Next adventure

Every year I hope to be able to plan an exciting adventure.  This year I’ve been slow on plans because of the new house.  My daughter has gotten me back on the plan.  She has a big birthday this year and has missed out on vacations for the last couple of years.  She wants to go to Las Vegas, which is an interesting place to go.  Neither one of us gambles, so it is more to see the sites.  What excites me is that she is willing to go on excursions outside of the city.  The Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon south rim are the attractions on the list!  We don’t have much time, 2-days travel and 3 full days there, we need to make our plan.  We will spend 2 days in Las Vegas and one in the Grand Canyon.  It’s almost like a drive by.  I’m not exactly sure how much time my daughter would be willing to spend on the nature adventure.  I’m hoping to get a glimpse of it and come back at some point and do more if possible.

In doing research, the south rim is a 4 hour drive from Las Vegas, and the Hoover dam is on the way.  You can actually reach the west rim sky bridge in 2 hours from Las Vegas, but the main park appears to be south rim.  Why not go big or not go?  Since she is willing to let me do the planing, I’m happy to do it.  So far we have plane tickets.  For a Thursday to Monday stay, I’m thinking we will spend Friday all day in Las Vegas, then head out Saturday to the Grand Canyon, spend the night and head back Sunday and spend the rest of the day Sunday in Las Vegas.

We are looking at staying at the Venetian for the first two nights.  That is the one place I didn’t go the last time. The hotels are nice along the strip, they all charge a ridiculous $40 resort fee and are in the same price range.  It looks like there is free parking at the Venetian so we should be able to rent the car from the airport, park it at the hotel and be ready to head towards the south rim early in the morning Saturday.

The challenging part is figuring out how to visit the dam and where to stay and exactly what to see in such a short time at the south rim.  I found out the dam opens from 9AM-5PM, and that you can drive over the dam outside of those hours.  So there should be some viewpoints we have access to even if the visitor center isn’t open.

So far that I can tell there is no availability of hotels to say inside the grand canyon village.  So we are looking at staying just outside the village.  The hotels are all 2-star and the same price as the fancy 5-star hotels in Vegas!!!!  I’m looking at hotels in Tusayan.

On the visit to the Grand Canyon I think we will do best with taking in the Desert View and Watchtower and Look out studio by Bright Angel trail.  I looked into a tour which included a small plane from Las Vegas to South Rim, at $280/per person, it’s $560 and with gas and rental car, it’s $180 with car rental, gas and park entrance.  We would save 4 hours to do the tour, but the cost isn’t worth it, we are driving.  My daughter wasn’t into the flight/tour she looks at all of the reviews online!

We might stay at a different hotel on the way back just to get a different experience.  I am so excited.

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Lookout Studio at Grand Canyon Village.

 

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Next adventure

Spring Break

There are two paths to take for spring break if you are planning to go somewhere.  Go see snow or go somewhere warm.  The thing about going somewhere warm is that most places in the USA aren’t warm enough in March if you want to be comfortable in shorts or swim, at least not for people who are used to hot weather.  Many of the major league baseball teams practice during the spring in Florida.  We are big Astros fans and went to Florida to see them play in a few practice games with other teams in West Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie.  The temperature didn’t get above 75 degrees, which is nice, I think you still need to wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt.

I really wanted to see manatees.  They kind of look like a walrus and they don’t get out of the water.  They are slow moving and referred to as a sea cows.  This time of year they seek warm water.  There is a power plant on the inter coastal in West Palm Beach that uses the water for cooling and releases warm water that is clean and the manatees hang out in the warm water that is released from the plant, so it’s a good viewing area.  The power plant setup a really nice educational facility dedicated to manatees and surrounding marine life.  This is called Manatee Lagoon.

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Not far from manatee lagoon is a man made island called Peanut Island.  You can take a ferry the short distance for $12 round trip, which you could actually swim, however it’s in a busy boat area.  The island is about 1 and 1/4 miles around with a very nice beach, picnic areas and mangroves.  It’s a great place to snorkel and you can even camp overnight with a permit.  The island was created in 1918 by dredging to create an ocean inlet and it created the port of Palm Beach.  Not long after the coast guard made it a station.  It’s called Peanut island because there were plans to use the island as a terminal for shipping peanut oil, however that never happened.  In 1961 President Kennedy had a secret bunker and shelter built.  In 1984 the island became a recreation spot.  Since then improvements have been made and now it’s a really attractive place to come spend some leisure time.

