Tuesday, January 30, 2018

We are finally planning a trip to Hawaii.

One of my most favorite moments is when we can put a big checkmark on an item we have on our travel bucket list.  Its a long list full of amazing adventures.  We would love to just tackle all of them right away.  There are bills to pay, jobs to go to, schooling for the kiddlets and lots of daily life we juggle to make our dreams happen.  Today we are going to talk about checking off another one of those bucket list items.  Drumroll...  Hawaii!  Hawaii is booked and we are so excited to go there.  

This is a first for our little family of four but its not a first for our family.  We do most of our travels in groups and we love it that way.  Both sets of our parents have been here before but not like we are going to tackle it this trip.  This is a land and see adventure.

We will spend our first three to four days in Oahu.  This is where the bulk of our bucket list was so we wanted to spend more time here.  The Polynesian Cultural Center will give us a taste of life in the Pacific Islands.  Its like a tropical lifestyle theme park.  While the rest of our group has been there out little group of four will be first timers.  We are planning to see every bit of this and scheduling a whole day.  

Our second whole day activity is to explore Pearl Harbor.  We love all things historical.  We hope that we can inspire this love of history for others to enjoy too.  This is a big deal for us.  We've been talking about this for years but to stand where the story was made is where the magic happens for us.  We will be learning in depth the stories and battles that led to and happened during this historical battle.  

We will still have a day and a half on Oahu that we haven't planned out.  Turtle Bay is on our list of places we'd like to see.  North Shore would be really cool too.  The beautiful LDS Laie Temple and its gardens will be visited as well. There is a ranch where Jurassic Park was filmed.  Of course there is to sample the local food and eat from a truck too.  We are also looking for hikes, other sites and seeking wild animals too.  I've heard the wild chickens would be right up my alley.  Oh and the ABC stores...  It must be one of those things we will understand when we get there.  

After our stay on Oahu we will be boarding NCL's Pride of America for 7 days of Hawaii island hopping.  We will visit Kahului Maui, Hilo Hawaii, Kona Hawaii, Nawiliwili Kauai and return back to Hololulu Oahu to finish our big circle.  For sure the most exciting thing here is going to be when the boat takes us up close to see the Volcano pour off into the ocean.  I imagine it like when we took our Alaskan Cruise and they took us to see the glaciers breaking off into the ocean but opposite.  I feel like there might be a new camera lens in Brandans future.  


We know a lot of you have been to these heavenly islands.  We would love to learn from you.  What should we do?  What should we avoid? Eek!  We are so excited!

♥ Misty

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Mojave National Preserve

  Earlier this week I wrote about the lava tubes in Mojave National Park. The tube was the highlight of our day in the preserve but there is a lot more to see in the preserve.
 The preserve contains 1.6 million acres of California desert. That is a lot of area. You definitely need more than a day to explore it and unfortunately we only gave it a day. We took I-40 from Barstow until the exit for Kelbaker Road. This would be the road that eventually would end in Baker but not until after we stopped at a few spots first.
The Kelso Dunes
 Our first stop was the entry sign, of course, so that we could take the stereotypical tourist photo. Looking west from the sign is the Granite Mountains which were created from volcanic activity that took place between 80 and 180 million years ago. I would like to have explored these interesting looking rock formations more, but in the interest of time, we kept moved on to the Kelso dunes.
 The Kelso dunes are 45 square miles of sand. The tallest dune is about 650 feet tall. Now, we've been to sand dunes before. The Little Sahara recreation in Utah is one of our many playgrounds that we take our ATV's to. The Kelso dunes are special, though. These dunes sing. The singing sand, also known as "booming dunes" make a low frequency grumble when the sand is disturbed. For example, sliding down the face. This phenomenon has only been noted at a few other locations on Earth. I wanted to experience this for myself, but, it was not to be. The hike to the top of the dunes is a lengthy one and the howling winds, sprinkling rain, and forty degree temperatures didn't seem like a force we wanted to face with two of our group having a cold and me getting over one. Perhaps another time.
 Around the mid-point of Kelbaker road is an old Union Pacific Railroad station. The Spanish style train depot opened in 1924 and closed in 1985. Through research I learned that Kelso station had a  restaurant, billiard room, baggage area, library, telegraph office and much more. I had to learn this through research because the day we visited just happened to be the first day of the government shutdown. Yup, doors locked up tight, lights off, have a nice day. I get it. It just ticks me off. Stupid government can't get along so we all have to suffer. Pish, posh. Such as life. I suppose there may a time when I can slide back over to the depot but with the time we have left here in California, I'm not sure when that will be.
 From Kelso station we headed over to the lava tube which I wrote about earlier this week. If you want to catch up on that experience, check it out here. We followed the Kelbaker road until it ended in Baker where we jumped back on I-15 and headed back to Barstow. In Barstow there is a little diner that is kinda famous. Or at least it wants me to believe that it's famous. Peggy Sue's 50's Diner. It's a little greasy spoon with an eclectic style. With a 50's theme and plenty of movie memorabilia to keep you entertained for hours, we wondered why we never stopped in before. 
 On this trip we only got to explore the western third of the preserve. There is still a lot more ground to cover that I hope to visit some day. In fact, he Mojave Road cuts right through the entire preserve. The Mojave Road is known today as one of the must do overland routes in the United States and takes approximately three days to traverse. That would be a blast and will remain on my bucket list.
 The Mojave Preserve has been a pretty well kept secret from me. If not for a random internet search I may have continued to drive by this gem, completely oblivious to its existence. I would encourage anyone to take the time to explore this area and the best part is, there is no entry fee. Just don't forget to take plenty of water with you.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Mojave Lava Tubes

