Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Show and Tell: Travelogues

This week, Andrea prompted us to write about our best and worst travel adventures.  I really struggled with this one for a while.  How could I possibly pick one vacation as the best, and do I even have a bad travel adventure?  I feel very blessed that I was fortunate enough to go on many vacations as a kid.  Every summer, we usually vacationed at a different lake or river since my family loved spending time on our boat.  My parents also took me to Colorado one year to go skiing.  This trip provided me with my first airplane experience.  Thanks to competitive dance and cheer days, we also traveled to places like Disney World, all the big cities in the surrounding states like Indianapolis, St. Louis, Louisville, Gatlinburg, Nashville, Chattanooga, and even a trip to South Padre Island, TX (where we visited the best water park ever and went bungee jumping.)  I was also fortunate enough to go on many vacations with my grandparents when they took my cousin and me with them. One of these vacations includes my only venture out of the states; when we were in northern Michigan and Grandpa announced that we were so close to Canada so we were going to check it out.  We went across the border and basically turned around and went back.  We spent more time passing through customs than we did in Canada.  Although I'll never forget my Canadian adventure, my most memorable of these trips was our 2 week journey out west.  We went to Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado visiting sites all along the way like the Royal Gorge, Pikes Peak, and we went white water rafting.  At first, it seemed like a given, that my best vacation would be to Disney World, but which one?  When I went for the first time without my mom, as a college freshmen with a group of great friends?  When Patrick proposed?  Our honeymoon?  Littlecjc's first trip?  My best friend's wedding?  So many choices, and so many great memories at Disney World.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized my best vacation wasn't any of these trips.  Instead it was a 30 hr road trip to California.

Best Travel Adventure
In December 2013, thanks to the Michigan State football team, we made the decision to take the roadtrip of a lifetime.  If you don't already know, Patrick is a big MSU sports fan, and when they made it to the Rose Bowl for the first time in years, we decided we didn't want to miss this opportunity.  I of course, was not just going to go all that way for a game, so it was a week long adventure.  We took Patrick's sister and one of her friends with us, giving us 4 drivers.  We dropped 3 month old Littlecjc off at Grandma's and left mid afternoon.  We then drove 25 hours, straight through to Las Vegas.  We checked into our hotel the Riviera and then walked up the strip for a nice dinner at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant.

Non of us really had any interest in gambling, but we did check out as many of the hotels as we could, of course including the fountains at the Belagio.

The next morning before leaving Vegas, we had to stop by the iconic welcome to Las Vegas sign.

Patrick decided that we needed to make one more stop before getting back on the road.  He just had to go to the pawn shop from the TV show Pawn Stars.

When we finally made it to LA, we went straight to the beach.

Even though this was New Year's Eve, we didn't stay out late since we had a super early day the next morning.  I'm pretty sure that after we watched the sun set on the beach and then got some food and went to bed.

I think we left our hotel room about 4:00 the next morning to make sure we got to Pasadena and found our seats before our path got closed.  One of my stipulations to going to the Rose Bowl game was to see the Rose Bowl Parade.  

After doing some research, we actually bought tickets for specific bleacher seats to guarantee that we wouldn't miss anything.  Our seats were at the very beginning of the parade route, directly across from the main grandstand containing all the media tables.  This meant that we were actually spotted on TV.  Here's one shot of us behind some singers from the Voice.

The parade was just as amazing as I imagined it to be.  However, the experience was more than I could dream.  It is such a production.  So many people were there, and there was even a parade of protesters that followed the actual parade.  The sun was rising right in front of us so my pictures don't do any of these floats justice, but here are a few pictures.

After the parade, Patrick and I walked to the stadium area where a fan fest area was set up while the girls opted to just head back to the beach.  They didn't have tickets for the game and weren't interested in seeing any more crazy fans.  At the rally area there was a stage set up with some performers, but I don't remember who.  There were also a lot of tents for food, drinks, and different vendors.  After walking around a while and getting some lunch, we were ready to head to the stadium.

Our seats were way up top, but we didn't care one bit.  All that mattered was that we were there.  There's nothing too impressive about the stadium itself, but it was pretty cool seeing the mountains in the background.

We couldn't have asked for a better game, especially since Michigan State ended up winning.

After the game, we headed back into town for the typical tourist attractions.  We found the Hollywood sign (although we were disappointed to discover that it wasn't lit up after dark) and we visited the Chinese Theater (which was a little underwhelming.)

Again, we didn't stay out too late, because the next day was devoted to my second stipulation of this road trip, Disneyland.  I really wish we had allowed ourselves more time here, but I guess that just gives me an excuse to go back again.  Regardless, we had a very successful day and succeeded in getting all our priorities in.  Unfortunately, it was extremely crowded this day (being Jan 2) and it was really like one big race for me to get everything in.

We started at California Adventures and headed straight to the fastpass kiosk for the Cars attraction.

