Hawaii – Part 1

Since my father retired, my family has been making an effort to make big trips together more. Back in 2018, we had decided to make a big trip in 2019 as it is the year my younger brother graduates with his Bachelor’s Degree.

The original trip we had planned over the CSU college system’s spring break was a cruise to Mexico, which we backed out of almost 2 months later for a variety of reasons including food options, freedom to create our own schedule, and the desire for more available activities than drinking.

We knew we still wanted to go somewhere tropical, and decided that a trip to Hawaii better fit the kind of vacation we were looking for.

Seeing as my brother and I are older now, we each got to bring a friend – a travel buddy if you will – so that everyone had someone to do things with. My younger brother Preston brought his best friend Nich, and I brought my boyfriend Ryan.

IMG_0017.JPG

Day 1

As soon as we got off the plane in Maui, we grabbed our baggage and wandered out to the shuttle area so we could work on getting our rental cars. We ended up renting our cars through Maui Lifted Jeeps and they were P E R F E C T for our group and the trip we had planned.

With the cars loaded, we made our way to the west part of the island to where we were staying near Ka’anapali. As soon as we were checked in, Ryan and I wasted no time changing into our bathing suits and heading down to the beach with my mom.

The view from our room – the wall of windows from the living room to the balcony folded away entirely to create a true indoor/outdoor space!

Day 2

The following day, myself, my mom, and Ryan got up early (still on California time) and went for a walk on the beach together. To stick with the relaxing theme for the day, Ryan and I had scheduled a 90 minute couples massage for 11am at the spa on the main floor of the resort building we were staying in.

Later that day, our group made our way to Lahaina for a late lunch and to walk around by the Banyan Tree.

IMG_0080

IMG_0061

IMG_0068

That night was the season premier for the final season of Game of Thrones, so naturally, the 5 of us on the trip who were invested in the show gathered in the living room as soon as we were able to stream it.

Day 3

The following morning around 4:00 am, dad, Preston, Nich, Ryan, and I made our way back to the Maui airport. The five of us had opted to spend one day of our vacation on Oahu to do the Pearl Harbor memorial. Preston and my dad had gone to the memorial the last time my family went to Hawaii in 2010, and I had regretted not going ever since.

When the five of us got off the plane at the Honolulu airport, we were taken from the airport to the memorial via transport my dad has arranged when he booked our Pearl Harbor tour.

Once at the main visitor’s center, we swapped our receipt for physical tickets and made way to the ferry that would take us out by the USS Arizona Memorial – the dock for the ferries was still undergoing construction when we went, so we were unable to get out and walk over the top of the sunken vessel.

Once back on land, we wandered the grounds a bit before making our way to the shuttle that would take us to the USS Missouri and continue the loop to the Aviation Museum on Fort Island. On USS Missouri, we jumped into a tour group to learn a bit about the history of the ship and it’s significance in not only WWII, but in relation to the USS Arizona. For those who are unaware, the ships sit in the harbor bow to bow where Arizona marks the true beginning of the war in the Pacific theater and the Missouri marks the true end as the Japanese surrendered on her deck.

IMG_0106

After the tour, we wandered the ship’s innards before heading back to the shuttle stop so we could get food and visit the Aviation Museum.

IMG_0096

IMG_0097

With the Aviation Museum explored, our group got back on the shuttle to the main visitor center. On our return, we made our way directly to the USS Bowfin to explore the submarine.

IMG_1140

IMG_1143

IMG_0183
Preston wouldn’t stop making faces, so here’s his punishment

By the time 4:00 pm rolled around, we were all exhausted from our adventures (and because we were up so early that morning to fly to Honolulu). We flew back to Maui that evening and all promptly passed out in our beds.

Day 4

The next morning my mom and I got up and walked on the beach together. This day was set to be a “down” day because the previous day had been so packed and we had equally lengthy plans for Wednesday.

IMG_0203

IMG_0219

On our return to the condo, Ryan and my dad cooked omelets and turkey bacon for everyone. With leisure in mind, my mom, Nich, Ryan, and I headed back down to the water.

IMG_0220.JPG

Ryan tried his darnedest to get Nich to follow him out on these rocks he had gotten me on our first night in Maui but he was unsuccessful. Ryan ended up cutting his foot pretty bad in 2 places on some coral and had to head back to the condo shortly after. Nich and my mom stayed down by the water for awhile longer, but I figured I should join my travel buddy upstairs.

For those of you who don’t know, my dad was a paramedic in his early 20’s, and was arguably one of the best fit people to assist Ryan in his injured state. I won’t get into too much more detail about what happened, but I do have a picture that properly summarizes what happened after my dad did the initial clean out and went to bandage the wound:

IMG_0201

That evening, Ryan and I got dressed up and went out to dinner with my parents at a nice restaurant in Lahaina. We sat down about 20 minutes before sunset, and we ended up having such a lovely time that we were at our table for several hours.

IMG_1145.JPG

 

to be continued…

 

Halloween at Disneyland 2018 – Part 2

… continued from Halloween at Disneyland 2018 – Part 1

Park Day 2

Fortunately for our sanity, the parks opened an hour later on our second day. This meant our early hour in California Adventure fell from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. until 8 a.m., so we got an extra hour or so of sleep. Even with the extra hour of sleep, we ended up taking our time and getting into the park a little later than we would have liked. Our delay? Room service! Mickey waffles are L I F E. 

By 8:15 a.m. we made it to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! While in line, decided we wanted to make sure we watched the FastPass return times so we could get passes for the Halloween overlay of this ride – Guardians of the Galaxy: Monsters After Dark – which runs from 5 p.m. until close.