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I was really interested in the Kennedy Bunker.  We headed towards that area.  In August of last year they had a museum and tours, but they don’t anymore.  There are no trespassing signs posted.  Curiosity got the best of me, and we sort of ignored the signs.  There seems to be nobody there.  And it was exciting to try to find the bunker.  We did find it…

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Supposedly it’s 1200 square feet and can hold 30 people for 30 days.  I don’t know about that.  The Coast Guard house needs to be restored, it takes a beating from past hurricanes and tropical storms.

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The island itself is very scenic.  There are lots of beautiful places to explore.  I would love to kayak or paddle board around it….FUN!

Spring Break

Big Bend Part 3

After hiking into the Boquillas canyon, we drove a short 5-10 minute ride to the border crossing.  You don’t need your passport to leave but we were given instructions on things not to bring back. (certain kinds of stones, walking sticks wrapped in snake skin… not what we were going for!)  Six people at a time could sit in the row boat while a man rowed like mad against the swift current to get to the other side.  The cost was $5, then another $5 if you wanted to ride a donkey (round trip) approximately 1 mile into town.  This was a really cool experience.

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Next we needed to go into the Mexico immigration station and show our passports.  It was another $7 to enter.  There are about 50 familes that live in this tiny town.  Immediately children come up to you to sell handmade trinkets and wrist bands.  Our plan was to have lunch at one of the two restaurants (both serving Mexican food) and walk around.

IMG_0602We had a nice view of the Rio Grande and they had really good beef tacos, margaritas, chips and salsa.  Their guacamole was really good too… and they ran out.  The closest store to replenish….3 hours a way.  Not much really grows in the dessert, it would be hard to survive here.

After lunch some of the group bought t-shirts and we walked around the town.  It’s pretty obvious how the local population feels about the current political view of the United States leadership.

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You have to pass by immigration once more to check out and hop on the donkey to ride back.  Customs processing is electronic now on the USA side, you slip your passport into a machine/kiosk and talk on the phone to a customs officer and your back in.  By this time it was pretty hot and the hot springs were close by.   Time to take a refreshing dip?

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It’s about 3/4 of a mile to the hot springs and we had some people that had been here before.  On a hot day like this, one very adventurous lady jumped in the Rio Grande and rode the current to the springs.  Looking at the mini rapids, you can see that is pretty daring.  When we did the kayak trip there are parts that are shallow and deep, you can’t really see when it’s deep or when it’s shallow.

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The spring is about 105 degrees and you can hang over the side and be in 75 degree water.  This place was pretty popular, many people started coming in.  We hung out and enjoyed every bit of it!

The last night dinner was a chicken fajita bowl and we all sat around an off the ground fire pit.  I wasn’t close enough to see how they made it, but we weren’t able to have wood burning.  The plan was for the last night to be a costume party.  Some dressed up, others did not.  Either way it was entertaining.

Upon sun up, everyone started breaking down camp.  I took US 90 back and followed a person from Houston home.  The ride back was pleasant.  There are some really desolate towns on the way and it’s interesting to see that there are people who live in these tiny towns.

Best road trip ever!  I am now inspired to do more.

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Big Bend Part 3

Big Bend Part 1

FINALLY!!!!!  It pays to persevere.  The stars were in alignment and I finally got to go!  I rented a jeep and took off for the 9 hour drive to Big Bend National park.  The alone time was very enjoyable and then turned a little scary as I went through the town of Marathon.  From Marathon it was 90 miles until the park and there is absolutely nothing around and no cell service.  No gas stations, hardly any cars, just vast open spaces.  Desert with mountains.  The desert has it’s own beauty.  There is alone and then there is really being alone.  I haven’t quite felt the sense of that until that particular stretch of drive.  It reminded me of how much we really need each other to survive.

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I made it to the park and paid my $25 entry fee at the Panther crossing stop in the park.  I got my map and headed to the group campsite.  The group is Hill Country Outdoors and most people were arriving around the same time to setup camp.  I’m sure everyone had in mind to get their tents setup before dark.   I met up with some ladies who wanted to check out the lodge where there is a store and wifi.  It’s a .6 mile hike, you can drive, but who wants to use any more gas!  Our campsite had a fantastic view of “the Window” which is amazing at sunset and behind my tent was “Casa Grande”.

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We had bathrooms with flushable toilets and actually there was an electric outlet in the restroom.  They even had a spigot for water at the campsite, even though I brought my own water.  There were no showers but we had rented two rooms at the lodge for showers during our stay.  It didn’t get too cold either.  It was in the 50s at the lowest.  Dinner was at 6PM, frito pie.  The moon was full, so the dark skies were well lit and hid the many stars that you would normally see.

