24 hours in Yellowstone National Park

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The First National Park to be established, Yellowstone National Park is one of the most visited and therefore crowded.  I visited the park in early May, thinking I would be able to avoid some of the crowds and have a bit of the park to myself, I was wrong. Bus loads, upon busloads of foreign tourists, descend on the park. It seemed as if every pull off I tried to visit was mobbed. However, despite all of the tourists, you are able to see all of the grandeur that makes Yellowstone such a beloved must see.

Yellowstone was established in 1872 by Ulysses S. Grant, however, it wasn’t until 1916 when the National Park Service was created that Yellowstone became the first park under their stewardship and became the Yellowstone we know today.

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I entered the park through Gardiner, WY. This town sits at the Northernmost entrance. With elk grazing in people yards, you get a small taste of what you’ll see inside the park. My first stop was Mammoth Village, to get a little history of the place and a game plan for the day. Here you can explore Historic Fort Yellowstone, which housed part of the US Calvary from 1886 to 1918. You can take either take a ranger guided or a self-guided tour, by using a pamphlet you can find at the Albright Visitor’s Center, once an Officer’s Quarter built-in 1909.

The visitor’s center is a great first stop because you have the opportunity to talk with Rangers, pick up some bear spray, learn how to use it, and view a display of the various types of wildlife to look out for during your visit. If you plan on doing any hiking the bear spray is highly recommended. When I was there a lot of cubs were seen, since I was alone, I decided to forego the hikes. Here I learned about Forever Yellowstone, a fund-raising program used by the National Park Service to help keep Yellowstone alive. For a minimal donation of $25, you have donated to a charitable cause and you will be rewarded with 10% off all of your purchases for the year at any National Park or Historic Site. If you have a family that likes souvenirs, it adds up. Mammoth village has a couple of places to stay as well as a café and a gas station. From Mammoth village, you can see the next stop on your journey, the Mammoth Hot Springs.

These terraced hot springs are quite captivating. I spent a good couple of hours walking on their constructed paths and observing the flow of the hot springs. The variance in color and depth are beautiful. My favorite was the Dryad Springs on the Main Terrace. You can only get to it via the Upper Terrace Drive. If you park at the first pull off you have to walk along the boardwalk down to Dryad Springs. It’s a brilliant turquoise blue, that bubbles and steams. Well worth the walk. Along the walks, there are many other pools with to view.

You will constantly see signs while in the park to stay on the paths. Reason being that if you step off the paths the ground may be unstable and because of the instability of the environment, you could be adversely affected if you were to touch one of the pools. One thing to note, many of the pools, hot springs, smell strongly of sulfur. Some walkways will bring you quite close to certain pools and you may get barraged with sulfurous clouds. Apart from that, the scenery is beautiful.

I chose to drive south to Norris Junction. Here you can see the Norris Geyser Basin, which is home to over 50 geysers, mud pots, and hot springs. Also on this drive, there are plenty of opportunities to hike and view wildlife. It was where I saw my first Bison, walking on the road like it belonged to him. They are such huge animals. All I kept thinking while I was passing in my Mini Cooper was, “Don’t get spooked, please don’t get spooked and run me off the road.” He didn’t and I got a decent picture.

At Norris Junction, you have the opportunity to head south toward Madison Junction, which will lead you to Old Faithful or Canyon Junction and the eastern part of the park. I headed south toward Old Faithful.

On the way to Old Faithful, I stopped at the Fountain Paint Pots. I wasn’t the only one with this idea, however, it was a great place to stop because in one loop you can see mud pots of all different types, hot springs, geysers which are spout almost continuously. They may not spout as high as Old Faithful but you can also get a bit closer than they allow you to on any other geyser. Thermal areas are everywhere, you are almost always guaranteed a show, wherever you choose to pull off and great photo ops.