I mentioned this in the last post, but I really had no idea what I was missing out on by not using Disney’s new(ish) MaxPass offering. Without a doubt, I will be paying the extra money upfront to add a year of MaxPass when I get around to renewing my Annual Pass.

When we got off the ride, we made our way around toward the trolley station near the soon-to-be entrance to Marvel Land so we could find the Avengers manhole cover.

Avengers Manhole

Following Guardians, I was feeling up to rollercoasters, so we made our way over to the Incredicoaster. Since it was still before gates opened to the general public, we got to choose our seat so Ry chose the front, rode with <8 other people, and had basically no wait time at all. We both felt they could have done a little bit more when they did the Incredibles overlay on the track, but had a lot of fun on this ride.. so much fun, in fact, that we walked right back on!

Alebrije wing wall California Adventure

We walked the long way around the Pier after Incredicoaster so I could snag a picture with this Alebrije wing wall for the Día de los Muertos setup in California Adventure.

Right at 9:10 a.m. we made it back over to Radiator Springs Racers because we had the first set of FastPasses available for the day. After our car won the race, we made our way to take a picture with the Sugar Skull car outside of Ramone’s, and then over to the tractor in Mater’s Petting Zoo. At that point, it was time to get our Disneyland Castle pictures taken care of, so we switched parks.

IMG_0035

Since I haven’t mentioned it before, Ryan is basically on the feeding schedule of a hobbit. As such, it was time to stop for food again, so we made our way to Red Rose Taverne in Fantasyland to get one of the breakfast platters, which are delicious!

Once we were fed, we played the part of obnoxious Disney tourists so I could get pictures with my bat wing ears from MickeyCityEars by Haunted Mansion. Following the picture extravaganza, we made our way over to the Mint Julep Bar to snag some pumpkin beignets.

IMG_0016

Beignets consumed, we decided to go back to the Star Wars Launch Bay so Ry could look into ordering the D-Tech phone case he saw the previous day. As fate would have it, they were having a technical issue and the D-Tech system was down. Bummed by the news, we decided it was time to swing back by the hotel and switch some things out.

Seeing as we were already in Tomorrowland, we hopped on the Monorail once more so that Ryan could see what the Downtown Disney return trip looked like in comparison to the route leading into the park.

At the hotel, we swapped out my usual grey JanSport backpack that is my usual go-to for a dinosaur backpack that has a tail (yes, it is marketed for kids) Ry found on Amazon.

We decided to walk back to the parks for a couple of reasons. First, it was time for us to get caffeinated and Downtown Disney is the only place we can mobile order to. Second, we were planning to head straight to California Adventure, and there is no direct transit route from our hotel.

It was right around 12:30 p.m. when we got back to DCA, and our next FastPass return in that park wasn’t until 1:00 p.m., so we had to decide what we wanted to do. We already knew the best course of action was to head towards Hollywood Land so we could be near our FastPass location. That worked out well, too, because I wanted to stop by the Annual Passholder corner by Mike and Sulley to the Rescue to pick up some pins and take a picture with the Oogie Boogie setup they had back there.

After the AP corner was visited, we decided to visit one of the Chase Visa Character Experience spots because we had a little more time and I hadn’t ever indulged in this card member perk before. If you didn’t already know, I’m ridiculous and definitely have a Chase Premier Rewards Visa (it has Elsa on it!) and I use it for EVERYTHING!

We learned that the characters here rotate regularly. At the time we went, it happened to have just switched over to Stitch.

The Stitch character experience was precious and different from others in that you weren’t rushed at all. Ryan and I spent a considerable amount of time interacting with Stitch, including getting my spikes investigated and shaking our tails together.

Not long after, 1:00 p.m. rolled around, so we made our way to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! Unfortunately, for whatever reason, this ride was VERY impacted and we ended up waiting 45 minutes from the FastPass side to get on the ride. It was obvious there was either a technical issue or a staffing issue, and it was funny to us that the longest wait of our whole trip was a FastPass return.

Before we left for our trip, Ryan and I visited my Grandma and her husband Steve. Grandma raved about the Silly Symphony Swings she loved so much on the trip she made with my mom and I in April, and we assured her he wouldn’t miss them. After our FastPass adventure, we figured it would be a good time to make good on our word. Following that ride, we spent some time wandering Pixar Pier so that I could get a better look at everything that had been added since the renovation.

The plan for the rest of the afternoon involved a long-standing reservation we had at Lamplight Lounge. I could not have been more excited when 2:40 p.m. rolled around and we got seated in a half-booth table inside of the lower portion of the restaurant. Two hours, two burgers, and four drinks later, Ry and I left rather satisfied with our experience.

When we left Lamplight Lounge, we made our way back to the hotel to once again trade out items we had brought & bought in the park. After swapping some items, we made our way back to California Adventure for our Monsters After Dark FastPass return. I know there have been mixed reviews of Guardians: Monsters After Dark , but Ryan and I really enjoyed it.

From there, we wandered back to Disneyland so we could try once again to get Ryan the Darth Vader phone case he really wanted. Unfortunately, the system was still down and there was no hope that it would be up and operational again before the end of the day, which was especially sad because it was our last day inside the parks.

IMG_0009

As we prepared for the last of our FastPasses for the evening, we made our way to the park entrance to get a picture with the Railroad Station and the ever-lovely Mickey landscaping at the front of the park. Yes, that picture looks like it’s still daylight, and yes, I said evening. This particular park day was just before the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties were set to launch, so both parks closed at 8 p.m. that day.

