In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

California Raod Trip Day 3 Part 2 - Yosemite (Mariposa Grove)


The other day, I posted here about the planning ofour California road trip. You can read more out this trip by clicking on the follwowing posts: Day 1(San Diego) ,  Day 2 (LA) and Day 3 Part 1 (LA).




California Road Trip Day Three Itinerary



In preparation for day three, I had in a folder the following: an itinerary for the day, hotel info/reservations, printed directions (in case our phones failed us) and menus from the websites of the restaurants we were going to.



7:00 a.m. - wake up and get ready

8:00 a.m. - eat breakfast at hotel and check out

8:30 a.m. - get gas before driving thirty minutes to Santa Monica & Venice Beaches

9:00 a.m. - watch the early morning surfers on Santa Monica Beach

9:30 a.m. - walk the Venice Boardwalk
10:30 a.m. - eat an early lunch at Sidewalk Cafe
11:00 a.m - walk up the shore from Venice Beach to the Santa Monica Pier

11:30 a.m. - walk the Santa Monica Pier

12:00 p.m. - begin 5 hour drive to Yosemite

3:00 p.m. - stop for gas and groceries at Wal-Mart in Tulare, CA

3:30 p.m. - stop for dinner at In-N-Out Burger in Fresno, CA

5:00 p.m. - enter Mariposa Grove through the south entrance of Yosemite National Park

6:30 p.m. - drive one hour up to Glacier Point

7:30 p.m. - watch the sun set on Glacier Point then drive 2 hours to our camp ground

9:30 p.m. - check into our yurt at Yosemite Lakes

10:00 p.m - try to get a good night's sleep



A few pics of our day…..

We left LA right on schedule and made great time as we journeyed toward Yosemite.


We stopped for an early dinner at the In-N-Out Burger in Fresno, CA, just before getting onto HWY 41, where we knew civilization was going to start getting scarce.  This was our first In-N-Out experience.  The burgers were YUMMO, but the fries weren’t that great.  BTW, we made sure to ask for extra ketchup packets, so we could use them when we ate our hot dogs at the camp ground.  We also took extra butter and jam from our breakfast that morning, so we could use it for our toast at the campground ;)

Just as my itinerary said, we stopped at Wal-Mart right off of HW 99 in Tulare to pick up a few groceries for our two day stay in Yosemite.  The list had to be simple and purposeful.  I didn’t want to waste anything, but I also knew that once we got near Yosemite, stores would be nearly impossible to find.  I needed food for two breakfast meals, one lunch meal, two dinner meals, a few snacks for our backpacks and beverages for two days.  I preplanned the following list and we were in and out of Wal-Mart in no time:  bread, eggs, pre-cooked bacon, cooking spray, lunch meat, sliced cheese, Ziploc bags, chips, fruit, granola bars, hot dogs, hot dog buns, and12 pack of sprite 0.


Just as planned, we entered the south gate of Yosemite National Park on schedule and made our way to visit the sequoias of Mariposa Grove.


One word…..WOW!!!


Pictures do not do justice to how majestic these trees really are!


All I can say is that if you haven’t been and you every get a chance to go…..DEFINITELY GO!!!


Mariposa Grove is easy to navigate.  We pretty much stayed in the lower grove, but some people make a day of it and hike up into the upper groves.


After walking the trail for an hour or so, we made our way back to the car and that’s when things didn’t go exactly as we had planned……


Maybe it’s because we were so taken in with the beauty around us…maybe it’s because we were tired…maybe it’s just because we are plain idiots (that's probably the reason), but at this point in our trip we made a huge mistake!


The original plan was to go to Glacier Point after Mariposa Grove if we had time.  Yosemite is HUGE, and since Glacier Point is on the same side of the park as Mariposa Grove, it was going to be the most efficient use of time to do the two on the same day.  Glacier Point is also supposed to have the best views at sunset, which was another reason for wanting to make the drive to Glacier Point in the evening.  We ended up leaving Mariposa Grove on schedule, and had time to make the hour drive up to Glacier Point on our way to the campground.  Our campground told us to call them if we were going to be arriving after hours.  As we were leaving Mariposa Grove, we decided to call the campground while we still had cell phone service to let them know we would be arriving around 9:30.