 Every road trip has it's boring stretches. Some places are flat with no sign of life or scenery and other places are hot, dry and covered in sage brush. These areas tend to be the longest and hardest sections to get through on a road trip and we are always excited to be past them. One of the areas that I struggle with happens to be a stretch of I-15 in California. It's 119 miles from the Nevada/California border to Barstow when heading to SoCal and I can't stand it. By the time I'm entering California, coming from Salt Lake, I'm ready to be out of the car and yet, I still have nearly 4 hours to get to Santa Clarita. But I never stopped to wonder what may be out beyond that sage brush? Well, a week ago I stumbled upon he Mojave National Preserve and I was surprised at what was hidden in that endless desert.
 This 1.6 million acre chunk of America is the third largest area controlled by the National Park Service. It's home to Desert Tortoise, Bighorn Sheep, and the largest concentration of Joshua Trees in the world. Take that Joshua Tree N.P. But the one thing I knew that I wanted to see was the lava tube.
 The lava tube in Mojave National Preserve is roughly 500 feet long, ten feet wide at the narrowest access and opens up to an area that is about twenty feet tall. It's accessible by a ladder that feels a lot firmer than it appears at first glance.
 The opening to get in is a little tight. For me, at 6' 3" tall, had to really crouch down to skinny under the short opening. The rest of the group didn't have as much trouble to get in as I did but, them's the breaks.
  If you're here at the right time of year and at just the right time of day, the sun will create beautiful, narrow beams of light that cut through the darkness of the tube. Unfortunately for us, it's winter time and it was an overcast day. However, that doesn't matter. It's way cool to be in at any time of year as far as I can tell. I mean, what little kid (and over sized kids (adults)) doesn't want to crawl into the center of the Earth? It's just too much fun.
 If you look closely at different parts of the rock you can see a clear picture of what took place here over 10,000 years ago. Some of the rock shows evidence of what it looked like as the molten rock flowed. Other areas are full of pin holes where air bubbles popped before the rock cooled and on the ceiling you can see how the rock hardened as it was dripping from the top of the tube. It's a way cool place for rock nerds, which, as I've discovered, must be me.
 The lava tube is easy to get to from the town of Baker and if you can squeeze a little extra time during your road trip I would highly recommend swinging in to check it out. From Baker take Kelbaker Road east for 19 miles where a white rock marks an obvious dirt road to the north. This road is not a smooth one. It's full of wash boards and some small rocks but it is passable for a passenger car. Take the dirt road for about 5 miles until you see a small road fork to the left and is marked with a small sign that says LAVA TUBE. You'll find a small parking lot where you'll want to park your passenger car and hike up the road to the lava tube. If you have a high clearance four wheel drive you can even drive up the road to shorten the hike.
 The lava tube is just one of the many cool things to find in the Mojave National Preserve and you can learn more about it here. Also pay close attention to the mounds you pass while getting to the lava tube. Those are little volcanoes. The geological wonders are everywhere.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

