Category Archives: Family Driving

Pebble Beach Golf Resort – Indulge in sustainable luxury

Pebble Beach Golf Resort greeen.
Between the petite village beauty of Carmel-By-The-Sea and the boardwalk diversions of Monterey lies one of the most iconic drives in the world – California’s 17 Mile Highway. The world class golf resort of Pebble Beach is tucked into that drive. The course is usually reserved there is usually reserved for the members, the wealthy and deep-pocketed international tourists. During tournaments, those willing to watch and party with the world’s best golfers can visit for a pittance of the price to play (about $500, if you can get a reservation.) Otherwise, there’s a guard house entry but that needn’t keep you from visiting whether you play golf or not.
Marker in the green commemorating the founding of the golf resort.

Golf course medallion commemorating the founding of the golf resort.

Historic sustainability
Nearly a hundred years old, the Pebble Beach Company has flourished through keen sensitivity and observation. Abundant water is a requirement for any golf course. In the 1970’s, a drought clenched water use throughout the state. Long before saving water became trendy the PBC thought about conservation. The efforts paid off and Pebble Beach gracefully sailed through the recent drought after investing millions in a water reclamation plant. Today it supplies all the water necessary to maintain their idyllic panoramas. Golf courses around the world have taken notice.
The 2017 IAGTO Sustainability Award
The PBC was recognized by the IAGTO for Resource Management, specifically for their water and renewable energy projects. The global golf tourism organization celebrates the outstanding sustainability achievements of golf facilities, resorts, and destinations around the world.
Tournament trophies in the Pebble Beach Golf Resort Lodge.

Tournament trophies in the Pebble Beach Golf Resort Lodge.

I spoke about the award with David L. Stivers, Executive Vice President, and Chief Administrations Officer. Solar panels built above the maintenance building were part of the accolades. A sophisticated sprinkler system helps avoid flooding in low-lying areas and makes sure sun-drenched spots never turn brown. Going green isn’t onerous, Stivers emphasized, “It’s also good business.”

journeys of discovery podcast

Listen here to the NPR Podcast interview about Pebble Beach Resort’s sustainability and conservation efforts

The Executive Vice President and Chief Administrations Officer, David L. Stivers talks with Elaine Masters about the award and the long-term sustainability efforts at the Pebble Beach Golf Resort.

David Stivers in the Lodge lobby of the Pebble Beach golf resort.

David Stivers in the Lodge lobby

At the upcoming AT&T Pro-AM Tournament, thousands of pounds of recyclable materials will stay out of landfills. Pebble Beach Golf Resort is working with partners to make recycling a comfortable part of the event. It’s no simple task with tens of thousands of visitors arriving for the event.

Sea Lions relax near the Pebble Beach Golf Resort greens.

Sea Lions relax near the Pebble Beach Golf Resort greens.

I’m not a golfer but appreciate golf resort landscapes. Scooting around the greens in a cart on a lightly overcast morning, I peered into a cove where sea lions lolled. Deer were munching near multi-million dollar estates bordering the southern greens. They’re such regular visitors that the staff rarely notices them!
The mobile amenities cart is available for players at the Pebble Beach Golf Resort.

A mobile snack and drink cart visits players at the Pebble Beach Golf Resort.

I asked about where to stop for lunch along the 17 Mile Drive to Monterey. It turns out there aren’t any lunch options along the coast drive, so we opted for a window table overlooking the 18th hole in the Bench Bistro.
The bench and plaque commemorating American ownership of the Pebble Beach Golf Resort

The bench and plaque commemorating American ownership of the Pebble Beach Golf Resort

Dirty Harry played here
In 1999 ownership of the resort came back into American hands. Significant among the names on the plaque outside the Bench restaurant (next to the actual bench) is Clint Eastwood, the actor-director who once was the Mayor of Carmel, a long-time resident of the area and a Resort investor.
Extraordinary! Wood-baked strawberries with balsamic reduction sauce at the Bench inside the Pebble Beach Golf Resort

Extraordinary! Wood-roasted strawberries with balsamic reduction sauce at the Bench inside the Pebble Beach Golf Resort

The sun shot rays through dark clouds as we ate and I saved room for dessert – a wood-roasted, strawberry cobbler. It was served directly from the oven in a small ramekin with a warm, balsamic reduction. A scoop of ice cream melted into the crust. I will never forget how the textures complemented each other, the sweet balanced with the sour, the crunch and the cream. It wasn’t a sophisticated presentation. It was simply perfect.
What a day! To quote a song, “I’ll never be royal,” but for a brief time, I felt like an American aristocrat.
Pebble Beach Golf Resort Lodge

The lodge with the Bench Restaurant lower center.

Can anyone visit Pebble Beach Golf Resort?
Yes, even without a reservation to stay (although the packages may tempt you.) There is a fee to enter but not to park. The website is welcoming, noting that, “While dining at our restaurants, please present your gate receipt to your server. With a purchase of $35, your gate fee will be reimbursed.”
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Many thanks to the Pebble Beach Company for hosting our visit and congratulations again on the IAGTO award.
Spread the news! Pin this and thanks.
Pebble Beach Golf Resort Pin
Travel Notes & Beyond

Revealing West Texas – Your Road Trip Planner, Part 1

Make sure that Balmorea is in your road trip planner
Mural in the Gage Hotel, Marathon Texas

Detail of one mural in the Gage Hotel, Marathon Texas

 Brake for Turkey Vultures, Javelinas and Auodads
Americana, escape and wide open places – West Texas is good for what ails the urban spirit. I didn’t know how far gone I was until silence swamped me at a roadstop. A literal road stop. Just before entering Big Bend National Park, I couldn’t help but stop the car in the middle of the road and run out. On a rock cropping, as if posed for a John Huston western, at least a dozen black Turkey Vultures swooped and sat. There were no cars for miles until a Park Ranger pulled his rig close and cautioned us to pull over. The last thing he needed was a pair of tourist road kills.
Texas critters for your road trip planner
Several times we did pull over for Javelinas. First we sped past an almond shaped creature who stood about four feet wide in the road. By the time we’d turned around he’d disappeared. They were good at staying out of camera range but I offer this picture, taken near Lajitas by the resort guide. The family of Javelinas, which are related to Pecaries, were in a canyon just beyond her home.
Spying Javelinas can be part of your Texas road trip

Javelina family spied near Lajitas

Auodads, large brown sheep, were imported into Texas after WW2 when soldiers returned from Africa. They’d learned what a delicious game animal they were. They also quickly learned that Auodads were not easy to keep. The animals escaped the original ranches and have flourished in the wild across West Texas.
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One night in Lajitas, I looked out to the silhouette of a craggy mountain across the Rio Grande. The rocks moved! It was too far to capture on camera but there was a large four footed animal on the crest. I like to think it was an Auodad and so my only sighting.
  • Trip Planner Tip 1:

    Research your options. The best we had for our road trip was a loose schedule. Lodging was set but how to get there and what to see was left up to us. It’s too easy to say that West Texas has something for everyone. I look for the off-beat, the historical quirks, the local hangouts that are usually just off the tourist radar.  I’ve learned to surrender to the fact that you can’t see everything but look for the things that bring you joy and you’ll return home the happier.

The original El Caminio Real lobby

The original El Caminio Real lobby

Dig into El Paso
El Paso brims with energy, history and revitalization. The city is easier to visit than ever with new flights at the El Paso International Airport. At this writing, five major airlines fly in and out. Of all the treasures we discovered, discovering El Paso was our road trip gold nugget. The city is full of urban delights – a restaurant and craft beer scene, theater, classic architecture and contemporary upgrades, sports, concerts, plus outdoor adventures nearby and the percolating exchanges of a long history with Mexico, just across a bridge from downtown. Read more about it in this post.
Enjoying the Balmorea Pool

Enjoying the Balmorea Pool

Splash down in Balmorea
It’s not just the Tex Mex peppers, West Texas gets hot. The summers can be brutal and scorching. It was still warm when we visited in late September, after the monsoons passed, but comfortable. The idea of leaving downtown El Paso and diving into a natural spring pool less than 3 hours away, thrust us into the greening countryside early on our third morning in Texas.
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The BIG Pool:
Part of the sweeping 1930’s New Deal plan brought workers to West Texas where the Civilian Conservation Corps built Balmohea State Park. Nearly eighty years later families, tourists and courting couples cool off in the waters of the ‘World’s Largest Spring Fed Swimming Pool.’ The depth goes from about three feet to nearly thirty and the water shelters small fish plus a feathery green growth coating the bottom. The fish were cute, the green slime bothered me, but the pool was clear and cooling. The reservoir is so unnusual that it’s a Texas Aquatic Science Certified Field Site and school field trips make good use of that in their curriculum. The idea that nearby fracking might impact the water tweaks my heart but it’s still in discussion across the region.
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  •  Trip Planner tip 2:

    Don’t miss the drive from Balmorea to Fort Davis along Route 17. You could blast through in a half hour but leave time to meander and gawk. The canyon road is lined with rugged cliffs and on the afternoon we drove, sweetly devoid of big trucks that dog the main highways. It’s a short 32.4 mile drive but consider pulling over to hike or picnic.

