Because two deserts meet within the National Park (Mojave and Colorado), the vistas, vegetation, and weather change significantly. If you start your drive into the park from HWY 62, Joshua Tree’s main road, you are in the Mojave desert, and it’s much cooler. You’ll also see taller and greener plants (Joshua trees and Yucca). The further you drive down the main road (heading towards I10), you’ll enter the Colorado Desert. You’ll notice that the cacti in that area are closer to the ground (lots of Cholla), and it’s about 15 degrees warmer. The change in vegetation and weather is due to an elevation change.
List of views/ hikes from easy to hard:
- Keys View- Very short, paved hike. Amazing views of the valley. On a clear day you can see the Salton Sea- The drive to that part of the Park has a dense amount of Joshua Trees.
- Arch Rock is in a campground (available to the general public). Kids can climb around it and be kids, but they can do that anywhere in the park. It’s up to you.
- Cholla Cactus Garden (Closer to I10). If you make the drive to this part of the park, I highly recommend it. It’s probably a half mile loop, and it’s beautiful.
- Wall Street Mill- 3 mile round trip. Because of its proximity to Barker Dam, I recommend that you bring bug spray on this hike. For its distance, it has a lot of history, and it’s flat through and through. If you decide to hike this trail keep in mind there are two parking lots: at Barker Dam, and an unnamed dirt lot behind it. The first parking lot you’ll see is a paved round loop with two trails, one to Barker Dam, and another to the Mill. If you want to hike to the Mill, you are adding almost another mile to your hike by parking here. Barker Dam is a nice hike, but at this time of the year I doubt the water levels will be high enough to have wildlife (probably a lot of insects). If you or someone hiking with you has a good sense of navigation or knows the park well, I recommend following the Wall Street Mill trail to Keys Ranch. However, if you are not familiar with the area, I wouldn’t. It’s really easy to get lost.
- Barker Dam is a nice hike by the Mill, but I would ask the park ranger about the current conditions of the Dam. Given the time of the year, if the water has been stagnant you might find more insects than birds (no one likes mosquitoes. No. One.)
Neat places on the drive out and back
Dig up your own Cacti is a very neat place where you can pick and dig your own cacti for 25 cents. If you are driving to Joshua Tree from I10, it’s before you get to the city. I think it’s in Yucca, but I’m not sure. It’s on your right side. http://cactusmart.com/about I checked the website. It’s in Morongo Valley, before Yucca.
Hadley’s Fruit Stand: Half way to JT. Delicious date shakes. Same exit as outlets, casino, and Cabazon Dinosaurs.
Joshua Tree and surrounding area
Noah Purifoy outdoor museum: I think they just brought back all the biggest and better pieces back from LACMA. I went earlier this year; it’s free and amazing. Please go.
Crochet Museum: Ask a local and go. I won’t ruin the surprise. It’s a desert gem.
Integratron: This place is truly magical. It was built by this guy, George Van Tassel, who claimed UFOs told him to build this dome out of nothing but wood and put metal circles on the ceiling of the first floor. Long story short, the place sits on a natural geometric vortex. Because the building is made up of wood, the sound made by the quartz bowl is carried around the room through the metal wires that sit underneath you (and no, you are not on the wires yourself). It’s amazing, rejuvenating, and magical. they have public and private soundbaths. A few times a year they hold special events. Check it out for yourself. http://integratron.com/
Places to shove your face
Willie Boy’s: Restaurant/bar. They had a mechanical bull last time I was there (2011). I went there for a show, so I can't speak for their the food.
If you don’t want to make the drive out there is a restaurant/ live music place in town called Pappy and Harriet’s Palace. I am not sure if either allow children.
Observatory: There’s an observatory in 29 Palms if you happen to head that way for any reason. I’m not familiar with their schedule, so I would check before making the drive out there.
Stargazing: Even if you visit on a full moon, you should be able to see deep into the eye of the galaxy.
Also, I think you like casinos and everything LGBT like me, you should swing by Palm Springs. While you are there you should go to Tahquiz Canyon, an awesome hike with a very nice waterfall at the end. Because of the trail’s orientation, I recommend going before noon. Also, because the trail is within the reservation, there’s a small fee to hike the trail.
The desert is an amazing place. From afar it’s deceiving, but the closer you get the more amazing it becomes. Enjoy the many desert gems!