The first of our “final” FastPasses was for Indiana Jones – Ryan’s favorite of the trip. Our wait time here was particularly short, which was nice. After that, we made our way over to Haunted Mansion Holiday with our FastPasses ready for one final ride in a doom buggy before making our way to the hotel.

Heading Home

The next morning, we took our time getting up and getting ready. The first thing on that agenda was sleeping in just a little, meaning we made it until about 8:30 a.m.

After we got ready and packed, I called down to bell services to get our luggage held downstairs until we were actually ready to leave. From there, we made our way into Downtown Disney for one last look into some shops and to stop by Starbucks.

That morning I also decided that I was going to go into Disneyland and get Ryan that phone case he really wanted but we weren’t able to get the day before – after all, I did have an annual pass. He walked me almost all the way to the park gates before heading to Starbucks to wait for me. While I was in the Star Wars Launch Bay, not only did I get him the D-Tech phone case he had been wanting, I also got him the replica Darth Vader light saber he had been eyeing both of the days before. Buying these items was the easy part, getting them back through the park was an adventure.

For those wondering, I was wearing flip-flops, using my Haunted Mansion Dooney that I love so much, and carrying a rather large and awkwardly shaped light saber box. The number of men in their 40’s standing by strollers who either yelled “Congratulations!” at me or exclaimed their jealousy over the fact that I “got the good one” made me laugh on my awkward walk.

To say Ryan was excited when he saw what I had bought in the park would be an understatement. While I was in the park, he surprised me, too, and bought me a mug I had been eyeing the whole trip.

 

Reflection

All in all, we had such a great trip. Though I’m sad about letting my pass lapse, I know I made the most of the year I had it active. My next goal is to make it a year before I go back, so that I can prioritize other things during this period of my life.

However, just because I’m not planning on going again for about a year doesn’t mean I’m not already planning that next trip!

Halloween at Disneyland 2018 – Part 1

Unfortunately for me, my Annual Pass expired on September 30th, and I chose to let it lapse. This decision was made after considering a number of factors, including the fact that there is no longer a renewal incentive (waiving the down payment) and that the absolute soonest I would be able to make another Disney trip wouldn’t be until February and it doesn’t make sense to pay for 5 months I won’t be going. I am proud of myself, though – I managed to go on 10 different Disneyland trips during the time I had a current annual pass.

Disney Halloween Shenanigans

Fortunately for me, Disney starts Halloween festivities the first part of September. Also in my favor was some flexibility of schedule for both Ryan and myself. On top of that, Disney was offering AP discounts on hotel rooms for the time frame we were looking to go. After much discussion, Ryan and I decided to book an upper floor, pool view room at the Disneyland Hotel.

For this particular trip, we also decided it was time to finally try the MaxPass feature (after watching Traci use it on her trip with Tyler to Disneyland at the end of June). The only part of this offering by Disney that I had no experience with was the FastPass via app function, as I was grandfathered in on Annual Passholders getting PhotoPass pictures for free when I originally started my Annual Pass around 2011.

Also while preparing for this trip, Ryan realized that I hadn’t seen any of the Star Wars movies all the way through. We ended up taking the better part of a week prior to the trip (following our trip to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks) and watched them all.

Arrival Day

Ryan and I left mid-morning to head down to Anaheim. With traffic, we finally made it down to Disneyland a little over 5 hours later. All in all, the drive was easy, but to be honest, I can’t stand it.

IMG_0001

Once we had gotten ourselves checked in, made it up to our room, and had our bags delivered by the bellman service the resort offers, Ryan and I made our way down to Trader Sam’s. Going into that adventure, we already knew that our plan was to split an Uh Oa… about halfway through that drink, Ry realized I wasn’t kidding about the alcohol content of that particular beverage and the need to split it!

After we finished the fishbowl of tiki-themed goodness, I took Ryan for a walk through Downtown Disney. Since this was the first trip to Disneyland for Ry that would be remembered, we took our time going into most of the shops and taking it all in.

As we reached the end of the walk, we put our name in at Naples and continued the walk so Ryan could see the gates of each park. Shortly after, we got our table, ate dinner, and wandered back to our hotel room.

First Day in the Parks

Since we were staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel, we got early entry to a park each morning. It turned out that park was scheduled to be California Adventure on both mornings, which was okay because all the rides I like to do “first thing” in the morning are in that park.

For the first day, we donned matching Storm Trooper t-shirts we found at Kohls. As Ryan and I wandered from park gates toward Cars Land, we stopped to take pictures with the Headless Horseman and the “Welcome to Cars Land” sign.

IMG_0021

Our first ride out the gate was Radiator Springs Racers. Ry had never been on it before and he loved it! That brought me a lot of joy because Cars Land is my favorite area in California Adventure (for those of you who might be wondering, New Orleans Square is my favorite area in Disneyland).

From Cars Land, we made the long loop around to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! With all the Pixar Fest fun of the summer gone, Bugs Land also ceased to exist. This means that the only way to the tower that houses Tivan’s Collection is by going to Buena Vista Street and then going all the way through Hollywood Land.

After we experienced Mission Breakout! we headed back towards the park gates. On our way, we stopped to get pictures with the Pixar themed walls.

IMG_0029

IMG_0023

After our picture shenanigans were done, we made our way to Disneyland. Our first order of business with the MaxPass feature was to select a FastPass for Space Mountain at 8:30 a.m.

Once we finished Ghost Galaxy (the current overlay for Space Mountain), we wandered across the way to Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters. With Zurg defeated, we made our way back to Main Street to figure out breakfast.

