Pleasantly Surprised In Sedona

When I entered our Sedona hotel in the GPS from Slide Rock State Park, it said it was less than ten miles away, but that it would take about fifty minutes!  We thought “that can’t be right!”, but soon enough we found ourselves in a one way lane of crawling traffic.  We thought “there must be an accident”, but it turned out that it was just everyone trying to get away to Sedona on Friday afternoon of the New Year weekend.  We heard from some lifelong locals that the traffic in the past week had been the worst they had ever seen.  It seems that Sedona is experiencing some growing pains.

We had booked a night with the last of D’s Marriott points at the Courtyard by Marriott in Sedona.  This was one of the nicest Courtyards we have stayed at!

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I loved this room!  It felt so fresh and modern.  It made me want to put a mural in our house. 🙂

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This was the view from our balcony.

It was a good thing that we stayed here last.  If we had started out with this hotel, we would have been sorely disappointed by the others!

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This was the view from the rooftop lounge.

We ate dinner at Gerardo’s Italian Kitchen.

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This was basically our only “real” restaurant meal since that fateful night in Holbrook.  D and I shared the Liguria Pizza, which had White Sauce, Thinly Sliced Rosemary Potatoes/Crispy Prosciutto di Parma/Fossil Creek Goat Cheese/Mozzarella Cheese/Topped With Baby Arugula tossed in Lemon Oil.  Yes, it was delicious as it looks! k ordered kids’ pasta with Alfredo sauce and n ordered a kids’ pepperoni pizza and they shared.  The restaurant was pretty busy and the atmosphere was cozy.

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On our way out, wed tried a few of these Italian “cookies”, which were kind of like fried wonton strips dusted with powdered sugar.  Interesting.

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Back at the hotel room, the kids watched some television through our Hulu account.

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D took a dip in the heated pool.  Yes, he’s crazy.

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We awoke to a lovely sunrise.

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We took a little drive to downtown Sedona since we did not want to deal with the masses the day before.

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The shops on the main street were not open yet, but they looked cute.  It seemed like the Red Rocks provided a scenic backdrop wherever we went.  If Santa Fe was a bit of a disappointment, Sedona surpassed our expectations.

We saw a turquoise McDonald’s and had to do a double-take.

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For breakfast we stopped at Sedonuts.  Isn’t their logo ingenious?

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A sweet way to end our trip.  And no, we did not eat them all in one sitting.

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We Made it to Sedona: Slide Rock State Park

The ride from Santa Fe to Sedona was uneventful.  Our initial stop was Slide Rock State Park.  I had not really read up on this place, but I am glad we took the time to explore this gem.

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This was the view from the parking lot.  The entrance fee was $10, which is quite reasonable.  During the warmer months it is $20.  The park ranger kind of laughed when we asked for a map.  There is pretty much one main trail that leads to “Slide Rock”.

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The trail was about .5 miles long.  There were some historical artifacts along the way.

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This is the water “slide” that makes this park so popular.  It looks a lot more dangerous that I had pictured in my head!

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The park ranger said the water temperature was 37 degrees that day.

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Someone was crazy enough to jump in!

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He did not stay in for long!

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Does going down this slide not look super dangerous?  Apparently it is a really popular activity in the spring.  I wonder how many injuries occur??  I am kind of glad we visited in the winter because I know D would have been tempted to try it if it had been warmer.

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The area is so picturesque, though!

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Hey…we have a photobomber!

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Love the reflection in this picture.

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Slide Rock State Park is definitely worth a stop on your way to Sedona!

 

 

 

 

 

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Santa Fe Botanical Garden: GLOW Review

After resting for a bit at the hotel, we drove to the Santa Fe Botanical Garden to see a holiday display called GLOW.  It was described as “an artful illumination of nature”, but I was not sure exactly what to expect.  The adult tickets were $10 and kids 12 and under were free.

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We arrived around 5 p.m., so there was still some daylight.

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There were a lot cozy conversation spots and creative lighting.

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I believe they were burning pinon wood.

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Loved the luminarias!  They were everywhere in New Mexico, even on top of the regional hospital.

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This art installation changed colors every few seconds.

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This was a fun little local event to check out.  They were selling hot chocolate, but n had been ODing on hot chocolate throughout our vacation, so we skipped it.  There was also a musician scheduled to perform, but we did not want to stay that late…D had college football to watch at the hotel!

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Our appetites still were not back to normal, so we just made a quick stop at Panda Express on the way back to the hotel.  Sorry Santa Fe, we just were not up to fully exploring you; I feel like we did not experience all that you have to offer.

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A Day In Santa Fe

I had a lingering headache in the morning, probably from dehydration, but was feeling much better than the day before.  It was time to explore Santa Fe.

We parked in a parking garage in the downtown area and walked around.  Our first stop was the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

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It is a relatively small museum, and it was fairly crowded that day.  We downloaded the app and brought our earbuds for the audio walking tour.  Honestly, I did not find it all that interesting, but I am sure true art buffs would disagree.