January Update

 January is now half over. Normally I would be happy about that. It's this time of year that I'm usually working out in twenty degree temperatures in wet and mucky conditions and dreaming about Spring. Believe me it doesn't take long to get tired of Winter when you have to make a living working outside. However, I'm still in California and the weather here has been pretty nice. I won't complain about how rough I have it here in 70 to 80 degrees.
  January is about the time I start to get excited about the Jeep Safari and planning our trip and preparing the Jeep is just a winter time ritual for us. Well, that hasn't changed. Not even here in California.
  We've ironed out our lodging for the Safari but we still have some logistical planning to figure out over the coming weeks. We have decided on our trails and if you're reading this and planning to attend, remember, sign ups are on Wednesday. Trails fill up fast so be ready.
  As far as getting the Jeep ready for the trip, I have a few projects that we're working on right now that have been keeping us busy. I've added a new bumper with a swing away tire carrier which I'm very happy about. I've dreaded bumping the tire on a steep angle and bending my tailgate. It's always made me nervous but now that problem is solved. I've also finally pulled the trigger on a dual battery set up to add a little more power to the electrical system to help out with future lighting, the current winch and a future fridge that I hope to have by the Jeep Safari. I'm adding a tailgate table in the back of the Jeep to help with food prep and to act as a shelf at times and I hope that once it's installed I think, "how have I lived without this for so long?"
  The last thing I have to do is change the leaky transmission cooler lines that have been a nuisance since 2009, one year after I drove the Jeep off the dealers lot in shiny new condition. It's a Jeep, they leak, even new.  
 If we manage to find time to get all that done we may even find time to head out into the desert before it get's too hot. Time is short, though. The Jeep Safari is early this year and begins in March and like I said, January is nearly over. We'll have a write up on all of these parts and pieces in the coming weeks.
  I hope you're out finding your own adventures this weekend, no matter how small. We'll see you next week.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Party with the Pirates

This is something that has been on our bucket list for a long time.  Dinner with pirates and a show!  We finally made it out and we were not disappointedPirates Dinner Adventure is located in Buena Park right by Knott's Berry Farm and just about 15 minutes away from Disneyland.  If you are on a trip its an easy addition to your fun.  They often have deals offered at Groupon as well but these don't seem to offer the flexibility to pick your time if that matters to you.  We spent the day at Disneyland and this was a nice chance to sit down for a while after a day on our feet. 

Pirates Dinner Adventure is a meal and a show all in one.  They offer one show each weeknight at 7:00 pm, two shows on Saturday at 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm and two shows on Sunday at 3:30 pm and 6:30 pm.  General admission is $61.95 for everyone 12 and older, $36.95 for kids above 2 and under two lap sitters are free.  

After checking in at the outside window you get your picture taken with your group.  You will have a chance later to buy this picture.  From there you walk in the door and you are in a large open room.  Straight in front of you is a bar with these leg and boot glasses that looked awesome.  If you turn to your right there is a gift shop.  All rides end in a gift shop right? same concept.  This is where the restrooms are located.  To your left is another bar and a stage.  (Brandan is standing in the open space by the second bar and stage in the picture above).  As you wander around this space there are people walking around with trays of treats.  We had a piece of bread with ham and cheese on it and a small plate of veggies with optional ranch.  I passed on the ranch this time thinking I was making a healthy choice.  Choose the ranch!  I had it later on my salad and it is chug-able good!  At around 7:30 the pre-show started on that same little stage Brandan was so excited to see.  The room filled up and the stage wasn't the easiest thing to see but they have TVs set up all over to see the show so you don't miss a thing.  

The pre-show introduced us to the cast of characters and let us in on a little surprise.  The group of guys there to protect the princess were pirates and we were being Shanghaied.  When you check in you are assigned a color section and a table.  As your colored pirate leads his crew out of the pre-show you just follow him to your section.  It was a bit of chaos but really as long as you know your color you will be fine.  Don't stress on keeping up with the mad rush.  You are being kidnapped so they aren't going to let you get away.  