Just before Old Faithful Village is the Grand Prismatic Spring on the Midway Geyser Basin. It’s one of the most photographed hot springs and one of the largest. It’s a rainbow of colors and my photos were not able to do it justice, nor was I able to get all of its grandeur from where I stood.IMG_6187

My final stop on this trip to Yellowstone was Old Faithful Village. At that point, I was starving and getting a bit hangry at all the busses, so I knew I needed to eat. Fortunately, there are several dining options in Old Faithful Village. Unfortunately for me the place I really wanted to eat was in the Old Faithful Inn and the Inn wouldn’t be open for another week, however seeing the architecture from the outside and how it not only sticks out but blends into its surroundings was enough for me. The Inn itself is situated so that guests could view Old Faithful from its veranda. Completed in 1904 the Inn was built to accommodate the large number of visitors who had come to view the Upper Geyser Basin. It is now a National Historic Landmark.

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By the time I finished my meal, I had also just missed Old Faithful’s eruption. I was tempted to wait the next hour to an hour and a half for the next viewing but it was close to 7 pm and I still had to drive down to Jackson Hole, WY, where I was staying for the night.

Unfortunately, because of the time I was visiting some of the roads were still closed due to winter conditions, I know can you believe it in May?! I had to exit the park near Madison Junction, making for a 4-hour trip to Jackson Hole, which would normally take 2 hours.

A couple of things to keep in mind when visiting a National Park. Always check the Park website for updates on road closures and events. While in Yellowstone I knew that there were certain roads I couldn’t take and therefore certain attractions I wouldn’t be able to see because of winter conditions. This helped me to plan my trip and manage my expectations as well. Another tip is to always stop into the Ranger station or the Visitor’s center upon arrival. Here you can not only get maps but you can ask the Rangers for insider tips. They are the ones who are working at these parks year-round, they have knowledge that isn’t covered in guide books. Utilize it. Believe me, they love sharing their information. If you’re staying at one of the campgrounds in a National Park, make sure to check in with the Ranger on duty in that area. A lot of times I’m camping by myself and they will make sure to check in on me and I’ve even been invited to their cookouts, which makes traveling a more enriching experience. Until next time.

Smart Travel: Questions to ask before booking a low-cost air carrier fare.

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When looking for great deals to travel over a weekend or an extended weekend, we have to take the time to look at whether or not it’s going to be beneficial for us to use certain air carrier. There are some things to look out for when booking on a low-cost air carrier.

Are there connections?

This is the first thing to look for. If there are connections then you have to determine if the amount of extra time does not cut into your weekend too much. Many low-cost carriers are able to provide such low fares because they make multiple stops along the way.

Do I have to pay for my luggage?

Ok, here is a tricky one. Many low-cost carriers will charge you for your checked luggage and your carry-ons, not your personal item. So, make sure to determine if you need more luggage or not. If you can get away with a slightly larger backpack, only, for the weekend then you won’t have any extra fees. Otherwise, expect to pay $30-40 extra, each way. Spirit Airlines charges $37 extra for a carry-on, each way.

Are meals/snacks included or do I have to pay extra?

Maybe you’re off to Mexico or England for a long weekend? Anytime your flight is over 3 hours you’re probably going to need a snack. Many low-cost carriers offer food and beverage service for an extra fee. You may be able to pay for this up front, an option Norwegian Air provides, or on the plane. Or you can just bring your own, either way, it’s good to know if you have to pay for water. Additional fees for food and drink will run you anywhere from $3-15.

Do I care where I sit?

I don’t know about you but I will pay extra to sit where I want, however you may not care. Either way, it will be an added extra on any low-cost flights. You will pay anywhere from $15-100 extra depending on where you want to sit. Ryanair will charge you $6 to pick your seat. May not seem like much but when you’re on a smaller aircraft it’s beneficial to be able to pick your seat, especially since their seats tend to be smaller.

Once you go through all the add-ons you might be better off going with a regular carrier who includes a lot of these extras. Make sure to do your research and compare.

How do I get the best deal?

Whenever I look at a “fantastic” deal on airfare I start a mock checkout. I select the deal in question and begin the process of purchasing the ticket. You can go through the checkout all the way up until inputting your payment. It will give you the actual price for the ticket you are looking to purchase.

Once you have that number go onto Skyscanner or Google flights and put in the same flight parameters, ie. destination, dates, etc. and see what prices they have for similar flights. If the low-cost carrier deal is still the best, purchase it! If not, go with the regular flight.