Great Falls National Park, Virginia
The first thing I did when I got off the airplane was rent a car. Despite the fact that they have taxis and the Metro, I went ahead and paid for my own whip. Not because I'm a big baller, but because it was cheaper than paying an Uber to take me out and about. And also because I wanted to listen to the Lion King soundtrack.
The drive to Great Falls is absolutely gorgeous, surrounded with trees, scenic viewpoints of the Potomac, and a ludicrous amount of mansions... not the snoody kind, the classy kind.
I wandered around this place for an hour or two and went for one of the numerous walk/hikes that are available and stopped to watch the river at one of its choppiest points. There were people kayaking and riding surfboards here, which was unfathomable to me. Just seeing these people living so fully was enough vicarious excitement to make me feel like I had done something exciting myself.
Edgar Allan Poe's Grave and Home
So, the next night at approximately 5 p.m. while my co-workers were looking at memorials and pounding beers, I decided to drive to Baltimore to visit my good friend Edgar Allan Poe. The drive was, again, phenomenal once I got out of the crazy city traffic. It took about an hour and a half to reach my destination.
At first, I was scared. I'm not going to lie. Whenever I get into big cities with a lot of foot traffic, I'm always afraid that someone is going to beat me up and kill me or whatever, so it could just be a personal problem. Maybe it wasn't scary at all for your average Joe. Either way, if you are like me and get nervous in places like Los Angeles, downtown Las Vegas, etc., you may be nervous here. Just a heads up.
Poe is buried in a church cemetery along with his family and a lot of other historical figures from the 1800's. The atmosphere here is worth the visit. It is a very serene, unusual place that you do not get the opportunity to see every day. You may have heard that he has two graves. I was expecting to find only his current grave here, but was stoked when I walked around the corner and found his original grave as well.
When you leave the graveyard, there are signs that direct you to his home, which is a .6 mile walk through a neighborhood. I started this walk, got almost to the end, realized how quickly it had gotten dark, and walked back to my car, then drove to the house. On the way back to my car, someone started driving in reverse right next to me, honking at me until they couldn't reverse any more due to a parked car. I think he thought I was a prostitute, but I'm not sure why. Anywho...
IMPORTANT: Check the website if you want to take a tour, because his home IS a museum, but it is open only on specific days and times. Even if you can't make it in, just being there is beyond cool.
Although it may not sound like a lot, it was a great time. I got to hang out with myself, do what I enjoy without necessarily being bound to the norms of sticking to one area, and put approximately 140 miles on that car.
What have you done in this area other than this? SHARE THEM WITH US!
Ok... I'm not a total non-tourist... and you know I love 'Murica. Here's a selfie with my boy Abe.
I don’t know about you, but I go through cycles. Some of them are predictable, some of them… not so much. I have been going through something the past week that is very uncharacteristic of my usual existence.
There’s nothing going on in my head.
I’m usually the kind of person who is going and going from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed. Jamming N’Sync and dancing and singing real hard like a huge jackass, offering to do way too many jobs for free, planning huge elaborate trips I may or may not ever go on, trying to fill up my current time and my future time with crazy crap that I don’t think anyone else would ever do just because I want to have an interesting story to tell. That’s me. But recently, it’s different.
I’m not depressed or anything like that. The thing inside of my head has just kind of stopped talking. I feel calmer and I feel more at peace. It doesn’t even occur to me nowadays that I should be looking for crazy adventures to pursue. WHY NOT??
Well, as of late, I’ve been reevaluating my life and taking responsibility for things that I hadn’t really thought were my fault in the past, and am starting to see the role I play in the world around me. I play a part in everything that happens to or around me. Even if it’s not my fault, I am still responsible for how I react to it. These are things that are common sense, but it’s harder to put into actual practice than it seems.
I’ve been taking thoughts that I’ve had about people who I felt had really done me wrong, or people who I felt I was better than and I was bitter toward, and I’m trying to get rid of it. I feel like I don’t have as much to prove now because I’m humbling myself and I’m getting all of the “competition” out of my head. Nobody is competing with me. No one cares about what I’m doing in my life because they have their own agendas and their own lives to live. The people who I thought were out to do me wrong or steal from me never even had me in their kaleidoscope. I was just a bi-product. Yeah you had to step on me to get what you wanted, but you never looked under your shoe to see my face. And a lot of people don’t get it. They don’t understand that no one cares about you. They don’t care if they hurt you, because they don’t see you. So just get over it. Don’t get mad at the people who do you wrong, because they don’t even have the balls to acknowledge that you exist.