Here’s where we messed up.  We would later find out that we dialed the park office instead of the ranger’s office.  We called what we thought was the correct number, and heard a voicemail letting us know that the hours of the office were closed.  We continued to drive a few miles towards Glacier Point, but Matt decided to turn around and head back to our campground for fear of getting to our campground too late, not getting a key to our yurt and having to sleep in our car:/   Frazzled and tired, we apparently made a wrong turn when we tried to backtrack.  We didn’t realize this mistake until an hour and half later!!! It was around that time that we found a bit of cell phone service which allowed us to realize that we were 90 miles away from our campground, when we thought we were only a few miles away!  At that point the directions that I had printed out were useless to us, so we rerouted on our iphone….but then we lost cell phone service again, and our phone was officially useless to us.L


Bottom Line – We ended up getting lost….at night….in the mountains….and it took us five hours from the time we left Mariposa Groves to the time we actually arrived to our campground!!!!  That night was probably the worst part of our trip!  Mistake number one was dialing the wrong number.   If we would have called the right number (which I printed on my itenerary), then the rangers would have told us that they would have our key waiting for us when we got to the campground (because we later found out the ranger station is open 24 hours and there would have never been a problem).  We would have driven to Glacier Point as planned, followed our printed directions as planned, and then arrived at our campground on time as planned!  Mistake number two was making a wrong turn once we decided to change plans.   That one turn cost us hours of time!!!  The new route that the iphone gave us was very scary and stressful driving for my husband as we slowly drove up the side of the mountain at night, knowing that we were only a few feet from falling to our deaths!!!  I’m not even exaggerating!!! It was scarier than any ice storm, snow storm or blizzard that I have ever driven in!  I’m glad my husband was driving, because I don’t think I could have driven that at night!  For three hours the only light we had was our headlights and the light of the moon.  The road was too dangerous and narrow to turn around, so we kept going up and up and up.....and around and around and around!  We finally started descending the last thirty minutes of our drive as we came upon a town (if you can call it that, it looked more like a ghost town) and began driving on more normal roads.  One word….RAILINGS!!!  Yosemite should seriously consider investing in some to comfort those of us who live in the Midwest!  We eventually ran into a police officer, and he led us to our destination. 

We arrived at our campground close to midnight, tired and worn from our unplanned adventure!  At that point, all we wanted was a good night’s sleep, and our yurt was just the place to find it:)  If you don’t know what a yurt is…well, I’ll just have to explain that in my next post when I plan on sharing more of our Yosemite adventures with you;)












Tuesday, July 24, 2012

California Road Trip Day 3 Part 1 - LA (Venice Beach & Santa Monica Pier)



The other day, I posted here about the planning ofour California road trip.  You can read more out this trip by clicking on the follwowing posts:  Day 1(San Diego) and  Day 2 (LA).




California Road Trip Day Three Itinerary



In preparation for day three, I had in a folder the following:  an itinerary for the day, hotel info/reservations, printed directions (in case our phones failed us) and menus from the websites of the restaurants we were going to.



7:00 a.m. - wake up and get ready

8:00 a.m. - eat breakfast at hotel and check out

8:30 a.m. - get gas before driving thirty minutes to Santa Monica & Venice Beaches

9:00 a.m. - watch the early morning surfers on Santa Monica Beach

9:30 a.m. - walk the Venice Boardwalk
10:30 a.m. - eat an early lunch at Sidewalk Cafe
11:00 a.m - walk up the shore from Venice Beach to the Santa Monica Pier

11:30 a.m. - walk the Santa Monica Pier

12:00 p.m. - begin 5 hour drive to Yosemite

 3:00 p.m. - stop for gas and groceries at Walmart in Tulare, CA

3:30 p.m. - stop for dinner at In-N-OutBurger in Fresno, CA

5:00 p.m. - enter Mariposa Grove through the south entrance of Yosemite National Park

6:30 p.m. - Drive one hour up to Glacier Point

7:30 p.m. - Watch the sun set on Glacier Point then drive 2 hours to our camp ground

9:30 p.m. - Check into our yurt at Yosemite Lakes

10:00 p.m - try to get a good night's sleep


A few pics of our day…..


We started the day off by going Venice/Santa Monica and watching the morning surfers.


It was much colder than I anticipated, considering the fact that it was a mid summer morning in southern California.  Most of the morning was windy and overcast, making me wish I brought a warmer jacket.  Once the sun came out around 10:00, it warmed up quite a bit, and I was finally ready to shed my sweatshirt.