By doing a little bit of legwork you can save yourself some cash, which will be better spent on your mini-break. Until next time.

Top 5 Travel Items to take with you.

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Everyone has them, yes I do travel with a minion, but there’s a story that goes with him, I promise! Those few items that make or break your transit. As the years have gone on I’ve learned to live with less. No matter what theses 5 tried and tested items I do not travel without.

Headphones. I use Yurbuds Inspire 300 Fitness. I really like how they comfortably sit in my ear and are very compact. They come with a nice small zippered sack so you can store other electrical cords with it. Very convenient. Also, they are great for working out or running. When I travel I don’t want to bring 10 different types of headphones, these work perfectly and they’re discreet.

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External Battery Power Bank. I cannot tell you how many times this Polanfo 12000mAh Portable Power Bank has saved me while traveling. Like many of us, today we use our phone for navigation or to pull up reservations. I don’t know about you guys but some days my phone feels like it only lasts half a day, others only hours! Having a backup power source has saved me from more than one headache.

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Backup Camera Batteries! This seems like a no-brainer, right? You would be amazed how many times I’ve thought, “no worries I’ve got enough battery.” In reality, it hasn’t been the case. Now I make sure that I carry at least two additional camera batteries with me, especially if I know I’m going to be out all day. I like to have them on hand in case something goes wrong with my battery.

Can I share a quick story here? I was in Yellowstone at one of the prismatic pools, snapping away and so excited to get some great shots. I get to one of the larger pools and set my camera. Wouldn’t you know it, my battery just dies, no warning. That’s not the best part. The best part is that my backup battery is in my car, because when I got out my camera said there was at least a half a battery left. It was wrong. I ended up missing the shot and kicking myself for the blunder so now I always have backups.

Travel Pillow. Ok, I understand this may be a bit frivolous, but if you’re anything like me, only a particular pillow will do when it comes to sleep. There are few things that will impede my sleep like a pillow that is too high or too firm. The Cocoon Hyperlight AirCore Pillow is perfect for traveling. It is inflatable so you can set it at any firmness you need. It also compresses down to a palm-sized cylinder that weighs next to nothing for travel. The pillow case is made of a silky, machine washable material that is so heavenly against your skin. You can use this pillow as lumbar support too!

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Smartphone. Of course, it’s on the list. Today there are so many apps that aid in travel, how can you afford not to travel with one? All you need is a WI-FI connection and your smartphone will work in any country, and you will not be charged any additional fees unless you make a phone call or send a text. However, you can receive calls and texts and will not be charged for those. I used my iPhone 6s, US-based phone in Norway, Denmark, and the UK with no additional fees!

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So there are my top 5 items that make travel a dream for me. What are some of your must-haves? Let me know in the comments. Until next time.

 

 

The 48 to 72-hour trip. How to make the most of your travels.

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I’ve been thinking about weekend getaways. For me, they tend to happen during the week but it’s a 3-4 day trip either way. So much can be done in that span of time. Think about it. You can fly to another country, you can attend a retreat or you can help build a house! So much can be done. So that got me to thinking about the “3-day weekend”. I say three because we all utilize either the day before or the day of our return, Friday or Monday respectively. So that leads us to see what we can do in a 48 to 72-hour trip.

How do we fit in as much as possible without feeling like we didn’t really see anything or have any time to relax? It’s a balance and one that takes a while to get the hang of. I’m going to give you the template I use whenever I travel somewhere and I’m restricted to the window mentioned above. Now when I say template, I’m using it in the loosest terms. It’s just the pattern I’ve noticed that I have adapted over my many travels. This works for extended trips as well.

Part 1: Planning the Logistics.

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To start begin with the planning. Look at the allotted amount of time you have. Think about where you can go that is far enough that it feels like a getaway but close enough that you aren’t spending a lot of time on traveling to and from the destination, either by car, plane or train.

Next, you want to pick a place that it fairly self-contained. Is the destination city walkable? Is there reliable public transportation? Do they have Uber or Lift?  If you’re driving there, is there somewhere to park? Do you have to pay for parking? If you’re flying or taking the train, is there transportation that will get you to where you’re staying?