I am totally struggling with how much to say here.  This is a cool show and I don't want to tell everyone too much and ruin the surprises.  The stage is the deck of a pirate ship.  There are ropes and pillars everywhere.  There is a sea surrounding it and you are just on the other side of that sea cheering on your team.  See that hunky guy in the blue pants that at some point lost his shirt in the show?  That is Benjamin and he was ours.  As the show got started he took the time to stop and talk to everyone in his area.  You are really made to feel like you are part of the show in every way.  They took the time to announce those who were there celebrating big events, birthdays and anniversaries.  The picture you see is off a handful of people (children) from each section.  They referred to them as the Poopy Pants Pirates through the show.  

When you reserve your adventure you will also pick your meals.  You can choose from the Adult meal (chicken, shrimp, mashed potatoes, veggies) the Vegetarian meal (Squash Ravioli with a house made sauce) or the Vegan (stacked roasted veggies) and a Gluten free option which is the same as the adult meal but you get a slushie instead of dessert.
 Soup, an awesome tomato, or salad with heavenly ranch dressing is given at first.  You end the meal with a Tres Leches cake drizzled with chocolate sauce.  Children get chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes, mac n cheese and fruit.  The meal was pretty good.  Not the focus of the evening but we were all well fed.  Drinks are Pepsi products so I came packing my own Diet Coke.  Its just not worth the sacrifice to drink a Pepsi.  😉 Okay, I happened to have a Diet Coke with me, they did have water and lemonade as well and if it really came down to it a Pepsi wouldn't kill me.  At the end of the night they offered coffee.  

With out telling too much of the story I will say that there was a lot of fighting, sword play, swinging by ropes, music, a love story and jokes at every turn. The highlight of the show for me was the amazing acrobatic show put on by the gypsy.  She of course falls in love and with her new found love they put on an show tumbling and manipulating ropes with no net in sight.  It was indescribable but we did get a bit of it on video.  Not enough to ruin the show but enough to get you excited to go see the show for yourself.  Check the bottom of the post for the link to the video. 

Do yourself a favor and call an Uber.  Parking is not the easiest thing here.  We did go to the 8:00 pm Saturday show so the lot was still full from the 5:00 pm show when we arrived at 6:30.  They did have a few spots available if your car was well under the size of a Prius and you don't mind exiting through an open window.  There are larger spots available but the whole lot was a tight fit and there are only so many spots to go around.  We decided to drive around for about 20 minutes to give a chance for some spots to open and all was well.  But seriously, if you can use other transportation I think it would have served us well.  

Overall it was a blast and a half.  In the fall they do a Vampirates show I am so excited to go to.  They also do a Christmas show.  For now we get to see them take on a sea monster and it was a great night of entertainment.

On to the next adventure.  See you soon.
❤ Misty. 