IMG_0022.JPG

On our quest, we took a moment to stop and get a picture with the Mickey pumpkin that resides at the start of Main Street USA. Once finished there, we wandered down to Jolly Holiday for some semblance of breakfast.

Once we had fed ourselves, we made our way towards Pirates of the Caribbean! Along with changing out the Red Woman (something I still have mixed feelings about), they also added a pirate holding a treasure chest that appears human or skeletal depending on the angle it’s viewed from in one of the corridors between rooms.

**I want to make a note here that the entire trip, Ryan and I waited no more than 20 minutes for anything EXCEPT one pass through Guardians of the Galaxy that happened to be a FastPass we had while they seemed to be experiencing staffing shortages**

Thunder Mountain was the next stop of the morning. As this is one of my favorite rides of all time, I was very excited to see how Ryan would react to it. Ryan ended up agreeing that it was great, but would probably be better at night. Although he’s right about that, we didn’t end up getting to do Thunder at night this trip.

At 10:10 that morning, we showed up for our Haunted Mansion Holiday FastPasses.

IMG_0017

After seeing what holiday surprises Jack had in store, Ry and I switched parks for a second time that day. From the park gates, we made our way back to The Little Mermaid.

By this part of the morning, it was time to feed Ryan again, so we stopped at Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta. Here we tried the chicken sun-dried tomato pesto and the anti-vampire pizza, and I have nothing but good things to say about both of them!

While we ate our pizza and pasta under the pergola outside, I worked on our next FastPass selection on my phone. Have I mentioned yet that the MaxPass feature is worth it? Well, it is!

We decided that after eating would be a good time to head to Toy Story Midway Mania, so we walked around the pier toward that ride. After we finished playing the Midway Mania games, it was around 12:30 p.m. so Ryan and I decided to head back to the hotel. On our way out of the park, we stopped at a couple of carts and stores to collect souvenirs.

From our room, we made our way downstairs, eager to go down the Monorail slide the Disneyland Hotel’s pool offered. I hadn’t been on a water slide or anything of that nature in awhile, and I have to say, I enjoyed it quite a bit! Ryan was much more graceful about the exit off of the slide than I was, though..

With the pool enjoyed, we wandered back to our room to get ready to head back into the park. Now that we had a better idea of time, we made another FastPass selection in Disneyland for that afternoon at 3:15 p.m.

Ryan had never been on the monorail before, so we decided that would be our way back into the park for the next part of the adventure. Once we made it into the park we made our way through Tomorrowland, around Fantasyland as to dodge the afternoon parade route, past Frontierland and the Rivers of America, and jogged up by Pirates so we could get to Indiana Jones, which was the ride Ry went into the trip looking forward to the most.

After braving the jeep ride, we grabbed a couple skewers from Bengal Barbecue. Now that the Ryan had been fed a snack, we wandered back across the walkway to the Jungle Cruise! Having survived the jungles of the world, we decided it was time to present ourselves to Lord Vader at the Star Wars Launch Bay (our shirts said “Those were the droids we were looking for”).

IMG_0013

IMG_0030

We had been waiting for this event all day. Our Darth Vader character meet & greet was probably the best character interaction I’ve ever had in the parks.

Following our visit with Darth Vader, we explored the Star Wars Launch Bay. Having never seen the movies all the way through prior to this trip, I had never seen a reason to go in before. Boy, was I missing out on a lot of things by not exploring the world of Star Wars!

After that, we had to swing by the hotel once more because sometimes I get a little too excited about the “next” ride or attraction at Disney and get a little short sighted and forget things I legitimately need in the park.

As we left the hotel we mobile ordered the Starbucks Reserve store in Downtown Disney because it was high time for caffeination. While Ryan took care of that, I got us FastPasses for Soarin’ at 5:30 p.m.

IMG_0011

Following our flight around the world, we made our way to Cars Land to hunt for food. Ryan ended up getting pretzel bites from the Cozy Cone before we moved on to Hollywood Land to get hot dogs.

One of the hot items released for Halloween were the poison apple glow cubes, this year having purple as a special release color. While green and red can be found in various refreshment areas around the park and sold separately, the purple cube was a feature of the Poison Apple-tini served exclusively at the Carthay Circle Lounge. On this trip, Ryan and I determined we would be getting 4 – one for each of us, as well as one for each of our moms.

IMG_0019

With our glow cube mission accomplished, we walked back into Cars Land to ride Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree and Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween. At this point, I was content because Ry had seen Cars Land at night, we had done the vast majority of the rides on the “must-do” list, and it was close enough to park close that we could call it a full day.

 

to be continued…

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Lots of big changes in my life lately.. As such, things have been busy as ever! I’ve been spending a lot of time in the mountains, and there have been a lot of unexpected trips. This phase of my life is something I’m very grateful for; I’m learning that spontaneity is good, being busy is good, and I’m being reminded of just how strong my support system is.

Much of my down time recently has been giving me a “reset” of sorts – revisiting my past interests and trying new things that interest me. One of my short term goals (which I’ve been making good on) is to spend more time outdoors. I mentioned recently on Instagram that Ryan & I invested in an “America the Beautiful” pass while visiting Yosemite following the fires, and it’s already more than paid for itself in our travels.

Another of my goals is to be more diligent with writing. Despite that, this post isn’t very word-intensive. In my opinion, my blog posts about nature-y trips don’t need a bunch of words detracting from the quiet beauty of these locations.

In short, Ryan and I stayed at the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge. We spent one day of our trip exploring further along 198 through Sequoia National Park, and the next day up 180 into a small portion of Kings Canyon National Park. This trip was seen as a way to get a feel for the area, and we plan to go back and explore further!

