Friday, June 7, 2013

Red Rock Canyon National Park

When someone mentions Las Vegas to you...what comes to mind? Usually one gets images of bright lights, the Bellagio fountains, extravagantly decorated hotels, high end shopping, scantily dressed women, gambling, excessive spending, and hangovers.

Well I'm here's to prove that belief wrong. :)

I am currently in Vegas accompanying my husband. He is at a 2 week course for the Air Force, and I happened to have Wednesday-Sunday off from work (I had taken PTO many months ago as we were planning a vacation during this time). So I packed up the car, set off for a road trip to Vegas.

The one thing I had to do was figure out how to entertain myself during the day while Ryan is at school. My initial thought was, "I know! I'll buy myself a pack of Marlbarols, drink Manhattans, and spend the afternoon with my ass planted at a slot machine so I can waste thousands of dollars!!!!"

Oh wait, no. I wouldn't do that. Ever. In a million years. In fact, I loathe casinos. I am sorry to offend anyone reading this -- but I get absolutely no appeal to casinos. Ryan and I are too practical to gamble. Last time we each set aside $10 to gamble. Lost it immediately. And then thought, "We could've bought a martini with that money!" I just don't get the lure that some people do. And if you've ever watched people in casinos?! They look like slugs -- I actually think I could see their brain matter melting out of their head and being sucked into those machines...

Okay, rant is over. ;)

I did a little research of fun outdoorsy activities to do in Vegas, and I found Red Rock Canyon. It is about 10 minutes west of Las Vegas (it was about a 45 minute drive from our hotel on the Air Force Base). It is totally worth the drive!!

You go from city and residential to absolute pure natural beauty. The landscape is painted with Red and white speckled canyons and giant rocks formations. There is a 13 mile "scenic path" that loops around the park. Many road bikers. Only a few runners out there crazy enough to attempt. I was one of them! I only did 6. It was 90 degrees out, if I had done the 13 miles I'd probably be laying dead out of the desert from heat exhaustion. (I only joke...kind of)

Here are a few photos that I snapped on the run!!

 Here is the road I ran on. It is a 13 mile loop, and it's a one way. I was relieved it was a one way --so I could run in the middle of the road. For I could hear snakes on the perimeters. For those of you not well-accustomed to the desert...this is "mating season" for rattlesnakes. They are hungry, protective, and like to bite.
 Here's a photo I snapped of me. (I cannot figured out how to flip the image on my blog, sorry!) As you can see...I'm rather diaphoretic. Thank God I carried a bottle of Gatorade with me. It was hot!

 Here is an example of the colorful rock formations. It's as if someone went and painted the rocks. This was a structure of Sandstone.
 More Red Rock. This is one of the pull outs -- where a nice couple asked me if I needed any water. People are always so happy and kind at National & State Parks....
One last view of the canyons off in the distance

I was definitely kicking myself afterwards for not bring my road bike on this trip! This area was road bikers heaven with lovely, newly paved roads. The bike lanes were huge! And miles upon miles of road to discover!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Travel on a Budget

Greetings, friends! I am currently writing to you from Sin City. Well, kind of. I've received some, what I'd consider, critical eyes from my some people lately. I am well aware that life has been fun of much travel and adventure lately. Triathlon weekend in Tempe, San Diego, Lake Roosevelt, now Vegas, San Antonio next week.

But it's been manageable. A few reasons to clarify....1) We worked out butts off in the preceding months. 2) All these trips we are driving to. 3) Lake Roosevelt was camping ....doesn't get much cheaper than tents, beer, and hobo meals cooked over the fire! 4) Our Vegas Trip is a kind of a work trip. Ryan is here for pilot training - we are staying at hotel at the Air Force Base Hotel. Our room has 2 twin beds...if that gives you an idea of our "digs" (as least is safe, and only a few miles from the strip)

Many of these tips I'm about to share are kind of "no brainer's" -- but I've found them to be very valuable. So hopefully these can be helpful!

