About Me

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I'm a 30 something who loves to travel.  I have a full time job and enjoy writing (or blogging) about my travels.  I've traveled through several countries in Europe as well as Russia and Egypt.  I also enjoy domestic travel in the United States, including Disney.  My long term travel goal is to do a round the world trip.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another Week Off

I'm taking off again this week.  Mom broke her leg and it's got the whole family very busy.

I hope you're all well and I'll be back next week.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Women on the Road - Book Review

I've gotten a little bit behind on some of my reading and after a few months of distraction I finally sat down to review the book Woman on the Road

The book is a guide for female baby-boomers looking to travel the world, with an emphasis on solo.  While I'm a few years younger then a baby-boomer, I still enjoyed this book and thought it would be a great value for travelers of all ages.  

While the book does lean towards supporting longer term traveler, the information in it is easily applicable to one or two week vacations too. 

They cover all the topics you'll face and in great detail in just 200 pages:
Saving money for your trip, choosing accomidations, travel options, packing, choosing destinations (including what time of year you'll be traveling), dealing with hagglers and beggars, volunteering, reaclimating to home and everything in between. 

What's even better they not only cover all of these topics in depth, they offer a wide range of considerations.  You're budget is tight, then couchsurfing might be better.  Heck, even if you have a bigger budget you might want to go to more expensive destinations and still couchsurf. 

Perhaps you want to integrate some cultural experiences into your trip, try a cooking class or language class.

At the end they conclude with checklists (based on time before trip starts), itineraries of varying lengths and what I think is the coolest element that you don't usually see in books like this.  Brief interviews with woman who actually did this.  How they traveled, what issues they had, budget, and safety.  I think this final section sets this book apart from others by adding a human element that makes a trip seem more tangable. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center

Right outside of Yellowstone on the Montana side is the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. This center is a non-profit that rescues grizzly bears and wolves and also provides education to visitors.

We started our day with a tour of the facility and animals, the tour was great and our guide extremely knowledgable. Our first stop was a grizzly habitat that housed Kobuk and Nakina. They are brother and sister, their mother and other brother were killed in Alaska. That was our lucky day, our guide said they were usually pretty docile in the mornings, but today they played.  It was a little scary looking too (see the pictures).  Although these two were playing, the behavior was similar to bears in heat. 

After the bears we moved on to the Wolf area.  There were only a few wolves out that morning, but they were beautiful.  We learned about the alpha male and the hierarchy of wolves, very interesting.  It also reminded me of Twilight. 

There were also a few birds on property, including a Bald Eagle who had been poisoned.  His brain was screwed up from that and he was always looking in funny directions and was obviously screwed up, it was sad.  But it was also nice to know that there was a safe place for him to go. 

After our tour of the animals we were invited to go inside the museum, they just displayed a few things to learn a bit more.  This section is probably more appropriate for someone who is not on a tour, but it was nice to take a walk around. 

Outside there is a display of bear safe containers.  When containers want to be certified for bear safety, this is where they come for testing.  Kobuk it seems is very good at getting into containers, so they give him the containers and if he can't get into them in a prescribed period of time (don't remember what the time is) then they are certified as bear safe.

After that we all went into the shop.  The shop had a good selection, but my favorite thing was that there was a giant bear chair, and that was just fun.

If you're in the area of West Yellowstone I think it's absolutely worth it to stop here, if for no other reason then it is your best chance to see bears and wolves in yellowstone.  But it's also nice to learn a bit about these animals and why you should not get too close to them in the park.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Do You Need More Pockets?

Several years ago I heard about a new travel product, the Scottevest, a jacket or vest with lots of pockets, ideal for travelers.  At the time the products seemed a bit pricey, but I eventually broke down and bought a jacket with detachable sleeves. 

While the idea was great, the jacket didn't quite work for me.  First, I was going to a warmish climate so a jacket wasn't ideal.  Second, I'm not really one to wear a jacket on a plane.  Finally, I tried to stuff as much as possible into my pockets making it feel bulky.  I blame the idea of the scottevest no luggage challenge

Bottom line, it didn't quite work for me.  It wasn't the fault of the jacket, just a poor choice for me.  But in my own defense, their offerings for woman back then were a little slim. 

As time went on I kept looking at the woman's line and noticed that it had improved greatly.  This winter I decided to bite the bullet and buy one of the woman's fleeces, I chose the Chloe Hoodie.  I LOVE it!
Chloe Bling Hoodie
*It's soft, fuzzy, and womanly.  It's definitely designed for woman. 
*I love the personal area network, I couldn't believe how easy it was to put my headphones through the hoodie.  Usually, it's a pain in the butt.  And it has loops that keep the headphones in place. 
*Pen pockets, how many times have you been on a plane and needed a pen?  Now I don't have to search through my bag, yea!
*Lots of pockets, but not overwhelming.  I can store my iPhone, money, blistex, sunglasses, and even a kindle.  I could probably get more then that in there too, but then I would feel loaded down.  But really, that's enough to keep me busy. 
*Thumb holes.  I haven't used these yet, but since I'm always cold, I can see them in my future.
*Everyone compliments me on it too! 