Montecito Lake – on property at the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge where we stayed
General Sherman in the background

General Sherman
Downed tree along the General Grant Trail

Fire scar on General Grant tree

Disneyland for Grandma’s 80th Birthday

When I moved back to California, I wanted to have more time for Disney trips, so I made it. The more I shared my adventures with my grandma, supplemented by my mom’s experiences in the park, the more vocal grandma got about wanting to go to Disneyland herself. In 2017 we decided that we would take her for her 80th birthday that was in August of that year.

Unfortunately, that fall stayed too hot, and by the time it cooled down enough for us to be comfortable taking her, the holiday madness in the parks started. With that, we decided to make the trip in the spring. We opted for the period of time after spring breaks ended and before Grad Nite season started. This meant our trip would have to take place in the last two weeks of April.

In planning this trip, we decided that we would dedicate Monday to driving down, Tuesday and Wednesday to being in the parks, and that Thursday would be for driving home. We also went into the trip with a list of pictures we knew we wanted, food we wanted to try, and rides that were important. We are proud to say we accomplished everything on our lists!

IMG_0014
Everybody loaded in the Subaru ready to go to Disneyland

My mom and I picked up grandma at her house just before 10 a.m. on Monday, April 23rd. From there, we made our trek down to Anaheim. Quite a few stops were made along the way, and we finally made it down to the hotel just before 3 p.m.

For this trip with grandma, we decided to really splurge and stay at the Grand Californian – proximity to the parks, bell/valet services, room service, and amenities played a big role in our decision here. Of the Disneyland Resort hotels, this one truly is my favorite.. since the room renovations, the showers are to die for!

Once we got settled in the room, the three of us went into Downtown Disney for dinner. We made our own “family style” experience at La Brea Bakery, and it was just the right amount for each of us.

From dinner, we made our way through Downtown, pausing to go into some of the shops. We made it to the other end and found our next destination: Trader Sam’s.

IMG_0023

Despite it being around 6:30 or so, we lucked into a table inside! This meant grandma got to experience the activities that accompany some of the drinks (for those who are unfamiliar, this includes brief changes in lighting, yelling by the bartenders, and other special effects).

IMG_0033
Teacup chair by registration for the Disneyland Hotel.

IMG_0034

When we left Trader Sam’s, my mom wanted to go into the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel to see their teacup chairs. This was a brief detour because by this point we were all very tired from the traveling of the day. We made it to the room and called it a night shortly after.

In the Parks – Day 1:

The next morning we all got up early and started getting ready while we waited for room service to arrive. During our trip the parks closed a little earlier and opened a little later – this kept us from having to rush ourselves and grandma first thing in the morning, and kept us from staying in the parks too late.

We were at the entrance to Disneyland about a half an hour before the park officially opened. After getting through the gates, we took advantage of the fact that the park wasn’t technically open yet and wandered through the Emporium that sits on the corner near the City Hall at the start of Main Street.

After stopping to look in the shop, we made our way down Main Street to get castle pictures before it got crowded.

PhotoPass_Visiting_Disneyland_Park_8224179002

PhotoPass_Visiting_Disneyland_Park_8224179003

We crossed the bridge into Fantasyland and went to Snow White’s Scary Adventures. When we finished there, we decided to move on to the Mad Tea Party, which grandma got a kick out of!

IMG_0048

IMG_0052

When we finished our spin on the teacups, grandma expressed interest in the Matterhorn, and after mom and I weighed the pros and cons (i.e. how jerky it is, the lack of real padding, etc.) we decided to get in line.

IMG_0058.jpg

She ended up liking that one too!

When we were done there, mom wanted one of the chocolate churros that are a limited feature for Pixar Fest inspired by Coco (which I still haven’t seen), so we stopped at the churro cart in Frontierland. Once the churros were consumed, we went to Adventureland to do the Jungle Cruise.

Following the cruise, we made our way through New Orleans Square. While walking through the square, we witnessed a proposal at one of the caricature stands, which was adorable! Once we had passed through, grandma and I made our way to Haunted Mansion while mom waited elsewhere. When the ride was done, we met with mom where I waited in line for one of those Toy Story Alien popcorn buckets.

IMG_0071.JPG
I kept referring to him as my child, since he is about the size of an infant

That day we had reservations at Carnation Cafe for lunch, which was phenomenal! From there, we headed across Main Street to the silhouette shop.

The silhouettes at Disneyland have to be one of my favorite souvenirs, and I’m so glad my mom brought up wanting to do one while we were in the parks with grandma.

IMG_0133.jpg
Left to right: me, mom, grandma

It had been a long day already, so we started our trek to the hotel so that at the very least, grandma could have some down time. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped in World of Disney, followed by the Starbucks Reserve in Downtown.

Once we got grandma back into the hotel room, I decided to look at ride wait times for some of the more intense rides that were not a particularly great idea to try and take grandma on. At that point in time, the wait time for Guardians of the Galaxy was allegedly only 45 minutes. I decided I was going to go, and I knew mom wanted to as well, so we left grandma to rest and wandered into the park (which was particularly convenient coming from the Grand Californian).

Turns out the wait time was closer to 90 minutes, which was okay overall because grandma got to really rest. When we finally got through the ride, we made our way back to the hotel room to pick up grandma so we could head back into California Adventure with her.

Our first ride stop when we were back into the park was the Little Mermaid ride. After that, we decided to take grandma on the Silly Symphony Swings. She LOVED those – they would end up being the only repeat ride with grandma the whole trip.

