Monday, January 27, 2014

Dune Buggy Ridin'

The dunes of Lake Michigan are one of Saugatuck's treasures. Our group of 6 went on a Saugatuck Dune Buggy ride with Saugatuck Dune Rides - and it was entirely too much fun! It was my favorite part of our girls weekend!

We rode on a dune buggy with our driver and tour guide, Joel. We buckled up and went on a 45 minute trip on the dunes along Lake Michigan.

Joel drove us along the trails to the top of a dune where we stopped for a break and a quick (and steep) walk in the sand. We had a beautiful view of the dunes and the lake.

Off again through the dunes and into the woods coming out with a view of an inland lake this time. We learned a little history and had a great time. If you get a chance to visit southwestern Michigan, go visit Joel at Saugatuck Dune Rides. You'll be glad you did!

Friday, January 24, 2014

A most magical day

A few years back the Mr. and I received a coffee table book of 100 Beautiful Places to See around the world. Both of us saw the picture of the Na Pali Coast off the island of Kaui in the Hawaiian Islands and said "Thats where I want to go!" So we started saving - money, hotel points, and airline points. Anything that would get us to Kauai for our 25th Anniversary, which was still 2 years away. And you can see from these pictures that we made it!

We booked a day sailing with Captain Andy's on a catamaran and it was one of the most magical days ever. We took off from Port Allen in the morning and part of our trip included a continental breakfast. Croissants and fresh fruit while we sailed along the coast. Then it was a stop for snorkeling. The waves were rough and the captain said it was the first snorkeling stop they had been able to do in a month due to rough seas.  Then a call on a conch shell and it was all aboard to see the Na Pali Coast.

We were able to see a few whale tails and splashes. And the very cool spinner dolphins, who as the name implies, spin like torpedoes through the water. Fast. Like lightning fast.
A lunch of cold cuts, more fruit and cookies came next. And a slow sail up the coast to view the magnificent Na Pali cliffs.
There are only 3 ways to view the cliffs - by water, by air or an 11 mile hike along the Kalalau Trail.
I loved the way we chose to see it - and would do it again in a heartbeat. One of my favorite days on this planet!

*Captain Andy's Sailing Adventures offers either an AM sail with breakfast and lunch or an afternoon sail with a hot buffet dinner and sunset at sea . They also offer a 2 hour sunset sail. And if you would rather, they do the Na Pali Coast by motorized rubber raft that are able to go into sea caves. Not for those who are pregnant or have health issues.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Asheville, NC - Beer City USA

The city of Asheville, NC is surrounded by the beautiful Smoky Mountains. It also has the distinction of being a Beer City USA - beating out even the large brewing giant of Portland, Oregon. I recently went on a 4 brewery day long tour on a gorgeous fall day.

We started at the Asheville Brewing Company for a little lunch and some amongst us tried a few beers. We enjoyed the outdoor patio, the food was good and there was even cornhole to play.

Next we walked to Wicked Weed Brewing Co. which is housed in an old gas station. The atmosphere is a little bit upscale and there is also outdoor seating. We didn't try any of the food but a few of us has some more beer. Some didn't.

Then it was on to Green Man Brewing which is a beast of a totally different nature. A very casual atmosphere with soccer playing on all the tv's,  Green Man is one of North Carolina's oldest breweries. The best word to describe Green Man is funky. It was smaller than the first two breweries and I believe, was the favorite of the day. Some had beer and some didn't. Some went next door to French Broad Chocolates tasting room where they tasted quite a few different luscious chocolate bars. And chocolate nibs. (I highly recommend French Broad Chocolates and the French Broad Chocolate Lounge if you are in Asheville. You won't be sorry if you go to either of these.)

Our next stop was High Wire Brewery which has a more industrial or urban feel to it. The theme here is the circus. And they provide popcorn. But no menu. Plenty of beer though.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The most beautiful ride you've never heard of

La Vuelta is a 3 day, 375 mile bike ride around the island of Puerto Rico. It is a none competitive ride where you can actually experience a ride as a pro while riding with a pelaton. The ride goes through every one of the 42 coastal towns on the island so you can imagine the gorgeous scenery!

I was able to attend and watch La Vuelta in 2013 including the fantastic finish in Old San Juan.

We started on the last morning by watching the most grueling part of the race known as La Pared, or The Wall.

As you can see by the climb, it earns it's name! Then it was a pit stop in the charming town of Isabella, where older gentlemen were playing dominoes in the town square, undisturbed by all the hoopla of the ride going on.

We followed the riders through another pit stop along the ocean, and sat to eat with them at a cute oceanfront cafe. Then it was on to San Juan for the Big Finish. The riders have a police escort and all 600 of them ride into Old San Juan wearing the official La Vuelta bicycle jersey and raising their hands in victory. It's a very exciting ending and lots of celebrating between spectators and riders.

Every rider receives a medal. There is a casual dinner afterwards at the finish line. And last but not least, the riders can head home and begin training and dreaming for next year.

Congratulations Steve and Larry!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Red Rocks

Red Rocks Amphitheater sits about 15 miles outside Denver. They started holding concerts there in the early 1900's but the actual venue wasn't built until 1941. Just about every major musical act has performed there at least once. Some make it a yearly happening on their schedule.
We went to visit on a beautiful but cold morning a few days before Christmas. There were a few people exercising and some more sedentary souls, like us, who were just wandering around and exploring.

There is a gift shop and a small museum on the property. And there are several different trails to explore the area surrounding. For me, the stairs were plenty enough exercise. I had to stop several times to get to the top - I'm blaming it on the altitude instead of being out of shape!

If you get a chance to go, do it. It's absolutely breathtaking! And if you're not seeing a concert, it's free! And if you do get a chance to see a concert there, well then I'm envious. I imagine it would be quite an experience.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ocracoke Island

Ocracoke Island is one of the islands in the chain of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina known as the Outer Banks. We took a ferry from the remote area of  Cedar Island, NC to Ocracoke Island. The only town on the island is also known as Ocracoke.

We happened to arrive in Ocracoke on the first day of the tourist season in the spring - and ate lunch at the Jolly Roger Pub and Restaurant on their first day back to work after the long winter. There are lots of  vacation rentals  and people tooling around on golf carts.

Next we drove to the beach with a stop at the pony pens where the wild horses have been penned to keep them safe once the road was built to the ferry. You can drive your 4 wheel vehicle on the beach and all the beaches are part of the Hatteras National Seashore. It's beautiful no matter what time of year you go.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Old San Juan

Puerto Rico is a unique island. It is an American territory located in the Carribbean that is mainly Spanish. It was ruled by Spain until the Spanish-American War in 1898 and still retains the Spanish flavor and language.
Old San Juan has blue cobblestones, narrow streets, colorful Carribbean buildings and cats everywhere.

We walked around the old town, got caught in a short rain shower and stopped at a corner bar that looked like it was straight out of the movie Casablanca. Slow moving ceiling fans, a few locals sitting at the bar and a few small tables. The bartender recommended a restaurant for lunch to eat "real" Puerto Rican food.
We tried mofongo, which is a dish of fried green plaintins mashed together with olive oil and garlic. Ours had a tomato based sauce poured over the top. We also had rice and beans and of course, the local beer, a Medalla.

I was on a mission to find this statue - my nephew has a picture of it on his mantel and I've always liked it.  It took a bit of asking and searching but success...And then it was time to visit El Morro National Monument...