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The front ticket desk let the kids borrow a sketchpad.  They were invited to draw sketches of what they saw, and told to return the unused pages.  The kids were excited about being able to keep the artist-quality pencils.

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We walked to the Railyard District, but did not really know where to go. #PlanningFail  This mural was cool, though.

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There were hanging chiles everywhere!

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We walked by a small frozen river.

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Interesting juxtaposition of old church and modern metal sculptures.

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Our main destination was supposed to be The Plaza.  Unfortunately, we found it somewhat underwhelming.  I think The Circle in Old Town Orange actually has more charm!

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We shared two fajitas, one chicken, and one beef, from a cart on the Plaza ($5 each).

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We saw some people eating Frito Pies, but that really did not sound appealing at that moment.

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We did a little more walking.

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There were tons of small shops, but we were not in a shopping mood.

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We went back to the hotel to rest in the afternoon.  On the way we stopped for a snack at a Sonic Drive-In for the very first time.  The ordering system was fascinating to the kids.  They were disappointed that the employees did not deliver the food on roller skates, though.  We explained that the liability risk would be way too high–ha!

 

 

 

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Petrified Forest National Park Part II

Although I still was not feeling well in the morning, we proceeded with our plans to visit the southern section of the park and drive on to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  D was a trooper, because even though he was not feeling 100% either, he did all of the driving in the morning.

Our first stop was the Rainbow Forest Museum where D went with the kids to get their junior ranger badges while I stayed in the car.  We nixed all of the hiking plans we had and just did short walks from the various pull-offs throughout the park.

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If you’re curious about what petrified wood looks like, this is it.

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It basically looks and feels like wood that has turned into rock.

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I am glad these guys managed to maintain good spirits even though I was feeling miserable.

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Something was really funny!

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Even though we did not get a chance to do much exploring, I feel like we had a good overview of the park.

I continued to throw up bile in the car (with a bag) since I had no food or water in my stomach.  After a quick internet search, I realized that I needed to drink water even if I threw it up or I would risk becoming severely dehydrated.  Somewhere along our route in New Mexico, I was able to keep saltines and 7up down, and was able to do some driving.

The kids shared a sandwich from Westend Donuts & Deli in Gallup, New Mexico and they said was good.  We checked into Comfort Inn in Santa Fe.  We took a trip to Albertsons to pick up Gatorade, bananas, and chicken strips from the deli for the kids for dinner.  This was not how I had imagined our first night in Santa Fe! 🙁

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Petrified Forest National Park + A Horrific Night in Holbrook

The day after Christmas, we embarked on a road trip that would take us to Petrified Forest National Park, Santa Fe, and Sedona.  It was a lot of driving, but we thought we were up for the challenge.  I had a little scare when I checked the weather forecast one week before and there was a snow storm expected in New Mexico.  Luckily, the forecast cleared up and we were good to go in our Mazda3 Hatch.

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During most of the first leg of our drive we were on Highway 40.  The creation of this highway made Route 66 obsolete in many places, as documented in the movie Cars.  However, a lot of Route 66 nostalgia lives on in the small towns and stores that have managed to survive.  We stopped at this Route 66 General Store to get gas.

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For some reason, D felt the need to buy Elk Jerky.  Don’t ask.

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We drove about twenty five miles past Holbrook, Arizona to reach Petrified Forest National Park.  This was exciting because it is the twentieth National Park that the kids have visited.  In retrospect, I should have had them each hold up ten fingers to commemorate the number.  Oh well.

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Our plan was to enter the park through the northern station and explore the Painted Desert area.  We would save the southern section for the next morning.

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D has not switched to dabbing yet!

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We hiked the Painted Desert Rim Trail, which is one mile round trip.

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We made it to the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark just before it closed at 4 p.m.

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What a view!

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The back side.

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A raven, I think.

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A mini rainbow.

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The road less traveled.

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The kids received fitness monitoring watches for Christmas.  After sitting in the car all day, they were anxious to get their steps in by moving their arms.

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When a friendly woman offered to take our family’s picture, she had to tell n, “Honey, you have to stop moving your arms!”

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The Painted Desert is certainly an apt name for this area.

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The clouds were crazy on our way back to Holbrook.  We had a reservation at Days Inn.

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I thought the room was ok, especially given the cheap rate.  The pillow formation cracked me up, though.  D was not impressed.

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We ate dinner at a restaurant in town that seemed to be frequented by locals.

Despite the positive Yelp reviews, the wait was excruciating and they ran out of some key ingredients, such as chicken and shredded beef.  D and I ordered a couple of dishes with green chile, since that is the popular dish around that area.  (The kids stuck to the Navajo taco).  We thought the food was pretty good and also had a sopapilla for dessert.