The Drug Store Counter in Fort Davis

The Drug Store Counter in Fort Davis

Fort Davis
This small town is a find. The narrow main street hosts a few gift shops and small hotels. We stayed upstairs in the Drug Store in a large two, queen bed room with our own bath. Downstairs the old time drug store counter menu offers ice cream and milk shakes. A chorus line of round topped, red leather stools fronts the counter and wooden booths fill the dining room. The cash register sits atop a glass case full of fudge.
Fort Davis Drug Store Hotel

Fort Davis Drug Store Hotel

On our morning there I enjoyed a mug of complementary coffee downstairs before heading out for some exercise and to investigate the red rock bluff on the edge of the neighborhood. Turkey vultures caught the morning currents, their shadows crossed mine as I walked past small houses, churches and watched a backyard goat take to a tree. My sister and I had a fine dinner at the Blue Moon Restaurant across the street.
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  • Trip Planner Tip 3:

    There’s an Ice Cream stop on the outskirts of town. The Red Caboose is a local favorite and came highly recommended, plus it’s pet friendly.

  • Trip Planner Tip 4

    History buffs can explore the old fort where Confederate General, Jefferson Davis, held his ground. The managers of Wall Drug Hotel are distant relatives!

Eve's Garden BnB

Eve’s Garden BnB Marathon Texas

Marathon

One of our draws to Texas was seeing Marfa, but we kept it for the end of our trip. Our night in Marathon was like an appetizer of things to come in the ‘art town.’ We swept into town late on a cloudy afternoon and barely checked in before taking off for dinner at the Gage Hotel.
Eve’s Garden is a visionaries delight with bright walls, colorful collections of art and less than 10 rooms, each unique and hand textured from recycled Papercrete blocks.
Seeing is believing, check out my video:
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Gage Hotel Dining Room

Gage Hotel Dining Room

  • Travel Planner tip 5

    Don’t miss the White Buffalo Bar in Marathon. The Gage Hotel nods to shotgun culture but the sophisticated menu and graceful layout make this spot worthy of a celebrity sighting.

Part 2 of the West Texas Road Trip Planner is the next post. Continue the road trip through Terlingua, Lajitas, a bit of Big Bend National Park and Marfa.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Road view between Balmorea and Fort Davis

Road view between Balmorea and Fort Davis

Links and other Trip Planner tips:
  • We used GPS but there are other sites with ample route suggestions for drivers and bicyclists, like: Distancesto.com
  • Plan your trip around weather. Check temperatures and weather patterns, then pack for comfort.
  • This list isn’t exhaustive. There’s so much to explore in West Texas like the McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis
  • Balmorea State Park has camping, trailer options and hiking trails as well as the famous natural spring reservoir. Check the website for hours and reservations.
  • Eve’s Garden in Marathon is worth a detour. The hospitality is warm, the organic cooking delicious and the space a unique, artful experience.
  • The Gage Hotel in Marathon is listed as #1 on many noted travel lists.
  • Fort Davis, – Spacious, comfortable and affordable. The upstairs room, with abundant WiFi, couches and tables is a great space for digital nomads!
  • Fort Davis, Lumpia Hotel: Fully restored historic property with a garden begging to be enjoyed.
Food Tips:
  • El Paso Craft and Social – Jazz bar, beer on tap and Texas wines by the glass or bottle.
  • Fort Davis Red Caboose Ice Cream stopna
  • Fort Davis, – They don’t make them like this anymore. Family style cooking and a full service counter.
  • Fort Davis, Hotel Limpia Restaurant – Blue Mountain Bistro a fine dining experience with a full bar menu or dining room. Tapas and much more.

This trip was spurred by an invitation from Visit El Paso and the Brewster County Tourism Offices. Many thanks for their arrangements and guidance. All opinions as usual are my own.

Share please (and thank you!)

Visit West Texas and stay at Eves Garden in Marathon Texas on your road trip

Junp into adventure in West Texas with a stop at Balmorea Springs

weekend wanderlust April 2016

Travel Notes & Beyond

Road trip snack ideas – Tips for travelers

Road house stop full of snack ideas
Road houses are full of snack ideas - not all healthy!

Road houses are full of snack ideas – not all healthy!

Our road trip was packed full of adventure but unfortunately packed pounds on our waistlines too. We had three weeks to deliver the car to the East coast and started working our itinerary six months in advance. With all the planning however, we forgot about coordinating snack ideas.

Win a Hiking Backpack full of with snack ideas for your next trip (Details below)

My eating strategy whenever I fly has been whittled into a science, but a road trip with four adults in one car for days on end was in another league altogether. We took long hikes daily and expected that to burn calories but it wasn’t enough. Long, tedious hours of driving led to quick meals from limited roadside cafes and convenience stores. Too often that meant snack ideas of the high-carb, salt and sugar kind.

On the way to Mt. Rainier we stopped at the Viking Diner for burgers. Delicious and friendly, but low cal? Not.

Viking Cafe in Mossyrock was full of snack ideas

Locals in the Mossyrock Landmark, Viking Cafe

burger and fries

I’ll have fries with that.

When visiting cousins of course we couldn’t refuse to take their homemade sweets along.

Bazilian chocolate balls are snack ideas of the fattening kind

Rich, Brazilian Choco Balls!

My home breakfast schedule was demolished when the rest of the family needed a big meal before we hit the road. Too often hotel or road-side mornings started like this.

Waffles as road trip snack ideas

Resisting everything but temptation.

Fruit stands are a boon for summer travelers. Unfortunately, our rushed schedule kept us on freeways and off the smaller, country roads where fruit stands proliferate.

Road stand cherries are delicious snack ideas

Road stand cherries are delicious snack ideas

When you’ve endured long hours traveling in the back seat or driving, it’s too easy to ‘reward’ yourself with a big dinner or a few beers. When you do that over several weeks it’s no wonder vacation clothes get tighter and tighter!

Beer isn't on the list of great road trip snack ideas until you stop for driving for the day

Beer with dinner at Belton Chalet, outside Glacier National Park

The best road trip snack ideas include:
  • High protein, low salt and sugar, fruit and nut bars. Pick up a box before leaving home to stretch the travel budget.
  • Buy in bulk. Nuts and dates make satisfying snack ideas and travel well. Make your own mix and store in baggies or better yet, reusable containers.
  • Drink water often and limit the number of sweet, high fructose sodas and caffeine drinks. Avoid plastic bottles and refill your own.
  • Stop to eat well before you feel like you’re starving. Being overly hungry too often leads to impulsive and poor eating decisions.
  • Find grocery stores with salad bars and pick up fresh fruit at roadside stands.
  • Portion control. We were two boomers and two millennials driving together. Guess who ate most of the peanut butter pretzel crackers?! Take a few out of the bag and stick to that portion.

Golden Island Jerky are fine snack ideas

If only I had known about these Jerky packs for our trip. Most jerkies on the market are full of nitrates and preservatives. They’re overly sweetened with high fructose corn syrup as well. The Golden Island Jerky recipes are gluten-free and have no artificial ingredients. The unique flavors come from the founder’s Asian heritage and are available in resealable bags – perfect for travelers.

Golden Island Jerky snack ideas

Win a Hiking Backpack full of with snack ideas for your next trip

The prize includes:

  • Two packages of each variety of Golden Island Jerky ($65 value)
  • Four popular brand name, highly insulated Rambler 18 oz. bottles ($160 value)
  • $100 Visa gift card for gas
  • Hiking Backpack ($40)
Pack your bag and go! Enter here. Good luck!

This giveaway was facilitated by Golden Island Jerky. I was not compensated for this post but did receive free product samples, all opinions are my own.

How do you eat well on long road trips?

A pair of pins to share!

BBQ road trip snack ideas

Road trip snack ideas include happy hours

weekend wanderlust April 2016

A California beach adventure in Oceanside

A California beach adventure begins at the Oceanside Pier

A California beach adventure begins at the Oceanside Pier

It doesn’t get much sweeter than this; sun most days of the year, easy to get to and affordable. Oceanside always surprises me. It’s one California beach city that is too often overlooked, but that’s changing.

Tom Cruise's house featured in the movie, Top Gun.

Tom Cruise’s house featured in the movie, Top Gun.

Perched between the military base, Camp Pendelton, and San Diego proper, it’s often just a blip on the GPS for drivers going north or south, but they’re missing out. I love spending a day or two walking downtown, visiting the beach, the museums and discovering new restaurants and happy hours. The harbor area is worth exploring too.

Oceanside heart balloon at the Farmers Market

The city rolls out its best for events year round. A giant heart balloon is seen around town during Valentine’s week. There are multiple charity runs and organized bike rides. Cultural events abound from the Oceanside museum, the Surf museum, the Starlight theater and galleries. The craft brew and gastropub scenes are percolating. Some great sushi and seafood can be found from white tablecloth establishments to casual pizza, health foods and taco stands.

California beach adventure includes a cup or bottle of Kombucha at Living Tea.

Josh Weigel and his draft Kombucha at Living Tea.

Hello Betty restaurant is a fun stop for a California beach adventure

Hello Betty has seating indoor, rooftop or along the sidewalk.

California beach adventure has to include a walk on the pier.

A view from the pier.

Oceanside1

The California Surf Museum, local murals and the Oceanside Art Museum.

My favorite is the beach. The pier is long and worth a stroll whether it’s stormy or the sky is bright. Along the waterfront quaint bungalows line the sea wall. The wide open sand makes dipping into the water a must. If you love surfing or boogie boarding, the waves will make you delirious.

