Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wildfires to Wildflowers

My favorite campsite is located just outside of Yosemite in the Stanislaus National Forest. Last year the Rim Fire, California's third largest fire, burned over 250,000 acres around the area. The trees are still pretty brown and crispy, but the forest is definitely starting to recover. Wildflowers were growing all place and these are just the ones I was able to get to.

It'll probably take quite a few years for the place to become as green and lush as it used to be, but for now, it's interesting to see how a forest is reborn.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

6 Tips for Surviving Disneyland

I'm sore. Very sore. I groan when I get up, I groan when I sit down. I groan if I have to move too much. What caused this? Disneyland.

Even though I practically live down the street from Disneyland Resort, I rarely ever go. I wanted to make the most of my trip so I got the park hopper tickets and spent 16 hours going between California Adventure and Disneyland. My day felt a lot like the Lord of the Rings, there was a lot of walking, some eating, and I managed to squeeze in a lot of attractions along the way.

Here are 6 of my personal tips to make your trip to the Disneyland Resort more enjoyable:

1. Go on a week day.
It's just less crowded

2. Get the park hopper ticket.
Personally, I like California Adventure more than Disneyland. It's not as crowded, I like the rides more, and of course, they serve alcohol. I wouldn't recommend doing both parks if you only have one day because there's so much to see and do at each park. For someone who's been there a few times, I really recommend park hopper tickets so you have more options.

3. Download a ride app
There are a ton of free and paid apps out there that can tell you wait times for various attractions. This can help you plan your visit in real time. It even lets you know if rides close down for some reason. Lines for rides are shorter during dinner time and as people start gather for the parades, Fantasmic, and the fireworks show. These are probably the better times to go on the rides with longer wait times.

Use the FASTPASS system. It will save you hours of waiting in line. HOURS. Passes do run out so pick one up as soon as you can, then do other stuff in the mean time.

5. Make reservations before you go
If you're planning on dinning at a popular restaurant, make reservations online before you go. Even if you get there early, some places book up very quickly.

6. Get the Photo Pass+
You know I love taking pictures, but I didn't want to spend valuable time doing it, so I got the Photo Pass+. These can be used for pictures from rides and for the photographers located all around both parks. You can hand them your Photo Pass card and any photos taken can be viewed online, edited with fun boarders, and then you can either order a CD or download them. You can save almost $30 by ordering the Photo Pass+ at least 14 days before your visit or pay about $100 for it once you're there. Also make sure to ask for magic shots which will add a little surprise to your photos after they're taken.

Anyway, these are the attractions I managed to squeeze in in 16 hours.

California Adventure
Silly Symphony Swings
Redwood Creek Challenge Tail
California Screamin'
Sonoma Terrace (had some wine)
The Bakery Tour
Corn Dog Castle (had a hot-link corn dog combo)
It's Tough to be a Bug - Maleficent
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Soarin' Over California

Jungle Cruise
Pirates of the Caribbean
Blue Bayou (had the jambalaya and rack of lamb)
Haunted Mansion
Enchanted Tiki Room
Disneyland Railroad
It's a Small World
Indiana Jones Adventure
Splash Mountain
Winnie the Pooh
Star Tours - The Adventure Continues
Captain EO - Tribute

Sunday, June 01, 2014

For the Love of Reading

I LOVE reading and I think there are two things in my life that influenced that: my dad and Reading Rainbow with Levar Burton.

When I was in elementary school, we used to get Scholastic book order forms each month. My dad would let me order whatever I wanted from them. He never told me which books he wanted me to read nor would he ever tell me I wasn't allowed to read certain books. This resulted in hundreds  of Baby Sitter's Club books, Bad News Ballet books, and horror books all over the house. Yes, I loved horror. My favorite authors were Christopher Pike, Betty Ren Wright, R.L. Stine, and Stephen King. Some of my favorite books are still Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright and The Stand by Stephen King. I was never forced to read something I didn't enjoy (and sometimes that included text books). I know too many people who hate reading because they were forced to read something they didn't care about and associate reading with boredom and even pain.

My second influence was Reading Rainbow. I watched almost religiously as a kid and well into adulthood. I can still sing the entire theme song. The show was entertaining and made reading entertaining. I loved Levar Burton so much I even started watch Star Trek: TNG and now I'm a Trekkie, but that's another story. In 2009, Reading Rainbow went off the air after nearly 30 years.

This month, Levar Burton has a Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign to raise money to bring it back for everyone. This won't bring back the TV show, but will bring it back on other platforms. Please help support this project! Even Data makes an appearance at the end of this video. :)

While the original theme song is still my favorite, this cover by Jimmy Fallon as Jim Morrison is pretty awesome too.