On day one the plan was to hike the Lost Mine trail.  We carpooled to the trail head and began our 5 mile hike.  We were given lunches to bring which consisted of protein bars, trail mix, crackers and fruit.  Hiking up the trail we were able to meet and find out more about the people in the group which was really enjoyable to find out a little bit about everyone.  I was so happy to find there are people around my age that enjoy this kind of adventure.  Once we climbed for a ways we had an amazing view of the valley.

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and then we lunched at the top.  Joe had binoculars and shared them so we could try and spot bears, but we didn’t see any.  It was fun looking.

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After heading back to the campsite we decided to rest then hike to the edge of the window to see the sunset.  It is a 2 mile hike.  A small group of us went and it was not a disappointment.   On the hike we saw deer and traversed the pretty trail.  At the end it was challenging to navigate the rocks and the water, lots of climbing.  And then the reward!  There is a pool of water that is low right now and falls off the edge I’m guessing into the abyss because you can’t see where it goes.

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The hike back in the dark was fun.  We got lost and we spotted eyes…everyone believes it was a fox, we made it!

Big Bend Part 1

Roam if you want to

It’s getting closer!  The culmination of selling a home we have lived in for 17 years, moving into an apartment and going on one of my dream adventures all within a couple of weeks.   I will never understand the timing.  Even though I didn’t get to plan the dream adventure entirely my way (to go with family), I’m happy to be going with other adventure enthusiasts.  My big bend trip moved to the second week because of the closing.  I am now in full on prep mode.  This with a move going on too!

The first thing I decided was that I am going to drive alone for 9 hours to Big Bend in a rented jeep Renegade.   Back in my college days it was not that big of a deal to make the trip from south Florida to Tallahassee which was at least 8 hours, so I figure this will be the same.  I found out that we will be in the Chisos basin group camp sites with no electrical hookup.  Rented rooms at the lodge on day two for showers.  This weekend I plan to get a new tent and a propane heater (Mr. Heater).  I searched all over for a battery powered heater fan and they just don’t exist.  I don’t mind camping, I just don’t like to be cold.  I’m so looking forward to the simplicity…hopefully.  No cell service in big bend so no checking my phone.    My previous plan included a hike to the Window, staying in the town of Terlingua, a trip to Balanced Rock and the Santa Elena Canyon.  Plans are now slightly modified.

Day One: travel

Day Two: I have signed up for the Lost Mine Trail hike.  I would have done this with the family but didn’t plan on it because they aren’t hikers.  It’s 5 miles and 1000 feet climb, considered moderate.

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Day Three: float the Rio Grande.  I don’t know that I have ever navigated class two rapids.  We will be in inflatable kayaks with a guide.  This ought to be interesting.

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Day Four: Hike to South Rim, 12-14.5 miles, strenous.  Pretty much all day.  My kind of activity.

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When I leave, I plan to go visit the town of Terlingua.  I hope the weather will be as beautiful as it looks in these pictures.  I do plan to bring my moutain bike, although I’m not sure how much I will use it.  Somewhere I will fit in the Window which is best viewed around dusk and it is .25 mile from the Chisos basin, I should be able to see it.  And I can’t wait to see the stars at night.  I’m grateful I’m able to do what I love and find people to go with…even if they are complete strangers, we share the same goal.  Adventure awaits!!

Roam if you want to

Hamilton Pool Dream Come True

Hamilton Pool is another Texas treasure!!!  This natural wonder is located just outside of Austin to the West.   You have to make reservations to go and there is no guarantee that you will be able to swim because of bacteria levels which are tested daily.  Reservations are from 9-1PM and 2PM-6PM.  This is my own opinion, but I think there are bats in the “grotto” and I would think that the unsafe bacteria specifically ecoli might have something to do with their poop.  That’s just a guess.   It’s worth the risk to make the 3 hour drive because you can still enjoy the view of this beauty which is quite spectacular.   And there are plenty of other things to do in the area. Determined to go, I made the reservations months ago.  Even if I had to go by myself. Fortunately, my mother-in-law, son, daughter and friend went with! Your reservation is by the carload and since we have smaller vehicles, it was worth it to rent a minivan.  I looked at this day trip as a mini vacation and treated it as such!  We were comfortable!