After watching the surfers, we walked the Venice boardwalk.  Venice and Santa Monica are so close together, but Venice is definitely the dirtier of the two.  Even when trying to find a parking lot for the day, we chose a parking lot on the Santa Monica side and ended up parking really close to the Santa Monica Pier.  Let’s just say that some of the parking lots on the Venice side looked scary:/


I had to take a picture of this, because these “medical” marijuana places were all over Venice Beach.  The people working in these shops would just come up to us on the street and try to sell it to us while we walked by.  Clearly I, like most people, have no medical reasons to smoke pot, but since it’s legal pot, lots of people purchased it.  I seriously don’t get CA sometimes.


One thing that I noticed about Venice is that is was incredibly artistic in a weird, punk rocker sort of way.  Even though a lot of the art that was on display or sold by the street venders was not my personal taste, I appreciate creativity and artistic expression that Venice offered.


This picture makes me laugh, because when my husband heard we were going to Venice, all he talked about was Muscle Beach.  There were no body builders working out the morning we were there, but he was still really excited to see this part of Venice.


Matt also really enjoyed the skate park on the beach and would have probably watched skate boarding all day if I hadn’t pull him away from it.


One thing that surprised me about LA was how cold the water was.  It was really too cold to swim….too cold for us at least.   There were people swimming in the water….we just weren’t one of them.  Dipping our feet in the water was as far as we went.


After watching the surfers on Santa Monica Beach, walking the Venice Boardwalk, and attempting to get in the water on Venice Beach, we continued the morning by walking the shore from Venice Beach to the Santa Monica Pier.


We don’t like to waste our money on carnival games and rides, so we didn’t stay at the pier very long.  It was just fun to walk the pier and say that we’ve been there.  The only money we spent the entire morning was on a parking and a drink. 


We were planning on eating lunch at the Sidewalk Café.  I read a lot of good things about that restaurant, but we had a big breakfast and decided to skip lunch and grab something once we got on the road.  By noon, we were ready to hit the road and begin our five hour drive to Yosemite!  Can’t wait to share more about that part of our trip with you tomorrow!


California Road Trip Day 2 - LA (Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Malibu)



The other day, I posted here about the planning ofour California road trip. And yesterday I blogged about day oneof our trip hereToday’s post is about day two....LA!




California Road Trip Day Two Itinerary



In preparation for day two I had in a folder the following: an itinerary of our day, hotel info/reservations, printed directions (in case our phones failed us) and menus from the websites of the restaurants we reserved.



6:30 a.m. - wake up and get ready

8:00 a.m. - check out of hotel and drive two hours to Newport Beach

10:00 a.m. - morning stroll on Newport Beach

11:00 a.m. - eat an early lunch at Bear Flag Fish Co.

11:30 a.m. - drive an hour to Beverly Hills
12:00 p.m. - sightsee Rodeo Drive
1:00 p.m - drive thirty minutes to Hollywood

1:30 p.m. - sightsee Hollywood Blvd.

3:30 p.m. - drive 15 minutes (plus traffic time) to downtown LA

 4:00 p.m. - have an early dinner at the Nickel Diner

5:00 p.m. - drive 30 minutes to our hotel in Woodland Hills 

5:30 p.m. - check into Best Western Woodland Hills Inn, clean up and get ready for dinner

6:30 p.m. - Take a scenic drive to Malibu for dinner on the beach

8:00 p.m. - dinner reservations at Paradise Cove Beach Cafe

9:30 p.m. - drive back to hotel

11:00 p.m - try to get a good night's sleep





A few pics of our day…..

We enjoyed the scenic hills of southern California as we started our morning on the road, traveling from San Diego to the beach town of Newport.


Once finding affordable and accessible street parking, we enjoyed walking the quiet beach before the real reason for our stop in Newport opened its doors at 11:00 a.m.


Bear Flag Fish Company was the real reason for our stop:) Since it's on the way to LA from San Diego, it was MUST for us to stop here!


It’s really just a small town fish market, but they are very well known for making and selling fish tacos!


I had read that they had the best fish tacos on the west coast, and Matt and I were anxious to give them a try. As you can see, my husband agrees!!! At $3.50 per taco, the price is also a big thumbs up!


They were soooo good!  The freshest fish tacos I’ve ever had and one of my favorite meals on our trip!  My mouth is watering just thinking about them;)


After enjoying our snack, we made our way to Beverly Hills, Rodeo DriveThe only thing we bought in Beverly Hills was an hour of parking.  Not much to buy if you’re an average middleclass citizen on a budget, but that’s exactly what we anticipated.  Our stop to Rodeo Drive was merely for tourist reasons. 


