Sunday, March 28, 2010

Big Sur Road Trip-Day 3: Monterey

This was by-far my favorite day of the trip. I would have loved to spend more time in Monterey and would highly recommened this as an exciting destination.

Monterey Bay Aquarium: This was our first stop of the day. While it is slightly expensive to visit ($29.95/person), you can save $2 per ticket by printing out this coupon...
This aquarium was literally "swimming with life". It was the most intricate and interesting aquarium I have ever been to. The aquarium is segmented to reflect the different parts of the ocean such as the reef, outer bay, and kelp forest. Each of these segments have giant tanks that you could stare at forever and constantly take in new sights and creatures. The aquarium also offers fascinating exhibits of marine life not housed at many other aquariums, as well as touch pools. From sea otters to baby sea horses, they have it all! They also have a cafe with ocean views and many outdoor look-outs over the ocean. You could easily spend a whole day here.

Cannery Row: Right next to the Aquarium is Cannery Row. Previously a factory street of canneries, it has since been transformed into a street of shops, art galleries, and restaurants. In one art gallery we met both the featured artist and the owner, and soon struck up a conversation. When the artist heard we were on our last spring break he gave us a complimentary wine tasting he had received from a friend for a winery a couple shops over. We were pretty excited and shocked at his kindness! We tasted wines at 2 different wineries. The first was Bargetto Winnery. I particularly enjoyed the Chardonnay, and John and I feel in love with their signature Olallieberry Wine. It was very fruity and hardly even tasted like wine, perfect for out underdeveloped pallets. The second winery was Scheid. This was more up-scale and also had very enjoyable tastes that would appeal to the mature wine connoisseur. We finished our time here with a cookie from the Toll House shop, and had quite an enjoyable experience!

17 Mile Drive: The last stop of our jam-packed day was the 17 Mile Drive at Pebble Beach. It costs $10 to get in with a vehicle, but if you spend $25 or more at one of the restaurants there, the restaurant will deduct the entry fee from your bill. We took advantage of this at Roy's Restaurant at Spanish Bay Inn. The food was delicious and we enjoyed some spectacular ocean and sunset views at a window table. The drive itself provides viewers with 21 different stopping points. Each point offers a different attraction, most of them bordering the coast. Our particular favorites were Point Joe, China Rock, and the Lone Cypress. The drive is definitely worth the 2-3 hours it takes to finish it!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Big Sur Road Trip-Day 2 Continued: Pigeon Point Lighthouse

After a fabulous day in San Francisco we traveled an hour south to the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Hostel, and got there just in time to watch a brilliant sunet.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Hostel: This was definitely a new experience for us! We booked our 1 night stay through Hostelling International- We stayed in a dorm room, in a little house next to the lighthouse, with 4 cyclists from the University of New Mexico who were braving the trek of cycling around 150 miles down the coast. We had a great time getting to know them and hearing about their adventures. When we woke up in the morning the weather was perfect, and provided a multitude of photo opportunities. The stay here was a great experience. The people were nice, the facilities were clean, and there was free wifi!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Big Sur Road Trip- Day 2: San Francisco Continued

On our second day in San Francisco we woke up to some bright and shiny weather, and were ecstatic to get outside and play!

Golden Gate Bridge: The most obvious tourist attraction in San Francisco was where we decided to begin our adventure. Despite the fact that we attempted to traverse the bridge at 10:30 in the morning, there was an unsatisfying amount of traffic. Instead of going over the bridge with the traffic, we decided to take a close exit and find some good photo opportunities. We took the McArthur exit (I believe that's what it was called! It was right before you would go through the entrance booths to cross the bridge ) and stopped at the first pull-off. There were some decent views of the bridge and Alcatraz, but we found much better views when we drove a little further to the second pull-off. This pull-off has a parking lot (no charge!) and looks deceptively unattractive as the viewing area is covered in wood chips. However, past the woods chips is a path down to the water with wonderful views of the bridge as well as access to the only civil war fort on the west coast. Go here for good pics!

Chinatown: Chinatown was awesome! It was full of bright colors, fascinating shops, and exotic eateries. Grant is the street you definitely want to hit up when visiting here. It is the most crowded for a reason. It has a kite shop, bakery, quite a few restaurants, uncountable knick-knack stores, and a wonderful little tea shop, which provides great gifts for mom. Tucked away, Ross Ally has a small fortune cookie factory where you can watch them make the cookies at record speed and purchase some of their delicious creations. Sacramento Street holds Clarion Music Center at which John and I had a blast testing out our musical skills on the foreign instruments housed there. If you are wondering where to park, I would recommend the Golden Gate Garage. On the weekend it is only $7 for the whole day and has a shuttle which can drop you off close to Chinatown. It is definitely another world you will have a fun time exploring!