With the time crunch, this day was all about the attractions.  My goal was to ride everything that isn't available at Disney World, but to also be able to experience the differences between the attractions that are in both parks.  Our first stop was the Tower.

Since this trip was years ago, I don't remember that many details from the park.  Plus, since it was a marathon of a day, I didn't take near as many pictures as I do these days.  (Side note - since I was only 3 months post baby, I also took many breaks throughout the day to visit the closest restroom to pump.  Yes, I know there are nice baby center areas in Disney parks, but since I was just dumping everything anyway, I didn't mind just stopping into a restroom to make the stop faster.)

We of course loved the (then new) Cars area, and I thought the added Christmas decorations were so fun.

After attacking the park all morning, we switched over to the original.

Again, I regret that we didn't get more pictures, but we really did have a great day!  I was so happy that we were there during the holidays so we were able to see the Haunted Mansion's Nightmare Before Christmas overlay.

We also got to watch the light show at the It's a Small World attraction.  I wasn't even aware that this took place, but I'm so glad we saw it.  The building front is so impressive here in comparison to Disney World.  Unfortunately, this was one of the rides we opted to skip, so I have no idea of any differences inside the attraction.

Overall, the park was beautifully decorated for the holidays.

Even though I kept thinking about how much smaller this park seemed, I really wished I had more time.  As with every trip to any Disney park, there are so many things we missed that I would have loved to have gotten in.  It really just wasn't possible though.  Unfortunately, this was our last day in California.  The next day we started our journey back home.  There are basically two different routes you can take to get to California from Indiana.  On the way west, we took the northern route through Colorado and Utah.  This path was absolutely beautiful and I would have loved to have taken more time to explore, especially in Utah.  However, on the way home, we took the southern route through Arizona so we could take the 2 hour detour and see the Grand Canyon.

So beautiful!  I'm so glad we made the trip longer to see this amazing site.  The ride home was long after our busy trip.  In all honesty, we probably would have stopped somewhere to truly sleep for a while, but we were trying to make it home before a snow storm hit.  Even though we were in the car for so long, we had so much fun and made so many memories.

Worst Travel Adventure
This was extremely hard to determine, because I don't have a vacation memory that was so bad it ruined the entire trip.  I guess if I really have to pick one, it would be a ski trip to Colorado.  Don't get me wrong, I was so grateful for the opportunity to go on the trip, but it was a little awkward.  My aunt and uncle planned the trip and allowed all five of their boys to bring someone.  The older boys all invited their girlfriends, and the youngest two boys took friends.  The youngest boy is my age and he decided to take my brother, who is two years younger than us.  Shortly before leaving for the trip, one of the girls originally planning on going broke her leg and so I was invited to take her place.  Again, so thankful to go, but obviously this also changed sleeping arrangements.  This was before the time of Harry Potter, but the cabin we rented was out of rooms and I ended up in a little room under the stairs just like Harry.  It had some type of bed in there, so it really wasn't that bad, but it is funny to think about now.  I also took a pretty good wipeout on this trip.  I wasn't really hurt, but my ski scratched up my face pretty good, and of course it was right before our pictures were taken on top of the mountain.  Overall, if this is the worst travel adventure I can come up with, I think I'm doing great.

Join the fun and link up your best and worst travelogues!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Hello Monday

I'm back!  It's been a while since I've written a post, especially a Hello Monday post.  Vacations are amazing and fun, but it's so hard getting back into schedule.  I keep trying to get back to my blog schedule, but I'm yet to get there.  Maybe this will be the week.

Weekend Update
This weekend, my little brother turned 30, and we learned that he's going to be daddy to a little boy!  


Talk about a great birthday!  Unfortunately, I didn't take that many pictures, but we all had so much fun at his party.  Littlecjc especially enjoyed the bounce house.  We ended the night with an outdoor viewing of the Matchbox 20 concert, my brother's favorite.

Hello Bujo

My motivation has been lagging these past few weeks that we've been back from vacation, and I've found a correlation with the effort I've put into my bullet journal.  The first week back, I didn't hardly write anything.  No wonder I got nothing done that week.  It's slowly getting better.  Here's a peak at this weeks spread.

It's filled in my now, and hopefully I'll check everything off this week.  While discovering I am more productive with my journal, I realized I never wrote a post about starting my journal like planned.  Hopefully, I'll get to that soon too.

Hello New Reads

I don't even remember what I had last shared with you all, but as of just a few moments ago, I started a new book.  Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.  I was intrigued by this movie when it first came to the theaters, but I never made it out to see it.  I was surprised the other day to see that it was already out on video.  I'm excited again, now, to see this movie and I plan on watching it as soon as I finish the book and can get my hands on it.

Hello Blogging
As hinted at above, I really need to get back to my blogging schedule this week.  This being said, I think I'm done with this post.  Time to move on to tomorrow's.

Happy Monday!