Friday, January 12, 2018

Old Point Loma Lighthouse

 Can you imagine a time when a traffic jam was caused by a herd of loose cows roaming the dusty streets of town? What about imagining a time when our blue skies weren't polluted with thundering aircraft full of business executives and tourists and if you wanted to see Europe it would take weeks rather than hours? Well it happened, and not that long ago if you think about it. Back then we put our lives in the skilled hands of sailors instead of tiny computing devices loaded with sensors and silicon. But even the most seasoned sailor needed help navigating the seas. One bad decision or a miscalculation would lead to a disaster that would lead to deaths and lost cargo. So how did sailors of old avoid these dangerous coastlines? Ah, you already know the answer. They used lighthouses.
  I could go in to some boring historical recounting of how the concept of lighthouses grew from large bonfires to the towering structures we see today, but that would be boring. Instead, I'll tell you how I became interested in them. It's a quick, simple and most of all, strange story.
  I grew up in Utah. We don't have lighthouses there and I've never been a big fan of playing in the water so lighthouses were just something you learn about and file away in the deep memory banks of the brain. A thought to recall later while flipping through travel magazines or during dull conversation with old friends over dinner. Then I happened to catch an episode of Ghost Hunters when they investigated the St. Augustine lighthouse in Florida. They captured some very compelling evidence of paranormal activity while there and I've wanted to visit St Augustine ever since. Yup, it was those damned ghosts that hooked me. Every time! Yes, I know that not all lighthouses have ghosts. They are, however, old structures with plenty of history, another subject that tends to reel me in. This is how we ended up at a lighthouse in San Diego.
 Old Point Loma Lighthouse stands in a prime location 422 feet above San Diego harbor and was first lit up in November of 1855. However, the location turned out to not be quite as perfect as originally thought thanks to low clouds and fog. The light would be obscured thanks to mother nature and the keeper would actually have to fire a shotgun to warn off ships because there was no fog horn. The Old Point Loma lighthouse would stay in service for only thirty six years before it was replaced by the "New" Point Loma lighthouse but today it serves as a memory of the past for today's generations to enjoy. 
  The lighthouse has been restored to represent it's glory days during the 1880's. The small, humble living quarters probably seem claustrophobic to many of today's kids but I could imagine living there comfortably. You would have unobstructed views of sunrises and sunsets from here and looking down on the ships cruising into the harbor may never get old. The commute into town would be a pain though.
Old Point Loma Lighthouse stands over the harbor.
 The lighthouse is now within the borders of Cabrillo National Monument and is controlled by the National Park Service. We arrived late in the afternoon after a failed whale watching tour. The park closes at 5:00 pm, which left us and the other forty late comers, only an hour to explore the area. Most of that hour was spent in the lighthouse because that is what I came to see but I wish I'd had just a little more time. The very narrow stairs leading to the top of the lighthouse were lined with people trying to catch a glimpse of the top. Unfortunately you can't get all the way to the top on most days, but I've learned that on special occasions they open it up to the public. I'm not sure whether that would be worth fighting the crowds to see or not, especially when they have a replica of the Fresnel lens in the out building adjacent to the lighthouse. I think I get the idea.
A Fresnel lens helps amplify it's light source.
 The Old Point Loma lighthouse may not stand as tall as other lighthouses in the United States and it doesn't have a tragic backstory, but it is no less interesting to visit. Like all historic buildings, the lighthouse is a direct reflection of those that came before us and represents a simpler time when we didn't need to be glued to tiny electronic devices. This was just the first lighthouse of many that I plan to explore over time and I think it was a good one to start with. Of course, my cross hairs are still on St. Augustine, Florida. Oh, wait! Did I mention that I'll be traveling to Florida this year? Hmm, I may just have to ditch old Mickey Mouse for something a little more...spooky. Only time will tell.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Welcome to Paramount Ranch.

As long as I can remember weekends were for adventures.  When there is a chore that needs to be done we always looked for an adventure to sneak in too.  It seems like from birth there has been a craving to see new things and visit new places.  So when we learned that the part we were getting for our Jeep could be picked up less than an hour from where we are staying an adventure was sure to form.  Front Runner Outfitters is tucked in Agoura Hills, California, where our chore ended and our adventure began. At 2903 Cornell Road, Agoura Hills, California you can find Paramount Ranch and it is exactly what it sounds like.  A chance to step on and explore an old west movie town.  

Paramount Pictures leased the land in 1923 and the land is still in use today.  You can walk where Bob Hope walked while filming Caught in the Draft, Sandra Bullock was here filming The Lakehouse, parts of the 1988 movie The Great Outdoors was filmed right here and even Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman's Jane Seymore wandered these streets for the filming of the series from 1993 to 1998.  The list goes on and on.  This dirt has history all over it.  You can see a better list Here on the IMBD where they list the 452 most popular titles filmed here.  

In 1927 Paramount purchased the movie ranch and for 25 great years it was home to the movie magic of a forgotten era.  The location offered the flexibility to create what ever feel or location you were looking to create.  Eventually technology passed up what Paramount was looking for and they decided to sell the property.  In 1953 the south east portion property changed hands from Paramount to William Hertz for just $52,500.  As a fan of movie westerns he built up a permanent town using old prop storage sheds that Paramount had left behind.  Soon television companies began using the property to film at.  Due to failing health William Hertz was forced to sell his property in the late 1950's for $200,000.  