Oceanside Springhill Marriott hotel is poised for a perfect California beach adventure

Views from the Springhill Marriott Hotel in Oceanside

Where to stay for your California beach adventure in Oceanside?

There are several BnB’s in the area and a number of hotels. The fresh, Springhill Suites Marriott, just a block from the water, is one choice. The view from their roof top pool is stunning.

Masters Kitchen and Cocktail reflects the California beach vibe.

Photo courtesy of Masters Kitchen and Cocktail

Where to eat in Oceanside:
  • Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub is a culinary adventure you’ll savor long after the plate’s clean. Award-winning, Chef Davin Waite features local seafood, produce, and chef-picked ingredients.
  • Zig Zag Pizza Pie lets you pick your ingredients, your drinks out of the cooler and chops salads just steps from the Oceanside pier.
  • Hello Betty Fish House has a California beach theme and fresh eats inside or out.
  • Swami’s on Mission Avenue is one of the first healthy eating cafes in San Diego
  • 333 Pacific is a Cohn family restaurant with a bit more polish than most in the pier neighborhood. Stylish cocktails and sumptuous fare.
  • Masters Kitchen and Cocktail is a few blocks from downtown on South Coast Highway. It’s one of many innovative brew pubs / casual dining spots in the area. (Of course I had to include my namesake!)
  • Living Tea Brewing Company serves fresh, organic Kombucha in their storefront at 302 Wisconsin Avenue. It’s also available bottled around San Diego.
The most recent mural outside of Wrench and Rodent on South Pacific Highway near Cassidy.

The most recent mural outside of Wrench and Rodent on South Pacific Highway.

Getting to your California beach adventure in Oceanside:

Drive: The beach is just west of the Interstate 5 freeway and Pacific Coast Highway off Mission Boulevard.

Ride: The Amtrak station is close to downtown and the beach. There’s a great deal for weekend travelers from Metrolink. You buy a pass for Saturday or Sunday for just $10 to travel anywhere Metrolink goes. It makes visiting Oceanside even easier with the terminus there and access to the Coaster and Amtrak lines throughout San Diego County (a separate ticket.)

Here’s some of the views going into Oceanside along the coast.

Whether it’s a short vacation or a swim stop between destinations, there’s lots to do and explore on a California beach adventure in Oceanside.

Extend your California beach adventure and travel anywhere on the Metrolink system for just $10 on Saturday or Sunday with the Weekend Day Pass. More info:http://www.metrolinktrains.com/news/p…

I hope that you enjoyed this brief California beach adventure and will share these pins.

Oceanside heart balloon is part of a California beach adventure Our lady of the sea chapel in OceansideOceanside murals are part of your California beach adventure

Budget Travelers Sandbox

 

Surviving travel and holiday stress

Balboa Park Tree Holiday Stress and tips here on Tripwellgal
Balboa Park Holiday Stress and tips here on Tripwellgal

Crowd management at Holiday Nights in San Diego’s Balboa Park

It’s that frantic time at the end of the year and while juggling all the errands, business travel and family demands, I hope you’ve saved some time for yourself.


Listen to this post on the Gathering Road Podcast!

It’s that frantic time at the end of the year and while juggling all the errands, business travel and family demands, I hope you’ve saved some time for yourself. Staying in balance may take a bit more effort at this season but if you are able to get enough rest, exercise and not overdo tasty temptations, you will end up with more to give and leave holiday stress in the dust.

Grinch tree Balboa Park Holiday Stress busting

Don’t be a Grinch!

Here’s a few suggestions to help you take care of #1 & avoid holiday stress:
  1. Whenever you think about it, take a few moments to consciously breathe.
  2. Feel your feet on the ground and sit or stand a little taller.
  3. Relax your jaw, wiggle your head a bit to ease your neck, do a few shoulder rolls to release tension.
  4. Settle in for a moment and ask yourself – what do I need right now? The language of the body is feeling but we too often drown the whispers of discomfort out and wonder why we’re suddenly tired, ravenously hungry or suddenly in pain. So spend a few seconds and listen deeply.
  5. Drink plenty of water – it will help to flush the extra sweets or salty foods you may have been snacking on and will help you fight fatigue.
  6. Get extra rest when you can – catnap, sleep a bit later if you feel tired and get to bed early on the nights you’re able. To help you sleep, don’t go to bed with a full tummy and drink water to help flush alcohol out of your system.
  7. Balance event nights where you’re running about with stay-home or quiet time to re-charge.
  8. When traveling, give yourself the gift of extra time – allow more time to get everywhere.
  9. If you’re driving or flying, bring a few healthy snacks so you don’t get overly hungry which can lead to poor choices where you shovel anything in your mouth to fill your tummy. You’ll save money too or have more to spend on meals that you’ll truly enjoy later. Your body will thank you for it.
  10. If you’re spending time with family and friends that you rarely visit with, work to really see them and marvel at their presence in your life. If there’s friction it will help you to not take things personally and enjoy the time together more. If we can just appreciate our loved ones for who they are, then it will be easier to keep the peace and not doing anything we might regret.
  11. Remember to breathe deeply, stretch often and live well. Check out our website, www.DrivetimeYoga.com for more travel ease tips and gifts.

Balboa Park Tree Holiday Stress and tips here on Tripwellgal

Enjoy your time off and never again succumb to holiday stress. Happy Holidays!

For travel ease gifts, audio and aromatherapy, visit my website: www.DrivetimeYoga.com

I hope you found this helpful. Please share! It’ll make my holiday brighter. 

Grinch Tree Holiday Stress Pin

 

 

 

Apple picking in Julian – A San Diego day trip

Apple picking with Maria Hesse
Maria and Jonah apple picking

Maria and Jonah in the Apple Star orchard.

When an invitation comes to spend a day apple picking in Julian, there can be only one answer – YES!

Julian lies a bit North and East of San Diego proper. Originally a Gold Rush town, today it’s famous for apples in all their incarnations. The hills are covered in orchards. The Cuyamaca mountain slopes are a shuddering cold in the winter and that’s what the trees need to flourish. The town has had its ups and downs with fires, booms and busts, but visit any weekend and you’ll be sharing the board walks with lots of visitors. No worry there’s pie enough for all.

Apple Star Orchard Barn

Apple Star Orchard Barn

My excursion started on Friday morning when I met with Maria Hesse, a sustainable lifestyle designer and personal chef. Her son, Jonah, kept us company with stories and observations from the back seat as we drove the winding back roads up to Julian. Maria’s steady hand let me know she’s done the drive before. Within an hour we passed through town and along unpaved streets into farmland. There were several wineries and other U-Pick places (More than half a dozen are on the Visit Julian site.) Our destination was Apple Star, a certified organic orchard, with acres of apples and pear trees.

Pulling past a century old barn, we were one of the few cars in the parking field. Within minutes we’d signed in, paid for two bags of fruit and the caretaker recounted the available varieties in a cadence more like poetry than a list.

Apple Star Red Flyers waiting

Apple Star Red Flyers ready for action.

We visited just after the season opened. The apple trees have been picked over since. Still there’s other fruit to be had and the website is updated regularly. The notice as of October 1st:

WE STILL HAVE A LARGE CROP OF RIPE SWEET PEARS:  BARTLET, ANJOU, COMICE and BOSC READY FOR PICKING.

SORRY, THE APPLES HAVE BEEN PICKED OVER BUT WITH PERSEVERANCE SOME CAN STILL BE FOUND.

A line of Radio Flyer wagons and picking poles waited next to a tall, gated fence. There’s good reason for its height, being an organic orchard, critters like to visit. I spied a huge deer rushing downhill into a shady grove and hiding place right after we parked. Bird song kept us company. A wild turkey strolled between lanes with one of her brood racing to keep up.

Mama wild turkey in the orchard.

Wild turkeys in the orchard.

We picked carefully. Worm holes and bird bites didn’t deter us. Soon our bags were full of perfect pears and apples. There’s nothing as sweet as pulling a ripe apple off the branch and crunching into its juicy flesh. Encouraged by the caretaker, we had to sample a few. It was due diligence. Right?

Apple tree

Before an hour was up our bags were full to overflowing and we were hungry for lunch. Within minutes we were in town. Main street was fairly quiet and parking was easy (not always so on holidays and weekends.)

Fountain in Miners Diner

Fountain in Miners Diner

Set in a building dating back to 1885, Miners Diner is one of Maria and Jonah’s favorite places. Besides having delicious burgers and soups, floats at an old fashioned fountain, and ice cream sundaes, there’s a Candy Mine in the back. Jonah picked out a favorite and I found a small pack of Clove gum. Haven’t seen that in ages.

Buggy rides in Julian

Buggy ride in Julian.

There was time to walk a bit before hitting the road. Strolling is easy in Julian and comfy benches sit in the shade outside storefronts. There’s a biker paraphernalia shop. They’re big customers as Motorcycle clubs love cruising the mountain roads and stop in town to eat. Old-timey souvenirs fill more than a few shelves but the Gold Rush vibe is true. We were on a mission, searching the best place for pie. I selected a crumble-crust, Apple-Rhubarb and Maria chose a Bumble Berry (mixed berry) to take home from the famous Mom’s Pies bakery.

Mom's pie shop.

Mom’s Pie shop.

It made the ride home fly by knowing we’d soon be digging into lush, fresh slices after our day spent apple picking in Julian.