Part 2: Figure out where you’re staying.

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Now you may not be staying in Regent’s Park in London but where you are staying will, in part, determine how your weekend goes. Where are you booking your accommodations? Are you staying in an Airbnb? Is it close to everything you want to do? Choosing to stay in a hotel or a Resort? If it’s a Resort, is it all-inclusive or not? Now that the two biggest items are figured out your weekend can begin to take shape.

Part 3: The Flow.

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Whenever you go on vacation either for a quick getaway or longer the tempo of your trip is what I consider the flow. Finding the right flow is what it essential to creating the balance of activity versus relaxation. Here’s how my flow goes.

Day One – 72 hours to go…

Typically, I would consider the first day or the partial travel day as Day One. If that day means that if I spent the morning getting to my destination then I will have a leisurely lunch, where I will ask the locals where to go and what they suggest I do. I’ll take a little longer over this meal to create a game plan for the rest of the day. While I’m planning I’ll make sure that I do an activity that first day that includes a tour or wandering in order to get an idea of the area. That activity will take around 3-4 hours at which time I’ll return to where I’m staying to freshen up and change if I need to then I’ll have a nice leisurely dinner.

Meals are important. You want to try to avoid having a bad meal, especially while traveling. So I always look for recommendations from locals and friends, except that I will make sure to give some direction. Almost always I ask a local, “Where is your favorite place to eat?” or “I’m looking for Italian (or whatever you’re in the mood for)”.  After dinner, I may have a drink at a bar suggested by the server, but typically I will save that for day two and use the first night to retire early and plan for the next day.

Day 2: 48 Hours to go…

In the morning I will always either go for a run or do yoga in the room before heading out for the day. After an early morning exercise session, I will have a quick breakfast and head out. At this point, I will have scheduled some kind of activity for the morning either go to a museum or if I’m at a beach, head there and do paddleboarding or some other fun adventure.

Day two will always be a light lunch, something that I can take away with me and enjoy either at a garden or park, weather permitting. If the weather isn’t great I’ll still grab something portable I can eat in transit. Typically unless it’s a hurricane outside I’ll just wear the appropriate gear and brave whatever comes. The afternoon will usually involve another activity but a little less intense than the morning.

I always try to end my touring around 5-6pm if I can. It helps you to unwind from the day and gear up for the next. So at this point, I’ll eat a good meal and either check out a cool bar or head to bed/plan for the next day.

Day 3: 12 Hours to go…at least you hope you have a full 12 hours.

At this point, you have an idea of how the flow will go. I’ll get up in the morning, exercise, breakfast and head out for an activity…if I was staying another day. However, on a half travel day, I would still keep my morning the same, except I would make sure to either hang out at the pool, beach or park for my activity. I do something low-key and even a bit relaxing so that I’ll be rested for the journey home.

It isn’t rocket science, it’s just planning. You may have a different way of wanting to do things but if you follow my plan you will have some great weekends where you will come home feeling relaxed and excited about the adventures you had. Until next time.

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One of the biggest mistakes travelers make and how to fix it.

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Now imagine that you’ve booked your trip. You have your activities booked and you’re so excited about this amazing vacation that you’ve planned. However, you forgot to think about how you’re going to get to that zip line adventure 20 minutes from where you’re staying. What happens? Well, more than likely you’ll be scrambling to find transportation and may end up overpaying. Additional costs and stress can turn a fun vacation into a nightmare.

So where do you start? The internet. What do you do? Research! The first thing you should do is look up where you are staying and see what is available to do and if the place you’re staying can either recommend or provides some form of transportation. Are the activities you’re doing within walking or biking distance? Is public transportation available?

If there is anything I can urge you all to look up first is transportation! How do you get from point “A” to point “B”? It’s also the thing that most people forget to consider. They think if the flight is taken care of then they’re set and they tend to forget about how they’re going to get around their destination. It may seem like an extra step but once this is sorted the whole trip will fall into place because it will show you what else is possible.