From the swings, we moved on to Cars Land as it was nearing dusk. The only ride we did in Cars Land that day was Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. After our ride, mom wanted a Neapolitan shake from Flo’s V8 Cafe. We walked through Cars Land with the lights on, and I made sure we walked around the back side of Flo’s toward the wharf so that grandma could see they way that the Cadillac Range gets lit up at night (a personal favorite of mine).

We got back to the hotel relatively early that night, which was good because it was a long day. According to my phone, we had walked just over 5 miles that day.

In the Parks – Day 2

Day 2 of fun in the parks started similarly to day 1 in that we got room service and went to Disneyland first. We only had one objective for that park when they opened at 9 a.m. – get a picture with the Mickey flowers in front of the train station.

PhotoPass_Visiting_Disneyland_Park_8224497904

After we got our picture, we hit California Adventure. Once through the park gates, I took our park tickets and got FastPasses for Radiator Springs Racers while mom and grandma took their time walking up Buena Vista Street. From there, they met me at the entrance to Cars Land so we could get a picture with the Buzz and Woody cars by the “Welcome” sign.

PhotoPass_Visiting_Disney_California_Adventure_Park_8224488863.JPG

With our picture taken care of we made our way to Toy Story Midway Mania, which only had a 5 minute wait time. Once that ride was marked off the list, we made our way back around the pier the long way (construction is still heavily underway) to the swings so grandma could ride them again.

IMG_0083.jpg

Mom and grandma went on their way to do Soarin’ and I made my way to the Starbucks location in the park. When we met back up, we headed towards Hollywood Land. On our way to our next destination, we took a little detour to take a picture by a mosaic wall near Schmoozies, ride Mike and Sulley to the Rescue (a ride mom and I had never been on) because grandma likes Monsters Inc, and to grab a hot dog.

IMG_0143

Around that time was our return time for our Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses, so we made our way there through Bug’s Land so that grandma could experience that. Mom and I also paused to get FastPasses for a second round of Guardians later that afternoon. Following our race, I wandered to the Cozy Cone for a bacon mac & cheese cone and my mom went back to Flo’s for another Neapolitan shake which grandma had a little bit of.

At that point, we had finished most of what we wanted to do in California Adventure, so we headed back across the plaza to Disneyland. Our first order of business in the park was to take the railroad on a round trip. Once we made it back, we walked up main street and got pictures in our Minnie ears with the “Partners” statue.

PhotoPass_Visiting_Disneyland_Park_8224594981.JPG

That day was particularly warm, so we made our way towards Adventureland to get some Dole Whip and sit through a Tiki Room show. After the show we walked across the park to the Monorail. We rode the Monorail to Downtown Disney, and made a stop in the new Disney Home Store as we made our way from the station to the hotel.

With grandma at the hotel to rest once more, mom and I made our way back to California Adventure for our Guardians FastPass return. After the ride we got back to the hotel (much faster than the day before) and gathered grandma to get dinner.

We walked back to the park entrance of Disneyland and jumped on the train for a 3/4 trip to Tomorrowland. Dinner was at Pizza Planet (which is fantastic rebranding in my opinion) where mom got pasta and grandma and I got slices of pizza. Mom also got one of the Alien macaroons. After dinner, we got back on the train to go to Main Street and head back to the hotel.

IMG_0109.jpg

Based on my phone’s tracker, we walked just over 6 miles the second in-park day of our trip.

 

We had room service delivered Thursday morning before we left and were thankful for bell services to help us get our stuff back down to the car. As might be anticipated with typical LA traffic, it took us an hour and a half to get the 30 miles from Anaheim to Downtown LA. We ended up making it home in just about 5 hours.

We all had a great trip to Disneyland, and I’m so grateful that I have those memories with my mom and grandma!

 

3 Days in Redwoods National & State Parks

It has officially been one year since Shannon and I went to Redwoods National and State Parks just north of Eureka in Orick, CA. This was a trip we first conceived shortly after finally meeting in our Senior Honor’s Seminar at Colorado State the semester before we both received our Bachelor’s degrees.

Shannon and I had been Facebook friends because of common interests realized from a “CSU Class of 2016” page for four years before we actually had a class together (and realized that we should have been real friends the whole dang time). We are both fans of adventure and loosely structured plans. Our seminar got us talking about National Parks which led Shannon to bring up the Redwoods, I mentioned I hadn’t been before, so we decided right then and there to make a trip together. We got closer over the course of the semester, too, and that definitely encouraged follow through. After graduation, we figured out when we would be in California at the same time and planned from there.

We decided that we would leave on June 5th, and come home on June 9th. It didn’t make sense for either of us to go to the other to begin the journey because of our relative starting points in California, so we opted to meet just off I-5 in Los Banos because it was the least out of the way for Shannon and the most reasonable for me to get to. From there, we got back on the 5 and headed north towards Eureka. We hardly needed directions as Shannon has been going there throughout her life to visit her paternal grandmother. Additionally, her older sister now lives in the Santa Rosa area, which is conveniently on the way to Eureka. We made a stop in Santa Rosa in the early afternoon, and met Shannon’s sister and brother-in-law for lunch.

As we drove up, we searched hotels online and made hotel reservations at the Eureka Inn. From Los Banos to Eureka is about a 6 1/2 hour drive without any stops, and we figured we may as well make it scenic. The next detour we made on the trip was at the Chandelier Tree in Leggett, CA. Unfortunately, Shannon’s truck wouldn’t fit through this tree because of the height, so we settled for walking the property.

IMG_5119

We left from there and continued the journey north. We made it to Eureka in the early evening, checked into the hotel, and settled in for the night.

