California 2014 – Day 10

The wild west has left its mark on California and we enjoyed a taste of it this morning. We rode up to Oak Glen for breakfast at Apple Annie’s Restaurant and Bakery. As you can probably tell by the pies in the photo, at Apple Annie’s they do NOT skimp on pie filling. Also they guarantee their breakfasts will fill you up or the second helping is on the house — I couldn’t take advantage though, the first plate of bacon and egg skillet was enormous! (and delicious).

The atmosphere at Apple Annie’s alone makes the drive well worth it. The walls are plastered with photos of “The Duke” and even the waitresses play the part by packing heat. You’ll find six-shooters conveniently located in little frames on the walls, I suppose, in case gun-play happens to break out and you’re not strapped up.


Next, we did a little bit of shopping in the nearby shops at Idyllwild. The most interesting one to me was Mountain Mike’s.


If you ever go to this shop, inside you’ll find the pleasantly nostalgic aroma of leather and Mike himself, a friendly and extremely bearded fellow, busily measuring and cutting leather for whatever custom project he happens to be working on.

The beared Mountain Mike in black and white
Mountain Mike

He seemed to be, true to the store’s name, a genuine mountain man. Above his head I notice a very old looking rifle and sword — he explained that the rifle and sabre were the ones his great-great grandfather carried in the American Civil War. Not for sale, but nonetheless quite something to see.

Mountain Mike's Great Great Grandfather's Civil War Era Rifle and Sabre
Mountain Mike’s Great Great Grandfather’s Civil War Era Rifle and Sabre

After we had shopped ’til we dropped, we drove back on the scenic route to Palm Springs. Most of the trees and shrubs are sprouting leaves again after the terrible fire that ripped through the area last year.

We made a quick stop at a scenic pull-out and the panoramic photo below shows the winding road into the Coachella Valley. (Worth clicking for the large version).



It has been another great day in southern California.

California 2014 – Day 9

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a public desert botanical garden and a zoo in Palm Springs. We rode our bikes there today.


The zoo highlights, for me, included:

  • a baby hummingbird being fed by a parent
  • the giraffes
  • Sara the grumpy goat
  • the reptile exhibit
  • the largest model train set I’ve ever seen.

That night we played some more Sequence and helped make some out of this world kabobs.



California 2014 – Day 8

As far as choosing the hottest days to pick to go on a desert hike up a mountain, we picked a doozy! I’m not actually sure how the heat compared with our other days in Palm Springs, but up on the mountain with not a degree of shade in sight, we were frying. It’s not to say that the view wasn’t lovely or that the crows circling us weren’t fascinating (acknowledging the possbility they were just waiting for our demise so they could pick the flesh off our bones).

After what seemed like, but was probably not, a long time in the sun, we decided to head back before serious heat stroke set in.


I’m pretty sure the rest of the day consisted of the world’s tastiest smoothie, followed by many games of Sequence.



California 2014 – Day 7

After our, now ritual, morning hot-tub planning session it became clear that today would be a leisurely wind down day filled with lounging, shopping, and restaurant hopping. Not to say that we weren’t going to bike around town and get out in the sun, but everyday just seems to be the perfect fit between relaxing and getting out and being active. Everyone should have at least one vacation in their life like this one.

As we approached the street market, I first noticed the parking lot it was sitting on was covered by huge blankets of solar panels. I’m not sure where the power generated goes, but as anyone that has ever parked their car in the scorching California sun knows, there is a lot of potential solar energy to be captured in parking lots.

Solar Panelled Street Market
Solar Panelled Street Market

After browsing, but not really buying much, the rest of the day really was spent just hopping in and out of nice restaurants trying to determine who has the best nachos and/or Martinis in Palm Springs. It turns out, they all do!


We didn’t see any celebrities tonight, but I did see some artwork by Sorel Etrog which reminded me of the famous sculpture he did which is now at the University of Lethbridge.

California 2014 – Day 6

On our sixth day in California, we jumped into the Camaro and flew up to Joshua Tree National Park. I loved the little pubs we hit up — the first one, Joshua Tree Saloon, has plenty of character: (click for larger).



Next, we went to the Barker Dam where, as we soon discovered, there isn’t a lot of water to be dammed. The state of California has been suffering a severe drought for the last 5 or 6 years but the desert was still beautiful. The panoramic photos I shot of the area don’t do it justice:




San Andreas Panorama



We also took a look at the Coachella Valley and the San Andreas fault from a lookout point before we went for dinner at Pappy and Harriets. Which, it turns out, has a rich history. Apparently The Pixies played there just last night.


Laguna Beach

A complete trip to California includes some time at the coast so we made Laguna Beach our next stop. As you can see by the panoramic photo below (click for larger) it wasn’t the sunniest morning at the beach.


We spent our morning shopping around, took some time on the beach, and then by afternoon decided it was time to head back to Palm Springs. On the way back, we took the more scenic route up the coast and by this point it had warmed up so we put the convertible’s top down. That car is fun to drive and more than one person commented on it!


Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure – Day 2

Day two at Disneyland. Because we hit the park hard yesterday we felt it in our legs today. That didn’t hamper our spirits though and we strolled over to the park after a couple of continental breakfast pastries. I was thinking about an early morning dip in the hotel pool but it doesn’t open until 9am pretty much guaranteeing any serious ride goer like myself won’t be taking advantage of their facilities.