  • Find the local gems. We are very fortunate to live in AZ. We are about 7 hours from Las Vegas, 6 hours from San Diego, 4 hours from Mexico (however it's not safe right now so wouldn't risk it), 7 hours from LA, 3-4 hours from Sedona...... Plane tickets are crazy expensive these days! So it's nice to be able to drive.
  • When you are within a distance where you're debating, "Should I drive or fly?" -- here are a few things to consider (I did this with my trip to Vegas today)
  1. Will you be required to drive a distance to get to the airport? How about your flights being hours where you may need to stay in a hotel? Will you need to purchase transportation to get to the airport? How expensive is parking/day?
  2. How much money will you spend on your luggage fees, eating during the day, etc...
  3. What kind of time constraints do you have? Do you need to have a flight that leaves after or before a certain time? 
  4. These questions developed me into deciding to drive to Vegas instead of fly.
  • Check out Groupon or other deal websites for the area you are visiting. We did this for San Diego a few years ago and got some good restaurant deals
  •  Save everywhere you can! The little things add up. For example -- breakfast. Now when we travel (even when we fly) -- I make us stop at a grocery store when we arrive so we can get an assortment of healthy snacks to keep in the fridge. I will keep fruit, cliff bars, greek yogurts to have as breakfast. You can end up burning about $20 on breakfast for 2.
  • Are you driving to your destination? Instead of stopping at Subway on the way...pack sandwiches or premake salads! I know this sounds super-cheapo of me. But once again, I'd rather save that $$ for vacation fun.
  • Research, research, research! I always have a list of the top restaurants, when/where happy hours are happening, good walking/running/hiking trails, and hot spots to see. 
  •  Hit up several different happy hours and order a small appetizer at each place (i.e. in San Diego we did oyster shooters @ one restaurant, shared fish taco at the next, shared a sushi roll at the 3rd) -- You got to try 3 different restaurants, during their discount priced happy hour. This is so much better than ordering one entree at one place!
  • Pay with cash. This seriously helps us manage spending and reduces that guilt feeling. Make a budget before your trip, and withdraw your cash -- it takes away the stress of "constantly spending money" on vacation. Then you feel like your trip is already paid for by the time it's started! 
  • Remember - walking/hiking/running along a beautiful area of your destination is always free!
What are your methods that you've used for vacationing on a budget? I love traveling a lot -- so in order to make many mini trips must save somewhere! ;-)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Looking back

2 weeks left in our house, and then we are off to our adventure in San Antonio, Texas. My job will give me 90 days leave, so I will be returning in September. Ryan will be staying until October some time until his school is complete. We had a lovely "Send Off" Happy Hour last Friday. My cheeks hurt from all the laughter from an evening with friends. Life has so many blessings.

I have to look back in awe. May 20 marked 5 years that we've been in the Tucson, AZ area!

5 years ago, I cluelessly stepped out of the U-Haul onto 100 degree, hot AZ sand (not soil). Didn't have a college degree yet (I was only 19), didn't have a job, all friends and family were clear across the country, Ryan was only my boyfriend at the time.

Was I crazy?!?! Yes.

 Here's a photo we took upon our arrival as we crossed the border into AZ. 

Through the unknowns and fears, I was literally "embracing" this journey. (I'm embracing the sign...)

Our first weeks. Okay, let me be honest, our first couple of years here I was not incredibly happy. I missed my family. I hated the summertime, as I dwelled on how much fun I was missing out on at the lakes as my siblings and parents gathered most weekends. I felt like the dry heat sucked the life out of me.I would think, "How in the hell do people live in this disgusting place?" 

Nursing school wasn't exactly what I thought it would be. I didn't make a great deal of friends. We had a hard time making friends. Being a married 21 year old, who's idea of a "good time on a Friday night" is grilling in the backyard and playing a board game -- our peers kind of viewed us as "lame". Most of the people we socialized where my husbands coworkers who are in the 50's and 60's. Which was fine, but then it would get awkward when we'd meet their children.....who were our age. 

I just didn't have any real girlfriends. I couldn't wait for something to happen in our careers that would allow us to move.

And finally...instead of waiting for something to happen. And waiting for life to get better. I chose to make it better. Nursing school commencement arrived, I got my 1st job out of school, and I started forming a "work family". 3 of the women I worked with are still my closest friends, and I cannot imagine life without keeping in touch with them. 

I started jumping on new experiences at every opportunity. And soon I found joy in my "digs".....

 This photo was taken one of the first weeks we lived in Tucson. I remember one evening I was sobbing in misery. And Ryan forced me to go on a hike - and he made me climb this ridiculous rock. (I am not daring, and rock climbing is not in my nature). When we got to the top, we were rewarding with this sunset. I get a little teary eyed looking back at this picture, because the memory is so vivid.
 Another favorite snapshot of us hiking back in the day....(feels like these pictures were taken 10 years ago..not 5. I've changed so much as a person!)

Sometimes I get a little nervous about this move to San Antonio. I have little flashbacks of the frustration and difficult time I had acclimating to Tucson 5 years ago. But I must remind myself how much life has drastically changed. I know things will work themselves out!

I'm at the point now where every day I give someone my "last hug" for 3 months. We say our goodbyes, and I feel a little sad but mostly thrilled (because I know we are returning). I have found such an amazing and supportive network of people. My coworkers keep me constantly happy at work -- I've learned so much from them. My "Desert Tri Girls" have made a swimmer and road biker out of me. My 5 am running buddies have made me the fastest I've ever been. I also have my "Bunco Broads" and "Rockin' Ragnar Girls" (another running group) (apparently my groups like to have clever titles...) But most of all these people have an energy that is incredible.

And most importantly, I have my husband who is my best friend - who is truly family to me. He has put up with my craziness for almost 4 years of marriage, and 6 years of being together. It excites me to know that I will have him for many years to come. And I cannot wait to cross that Texas "line" to start a new adventure! "I reckon we will be right fine, y'all"

This is a picture of me when we crossed the Texas border 5 years ago! Yep! We were those dorky people who pulled the U-Haul over at every state line to take pictures.