The next morning, June 6th, we got up bright and early and drove north about an hour to the parks. These parks are particularly unique in the National Park System because there is no true park entrance or exit gate, and thus, no standard park entrance fee (though there are a couple areas that are pay areas, Fern Canyon being one of them).

To start the day we parked in the Big Tree Wayside parking area and sprayed copious amounts of bug spray on our bodies. Our first move was starting up Circle Trail and moving on to Cathedral Trees Trail before crossing the road with the intent of hiking Prairie Creek Trail and finding the Corkscrew Tree. During the latter part of our hike, we definitely got a little bit lost and ended up stumbling upon the tree we were in search of, but there are much worse places to be a little lost. On the way back to the hotel for the day, we stopped in Klamath for lunch. Across the street from the diner we ate at was a drive-thru tree, and Shannon was hell-bent on getting her truck through one, so we went. Spoiler alert, success was hers!

IMG_5163
Shannon is in the truck which very narrowly fit inside the tree

That night, we drove into town and met Shannon’s grandma for dinner. After eating, we went to Humboldt Bay for ice cream.

On the morning of June 7th, we made our way back into the parks early, and decided we would go to the visitor center to get a permit to hike Tall Trees Trail. The road to get to this trail is relatively narrow, tree-lined, and unpaved, and requires passing through a gate that is locked and the code is changed daily. The drive was easy, and we reached the trailhead quickly.

The trail starts with 800 feet of elevation change, going down in order to get to the Tall Trees loop area. This trail was the first we encountered with wildlife that wasn’t flying or trying to bite us – I could hardly contain myself upon finally getting to see banana slugs in person (sorry Shannon!).

The path became relatively leveled out just before reaching the loop portion that runs alongside a river. These trees seemed so diverse in form despite being in such a relatively small area, and the walk was relaxing.

The trail where it levels out just before the loop
Shannon on the loop portion of the trail

Tree burned through the middle
Me getting really excited about the trail and the trees (and the possibility of more banana slugs)

When we were done in the park for the day, we headed south towards Eureka. We stopped in the town of Trinidad for lunch and to sight see.

When we got to the hotel that night and were beat, so we decided to have burritos delivered to our room (yes, to the door of our room) from a local restaurant. They were AH-mazing.

Our final morning to go in the parks, we decided to stop for brunch on the way in downtown Arcata (also known as the cutest little town I’ve seen to date). We went to a local cafe where we could order crepes, and it was a delicious choice! When breakfast was done, we headed north with Fern Canyon on our minds. The 1 1/2 lane “road” that Davidson Road becomes looks like an extended, unintended off-roading adventure through Jurassic Park. This entire day in our trip blew my mind – most of the road in and the trail for the hike looked like it genuinely hadn’t been disturbed for 325 million years.

After we made it back from the trail, we decided to walk out on the beach.

From there, we decided to go to Patrick’s Point State Park. This area was a pay area, and there were a lot of campgrounds, but we also found some fun stone buildings and got to see some whales.

Shannon and I concluded the day with her grandma on the way back towards Eureka. That evening we went back to the hotel and began packing so we could leave as early as possible (and reasonable) the next morning.

The trip was so memorable, and was just the beginning of a string of adventures that Shannon and I have shared in. Since this big trip, the scale has been much smaller (mostly spending time on the Central Coast of California), but there are already more big trips in the works for the two of us, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Baylor Graduation and a Road Trip

Early flights are things I only willingly sign up for in special cases – this was one. Maddy, who has always been more like a sister to me than a friend, was graduating from Baylor after completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science in just 3 years. I was not only flying out to go to her graduation, I was to help her move from Waco, TX to Phoenix, AZ where she is set to start her Master’s Degree in the fall.

My mom, her parents, and I flew out just after 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 11th to start our journey to her. After we arrived in Dallas, we waited for her grandpa to land, got the car, and started our ~90 minute drive down to Waco. I had been to Texas during summer prior to this, but I forgot that the weather there can be just as bipolar as the weather in Colorado can, and before the day was up we experienced 2 rain storms and otherwise lovely weather.

After the parents checked into the hotel they were staying at, Maddy joined us and we made our way to the Magnolia Market Silos. As “Fixer Upper” fans, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to stop into the shop and check out what the grounds had to offer.

Prior to this trip, I did not expect the Silos to be located within the city. The property was, however, every bit as precious as I was expecting. We chose to go on the Thursday before graduation ceremonies started, and because of that it wasn’t too busy to fully enjoy the experience.

During our visit we got food from the on-site food trucks, bought our fair share of merchandise from the market, and made sure to hit the bakery and seed shop.

From the Silos, we decided to keep the shopping theme rolling and headed toward Spice Village, which is a single shop that contains and sells products for a bunch of smaller shops. Their products range from jewelry to clothes to home goods and novelty items. On the way in, we stopped for a drink at the bar next door called Cricket’s where Maddy’s mom got wine and the rest of us ordered their frozen Jack & Coke (which was delicious!). We spent a good hour or so wandering around there before heading to the hotel to pick up the rest of our group before heading to dinner.

Dinner for that night was at a BBQ restaurant called Uncle Dan’s that Maddy had stumbled upon about a year before – she accidentally walked in the back door and ran into the Uncle Dan who welcomed her and let her continue on her way to get to the dining area. We were all left stuffed, but not too stuffed to go back to Maddy’s apartment to sample the eclairs she had made that morning. From there, the parents headed back to the hotel, while Maddy, her friend Kailee, and I ended up having a game night.