Friday, May 19, 2017

November 2016

After having so much fun during the Halloween party, we decided to head back to Disney for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party as well, just a few short weeks later.  Thankfully, we have some amazing friends that live in the area and work for the mouse.  They graciously allowed us to stay with them this week and they got us into the park both days.  Because of this, our touring style was completely different for this trip.  It was after 10:00 that we entered the park both days, and we had no pre-planned fastpasses.  Therefore, we knew there were many attractions that we just weren't going to see this trip, so we really took our time and let Littlecjc dictate where to go a lot more than usual.  This meant we mostly stayed in Fantasyland the entire time.

Day 1
After first entering Magic Kingdom, we made our way to the fastpass kiosk in Fantasyland and were able to snag fastpasses for Barnstormer (10:25-11:25), Dumbo (11:25-12:25), and Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin (2:20-3:20).  Eager to get on any ride at this point, we headed to the Mad Tea Party

With still a little time before being able to use our fastpass for Barnstormer, we went to Pete's Silly Side Show to visit with Daisy and Minnie.

It was then time for us to use our fastpasses at The Barnstormer, where we saw our friend working the main board.

Again, we had a little time left before we could use our fastpasses at Dumbo, so we went back to Pete's Silly Side Show to see the boys, Goofy and Donald.

This worked out perfectly, and when we finished we went straight to Dumbo.

Since we have our normal touring style figured out, we are spoiled by usually standing in line for a maximum of about 30 mins.  I have to admit, that made these two days a little difficult for us.  However, we used the app and watched the wait times, helping us determine where we should go next.  This time, it was Mickey's Philharmagic.

Of course, this exits right into the Carousel, which became our next stop.

Our final ride before lunch was The Little Mermaid.

I always tell people to keep searching for dining when they don't get what they want.  Today was no exception, as we were able to get into Be Our Guest with a 1:40 lunch reservation.  Unfortunately, we didn't place our food order before arriving, and it seemed to take forever to get through the line.  Once we made it inside, though, we saw that Belle had decorated for Christmas.

After lunch, we used our final fastpass for Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin.

When we were done defending the galaxy, we took off for the hundred acre woods to ride the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  By now, party guest had started arriving and we were able to get our party wristbands and shop for some party merchandise.  We really wanted to get some shirts so that we could take pictures for our Christmas cards.  Here's some of the fun pictures we were able to capture during the party.

As you can see, unfortunately Littlecjc slept through a lot of this Christmas party.  With our late start, this day wasn't busy enough for her to crash for a nap, so when she finally crashed it was during the party and she was out for the night.  Thankfully, she was awake to see some decorations and watch the castle light up.

Littlecjc really wanted to ride the "rocketship," so we went to Astro Orbitor, and I'm so glad we did.  It was really neat being so high and looking down on the castle and space mountain all lit up.

We knew Littlecjc was getting tired, and we wanted to make sure she saw the snow, so we then headed to Main St. to play in snow.  This view was beautiful with the snow falling and Littlecjc had so much fun running around trying to catch the falling snow.

 We also really wanted to make sure we rode Jungle Cruise during the party so that we could see the Christmas overlay where it becomes the Jingle Cruise.

Next on our list was the parade, Mickey's Christmas stage show, and the Holiday Wishes.  It was during this time that Littlecjc finally gave in.  After the fireworks, we made sure to hit up any of the treat locations that we hadn't yet walked by.  I have to admit, that after Littlecjc fell asleep, we lost our momentum as well.  By 11:00 we had made our way to the front of the park and found a spot on the curb to watch the parade again before calling it a night.

As we left, we took some time for a few more pictures.

Day 2
Our second day was even more casual than the first.  Again, we entered the park later than usual for us at almost noon.  We took our castle pictures and headed to the fastpass kiosk where we got Barnstormer (12:15-1:15), The Little Mermaid Journey Under the Sea (1:20-2:20), and Dumbo (2:20-1:20).

We were so pleased, that our friend, Ruth was able to stay with us for our first two rides the Carousel and Barnstormer.

Littlecjc of course had to ride both rides with Miss Ruth!  At this point, Miss Ruth had to leave to get ready for work, and we decided to bite the bullet and stand in line for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  

Thankfully, there are fun activities for little ones to keep occupied in line.  Littlecjc amazed me.  She knew she loved this ride and that it would be a long wait to get on, but she didn't really complain at all.  It was her choice to wait and that is what we did.  I also took this cute video of her taking it all in.


At this point, it was time to use our fastpasses for The Little Mermaid, after which, we headed to Gaston's Tavern to snack on the largest cinnamon roll ever.

When we finished our snack, it was time for our final fastpass at Dumbo.

No trip to the Magic Kingdom is complete, without a tour of Tomorrowland via the Transit Authority People Mover.

We then cut across the park to Frontierland where we had some Dole Whip and took another journey on the Jingle Cruise.

Since there was another Christmas party this evening, the park was closing to the general public at 7.  So, after our Jingle Cruise, we made our way back to Main St. for a few final pictures before leaving.