Thursday, February 16, 2017

Zion National Park Scenic Drive

Zion National Park, located in Springdale, Utah, is one of the Mighty Five - five national parks located in Utah. I've written about our day HERE before - we took the shuttle bus through the canyon, my son and his girlfriend hiked some of The Narrows and we visited the lodge. But I omitted the scenic drive at Zion, which to me, warranted it's own separate post. 

This must-do scenic drive is a six-and-a-half-mile-long scenic stretch of road which parallels the Virgin River on the floor of Zion Canyon. It provides stunning views with the red rock towers looming some 2000 feet above you. Talk about feeling small!

First things first - You must pay a fee to enter Zion National Park, even to drive the scenic drive. And oversize vehicles and rv's must pay an extra fee to drive through the canyon's tunnel - when the tunnel was built in the 1920's, cars were much smaller and no one anticipated such large vehicles going through it. So you must arrange an escort through it in advance if your vehicle is too large to fit so traffic can be stopped for you to get through the tunnel. (Check at the visitor center or lodge for oversize vehicle info) We did the drive as a loop - passing through the park's mile long tunnel, cutting through the Checkerboard Mesa area and when it ended at Highway 89 at Mt. Carmel Junction, we turned around and drove back. It was about a 10 mile stretch total and we were able to pull off the road for a better view and for some photo opportunities. Please be aware that this is a switchback road and drivers like to gawk at the scenery - sometimes stopping in the middle of the road.(And when you drive through the tunnel watch for the windows that you can look through so you don't miss any scenery!)

Over time, erosion by wind and rain and freezing and thawing created horizontal and vertical cracks in the sandstone which has created a checkerboard effect. You can see this at the Checkerboard Mesa pull off along Highway 9.

If you visit Zion, I hope you don't miss this drive. We managed to visit the Canyon and make the drive all in one day. I hope, also, that you have more time than we did - but I'm happy that we had the time we did. I've said before that Zion ranks as one of my favorite US National Parks. And I'd go back again anytime!

This blog is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Postcards from Japan

Two years ago I traveled to Asia for the first time. I met my two daughters in Tokyo for a week - we saw views from atop the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, enjoyed a happy hour, shopped Tokyo's most famous shopping street, walked it's largest park in winter, visited a shrine, took the train to the seaside town of Kamakura seeing a very large Buddha statue, went to Tokyo Disney Sea and wore kimonos on a photo shoot in Narita.  I've covered most of it on this blog - but sometimes there are photos that just don't fit into stories. Some are of curiosities that are different from where you live and some are of everyday life that are different from yours. So in wrapping up my trip to Japan I'm sharing some of these photos. Some you've seen and some you haven't. I hope you enjoy them.

All the different flavors of Kit Kat

No smoking for fish - or anyone else - at Tokyo Disney Sea

Bamboo in Kamakura

Tokyo Disney resort seen through the monorail Mickey windows

A statue of the legendary dog Hachiko  in Shibuya

Prayer cards

Vegetation at Narita-san Temple

Boy band advertising

Famous neon of Tokyo

Experiencing morning rush hour in the Tokyo Subway. We even got to see one of the famous white glove people pushers!

Hollywood video game palace. You should hear the noise inside this building - so many machines with their bells ringing and clanging!

People crowding the famous shopping street, Takeshita-Dori

Sea views in Kamakura - it's tough to see but there are even sailboats out on the water, in February!

Some of the many vending machines

Italy? No. Tokyo Disney Sea

Kamakura's Hasedera Temple - this was the picture in my mind of Japan

A preschool bus carrying preschoolers to school.(I worked in a preschool so I'm probably more interested in this photo than others!)

Have you been to Japan? Asia? Where is your favorite place you have visited in Asia?

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute, Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings and Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

California Road Trip: Monterey!

We arrived in Monterey in late afternoon. After checking into our hotel, our first order of business was finding some dinner. Though we were on Pacific time now, our stomachs were still on Eastern time and the sandwich we had for lunch seemed long ago. It was still quite early for dinner on the West Coast so we searched , and found, a place offering Happy Hour bar bites from 4 to 7 to make into our dinner. (Peter B."s Brewpub) We were hoping to eat outside, and even though it was a chilly evening, all the outside tables were taken. So inside and wings and beer for dinner it was.

Monterey Bay
Peter B,'s Brewpub

Cannery Row

A room with a balcony? I'll take it!

The next morning was a windy one - there were record breaking storms in the Pacific Northwest that day and the ocean was churning. But after waking up to a rainbow, I decided to talk a walk along the bay and see the waves.Mr. UR had work to do so I headed outside for a photo walk. We stayed at the Hotel Intercontinental Clement located next to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium -  which was already bustling with tour buses pulling up that morning -  and right on Cannery Row. I walked along the bay and up and down the street stopping to check out all the waves - and almost got soaked once! They were few people out and about - except at the aquarium. I passed the statue dedicated to those who have had a hand in shaping Monterey, including it's most famous resident John Steinbeck.( Steinbeck authored the book Cannery Row which is set among the fish canneries of Cannery Row in Monterey during the Great Depression)

Morning rainbow

Waves crashing into the building supports

We tossed around a few ideas for what to do that day and decided that we wanted to give kayaking a go. We called Monterey Rentals and they were limiting the rental area but were still renting that day. After lunch we went kayaking. Monterey Rentals uses sit-upon kayaks - my first time with these - and they gave us a short instruction and told us our path and off we went. (Apparently there were 25 foot gales in the ocean that day!) We saw a few harbor seals - and a gazillion sea lions. They were so loud - and funny. They were all sunning themselves on the pier and then would fall off or fall in the water on purpose - and then try to jump back up and not quite make it. Or another sea lion would take their place. Very entertaining.( And a bit intimidating - they were huge!)
Our kayaking area

Those are sea lions layingon the floater dock

After getting our share of exercise for the day, we decided it was time to drive Seventeen Mile Drive. Seventeen Mile Drive is a famous scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the peninsula. Famous landmarks included on the drive include The Lone Cypress and the renowned Pebble Beach Golf Course.  You pay a fee to drive - $8.95 per vehicle - at a guard gate which lets you onto the drive. They give you a map and you follow a red-dashed line on the road so you can't get lost. It was crowded at the stops but not so crowded that there was a bottleneck. We had made this drive on our only previous visit to Monterey - and I was surprised how much I remembered. And how much I didn't! We saw a bride and groom taking wedding photos, some very large waves and a rainbow! For those keeping count, that's two rainbows in one day! And of course, the most famous thing to see on 17 Mile Drive is the Lone Cypress. Called one of the most photographed trees in North America and one of the 10 most famous in the world, the Lone Cypress is likely more than 200 years old and grows out of a the rocks along the coast. It is to Monterey what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris - a representation of this coastline.

It was a big wave day

More of those big waves

Pebble Beach Golf Club

The bride and groom

The Lone Cypress

More crashing waves

2nd rainbow of the day

The weather had now taken a turn and it was spitting rain. We decided to take full advantage of the fireplace in our room and have dinner in, watch some of the baseball playoffs on tv and call it a night. Our one day in Monterey was done. Next stop: Big Sur!

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party and Weekend Travel Inspiration at Albom Adventures!