Chloe Bling Hoodie Pocket Map
Scottevest jackets, fleece, vests, and pants aren't cheap, but they're a good quality equal to their price. If the price scares you off, look around, Scottevest often offers 20% discounts on their merchandise.  Will I buy more?  I've been eyeing the pants for my next long trip; but, I would prefer to wait until they offer petite sizes.  They have said on their website they are looking into it.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pop Century Resort

 Back in December I stayed at Pop Century Resort.  Before the Art of Animation this was the most popular Value Resort at Walt Disney World.  I should give my frame of reference before I checked into Pop.  I had stayed at All Star Sports several years ago and since then stayed at a Boardwalk 1 bedroom Villa, Port Orleans French Quarter, Polynesian, Art of Animation family suite and the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I had gotten a bit spoiled.  I was also with my sister who had only stayed at the Polynesian, which didn't help with my frame of mind.  I had booked this room when I was planning on going by myself and when my sister decided to come I did offer to upgrade to a better resort, she said this was fine.

When we arrived at the hotel my sister was shocked to see that the resort was "motel" style.  I was like duh, but then realized that having only stayed at the Poly and only really seeing other Deluxe Resorts this probably wasn't obvious.  It of course meant she hadn't listened to me talking about other resorts with much attention.

Anyway, I'm not sure she's gotten over the shock of the "motel" style, but I think the lobby impressed her more then she was expecting.  Although we were able to check in, we were not able to get into our room.  This was the first time this has happened to me and although it's a bit of a pain, I thought Disney did a good job of notifying us when our room was ready and the room number so we wouldn't have to go back to the check in desk.

When we returned to the resort it was dark and my sister was still not feeling the motel style with the big giant windows that everyone walks by.  While I guess they're good for light, they are a little weird too since I can't imagine leaving the blinds open.

When we walked into the room I think we were both surprised by how small it was, the space was well laid out, but the room was small. 

Aside from the small aspect the room was highly functional.  There were 2 full sized beds, a flat screen TV, coffee maker, table with 2 chairs, 1 sink that was separate from the shower/toilet.  In the sink area there was also a bar for hanging clothes, a safe and a shelf for storage.  There was also a dresser with 3 drawers so there was plenty of storage for 2 people.  I have to say the room might have been small but I"m pretty sure the shower/toilet area was bigger then the one at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which I thought was interesting.  But don't get excited, I only noticed because I had been at AKL 2 weeks earlier and was taking note of such things.

One complaint I've had about several Disney resorts and I had here too is poor lighting, why is it so hard to make a well lit hotel room?  As for the room themeing, I thought it was weak.  I expected something in the theme of the years I was in (50's) instead it seemed there was one generic Disney design with Mickeys' on it.  I wonder if this is an area where they might improve the resort during the next refurbishment.

We didn't spend too much time in the common areas of the resort.  Actually, I had planned to take a walk around the resort, but when I got sick half way through the trip I was lucky I got out of bed, I certainly wasn't going to walk around the resort.  And after being at Art of Animation I understood the layout of the resort anyway.  The main pool area was large with lots of seating and a bar like area.  We didn't get to go to the pool, we were way too busy on this trip, but it seemed pretty typical of a Value Resort.

The food court was great though.  It was pretty typical for a value resort, but I could tell that before the Art of Animation, this was probably the best food court on property.  We mostly ate breakfast here, which offered pretty much anything you might want in some way - waffles, pancakes, breakfast burritos, or eggs.  Nothing exotic, but all the basics.  For lunch and dinner they had the usual stuff: burgers, salads, pasta, pizza and some special items.  There is also an ice cream station.  I didn't try the Twinkies Tiramisu or the tie-dye cheesecake, I'll leave that up to you!

Overall I liked the resort, there were no giraffes or views of the Magic Kingdom, but it certainly offers all the necessities at a low price.  When I stayed at All Star Sports for a week I felt like it was too long in such a small room, on this trip I was only there for 5 nights and was barely in the room so it was fine.  But if you're a larger family or staying on a long trip you should keep in mind that the rooms are small and it could get a little tense after a few days.

Has anyone else stayed at Pop Century, what did you think?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Yellowstone - Old Faithful and Norris Geyser

For my last edition of Yellowstone posts it's all about Geysers, specifically Norris Geyser Basin and Old Faithful.  I'll start with Norris Geyser since I know after you read about Old Faithful you'll probably want to move on and we can't have that.

At Norris Geyser there are several different geyser areas.  Steamboat Geyser is probably the most popular because it is the tallest geyser.  But, I went to the Porcelin Basin, which was very pretty and had some steam pockets, but nothing went off.  I didn't feel so bad though because nothing went off at Steamboat Geyser either.  This are though represents a more baren type of geyser area, some others are more woodsey.  But it's the type of place you could hang out at all day and nothing happens, which would make me sad.

Old Faithful is not the most regular or the largest geyser, but it is the most regular large geyser.  At Old Faithful there are two large lodges, one with food and shops, the other as more of a visitors center.  Old Faithful goes off every 35 to 120 minutes, when I was there it was on a 45ish minutes cycle.  She went off for about 2-3 minutes when we were there, long enough for me to watch a bit and take over 150 pictures.  When you enter Yellowstone the guards should be able to tell you when she's scheculed to go off, you could probably also find out from just about any ranger at the park too. 

The area is sectioned off and has a large seating area of benches.  People will be seated at least 15-20 mintues before, if it's a crowded day you'll probably want to find seating early.  The restaurant there will be busy after she goes off, you may want to plan your time around that if you don't like crowds.  Is Old Faithful worth it?  Of course, it's pretty cool watching a geyser go off and the wind blow the water off in one direction.  It's a cool aspect of nature.  And since Old Faithful is pretty regular, it's a great choice to guarantee you see a geyser go off.