And in this, I have found some peace whereas before it was all a hot ball of fire hoping that I never run into particular people in public. And with this sense of peace, there is also calm and quiet, which I guess I will have to get used to if it sticks. I like the fact that I can relax and focus, but I dislike the drop in energy. I like to be crazy and be constantly going, but maybe I can make this my new default. Who knows. I guess once you start to forgive and move on, you have less to prove because you understand that it really doesn’t matter after all.
Having kids doesn't mean that adventurous journeys are over. On the contrary, the journey is just that much more important. Travel is as refreshing and wondrous for children as it is for adults, and although the words “road trip” and “young kids” in the same sentence may make your skin crawl, it can be an awesome experience.
Here are some things I have found to be helpful over my years of road tripping with 1, 2, and then 3 kids ranging in age from 4 months to 11 years, (and I’m talking SoCal to Maine, up to three weeks in the car; my oldest has visited 32 states!):
Planning and purchases
Camping stuff- A larger tent may cost you anywhere between 200-300 bucks, but it's worth it. It also may take a little while to assemble and disassemble each time, but in my experience, having that divider between the two little "rooms" in a tent makes a world of difference. Jam the kids on one side, get the other side to yourself-- heavenly. Also, although it is a bit of an expensive thing up front, a good tent will last you years where you would easily blow that much in one or two nights at a nice hotel -- the kind where you don't have to worry about getting pubic lice.
I have a 12 man tent that I bought from Target in 2010 and I still use it all the time 6 years later.
Walmart sells sleeping bags for kids for $10, and although the zippers aren't the best, they do what they say they will do in regards to temperature.
Check this out:
Bathing suits, regardless of where you are going or what time of year it is- You never know when water will come a calling. Even if it's December... maybe there will be hot springs, or maybe you will stay at a hotel with a heated pool. Don't be left wishing you had brought them.
Overhead storage- This is a new investment for us. We used to just shove everything into the trunk and then have to play Tetris with it every time we needed something. For our last trip, we sucked it up and bought a giant bag that you can strap to the roof of your car. It came from Walmart. It held all of our backpacks, sleeping bags, giant tent, blankets, and pillows. It was great. They have them for $20 if you go cheap, but I would suggest going for the $40 one because it is WATERPROOF.
To avoid having people steal all of our crap, we would take it off the roof when we camped and put in inside of our ginormous tent. People will steal from you every chance they get. Don't make it easy for them.
Licorice and Pringles- Buy foods that seem never ending and are fun to eat. It shuts the kids up and creates a calm, copasetic environment, (at least for a little while). You may be saying, "But Ashley, we are on a clean raw diet. My angels can't eat Pringles." Hey, it's a road trip. Live a little. If you really don't want them to eat junk food, then buy a bunch of healthy snacks-- like a lot of them; ones that they can eat handfuls and handfuls of for long periods of time.
Canned food and plastic cutlery-
We've mentioned this a few times and I cannot stress how helpful and money-saving it is to do this. Just buy a case of chicken noodle soup, a bunch of Chef Boyardees, anything you can find in a can, and a box of plastic forks. You don't have to pull off the road for lunch, you don't have to spend $20 or more every meal, all you have to do is grab a can and make it happen. I do this when I travel alone. I do this when I travel with my friend. I do this when I travel with my kids. Hell, I do this on a Tuesday afternoon when I wake up at 11 and can't fathom cooking anything. It's the best.
Books and writing utensils-
It's always a good idea to carry notebooks in your car and a plethora of pens, even if you're just driving somewhere close to home. Doing this encourages kids to draw and write and do things other than yell and fight or rub boogers on the windows. I happen to be one of those parents who does not have a TV in the car because I feel like TV is for home, and that it shouldn't cloud you when you are supposed to be out watching the world. (A prime example of this is when we were in Alaska, went on a Northern Lights tour where they drove us to the top of this mountain to sit out and observe nature, and everyone except for us sat inside of a heater tent, some of them watching movies on their IPads... bro. Did you really travel to Alaska, go on this tour, just so that you could watch a movie you could've watched in your living room?)
Don't overpack, there are Goodwills and Walmarts everywhere.
It can be an awesome experience to stop in a town along the way to pick up stuff that you are running short on or fun items you thought of while out and about. In stopping at Goodwills, we find sweatshirts and things from the towns we are visiting that only cost a few dollars and are more unique than the touristy ones you can buy for $40.
