Apr
27
2011
4

Catalina Dreaming. A 4 Hour Tour to Beautiful Catalina Island.

Catalina IslandMy parents recently bid on a package at a local charity event for a day trip to Catalina Island. The package was a four hour tour of Catalina island, including round trip air transportation from Air Options Aviation and lunch at the Inn on Mt. Ada for four people. My husband and I were my parents’ lucky guests for the day.

Departing from Palomar AirportOur flight departed from Carlsbad, Palomar Airport. We simply drove up to the private hanger and were whisked aboard the small plane. No tiny 2 oz bottles. No waiting in line. We felt like celebrities. The flight there only took about 30 minutes. The airport on Catalina Island is actually perched on top of a mountain with a bird’s eye view of the island. The view from the flight there and from the airport was amazing. From the turquoise water to the peaceful looking harbors.

The Avalon HarborFrom the airport we took a local taxi to the city of Avalon, about a 30 to 45 minute journey through the mostly uninhabited island. The island is also home of a variety of wildlife, including buffalo that roam the hills. And our cab driver gave us an unofficial tour and history of the island as well. The island was purchased by William Wrigley, Jr. in 1919 and his influence is still seen there today. Everything from the areas of the island devoted to education and the preservation of the land to the winery.

The Inn on Mt. AdaOur next stop was the Inn on Mt. Ada, the former Wrigley mansion turned inn and business venture.  Mt. Ada was named after Mr. Wrigley’s wife. And they chose the location for their home because of it’s wonderful sunrise and sunset views. From the moment we set foot into the lobby of the inn we felt right at home.

Sipping bubbles on the porch at Mt. AdaIt was so amazingly peaceful and serene. And it didn’t hurt that they had champagne waiting for us! We enjoyed a scenic lunch on the patio and took in the breathtaking views of the mainland and the harbor of Avalon. If not for the scheduled return flight I think we would have stayed for days!

Air Options AviationWe hopped back in the taxi and journeyed back to the airport. Our pilot and guide, Joshua, gave us an aerial tour of the island as we left and I even got to sit in the co-pilot seat. That was truly amazing to experience. From the technical instruments to the dialogue of the air traffic control tower and the pilots. Not to mention the views.

Thank you Mom and Dad for inviting us on your tour of Catalina, it was something I’ll never forget. And thank you to Joshua of Air Options Aviation, our taxi driver and the crew at the Inn on Mt. Ada for making our brief visit one to remember. In fact we are feeling very inspired to sail there for the jazz festivals this summer and make it a longer stay next time. We didn’t have to go far at all to feel like we were on vacation. Catalina is definitely on our minds!The Inn on Mt. Ada

Oct
23
2009
1

Nostalgia and Cupcakes

Cupcakes at the Beach

Cupcakes at the Beach

We recently returned from an amazing trip down memory lane in our nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine. St. Augustine is special to me for so many reasons, the most important being that it is where I met my husband 14 years ago. It also is where I have so many other happy memories as well, it is where I went to college and spent a lot of time with my grandparents.

Flagler College

Flagler College

Flagler College

Flagler College

Upon walking onto the Flagler College campus, I was instantly transported back in time to my college days, everything was the same, even the smells wafting from the college’s dining hall. Of course not everything on the trip was a walk through the past, this trip had some new surprises as well.

Knowing my love of cupcakes, you can imagine my excitement to stumble upon the city’s first cupcake bakery. Of course my friend Laura and I just had to pull the car over immediately and check out the fresh little delicious works of art at Luli’s Cupcakes. luli-color_1_(thank you Laura for being a cupcake lover like me!) Started by Flagler graduates and named after their kids, Luke and Lili, the cupcake bakery is as adorable as the cupcakes are delicious. We sampled the Simply Vanilla, Chocoholic, Fire Engine Red Velvet and the PB & C. All were moist and full of flavor. My favorite hands down was the PB & C, which had a yummy peanut butter frosting and moist, rich chocolate cake.