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I actually fell victim to this very thing a couple of months ago when I was in Copenhagen. Even being a seasoned traveler, sometimes we forget to do the little things. I booked a flight to the nearest airport and then I just figured there would be some form of public transportation that could get me within walking distance to where I was staying. For a brief moment, I freaked. I had no idea where I was going, which way the train was running and even if it was the right address I was going to. I lucked out, amidst all of the Danish speakers I found an airport personnel who directed me to the correct train and the correct destination. I also lucked out because in watching my fellow travelers I noticed an American directing her friends to get a 24-hour travel card that allowed them unlimited travel during that time. If I hadn’t been vigilant I may have overpaid and been completely lost.

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I can give you another example. My best friend and I were in Austin, TX. We met there for a long weekend. I knew one of the places I wanted to hit was the Barton Springs Pool. I wasn’t sure how far it was from our hotel and downtown. We realized that it was not within walking distance but could be biked and there were bikes which were available for rent. However, it would cost more to rent a bike than it would to hire a car. Now if we had looked it up ahead of time we might have been able to find a more economical alternative.

On the other hand, say you want to take a trip to the Cotswolds. Beautiful country, no doubt, however, you will need a car to get around, but what if you didn’t? Checking the area’s transportation options will show you that there are buses and trains that go to the major towns in that area. You could also rent a bike and explore the area that way. There are alternatives if you’re willing to look for them and researching transportation options ahead of time will give you tremendous peace of mind.

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In Mexico, it is encouraged for travelers not to rent their own vehicles. They’re an easy mark for corrupt officials to take advantage of. I’ve heard too many stories of friends getting pulled over by officers and asked for payment in order to let them go. Although the highways look well maintained and signage is pretty clear you have to ask yourself if it’s worth time out of your vacation to risk getting stopped by the police. Instead many resorts and hotels provide transportation to many of the activities available off site.

Some of you may be like me. You travel by the seat of your pants and whim dictates what you do on any given day. That’s great but even then a little bit of research can make all the difference. Have an understanding of the infrastructure of where you’re visiting can help you to decide which activities are going to mesh well with your trip and which ones won’t.

Several trips to Italy have ended up with me trying to find alternate transportation because of national strikes, effectively shutting down public transportation within the whole country. After the first time this happened to me I now make sure to have contingency plans in place whenever I’m in Italy. I will make sure I know which car rental companies have the best deals and may even book a reservation knowing I can easily cancel it the day before. I will look to see if I can fly to another country or city. I will also allow myself a few additional days wherever I am if they are needed, to explore. Sometimes allowing a couple of additional days in your time and cost budget can also make the difference.

Travel is amazing but it is also challenging. Allow yourself to be at ease with whatever happens. You cannot make the trains move any more than you can control the weather. The one thing that you can control is your attitude and being prepared and knowing your options can help manage your expectations and turn what could’ve been a nightmare into an enjoyable stay. Until next time.

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5 Reasons to try Airbnb…and 5 reasons you shouldn’t

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In the past month, I have stayed in quite a few Airbnbs ranging from very good to WOW I cannot believe I stayed there! One thing is for sure if you decide to go Airbnb or not it is a great option for traveling today.

Airbnb is obviously not for everyone. The idea of staying at someone else’s house, someone you’ve never met before, takes a little getting used to. However, if you’re adventurous and like to make new friends but are perhaps over staying in Hostels then Airbnb might be for you. Here are some reasons to stay and some reasons to give it a miss.