The key to popping the perfect squat
If you have a girl and she has to pee and you are in the middle of no where, here is the method I have adopted to pissing privately out in the open:
1. Go to the passenger side of the car because it should be the side that is away from traffic.
2. Open both car doors on that side of the car.
3. Have the kid sit on the ledge of the car in between the doors.
4. Go pee.
This is effective because there is no squatting involved, so there's less mess. Also, the doors create a barrier, so there's no need to run out for a quarter mile to look for a bush and also no need to worry that a gross passerby saw anything. Works every time.
Camping vs. Hotels/pros and cons
Camping: Less expensive/Can be harder to find
Hotels: More Comfortable when you have been camping for a while
Hotels: Less opportunity for bonding because of amenities.
Camping: No technology or distractions
Hotels: Good every few days for a decent shower
Camping stories to scare your kids into going to sleep real quick:
(THIS WILL BE ITS OWN ENTRY. COME BACK AND LOOK FOR IT IF THIS INTERESTS YOU).
Highway killer, aka sad basement boy
Dog food grandpa
Classic: hook hand
Books: Alvin Schwartz
Ghost stories to tell in the dark
What about all the fighting?
Ways to kill time and supress the minutia:
Learn a song (We bought a CD at Goodwill, picked a song we didn't know, "Eastbound and Down", and listened to it over and over again for about an hour and a half until we all knew it and then we sang it for the days following. It was grand).
The alphabet game (Say your name, say a thing you like based on the alphabet, taking turns throughout the car.. "My name is Jack and I like Apple Juice," "My name is Ashley and I like Bubble Gum." You can get more creative than this. These examples are just to get the point across).
Stop and buy some cheap crap- Like at Goodwill
Audio book- Listen to it. Damn.
Ideas for the technology-obsessed kid
Things that used to fly in prior decades don't much impress the cell phone generation anymore. In cases like this, I have found ways to incorporate technology into the experience. My oldest just got a cell phone for bus rides to middle school, but has gotten attached to it rather quickly. While in North Dakota at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, he started being a jack ass and pretending he was playing Pokémon Go by taking pictures of the bison, horses, and deer. We all kind of got into it and stayed giving them names, like the Ultra Rare Wild Ponymon, etc., and we called it National Park Go. Although it sounds dumb, it was actually funny and we continued to play NPG at other parks we visited.
Keeping a budget log
When you have a butt ton of kids, things are more expensive. That $10 tour of an old prison turns into $50 real quick, so it is easy to lose track of how much you've been spending. Keep a log book that you physically use to write in your expenses and keep it updated every time you spend money. There are times when your reception is likely to be shoddy and you may not have access to your bank account.
Well, that's pretty much all of the most important things I have for you in regards to planning a low-drama, low maintenance road trip for the memory books. Kids are annoying, but they're only kids once, so do something fun with them.
So, you just got out of a relationship… now what? Rejoice! Life is waiting for you! Grieve if you must. Give yourself the time you need to process what you just went through. But, at some point you have to pause the John Hughes movie- put down the Ben and Jerry’s- and start living life again. I’m not saying that what you went through doesn’t matter, or that you “NEED to get over it”; I’m just saying the world is not ending, so you might as well be happy and find out what makes you happy throughout the process, because no one can do that for you. Celebrate! This is where you get to redefine yourself. What does thirty-year-old me like that twenty something year old me didn’t?
Whether it’s because you want to drive a range rover, or you just don’t know what to do with life, you’ve decided to go back to grad school. Looking online at the prerequisites for some schools, you quickly notice a common denominator: GRE, which, much like gout, no one warned you about when you were young. I know, I know. It sounds like a joke, almost like an insult, right? “So I just graduated from College, and you want me to take a STANDARDIZED test to prove that I am smart enough for you…. but I thought my accolades and Bachelor’s Degree did that…” Well, pal, you thought wrong. Just. Like. Me.
For those of you who are just waking up to the existence of this test, GRE stands for Graduate Record Examination, although much of it is at an advanced high school level. I’m not going to pepper this with flowers and unicorns and tell you it’s easy, but it’s no rocket science either. It just takes good preparation and discipline. With this information in mind, I would like to give you a few tips about the GRE.
Where do I take it? How much does it cost?
You can take this test pretty much anywhere in the world, and it costs approximately USD 250.00, which is just enough to build up more anxiety around the test itself. If you are a selective spender like me, and hate having to spend this much money more than once, just think of how much money you have spent on useless school stuff, like books you will never read again, scented pens, and field trips to conferences or workshops that lead to nothing. So what if you have to take it more than once? At least you are working towards a better you and possibly a better school. The sky's the limit, kemosabe.