PB & C Cupcakes from Luli's

PB & C Cupcakes from Luli's

St. Augustine is a charming town with roots deep in Spanish, Minorcan, British and Greek culture. The city is rich with local small businesses, there are few if any at all, commercial chain restaurants or shops. That was always one of my favorite things about the city, its entrepreneurial makeup. Of course in this current economy a city so reliant on tourism is hurting a little, but the charm of the city was just the same as I had remembered.

And I must also share that love was definitely in the air this visit to St. Augustine. My husband and I attended the wedding of some close friends, which was an amazingly beautiful event. And it could not have been a more perfect celebration for our 1 year wedding anniversary. We danced the night away and remembered fondly our own wedding just one year ago. Congratulations Katie and Kyle, we are so happy to have celebrated with you!

Congrats Katie and Kyle!

Congrats Katie and Kyle!

Sep
21
2009
1

The Great Road Trip 2009 Part 5: Zion National Park, Utah

Please note the new slide show format above, we had too many images to share to include them all, so we made a slide show.

Part 5: After leaving Wyoming we headed south to Utah. We stayed at our first KOA RV Park on the trip in Brigham City, Utah. KOAs (Kampgrounds Of America) are network of campgrounds around the country that offer full services for RVs and campers alike. We needed to stay here for several reasons, the most crucial being the use of laundry room. After 1 week in the RV we needed some clean clothes that did not smell like campfires. The RV lifestyle was fully apparent at the KOA, some people appear to have been there for weeks and others just passing through like us. But there was a sense of community among some of the campers, they even had a live musical performance taking place in the center of campground. It was already after 7:30pm and we didn’t feel like being social RV people at this point, so we simply squeezed into our small slot next to our neighbors, setup shop, ate dinner and called it a night. I was working from the road too, so this was a welcome opportunity to get some work done as well, without any amazing views to distract me.

Another tidbit about Brigham City is the availability of fresh peaches, corn, and other fruits and vegetables here. We stopped at a local fruit stand, and for about $5 got our fill of peaches, sweet corn, berries, tomatoes and peppers. We noticed also here a series of drive-in eateries that looked like they hadn’t changed since the 50′s, we were sorry we couldn’t stay to check them out. Just looking at them made we want a malted shake and a greasy cheeseburger! After stopping at the local Walmart for some provisions, we hit the road a few minutes before noon for Zion National Park in southern Utah.

We arrived to the north part of the park that evening around 5pm, and were surprised to find that there isn’t any camping nearby. So (more…)

Written by in: Travels | Tags: , , , ,
Sep
20
2009
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The Great Road Trip 2009 Part 4: Grand Tetons National Park

Jackson Lake, Signal Mountain Campground

Jackson Lake, Signal Mountain Campground

Part 4: After viewing the impressive geysers at Old Faithful, we continued south through the park to the south entrance of Yellowstone and the entrance to the Grand Teton National Park. If Glacier and Yellowstone weren’t impressive enough, the Grand Teton mountain range certainly took our breath away. It is just incredible to see the impressive natural wonders that exist within our own country. The John Rockefeller Highway that takes you through this part of the park happened to be under construction while we were there. My parents had warned us that the roads were stripped down to dirt roads and 1 lane at times. Luckily we timed it well and it only set us back a half an hour or so, it wasn’t nearly as bad of a delay as it could have been.

With no time at all it seemed, we arrived Jackson Lake and secured our campsite for the night at Signal Mountain. Wow, all I can say is that if you are looking for a picturesque view of the mountains, with a beautiful lake in the foreground, only steps from your campsite – then this is the campground for you. Best of all it was only about $20. We were in campsite #10, but across from us was an even better site at #12, if you happen to get there early, this is the site to get! One of the nice things about securing your campsite in the early afternoon, is that you are then settled for the day and can simply relax and enjoy your surroundings.

Here again, we had some amazing views, even of the smaller wildlife such as the butterflies and the bees. And the stars, we had forgotten that there were so many, and just how exciting it can be to see shooting stars. It was truly magical. We also

Pizza night at the campground!
Pizza night at the campground!

experimented here with RV pizza. We had a Betty Crocker packet of just add water pizza dough, to which we added tomato sauce that was leftover from pasta we had made a previous evening, mozzarella cheese, Canadian bacon slices and pineapple chunks from a small can. It turned out great, we were thankful for our generator which allowed us to use the oven without being plugged in to shore power. This post is already getting to be a novel, so I’ll have to write a separate post about our provisioning for the trip.