 

If you go:

  • If you miss the harvest time in Julian consider U Pick opportunities in other areas of Southern California. The Local Harvest site keeps a current list.
  • Check out road conditions in winter. It can be snowy and icy in the mountains, even while balmy at the beaches in San Diego.
  • Find all the events, restaurants, bed and breakfast lodging and more on the Visit Julian site.
  • Miners Diner is just one of dozens of cute and delicious cafes along the few blocks of Julian.
  • Julian makes a fun day-trip or family outing. It’s also pretty romantic if you’re looking for a special date spot (just saying!)

If you enjoyed this post, please share on Pinterest!

apple picking

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Get wild! National Park Service Free Days and Passes

Glacier National Park, Avalanche Lake
Getting misty at the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone

Getting misty at the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone

The National Park Service is celebrating a milestone and greetings are flooding the media. While entrance fees are waived across the U.S. today, free days are offered throughout the year. There are over 400 National Parks and only 127 of them charge. So cost needn’t be a concern any day of the year. There has to be a park within reach. It’s time to step away from the keyboard and get wild.

Visiting the National Parks requires some planning. I was fortunate enough to see part of eight National Parks and several National Monuments this summer. I say part because the Parks are huge! If you’ve come into Yosemite from the South, it will an entirely different experience from the Eastern entrance. There are more trails, hikes for any age, ability or experience level than you can cover in a lifetime.

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

You don’t need a car either. Many of the National Parks were designed with rail access and have stations that will deliver you just steps from lodges and amenities. Bus tours and rentals abound near each park entrance as well as at airports in the vicinity. The National Parks have been big business for nearly a hundred years. There’s something for most any budget and travel style.

Mt. Rainier National Park

Mt. Rainier National Park

Six months before leaving our family started discussions about the route, which parks and activities were most important to each of us. While we did some car camping, we drove and elected to reserve a handful of nights at lodges inside several parks.

Mt. Rainier Paradise Inn

Mt. Rainier Paradise Inn built with fallen logs found in the park.

Staying inside a National Park keeps you close which extends your day and night exploration and hiking time. The best time to spy wildlife is at dusk or dawn. It was easier to manage since we were sleeping just steps away from trails. The lodges also offer some respite from the crowds that can jam the more popular parks. National Park lodges and any accommodations close to park entrances can be spendy and often sell out months in advance.

The best part about visiting the National Parks: You, your friends and family will walk away with a thirst to see more of this amazing country and a hunger to keep these national treasures safe.

If your work schedule or budget won’t allow a long road or train trip then splurge on a picnic during one of the Free Days. The park free days include the 99th Birthday, August 25th, and November 11th, Veteran’s Day. (All active duty military members and their dependents are eligible year round with a free America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.)

Mt. Rushmore National Monument

Mt. Rushmore National Monument

If you’re eligible go almost free with a Senior, a Disability or Volunteer Pass or purchase an annual pass for $80. The passes are a great value as they include not only entrance to all 408 national parks but also national wildlife refuges, national forests and more than 2,000 Federal lands.

Elk are everywhere inside Yellowstone.

Elk materialize most everywhere inside Yellowstone National Park.

2016 is the National Park Service’s Centennial and demand will be high not only for Americans but for foreign visitors longing to step into the iconic vistas they’ve seen in movies and TV.  Start planning your visit early. There are festivals, guided events and all manner of celebrations planned throughout the year.

Isn’t your heart clamoring to go wild?

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Elk in Yellowstone National Park

 

Vacation car rental insurance – Does your credit card cover you?

cabo thrifty rental car
cabo thrifty rental car

Rental car in Baja Mexico. Photo: Matthew Mohr via Trover

 

You finally exit the airplane, gather your luggage and step up to the car rental counter. The car rental clerk is determined to ‘help’ you by offering supplemental insurance coverage. For a moment all manner of troubling scenarios play in your imagination. Someone might sideswipe you in a parking lot. You don’t know the city and could get distracted enough to rear end another car. The inner trauma-drama plays out until you remember that your credit card offers you car insurance. But does it?

oxotic supercar Rachael Garrett

Perhaps rent an exotic car? Photo by Rachael Garrett via Trover

Much depends on which card you are using to pay for the rental. Policies were compared recently by Card Hub in its annual Credit Card Rental Car Insurance Study. Consumer Affairs, a private, non-governmental company, also does research on best practices with car rental insurance. Between the two here’s some of the findings that should make filling out your car rental paperwork much easier and save you money.

pink car rental Cheskie's Gap Life

Why not rent a ‘Barbie Car’ in Australia? Photo: Cheskie’s Gap Life via Trover

Are you covered?
  • The top car rental coverage (in order) is offered by American Express, Visa and Discover with Mastercard a close fourth.
  • Each card covers a different risk but the car, home, life or health insurance policies, you already have plus your credit car could provide all or part of the protection you need. Know too that car rental companies are required to provide minimal insurance by law for every rental.
  • You need to decline supplemental coverage from the car rental company and put the entire bill on your card to get their full coverage.
  • Interested in renting a big SUV? American Express doesn’t cover many of the most popular.
  • Off-roading on the itinerary? Visa and Mastercard cover accidents on dirt and gravel roads ONLY if they are “regularly maintained.”
  • If you don’t have car insurance already or your card isn’t giving you enough coverage, accept the liability insurance and collision damage waiver offered by the car rental company.
escape campervan Emilie Adams

An escape campervan U.S. road trip with Emilie Adams via Trover

After flying for hours and finally getting to your destination, wrapping your head around all the car rental options at the rental desk can be a strain. The best time to go over the particulars is when you reserve your car, long before leaving for the trip. A phone call, scanning an online forum or the company FAQ’s will help the decision making long before you’re filling out the final paperwork.

Whatever you decide, spare yourself anxiety and unnecessary expense. Walk away from the counter, keys in hand, knowing that you’re covered and take to the road with ease.

More car rental insurance information:

car rental insurance tip sheet from Consumer Affairs.

The full Card Hub study including money-saving car rental tips.

I’m linking up with these great link parties. They’re each full of travel inspirations:

weekend travel inspiration

An indispensable accessory – Your travel pillow

Travel Pillows Collage

Travel Pillows CollageIt’s enough to ruin a trip – sleeping poorly and worse, struggling with neck problems. Dozing well and avoiding neck kinks is tricky when you spend long hours in an airplane seat or squeezed into a car. Travel pillows help but not all are made equal and finding the one that works for you may take some trial and error testing.

I travel a lot. Mostly it’s by air but this summer I spent three weeks on the road and would’ve been lost without a travel pillow. It’s not a generational thing either, my millennial travel buddies brought their favorite travel pillows along too.

Here’s a round-up of travel pillow options:

The Techie – Comfy Commuter

I’ve been testing the Comfy Commuter on long car rides and in airplanes. A version of the memory foam pillow, it’s been engineered with two side pillows shaped for support and the back is flat, making it better for your neck when leaning against the seat. There’s a series of Velcro straps to attach it to your chin but I found them complicated, especially when sleepy. The pillow’s designed with an attached pocket for storage but like old maps, good luck figuring how to fold it neatly back into shape. It does fit eventually.

The problem: In the car I found the pillow was too hot to wear comfortably. The raised, fur-like nap was soft but too soon sweaty. Biggest problem? The pillow wraps neatly into a ball. What do balls do? They roll and my pillow has yet to be found after my last multi-leg flight. I hope it found a good home.

Sleeper Scarf, travel pillow

The Sleeper Scarf in action. Picture: SleeperScarf.com

The Fashionista – The Sleeper Scarf

Some travelers wouldn’t be caught dead dragging a bulky neck pillow through the concourse. Voila! Meet the Sleeper Scarf. The design coup is an inflatable pillow fitted inside the scarf. You blow it up and make adjustments as needed. It comes in various colors and patterns. The problem: Deflating a pillow that’s part of a scarf wrapped around your body isn’t a discreet process. C’est la vie.

Bead filled travel pillow

Bead-filled travel pillow

The Work-Around – Bead-filled pillow

There’s a reason you can find this pillow, filled with seeds (heavy) or plastic beads (light), in every airport concourse travel shop. It works. The squishy pillow contorts easily in a variety of ways for neck and chin support. I’ve used it for low back support too. With that versatility it’s become my go to travel pillow. The problem: It’s a bit bulky to carry. You can’t attach it to your luggage. Cheaper versions compress eventually. Pillows just do that.

The Little Puffer – Inflatable pillow

This was my first love of all the travel pillows. It’s relatively inexpensive, you can pack it neatly and inflate to the degree of support you need. It’s is the most discreet of them all – until you need to deflate the thing. The problem: Breaking up is hard to do. My inflatables eventually burst. They have seams and when you’re punching, twisting and pressing, the seams eventually give out. Not fun in the middle of the flight. The solution: Carry a spare.

Skyrest travel pillow

Skyrest Pillow. Photo: Skyrest

sleep-in-wheelchair

Skyrest Inflatable works for disabled travelers too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Puff – Skyrest Inflatable

This is the most invasive of the travel pillows – once it’s inflated. The pillow is designed for forward sleepers and rests easily enough on your lap. The problem: While I like the idea I can’t imagine using it with the increasingly narrow seats on airplanes. What do you do with your arms? I’d be harassing my neighbor each time my hand fell on their lap. Deflating would take some time but you have that while waiting to get off the airplane.