The Paramount Sportsman's Ranch bought the property and created a racetrack.  The Paramount Racetrack was open for a quick 18 months closing after three fatal accidents.  
Eventually the National Park Service stepped in a purchased the entire property and rebuilt the western town.  The National Park Service has a great history of only fixing what is needed for safety and preservation for the future.  They only upgraded the structural integrity of the property but kept the original look and charm of the place.  

Today you can walk through and see the town close up.  You can easily imagine how the movies were made here.  The generic sheriff station is fully equipped with a single cell inside and enough room to create an small office.  While the doors are all locked you can look through the windows and get a good idea of how things could have taken place.  

This beautiful little chapel sits on the hill across from the main hub of the tiny city.  Like everything else here it is a basic shell ready for the personal touches that the filming needs to make the set their own.  It was fascinating as we walked the dirt around the area to see these movie blanks scattered around in the dirt.  They were painted almost to a shine and you could see the crimped edge where the blank would have held its noise maker with out its accompanying danger.  Your mind can make up a million scenes where a gun fight outside the local town church might have taken place.  

And of course when you get really close you are reminded that it is just for pretend.  You can see the fake brick wall lifting at its seems a bit.  It reminds you of when you are on the Universal Studios Backlot Tour and they tell you about how they only fix up what the camera needs to see.  The front of these buildings are made up to look like an old time town.  Some of the insides of the buildings are built as usable sets as well.  If you walk behind them they tell a different story.  If you walk behind the towns hotel you will find public bathrooms and behind the building with the false brick wall is a pavilion set up with a few dozen tables.  It looks like they could cater a pretty good sized film here, but if you want to bring a picnic on a weekend then you can use them as well.  

One more adventure I am so glad we had the chance to take.  If you want to come here you should know that you can bring fido too.  Just keep him on a leash and treat the place with respect.  There are hiking trails shooting off the back of the town that you can read more about here.  Just get out there and make the memories today.  

Happy travels.  
❤ Misty

Friday, January 5, 2018

An All New Year

 Well it's been awhile. Did you miss us? With crazy work schedules, holidays and a new home to deal with, things have been a little nuts around here. So, we decided that we would take some time off from everything, including the blog. 
 We took a week off from work and headed home to Utah to spend Christmas with family and to spend a little time in our new house. It's funny how much work needs to be put into a new home to make it livable. It shouldn't be a surprise but, it was and unfortunately we didn't get all of it done in the ten days we were there. What's even worse is that we didn't get out into the back country the whole week. But it wasn't a total loss.
  We met with a few friends and family to discuss some of the upcoming trips we are planning for 2018. The two highlights of the year will be our return to Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari and our first off-road trip to South Dakota later this summer.
  We missed the Jeep Safari last year due to being in California and while we won't be able to attend the entire nine days this year, we will get to be there for most of it. We'll have some logistical problems with lodging and getting our Jeeps into town but those are just minor inconveniences. As always we'll have a great time traversing the red rocks of southern Utah and I'm excited to catch up with some old friends.
  The last time I was in South Dakota I boppin' around barely potty trained. I have vague memories of peering up at Mt. Rushmore and mixed in with strange, pasty looking figures that resembled presidents. I'm obviously overdue for a visit. This time, however, we're taking our UTV's to Mystic Hills Hideaway for some dirt road exploration. They have over 3,000 miles of trails begging to be explored and we're going to seek them out. We also want to see some of the touristy things like Mt Rushmore, while we're in the area. The best part is in most cases we don't even have to leave the UTV's behind. A street legal UTV can operate on paved roads in South Dakota, so it's possible to go right from the trail and over to the grocery store without being hassled. How cool is that? 
  We'll also be heading to Death Valley National Park to explore the desert before the heat of Summer sets in. Our time here in California is starting to shorten and I don't want to miss my chance at visiting this national park. We're going to pack the tent and sleeping bags into the Jeep and head off into the harshest environment in the U.S. Can't wait. 
  Despite not getting out to have any physical adventures, we did enjoy being home for the holidays. We have a lot to be excited about in the new year and we look forward to sharing it with you. We hope you had a great holiday week and we wish you a happy new year. Come back on Tuesday to see our visit to Cabrillo National Monument where we walked through an historic lighthouse. Have a good weekend and an even better 2018!