What’s the test like?
The test consists of six thirty (30) minute sections each- 2 Analytical Writing, 2 Verbal Reasoning (vocab and reading), 2 Quantitative Reasoning (math, algebra, geometry, etc.). Note: On test date they will throw in an additional section (but you don’t know which one it is) that you will not be graded on. This section is a sample to help the writers of the test find out which questions work and which don’t. In other words, as if sitting down for 3 ½ hours wasn’t enough, these sadistic jerks will just make you sit and stress over an additional section.
Analytical Writing: For the sake of length I will keep this section to a minimum, but if you have any questions please let me know through the comment section. Basically, you have two sections: analyze an issue (where you agree or disagree with a statement), and analyze an argument (where you have to dissect the supporting statement- or the lack of- and posit how it could be stronger- Remember: you are not disagreeing with the argument, you are just analyzing it).
You are expected to write a standard five paragraph essay for each section. Give yourself 3-5 minutes to plan your points for each paragraph. For the "analyze an issue" essay, I recommend to make a + and - section on a piece of paper and see which one with agree/ disagree with most at the moment. Remember this is not a reflection of your morality, but your writing skills. I could talk about this section for hours and hours, so let me know if you have any questions.
For more information, visit ETS’ website https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/analytical_writing/
Verbal Reasoning: 20 questions p/ section. This section is basically reading and vocabulary. You have three different types of questions:
1- Reading Comprehension (3 minutes to read the passage- 1 minute per question).
2- Text Completion questions: You will be given a short passage and you have to select from the option “the best fitting word/ answer”. This is very important. At times you will find that maybe more than one response applies; however, you have to pick the best. Let context be your guide.
3- Sentence Equivalence: You will have to find two synonyms from the list that mean could work in the passage. Sometimes you will find two sets of synonyms, but one two words fit the passage. Again, let context and vocabulary guide you.
In terms of vocabulary, you just have to study all these words. Granted you might only find two or three on the test, that is a significant amount when you factor in that you only have 20 questions per section. Even if you don’t have one of these words in the fill in the blank option, you will find these words in the reading section. All of these sections require that you familiarize yourself with the vocabulary that will appear on the test. I’m attaching a copy of the list of words I was given by the instructor at a GRE workshop. I like paper, so I made flashcards, but you do you, boo boo.
Quantitative Reasoning: Math, math, math… How I despise your finite ways… This is my least favorite part. I would rather wrap my naked body in soiled hospital linens than have to do math. You will be tested on Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Data analyses.
You can find basic information about this on ETS’ website
Note: All of these questions are doable, you just have to remember it’s a standardize test, so forget any kind of critical thinking skills you have acquired through your scholastic career and think like a test writer.
How can I dropkick this test through the goal poles of success?
Make a study plan. Based on the amount of days you have until test day. If you are using a book like Kaplan’s which I highly recommend for its resourcefulness (great online tools), and resemblance to the test itself, use the practice tests to help you map a study plan. Try to set goals for the vocabulary words, take a practice test every other day, and take a sample test (all sections) once a week. The things that gets to most people on test day is stamina. You have to sit in front of a screen for about four hours, thinking, reading, and writing. It’s exhausting, so bring Ibuprofen on test day and build up that stamina. Boop!
Admitting you need help is always the first step
The first time I took the test I got a 159 on verbal, just studying on my own with the Kaplan book. I started studying about three weeks before the test and about 3 times a week after work for three hours. Can you study on your own with online resources? Yes, however, most schools offer workshops through the academic resource center that are much less expensive than Kaplan or Oxford’s online private tutoring. For example, as alumni, I paid USD 175.00 for four weeks of instruction (four times a week, ninety (90) minutes a day). Through Kaplan, I would have paid about USD 1,200.00 + for the same. There are other online resources that work great. Here is one of my favorites from a PhD student who built a space where students could write about the whole applying to grad school process (GRE included). This is a great resource for all grad students. Also, it is a google doc, so feel free to leave some insight.
Aches inside and outside your body
Try to reduce distracting outside factors on test day by building studying in similar conditions. Take the test at your school’s computer lab, or library. At home you are nice and relaxed, but you won’t be on test day, which is nothing like sitting at home with a pack of Oreos and a tall glass of cold milk. At the test center you are treated like a cheater before you even start the test: they pat you down, check for electronics, take your fingerprint. It’s worse than the TSA line. Also, you cannot bring anything with you at all. At the center they have lockers where you can keep your personal belongings, so make sure you take water, eye drops, something for headaches, and anything else you think might help you if an emergency.