  1. You have to potential to live like a local. I find this one of the best reasons to try out Airbnb. It’s a great way to stay in an area of a city you may have yet to explore. Perhaps it’s your 15th time visiting this one city and you want more of an authentic experience. You can rent a whole apartment or house, depending on your budget, and experience living there. It’s a great way to travel. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. It tends to be cheaper than staying in a hotel…and sometimes cheaper than a hostel. Again depending on what you select you can stay in an Airbnb for a fraction of what you would pay elsewhere. In North Vancouver, I stayed in an amazing Airbnb. I rented one of the rooms in this huge house and had full use of the kitchen, laundry facilities, and off-street parking for $28 a day! I couldn’t find a hostel cheaper than that!29A43B6A-0CAB-4F96-B2DC-F584A03B4719
  3. You can stay in some pretty amazing places. Traveling up the Oregon Coast there are some options for places to stay but few that are right on the beach and affordable. I stayed in this tiny town called Neskowin, that had a seasonal population and the nearest hotel was 20 minutes away in the next town. I stayed on the beach and had a fantastic view, along with a roaring fire that the host kept up. The only other opportunity I would’ve had to stay somewhere like that was if I knew someone with a house there. Airbnb gives you the opportunity.
  4. You get to meet some great people. Generally, the people who decide to allow strangers to stay in their homes are pretty interesting people and pretty open as well. The majority of the hosts that I’ve had are wonderful. They are helpful with directions or information that you might need. One place I stayed in Sioux Falls, SD provided a list of activities within walking distance and breakfast!
  5. You pay in advance. Some of you might not consider this a plus, but I think it’s fantastic. If you’re able to pay for as much of your trip as you can on the front end there is less expense while traveling, which provides me with some peace of mind.

With good, there is always things to consider here are the 5 reasons Airbnb might not be for you.

  1. You’re staying in someone else’s house! This is something that might weird some people out. And let’s be real the idea can be unnerving, especially because you’ve never met this person before.
  2. You’re someone who needs a concierge. Understandably, however, there will not be one in an Airbnb. You’ll be lucky if you are fortunate enough to have a host who puts together a comprehensive guide of what’s available around you. (Like the hosts in South Dakota).
  3. You’re very particular. If you’re a particular person then staying in an Airbnb will provide too many variables. You won’t know if there is great water pressure. You won’t know if you have a limited supply of hot water. You won’t know if you have to wash your dishes by hand or if you will have access to a dishwasher. Like I said too many variables.
  4. You want to be in the middle of all the action. You will be able to find Airbnbs in cities but usually, they tend to be in the residential areas of cities, where apartments and houses are built. For that, you may have to figure out public transportation.
  5. You don’t want to share the space and don’t want to pay a lot or you would’ve stayed in a hostel. Hate to break it to you but then your options are limited. However, there are options to rent whole places through Airbnb and if you’re traveling with a friend that cost is cut in half. If you’re by yourself and on a budget, you might have to suck it up and forgo some luxuries.

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No matter what you decide, you should at least give Airbnb a go. Just remember before booking to always read the reviews. Make sure you look through them and see if there are any negatives. It will help you to temper your expectations and select the place that is perfect for what you need. Until next time.

Consistently… Running

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about running. Why you may ask? I’ve been asking myself the same question. I used to love running… well let me digress. I started off with a slight disdain for running, then after running consistently, I began to tolerate it, which then turned to love.

Then I hurt my knee, actually I tore the meniscus. I had to have surgery. My doctor told me I wouldn’t be running marathons ever again. Now, this isn’t a story about how I overcame an obstacle, told my doctor to shove it and have been running marathons ever since. No, it’s about how I used an injury as an excuse and now I’m paying the price for it. A cautionary tale if you will.

When I was told I probably wouldn’t be running any more marathons I thought, great. I’ll just run my 3 mile days and be fine. Then I just found that I stopped running unless it was in a WOD and usually no further than 400 meters at a time. So when I would run, my knee would blow up and ache and that gave me all the more reason to stop running. I didn’t realize that it was scar tissue that I needed to break up and work through. Instead, I used it as an excuse and now I’m trying to get back into running. Why you might ask? Because when I travel I love using running in order to see the new city I’m traveling to or explore more of a city I know.

How will I do it? With anything, it’s about consistency. In order to progress, to see results, you have to be consistent, even when you don’t want to be. Even when your body is screaming at you and your knee wants to buckle. Even if you had a late night or have been trapped in a car for 8 hours and all you want to do is nothing.

Consistency is the key to progress in anything you do.

Think about it, many people who start working out, do it because they want to make a change. For many it’s because they want to lose weight, but how did they add all those pounds? By consistently making bad choices in eating and choosing not to exercise. How did I get so bad at running? By consistently making excuses when my knee ached and not doing it.

See it’s all about consistency. You just have to choose what you want to be consistent about. Making yourself better or letting yourself go? Any elite athlete didn’t get to be where they are by just talent. It takes a lot of hard work and consistently trying to improve.