Surprisingly, street parking was easy to find and affordable.  That’s about the only thing that was affordable though!  I was floored with the prices in all of the stores! 


Clearly these stores are for the rich, the famous and the person with lots of credit card debt.  When my husband looked at the store directory and jokingly asked me which way to Old Navy, I assured him that there weren't any Old Navy's or Target's on Rodeo Drive.  Seeing as how my entire outfit from that day (and most every day) came from Target’s clearance rack, TJ Max and Goodwill, I really didn’t fit in at this place!


After Beverly Hills, we were off to Hollywood!

Hollywood is one of those places that if you're in LA and you’ve never been, you kind of have to go just to say that you’ve been. 

Honestly, it’s not that exciting, or at least I didn’t think it was.  I knew that I would have that reaction about it, so I didn’t plan too much of our day here. 


Parking garages were not hard to find, and they were average parking garage prices.  We didn’t really spend any money here.  We just did the iconic things like walk the stars, take a picture of the sign, walk around the the Highlands Center (also the best place to get a picture of the sign), and photograph the handprints of the stars at the Chinese Theatre entrance.


Now that I’ve seen Hollywood once, I’d definitely skip it next time.



One of the things that we wanted to do on our trip was go to a restaurant that was showcased on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins & Dives.  When I discovered that there was such a diner in downtown LA, just fifteen minutes from Hollywood, I decided to give it a try.  I was hesitant about going downtown, because of all of the horror stories I had heard about LA traffic.  I was certainly relieved to discover that traffic wasn’t that bad at all while we were there!


We were even able to find affordable street parking right across from the restaurant! While I may have gotten luck with traffic and parking, I didn’t get so lucky with our restaurant.  After all of my research I somehow didn’t realize that Nickel Diner is closed from 3:30 to 6:00….and we showed up at 4:00!  Major Bummer!!!  There wasn’t any room in my itinerary to come back later, so we left this diner feeling a little defeated:(   It just goes to show that not everything goes according to plan.


We ended up checking into our hotel a little earlier than planned, so we went across the street where I had my first Jamba Juice experience….and might I say, it was a pretty good one:) The pomegranate pick-me-up was yummo!!! Wish we had these in Indy! 


We had dinner reservations in Malibu, but there wasn’t anyplace affordable for us to stay in Malibu. When researching hotels, it didn’t take me long to know that we weren’t going to be able to rub shoulders with celebrities. We were going to have to stay in one of the neighboring towns about 30 minutes outside of Malibu where normal people live. We ended up staying at a Best Western in Woodland Hills, a clean well-kept area outside ofMalibu thirty minutes away from where we were our dinner reservations were. We didn’t Priceline this hotel, because it was very important that we stayed within a decent proximity to our restaurant. While Priceline may have given us a better price on a hotel, putting the location in Priceline’s hands was a risk that could have given us a much longer drive to dinner than we wanted.




After checking into our hotel and cleaning up, we took a 3o minute scenic drive to Malibu.  The drive was beautiful.  I think it took us a little more than thirty minutes, just because we were taking in the scenery.  It definitely took us longer on the way back, because the roads were windy and not very residential, leaving us without any city lights for the majority of our drive.



Our scenic drive led us to Paradise Cove.


If you’re just coming for dinner, parking is very affordable.  If you’re coming for the day, expect to pay $30 per car to spend the entire day on beautiful Paradise Cove, enjoying the view…..

….and all of the amenities this place has to offer. With amenities like this, it can get crowded during the day.




We just came here to eat dinner and watch the sun set on this little piece of paradise.  If you ever choose to dine at Paradise Cove, be sure to make reservations.   We had reservations for 8:00, but walk-ins were easily waiting two hours or more to get a table.  The place gets packed!  The food is pretty good, but I’d say that the location is what really brings the people in.  The service, well the service kind of stunk and turned what could have been an awesome experience to a mediocre experience. Too many people and not enough staff!  It took forever to get our food, and our waiter had so many tables he couldn’t possibly pay attention to all of us.  Even though the service wasn’t great, the view would bring me back again;)



Day two of our trip was jam packed with fun!  Tonight, I'll post about the rest of our time in LA on day three.

Monday, July 23, 2012

CA Road Trip Day 1 - San Diego








Yesterday, I posted here about the planning of our California road trip.  Today’s post is about the first day of our trip….San Diego!