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We began the 1/4 mile rough terrain to the water.  It really is steep in some places and rocky, the rocks aren’t even.  There isn’t anything to hang on to.  People lug their coolers, chairs and floats regardless!  There is no wheelchair access, which makes me sad because for people with disabilities this would be a huge challenge to go see and some would never go.

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The vegetation kept the hot Texas sun away.  There are lots of mesquite trees and cypress as you get towards the water.  I’m standing on the “beach”  here taking my first picture. This is where we laid out some towels and I called it our base camp.  The beach is rocky crushed rock with good size stones.  Outside of the stunning beauty of the cave like curved roof with water gently falling into a clear green massive pool, I noticed these three very large catfish at the water’s edge.  They hung out there the entire time!  First things first, I wanted to explore!  You can walk in the cave all along it to the other side.

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I thought bats were coming out of the swallow nests, but they aren’t.  If you look closely, you can see the muddy nests with a hole in the middle on the ceiling.

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Here is a view of the beach from the other side…

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Sometimes the water that falls is quite massive, on a day like today, it was picture perfect for standing under.

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Under the waterfall is the rock where people jump in.  I swam around the pool.  At first I thought it was going to be freezing because the water temperatures are in the 60s year round.  It was cold at first, you quickly get used to it.  Even though the water looks clear along the edges, it isn’t as it gets deeper.  Still it’s a very pretty green.  Looking up at the water falling is pretty cool as you see the droplets take the plunge.  I could have spent the day here, however my crew is not the chilling type.  At least not here.  I’m guessing it’s because there is no cellular service.

The idea was to eat here, bringing in food.  However, for this group it was a better idea to go out to lunch/dinner.  We ended up going to Canyon Grill which is on lake Travis.  We had another amazing view and great food!  Fantastic day ! ❤

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Hamilton Pool Dream Come True

FINISHER Day Two

Day two of the MS150 starts early!  We get up at 5:00 AM. What-a-Burger delivered at 4:30 am breakfast.  I’m a breakfast person, I don’t think I ate enough the night before and was starving.  So I get up, pack my cot and sleeping bag and go eat.  Our ride marshall said to put your bike at the start so you can be as close to the start as possible.  I did.  Our start was delayed to 8:00am.  After a breakfast taco and some coffee, I put my luggage on the team truck and chatted with the team.  Around 7:30 I went to the start and talked with the people around me.  It was cold and it rained a little, 50 degrees and I had my rash guard on that was keeping me warm.  They finally let us go, I was in the third wave. Leaving LaGrange we began on Hwy 71.  There were two options the challenge route which normally goes through state parks or the express route.  Being that it is my first time, I opted for the express route.

The hills were challenging.  The head wind rough!  It made for a slow ride.  Day two is 66 miles with a lot of hills.  Lunch was in Bastrop where my in-laws live.  I rolled into the stop and enjoyed a turkey tortilla roll up and had lunch with a few team mates.  I took off with one of the guys and stayed with him for a while. The road was familiar because I’ve been on it so many times with my family.  After lunch their were two rest stops that were at least 1/4 mile off the road which was not worth it!  Most rest stops are right off the road. After riding for so long, my thought is that there is no way I’m doing more.  I needed to stop to stretch.   So stretching I did.

At the last rest stop I knew I needed water, but it was only 15 more miles.  I’m like, yeah I can do that.  As I approached the finish, our team ride marshal was with me.  He is an amazing guy, so positive, uplifting.  I’m like please tell me this is the last hill, he says well maybe there is one more, but it’s a baby hill.   Any hill at this point is too big.  I admire his positivity.  As we round a corner I see the city and the capital.  At this point it was a couple of miles and my heart was like, yeah this is it!  We turned many times and finally hit the finish.  There is a bubble bistro at the finish and it horse shoes around to dismount.  The biggest deal is the picture of you and your bike in front of the capital.  I had to work for this picture.  My team tent wasn’t in front of the capital, but I took my bike there anyway and got a pic thanks to a stranger willing to take it with my phone.

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I went to the bubble bistro and met Jeff.  His story was amazing . He was diagnosed in 2008. Wheelchair bound and at the time all of the 4 available medicines didn’t work for him . Now one of the fourteen meds work.
He is not only out of his wheelchair , he did the ms150 full for the first time ! He said he was so inspired by the cyclists ! He told me that they are working on meds to repair nerve damage , this will help others as well. Ms is the number one neurological disease that receives fund raising and that benefit can help other neurological issues ! That is my hope for people like my mom!!!  I encourage you to never give up!

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FINISHER Day Two