This week I’m not going to give you a travel workout.

Instead, I want you to think about something that you want to change and make a plan to be consistent and change it. Know that anything worth having is not going to be a quick fix. It’s going to take time and effort, you’re going to have days where you want to say “fuck it” and you’re going to have days where you feel like you can conquer the world. Try to remember the conquering days and try to dismiss the “fuck it” days. No matter what know it’s a journey. One where you’ll learn a lot about yourself. Until next time.

4 hours in San Francisco. 

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I was seriously conflicted about how much time to spend in San Francisco. Do I spend two days or try to cram it into 4 hours? Well you can see from the title what I decided. Now if you’ve got a layover in San Fran it is doable to run down into the city but be wary of how you get there and how much time you have.

Traffic is terrible. If you’re choosing to take a taxi you will eat up all of your layover time in traffic on the way to and from. There is another option. You could take the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). This is a rail service that runs throughout the Bay area and from SFO a train runs every 20-30 minutes. The trip will take 30-40 minutes each way and cost just under $20. Check the schedule before you’re traveling to see if it can fit in your schedule.

I rolled into town around 6pm. I drove in along the Embarcadero. I noticed all of the pretty shops and restaurants and there were a lot of people running. One of my friends had told me about the Farmer’s Market that they have along the Embarcadero. Unfortunately I got into town well after the market closed on Thursday and it was not open on Friday, however it is a must visit when you are in the San Fran area.

The area I was staying in was the historic area called Fort Mason. Fort Mason is a former Army base located in the Marina district above Fisherman’s Wharf. The base was constructed in 1912 and was the principal port of the Pacific campaign during World War II. Although the US Army still operates officer housing in Fort Mason the National Park Service took over administration of the area in the 1970’s. Now Fort Mason not only houses officers but has converted some of the buildings to apartments which are rented to the public and one of the buildings was converted to the HI – Youth Hostel. Fort Mason offers great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz as well as the Bay.

Once I found where I was staying I made my way down to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner. Why did I pick Fisherman’s Wharf? Easy, it was within walking distance of the hostel I was staying at in Fort Mason. I have to admit I had a very different version of Fisherman’s wharf in my memory from what it now is. My memories have large wooden warehouse buildings filled with windows and two stories, sitting next to a large boardwalk. Perhaps that is still there and I just didn’t walk down far enough but the part I was in but it reminded me of a summer resort area in any vacation town. All of the restaurants and shops were geared toward tourists. I was there just as the sun was setting and was able to get some great pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz on my walk.

As I walked I really didn’t know where to eat. I was at that point where I was no longer hungry because I was past starving. I decided to have Italian, since it seemed to be a bit of theme for the restaurants along the section of the wharf I was on. I stopped into Capurro’s and ordered the ravioli which was stuffed with braised beef and pork. It was sooo good. With my tummy filled and my brain becoming addled with sleep, I decided to walk a little bit along the wharf. It was getting late and shops were beginning to close but I couldn’t help but feeling like I was at the epicenter of tourism.

The HI hostel in Fort Mason is clean and safe to be honest I just needed somewhere to stay that was close to the 101 that wouldn’t break the budget. They also had free parking, which is really hard to find in San Francisco. However, I probably had one of the worst nights of sleep I’ve had on the trip. At no fault of the hostel but the rooms were dorm style and had 8 beds in each room. The walls were a bit too thin and I had a chorus of snoring occurring around me. At 4 am I was wide awake and there was no sign of the snoring to stop, so I got my stuff and decided maybe it would be a great time to start back on my trip.

I had a fleeting thought of driving up to Twin Peaks and watching the sun rise over the bay and San Francisco but the lack of traffic at this early hour made continuing on my road trip more appealing. Needless to say I probably didn’t see 1/8th of what San Francisco had to offer on my short time there and would definitely take more time on another trip. This was after all the first night of my three-week road trip and I was anxious to get everything in.

Sometimes no matter what you do things aren’t going to go your way. It’s how you deal with it at those times that make the difference. Getting an early start made sense to me and staying around until something opened up didn’t appeal to me. So I continued on with a promise to visit again. Until next time.