Once you sit down and start the writing part (the two writing sections come first, then it’s one verbal- one quantitative), you have to organize your thoughts in amid the sound of twenty other feverish typers. Click, click, click, space bar- space bar- pause… click, click, click…. Aggrhhh... The test center provides ear plugs, but it’s just not enough. If you have time to take the test, I would recommend researching your test center’s slowest time of the year and taking the test around that time. This will help reduce the distractions that come with other people (check gum, typing, head scratching).
I took the test, now what?
PTSD aside, you should treat yourself to an ice cream sandwich. You did it. Even if you didn’t do as well as you could have, you set a goal and followed through. You should be at least pleased, so stop being so hard on yourself. Think about it this way, what would Chuck Norris do? Would he be sad? No, he would try again and again until he got it right.
I’m not going to sit here and tell your scores don’t matter. They do. Actually most schools use your scores to quickly assess your eligibility among the thousands of applications they receive. You should still call the schools you are applying to, and ask them their minimum GRE requirement, that way you don’t find yourself spending the GRE, transcript, and application fees for nothing. Sometimes, with good letters of recommendation, volunteer work, good GPA, and accolades, they might even overlook your GRE scores. So if you are confident or want to apply because “why not”, take note of the school’s GRE code, and enter it at the end of the test to save yourself the USD 35.00 fee. You can submit to up to three schools at the end of the exam on test day (you won’t know your writing scores until a few weeks later, and that’s a risk you have to take).
Also, keep in mind that like the process of applying to grad school, this is all about trial and error. Even if you didn’t do so well, there is always next year, which only means more time to prepare and kick ass next year.
From the moment you step off the plane, you are drenched with sweat that seems to be pouring out of you from places you didn’t even know could sweat. What should you do? Where should you go? You aren’t that run-of-the-mill person who likes to do what everyone else is doing, and neither should your vacation be! While ordinary people are at Harry Potter World, or taking selfies in front of a Disney castle, or paying $400 to swim with a dolphin, YOU will be swimming with manatees and checking out the places that reflect Florida for its natural beauty, not its man-made attractions… (Ok, some man-made attractions).
Here is what we did during two action-packed days in the Land of Flowers:
Blue Spring National Park
This is a beautiful park where you can rent snorkels, tubes, kayaks, and (I believe) scuba gear. During winter, this place is a natural habitat for manatees. We spent a couple of hours here, just swimming around, looking into the spring, enjoying the atmosphere. I would recommend getting here earlier in the day, as early as possible actually, because as the day went on, yucky teenage jerk bags showed up and started playing football across the spring and using foul language and just being all around dirtbags, which took away from the experience. Other than that, I could’ve spent all day here. The water is very clear, great temperature, awesome scenery.
Big Toho Airboat Rides
There are numerous airboat rides throughout the state, but if you want an experience with someone who has been doing this job for years and is a member of a founding family of Florida, then this company is right for you. We had a great, inexpensive ride, saw baby alligators, and the entrance to the Everglades known as “The Shingles.” Not only was the ride smooth, thrilling, and beautiful, but our guide was knowledgeable and hilarious. Check Groupon to see if they have any specials going on.
American Pro Diving
How many people do you know who have gone swimming with dolphins? I know two, and they are intolerable, judgmental, all around yucky people. Now, I’m not saying that everyone who spends hundreds of dollars to swim with dolphins is snoody and gross, but I mean, maybe there could be a connection somewhere. Now let me ask you this: how many people do you know who have gone swimming with manatees? That’s what I thought.
Thanks to Groupon again, we found a hidden gem that is easy to miss. We woke up early on Saturday morning, drove a convertible VW bug for two hours, got in some wetsuits, and swam with a manatee. I must admit, he wasn’t as lively as I had hoped, but it was amazing to see one of these animals up close and in their natural element. I didn’t get to swim with a baby… but I saw a baby and it was the cutest thing that ever happened to me in my whole life.