The Crooked Street: The quickest attraction of our trip. It is exactly what it sounds like. Traversing down the side of a hill, it curves back and forth in a zig-zag fashion. While a little bit of a scary and steep drive, it provides some spectacular views.

Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39: If you want to find some entertaining street performers, this is it! From steel drum bands, skeleton men, and silver and gold egg-crate dancers they pretty much have it all. We parked at Anchorage Mall and were able to get validated by purchasing candy from the Candy Barrel. Of course there are other options of validation. If you are a seafood lover, Fisherman's wharf will be your haven. Plenty of seafood restaurants, crab stands boiling crabs right on the street, and of course the Sourdough Bread Company with their famous bread and clam chowder. Pier 39 was like walking down Disneyland's Main Street. Lots of music, shops, entertainment, and dessert stalls. If you walk to the end you will find some great ocean views and, most likely, a mass of seals sunbathing on the docks.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Big Sur Road Trip- Day 1: San Francisco

The majority of our first day was consumed by the 12 hour drive from Phoenix to San Francisco, but we were able to squeeze in one exciting attraction after we settled in our cozy room and the rain outside finally gave up.

Ghirardelli Square: While we visited at nighttime, this cute and classy shopping center still provided some great sights and good eats. There were quite a few upscale restaurants, particularly of the seafood variety, with views of the harbor which created a small crowd in the square despite the chilliness and wind. The square also contained art galleries, more dessert shops than your heart could ever desire, and twisty outdoor hallways leading to beautiful views of the harbor. But, of course, the main attraction was the Ghirardelli Dessert Shop which can be found right as you enter. Besides a quick stop at Lori's Diner for a bite to eat (nothing too exciting, but affordable), we spent most of our time at this mecca of chocolately desserts. I ordered a hot chocolate- which was incredibly rich, creamy, and delicious- as well as a chocolate covered strawberry-equally wonderful. John went all out and ordered a hot fudge sundae with whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry on top, held in place by a chocolate covered waffle-cone. As you can imagine, he was full after the first 5 bites, granted John's bites are quite large since he is always attemting to utilize the effeciency of his mouth. Since I cannot eat dairy we were left with a half-eaten sundae. My recommendation if you visit here is to try the hot cocoa, and if you get a sundae, split it with someone! I have also heard the shakes are quite tasty. Either way it was a delicious start to our trip!

Lodging: Marina Inn.

Pros: Great location, right on Lombard Street and within walking distance of several of the city's attractions. Also very affordable. We booked through priceline and only paid $54 for the night. It was a really cute old stlye building in a safe neighborhood.

Cons: The bed seemed to be 100 years old, and I am pretty sure I could have counted the springs individually if I had tried, as you could feel them all. The door had a huge gap bettwen it and the floor allowing for easy passage of hallway noise into the room. We got resourceful and stuffed the hotel pillows in the crack and used our own on the bed. Parking can also present a problem, as they do not have a formal parking lot; however, we discovered almost nothing in San Fran does!

Overall, I would recommend Marina Inn if you are looking for cheap lodging in an expensive city!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Big Sur Road Trip- San Francisco to Morro Bay

John and I just returned from a road trip that revealed some of the most spectacular natural treasures on our country's western coast. Maintaining a thorough level of entertainment received from audio books, MASH, and celebrity name games, we took the 12 hour drive from Phoenix to San Francisco. We made our way down the central coast of Califonia, soaking in its nenver-ending beauty. We traveled through Monterey, Carmel, countless state parks and hiking trails, and began wrapping up our trip in Morro Bay. Our trip ended in a quick cut across California to LA for the SIFE compeition where we took regionals, sending us through to nationals in Minnesota! It was an extraordinary journey, and I am looking forward to sharing it with you. For those of you looking for a new adventure I highly recommend this trip, and hopefully, I will be able manifest some of the exciting pit-stops, attractions, and natural wonders along the way. I will post about each of our stop's over the next few days. Tomorrow's post: Our first taste of San Francisco!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Garmin

From the last post, it may seem like I was bragging a little about my family…well I might just have to do a little more of it. Sorry, I can’t help that my family is so cool! Before leaving, my dad presented us with our very own GARMIN, our trip’s life saver! I honestly do not know how we would have survived San Francisco, or any of our “unplanned detours” without this contraption. It gives play-by-play directions with endless map views. You can type in addresses, points of interest, and you can even generate directions to the nearest gas station, hospital, restaurant, etc. I am thoroughly impressed and highly recommend this GPS! Thank you mom and dad!!! Road trip details will be posted as soon as our thusly-fabulous trip is over!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Sooo AAA is incredible...and so are my in-laws! They told John and I that if you are a AAA member, and you email the company your "points of interest" for a road trip, they will send you maps and directions. I have to admit my expectations were not the highest, but when we got the package in the mail I was quite astounded! The box was full of all sorts of maps, highlighted and detailed directions, and travel guides with dining and lodging suggestions. If you are going on a road trip and are a AAA member or know someone who is, DO THIS!!! Thanks Mom&Dad D for hooking us up!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Dang, I Forget My..." Packing List