California Road Trip Day ONE Itinerary



In preparation for day one, I had in a folder the following: printed version of our flight tickets, car rental and hotel info/reservations, an itinerary of our day, printed directions (in case our phones failed us) and menus from the websites of the restaurants we reserved.



3:00 a.m. - wake up

4:00 a.m. - leave house

4:30 a.m. - arrive at Indianapolis airport, check bags and go through security

6:55 a.m. - flight leaves Indy

7:32 a.m. - flight connects in Denver (CO time)
8:20 a.m. - flight leaves Denver
9:43 a.m. - flight arrives in San Diego (CA time)

10:00 a.m. - pick up luggage and take shuttle to Dollar Rent-A-Car

10:30 a.m. - pick up rental car and drive to La Jolla

11:00 a.m. - park in parking garage at by restaurant for lunch and walk La Jolla shops

12:00 p.m. - lunch reservations at Brockton Villa

1:00 p.m. - walk around La Jolla Cove

2:00 p.m. - drive five minutes to La Jolla Shores for an afternoon swim

4:00 p.m. - 30 minute drive back to San Diego and check into Sheritan San Diego Hotel and Marina

4:20 p.m. - clean up and get ready for dinner

5:40 - drive 10 minutes and find street parking by restaurant for dinner

6:00 p.m. - dinner reservations at Café 21

7:00 p.m. - enjoy the evening in the young, urban Gaslamp district of San Diego

8:00 p.m. - drive back to hotel and enjoy pool and hot tub

10:00 p.m. - try to get a good night’s sleep


A few pics of our day…..
My biggest worry for day one was that our flights would be delayed.  Thank goodness that didn't happen, and we made it to San Diego right on schedule.  Getting our rental car took a little longer than expected though.  Catching a shuttle from the airport was a little stressful, and once we arrived to pick up our car we found long lines and well.....well, let's just say that there were few glitches with this part of our day.  It's a long story, and I'll explain it in a different post at the end of this series about how things don't always go as planned.  Other than rental car issue, the rest of the day went pretty smooth. 


As soon as we got our rental car, we drove thirty minutes to the coastal town of LaJolla and ate lunch at Brockton Villa.  We had no problem finding a parking garage right next to the restaraunt, which made me very happy. 


The food at Brockton Villa was delicious…..


….and moderately priced at only $10-15 a plate….


….and the view of La Jolla Cove from the veranda where we ate our lunch was gorgeous!


The cliffs in La Jolla made for scenic views....


….as we walked along the coast….


….and took in all of the beauty around us. 

La Jolla was quite possibly one my favorite stops on our trip!


The seals were everywhere, making La Jolla a very memorable place to visit:)


La Jolla Cove is a great place to snorkel…


…or to just dip your feet in the pristine water.


A five minute drive from La Jolla Cove is La Jolla Shores, where the waves make for a great place to give surfing a try.  Prepare yourself though...becasue parking was a nightmare in La Jolla Shores!  It took us forever to find a parking spot, and we had to walk a long way to get to the beach.  I didn't plan for that, and it cut into some of our beach time.  I suggest getting here early if you want good parking.


Overall, La Jolla was one of my favorite stops on our vacation and it’s definitely someplace that I would revisit again!


After leaving La Jolla we drove back to San Diego and checked into our hotel.  We stayed at the Sheritan San Diego Hotel and Marina.  Using Priceline Negotiator, we were able to get this four star hotel for half the cost.  We've always gotten great rooms when we've negotiated with Priceline in the past, but I was a little disappointed with our room in San Diego.  For one, it had two double beds instead of one queen bed.....that's never happened to us before!  Second, it was on the bottom floor, so we didn't get a view.....that's also never happened to us before!  Lastly, it was right next to the pool, so it was loud while we were trying to sleep!  That was a huge negative, because the first day of our trip we were awake for 23 hour day due to the time change.  Not to mention we only had three hours of sleep the night before.  What can I say, priceline is a gamble.  Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't.  In this case, I don't think it paid off.  Overall, the hotel was great, but the room was not so great:( 

The hotel did have an awesome pool area though....

....and the fact that it was right on the marina was pretty cool too:)
After checking into our hotel and cleaning up, we drove five minutes to the young, urban Gaslamp district of San Diego....

......and had dinner at Cafe 21. 

I really loved the historic, urban details in the design of the restaurant....

.....and the food was really good too!


Street parking was inexpensive and easy to find. Afterwards we walked around the outdoor mall, before heading back to the hotel for an evening swim and a good night's rest. Day one of our trip was a long one, but I wouldn't have it any other way!