The next day we continued our whirlwind tour of the park and drove south along the Teton Parkway road to Jenny Lake, a truly beautiful place. There are some great bike trails in this area, it made us think of the road bikers in our life and what a beautiful bike ride this would be. We continued south to another must see, the Chapel of the

Chapel of the Transfiguration
Chapel of the Transfiguration

Transfiguration. It is a small Episcopal chapel that has a picture window behind the alter, a framed view of the stunning Grand Tetons peaks. We sat in the small pews and took in the beauty and serenity of the moment, only briefly though, we had a time table to keep! Next, we drove through Jackson Hole, Wyoming and stopped to enjoy lunch here at a local restaurant and went window shopping through the downtown streets, lined with wooden sidewalks. It would have been nice to stay longer, but we were weary from travel and knew we needed to keep moving to put some miles behind us, so we kept the RV rolling down the road all the way to Brigham City, Utah.

Sep
19
2009
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The Great Road Trip 2009 Part 3: Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs

Camping on the Yellowstone River, Mallard's Rest

Mallard's Rest

Part 3: While the dramatic splendor of Glacier could have kept us there longer, we did have to make it back to southern California, so the road trip had to keep on pace. We left Two Medicine in the morning, made a stop for lunch and internet access in Great Falls, and arrived our campsite just south of Livingston, MT by early evening. We camped for 1 night at a small campground with no services called Mallard’s Rest. It was funny how the cheapest sites, this one was $7 with a valid fishing license and $12 without, were the most amazing. We practically had the campground to ourselves except for one other campsite of fisherman. Our site was right on the Yellowstone River and was extremely relaxing. We made a campfire that night, toasted some marshmallows for s’mores and had the most amazing view of the stars.

The next day we (more…)

Sep
19
2009
2

The Great Road Trip 2009 Part 2: Glacier National Park

Part 2: The real road trip begins, as my parents fly back to southern California and Steve, Hayley and I begin our journey in the RV through Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and back to southern California. On the first day of our trip we drove about 5 hours from Divide, MT to Whitefish, MT. We arrived rather late, after 8pm, so we stayed at the Whitefish RV Park behind the Cheap Sleep Motel on Highway 93 South. I have to say, from the road we were concerned about our decision, but once we drove into the RV park, it was actually pretty quiet and clean. The nice thing about an RV park versus a regular campground is that you usually have the ability to plug into shore power, water and emptying of your gray and holding tanks. The price is usually higher than a campground, in this case $35 for the night. But when living in an RV, you often have to stop at one of these parks every 3 or 4 days to replenish water and empty tanks, oh and take a real shower. The shower in the RV is nice, but imagine showering in an airplane bathroom, not a lot of space. We did find campgrounds along the way the provided the water and dumping services, which made for a nicer campsite with the services we needed, but more on that later.

icecream

Hmmm Huckleberry Ice Cream

The next day we treated ourselves to a Cafe Au Lait from a local coffee shop, and explored downtown Whitefish before heading into Glacier National Park through the West Glacier park entrance. Now, before I begin our detailed journey through one of the most spectacular places on earth, I have to stop to share with you a favorite treat of mine best experienced at the West Glacier Restaurant just before the park entrance. This diner style restaurant has an old fashioned soda counter with “a slice of heaven” scooped to order. For only $2.50 you can enjoy heaping scoop of huckleberry ice cream in a waffle cone, which is so good that it completely dictated our route for entering the park. Huckleberries are similar to blueberries, only a little smaller and not as sweet. They grow wild in Montana, and are a favorite treat of the grizzly bears as well. So even though you may be tempted by the plethora of huckleberry scented beauty products in Montana, don’t wear them in bear country!

Ok, so after my guilty pleasure of huckleberry ice cream, which I can still taste and wish I had more of, we (more…)

Sep
18
2009
1

The Great Road Trip Part 1: Divide, Montana

Please note the new slide show format above, we had too many images to share to include them all, so we made a slide show.

