make a full effort to get my seat and watch it multiple times. 

 You would never know from a tiny picture that there were two people on roller skates here.  You would never guess the things these two could do.  From spinning around while flying through the air to twisting while connected neck to next it was incredible. 

They ended the show with a trampoline.  Yes, you read that right.  A high bouncing trampoline act performed by Zero Gravity Arts.  They worked that bouncy pad like it was the easiest thing they had ever done.  There was so much personality to it.  The dance moves were entertaining and the acrobatics were a one of a kind.  The Tramp Wall was worth the show on its own.  

Really, this is a can't miss show.  I can't paint a picture that will tell you enough about it but until you can get there your self we have filmed a bit of it.  Nothing like being there in person but it might hold you over until you get your next day off.  

On to the next adventure. 
Misty