American Pro Diving also offers other tours with scuba and/or snorkel. Check them out:
On the way back from American Pro Diving, it would behoove you to make a pit stop at Joe’s Deli… ‘cause, why not? We were looking for a place to eat some gator tail, and then we were planning to just settle for Burger King, when we stumbled upon a cute little sandwich shop. Although it is a small place, it is not small in taste. Not only is the food awesome, (try the seafood salad), but the business itself is family owned and operated, which is hard to find nowadays. The restaurant is located near Cooter Lake. Cooter Lake. I mean, come on, if that’s not exciting, then I just don’t know what is.
Don’t settle for Bahama Breeze, (which is delicious, but is pretty much just Jamacian Applebees). Go to a place that makes food because they love it and they care about the quality.
Well, it’s a beach. There are restaurants and bars and shops. The thing that makes this place worthwhile is the temperature of the water. We got there at 10:00 p.m. and jumped right in there, fully clothed and comfortable; it was like a jacuzzi. I didn’t even know that the ocean could be so warm. The great news about night swims is that no one is going to bug you because they are all at the bars. I only saw people here because they were playing Pokemon Go.
Super cute place. Swan boat rentals, fountain that really reminds me of “Married With Children,” restaurant, geese, statue of a woman. I would advise heading over here on a weekend evening if you really want to have an experience and do some people watching. We were here on Saturday, early evening, and there was a church group singing in the little amphitheater. The man who was singing with the group was phenomenal and actually brought me to tears a bit, but I cry a lot. Overall, a cool place to take a walk. Lots of people playing Pokemon Go. Like everybody except for me.
We stopped by Pulse and read the biographies of the people who lost their lives there. It was incredibly touching and humbling. For a lot of people, we don’t see these attacks for what they are because they are becoming more and more common. But there are real people involved- with real lives- real families- real potential and spirits that someone stole for no reason. If you are in the area, you should go by this site to help bring in some real humanity and perspective on something that may usually be too obscure of a concept to fully understand.
The Holy Land Experience
Ok, so I found this while I was driving, but I wasn’t able to visit it because I was attending a conference and the hours conflicted. This place is basically like a giant castle with displays of Bible stories, etc., and from what I saw on the website, they have Jesus walking down the street with the cross as a show, which is like, daaaaaaaang. I wish I could’ve seen that. Have you seen that? SHARE SOME PICTURES IN THE COMMENT SECTION IF YOU HAVE!
I’m sure we did some other things, but those were definitely the highlights. We didn’t do what everyone else was doing. We didn’t waste our time sweating our buns off waiting in lines. We didn’t fall into the tourist traps. We did do some touristy things, but we didn’t pay crazy cash for them and we didn’t go home with an extra suitcase loaded with Donald Ducks. We came home with memories from putting 997 miles on a rental car, a thirst for more water activities, and pictures of us in places that our theme park-hopping counterparts didn’t even think to see. I mean… what’s the point of going to Universal Studios anyway? They got rid of the Jaws ride. Come on, bro.
If you're anything like me, you spend a lot of time in the car. One of the drives that I make way too frequently is the drive between Las Vegas and Southern California. When I make this drive I usually try to get in and out of the car as quickly as possible and reach my destination fast. I usually don't even stop for gas or to go to the bathroom. However, the last time I took this drive I was more adventurous about it and finally stopped at the places that I had always seen and wanted to visit, and also found some new things that I didn't even know existed.
If this is a drive that you frequent and you want to break up the monotony, or if you are taking this trip for the first time in the future and want to make the most of it, then I have a few places I think you should stop and enjoy.
Spots in order, starting in So Cal, ending in Vegas:
Peggy Sue's 50's Diner and Dinosaur Park
Calico Ghost Town
So this is pretty well known already, so I won't spend too much time talking about it. This is a town that was purchased by Walter Knott, the owner of Knott's Berry Farm who revamped some areas of the actual mining town and then built some new attractions, such as one of those confusing houses, some shops, etc. You can go on a mine tour, which is really cool and fun and a great place to have a beer and watch a shoot out where no one is really going to die. They also have a shirt that says "I found the Glory Hole." Needless to say, I bought that.
St. Antony Monastery
If you've been out this way, you've seen it... the abandoned waterpark surrounded by dilapidated signs, buildings, and half dead palm trees. It's a dream come true for people who like to explore things from the past and wonder where it all went wrong. This is the kind of place where you could sit for a long time and just think and look around and imagine what it was like twenty years ago, bustling with families and smelling like hot dogs and sun block. Magical.
Disclaimer: There are some warning signs that the best things in the world may not happen here, so make sure you are safe and smart when you visit and make sure that you are paying attention to your surroundings and have an exit plan if you need one.