Part 1: We flew into Missoula, Montana on a new airline, Allegiant Air. We were very impressed with Allegiant, the fares are hard to beat, $59 for a one way fare. And the service was friendly and we departed on time and landed early. We drove to Divide, a small town south of Butte and stayed several nights at the Divide Campground. We were really impressed with the Divide campground, we had a semi-private campsite right along the Big Hole River, a blue ribbon trout stream. Here we spent time visiting with old friends, learning how to fly fish and I reminisced about my childhood. This by far was our favorite part of the trip. We can still close our eyes and imagine sitting by the river, hearing nothing but the rush of water over the river rocks, with the warmth of the sun on our faces, a cool breeze on our skin, and sipping cafe lattes in the afternoon with my parents, and our friends Jack and Judy. Oh and lovable BJ too!

Divide is the small town in rural Montana where I grew up. My parents built the house we lived in. Jack and Judy were our neighbors, but actually much more than that. They are our Montana family. I attended a 2 room schoolhouse (see the slide show above) just a short distance from our house. And yes, in the winter I did ski to school on occasion. That is something for the grand kids someday! It meant so much to come back here, but also even more to share it with my husband.

Stay tuned for the next stage of our journey, Glacier National Park!

Sep
18
2009
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The Great Road Trip 2009

Montana Dreaming

Montana Dreaming

Well, we made it back home to sunny California. Our great road trip has ended, but the memories we made will last a lifetime.

We saw so many incredible things, we visited 4 National Parks in one week, that’s a lot of nature! And Steve and Hayley got to experience Montana for the first time, something that I truly will treasure. I’m pretty sure that Hayley is still day dreaming about all the freedom to run she had there, we misses her new friends Jack and Judy and their lovable golden retriever, BJ. Steve is missing the serenity of Montana, as we return to our noisy street of restaurant music, car horns and ambulance sirens.

Judy's Beautiful Garden

Judy's Beautiful Garden

We also got a first taste of the RV lifestyle, it really is a culture of its own. We met a lot of interesting people along the way and stayed at some entertaining RV parks. But all in all, we liked the whole experience and are missing the “GuyLin”, a Dodge Sprinter RV, a little this week.

Here was our route: View Road Trip 2009

There is so much to say about our trip, that I will have to publish our itinerary in a 5 part series. Stay tuned!

Sep
12
2009
2

Mysterious and Beautiful Yellowstone

Vibrant Colors of Yellowstone National Park, Geysers

Vibrant Colors of Yellowstone National Park, Geysers

As the road trip winds to an end, we made a few stops along the way in Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons National Park. In a future post I plan to share our itinerary, including a list of the campgrounds that we visited, a review of those sites and a provisioning list. The RV lifestyle is definitely a culture in and of itself, but one which allows freedom of travel from place to place while taking all of your belongings with you.

Camping on the Yellowstone River, Mallard's Rest

Camping on the Yellowstone River, Mallard's Rest

I had not been to Yellowstone since my teenage years and this was Steve and Hayley’s first time

Sleepy Camper

Sleepy Camper

there. While Glacier was breathtaking in a dramatic way, Yellowstone was  incredibly mysterious with its geysers, thermal ground and bubbling mud pots, and beautiful with its sweeping plains and wildlife. We saw elk, bison, deer, moose and many types of birds along the way. There is so much to say, and yet so little time to say it in, we have had limited internet connections while out in nature. So stay tuned, I’ll have to create another post with even more detail as the trip continues!

The Grand Tetons, Jenny Lake

The Grand Tetons, Jenny Lake

Sep
09
2009
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On The Road To Glacier

The Montana road trip continues. After visiting the favorite haunts of my childhood, we headed North up to Glacier National Park. This is my third trip to Glacier, and my husband’s first, and on every visit I never cease to be amazed by the awesome height of the mountains and the beauty of the landscape. As we made our way through the park, it was snowing at Logan Pass, so Hayley got her first taste of snow, and hated it!

I should also mention here that thanks to the generosity of my parents, we are using their cherished “GuyLin”, or Dodge Sprinter in order to see the many sights within Montana. We were lucky enough to spend time with them here in Montana for a few days, fishing and spending time with old friends.

We are now heading south to Yellowstone. Stay tuned for more pictures!

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