First thing the next morning, we got up and met the parents so we could get the “Maddy” tour of Baylor.

Our tour led us around the campus starting on one side of Pat Neff Hall, looping up the center mall, and around to the other side. On that far side is a statue of Judge Baylor, the namesake of the University. Apparently a tradition is to climb the statue to sit on his lap (it’s pretty worn down) and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to do it myself.

The last stop of our tour was at the Armstrong Browning Library, which was also a small museum of sorts and a study area. This building is gorgeous, featuring tons of stained glass windows and marble. We didn’t spend too much time here, but it was definitely worth the stop. I linked the history of the building above in the library’s name.

eP5121740.jpg
The large room to the back of the building. The archival rooms are at either side of the foyer.

After we toured the campus, we went to brunch at IHOP. Once we had finished, it was about time for us to go back to the apartment/hotel to get ready for the ceremony.

Baylor’s graduation ceremony was relatively quick and efficient. Once it was over, our travel group and a few of Maddy’s friends met for dinner. When dinner was through, Maddy, Kailee, Julia (another friend of theirs), and I went back to campus and to the Waco Suspension Bridge to take more pictures.

On campus, the girls climbed the Judge Baylor Statue. After we started taking pictures on the Waco Suspension Bridge, Maddy and I were inspired to take pictures that were reminiscent of a picture she and I took years ago. On the way back to the car, we stopped at the Chisholm Trail sculptures.

From there, we made our way back to Maddy’s apartment where a group was gathering to have another night of games.

Saturday morning Maddy, Kailee, and I met the parents at a local restaurant called Cafe Cappuccino for breakfast (it was adorable and delicious). Once breakfast was done, we made our way to McLane stadium to walk the grounds there a little bit.

eIMG_0014.jpg

After the stadium, we headed to Maddy’s apartment to pack the clothing and furnishings she still had in the apartment into her car.

Once we were done with our business in Waco, Maddy and I headed towards San Antonio – the first stop in our drive to Phoenix. On our way, we stopped in Temple, TX at a rest stop on steroids (part of a chain) called Buc-ee’s just for the novelty of it.

Pressing on, we made it from Waco to San Antonio in about 3 hours. After checking into the hotel, we walked less than two blocks to get to the Alamo.

Of the more interesting site facts for me included that most of it was rebuilt (very little of the original building exists) and that the original property holdings were surrounding to the front, not the back as the current lot might suggest. Something I appreciated most is that the original property lines on the current lot were marked by small plaques between pavers.

Once we finished with the Alamo, we made our way to the Riverwalk. Starting somewhere in the middle, we picked a direction and just started walking, taking in everything around us. After awhile, we realized we probably needed to find a place to eat, and after picking a direction to search in, found a place within minutes.

Dinner that night was at Casa Rio, the first restaurant to take advantage of the riverwalk. It was easy to see why their business had lasted so long on the river, and after splitting a liter of peach sangria we walked back to the hotel where we called it an early night.

The next day was little more than driving from San Antonio to Las Cruces, New Mexico. We did stop in Fort Stockton at a seemingly random Mexican restaurant called Taqueria Guadalajara (the closest to an actual website I could find).

Our only regret is that we have no real reason to go back to Fort Stockton, TX, ever again.

The journey continued along I-10 West, and we hit a point in the road close enough to the border that our cell carriers believed we had left the country and sent us “Welcome to Mexico!” auto-texts advising us of our rates (this has since been cleared up).

Late in the afternoon we made it to Las Cruces, NM, and settled for the night into our hotel room. There, we had a somewhat healthy meal at Cracker Barrel (I paired vegetables with dumplings and Maddy got a salad with fried chicken on it), I helped Maddy with the basics of WordPress (her newly created page for her wood signs can be found at Maddy Ave Marvels), and we turned on Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix.

On Monday, we were up relatively early (we both originally woke up at 4 a.m., had independent thoughts that we could just get on the road now and decided against it) and on the road to Phoenix.

eIMG_0043

For the most part, this drive was uneventful. We did see a few billboards we took interest in, one of which was for Steins Ghost Town. When we got to the exit we decided to get off and see what it might be. It was noteworthy in that (unless we missed something) we were pretty sure we had stumbled into something that was supposed to be a site to stop at, but had since become a residence for about 4 people and no one took down the billboards.

eIMG_0044.jpg

After re-entering the freeway, we finished our trip to Phoenix. We made it to the house around noon, which gave us plenty of time to unload the car and start unpacking the boxes in the house.

Despite making it to the house early in the day, everything the day entailed did a number on the two of us, and we decided the best course of action for the rest of the night was to have pizza delivered, put on pjs, curl up on the denim couch (aka the best couch ever) and get through a couple episodes of Sherlock.

The next morning, May 16th, I packed for my flight, and we decided we would use the time leading up to my departure to visit the Phoenix Zoo.

We got general admission tickets and spent about 3 hours there. One of the distinguishing features of this zoo is it’s monkey walk area – after taking an anthropology class on primates my last semester of college, it was really awesome to be in a situation where I can get that close to some of the smaller creatures I learned about. I also appreciated that the lemurs had a home on islands in the middle of a gorgeous pond just off of the “Tropics Trail.”

Leaving was bittersweet. This was the first time I had gotten to spend any meaningful amount of time in Phoenix, and what I saw of it was lovely. Truth be told, I enjoyed getting to visit just about everywhere Maddy and I went. Road trips are truly a unique experience, and I’m thankful we had the flexibility in our schedule that a trip like this required. I’m grateful I got to help with this big move, and I’m so excited to see what Maddy does in her life from here!