Travelrest inflatable pillow

Travelrest inflatable pillow

The side-winding Puffer – Travel Rest travel pillow

This innovative and patented design is pretty sleek. It’s a long, inflatable pillow that attaches to the seat and is simple to adjust. The problem: It’s an inflatable and in time the seams will break. It doesn’t offer chin support, so your head may still fall forward which can lead to neck problems.

Memory foam travel pillow

Memory foam travel pillow

The Hardy Pal – Memory foam

I often travel with one of these stiff little numbers. This travel pillow has a curved shape that supports the neck and chin well and is comfortable to use. They’re usually covered in a shallow nap fabric which keeps them from being too hot. The problem: They’re clunky and don’t attach to carry-on luggage.

The problem with travel pillows

They are hard to transport and easy to lose. What each company needs to realize is that airport travelers, those most likely to use travel pillows, are limited by what we can carry easily. Attaching them to a carry-on is a necessity. Dropping a travel pillow on a concourse floor and then rubbing your face on it is no fun. Dropping shouldn’t be an issue. Until that problem is addressed I’ll keep struggling with, losing and dropping my trusty travel pillows.

I wouldn’t leave home without one.

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Travel Pillows, TripwellnessDisclosure: I was given a sample of the Commuter Comfort travel pillow but all opinions are strictly my own.

Eating out on vacation – Don’t let the pounds sneak up on you

road and bluff

road and bluffIt was the road trip that got me. We weren’t camping but staying at hotels, lodges and once, slept in a Tee Pee. The plan was to drive with our millennial kids who were moving across country while exploring as many National Parks as we could. The trip was blessed with great weather, an early peak season with manageable crowds, flowers and wildlife galore. My problem became apparent as the trip rolled into the second week. Eating out on vacation had pounds sneaking up on me.

Road trip food temptations, eating out

Road trip temptations.

Aside from driving an average of two to six hours daily, we stayed active. There were hiking trails aplenty and in the National Parks we walked, climbed and traversed for hours. I have the dusty boots and callouses to prove it! We lugged our minimal luggage in and out of the car most every night. Getting out the door early meant trading my 30 minute floor-Yoga routine for rest-stop stretches and Drivetime Yoga.

No smores in bear country. One night at Under Canvas, Yellowstone.

No s’mores in bear country. One night at Under Canvas, Yellowstone.

The eating out conundrum

Along with a regular exercise regime, I usually eat one full meal a day with lots of veggies, fruit, water and tea the rest of the time. Hiking, the great company and new cuisines led to a pattern slip. I ate more bread and shared 3 meals. By the end of the journey I was uncomfortable. Don’t let that happen to you!

Hard to resist! Smoke n' Man at BBQ, Union Creek Cabins outside Crater Lake.

Irresistible Smoke n’ Man and his BBQ wagon, Union Creek Cabins near Crater Lake.

“Eating out while on vacation can be tricky. You want to enjoy and ‘let loose,’ but you also don’t want those unwanted calories and pounds to sneak up on you,” says Kristi King, registered dietitian with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

Redwood National Park.

A tree in a tree – Redwood National Park.

Here’s my and Kristi King’s tips for eating out on vacation:
  • When possible plan ahead. Check out restaurants near your destination to get an idea of the local cuisine and menus. We used Yelp reviews when we could and grabbed quick lunches in grocery store deli departments. Each of us could choose what they wanted.
  • Renting a house or condo? Does your hotel suite include a kitchen? Plan to have some meals at “home.” It saves calories and money.
  • Allow time to prepare meals. Too often we’d roll into a destination already starving and settled for the easiest and quickest meal. It was a recipe for weight-gain.
  • Eat your biggest meal at midday. Prices are better and you won’t go to sleep with a full tummy. That can make you restless and gain weight.
  • Leave time to meet the locals: Ask people or use Apps to find grocery shops or a local farmer’s market as soon as you get there.
  • Order half portions at meal times or, better yet, split the meal with the family. This works well unless you end up as we did – splitting entrees and sharing. I ended up with more on my plate than usual that too often included grains, potatoes and fried food.
  • Be seriously active: Get out of the car to sight-see, swim in the ocean or hotel pool, or find other fun activities such as hiking and biking that will get you moving and burning calories.
  • Cruising? It’s become much easier to be active on-board and burn off the sumptuous buffet calories. Take advantage of classes. Start counting steps with easy Apps. Take active shore excursions.
  • Limit alcohol. Have fun but it’s too easy to pour in calories by ordering fancy drinks and allowing yourself ‘just one more.’ Consider sharing a drink with your travel buddy!
  • Drink water, lots of it. I carry a refillable bottle and the National Parks have filling stations full of local, fresh, spring water. Stop using plastic bottles and when you don’t have another option, dispose of them responsibly.
  • Don’t deny yourself: A good rule of thumb is to limit local treats to one per day.
  • Relax: You’re on vacation! Don’t obsess about calories. Enjoy the local cuisine and allow yourself small amounts.

If only I’d followed my own advice! It’s live and learn. Now we’re home it’s back to the regular eating schedule and lots of exercise.

Enjoy this post? Here’s more about keeping your diet on track while vacationing.

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How do you keep from gaining weight when eating out on vacation?

Visiting the Rose Parade – New Years day, flowers and floats

visiting the rose parade, trip wellness

Visiting the Rose Parade, trip wellness, opening floatMy first time visiting the Rose Parade, half the family slept in the car while the rest of us camped out on the sidewalk along the route. Later my dad set up a plank bench between two ladders for us to watch from above the crowd, but I most remember the smell of roses and a tunnel of flowers as you looked down the street at the approaching floats.

As the saying goes: You can’t go home again and I learned that you can’t see the same parade twice. I hope you’ll benefit from some of the tips and blunders I made in visiting the Rose Parade many years later.

Rose Parade Float, Visiting the Rose Parade, trip wellness

My next visit was decades later with my teenage son. This Rose Parade was a two hour extravaganza with international bands and no-expense-spared displays. I’d elected to to watch above the street from bleachers along the route. We used the ‘official’ parade seating company (see below) to reserve our places and even secured assigned parking all in advance of the big day. People still camp out along the parade route and nearby lots resembled tailgate parties more than parking spaces. Luckily we’d decided to spend the night at a hotel nearby.

Most hotels were booked and extremely expensive by the time I got serious about finding lodging. We did find a room for two nights and arrived late at the Quality Inn on Huntington Drive, about seven the miles from the parade route. The modest space worked and a model car club, with their vintage buggies, were there too, getting ready for their place in the parade.

Rose Parade route, trip wellness, visiting the rose parade

At mile 5.2 all floats go under this freeway overpass. Tall floats have to collapse!

According to a hundred year old truce between local pastors and cowboys, who tied up their horses outside the churches, the parade is never held on a Sunday. If it applies, take that into account when booking lodging. Having an extra day can make your New Years trip into a real vacation with so much to see in the Pasadena area from galleries, gardens, museums and the race track.

If you’re on a budget: Roll into town pre-dawn on the day of the parade but be prepared for tight crowds along the central corridor of the route. The outer end of the parade will still give you opportunities. You can also sleep along the street and join the party the night before.

alien parade float, trip wellness

You never know who’ll show up when you’re visiting the Rose Parade.

Links for Visiting the Rose Parade 2016:
  • Follow the hashtags: #RoseParade #InspiringStories for the latest updates.
  • Tournament of Roses Official Site
  • View the floats in the days before the Parade and immediately after the parade.
  • Volunteers are always needed to create the complex floats in the week before the parade. For complete instructions visit the Rose Parade Volunteer Site from AES Creative.
  • Sharp Seating Company has been providing seats for over 75 years and have the official site for seating in the bleachers and parking.
Tips to get the most from visiting the Rose Parade:
  • Choose to arrive early, camp on the route or in your car. I saw many families with RV’s or camping on the sidewalks along the route in order to save front row seats for the parade. It’s a question of what works for you.
  • Stay in a hotel: Book 3 – 6 months in advance and be prepared for premium rates and two night minimums.

If you buy seats, know the difference in the various viewing areas:

  • If you’re closer to the beginning, the bands and horses will be fresher.
  • If you watch closer to the end of the parade, the bands will be sweaty and tired, the animals more likely tired and some of the floats may be breaking down.
  • Try to sit on the south side of the street (even numbers) to get the best morning light for pictures and see the sides of the floats that cater to the TV cameras.

If you get bleacher seats on the odd numbered side of the street come prepared:

  • It is winter in Southern California but dress in layers to be comfy in the morning chill that usually warms up. There can be a 20 degree difference.
  • Bring sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.
  • Bring water and snacks: it’s hard to maneuver out of the seating to the Porta Potties and to get water.
  • Buy your program at the site and save about $10 from what is charged online. The programs are great for information about the floats, performers and the history of the event.

Find out when the parade will approximately arrive at your area

The parade starts at 8 am and lasts about 2 hours. We sat in the 1305 Colorado block and the first floats didn’t reach us until about 9 am. Sitting in the bleachers for nearly 2 hours before anything happens can make anyone cranky!

Best strategy for comfort and economy:

Make friends with a company that has a storefront along the parade route and arrange to sit on their roof. Ask for access to bathrooms while visiting the Rose Parade.

Happy New Year!