Desperado at Buffalo Bill's
If you need to stop for gas, lotto tickets, or Taco Bell AND fried chicken in Primm, take a stroll over to Buffalo Bill's and ride their roller coaster. It's not too pricey compared to New York, New York's comparable ride on the strip and is one of the country's tallest roller coasters. This joint also has a kickass buffet.
Seven Magic Mountains Outdoor Art Exhibit
Sometimes you don't mind getting there late, and on a day like that, this list could help you enhance your driving experience. This is just a starter list, and I'm sure I'm missing lots of cool hidden gems along the road, but this should get you going. If you know of a place I should check out and add to the list, leave a comment below!
I love you!
Sometimes things are really great and you are on top of the world; other times you lie in bed all day and drink box wine in a pile of cheeseburger wrappers and you don't know why.
It just happens sometimes. You can't always be that unicorn running along the top of a rainbow with magical kisses from Heaven falling down all around you. Sometimes you need to relax, reflect and regenerate. The Triple R. There's nothing wrong with this and the more you allow yourself to feel however it is that your body is telling you to feel, the better. If you fight these natural reactions to the world around you or you try to suffocate them with anti-depressants and fake smiles, you are hurting yourself and you will never truly come out of your funk.
But why can't I be happy all the time like Marcy on Facebook? Great question. Better answer. Marcy isn't happy like that all the time. Marcy is just like you, probably worse. Marcy puts those pictures of vacations up on her Facebook and acts like she enjoys her kids every moment of every day and seems to cook all the time and loves inspirational quotes. What you DON'T see her post on FB is her credit card statements, selfies of her pulling her hair out because little Billy won't shut up and go to bed already. You won't see Marcy take a picture with her prescription of Zoloft or a picture of the other woman that her husband got pregnant. Why? Because Marcy is a liar. Marcy wants someone to be jealous of her. She wants to put on those airs and act like she has it all together. People use this modern technology to paint a picture of what they want their lives to be; but it doesn't mean that they're happy and it doesn't mean that everything they say is true. Sometimes it's all they have and when they post something, they momentarily forget what the truth really is.
Don't do this. Don't be this. Don't lie to yourself or anyone else.
I'm not saying to go on social media and proudly proclaim that you have the Herp and haven't showered in a week, but I am saying not to make crap up. You aren't helping yourself and you aren't helping anyone else either. Just be yourself. Stop caring what everyone else says and does. Get rid of your social media because in all honesty, it will free your time, your mind, and help you to regenerate yourself without being polluted with the lies of those around you. You don't hate your life. You just need to take some time for the Triple R. Be honest with yourself and you will feel better.
Moving is an interesting time. It's stressful yet exciting and usually gives you that feeling that you can start over and have the life you always dreamed of. Sure this is a great feeling... all of that inspiration and hope... but if you go in with unrealistic expectations, you are going to be left feeling the same way you felt when you were sitting in your old house, all trapped and yucky.
Set some real, attainable goals that you can kick into motion the moment you step foot inside of your new place. Don't surround yourself with a bunch of idealistic thoughts about perfection because although the setting has changed instantly, YOU are still the same person and you have to make your changes gradually and keep them up each day.
The realistic items are things that you make conscious decisions to do or to make happen on a regular basis until you form a new habit out of them. They are not about achieving perfection and they are not huge differences from the things you already do. If you go balls to the wall trying to make too many big life changes at one time, then it will become unsustainable. You are only a person, not a God and people are creatures of habit. You can change, you can become whatever you want to be and your house can be as fancy as you'd always dreamed, but it's a process and you have to build the habits yourself. Magic won't happen just because you changed zip codes. Your habits will follow you wherever you go, and you are the only one who can alter them.
If you have something in your life that you really wish were different, then you need to address it. Ask people you respect or consider successful in that area to give you some tips and KEEP IT UP. You can't take a break from your habits once you get comfortable. That's how jelly gets rubbed into the couch cushions and dog poop gets smeared in the carpet. If it matters to you, then keep it at the front of your mind and don't let up.
I'd like to see Martha Stewart tell you that.
Ashley and Cecilia work hard, play hard, write stuff, read stuff... because they don't know what else to do with their lives.
I- We should buy something superficial
II- Buy odd clothing
I- An Unusual Social Event
I- We should go somewhere with dangerous animals
I- Somewhere with strange food
When we get ten total votes, the item with the highest number of votes will be our next expedition.
(One vote per reader, per category).