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10 Must Haves for your Road Trip

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I don’t care when you go on a road trip, whether it’s the summer or the winter, you will need some staples to ensure that you make the most out of your road trip. Since I’m gearing up for my own I’ve really been thinking about this. On Pinterest you will find

Road trips are unique to other travels because instead of packing what you need, you also have to think about eventualities. For example, you must have a kit for if you happen to break down, knock on wood you don’t. This should include some kind of roadside assistance and traffic cones of some sort but I’ll get into it a little bit more later.

Below are 10 must haves for your Road Trip.

  1. As I mentioned earlier, a Roadside Assistance Kit. This might sound like duh, but it’s something that is frequently overlooked. Your kit can include many things but should include the following:
    • First Aid Kit (you never know when you might need to bandage a nick)
    • Traffic cones (at least one to place at the back traffic side corner of your car)
    • Roadside assistance information (AAA or something similar, I have roadside assistance through my Mini dealership, see if you can obtain something similar.)
    • Flashlight
    • A liter of water (This is not only great if your radiator overheats but you may also find yourself waiting a while for assistance, staying hydrated is important.)
    • Snack bars (similar to water, you might be waiting a while.)
  2.  Epic Playlist. Driving can be tedious, especially if you are trying to get to a destination you haven’t been to before. You just want to get there, but make getting there part of the fun. I love putting together travel mixes on Amazon Music and having them for the car ride so I can sing along.
  3. Entertainment. Make sure you have some Podcasts & Audiobooks. Singing will only take you so far, sometimes it’s good to just listen to someone else talk for a while. Audiobooks and Podcasts can help you catch up on those books you were longing to read or you can stay up to date on current events while you drive.
  4. A Map. Ok some of you might scoff, but remember google maps and GPS are subject to error, and sometimes don’t even work. Recently a woman got lost in the Grand Canyon trying to follow her GPS and it failed her. She ran out of gas and was stuck in the desert for 5 days before she was rescued. If she had brought a map she could have avoided this mishap. Bring along a Roadmap or Road atlas and learn how to read it. It can be an invaluable skill and potentially save you grief.
  5. Hand sanitizer or Baby wipes or both. These are great when you don’t have a place to wash your hands. Many road stop bathrooms leave a bit to be desired, having something to sanitize yourself with is a plus. Also it’s great if you’re eating on the road for quick clean up.
  6. Portable charger or charging dock. I’m not the only one who has been out somewhere and your phone is low on battery. There are a couple of options to keep your much-needed phone charged in the event of an emergency or if you just need to repeat your favorite song over and over again. I have both options. I have a duel car charger which you can plug into your dc outlet and a portable duel charger which you can charge at home before you head out. You can never have too much power, am I right?
  7. Camera. For so many reasons, to be able to record your travels and to have memories. You may not always be able to take a souvenir from wherever you are but you can have a visual image of it. So have a camera whether it’s your phone or a digital camera.
  8. I-Exit app.  I have tried a ton of different apps in regards to Roadtripping. From the Roadtripping app to Gas Buddy. I have to say I-Exit is the most comprehensive. They include a great feature where they list the prices of the gas stations on the exit on your route which can help you to save money on your trip. I really can’t say enough good things about this app. It has found me food, gas and hotels all much more reasonable than other apps. In my opinion if you’re Road tripping in today get the I-Exit app.
  9. A Go Bag. This is great to have no matter what. It’s almost as important as your Roadside kit! A Go Bag also helps you to be more efficient when you travel. Instead of having your big piece of luggage and carrying it in and out of hotels or B-n-B’s put together an essentials bag filled with toiletries, flip-flops, a change of clothes and pajamas. It will save you so much time and headache while you’re traveling, believe me!
  10. Window heat shield.  Or a Sunshade either way this is great for two reasons, 1) you keep your car cooler when the sun is beating down and 2) added security. If you’re traveling you’re bound to have more stuff in your car than you wanted to, if people cannot see in, they cannot see what’s inside, therefore you’re giving yourself an added piece of mind.

So that’s my 10 must haves for any Road Trip. What are some of your must haves? Let me know! Until next time.