Well…fast forward to about midnight and D was not feeling well.  He managed to go back to sleep, but by 2:30 a.m. he was throwing up.  I followed suit about a half hour later and continued about four times after that, into the morning.  (Sorry if that is TMI).  That was the worst night I have ever had while on vacation!  Was it food poisoning? Altitude sickness?  I am just grateful that the kids were not affected!

 

 

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Pre-Thanksgiving Trip to California Central Coast: Elephant Seals + Moonstone Beach

When we returned to the Hearst Castle Visitors Center, we watched the “Building The Dream” movie that is included with the tour admission price.  It was shown on a huge screen and was very well done.

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After the movie we went to Sebastian’s for lunch which is located just across PCH.  Had to have the kids take a picture in front of this funny sign!

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We ordered one cheeseburger and one tri-tip sandwich and fries.  This ended up being enough food for all us since D had a headache at this point and was not that hungry.

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After lunch we went back to our campsite and rested for a bit.  Feeling refreshed, D was ready to go to the Elephant Seal Rookery.

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Sunbathing seals!  It is always so neat to see animals in their natural habitat.

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Next we went to Moonstone Beach.

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These small colorful rocks were everywhere!

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Next we went back to Cambria and poked around some of the cute little shops.

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This is what happens when I have asked the kids to pose one too many times for pictures!

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Dinner was at Main Street Grill in Cambria.  This place has the same owners as Firestone Grill in San Luis Obispo, which we had enjoyed before.  Although the food is good, with large portions, beware that it is cash only and that they charge 25 cents for bottled water.

 

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Pre-Thanksgiving Visit to Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is one of those places that everyone who lives in California needs to visit once in their lifetime.  I had been multiple times, but never with D or the kids.  D’s family says he went he was a kid, but he did not remember it.

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Can you see the castle on the hill?

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You can buy tickets online in advance but I found their reservation fee outrageous so we waited until the day of our tour to buy tickets.  We arrived early and bought tickets for the first Grand Rooms tour of the day at 9:00 am with no problem. There is a bus that transports you up the hill to the castle while you listen to narration by Alex Trebek.

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Our tour began in front of one of the guesthouses.  There were tourists in our group from multiple countries, including Australia!

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Unfortunately, the famed Neptune Pool was being renovated–doh!  Apparently it was leaking 5,000 gallons of water everyday.  The tour guide said it was scheduled to be done by the end of the year, but I am pretty sure it will take longer than that!

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La Casa Grande!  It was interesting to learn about the corroboration between William Randolph Hearst and his architect, Julia Morgan (a Cal grad!).

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It was nice that they had already started decorating for Christmas.

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Our tour guide was an amazing fount of knowledge.

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The intricate detail that can be found everywhere is so amazing.

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After the tour, we were free to wander the grounds.

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When you are ready to leave, you go down to the indoor pool and catch a bus at what the tour guide called the “fanciest bus stop in America”.

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Walking on gold!

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Our Pre-Thanksgiving Trip to Central California Coast: Cambria and San Simeon State Beach

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After lunch we made a quick stop for Doc Burnstein’s ice cream at Mojo’s Village Bean in Cambria.

Then we went across the street so I could pick up a mini olallieberry pie at Linn’s.

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We enjoyed this post-dinner.

Next we drove to the San Simeon State Park campground.  After setting up camp we took a short and easy walk to the beach area.

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It was pretty empty, with just a few other visitors.

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There were a lot of interesting rocks to look at.

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And when there’s rocks near water, rock-throwing is soon to follow.

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Our Pre-Thanksgiving Trip to California Central Coast: Pismo Beach & Morro Bay

The kids and I had an entire week off for Thanksgiving.  We left for our mini-vacay on Tuesday in an attempt to avoid the holiday traffic.

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Our first stop was the Pismo State Beach Butterfly Grove.

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I did not have my camera that has a good zoom lens, so this is the closest I could get.  Can you see the orange monarchs?  These butterflies were not as scary as our last encounter, mostly because they were high up in the trees and we were not in an enclosed area.  It is kind of amazing how they all congregate in such a concentrated area.

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I made them take a picture with the sun in their eyes.

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The mobile monarch gift shop!

Our next stop was just about five minutes north off of PCH, Dinosaur Caves Park.

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I was kind of puzzled by the fact that there were more seals than dinosaurs in the Dinosaur Caves Park.

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Don’t ask me what this strange squatting was about.

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The park has beautiful views!

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OK, so there were dinosaur eggs to play in.

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We stopped to eat our sandwiches that we packed from home at Morro Bay.

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It was unseasonable warm, like mid-80’s.  I guess it was in the 90’s back at home.  A lot of people were getting food to go from a restaurant that had Crabby Patties on the menu-haha.

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We saw some otters that were just chillin’.  Again, a zoom lens would have been handy here.  After lunch we continued our drive to Cambria and San Simeon.

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