Sharing is caring: I hope you’ll share the post with friends and here’s a pair of images to pin.

visiting the rose parade tips for travelers

 

 

Top five American travel stress questions & how to avoid them

LAX lady
airport stress relief, travel stress, trip wellness

Travelers chill at the LAX International Terminal

In a country that defines itself by levels of stress, it seems that taking a vacation would be the antidote. Not so according to a new survey called the ‘American Travel Pulse’. Cheap flights.com does explorers a service each year by researching how travelers are doing and their new survey reveals a lot about American travel habits and concerns.

The top five questions that cause kinks in U.S. citizen’s vacation are:

  1. We paid how much?
  2. Did you remember to bring the passports/the tickets?
  3. Did you remember to turn off the water/the gas / the electricity?
  4. How much longer?
  5. Do you have any liquids?

Let’s pause there for a moment, take a collective deep breath. These questions are easy! There can never be a vacation guarantee, as much as cruise lines and tour operators would like us to believe. Travel in itself is stressful and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

We need a little stress to push us out of our comfort zones and grow. Think of a baby taking its first steps – there are going to be bumps and wobbles in the least. Next picture that glowing smile of accomplishment when she’s finally standing up on her own.

Now imagine stepping off an airplane or onto a ship (insert mode of desired transport here) and into a completely new environment (insert dream trip destination here.) You did it! Go ahead and wobble a bit – that’s part of the fun.

Here’s a few suggested ways to defuse the top travel stress questions:

1. We paid how much?

A wise teacher of mine says: “Compare and despair.” Just asking how much a trip, service, dinner cost is setting you up for pain and if the person you’re interrogating is your travel buddy / spouse / significant other, they’re going to feel it too. It’s not the best recipe for a happy trip. Do your best when you make arrangements for the trip. Be transparent about purchases with the involved parties. Let it go. For as thick as my glasses are, my hindsight is crystal clear and I refuse to set myself up for regret.

LAX lady

2. Did you remember to bring the passports / the tickets?

If you’re in charge of the documents for yourself or others traveling with you, set up a dedicated cubby/notebook/folder for tickets, passports, itineraries. Get everyone in your travel party on board to help collect things in one spot.

Post links onto your smartphone calendar and important docs to Dropbox, or another Cloud resource where files can be shared. There are dozens of apps to help too. Tripit is one my family likes. Most of the apps have a free basic level that makes it easy to test how it works for you.

When it’s time to take off, grab the file, double check that everything’s in there and pack it away in your carry on. When the first person asks the question hand them the file to carry.

3. Did you remember to turn off the water / the gas / the electricity?

I’m not going to make light of how important the answers to this question is, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. I get it. When preparing for a long trip where this is going to be necessary, take care of yourself so you won’t be a bucket of stress when you lock the front door behind you.

Find a dedicated friend to call should something slip and make sure they can get into your place. Carry a hard copy of their contact information as well as on your phone/computer, etc. Then go, have a blast and bring them back something nice.

4. How much longer?

If there’s a child, teen or elder traveling with you, make sure you’ve packed distractions, toys, games, favorite snacks and have a few simple word games to play together along the way. If it’s a road trip – schedule stops at least every two hours. Your back will thank you and the kids will get a break before ramping up for the next query.

If you’re traveling with adults – make sure that they know the parameters of the trip and then be patient with each other. Delays happen. They can lead to discoveries you may not have anticipated – new friends, foods, landmarks. There’s a certain time for surrender to the rhythm of the journey. No time like the present and you’re on your way.

5. Do you have any liquids?

Being dehydrated is a very real stressor. By the time you realize that you’re thirsty, your body is already spiraling into a hard zone – you’ll have less energy, your mind muddles – it’s just not fun. Carry a water bottle with you everywhere. Make sure your travel buddies do too. Start the habit at home. Drain it on the way to the airport, save time to visit the bathroom, empty the bottle to get through security and fill it on the other side. Have the flight attendant fill it for you on the plane. Life will flow much more easily if you drink lots of water.My favorite discovery is a refillable water bottle with an insert for a few slices of fruit. I sip on lemon water throughout my days and the bit of flavor makes it easier. No need to buy lots of flavored, sugary drinks. Make your own! It helps to cut down on snacking too.

Just knowing that travel stress will greet you any time you step outside the front door, will help defuse it. You can handle it. Master your expectations, do your best and come home with great stories.

See the rest of the American Travel Pulse findings about travel stress and a cool infographic here.

Car Rental Deals & Spare tire woes

flat tire

flat tire, spare tire, trip wellness

It was a last minute deal. I booked the car rental deal while sitting in the airport at noon before our Friday flight. The car was waiting for us when we landed and the daily rate was fantastic. The rental would hit our wallet for less than $100 over the long weekend. A bargain! But sometimes even careful planning can be scuttled by fate or the fact that certain new cars do not come with spare tires.

While Enterprise Rental did their best to up-sell us at every turn (I get it – they are a business), we simply claimed our own car insurance, waived theirs and walked out to the lot for a final inspection. One minor scratch on the bumper, check. All else seemed in order, however, we’d rented a Hyandai Elantra which, as it turns out, only has a repair kit in the wheel well – no jack, no spare tire. We weren’t informed of the fact and and, blissfully ignorant, were soon on our way.

The drive north from Oakland to Fort Bragg is long but beautiful most any time of the year. We were blessed with sunshine, punctuated with enough sprinkles to keep it interesting and the road was blissfully light on traffic. Crossing the Richmond Bridge is always special. I was born on the western side in the Marin hamlet of San Rafael and have lived in the area off and on over the decades. Mt. Tam loomed above the bay, seagulls swerved past the bridge pylons and before long we were on Highway 101 north.

Richmond Bridge, spare tire, trip wellness

Winter in the wine country is a subtle palette of tawny greys, tans and dark greens. Alongside the road, spotted cows stood out in cartoon relief as the road looped on. We choose the Hwy. 20 route to the coast as it’s a somewhat more direct route than Hwy. 128. After stopping in Ukiah for a brief lunch, we continued on as the skies turned from sprinkles to sunshine and back again. Around one bend a small, dark object sat in the road too close to avoid. Sadly it wasn’t a pine cone but a rock that bit our front, right tire and sent us limping to a pullout around the next bend.

That was our state for the next four hours. It wasn’t until then that we discovered the empty wheel well held only a tangled set of accessories for a compression pump and no jack. With no jack to lift the flat tire, the compressor proved useless.

Onto plan 2:

On that section of mountain road, cell phone service was nonexistent. Traffic was light but one good Samaritan soon pulled over to take my partner, Dave, to call the car company and the Automobile Club (Best to do it in that order). I sat and waited. Sitting alone in a broken down car with no cell phone service on a remote mountain pass sounds like the scenario for a TV crime show but no, the time passed pleasantly enough – it wasn’t cold or dark, I had time to read and nap before Dave returned, and no one bothered me. He soon enough opened the car door, reporting that a tow truck was on its way, and we sat another two hours. No one came to rescue us.  With less than an hour to sunset, Dave decided to walk uphill to find the Call Box he’d passed earlier.

Sheriff Matt McCroskey, spare tire, trip wellness

Nearly another hour passed until I looked up to see a police cars lights flashing in the rear view mirror. My heart leaped with relief as Dave stepped out. The young Sheriff, Matt Croskey, works in Willits and patrols this stretch of highway. He’d rescued Dave near the Call Box, which was not working, and waited with us until the Tow Truck finally emerged from the forest road.

TnT Towing, spare tire, trip wellness

Victor, from TnT Towing, has been patrolling this road for over two years and it was just part of the day’s ‘comedy of errors’ that he’d missed us earlier. His company is busiest when there’s a rain and it rains here often. Over the years he’s pulled cars from ravines, nearly fallen over an overgrown cliff, waited for emergency vehicles to liberate trapped passengers and is never at a loss for work. It can be grisly, but our encounter wasn’t.

As the car lifted and we rolled onto the highway, a pale SUV suddenly swerved around us and sped into the night. About 15 minutes along the way, a flare illuminated the road. Another flashed red as we completed the turn and saw ‘our’ Sheriff standing on the road surveying the white SUV (same as had passed us earlier) that had leaped into the forest and was suspended in the trees. Victor knew he had a long night ahead of him.

Finally, about nine hours after leaving San Rafael on a trip that normally takes about 3, we arrived in Fort Bragg. We left the car at the closed, Enterprise office and were dropped off at party we’d been looking forward to. The pork, steak and lingue tacos were most welcome after the day’s slim pickings. The night had promise and we were thankful to forget the day’s adventures.

Since the Enterprise office in Fort Bragg is closed on Sunday we were without a car until late morning on Monday. Luckily, friends in town were able to shuttle us about. The return trip was uneventful, thankfully, and I have to hand it to Enterprise – they took care of the bill. Don’t count on that (see the articles below,) just make sure that whatever new car you rent has a spare or you’re going to be outside of cell phone range should you get a flat.

Happy ending:

Perhaps it was the fact that I was taking pictures like crazy and told the desk clerk that I was a travel writer, but our expenses were refunded, they gave us a private ride to our gate and offered several free upgrade coupons for next time we rent from Enterprise. We made it home safely with a story to tell and no worse for the wear. I’ll be much more careful about the next car rental deal I come across, but risk is a part of any trip.

Here’s some interesting articles about new car rentals without a spare tire:

Chris Elliot Blog – Towing charges with no spare tire? Read more.