Today was a chance to catch-up on rides and attractions that we missed on day one. We were not disappointed! Rides we went on today included:

  • Hollywood Tower
  • Goofy’s Flight School Rollercoaster
  • Soarin’ Over California
  • Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • The Matterhorn Bob Sleds
  • Aladdin
  • Dinner at Carthay Circle
  • The Muppets in 3D

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Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure

On our third day in California, we rose bright and early to hit the road pretty much exactly when the rest of Calfornia was on their way to work. While I knew that it was going to be a driving adventure, navigating that many lanes (at times as many as 8 going our direction) was something I hadn’t totally expected. Luckily we arrived without incident.

A sign shows the lanes that will take us to Los Angeles.
Plenty of traffic.

Once in the park, the secret to getting the biggest return on investment is knowing which rides are worth waiting in line and which are better to get a Fastpass. The newish Radiator Springs Racers Cars is a very popular attraction, so first things first, we found the Fastpass station and got hooked up! The thing about Fastpasses is that you’re only supposed to be able to get one at a time, however, we raced over to the line for Fastpasses to the World of Color because I had read that it isn’t on the same system as the other Fastpasses and, just like that, we were already working the park like pros!

Grizzly River Run
Grizzly River Run
Ascending Grizzly Peak
Ascending Grizzly Peak

Having secured our afternoon and evening at Disney’s California Adventure, it was time for our first ride and since we were standing next to the 110-foot Grizzly Peak, it was an obvious choice. Our first ride would be Grizzly River Run, the white-water rafting adventure at the mountain’s base.

Being early in the day, and a bit cool still, meant that we wouldn’t be waiting in line for very long. After a mere 10 minutes we found our selves strapped into the giant rubber rafting tube, slowing ascending the rickety conveyor belt, wondering who would get soaked first.

I came away from the ride only a little wet, Andrea got it worse than me, but one of the other guys on our raft was almost completely soaked. It was a lot of fun.

The rest of the day was great too. Next we popped over to Disneyland and discovered we could hold Fastpasses for one of the attractions in this park at the same time as we held them for DCA. We made some great memories as we hit up:

  • The Jungle Cruise
  • The Pirates of the Caribbean
  • The Haunted Mansion and
  • Splash Mountain

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Then it was back to DCA for our chance to race one of the cars from Cars.

Radiator Springs Cars
Cars from Radiator Springs Racers zoom by in the background.

Probably my favorite ride of the day was California Screamin. Here’s the video.


The last ride of the night was Space Mountain and then it was a well deserved rest back at the hotel so we can do it all over again tomorrow.

California – Day 2

After starting the day off with fresh picked oranges from the tree in the yard and a couple of fruit trays in the hot tub, we also had some French toast, eggs, and turkey bacon for second breakfast. We spent some time finishing up the couple remaining errands from our working lives and when it was done headed immediately out into the hot California sun for some fun on a bicycle built for two.

The beautiful thing about riding a tandem bike is that it compels even the grumpiest of strangers to perk up when they see the two of us racing along, ringing our bell, laughing, and loving all that is good in the world. I don’t know why it is exactly, it’s just hard not to crack a smile when you see a bicycle built for two.

After lunch, we played three rounds of a game called Sequence. Ange and I barely scraped by with a win in the rubber match making us the day’s champions for card games.


Another bike ride for some drinks and nachos at the Yard House took us through the afternoon at which time we returned to the house and indulged in another dip in the pool and hot tub (because one can never spend too much time swimming when you’re on vacation). We followed that up with dinner at a restaurant called Babe’s where the portions were humungous (and also delicious) so I give an enthusiastic thumbs up for Babe’s.

The last stop was Albertson’s for snacks for tomorrow and then a quick reminder on the steps for putting the top down on the convertible before we all headed in to bed to try and get some rest because tomorrow is going to be a very big day. We’re going to Disneyland!

Palm Desert – Day One

We have arrived in Palm Desert. The weather is amazing and after leaving the snowy flurries of southern Alberta I can safely say that we came here not a moment too soon. Hopefully in the next two weeks we will have bypassed the last remnants of winter in Lethbridge and can transition straight into full fledged summer when we return.
One of the highlights was running into the lead singer of the roots, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, whom you may recognize from Jimmy Fallen’s Tonight Show band.
We saw him walking around our gate at SFO and immediately felt he was in a band playing at Coachella this year—he appeared to have that celebrity/larger than life aura about him (not in a negative way, just something about him seemed familiar) but we couldn’t put our finger on where we might have seen him before. It was another passenger on our plane that reminded us who he is. I smiled and nodded as I walked by him when getting off the plane. He smiled back and asked how we were doing. He seems like a pretty nice guy and I saw him posing and getting photos with the pilots after the flight. It’s fun to talk to celebrities even though I like to pretend it doesn’t do much for me.

Now that we are in Palm Springs we wasted no time and headed out for some “authentic” Mexican food, followed by swimming in the pool and more eating and drinking. We didn’t exactly stay up late—I’m barely keeping my eyes open after having been up since 4:45am Alberta time and now it’s almost 17 hours later—but it’s been a great day and I think this is going to be one of my best vacations ever!