Those easily forgettable items that you often overlook when packing can end up causing some sort of mini-crisis on your road trip. In order to avoid these slight catostrohpeses I have come up with a list of things people often forget, and by people, I mean me. But maybe you can relate. If you think of other essentials not on the list please feel free to comment!

Cell phone charger
Extra set of car keys just in case!
Confirmation Print-outs
Any activity coupons or discounts
iPod and Charger
Camera, and Film if needed
Digital Camera Charger
Alarm Clock
Sewing Kit and Safety Pins
Toiletries (hair, makeup, shower, tooth brush and tooth paste, etc)
Razor (both men and women)
Ear plugs
First Aid Kit (Band-Aids, Advil, Neospoirn, Immodium, etc)
Hand Sanitizer/ Antibacterial Wipes
Bug Spray
Aloe Vera (if you forget the sunscreen...)
Beach Towels
Swiss Army Knife
Paper and Pen
Camping gear if applicable (tent, grill, chairs etc)
Plastic Eating Utensils, Plates, and Cups
Hiking/Tennis Shoes
Backpack for hiking/ day trips
Lots of socks
Bag for dirty clothes (we just use a trash bag)
Flip Flops (for shower use if camping)
Cooler with Ice Packs
and of course, food for the road and some ziplocks for storage!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Preparation- Girl Scout Style

In my last post about preparation, I scratched the surface of this all-important girl scout principle. Well, girl scouts are not just prepared for what they know is coming, but are prepared for the unexpected. Thus, this post focuses on some prep steps we have begun to take that aren't as obvious but just as important.

WEATHER: Ok, so you can't control the weather. You might think the only way to prepare is by praying that your days spent out of town will be sunny, warm and dry; however, there are some steps you can take to make sure you are prepared for the weather that lies ahead. is easy to navigate. Simply type in your destination and look at the month forecast. Ok, so it only gives you about 2 weeks in advance, but the great thing is, it also gives you averages from previous years. These are typically good indicators of what the temperature and precipitation will be like. Since our road-trip will occur in a slightly wet month for California, we are preparing for rain with ponchos (can be bought for around $0.99 at target) and umbrellas. The key to being prepared for varying temps is layers layers layers! Bring clothes you can layer in the morning or on colder days and take off when the weather is sunny!

FOOD: Eating out 2-3 meals a day for an entire week can get pretty expensive. John and I came to this realization on our honeymoon in Tahiti and soon hit up the local grocery store for some bread and peanut butter to satisfy our lunch cravings. Even fast food can soon eat away at your vacation budget, so here are a few tips to avoid this. Plan on eating out only 1 meal a day (we usually pick dinner). Pick a couple days, based on where you will be, to splurge on a nice meal out and keep the rest to casual dining institutes. If you plan this out you are much more likely to stick to your budget! For breakfast, take advantage of your hotel's continental breakfast. Almost every hotel provides some sort of breakfast, even the sketchy ones usually me I know. Most breakfasts end fairly early, so if you don't like getting up or eating that early, wake up and grab something that will keep for a few hours then go back to sleep. If you are prone to motion sickness or have a sensitive stomach while traveling BANANAS will be your life savers. Take a bunch with you, they will last for at least the first 4 days of you trip if you buy them green. For lunch bring food like a loaf of bread, peanut butter, beef jerky, and fruits and veggies with peels. Viola! Lunch for super cheap, you can eat it on the road, and it will all keep well (I recommend buying a collapsable cooler). Don't forget, other cities have grocery stores too, so stock up when you see one!

DRIVING: Let me keep this one short and sweet. Print out directions from EVERY place you are going to the destination you would like to arrive at. INCLUDE DIRECTIONS TO PARKING GARAGES IF YOU ARE VISITING A BUSY CITY LIKE SAN FRANCISCO. This will save you a lot of stress. You do not want to arrive at your destination only to discover there is no visible place to park nearby. Plus, we have found that if you research ahead of time, you can figure out which nearby garage is the cheapest! If you do not have a GPS, try to borrow one (thanks dad!) A GPS will be really helpful, especially if mapquest gives you bad directions, which is sadly all too possible. If you know someone familiar with the area, verify directions with them.