No spare tire for safety and not as necessary with new tech. Read more.

Can you get a rental car with a spare tire? Read more.

Inflate your soccer ball! Worldwide Day of Play

Tiger play
Tiger play

With thanks to Tambako the Jaguar at Flickr Creative Commons

Playtime

While it was inspired by the think-tank over at Nickelodeon, why does the Worldwide Day of Play have to stop there? I understand how important it is to encourage kids to step away from their electronics and go out to play. Do we, as adults presumably, still need to get permission to go out and kick up our heels?

If you’re a traveler it may sound like all you do is play – but in reality travel takes time, focus and work to do well.

I spoke with a mother recently, Jocelyn Chapman, who traveled overseas with her 8 year old son. While mine is getting ready to graduate from high school, we still were able to commiserate on how traveling with kids can keep us active and how making friends is so much easier.

Jocelyn had the wisdom to pack a deflated soccer ball and a small pump. Whenever she and her son had the chance, they’d pump up the ball and run over to a park. Language was never a barrier. Her son learned how to play with kids who often didn’t speak English. She easily met their parents and friends. Together it led to invitations to birthday parties, family dinners, new friends young and old. They both learned lessons in compassion, patience (with each other mostly) and got lots of exercise.

So unpack your metaphorical soccer ball and get outside. It might not be the official Worldwide Day of Play, but what are you waiting for ?!

 

Childs Play at Professor Pennypickles Workshop in Temecula

Caleb at Pennypickles

Caleb at PennypicklesRain and Disneyland – two words that don’t usually pair well but my pal, a 40yr. old birthday boy, had no trouble releasing his inner child on his first visit to the theme park. A little rain didn’t dent the day and in fact, other than a couple of ride closures, the minor precipitation shortened lines and diminished crowds. It was so much more than childs play.

Honey, I forgot the kids:

What a time we had! Running from ride to ride was a tickle but we both eventually admitted that it would be fun to come back with kids in tow. Although adults are most welcome throughout the park, experiencing a playground through a child’s eyes opens you up to entirely different adventures.

The Professor’s Magic:

I recently reconnected with childs play while visiting Professor Penny Pickles Workshop, the Temecula Children’s Museum.  Temecula is most noted for its wineries and breweries but set in the Old Town district are a multitude of shops, restaurants and theaters. In the midst of all these diversions Caleb and his Grandmother were waiting for the Professor’s place to open. caleb and grandmaWhile they’d played through the school break at all the Southern California theme parks, this was where Caleb wanted to spend his last day of summer vacation. “I want to be here before going home to Michigan,” he said, “because I like science.”

Within an hour kids were everywhere, beaming as they scuttled, crawled and skipped through rooms full of thing to touch and do. Nothing’s under glass here except in the gift shop. The very walls ask to be moved (if you follow the signs in a shadowy maze.) A jumbled kitchen holds a mysterious, chained refrigerator alongside a dark pantry illuminated by a glowing barrel of ‘toxic’ waste.

Pennypickles piano

Even adults can’t resist.

There’s even a grand piano begging for banging and, the morning I was there, the most popular spot was a hot air balloon basket elevated on a platform complete with telescopes and pulleys. That’s where previously quiet Caleb, was shouting orders as a Captain on an imaginary trans-Atlantic flight with a new-found friend.

Granny? She hovered nearby beaming where other parents and adult visitors waited and played vicariously.  I continued my journey through the 7,500 feet of the house; every colorful, playful nook and cranny overflowing with imagination incarnate.

Temecula lies about 45 miles north of San Diego and about an hour south of Riverside along Highway 15. It makes a convenient rest stop and chance to sip the celebrated, local vintages and brews, never knowing what fun lies around the corner at Professor Pennypickles, but they’re missing out. caleb baloon basket

Need a little arm-twisting evidence for your adult playmates?  The Workshop  has garnered more awards than there are pockets in the ubiquitous Professor Pennypickle’s labcoat, including the Nickelodeon’s Parents’ Picks Award for “Best Museum” and “Best Kids’ Party Place, as well as a THEA award from the Themed Entertainment Association, for creators of compelling places and experiences, and two awards from the California Park and Recreation Society.

We’re a lucky species that can reconnect with child’s play anytime we choose. Consider spending a few hours at the Professor Pennypickles workshop the next time you’re in the area. You can tell yourself you’re there for the science.

Pennypickles Workshop – Temecula Children’s Museum

42081 Main Street, Temecula, CA 92590 / 951-308-6370 / pennypickles.org

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Disclosure: I attended as a guest of the Temecula Convention and Visitors Center.

Spontaneity and your trip itinerary

Patty Murphy

Patty MurphyLearning to Pivot

If I can’t be traveling, I love trading stories with travelers. A few weeks ago I sat down for breakfast next to an interesting red-headed woman in the Toronto Canadiana Backpackers Inn. Soon we were exchanging stories about why we were there, talking about our trip itinerary and ended up visiting a museum across town together.

Patty Murphy decided to explore the world after working for over 20 years in the gem and diamond business. Deciding that there was nowhere else the job could take her, she packed up her discontent, rather than wait another five years for retirement and took a rare opportunity to explore the world – rare because she’s able to fly most anywhere on a family pass. Her sister works for a major airline and the immediate family can fly free.

Why not a tattoo? Patty says!

Patty’s tattoo!

That’s remarkable enough but what amazed me most about Patty is her adaptability.  When she decides where she wants to go, she tracks the flights she wants to take online. She’s not able to schedule or reserve a seat. She often finds out on the way to the airport if she might be able to get on the plane to the destination she desires. It stunned me as I imagined the amount of flexibility that requires.

Beginners Mind:

Granted she travels on her own, packs light and owns very little. She considers herself a beginner and expects to make mistakes but it’s her lack of attachment to outcome that floors me. It seems there are great lessons in that.

I was once a traveler-in-training on cross-country road trips with my parents. If my dad spied a sign for something that piqued his curiosity, he’d veer off in that direction and explore. We spent time splashing at lakeside water parks that weren’t on the map, climbed around roadside attractions like a life-sized Brontosaurus and through Paul Bunyan’s legs; we shared dinners at campsites with families from around the world and discovered the sweet delights of a Panaderia (bakery) while having a tire changed in a Mexican village.

Aside from surprising discoveries, when we’re traveling and open, we learn about ourselves at the same time. For example: It’s a bit of a cliché that couples fight when driving and I’ve been there. More than once I’ve started boiling because we weren’t taking a certain route or leaving at a time I’d decided was optimal. When I’ve been able to let go and enjoy my partner or my son or my mother’s way of doing things, I’ve enjoyed them more and realized how quick I can be to judge. Have to say that little self-awareness has made road trips a lot more relaxed and enjoyable.

FOMO: Fear of missing out!

We live in a country where many workers don’t take their full vacation time or work while away because they’re afraid of getting behind or worse, losing their job. It’s not easy. I get it but if we could just learn to pivot, to be more like Patty perhaps, open to what lies ahead and then realign our expectations. We might discover great adventures, better jobs or at least spend more time happily splashing when we loosen up about our trip itinerary.

Have you been spontaneous while traveling? Share your discoveries!

Visiting US National Parks – Yosemite Valley in the morning

morning in Yosemite valley

morning in Yosemite valleyThere just Outside the trail-head bathrooms, mounted on a log, was a relic. The toll phone surprised me when I picked up the receiver and heard the clear, low tone. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one and it worked!Phone Yosemite Valley That was just one of the thoughtful discoveries to be enjoyed in Yosemite Park.

While we were there early on a busy weekend the bathrooms were clean or being cleaned, the trails empty of any trash and well-designed loops managed the crowds growing throughout the day. I wished for strategically placed drinking faucets but not the infrastructure that would take. Recycling bins for plastic bottles would also be a help.

Yosemite is astounding most any time but in the summer, it’s best seen early in the morning before crowds dampen the natural beauty with long lines of traffic, searching for parking, dodging rented bikes or struggling to get a picture of a waterfall with a busload of visitors just out of frame.

Yosemite valley reflectionBefore 9 am I was standing in a field, enjoying the sound of a creek and pivoting slowly to take in the valley view, when my cell phone rang. My sister had no idea where I was and it was surreal to speak to her, calling from a street near San Francisco.

Lovely to connect with family no matter where and I relished it all the more just being in Yosemite Valley, which the first residents called Ahwahnee, The Land of the Gaping Mouth.

I was swallowed whole-heartedly.

Yosemite Valley is one of the most popular of the US National Parks. #findyourpark

Pointed and Pointlessly Large Roadside Attractions

Carlsbad fork
Carlsbad fork

Carlsbad fork

Americans cling firmly to the belief that bigger is better. From super-sized food to amplifying body parts, America is hard at work at creating the most gargantuan version of anything and everything imaginable. Creating large roadside attractions is a national pastime but not only in the U.S.

Southern California has it’s share. There’s a giant doughnut at a 50’s bakery in Long Beach, California and until recently, a towering fork in Carlsbad, just north of San Diego.

The sentinel fork was short-lived. Inspired by a Muppets movie prop, an anonymous, local retiree used his wood working skills to give his visitors a choice to turn at a literal ‘fork in the road.’. Standing tall in a triangular meridian, it soon won fame and fans. However soon humor-less, safety-minded city officials had it removed. Not to be deterred, another anonymous  fork soon appeared, but this time on private land and hanging from a tree. The new gigantic suspended utensil still marks the fork in the road.

stop sign flowerAnother civic rumpus occurred a few months earlier when an artist took his knitting hobby public. He decided to beautify local stop signs with “Yarn Bombing” and the story string has been unraveling ever since. San Diego City official Bill Harris contacted the perpetrator, Bryan, through his website and told him to stop turning signs into trees. Overworked city staff may have removal on their task lists but many remain in a silent protest, delighting dog-walkers and kids on the suburban streets of the Clairemont neighborhood.

Here’s five large roadside attractions that are claiming world records:
World’s Largest Tire: Allen Park, Michigan

Even the largest new BF Goodrich tires for your colossal pickup truck have nothing on this transcendent tire. The 12 ton, 80 foot tire was originally constructed as a Ferris Wheel for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, according to RoadsideAmerica.com. It can now be viewed off of I-94 in Allen Park, Michigan, as a patriotic salute to the American automotive industry or a rolling calamity waiting to happen.

World’s Largest Garden Gnome: Poland

The past decade has seen several places relentlessly out-gnoming each other. These jolly giants are more of a lawn gnome or entire yard gnome than one that would fit in your garden. First, the town of Kerhonkson in New York held the title of World’s Largest Gnome with Gnome on the Range, also known as Gnome Chomsky outside of Kelder Farm. Iowa thought they could one-up the mere 13’6 Chomsky. Once Iowa State University introduced its pointy hatted, white bearded Elwood to its Reiman Gardens, it reigned gnome supreme at 15 feet. Not to be outdone, Poland snatched the much sought after world record from Iowa’s hands with its towering 18 foot gnome. Some still consider the Iowan gnome the largest, as the Polish gnome is constructed of fiberglass rather than the typical concrete.

World’s Largest Light Bulb: Edison, New JerseyLight bulb glow-lamp studio

Someone had the bright idea to turn Edison’s luminary invention into yet another object that America could claim as world’s biggest. Suitably located in the town of Edison, this 13-foot tall light bulb commemorates the famed inventor’s revolutionary idea. The bulb sits atop a 134-foot tower that marks the site of Menlo Park laboratory where Edison brought the first commercial incandescent light bulb to fruition and yes, it does light up. We can only imagine what the electricity bill runs.

World’s Largest Santa: North Pole, Alaska

As you’d expect, Santa Claus makes his home in North Pole only this one isn’t located on top of the world, but in a quaint Alaskan town. We all know Mr. Kringle is a bit rotund around the waistline, but this version of Santa Claus really takes the cake or cookie given his excessive appetite. Weighing in at a morbidly obese 900 pounds and towering 42 feet high, the world’s largest jolly Saint Nick maintains his plump figure and never-ending Christmas spirit year-round.

World’s Largest Baseball Bat: Louisville, Kentucky

The world’s largest baseball bat, a carbon steel replica of Babe Ruth’s homer-hitting bat from the 1920’s, is located in the birthplace of the famed Louisville Slugger. The Great Bambino’s 120 foot tall, 68,000 pound replica bat has rested adjacent to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory since 1995.

 

Travel tips to avoid back pain from sitting

back pain from sitting, trip wellness

back pain from sitting, trip wellnessPost updated – December 15th, 2014

It’s the time of year when families are traveling together, couples are planning to get away, empty-nesters are working through bucket lists of places to visit. Hard earned time off, savings, reservations and frequent flier miles are being managed. It all can derail quickly if you end up with back pain and too uncomfortable to enjoy your trip.

How do you avoid back pain from sitting when traveling?

Any one of us who takes off regularly has a personal travel regimen and strategies. Discovering those can take time and a lot of trial and error. It helps to get pointers from experts and one I’ve enlisted is Chiropractor, Dr. Janis Prout.

Dr. Janis Prout, back pain from sitting, trip wellness

Dr. Janis Prout

She sees patients in pain daily. When they’re getting ready for a trip, she helps them prepare, but often they return home in worse shape! Back pain from sitting is just one of the issues she helps with.

Twelve tips to avoid back pain from sitting:
  1. Break time – Our bodies are not designed to be sedentary. Get up out of your airplane seat to walk and stretch at least once every hour. On the road stop the car and do some stretching. When traveling with family frequent breaks are really important. You may feel the push to keep going and get to your destination. Dr. Prout encourages her family to add an extra hour to travel time for breaks. “I make my dad or whoever it is, pull over and walk around.”
  2. Rolling luggage – Pulling is OK but switch hands and pull with the opposite hand when you think of it. When you don’t switch arms and constantly favor one side, one shoulder and hand is more likely to develop soreness.

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Listen to the Gathering Road Podcast and the interview with Dr. Janis Prout or download the MP3 to listen later.



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More tips to avoid back pain from sitting:

 

  1. Wallets – Guys, take your wallet out of your back pocket – Sitting on a wallet torks and twists, the side of body that you habitually hold your wallet in. Muscles pull to compensate and that can lead to pain.
  2. Gas pedal – Keep your right foot straight and the toes tilted up towards the sky. Avoid tilting your right foot to help your hip stay relaxed.
  3. Wedge – When sitting in a car or on an airplane for a long time have a little wedge under you. They can be ordered online and have a hole for the sacrum and coccyx, which takes pressure off the low back. The wedge is slightly larger in the back and smaller towards your knees, which helps with reducing low back fatigue.
  4. Wedge 2 – Roll up a towel (and put rubber-bands on the ends) as a wedge to help support your lower back.
  5. Wedge 3 – Use the rolled towel vertically when sitting as well. Lean into it, which helps the chest to open up a little bit and extends the back. Play with positioning it and see what feels good to you.
  6. Desk work – When working in your office (or in your hotel room) ergonomics are a huge issue. Have an office mate, or travel buddy, take your picture when you’re not paying attention and look to see if you can adjust how you sit for better balance and posture. Remind yourself that it’s healthiest to have 90 degree angles for your knees, hips and elbows.
  7. Tray table – When using your laptop or eReader on a plane: It’s best to bring your monitor closer to eye level. Put a book under the laptop to raise it, then use an external keyboard on your lap to help avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
  8. Cell phone – Be mindful when using your cell phone don’t force your neck into ‘flexion’, odd twisted angles. When texting be careful about your neck angle as well and keep the phone raised.
  9. Leaning – When driving you may want to lean on the armrest or door.  Habitual leaning is no friend to the spine. If you’re a leaner, put some double sided tape on the door handle so when you lean it’s a reminder to stop. Lean on the other side too for balance but it’s best not to lean at all.
  10. Crossed legs – When crossing your legs also, switch off and do it evenly. Crossing your legs can lead to lower back and hip pain.

We are designed to move.

Dr. Prout has a 98 yr. old patient who walks with a cane just for balance issues but doesn’t use a walker or wheel chair. The secret?  She exercises every day of her life and believes that’s her key to longevity.

“Movement is life to a joint.” We have to keep moving through our days. Find out more about Janis’ work at: www.chiropracticinsantee.com. I hope these tips will help you avoid back pain from sitting.

Find other travel ease books and audio for flyers and drivers at: www.DrivetimeYoga.com

 

Holiday travels – Help with stress on U.S. road trips and long flights

couple driving

couple drivingSo much to be grateful for this time of year!

Planning a road trip over the Thanksgiving holiday? Over the past few years gasoline prices have spiked in anticipation of crowded holiday highways. Here in California we’ve been given a gift -the average price per gallon has fallen, according to the Automobile Association. The Energy Information Administration is forecasting that prices will continue to decline nationwide through to the end of the year.

Which means more cars out on the road for holiday travels. Be sure to plan accordingly.

Travel tips for holiday travels: ( I could give you dozens but you’ve got enough to remember with getting away and all. These are my top suggestions).

  • Fuel up the day before Thanksgiving or earlier.
  • Leave plenty of time to get to your destination – travel before 9am or after 7pm for less crowded roads.
  • Be sure to bring extra water along for the ride – and sip it! This helps your body deal with stress better.
  • Carry enough water for everyone in the car.
  • Avoid over-caffeinated or super-sugared drinks – they may make it harder to handle stressful traffic or weather.
  • Use Drivetime Yoga to help you release stress, avoid back pain from sitting and arrive feeling relaxed.

Airline companies are reporting a bigger jump than anticipated in sales this year.

Surprisingly, Alaska Airlines has reported that Hurricane Sandy hasn’t dented flight capacity in the last month and that even the month of October showed about 8.5% increase in sales. Hawaii has been seeing more visitors in the last few months as well, reporting that sales were up over 14% this fall.

Tips for holiday fliers: (Again I can give you scads but these are at the top of my list)

  • Give yourself lots of lead time for packing, getting your home and pets ready.
  • Exercise well in the days before going on a long flight.
  • Bring a baggie or two of nuts/dried fruit/dates and perhaps some cut veggies to help you keep from reaching for expedient snacks that you may regret eating or getting stressed from being overly hungry.
  • Drink lots of water – airplanes have low humidity and getting up to use the bathroom will help you stretch out cramped muscles.
  • Do Flytime Yoga on the way!

Elaine J. Masters

Travel writer, co-host of San Diego Travel Massive.

Travel ease books and audio at: www.Drivetimeyoga.com

 

 

 

 

 

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